Monthly Archives: May 2014

John Barwick of Witherslack

NPG D29584; John Barwick by George VertueJohn was born in 1612 so was in the prime of life just in time for the English Civil War. Cumberland was largely Royalist.  Perhaps its remoteness meant that being so far from London they weren’t as caught up in events as folk further south; or perhaps it was the fact that they were great traditionalists.  Whatever the reason the English Civil War saw many a Cumbrian Gentleman ruin himself financially in the king’s name as well as laying down their lives.  Carlisle was reduced to starvation during the siege that is amply documented by Isaac Tullie.

 

Elsewhere, John Barwick having made his way from the delightfully named Witherslack to Cambridge where he attained his degree and went on to become a Doctor of Divinity put down his books and pens when the king raise this standard.  He became a courier for Charles I bringing the money and silver plate of St John’s College to Nottingham rather than allowing it to fall into Parliamentary hands.  He then set about writing tracts promoting Charles’ cause.  It cost him his position in Cambridge but nothing daunted he moved his operation to London- into the Archbishop of London’s house in fact- where he continued to write for the king.

It was only after Charles’ execution that John was captured and confined in the Tower of London.  He was eventually released and John took up his pen once more on behalf of Charles II sending ciphered letters from London to Europe.  His reward was to be made Dean of Old St Paul’s.

He died in 1664 but he never forgot the village of his birth.  His will left a bequest enabling ground to be purchased for burials, a school to be built, dowries to be given to girls and the old and infirm to be provided with fuel.  His will also provided for a curate to tend to the flock where two of his brothers had lived their lives as farmers.

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Ivo de Taillebois

norman frenchIvo de Taillebois arrived in England in 1066 with William of Normandy. Accounts are not clear cut as to who his parents were, Fulk of Anjou is a possible contender for the title. There is also a suggestion that like William, Ivo may have been illegitimate.

Many of the records related to Ivo are vague or lost.  One thing is clear.  He did well from the invasion. He gained parts of Lancashire, Westmorland and also Lincolnshire. He became Sheriff of that County two years after the invasion and features as an extensive landowner in the Domesday Book. There is some debate as to how Ivo acquired Kendal or Kendale, which later became a barony. The Strickland sisters say that he married a Saxon Noblewoman, Lucy, Countess of Chester, sister of the earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria. Lands in Kendal would have come to him through his marriage but it is also evident that he was given lands by William Rufus. It is certain that he gave the church in Kendale to St Mary’s Abbey in York. It should also be added that the Scots were only driven out of Cumbria in 1092 – so Kendal was no sinecure.  The remains of his motte and bailey castle can be viewed at Castle Howe, the stone castle is from a later period.

 

But back to Lucy. She held lands in and around Spalding. This may have been part of the reason, along with his role as King’s man, that Ivo found himself in Ely taking up arms against Hereward the Wake in 1071. Lucy’s brothers were also caught up in the rebellion against the conqueror – making their lands forfeit- so Ivo seems to have done quite well out of it all. No one seems to have recorded what Lucy thought of all this or the fact that she appears to have been married not once, not twice but thrice (her third husband being Ranulf le Meschin) dying in 1131. One thing is clear though Lucy has disappeared into history leaving some very fragmentary and tantalizing historical evidence behind her.

 

In addition to Kendal, Ivo was also overlord of Furness. The man’s family tree is complicated. Evidence suggested that he may have been married twice before marrying Lucy. Other evidence taken from Ingulph de Croydon- the Croyland Chronicle- and reproduced in Some Records of Two Lakeland Towns by Brydson paints an unappealing picture of Kendal’s first Norman lord:

 

“All the people in his domains were very careful to appear humble before Taillebois, and never to address him without bending one knee to the earth, but though they were anxious to render him all homage, he made no return of goodwill. On the contrary he vexed, tormented, and imprisoned them, and loaded

them with daily cruelties ; his truly diabolical spirit loved evil for evil’s sake. He would often set his dogs to pursue other men’s cattle, would scatter the animals far and wide, drown them in the lakes, maim them in various ways, and make them unfit for service by breaking their limbs or backs. Ivo was not only absolved, but praised for all he had done in extortion, pillage, and murder.”

 

Sounds charming!  And he was a forebear of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth queen and also of George Washington.

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Filed under Eleventh Century, Norman Conquest, surprising connections

William le Meschin

shiled ringRanulf le Meschin, Earl of Chester and his brother William le Meschin were the sons of Ranulf de Briquessart and Matilda. Meschin simply means ‘younger’ so Ranulf the Younger was used to identify the son from the father. William ended up with the same name because he was very much his brother’s man.

Ranulf was given much of Cumberland by William the Conqueror. Cumberland was then divided into eleven baronies in an attempt to control the region. The Cumbrians took to their Lakeland hills and fought a guerrilla war against their invaders.  This meant that the Normans could, initially at least, only secure the coastal and less mountainous regions.  Rosemary Sutcliffe’s excellent  book entitled The Shield Ring explores the history of the region and the role of Ranulf – she was not his greatest fan. There’s also a book entitled The Secret Valley which covers the same period and the battle of Rannerdale. The Scots took advantage of the ensuing difficulties  to extend their boundaries south.  It was no sinecure when Ranulf gave William the baronies of Copeland and Gilsland.  The latter meant he was responsible for guarding the northern approaches to Carlisle.  It proved a task too far.   He built a castle at Egremont but lost Gilsland. He was compensated for the loss of Gilsland by Henry I with land in Allerdale. He also acquired land through his wife Cecily de Rumilly, Lady of Skipton.

 

As William acquired land he also founded religious houses including St Bee’s Priory in 1120 which was a daughter house of St Mary’s in York. It was founded after the sinking of the White Ship that saw Henry I’s only legitimate son drown on a journey between Normandy and England. Richard, Earl of Chester -William’s cousin- died in the same disaster. The charter for St Bees prays for the souls of the drowned men.  In part he was demonstrating his religious belief and buying ‘time out’ from purgatory but he was also showing support for foundations who enjoyed the patronage of kings.   Thurstan, who was the Archbishop of York would have welcomed an alliance with a strong northern magnate such as le Meschin so perhaps it is not surprising that he came in person to bless St Bees.

 

In addition to giving land and funding buildings William went on the First Crusade and was at the Siege of Nicaea.

 

William: soldier, invader, crusader, castle builder, monastery endower- call him what you will,  died sometime between 1130 and 1135. He left a son called Ranulf but he died shortly after his father leaving the great estates that le Meschin had built to be divided between William’s three daughters.

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eleventh Century, Monasteries, Twelfth Century

Robert Carr, the king’s favourite…murderer.

carr-miniatureRobert Carr was a Scotsman born in Somerset. He was the son of Sir Thomas Kerr of Ferniehurst Castle in Scotland. The Kerrs – a border family – were known for their left-handedness; they even built their castle staircases to favour their choice of weapon hand. In parts of Scotland, to this day if you’re ‘kerr-handed’ then you’re a left hander. Carr’s mother, Sir Thomas’s second wife, was a sister of the Bold Buccleugh, otherwise known as Walter Scott.

 

Carr began his rise to prominence in James I’s favour in 1606 when his broke his leg, in some accounts it is his arm and there’s also the possibility that it was a deliberate act to attract the king’s attention, during a tilting match at which the king was present. Apparently the king witnessed the accident, recognised Carr and helped nurse the young man back to health whilst at the same time distracting him from the tedium of a broken leg by teaching him Latin. It turned out he needed the help. Carr a handsome and athletic young man was not naturally academically gifted.  He had to rely on the advice of his friend Sir Thomas Overbury for ‘brainwork.’

James conferred the Manor of Sherbourne upon the handsome young man. Lady Raleigh nee Throckmorton was given some compensation for the loss of her home but it was something else toehold against the king’s Scottish favourites- and Carr was undoubtedly the king’s favourite. The young man, who needed help with his Latin because he wasn’t the sharpest cookie in the jar, began advising the king. In 1610 Parliament was dissolved on Carr’s advice and after Robert Cecil’s death in 1612 it appeared that there was no stopping the man. He became a privy councillor, the Earl of Somerset and the Lord Chancellor. Carr garnered wealth from his position, presents from the king and from the bribes that he collected.  He was at the heart of the court.

 

Carr’s first mistake was to marry Francis Howard, who was still married to her first husband the Earl of Essex at the time when their courtship began. His second was to be implicated in a plot to poison his one time friend and advisor Sir Thomas Overbury. Overbury, Carr’s principle advisor, henchman and ‘go-getter’ distrusted the Howard faction and had initially advised against the marriage.  Francis’s family saw to it that Overbury ended up in the Tower where he died of natural causes…or so it seemed.

Thanks to Carr, James’s relationship with his Parliament deteriorated and after the fiasco of Frances Howard’s first marriage being annulled James’s reputation as a law-maker was sullied.

His third and biggest error was to fall out with King James in 1615. He was quickly replaced by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Shortly afterwards Carr found himself in trouble, along with his conniving wife, for the murder of Overbury. Francis was guilty but Carr always maintained that he was innocent. Neither he nor his wife were executed. They remained in the Tower until 1622. Carr died in 1645.

 

 

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Filed under Border Reivers, Kings of England, Sixteenth Century