A tale of Alice two Earls, kidnap, murder and the Elland by-pass

sirjohn ellandThomas, Earl of Lancaster is  most often known in history as the earl who was executed at Pontefract Castle for treason in 1322. He was led to a hill outside the castle, turned to face Scotland because his treachery came not only from his rebellion against his cousin Edward II but also from the fact that he had made a pact with the Scots.


His wife was Alice de Lacy. She was the daughter of the Earl of Lincoln and was espoused to Thomas when she was just twelve years old. The marriage was not a happy one. She spent much of her time at Pickering Castle. In 1317 she was kidnapped by John de Warren, Earl of Surrey. There is no evidence as to Alice’s view of the matter but historians speculate that she was agreeable to the idea – hardly surprising given Lancaster’s reputation as a womaniser. Lancaster did eventually divorce her but Alice did not find happiness with Surrey who already had a wife. Alice later married Eubolo Lestrange but not before she’d had an unpleasant encounter with Edward II’s favourite Hugh Despencer, who like the other powerful men in her life were more interested in her estates than in her.


So far so good – or not, as the case may be. The conflict rapidly escalated beyond Alice’s marital relations and into West Yorkshire. Lancaster and de Warren were sworn enemies; hence the kidnap. The ensuing fisticuffs was not something that was readily resolved and it involved many households who owed their allegiance to one or other of the parties. In Elland, tragic events unfolded and were even recorded in a ballad running to one hundred and twenty four verses  first written down in the Tudor period but which, it is agreed by some historians, date from much earlier.  As with the way of these things while some historians regard the ballad as authentic others have their doubts.

Sir John Eland of Eland was de Warren’s steward for the Manor of Wakefield and Sheriff of Yorkshire. He wanted vengeance from Robert Beaumont who was held accountable for the death of another of Warren’s men – possibly Sir John’s nephew. Beaumont owed his fealty to Lancaster. Robert Beaumont was shielding the real culprit of the murder, a man called Exley. As was the way of the time it also appears that compensation was paid for the death of Sir John’s kinsman. The matter should have ended there. The blood money having paid the debt.


However, Sir John was in no mood for forgiveness.  There was also much unrest in the county as a result of Edward II’s incapacity to rule and the greed of his favourites – the Despencers.  Sir John and his henchmen took the opportunity to kill Robert Beaumont in his own home, Crossland Hall near Huddersfield, then sat down to breakfast in the dead man’s stead. He forced Robert’s sons to partake of the meal. The eldest boy, Adam, refused and was threatened by Sir John.


Sir John had good reason to be hungry. He’d been up most of the night committing murder. On the way to Crosland Hall he’d stopped off at Quarmby Hall where he’d killed Sir Hugh de Quarmby before detouring to Lockwood Hall where he’d finished off John de Lockwood. Lockwood is recorded in the Wakefield Court Rolls as being found guilty of evicting an innocent man from his home.


The Beaumont family and the sons of Lockwood and de Quarmby fled to Lancashire but returned fifteen years later to exact their revenge. They stayed with a branch of the Lacy family while they plotted and awaited their opportunity. They killed John Eland on his way home from court in Brighouse in 1354.  Again, that might have been the end of the matter but for the fact that Sir John Eland’s son, another Sir John petitioned the king to pursue his father’s killers. Quarmby, Beaumont and Lockwood decided that their safety rested upon the end of Eland’s plans. The following year they killed Sir John’s son and grandson.   Only Isabel Eland remained and she married Sir John Savile. Eland’s home, Eland Hall overlooking Eland Bridge remained until 1976 when it was torn down to make way for the Elland By-pass according to the Halifax Courier.


The three vengeful sons fled the scene. They were followed and there was a fight in Ainley Wood. Quarmby was killed. Adam de Beaumont was able to flee the country. He reached Rhodes where he joined the Knights Hospitaller. Lockwood remained in the area because he was in love. His location was betrayed and he was killed by the under sheriff. According to the ballad he was betrayed by the lady he loved.

Sir John Eland’s home, Elland Hall overlooking Elland Bridge remained until 1976 when it was demolished to make way for Elland By-pass.


Click on the picture to open the Midgley Webpage to find out more about the Elland Feud.





Thomas of Lancaster, Second Earl of Lancaster


Thomas_Earl_of_Lancaster_kneels_before_the_executioner_who_has_his_sword_raisedThomas of Lancaster was the son of Edmund Crouchback who was the second surviving son of King  Henry III.  Crouchback refers to the fact that he fought in the ninth crusade so was entitled to wear a cross stitched onto the back of his clothes – no Richard III tendencies.  But I digress, Thomas of Lancaster is the grandson of Henry III, just as Edward II is the grandson of Henry III – making them cousins; though they clearly weren’t the kissing variety by the end of Thomas’s life as this rather graphic image from the Luttrell Psalter demonstrates.


He was one of the richest and most powerful men in the country.  He held five earldoms, was the Sheriff of Lancashire, the Steward of England and held several key strategic castles in the North including Pontefract. He fought in Scotland during Edward I’s wars and when Edward II was crowned he carried Edward the Confessor’s sword during the coronation ceremony.


The main problem was that Thomas and Piers Gaveston, the king’s favourite could not stand one another.  It didn’t help that the upstart Gaveston was given a more important role during the coronation or that he referred to Thomas as ‘the churl’ or ‘the fiddler’. Despite this Thomas was initially loyal to his cousin. But as time went by it became apparent that Edward was blind where his favourite was concerned.  Thomas was part of the group of barons who saw Gaveston banished- for the third time it might be added- but when the royal favourite returned to England in 1311 to spend Christmas at court despite Edward II agreeing to his banishment hostility was almost bound to break out into violence.

In Spring 1312 Edward and Piers were forced to flee York when they heard that Thomas of Lancaster was leading an army in their direction.  They fled to Newcastle, leaving the pregnant Queen Isabella to deal with the irate earl as best she could.  Unfortunately for the king and his friend, Thomas of Lancaster swiftly changed direction and surprised the monarch in Newcastle.  Apparently the king and Piers fled with little more than they wore.  It took Lancaster four days to catalogue everything that had been left behind while the king and his crony found a ship to take them south to Scarborough.



Edward demanded his fortress of Scarborough back from the control of the Percy family which they obligingly handed over and Edward left Piers Gaveston in charge.  Once Thomas ascertained that the king wasn’t in residence, he besieged the castle and Piers surrendered being more of a courtier than a warrior.  Thomas took Piers south for trial but the Earl of Warwick – nicknamed the ‘Black dog of Arden’ by Gaveston  (and who definitely wasn’t one of Gaveston’s admirers) took the royal favourite out of Thomas’s hands, tried and executed him.



Following the disaster of Bannockburn in 1314 Edward was forced to submit to his cousin and it was Thomas who tried to rule for the next four years.   It would have to be said that Thomas was a bit of a thorn in Edward’s flesh prior to this period.  He refused to attend parliament and there is some evidence that he didn’t send enough men to aid his cousin against the Scots.  It was during this time that Scottish raiding along the borders became prevalent and in 1318 Thomas fell from power.  In 1321 Thomas was at the head of a rebellion once more.  He met with forces loyal to the king at the Battle of Boroughbridge where he was taken prisoner, tried and finally executed at Pontefract Castle – for treason and rudeness towards Edward…which certainly puts a whole new meaning on the naughty step…oh yes, and for plotting with Scotland.




He was buried in Pontefract Priory (a Cluniac monastery).  All that remains of the Priory is the name Monk Hill.