The first Lords of the Manor in Ightenhill

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Within a month, the parish council at Ightenhill will be reporting on its Heritage Lottery funded work with reference to the site of Ightenhill Manor House.

Just over £30,000 has been invested in this scheme which will be marked by a Medieval event at Ightenhill Park on Sunday, April 26th. On the same day, Lord Shuttleworth will “open” the Information Board at the site of the Manor House itself and, in doing so, will bring to an end this exciting project.

The details of these events will be published over coming days but, in preparation for what is about to take place, I have decided to write a series of articles on the story of the Manor House. I had hoped I would have been able to use some of the splendid art work prepared by Burnley Council’s Graphics Unit but it has been decided that this, apart from information on a poster which is being widely circulated, should not be made public until April 26th, when everyone is invited to attend.

This article is the first of two about the Lords of the Manor of Ightenhill and I will tell you a little of what we know about these men and their estates, relating also what their connections were to Ightenhill and our part of Lancashire.

Richard III has been in the news a lot recently but did you know he was Lord of the Manor of Ightenhill? This was from 1483-5 when he occupied the throne. Of course, he was one of a considerable number of Lords of the Manor who have held the position since the 12th Century to the present day.

When I last looked into who is likely to be Lord of the Manor of Ightenhill, at the present time, it appeared the 10th Duke of Buccleugh, who is the largest private landowner in the United Kingdom, was the man. Of course, most of the powers of the Lord no longer apply so I am not expecting the Duke to arrive and impose former manorial powers on us!

Little is known of Ightenhill in the years before the Norman Conquest in 1066. However, we all are aware it was in that year that William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and defeated Harold II at Hastings. Duke William became King William I, though he is better known to us as William the Conqueror.

Of course, William had the support of a large number of followers, mainly from Normandy in northern France, and one of the families that arrived with him, and fought with him, were the de Lacys. They came from Lassy which is in the Calvados area of Basse-Normandie, North-West France.

It is known that two members of the de Lacy family, Ilbert and his younger brother, Walter, were present at the battle of Hastings and it is thought Ilbert may have been with William when Harold was killed. It is also known that Ilbert was with William when, as king, he had to face the Great Rising of the Saxons which took place between 1068 and 1069.

This was, perhaps, the most important of the Saxon risings against William. It had been led by two great Saxon chiefs, Edwin and Morcar, who were assisted by the Danes, but they were defeated by William who put the rebellion down with great ferocity. This latter is known as the “Harrying of the North” and it is understood tens of thousands were its victims, many of them starving to death as a result of the king’s “burnt earth” policies.

It could be that the Harrying of the North was so thorough that whole communities were laid waste. When the Domesday Book came to be written, in 1086, references to Yorkshire, Northumberland and what is now Cumbria are so trifling, when compared to those for communities in the South-east and Midlands. The lack of detail for the northern entries may have been because of the Harrying which, almost 20 years later, could still be felt. In addition, there are accounts of the clerks, charged with the task of drawing up the Domesday Book, spending as little time as they could in these areas of the north as it was not safe to be carrying out the hated king’s orders.

Incidentally, you will have noticed I have not mentioned Lancashire. If you know your Domesday Book, you will know Lancashire, as a county, does not get a mention. The north of what is now Lancashire was included in the Yorkshire part of the Domesday Book, with the Cheshire section covering the south of the present county.

Ilbert de Lacy was rewarded by King William with extensive lands in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Oxfordshire and he was granted a total of 170 Lordships. However, it is not clear, at this stage, whether Ightenhill was one of them. The Domesday Book makes no mention of Ilbert when it refers, very briefly, to North-east Lancashire.

It is not until after the death of Ilbert, in 1093, that it becomes clear our part of the country had been included among the de Lacy properties. Ilbert, the builder of the great castle at Pontefract, was succeeded by his son Robert, whom the historian Dugdale says was the builder of the castle at Clitheroe, though other historians do not seem to have been so sure.

Robert de Lacy was the Lord of the Honor of Clitheroe, and Lord of Ightenhill, but he lived in troubled times and suffered two banishments from England. He supported Robert Curthose, the oldest of William I’s three sons, in a contest to secure the throne. William had willed, before his death in 1087, the crown of England to his second son, William II, or William Rufus as he is better known. The king’s oldest son inherited Normandy. The youngest son, Henry, got next to nothing in the will but, eventually, it was he who, as Henry I, reunited England and Normandy under the crown.

To be on the losing side, and twice at that, was not good for Robert de Lacy who, after his second banishment, did not return to England. In this time de Lacy land, including Ightenhill, was administered by Hugh de la Val and Henry Maltravers. The latter was murdered and, by 1135, the de Lacys had been restored in the person of a second Ilbert. He had sided with his father and had shared the latter’s banishment but he succeeded to almost the whole of the extensive de Lacy estate.

This Ilbert supported King Stephen in the Civil War which followed the death of Henry I. The king died, in 1135, without a male heir: his son, Prince William, died in the famous White Ship disaster, leaving only a sister, the Empress Matilda, to claim the throne. We know only a little about Ilbert but we do know he was present at the Battle of the Standard which took place near Northallerton in north Yorshire. This was one of Stephen’s more important victories against the supporters of the Empress.

When Ilbert died in 1141 he was succeeded by his younger brother, the first Henry de Lacy.

It was he who founded the Cistercian abbey (c1147) at Barnoldswick which later moved to Kirkstall, near Leeds in 1152. Henry fought in Wales and France and died, in 1171, on Crusade in the Holy Land.

Some historians think it was Henry who ordered the building of the manor house at Ightenhill but that could equally have been his son, the second Robert de Lacy to hold the family lands. This Robert was the Lord of a vast estate of which Ightenhill was only a small part. He held 60 knights fees, an immense measure of property, but died childless in 1193.

It is here the first of these special articles on the Manor House at Ightenhill must come to an end. Next, I will tell you about the man who succeeded Robert. He called himself “de Lacy” but was not a member of the family. This individual was also the most disliked of the de Lacys, especially in Wales, though he did one thing in the Burnley area which is still remembered today.