The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) - The Free Chase of Holmfirth

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The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) by Henry James Morehouse


This district, now generally known as the Graveship of Holme, comprises seven townships, viz.:— Holme, Austonley, Upperthong, Wooldale, Fylstone, Hep worth and Cartworth, and was anciently a Free Chase of the Earls Warren.

That there was a chase here before the Norman conquest, when it formed part of the possessions of Edward the Confessor, or even earlier, does not admit of a doubt. At the time of the Domesday survey the Manor of Wakefield, of which this is parcel, remained in the possession of the Conqueror : that record states, “this manor [Wakefield] was in the demesne of King Edward.” It remained in the possession of the Crown till granted off to William, the second Earl Warren.

Notwithstanding the great antiquity of this chase, it appears to have undergone not only a change of name, but also of boundary, soon after the conquest; in confirmation of which we must again appeal to the Domesday survey, which, in describing the lands belonging to the soke of Wakefield, among others it states “Amelie [Emley], three carucates ; Chetenurde [Cartworth], six carucates ; Bertone [Burton], three carucates ; Seppeleie [Shepley], two carucates ; Scelneleie [Shelley], one carucate ; Cumbrenurde [Cumberworth], one carucate,” &c. ; these are returned “waste.” The six carucates in Cartworth unquestionably refer to the chase; but in the recapitulatio of this record it states, “In Chetenurde [Cartworth], Heppenurde [Hepworth], Vluedel [Wooldale], Fugellstun [Fulston], and Tostenland [Thurstonland], the King, six carucates.” These five townships were comprised in the above-mentioned six carucates, as stated under Cartworth, which is thus recognised as the head of a territory or district.

The etymology of Cartworth appears to be a compound of British and Saxon : Kert, a camp or fortification, and Worth, a residence, which would seem to imply a principal residence; where, perhaps, the lords of the fee took up their abode when partaking of the sports of the chase.

There is another circumstance which may be mentioned in connexion with this hypothesis. Within the township of Cartworth is a small hamlet called Arrenden, situated on the west side of the Ribbleden valley, which, notwithstanding its high situation, is surrounded by lands much sheltered by the adjacent hills. This name closely resembles, and probably is identical with, Erringden, in the forest of Sowerbyshire, in the parish of Halifax, and seems to have had a similar origin. Thus Mr. Watson suggests its derivation from the Anglo-Saxon “Erian, to plow, to till, or eare '” and this name it might acquire when it was enclosed as a park, as being expressive of the chief purpose for which it was enclosed; for the country to a considerable extent being a forest, and stored with beasts of various kinds, for the purpose of hunting, there could not be much corn grown where these had liberty.” There seems great probability that this derivation is the correct one; and it appears to agree with the purposes to which Arrenden in Cartworth would be employed in relation to the hunting residence of its early lords: having probably been chosen to provide hay and corn for the deer and other beasts of the chase, during the severe winter months, when nearly all other sources of food would be cut off. Supposing, therefore, Cartworth to have been the occasional residence of the early lords of the fee — which is thus supported by what may be termed collateral evidence, — it seems not improbable that this ancient residence was situated near the knoll of the hill, not far from the spot where Cartworth House stood, and which, from its commanding situation, would render it an eligible site, having the Arrenden Park, or enclosure, immediately below.

With respect to the boundary of the chase at the time of the Norman survey, the statement given in that record is clear and explicit. The three other townships in this graveship — or, as recorded in Domesday, four, — were not mentioned in connexion with the foregoing, and consequently did not form a part of the chase at that period; but after enumerating Bretton, Horbury, and Ossett, it states, “besides these there are to be taxed two carucates in Holne, and another Holne, Alstanesliei [Austonley], and Thoac [Thong, now called Upperthong]: one plough may till this land: if is waste. Wood here and there. Some say this is Thaneland; others, in the soke of Wakefield :” therefore it is evident that these lands at that period were not held in connexion with those of Cartworth, &c., but were in the possession of a Saxon Thane, and were held under a superior tenure, until they came into the possession of the Conqueror.

It may be further noticed that though the township of Thurstonland was comprehended by Domesday under Cartworth (as we have already shown), it appears to have been severed from them at a remote period, for the Norman lords of the fee granted off lands there to some of their humbler dependents, who probably might have the care of the chase. These were free tenants, while those of the graveship were copyhold tenants, who held their lands by copy of court roll. The prominence, therefore, given to Cartworth in Domesday, and the fact that the name of Holmfirth does not appear in that record, together with the reasons here assigned, seem to establish the conclusions at which we have arrived.

Without indulging in fanciful speculation, we may infer from the name Holmfirth, or Wood of Oak, which this district or chase acquired after the Domesday survey, that its valleys were then thickly covered with wood, and that the acclivities and open plains were here and there studded with fine spreading timber, interspersed with coppice and hazel ; while in the sheltered and more favored spots, the fine green luxuriant herbage became the inviting repast of the red and fallow deer, the roe, and hare. Higher up along the ridges, where now a tree is scarcely to be seen, were then wide-spread patches of “wood here and there ;” while the highest ground, where now there is nothing but heath and bog, was then thickly covered with birch, scarcely acquiring the dimensions of trees,[1] but forming a close cover of bushwood, affording protection and shelter to the shy and more retiring beasts of the chase.[2]

At the time of the Norman survey the Manor of Wakefield was valued at only £15, though previously estimated at £60. This shows the great devastation which had been committed by the Conqueror within the precincts of this manor.

Who can contemplate without horror William’s rapacity, in the following account:— “The Conqueror, in 1078, gave orders to lay waste the fertile lands between the Humber and Tees, for the extent of sixty miles. Many flourishing towns, fine villages, and noble country seats were accordingly burnt down, the implements of husbandry destroyed, and the cattle driven away.” The great Lord Lyttleton, speaking of these devastations, and those occasioned by the forest laws, observes that, “Attila no more deserved the name of the scourge of God, than did this merciless tyrant; nor did he, nor any other destroyer of nations make more havoc in an enemy’s country, than William did in his own.”

From a manuscript account of the Manor of Wakefield, compiled apparently upwards of 200 years ago[3] — in the possession of H. Lumb, Esq., of Wakefield, — is the following passage:— “It is manifest bj diverse records, that the townes under the leet at Halifax, were sometimes called Forresta de Sowerbie, and the inhabitants, homines de Sowerbyshire; and that there were courts kept at Sowerby many years together, and it is by many records called Manerium de Sowerby, &c.; and the townships under Burton leet are likewise called Forresta de Holme, alias Holmfirthes ; but the courts thereof were always kept at Wakefield.” “Unfortunately,” as Mr. Lumb justly observes, “the compiler does not give the date of any roll or record showing where Holme is called a forest.” It is singular that the townships under the Burton leet were called Foresta de Holme, alias Holmfirth, when, as we shall soon see, Earl Warren claimed free chase in Holmfirth only ; we may, therefore, dismiss this part of the question as unsupported by any sufficient evidence. It is not, however, improbable that the term forest may have been used in relation to Holmfirth, as in the case of the Forest of Sowerby, which was only a free chase. “But perhaps a free chase,” says Mr. Lumb, “was near akin to a forest, and that these lands might popularly be considered as such.”

In the following extract of Inspeximus of the Quo Warranto, 7 Edward I. [1278,] we find that John, Earl de Warrenne, claimed “Liberam Chaceam” in “Holnefirth,” among other places therein named. He also claimed to have free warren as well in his fees as in his demesne lands, which he had of ancient tenure. He then refers to a charter of Henry [III.], father of .Edward [I.], 27th January, 37 A. Begin, by which the King granted him free warren in all his demesne lands which he then had, or which he should acquire.

Bespecting this chase as such, we possess few evidences calculated to gratify the curious concerning its management, either as regards the appointment of the officers who had the care of it, or the strictness or otherwise with which it was preserved. It seems by the following entry in the court rolls at Wakefield, that it suffered from occasional trespass; for in 1306, at a court of the Manor of Wakefield, held at Burton, on Wednesday after the octaves of Easter, 9 Edward, son of Edward [i.e. Edward II.] the jury presented “that John de Dalton, vicar of Braythewell, several times forcibly entered the free chase of the Lord Earl de Warren in Holnefirth armed, and killed, seized and carried off the game of the said earl, and assaulted the men of the said earl there present, and with his arrows shot and wounded them; for which he was ordered to be arrested.[4]

At a court held at Burton 23rd October, 15 Henry VI., [1436], under the title “Holme,” there appears in the court rolls “a presentment for entering the warren of the lord and killing hares,” &c., within the township of Hepworth.

In the reign of Edward III., we are furnished with another glimpse of the chase of Holmfirth, arising out of the feud of Elland of Elland with Lockwood of Lockwood, Beaumont of Crosland, and others.* After that lawless tragedy, Lockwood sought retirement. He had remained some time about Ferry Bridge, but passing thence to Cannon Hall, he casually met with two young gentlewomen of his kindred, as they were travelling from Lepton to Whitley, who informed him that diligent search was being made after him by the sheriff and his men, &c., and therefore advised him to go directly to Crosland Hall to Adam Beaumont, where he might live safely and hunt with him and other gentlemen both the red and fallow deer, at Hanley [Honley] and Holmfirth.

* As part of this tragical scene lay along the banks of the river Holme, and within a short distance of the district upon which we have undertaken to write, it may not be out of place to introduce here a very brief sketch of it, as given by Dodsworth in his MSS., more than 200 years since.

“Sir John Elland of Elland was a man of great account, and high steward to the Earl Warren of the Manor of Wakefield, and other lands in the north parts. He was Lord of Elland, Tankersley, Fulbridge, Henchfield, and Ratchdale; and being Sheriffe of Yorkshire, he slew Robert Beaumont in his own house at Crosland Hall, 24 Edward III., and was himself slain by the said Robert Beaumont’s sons, as he came from keeping the sheriff’s turn at the Manor of Brighouse. And not long after the said Beaumonts slew the said Sir John Elland’s son and heir, as he came over Elland Mill-dam to church, on Palm Sunday morning, — there being at that time no bridge. This appeareth by evidence and pedigrees in the keeping of John Armitage, of Kirklees, Esquire; and they have a play and song thereof in the country still. The quarrel was about the Earl of Lancaster and the Earl Warren, that took away the Earl of Lancaster’s wife, there being a man slain of the Earl Warren’s party in a hurly-burly betwixt the said lords for that matter. Elland came to search for the murderer in the said Beaumont’s house — who belonged to the Earl of Lancaster, — and slew him in his own hall, as aforesaid.”

The ballad is given in the Histories of Halifax, by Watson Crabtree.

It is recorded that “the second day of meeting was appointed for the jury to be att Holmfirth Chappell of Tuesday, being 1st May, 1607, by eight a clock in the morning.

At which day before X a clock did mett of the jury these persones :— Mr. Nettleton, Thomas Morton, Robert Hepworth, Richard Matthewman, James Greene, William Royds, Thomas Tyas, John Beaver, William Moorhouse, of Ebson House, James Bray.

Against which day the Greave did command all the inhabitants of Austonley, to appear the tyme above said, and bring their copyes and shew them there to the jury.

At which tyme the deputie Greave did appear and certify yt he had given commandment accordingly, but never a man appeared to shew their copyes.[5] Shortly afterwards, Sir John Brograve, Kt., Attorney-General of the Dutchy of Lancaster, exhibited an information in the Dutchy Court against divers tenants and copyholders within the Manor of Wakefield, alledging that whereas the King and his progenitors had for a long time been lawfully seized in his and their demesne, as of fee of the said manor, in right of the Crown of England, within the precincts of which manor the graveships of Wakefield, Stanley, Alverthorpe, Thorns, Sandal, Horbury, Ossett, Sowerby, Hipperholme, Holmfirth, Scammonden, and Rastrick, being members and parcel of the said manor. The greatest part of these lands, &c., had from time immemorial been demised and demisable by copy of court roll at will, in fee simple or fee tail, or for term of life or lives at the will of the lord, according to the custom of the manor for fines uncertain and arbitrable at the will of the lord.”

At what period the term “Graveship” came to be applied to this chase, we are unable to determine; but is is unquestionably of great antiquity. The word Grave (prepositus in Latin deeds) is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon Lenere or the German Graf : an officer, whose duty it was to collect the lord’s rents, &c.

Considerable portions of waste or demesne lands have been enclosed here at different times from a remote period, by consent of the lord of the manor for the time being, which were brought into cultivation by the tenants, who were allowed to occupy and enjoy them, and which likewise were allowed to pass under the same tenure, and subject to the rents and fines in like manner as the more ancient copyhold lands, &c.

When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, the entire graveship was of copyhold tenure ; but in the eighth year of her reign she, by letters patent, under the seal of the Dutchy of Lancaster, dated 9th October, [1565], granted to the Right Honorable Robert Earl of Leicester, divers lands, &c., being parcel of the waste or demesne land of the Manor of Wakefield, amounting to 586 acres, which the said earl shortly afterwards granted to Sir Thomas Gargreave and Henry Saville, Esq., who sold the same in small parcels to the copyholders of the manor.[6] A considerable part of the lands comprised in this grant lay within this graveship.

Soon after James I. came to the throne, processes were instituted against those tenants of the Crown whose titles to their estates were not perfectly secure; among the rest the copyholders of the Manor of Wakefield were called in question respecting their fines and the customs of the manor, upon which inquisitions were held in the several graveships within the manor. That in relation to this graveship was held in Holmfirth Chapel [Church], before a jury sworn to enquire into certain articles ministered to them by his Majesty’s commissioners. We here give, from a series of MS. evidences, the following epitome of the transactions which took place on that occasion, and of the arrangements entered into by the copyholders with the King, together with the final settlement ; by which the fines paid on demise or otherwise were rendered “small and certain,” and not contingent on the will of the lord.

“The said copyholders had time out of mind used in the court of the said manor, by way of surrender, to grant rents out of their copyhold tenements, for which the lord had a sum of money in the name of a fine, for his assent to be assessed or taxed by the lord or his steward at pleasure. And further alledging that the defendants had combined together to defraud the King.” — “That there were divers parts of the waste of the said manor which were demesne, and had not been demised or demisable by copy of court roll, till of late that some part thereof, by commission or by the stewards, had been granted and improved as if the same had been ancient copyhold or customary lands : the tenants thereof making like claim for the certainty of the fines thence arising.”

To which information the defendants appeared, and confessed that his Majesty was lawfully seized in his demesne as of fee in right of his Crown, or his Dutchy of Lancaster, in the said Manor of Wakefield ; and that the graveships above-mentioned were within the precincts of the said Manor.

The greatest part of the lands in the said graveship are, and from time immemorial have been, copyhold, and demised and demisable by copy of court roll in fee, fee tail, or otherwise. The said copyholders had used from time immemorial, in the court of the said manor, by way of surrender, to grant rents out of their copyhold tenements; and further, that the fines to be paid on every grant and admittance to the said copyhold land, &c., were not uncertain and arbitrable at the will of the lord, but certain, viz.:— every admittance by surrender or descent to any estate of inheritance in possession, a year’s rent and half, according to the rent paid to the lord for the lands to which the admittance is made ; for a messuage without lands, 4d. ; for a cottage, 2d. ; and for every such grant of rent as aforesaid, 20d. for every twenty shillings rent so granted ; and according to that rate for any greater or lesser sum. And on any admittance to any estate for life, lives, or years, in possession or reversion, or to any estate of inheritance in reversion depending on such particular estates, half so much as is before-mentioned to be paid on the said admittance to estates of inheritance in possession ; and on admittance after seisures accustomed there to be made for bettering of assurances, three years’ rent, according to the rent paid to the lord, or his steward for the time being, ought to admit every person to whom any of the said copyhold premises should come by descent, surrender, or otherwise ; or who should give or commit cause of seisure for bettering of assurances, or to whom any such grant of rent should be made as aforesaid, for such certain fine and rate as above-mentioned. They acknowledge that divers parcels of waste ground of the said manor had been inclosed by virtue of several commissions, and other lawful authority, and improved for the greater benefit of the lord thereof ; and that the said parcels of waste after such improvement, had been granted by copy of court roll for certain yearly rents, customs, and services, as had been usual, and had passed by surrender, descent and otherwise, as the ancient copyhold premises had passed ; and that the lord had been duly answered of such fines, &c., as in the case of ancient copyhold estates ; and that the defendants and their ancestors had disbursed great sums of money in taking and purchasing, as well as building on and fencing the same.[7] In consideration of which, they prayed that their several lands, &c., parcel of the said waste held as above, might, by favour of the court, be judicially and finally declared and decreed to be lawfully devised to them, according to the custom of the manor on such certain yearly rents as already stated, or such other reasonable fines as the court should think meet,” &c.

An information was also exhibited against the said copyholders by Sir Henry Hobart, Kt., Attorney-General to the Exchequer Court.

After which, the said copyholders preferred their petition to the King, setting forth that their estates and customs were likely to be impeached, and praying that his Majesty would be pleased to give warrant to the Lord Treasurer of England, the Chancellor of his Majesty’s Court of Exchequer, the Lord Chief Baron, and other Barons of the same court, and also the Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster, for confirmation of their estates by copy of court roll, if the said parcels of waste for ever to be enjoyed by the petitioners, their heirs and assigns, as ancient copyhold lands of the said manor, for the usual yearly services, rents, and customs paid and done for the same ; and for establishing the certainty of the fines as aforesaid. That the same might be decreed by the said courts, and that those decrees might be confirmed by Act of Parliament, in consideration of which they offered to his Majesty as much money as would amount to 35 years’ rent of all the rents then paid, &c. : amounting to the sum of five thousand four hundred pounds, eight shillings, and sixpence halfpenny farthing half-farthing.

The offer was accepted. Whereupon the King’s letters of privy seal were directed to the Lord Treasurer of England, the Chancellors of the Exchequer and Dutchy of Lancaster, &c., signifying that for establishing the certainty of the above fines, his Majesty did grant his royal assent that such a bill as above-named should pass both Houses of Parliament ; and that in the meantime authority should be given to the Lord Treasurer, and Chancellors of the Exchequer and Dutchy Courts, to make orders and decrees in their respective courts, agreeable to the petition, — which was made accordingly. These were likewise confirmed by Act of Parliament, 12 James I., [1613,] entitled “An act for confirmation of several decrees made in the Court of Exchequer Chamber and Dutchy Chamber, between the King’s Majesty and divers copyholders of his Majesty’s Manor of Wakefield, in the county of York.”

From an original parchment, purporting to be “A true and perfect Rentall of all the Copyhoulde rentes of all and ev’ie Copyhoulders and Ten’nts hereafter named, who have subscribed to the Composi’ion and Agreement made with his Majtie., for reducinge of the Fynes of theyr Copyhould landes and ten’ntes within the Manor or Lordshippe of Wakefelde, in the county of Yorke, into certeyntie, as the same have bene p’sented unto us, Henry Savile, Knight, Robt. Kaye, and William Ramsden, Esquiers, and John Midgley, Gent., by virtue of his Majties Commission to us and others forth of his Maties Court, of his Highnes Dutchie of Lancaster, at Westmr. directed, by the Oathes of Henrye Hynchliff, George Tyncker, Humfrey Charlesworth, Edmond Eastwood, John Tynker, of Holmehouse, Thomas Roebuck, Willm. Broadheade, John Castell, Thomas Littlewood, Humfrey Crosland, John Charlesworth, Thomas Braye, George Charlesworth, John Byns, John Grene, John Earnshawe, Willm. Kay, and John Morehouse, the three and twentieth day of October, and the thirde day of November, in the yeares of his Matie reigne of England, France, and Ireland, the eight, and of Scotland the Foure and Fourtieth, Ano: Dom: 1610.” Then follow the names of seventy-five persons holding “lands and tenements,” to each of which is added the annual amount and rent for which their lands were compounded; at the end of which list is a number of names of persons (compounders) in Scammonden, Wakefield, Sandall, Sowerby, and Hepperholrae.

The document is signed by Robt. Kaye, Willm. Ramsden, and John Midgley, the last of whom was Deputy-Steward of the Manor.

Appended to this is a smaller parchment, entitled “An addition of the names and rentes of such Copyhoulders as compounded before us after the ingrossinge of the Booke whereunto the Schedule is annexed.”

This list contains twenty-five names of persons “with lands and tenements” in the graveship of Holme with the fixed annual rent as aforesaid. This is signed only by “John Midgley.” There were, however, several copyholders who refused to compound for their lands at that time; some were compounded for at subsequent periods, and a few still remain uncompounded.

The whole annual rent due to the King arising from these copyhold lands within the graveship of Holme, compounded for under this deed, amount to £32 1s. l¼d.

A further enfranchisement of waste lands took place in the 24 Charles II., [1671,] when Sir Christopher Clapham, of Uffington, Knight, in the county of Lincoln (then Lord of the Manor of Wakefield), and Dame Margaret, his wife, by their indenture bearing date 6th July, for the considerations therein mentioned, did “grant, bargain, and sell, enfeoffe and confirme unto Thomas Whiteaker, of Thornhill, in the county of York, Gentleman, and John Siddall, of Stanley, in the said county, yeoman, their heirs and assigns for ever, all those lands, grounds, parcells of land, tenements, and buildings, &c., lately taken and enclosed from the wastes of the commons lying and being within the graveship of Holme, at Holmfirth, in the said Manor of Wakefield.” A schedule of these lands was appended to the said grant. The said Thomas Whiteaker and John Siddall shortly afterwards sold all the said lands to the freeholders and copyholders. These, together with the lands formerly granted by Queen Elizabeth to the Earl of Leicester, constituted the whole of the freehold lands in the graveship, except the grant made by King James I. of the Soke Mills, &c., which we shall hereafter have occasion to mention.

The last verdict by jury, summoned by the Steward of the Manor, at a court to enquire into the rents and evidences concerning this graveship, was held at Newmill, in Holmfirth, by adjournment, the 25th day of May, in the 8 Anne, [1710] : his Grace Thomas, Duke of Leeds, being then Lord of the Manor.

The graveship comprises about 15,920 acres; and the following record of its boundary is stated to have been taken in the reign of Henry V.

“Beginning at Mytham-brigg so to Mear-hill, Rough-law, Kirk-lydgate, Smithroyd-head, Hacking-bank, Piper-well, Windmill-stone, Burnt Cumberworth, Liginstone, Broadstone, Blackstone-edge-fore, Salterway, Mearthome-cross, Thuskenboles, Hare-law, Fincb-edge, Dodroyd-edge, Cocker-edge, Harden-hill, Sty-gate, Ottership; up Dead-edge, as the rain flows each way; so to Wikehead, Wikefoot, and up Salterbrook-water to Riddlepit; so in a line to Wicken-edge ; from thence up Holme-moss, as the rain falls each way to Holme-clough, Ring-hole-slacks, Armfield-stye, Rough-round-hill, Harden-hill, Wolf-stones, and Bordmans-fore, to Mytham-brigg aforesaid.”

“In such wild and open country,” observes Mr. Hunter, “there must have been frequent disputes respecting boundaries, and great necessity to keep up, as far as possible, the recollection of the ancient metes.”

It appears by the hundred roll that the Earls Warren had encroached upon Thurlstone; the jury returning that “the Earl of Warren had appropriated to himself warren at Thurlstone for sixteen years past: they knew not by what warrant.”

When the freeholders of the township of Thurlstone were about to enclose their waste lands, a dispute again arose respecting their boundary.[8]

In 1828 an act was obtained for enclosing all the common and waste lands within the graveship of Holme. All mines and minerals being reserved to the Lord of the Manor.

The commissioners appointed by the act to carry out its provisions were Thomas Bradley, of Richmond, Gentleman, and Frederic Robert Jones, of Huddersfield, Gentleman. The surveyors appointed were William Bingley, of Wombwell, Woodhead, Gentleman, and Thomas Dinsley, of Huddersfield, Gentleman.

The commissioners were empowered to make roads over the commons and waste lands, and to sell such portions of the said lands for defraying the cost of obtaining the said act, together with all other expenses connected with the said enclosure in carrying out and completing the same, by the said commissioners who were to execute their award.

One-sixteenth part of the residue of the commons (after the payment of all expences), was to be set out and awarded to the Lord of the Manor. To the Vicar of Kirkburton and his successors was to be allotted and enclosed such a proportion of the waste lands, for and in full compensation and satisfaction of all the vicarial tithes and ecclesiastical dues, or money payments, in lieu thereof; and also in full compensation for all Easter offerings (including house duty and communicants’ fees), and mortuaries; and in compensation of all other dues, — surplice fees only excepted. Such allotment or allotments so set out to the Vicar of Kirkburton not to prejudice or lessen such parts of the said commons and waste lands to be set out and allotted to the proprietors of land within the parish of Almondbury. The remainder of the waste lands to be divided among the proprietors of the ancient lands. All allotments of lands to be of the same tenure as the lands in respect of which the allotments are made.

The commissioners executed their award 12th April, 1834.

The plans and the award were lodged with the Incumbent of Holmfirth Church.

The Court Baron of the Manor which is held in the Moot Hall at Wakefield, holds pleas for the recovery of debts under £5, and in matters of replevin.

Within the manor are held four “Courts-leet,” or “Sheriff’s Toms,” viz. :— at Wakefield, Halifax, Brighouse, and Holmfirth. In Mr. Lumb’s “Nomina Villarum,” the constabularies under the four leets are thus enumerated.

Under “Wakefield Leet” are the following :— Wakefield, Stanley, Sandall, Crigglestone, Walton-cum-Bretton, Horbury, Ossett, Normanton, Soothill, Dewsbury, West Ardsley, and Eccleshill.

Under “Halifax Leet” are :— Halifax, Sowerby, Skircoat, Ovenden, Warley, Wadsworth, Rushworth-cum-Norland, Stansfield, Langfield, Heptonstall, Erringden, and Midgley.

Under “Brighouse Leet” are :— Northowram, Shelf, Hipperholme-cum-Brighouse, Rastrick, Quarmby, Dalton, Fixby, Stainland, Barkisland, Hartshead-cum-Clifton.

Under “Holmfirth Leet” are :— Burton, Shelley, Shepley, Flockton, Cumber-worth, Thurstonland, Emley, and Holme.

As an appendage to the manor the Cucking Stool, or Ducking Stool, may be named.

“This formidable machine was invented,” says Brand, in his “Observations on Popular Antiquities,” &c., “for the punishment of scolds and unquiet women, by ducking them in the water, after having placed them in a stool or chair fixed at the end of a long pole, by which they were immerged in some muddy or stinking pond.” Blount tells us that “some think it is a corruption from Ducking Stool, but that others derive it from Choking Stool.” These machines are of great antiquity, and were maintained by the bailiff, or other officer in connexion with manors.

The only evidence I have met with concerning its existence here, occurs in the year 1711, in the accounts of Joshua Charles worth, then Constable of the graveship of Holme, in which he records, “Sept. 14th. Paid Joshua Smith for making Kucking Stool, and Stocks mending, 3s. 6d.”

That the cucking stool had its existence in Holmfirth will not, therefore, admit of a doubt, and that it occasionally was brought into requisition would be hard to gainsay ; there is, however, every reason to believe that shortly afterwards, through common consent, or by public disapprobation, it deservedly fell into disuse.

Soke Mills.

Another characteristic of a feudal age was the Soke Mill, which, however, is here only matter of history. From MS. evidences it appears that a water corn mill existed at Holmfirth in the reign of Edward II., which had probably been established at a much earlier period; having doubtless been erected by one of the Earls Warren, for the benefit of his tenants within the graveship, and at which they were required to grind their corn. When the population had considerably increased, the Lord of the Manor built an additional mill at a place about a mile and a half to the east of Holmfirth, on a tributary stream of the river Holme, which in contradistinction to the old, or Holmfirth Mill, was called New Mill, — a name still retained by that populous village.

In the 28 Richard II., [1398,] Roger del Morehouse farmed “the mills of Holme and tolls,” &c., of the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield, at the annual rent of 8s. 4d. This certainly could not be considered equivalent to their value. There is little doubt that a certain sum, or bonus, had been paid on entering upon the contract for a term of years, subject to a small annual rent.

I have met with no other reference to these mills till the reign of Edward VI., when Richard Charlsworth, of Totties, farmed them under the Crown, by which he greatly enriched himself. He died in 1557, leaving four daughters co-heiresses, who married into some of the leading families of the West-Riding, viz.:—1st, Grace Charlsworth married John Savile, of Wath, Gentleman, in 1568.* 2nd, Dorothy Charts worth married Matthew Wentworth, of Bretton Hall, Esquire, in 1571. 3rd, Margaret Charlsworth married, first, ___ Nettleton, to her second husband, George Kaye, of Woodsome, Esquire ; and 4th, Johanna — or, as stated in some of the pedigrees, Jennet Charlsworth — married Robert Allott, of Bentley Grange, son and heir of Robert Allott of the same place, who, besides lands and tenements in Holmfirth, which he received by his wife, acquired the tenancy of the soke mills, which remained with him till his death, about 1605. In 1609 King James I. granted by letters patent dated 29th May, to Edward Ferrers, of London, mercer, and Francis Phelips, of London, Gentleman, their heirs and assigns for ever, along with other property, “all that moiety of our two water corn mills of Holmfirth, in our said county of York, together with all thereto belonging, situate, lying, and being in Holmfirth aforesaid, under the demesne of Wakefield aforesaid ; and all that moiety of all the water-courses, streams, banks, standing water, fish-pools, fisheries, profits, advantages, and emoluments whatsoever,” &c. The said Edward Ferrers, and Francis Phelips, to hold the same in as full, free, and ample a manner and form as we or our ancestors or predecessors, former Kings or Queens of England, have held or enjoyed the same with our Dutchy of Lancaster. To hold the same “of our heirs and successors as of our Manor of Enfield, in our county of Middlesex, by suit fealty in free and common soccage, and not in capite nor by military service : to render and pay yearly to us, and our heirs and successors, the sum of two pounds, five shillings, and tenpence each, into the hands of the General Receiver of the Dutchy of Lancaster, &c., at the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, and the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

* He was descended from Nicholas Savile, of New Hall, Elland.

“In the marriage settlement made with Grace Charlsworth, he is described of Hatfield, Gentleman. The marriage was to take place before the Michaelmas day ensuing. John Kaye, of Dalton, John Kaye, of Okenshaw, and Robert Allott, of Bentley, were enfeoffed in half the Manor of Dalton, settled upon the marriage. Grace brought with her, lands in Holmfirth, Cartworth, and Thurlston, besides £24 towards her apparel, a good feather bed, furnished with all things requisite, and £10 towards the wedding dinner, which John Savile was to prepare. It is also covenanted that not more than thirty-six persons of the party of the Charlsworth’s shall be brought to the said dinner.

“Amidst the uniformity and generally uninteresting character of legal instruments, it is pleasant to meet with one which opens so much of the usages of our simple ancestors.” Mr. Hunter’s South Yorkshire, vol. ii., p. 67.

On the 24th August, 1609, the said Edward Ferrers, and the said Francis Phelips, sold the same in fee to Bartyn Allott, of Bentley, in the county of York, yeoman, the third son of Robert Allott aforesaid.

About the time when the Crown granted off these mills, the soke was becoming an odious impost to the inhabitants. But the two soke mills had, in process of time, led to a division of the custom — the inhabitants resorting to the one most suiting their convenience.

The earliest attempt at combination to resist the soke that I have met with took place in 1624, but that had reference only to the Newmill valley, and seems to have manifested itself in the somewhat irritating course of diverting the springs and rivulets from their ancient course over the adjacent lands, ostensibly for irrigating purposes, by which, in the drier seasons, they occasioned “the water to be so spent that the Newmill was so destitute of water, as not to be able to grinde anie corne at all, if the several springs continued to be diverted from their ancient course.” The plaintiff contended for the exclusive right of the water, and held that the owners of property along these streams had no right to erect any mills, or dam up, or impound the water.

The issue of these proceedings does not appear.

In 1653 a more general combination was entered into by the inhabitants of the graveship, as indicated by the following record. “Wednesday, 6th July, 1653 : Richard Allott, Gentleman, plaintif, v. William Tinker, Edward Beever, and John Charlesworth, defendants. By the Right Honourable the Chancellor and Councell of the Dutchie of Lancaster, sittinge at Whitehall. Whereas the plaintif exhibited his case into this Courte, thereby settinge forth that King James being heretofore seized in fee of two water corne mills in Holmefirth, being a graveship within the Manor of Wakefield, in the countie of York, known as Holmefirth Mill and New Mill granted the same to several persons and their heirs, from whom by good conveyances and by descent the said mills are come to the plaintif : and further, that in right thereof the said Kinge and his ancestors Kings and Queens of England and Earles and Dukes of Lancaster, have, used to have, and ought to have the grist, suit, and soake of all their tenants, as well freeholders as copieholders, within the said graveship : that the said freeholders and copieholders have for the like tyme used and been accustomed to grind all their corne and graine at the said mills ; not only that which growes upon their grounds, but such also as is brought and spent and used in their houses within the said graveship, payinge the accustomed and reasonable toll then used. And the bill complaynes that the defendants and others, being freeholders and copieholders within the said graveship, have ground their mault and other graine at other mills, to the disabling the plaintif from paying his fee-farm rent. Whereupon and for that it hath been formerly decreed in this Court that the said freeholders and tenants should grind their graine and corne at the said mills, the reliefe of this Court was preyed. To which bill the defendants answered, and by their answers deny the said custom, as by the bill and answers remayninge on record in this Court may, among other things, more fully appeare. And to their answers thereunto replyinge, several witnesses were examined touching the same ; of whose depositions publication being granted . . . was sett downe to be hoard this present day ; and accordingly the same came this day to be heard before the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the said Courte, assisted with Mr. Justice . . . and . . . Parker, the Judge assistants of . . . the plaintif’s bill, . . . and readinge several depositions of witnesses, and upon readinge an ancient surveye made in the time of King Edward the Second— although upon readinge of the proofes there appeared cause of strong presumption that the said suite and soake was due to [the] farmer of the said mills, yett for as much as the usage is not clearly ascertained or established in the depositions to have some knowledge thereof, the matter is not yett fitt for a decree ; and soe that the case is proper to be determined by a tryall at common lawe.

“It is therefore ordered by consent that the plaintif shall bring a feigned action at lawe, for tryal of the custome, to which the defendants shall appear gratis, and both shall insist meerly on the custome ; and that the issue in question shall be as it is laide downe in the bill. The whole equitie being reserved to this Court.”

Accordingly the plaintiff brought his action at Trinity term, 1655, before Oliver, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, &c., in the Upper Bench at Westminster, laying his damage at £200.

What was the issue of this suit I have not seen, but we may infer that these efforts to free themselves had not been successful, since in the reign of James II. another attempt was made to rid themselves of the soke, which was becoming each year more obnoxious.

The owners of the soke had diverted a small rivulet from its ancient course into the Newmill dam, over lands belonging to John and William Brooke, of Greenhill Bank, on payment of an annual rent.

The inhabitants now agreed with the owners of this property to restore the stream to its ancient course, by which, as it was stated, “one-fourth part of the water is cut off.” It had before been stated in evidence that when the other springs and rivulets were being diverted, the miller was only able to grind “a met of wheat, four sacks of oates, twelve sacks of mault, in twenty-four hours ;” it was now significantly asked, “what will it now grind when one-fourth part of the ordinary stream is diverted ?”

In 1723 “An information was filed against James Earnshaw, of Holme, Gentleman, in the Dutchy Court of Lancaster, at the suite of Bryan Allott, Gentleman, to show cause why he ground his corn at his corn mill, erected in the township of Cartworth, within the graveship of Holme; and likewise the corn of other copyholders within the said graveship ; thereby defrauding the said Bryan Allott, the said fee farmer, of his accustomed suite and toll.” The defendant’s answer was “that his late father, James Earnshaw, of Holme, who died on or about the 18th day of July, 1722, did erect and set up, some time before his death, one water corn mill, in the township of Cartworth, in the graveship of Holme, on his own estate situate about two miles from the Relator’s mill, called Holmfirth Mill, to grind his corn, and the corn of such as brought the same to his said mill. He denies the custom as due from him to grind at the Relator’s mill, for that his father had always carried his corn to grind at such mills as he chose, without any hindrance from the owners of the said Holmfirth Mills.”

No further steps seem to have been taken by Mr. Bryan Allott, who afterwards became Rector of Kirkheaton. He seems to have been a man of a genial temper and kind disposition, and is stated to have “lived much beloved by his friends, among whom was Garrick, who wrote these beautiful lines to be inscribed on his tomb :—

More with the love than with the fear of God,
This vale of sorrows cheerfully he trod.
So tuned to harmony, and hating strife,
From youth to age unclouded was his life;
Nought could his earthly virtuous joys increase
But heavenly song and everlasting peace.

For one possessing such a disposition and character, we may readily suppose litigious warfare had no charms.

From this time the soke within the graveship ceased to be acknowledged.

Mr. Bryan Allott was, however, succeeded by a son of the same name, but of much less intrinsic worth, Rector of Burnham, in Norfolk. “He had originally been in the army, and was a man of expense. In 1779, only six years after the death of his father, his affairs were in disorder, his living sequestered, and himself in prison, when his estates were offered for sale.” Some years, however, elapsed before they were sold.*

* The following letter written in March, 1770, addressed to “Jonathan West, Esq., at Cawthome, near Wakefield,” solicitor, indicates that the estate was considerably involved before the father’s death :—

“My dear Sir, — I have consulted both Mr. Wilmot and Sir Lionel Pilkington, who are both of opinion yt the best thing which can be done will be for my father, mother, and myself to dock ye entail of the settled estates, for the whole to be made over in trust to me (jointly with any other person my father shall chuse), during ye life of my father and mother, with power to sell what shall appear proper and sufficient to pay off debts, and secure ye younger children’s fortunes, and to secure to them during their lives such an annuity as upon a fair examination of every thing shall seem proper; after their death (all debts and younger children’s fortunes being paid) the whole residue, together with Mr. Turner’s reversion, to come to me or my heirs or executors.

“Mr. Wilmot will, 1 hope, write about it in a post or two, and I will be much obliged to you to second it with my father, and endeavour to convince him of the necessity of it. What annuities can be given it will be impossible to say, till the worth of the estates can be ascertained; but this I’ll venture to say, yt my father’s income shall not be worse than it now is.

The annexed is the pedigree of the Allotts, of Bilham Grange,[9] as farmers of the Holmfirth Soke Mills.

ARMS: A fess between two bars, gemelle wavy.

The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) - figure 20.png

The Holmfirth Soke Mill was purchased in 1784 by John Fallas, of Wood, in Holmfirth, clothier. By indenture dated 21st September, 1804, James Fallas, of Wood, and Elizabeth Fallas, widow of John Fallas, sold the same to Mr. William Gartside, of Holmfirth, who, dying without issue, devised the same to his brothers, Messrs. John and George Gartside ; to the latter of whom, on a division of their estates, the Holmfirth Mill devolved. The same now vests in Miss Gartside, the only daughter and heiress of the said Mr. George Gartside.[10]

The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) - figure 21.png


  1. This is indicated by the great abundance of decayed birchwood which is now to be found in the bog earth, on some of the high grounds.
  2. The wild boar had its favourite retreat here, as still preserved in the name, “Wildboar Clough,” near to the Boshaw Reservoir.
  3. This MS. may have been a part of the manuscript collections made by Mr. Leeke, (see note, page 46), or perhaps a transcript of a part of them.
  4. Mr. Hunter’s South Yorkshire, vol. I, page 134.
  5. Nearly all the large copyholders of the graveship appeared, and produced their copies of court roll.
  6. The acre described in this grant is stated to be 80 yards in length and 40 yards in breadth, which is little more than two-thirds of the statute acre.
  7. The crown lawyers seem to have discovered, or fancy they had discovered, that these new lands or new improvements could not be claimed by custom or prescription to be copyhold, which constituted the basis of copyhold tenure.
  8. This took place in 1812.
  9. From Mr. Hunter’s South Yorkshire, vol. ii., page 366.
  10. The new mill was also sold, and converted into a woollen mill.

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