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.