Roger from Hell and his links to Burnley

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I recently introduced you to the first of the de Lacys to occupy the position of Lord of the Manor of Ightenhill which was not the most important of their estates.

The family had arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066 and, because of their loyalty to him and the support they gave him, the de Lacys were rewarded with great estates. These estates were held in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire and the family, like many baronial families, also had land in Ireland. It is, however, with Ightenhill that we are concerned and, being where it is, in what was, in the 11th and 12th Centuries, a very backward area of the country, if not the least of their estates it was certainly not the most important.

We have very little about the de Lacys and their involvement with Ightenhill until the end of the 12th Century. This is somewhat ironic because, strictly, the family had died out by then. The last of the real de Lacy lords was Robert de Lacy II who held the estates from 1171-93.

Some historians credit him with building the Manor House, the remains of which have been at the heart of the Heritage Lottery funded work carried out at the site over the past year or so.

Unfortunately, this cannot be proved. Robert died in 1193 but, though he was the last of his line, he was succeeded by a distant relative who took the name of de Lacy. This was Roger de Lacy, the most feared and hated of the de Lacy line. He was known as “the terror and scourge of the Welsh” and “Roger from Hell”.

This latter name is very much like a name by which one of his contemporaries was known. Richard de Malbisse was a small Yorkshire-based landowner who also held land in what is now Lancashire. There is still a village near York known as Acaster Malbis, which may have been the site of his capital manor. His Lancashire land holding was very close to home as he was the over lord of Extwistle, to the east of Burnley, between Briercliffe and Worsthorne.

In 1193 he granted Extwistle to two religious houses, Kirkstall Abbey, near Leeds, and Newbo Abbey, near Grantham, Lincolnshire. It is likely Roger de Lacy and Richard Malbisse knew each other, probably quite well. Both were Crusaders, fighting with Richard the Lionheart, their king.

There is also a similarity in how they were known. It is thought “Roger from Hell” was known as such because of his ferocity in battle. Richard’s surname (Malbisse) means, in Norman French, “Evil Beast”. We all know where the “evil beast” resides. Could it be these names were linked in some way?

To make things a little more complicated, Richard I (the Lionheart) is known as such to us, the English, but, to his enemies, mainly the Saracens, he was known as Richard the Evil Beast, probably because of his role at the bloody Siege of Acre in 1191.

To get back to Roger; he was the descendent of Robert de Lacy’s wife, Isobella de Lizour’s, sister, Awbrey. She married Richard Fitz Eustace, the Lord of Halton and Constable of Chester. He had died in 1178 leaving a son John, who founded the Cistercian abbey of Stanlaw, Cheshire. John died on crusade at Tyre in 1190 and it was he who was succeeded by Roger de Lacy three years later.

The thing to point out is that Roger succeeded to the Cheshire estates of the Fitz Eustaces and those of the de Lacys. This made him a very powerful baron but there is something more that should be mentioned as it was Roger, who, when his daughter married Geoffrey, son of the Dean of Whalley, gave “Tunley”, near Burnley, to them, as a dowry. Tunley is now known as Towneley. Thus Roger, was the founder of the Towneley family fortunes.

Roger de Lacy was a loyal supporter of Richard I when he was on the throne and transferred this loyalty to the king’s brother, John, when he became king in 1199. In fact Roger and King John were great friends and he fought campaigns in Wales and France on behalf of the king. In 1211 Roger was succeeded by his son, John, who continued to support the king, but King John was becoming increasingly unpopular, largely because of the high taxes he imposed in England and his lack of military success in France.

John de Lacy then had a row with the king. The nature of this disagreement is not known but it is thought it is likely to have been over taxation. It could be that the baron thought the king was not only exacting too much tax, not only from him but from others, and the methods the king used were making the country unstable. Whatever the dispute was about, it must have been serious as John de Lacy changed sides and came out in support of the Barons who were plotting, not to kill the king, but to try to control his powers.

In 1215, this all came to a head at Runnymede where King John was forced to agree to the terms of Magna Carta. It is thought John de Lacy’s change of sides emboldened the Barons to carry their plan forward. Had the king not agreed it is likely there may have been civil war in 1215 but King John, once he had left Runnymede, did all he could to renege on the agreement. In fact many of the barons lost faith with him and invited Louis of France to become King of England.

John de Lacy did not think very much of this and, when King John died in 1216, he was one of group of barons who ensured the king’s son, Henry, should succeed to the throne. This was achieved and John became one of the new king’s advisers. John also fought in the Holy Land and Wales and, when another Civil War was looming, he attacked and captured Skipton Castle for the king.

More locally, John de Lacy was responsible to getting permission to erect the gallows at Clitheroe. I have thought I would like to look into this but have never got round to it. Perhaps, I should. Lastly, it was this John who was made Earl of Lincoln by Henry III in 1232.

When he died, in 1240. John was succeeded by Edmund about whom very little is known. It has been suggested that, as he was a minor or ill in some way, the de Lacy estates were in the hands of his mother, Alice de Aquila. However, it is known Edmund was educated at Court under Henry III and married Alice de Seluces, a kinsperson to the Queen.

This latter was a not a popular thing to do. The Queen, Eleanor of Provence, was French and, in 1242, an unsuccessful war broke out between England and France over the parts of France lost by England in the reign of King John. Lack of success in this war led directly to another rebellion by the English barons. This was the one in which Simon de Montfort, brother-in-law to Henry, assumed command of the barons.

We do know Edmund entered the historic record for, in 1235, he obtained a Charter of Freewarden for his Lordship of Briercliffe. This Lordship comprised Briercliffe, Extwistle, Worsthorne, Hurstwood and Cliviger but the Lordship did not refer to the ownership of the land but to the right to hunt it. To be more specific, parts of the Lordship were in the direct ownership of the de Lacys but it is clear this Charter gave Edmund the right to hunt, not only over his land, but the property of others who may not have been his tenants.

These would have included the abbots of Kirkstall and Newbo. The former owned the monastic grange (farm) in the east of Extwistle based around the present Monk Hall. The latter held the west of the township, the area which includes the present Extwistle Hall. However, the Charter of 1235 allowed the hunting of small animals - rabbits, hares, birds etc - in the Lordship. This doubtless pleased the local copyholders who could now create areas so they could go hunting, not for the local deer, but hunting all the same.

In 1235 Edmund was a minor so it is likely the application for the Charter was made in his name rather than by him personally. It is not known when Edmund was born but, as he had not succeeded to the title in 1258, when he died, it is likely he was not yet 21 in that year. Heirs to great estates did not succeed until they were 21. Until then they were Wards of the King and we have seen Edmund was brought up at Court. However, we have seen he was married, probably at a very young age, something that was not unusual in these days, and it is known he had a child, the second Henry de Lacy.

This Henry was also as minor at the time of the death of his father.

But he became the greatest of all the de Lacys and he deserves an article just to himself and I will consider his life in the next article in this series.