As usual we had a varied and enjoyable year, although it was much saddened by the loss of our stalwart Chairman Neville Sibery.

The following reports are by our Secretary Penny Lawton.



At our AGM  we  found that we had so much interesting information that we extended our  'A Monastery near You' topic into another year.  Our March and April meetings were given over to exploring  the abbeys of Combermere  and Burton,  details of which can be found under A Monastery near You button on the lef hand menu.




For our next project, we decided to take a look at the Stanley family because we were vaguely aware that there were quite a lot more, besides the well-known Thomas Lord Stanley and his brother Sir William. Sorting some of them out proved quite a challenge.


The family originated in Stanley, Staffordshire, a pretty village about a mile SE of what is now the A53 between Leek and Stoke-on-Trent. They were connected to another North Staffordshire family, the Audleys. About 1200, Adam de Audley, Lord of Horton, (approx. 2m N of the A53 between Leek and Stoke) gave Stanley and half of Balterley (approx 2m SW of J16 of M6) to his cousin, William, son of Adam de Stanley. Stanley remained subject to the lord's court of the Audleys at Horton.

The next record is of a Walter de Stanley who sued over a wood in his holding of Stanley in 1271-2 and who had died by 1285. Three years before, in 1282, another William had married Joan, daughter and co-heiress of Philip de Beaumville, lord of the manor and bailiwick of Wyrrall Forest. It seems to be at this point that the family diverged.

One branch of the Stanleys remained at Stanley. After a John who died c. 1330, there was a long succession of Williams, so it is difficult to sort out fathers from sons. A William succeeded in 1360; a William was knighted c.1400; a William succeeded in 1428 and died 1466; a William was knighted 1484, died 1512; and a William knighted 1513, alive 1528-9, who might possibly be the same William who died 1546. This last William was succeeded by his brother, Roland, knighted 1553. Another William, great grandson of the last one, succeeded 1613 and was succeeded in 1644-5 by the last William, who leased the manor, which was sold in 1660 to Thomas Fernihaugh.

The marriage in 1282 of William Stanley to Joan de Baumville was the foundation of the more famous branch of the Stanley family. Joan was the eldest of the three daughters and through her William became lord of the manor of Storeton. In 1316 Edward II granted him arms: argent on a bend azure three stags' heads cabossed or. William and Joan's son, John, married either, or quite possibly, in succession, both Emma Molyneux and/or Mabel, daughter of Sir James Hawksett. Their son, William (d. c. 1398), married Alice, daughter of Sir Hamon Massey of Dunham Massey (near Altrincham). It was their son, another John, who really made the fortune of this branch of the family.

John, (b. 1334) served under the Black Prince, fought at Poitiers and subsequently toured on the continent making a name for himself in various feats of arms and/or jousting, before returning to England. A French knight had either heard of his fame or had challenged England to find a man to contend with him in single combat (accounts vary slightly). Sir John took up the challenge and fought and killed his opponent under the walls of Winchester. Other sources simply say that he was participating in a joust but do not specify where or that anyone was killed. However, sources are agreed that Isabel Lathom, (b. circa 1364, d. 26th Oct 1414) heiress to the rich manors of Lathom and Knowsley in Lancashire, was present and was so impressed by Sir John's feats of arms, that she insisted on marrying him despite parental opposition and perhaps, (according to other versons) eloped with him. Sir John further increased his fortune by supporting Henry Earl of Derby in 1399, who, when he became King Henry IV, rewarded Sir John with further estates in Cheshire. Sir John's continued support of Henry IV during the Percy rebellion gained him the Lordship of Man and other offices. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and it was there that he died in January 1414.

John and Isabel's eldest son, another Sir John, acknowledged the importance of the inheritance from his mother, by quartering the Stanley arms with those of Lathom: Or, on a chief indented azure three plates. He served as MP for Lancashire twice during the reign of Henry V; was appointed Master Forester of Macclesfield and Delamere and served as Justice of Chester. He bought more lands and property, extending Stanley influence in Lancashire and Cheshire. He married Elizabeth/ Isabel, daughter of Sir Nicholas Harrington of Farleton in the Lune Valley.

Sir John died 1437 and was succeeded by his son Thomas, b. 1406 and knighted 1429.

Like his grandfather, he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and like his father, represented Lancashire as MP in the 1440s and '50s. Henry VI appointed him Chamberlain and Comptroller of the Royal Household, 1448. When hostilities broke out, he raised an army for the king but arrived too late to participate in the first battle of St. Albans. Despite this, he was raised to the rank of Baron Stanley the following year and in 1457 was admitted to the Order of the Garter. He married Joan, daughter and heiress of both her father, Sir Robert Goushill of Hoveringham, Notts. and her mother, Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Arundel.

These were the parents of the most famous of the Stanley family, Thomas, Lord Stanley, (b. 1433) and Sir William Stanley. They had five other children: John, married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Weever of Weever (from whom the Stanleys of Alderley are descended); James, Archdeacon of Carlisle; Margeret m. Sir William Troutbeck; Elizabeth m. Sir Richard Molyneux of Sefton and Catherine m. Sir John Savage: their son, another Sir John, fought for Henry Tudor at Bosworth.

The careers of Thomas, Lord Stanley and Sir William Stanley are well known. However, another branch of the Stanleys also played a part in the battle that ended Richard III's short reign.


Sir John Stanley and Isabel Lathom had three other surviving sons. Their third son, Sir Thomas de Stanley married Mathilda d'Arderne, daughter and heiress of Sir John d'Arderne of Elford, Staffordshire and thus became Sir Thomas Stanley of Elford. Through his wife he possessed Elford; Haselour; Clifton Campville and Pipe Ridware in Staffs; Alford, Nether Alderley and Echells in Cheshire and Sibbertoft, Northants. He was sheriff of Staffordshire in 1433 and 1438.

Their son, another John (b. 1423; d. 1474), was also sheriff of Staffordshire at least twice, 1450, 1459 and probably 1464. He married four times. He was betrothed to Cecilia Arderne, a relative (neice?) of his mother, when both he and she were only about five years old but dispensation having been acquired, in due course they married and produced another future Sir John Stanley of Elford, b. 1446, sheriff of Staffordshire and 1464 possibly, 1474. After Cecilia, Sir John's second wife is given as Matilda/ Maud Vernon. By his third wife, Elizabeth, he had another son, Humphrey on whom Sir John settled the manor of Pipe in 1461, when Humphrey was about six years old. This Sir John died in 1474, his fine tomb can be seen in Elford church. (IMG2450)

After his death, Humphrey's half-brother, who had succeeded as the next Sir John Stanley of Elford, challenged Humphrey's right to the manor and the dispute was not settled until 1490-1, when it was decided in Humphrey's favour. By that time, Humphrey had already been knighted, by Henry VII, on Bosworth field, having fought for him in the battle.. As the Ballad of Bosworth Field relates:

"King Henery desired the vaward right

of the Lord Stanley ......

4 of the Noble knights then called he ...."

their names to you then I shall minge"

They were: Sir Robert Tunstall, Sir John Savage, Sir Hugh Persall

"Sir Humphrey Stanley the 4th did bee

that proved noble in every thing

they did assay them with their chivalrye

and went to the vaward with our king" [Henry]

Humphrey was probably knighted after the battle. Though he had not yet formally obtained the disputed manor, he would be known to history as Sir Humphrey Stanley of Pipe Ridware.

Humphrey's half brother, Sir John Stanley of Elford, may have played a significant role in the campaign, if not on the battlefield. Polydore Virgil relates how, after passing through Lichfield Henry, "halted on his march, accompanied only by twenty men, so as to deliberate what to do", and lost sight of his army. He spent the night in a "certain hamlet more than three miles from his camp", which was in the vacinity of Tamworth. The next day, he returned to the army and offered the excuse that, "he had been outside the camp to receive some welcome news from certain secret friends.". The excuse seems to me more likely to be the truth. Henry was accompanied by 20 men; an army is quite difficult to loose in a relatively small area and Henry, as their commander would presumably have known which way it was heading. The village of Whittington has been suggested as the "certain hamlet", where he spent the night. However, about 2 miles north east of Whittington, and about 3 miles north of Tamworth, lies the village of Elford and Haselour Hall. There are "family traditions" that:

            Henry Tudor spent the night before the battle of Bosworth at Haselour Hall and/or camped his army in the grounds; that Lady Margaret Beaufort was living at Haselour Hall. that the roses and portcullis window in Elford church (IMG2437) proclaim the connection between the Stanleys and Henry VII, who is said to have met secretly with Lord Stanley at Elford the night before the battle of Bosworth and persuaded Stanley to desert Richard III and join him.

Obviously there are inconsistencies and problems with these stories. If there is any connection with Polydore Virgil's story: it wasn't the night directly before the battle; he didn't bring his army but "lost" them; the present Haselour Hall is Jacobean and the now demolished Elford Hall was 18th century. But the window is there. Enquires are on-going.

This Sir John was the last of the male line of the Stanleys to hold Elford. His young son was struck on the head by the ball during a game of real/royale tennis (the balls were hard) and he died. Though comparatively roughly carved, the tomb of, "the Stanley child", is the most famous of those in Elford church. The effigy of the boy holds a ball and the tomb bears the inscription: "Ubi dolor ibi digitus" (where the hurt, there the finger) (IMG2449).The loss of his son meant that when Sir John died in 1508, the manor passed to his daughter Margery, wife of William Staunton.


Bradshaws Manchester Journal No. 9 ,Saturday 26th June 1841, pp. 138-9

Jean A. Gidman, William Stanley of Holt 2003, Rosalba Press.


A History of the County of Stafford, Volume 14, Lichfield, Ed. M.W. Greenslade. pub.London, 1990.             pp.205-220 Burntwood Manors. (British History Online)

Ballad of Bosworth, text.The Richard III Society. 113.449 - 116.464



Photos by Penny Lawton

IMG2437: the roses and portcullis window

IMG2449: the Stanley child

IMG2450: Sir John Stanley d. 1474



In September and October we watched two DVD's from the "Lost in Castles", series: Middleham and Sandal castles. The DVDs give a "guided tour" of each castle, using archeological expertise and computer graphics to visually reconstruct the castles as they would have been in their heyday of the 15th century. The Sandal castle DVD also includes a feature on the battle of Wakefield. Both were written and presented by John L. Fox and Sandal castle also features the voices of Robert Hardy and Richard Dodd. The evolution of the castles to the 15th century is described, as is their functionality and the effectiveness of their design for defence.

Unfortunately, the paper on Europe, planned for November had to be postponed as the member who was to give it was unable to get to the meeting due to "car trouble". Ever resourceful, a paper continuing our "castles", theme, on Holt castle, was quickly substituted, together wit an item on the treatment of aliens in England.

Holt Castle

Holt originated in the 13th century, as part of Edward I's programme of building castles to dominate Wales. Holt was given to John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey in 1284, along with the newly created lordship of Bromfield and Yale and building began. A ford over the River Dee, was clearly a site that would need defending from incursions by the Welsh and so the castle was situated on a sandstone plinth, with the river itself protecting one side and providing water for a moat surrounding the rest. It was completed about 1311 by the founder's grandson, another John de Warenne and was known as "Castrum Leonis", because of a carving in the entrance. The outer bailey would have been on the far side of the moat and it is not known if that was protected by a wall. A survey of 1620 indicated that the bailey contained barns, brewhouse, kiln, pigeon house, smithy, stables and the "Welsh Courthouse".

The planned village of Holt was started at about the same time, for colonising English residents and probably had some sort of defensive earthworks (to keep the native Welsh out). However, the law forbidding Welsh residents seems to have been quite quickly relaxed and by 1391 half of the residents were Welsh.

The last of the Warennes died in 1347 and his estates passed Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel. In the reign of Richard II, his son, another Richard, was one of the Lords Appellant of the Merciless Parliament of 1388 and in 1397 Richard II took his revenge and had him executed for treason. His estates were forfeit and the lordships of Bromfield and Yale were absobed into the Principality of Cheshire. Richard II apparently valued Holt and commissioned a water-gate with a deep channel from the river, to replace the postern. This proved to be a mistake, as a surprise attack through the water gate was the means by which Henry Bolingbroke seized the castle in 1399. (One wonders if the water gate and its defences were complete.)

Holt castle passed to the Stafford family, until Richard III executed Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham for treason in 1483 (Buckingham's rebellion). The king then granted it to Sir William Stanley, who held it until he too was executed for treason (support for Perkin Warbeck) by Henry VII in 1494. Holt was taken back into Crown ownership for a while but later granted to William Brereton, until he too was executed for the treason (adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn). The castle remained in royal hands until Royalist forces were defeated in the Civil War. Holt held out for 11 months but eventually surrendered in January 1647. Parliament ordered the castle to be slighted to prevent further military use and between 1675-82 a lot of the masonry was removed by Thomas Grosvenor to build Eaton Hall. Little remains today.                                                                         




In anticipation of our theme of foreign policy and relations, we had a short paper on Aliens in England, (principally from Ralph Griffiths, "Henry VI"). In London aliens constituted between 2-4% of the population. They were also present in other towns, principally ports, such as Southampton, Sandwich and Bishops' (now Kings) Lynn, in the west-coast towns that traded with Ireland and also in the University towns of Oxford and Cambridge as scholars. They were mostly engaged in trade or the associated businesses of banking and exchange but might also be clergy.

Aliens were a distinct community who were treated differently under the law from native subjects. They could be granted "denizen" status (right of residency, granted by letters patent) but the distinction beween denizen and alien was unclear. The Irish and Welsh peoples were in a kind of intermediate position: the king was their leige lord but they did not have all the rights and privileges of Englishmen, either in England or in Wales and Ireland. There was a mass expulsion of Irish from England in 1422, due to their "disorderliness" and the Welsh were subject to penal legislation passed during the Glyndwr rebellion, which barred them from puchasing property in England or in the Welsh boroughs and disabled any man marrying a Welsh woman from holding office in Wales , although kings could and did, make exceptions. Later, Henry V and Henry VI granted letters of denizenship to Welshmen (Owen Tudor was granted denizenship in 1432, following his marriage to dowager Queen Katherine). When the alien poll tax was imposed in 1440, Welshmen were excluded from it.

Most aliens were engaged in trade. In Henry VI's reign, Gascons, Normans and Picards who were nominally his subjects (following his coronation in Paris in 1430), were nevertheless, treated as aliens, although sometimes a little more consideration was given them, especially with regard to their freedom to trade. In 1428, it was declared that Flemings should be treated as the King's French subjects and be allowed to trade freely in the two realms and this was extended to Hollanders and Zeelanders, on the grounds that trade was necessary the world over for the public good.

Nevertheless, like most medieval societies, the English were suspicious of foreigners and the fluctuations of the Hundred Years' War could cause the levels of hostility and suspicion to rise, as they had done in the 1370's when they were vehemently expressed in the "Good Parliament" of 1376. In the 1430s the resurgence of French power brought with it a resurgence of anti-alien feelings expressed in such writings as "The Libelle of Englysche Polycye" in 1436.  That same year, more than 1,800 aliens from France, Germany, Denmark and the Low Countries came to swear loyalty to Henry VI in order that they might continue to live in the country unmolested. Yet a year later, it was claimed that the "stews" in Southwark, were the haunts of French, Flemings and Picards, many of whom were spies, criminals and other enemies. 

Since the 11th century, governments had taken steps to try to restrict the activities of aliens and to keep some kind of record of who and where they were. Legislation in 1404 not only prevented them from exporting gold and silver but required them to stay in approved accommodation which was registered with local authorities and limited the length of their stay to three months, though it is doubtful how effective these measures were in practice.

An important factor in this hostility was mercantile rivalry and privileges which were sometimes granted to foreign merchants, caused great resentment among their English counterparts, who suspected that they manipulated the terms of trade to their own advantage and the  disadvantage of England. For instance in 1429, it was reported to Parliament, that merchants from the Low Countries frequently cheated the customs collectors by hiding wool under coal. Bankers, among whom Florentines were prominent, were suspected of manipulating exchange rates to their own advantage. In June 1436, attempts were made to disrupt the brewing activities of  Hollanders and Zeelanders on the grounds that their beer was not fit to drink and caused drunkenness. This level of hostility was more pronounced in London than other parts of the country. Aliens were accused of draining the country of of its wealth of gold and silver. Alien clergy holding English benefices were regarded as not only draining wealth from the country by sending it to Rome but neglecting their benefices to the spiritual impoverishment of the realm too. Even the foreign servants of queens, like Joan of Navarre, could be regarded with suspicion as possible spies and a drain on the royal income.

Although governments recognised the important role that aliens played in trade and were unwilling to take measures that would disrupt it, it was not possible for their subjects to be kept fully informed of the fluctuations of English foreign relations and neither were the majority English capable of discriminating between one foreigner and another, so they were all generally regarded with suspicion and at times hostility.




The name of the author of the great fourteenth century narrative poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is unknown but what is known, from expert examination of his dialect, is that he was a North Staffordshire man. There is speculation that he may have been a monk of Dieulacres Abbey and that Lud's church, in the Roaches north of Leek (which Dieulacres owned), may have been the inspiration for the Green Chapel in the poem. This latter was suggested by Tolkein who visited the area and who also produced a translation of the poem into more modern English. The poet must also have had a patron for his work and the Duchy of Lancaster has been suggested.

For our December meeting, we enjoyed the section of the poem describing Gawain's winter journey through "the ryalme of Logres", using both Tolkien's translation and quotations from the original to get the flavour of the poetry's rich dialect. It was accompanied by a show of photographs of wintery scenes of our local landscape, leading to Gawain's "arrival" at Peveril castle, in the High Peak district. The castle was a possession of the Duchy and so may well have been an inspiration for the castle of Sir Bertilak de Hautdesert ( Hautdesert was the medieval term for the Peak District)  It concluded with pictures of Castleton's Christmas tree festival.


We then enjoyed our own festive treats.










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