Extracted from Midgleyana by John Franklin Midgley


Following on his conquest of England Norman William Set up the Feudal System with all its French trimmings.  It was a rigidly organised pyramidal form of society with the King at its apex and based on the relation of vassal and superior arising from the holding of land in fief.  To understand the course of English history henceforward well into the Middle Ages, one must also not forget the fact that the Conqueror and his nobles were of the same stock and spoke, as did their descendants for not a few generations to come, the same language as the French on the other side of the Channel.  They retained strong interests and ties there, dynastic and otherwise, which were to keep England embroiled on the Continent for some centuries.  It must be borne in mind, too, that the code of the brutal Frankish warrior horsemen who had conquered at Hastings had no relation to the later elaborate feudal chivalry, at its best in the 14th century.
When the Northern Rebellion broke out in 1069, the merciless Conqueror proceeded with his baud of trained warriors to suppress it by a 'scorched eartb' policy as reprisal for the non -cooperation of Yorkshiremen


after the Conquest.  By fire and sword he devastated much of Yorkshire, laying the country in ruins.1  The mixed population suffered as one during this 'harrying of the north':   The industrious inhabitants of the West Riding were decimated and many communities disappeared for ever. The land which was formerly held by the Saxon King, Earls and thegns was duly parcelled out to the 'heroes' of this mighty conquest.  Those who survived had to endure the rule of new overlords, the Norman barons whose castles remain in the throat of most dales.2  One should not lose sight of the fact that these same Norman barons, mindful of the hereafter were lavish in gifts to the Church:  Sons and grandchildren of the friends of the Conqueror founded religious houses or were benefactors of Abbeys in their own dales from which of course the inhabitants benefited in many ways.  A castle and an abbey thus appeared in every dale, followed by the fortified halls of the lesser nobility  extra defence against the Scots:
The Middle Ages were to see the erection of many such magnificent monuments to the extensive power influence and prestige of the Nobility under the Feudal System - the 'concentric' castles, and of the Church - the Decorated, Flamboyant and early Perpendicular cathedrals arid churches.  There were none however, in the thinly populated and inhospitable Western reaches or Pennine uplands about Halifax Parish.  That many are now in ruins scattered about the English countryside, especialJy elsewhere in Yorkshire and Wales, must be attributed to Thomas Cromwell's Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century and that of Oliver Cromwell's handiwork in the following century.  It had been a wise policy of the conquerors in the First Civil War to dismantle captured fortresses by blowing a gap
in the walls, The object was not to wreak revenge or devastation but to save the expense of garrisoning every place which if left derelict in a defensless condition, might again be occupied by Cavaliers.  The foresight had its reward,  the Second Civil War, 1648, might have gone better for the King if there had been many garrisons to revolt or many castles in a state to make resistance.
The great Honour of Pontefract formed part of the 150 manors, in west Yorkshire principally, bestowed by William on his arch-confederate, Ilbert de Lacy.  Included was the Manor of Bradford as well as the townships of Southowram, Elland cum Greetland  it is thus described in Domesday Book - "Ilbert has it, and it is waste".  At Pontefract he erected a mighty stronghold - the 'Key of the North1 - on the site of the Saxon royal Halle or "castle". which was destroyed.  Pomfret Castle, and Sandal Castle mentioned later, hold positions that guard the north-west gap between the Pennines and the marshes that line the estuary of the Humber along the great road to the north.
The manors of Leeds (Celtic Loidis) and Bingley, besides many others taken from their Saxon owners, came into the hands of William de Paganel, one of the most powerful barons who assisted William in the conquest of England, and another mesne lord of de Lacy.  Skipton was given to Robert de Romille, the mesne lord of de Lacy, and there he built his castle.  Before 1066 a very high ranking Anglo-Saxon, Earl Edwin, was lord of Skipton (Sheep town).  How noble he was one may guess for he was the younger brother of Earl Leofric of Mercia, and his nephew Hereward the Wake carried on a resistance agamst the Conqueror that places him among the heroes of history.
The great Manor of Wakefield, which was a gift of the Conqueror to his son-in-law Earl Warren, embraced most of the Anglo-Saxon Townships in the Halifax Parish.  The Warrens built Sandal Castle near Wakefield.  It was held by the Warrens for 250 years.4  Midgley Township is reputed to have been part ot an Anglian Manor in 761.  The manorial system prevailed in considerable force from ancient times to the Commonwealth period of the 17th century, and even after that had a fair amount of influence.
In A. D. 1086 when the Conqueror caused the Domesday Book to contain a general survey, Midgley was mentioned thus:

-19 -

"In Wakefield with nine berewicks (hamlets) Sandal Magna,
Sowerby, Warley, Feslei (Halifax), Midgley, Wadsworth, Crottonstall (?), Langfield and Stansfield there are 60 carucates and 3.5 bovates on which danegeld has to be paid".

The reference is to this part of the Manor of Wakefield and the extent of the cultivated land along Calder upwards from Halifax past Midgley to Todmorden. Midgley was then spelt "Micleie'.  Wakefield is still the administrative centre of the West Riding.

Down the centuries various ways of spelling Midgley have occurred. The published registers of Halifax Parish Church in mentioning Midgley families use these several spellings:  Midgelaye, Midgeleye, Midgelei, Midglaye, Midgley, Midegley, Migeley Miggeley, Miggelay, Migley, Megelay, Mydghley, Mydglay, Mydgley Myggelay, Mydgele Mygdlaye and Mygdlay.

Heptonstall Church registers have a new one, Miedley.  The parish priests or scriveners who wrote these entries in abbreviated Latin no doubt used such phonetics as they heard   The spelling given by the following maps is Saxton 1577, Mydgeley; Speede 1608, Midgeley, Morden 1680, Middgley; and Teesdale 1828, Midgley.  Ley meaning a field, pasture land or enclosure is one of the commonest Anglo-Saxon terminations of Airedale nomenclature, though much rarer in Wharfedale and Calderdale.  The Anglo-Saxon 'migge' is the equivalent of large and thus Midgley has the generally accepted meaning of "wide leas". or "broad fields' 5
In the Parish of Halifax from earliest Anglo-Saxon times each town-ship or hamlet was like one farm and the produce of the fields was shared among the inhabitants.  Outside the fields were the common pastures for their flocks and herds, and woods where the pigs fed.6
Until recent centuries comparitively little of the land on the hillsides was parcelled out and fenced or walled in. Undoubtedly elsewhere by Enclosure Acts in later centuries the principal land-owners appropriated  the commons and the grea open fields of the communities. These open fields were originally shared in strips of 20 yards in length, the  furrow long or furlong  the 'acre strip' of the Angles.
There is little evidence left of these strips in Midgley. There were other parcels of cultivated land belonging to the 'freeholders', who appear to have been long settled Northern families, mixtures of Anglo-Saxon and Viking blood
These 'freemen', yeomen  or franklins appear to have been less obliged to give service to the Lord of the Manor than the poorer folk, the villeins or serfs, who cultivated the strips of land   Intakes amid weather beaten moorlands were enclosed.6
As time went on the services due to the lord from his tenants were not paid in actual labour but money was given as rent in place of work,  This great change of commuting took place earlier in the large Wakefield Manor than in smaller manors.7  It was very inconvenient for the men of Illingworth or Norland, not to mention the more western townships to journey to Wakefield to work on the lord's farm for a day or so.  On the other hand the Earls had more labour than they needed.  It suited both parties to transform the services into a sum of money. This arrangement gave more freedom to the men of Halifax parish where there was thus little servility or feudal spirit - there was always a breath of freedom blowing off the moors   True the tenants were required under the feudal system to follow the Earl to war but few details survive.  The Manor of Wakefield was gradually split up among smaller landowners.
In common with most townships Midgley had a manor corn mill and fulling mill for the finishing of cloth, these being against the Calder at Brearley. There was a corn mill. there at least 700 years.  It was incumbent upon those who grew corn, excepting freeholders, to have their corn ground at the manor mill and an eighth part of it went to the Lord of the Manor, or some payment instead.8  Oats provided the main crop and oat bread, havercake, cheese and home brewed ale formed the main diet of the ordinary working people whose needs were simpleand who were really selfsupporting. Wheat bread was a


luxury reserved for the rich.
The whole Halifax district was once part of the ancient Saxon parish of Dewsbury and the gospel was preached among the hills of upper Calderdale before any church was erected there.  The early Norman church at Halifax itself was one among several Yorkshire churches presented by Earl Warren to the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes in Sussex, where he had invited the black-robed Benedictine monks of Cluny Abbey in France to settle in 1077.  In additior to tithes or one tenth of his produce which every farmer had to give, the rents and fines connected with the lands of Halifax and Heptonstall were to be paid to the Prior instead of to the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield.  The Warrens nevertheless retained their own courts for forest law and 'police' cases.  This connection between the Priory of Lewes and Halifax lasted until the Reformation in Henry VIII's reign, or for over four hundred years.9
The.manor nominally held all the land, and when a farmer wanted to add a field or create a farm for a son, sanction had to be obtained from the Manor Court, at a fee, and there was a fee also when a man died and his heir came into possession.  This was called "admittance". The existing Court rolls for Midgley contain innumerable instances of these permissions to take from "the waste or moor of Midgley", and of admittances to properties.  Down the years when land was taken in and rid of trees and scrub or rocks it was called a riding or rode, pronouned royd as coal was turned into coil.  Midgley town-ship has many place names with this ending royd for clearing, such as Stony Royd and Oats Royd self explanatory - and Han Royd, Green Royd1,Tray Royd and Ellen Royd no doubt named after the people who did the clearing.  The name Murgatroyd or moor-gate -royd means the clearing on the way to the moor.
It was customary to hold a Manor Court at given intervals at which those who had broken the forest and game laws were punished or fined.  These Court Barons were usually held in Wakefield, but at times they were held, for instance, in Halifax and Brighouse, neither near the geographical centre of the Parish.  A curious circumstance, probably rare in the Manor of Wakefield, was that between A. D. 1100 and A. D. 1200 Midgley was 'sub-infeudated', that is the powers of a minor manor court were conferred upon the Township, probably due to the presence of some outstanding family, maybe a Lacey or Soothill, related by marriage or in succession to the Earls of Warren.  Midgley has two farms on which may be seen the stone cross of the Knights Hospitalers of St John of Jerusalem - Height and High Hirst.10  Unfortunately for the purpose of local history, the very old records of~ Midgley Manor Court have been lost.  It is known that during the Cromwellian uprising documents were removed and destroyed.  The existing rolls date only from 1764, so that even after the Civil War at least a century of records have been lost.  A Manor Court was held down to the 1890s.
The ancient proceedings were recorded on lengths of skins or parchment stitched together and rolled up.  These Court Rolls, kept in the Record Office in Wakefield and written mainly in abbreviated Latin, date from 1274 and cover almost 700 years.  Down to the 14th century surnames were not used, as a man named John would be, in Midgley, John de Midgley, John de Townend and so on.  The family that clung to the name Midgley was recorded very early indeed.  When surnames originated they were derived from places, or the tradition followed, or from patronymics or sire names.
Meanwhile what had been happening in the seats of the mighty since the Conquest?  William I successfully contained the powerful nobles but the rule of succeeding Norman Kings was constantly challenged by them and rebellions  were frequent.  His son Rufus, who inherited England, suppressed two risings. and died while out hunting with an arrow in his back.  The latter's younger brother Henry I, who married an English wife Edith niece of Edgar Atheling, had revolt to deal with at home and a threat of invasion by his eldest brother Robert


were restored by the Angevin and first Plantagenet Henry II A. D. 1154 -'89.11 Henry's great object of making the royal power supreme involved the extension of that power over the Church which had gained a considerable measure of independence, especially in jurisdiction, during Stephen's reign.  The murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral however actually weakened his position.
Conditions again deteriorated under the rule of Henry's son Richard I. The Liion-hearted was a typical Knight-errant who departed on the Third Crusade A. D. 1189 and was mortally wounded ten years later at the siege of Chaluz in Aquitaine.  The reign of his brother John witnessed the loss of Normandy and the concession of Magna Carta - the Great Charter  A. D. 1215 to the Barons before he died, probably poisoned after losing all his baggage in the Wash.  The weak government of Henry III saw power, as foreshadowed during his minority, fall into the hands of a body of magnates such as Simon de Montfort whose sound work was carried on by Edward I A. D. 1272· 1307. one of the best men and best kings that have ruled in England.
Edward I was responsible for an important constitutional development in English history, and the laying of the foundation of our present system of government. He had felt the urgent need of financial support to resist the enemies of England in the Welsh under Madoc12 and the Scots in alliance with the French. Accordingly he summoned the Great and Model Parliament A. D 1295 which was based on that of Simon de Montfort thirty years earlier.  Simon's Parliament had comprised representatives of the nobility clergy and the people and had been introduced to curb the baronial opposition during the weak rule of Henry III (1216 - '72).  The attendance of Knights of the Shire was not new, but Simon's recognition of the political importance of towns by summoning representatives from cities and boroughs for the first time, made his Parliament an important link between the old baronial councils and the later Parliaments,  In Edward I's Parliament both burgesses and Knights were elected in the county court and
formed the 'Third Estate'.13
Here follow one or two Midgley references during the reign of Edward I. On November 22. A.D.1274, John of Midgley was made surety for the behaviour of a man who helped to eat a stag stolen from the forest of Sowerby. The Earls of Warren jealously guarded their right to follow the chase in there manor of Sowerby.  At Erringden there was an enclosed park for the breeding of deer and the Earl's keepers lived in the forest,  Here also the Earl had a vaccary or large cattle farm.  Considerable sums of money were paid for the right to pasture cattle and pigs in the Earl's Chase, for instance he received 100/- per annum from his tenants in the manor of Sowerby for permission to send their pigs into the wood for food.
In 1296 John of Midgley was fined 2/- for carrying away the Earl's timber.14 At a Tourn or criminal court of 1307 one Juryman was Adam of Midgley.  In 1313 reference is made to Adam at Townend, Midgley, to Thomas of Luddingdene who made a petition, " for a tree to repair his house with, he being poor".  On October 18, 1314, in a court held at Halifax John de Miggelay was charged with receiving two oaks. worth ten shillings, to repair a certain chapel and kitchen built by the Earl's grandfather and not having completed the work ordered.  He had to pay 20/-
At this time halifax was one of the least important of the townships in the Parish.  Towards a tax levied iii 1284 Hipperholme paid the largest sum of 20/- and Halifax's share of 11/  was thirteenth on the list.  In 1315 six of the townships were fined for concealing the absence of men summoned to the tourn. Halifax township was fined 3s4d but forgiven because it was poor.  It may be inferred that the Steward of Wakefield would not venture any farther into the wilds than Brighouse and Halifax and because Halifax was nearer to Wakefield by the old roads than the other townships it became the capital of the district.
Seldom did a  son contrast so strangely with his father as did Edward of Caernarnvon (1307-'27) with Edward "The Hammer of the Scots". The mighty warrior and statesman begot a shiftless, thriftless craven who did his best to


bring to wrack and ruin all that his sire had built up.  It has been said of him that he was 'the first King of England since the Conquest who was not a man of business'.  Hitherto the descendants of William the Norman had retained a share of their ancestor's energy, even the weak Henry III.  Edward II's unwise choice of favourites so outraged the barons that they put them to death in turn and the King himself fell victim to the blood-feud he had started in retaliation.
Meanwhile England suffered her greatest military defeat at Bannockburn in 1314 at the hands of Robert the Bruce and the Scots followed up their success by great raids as far south as Airedale into the district of Skipton, within a dozen miles or so of Midgley.  They also utterly despoiled the Norman church at Bingley, much nearer and Bradford,  In 1318 the accounts of Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale show that the grange at Carleton near Skipton was destroyed by them, and cattle driven off and churches pillaged.15  Incidentally two centuries later the Tudors turned the tables at Flodden Field in 1513 at which battle James IV and the pick of Scottish chivalr'y were surrounded and fought to the death.  Here 'inter alios' 47 Keighley bill men took part and the eleventh Lord of Skipton had a principal command.16
The great Norman barons often quarrelled among themselves and armed their men to fight one another.  Under a weak king this naturally worsened A case in point showing how the quarrels affected the tenants of these lords was the Elland feud, arising from the enmity between Earl Warren of Wakefield and Lacy of Pontefract, Earl of Lancaster, during the misgovernment of Edward II. The main incidents were played out in the eastern parts of Halifax Parish, the
opposite side from Midgley.  At this time Earl Warren was a great friend of Edward II whereas Thomas Lacy leader of the barons, who put to death Gaveston the King's favourite, and Lacy was later beheaded for rebelling against the king. Lacy's widow was kidnapped and taken to one of Warren's castles and so the feud was on.17
In the subsequent siege and fighting Exley of Exley Hall, Siddal, in Southowram, killed a nephew of Sir John Elland, High Steward to Earl Warren. Though compensation was duly paid in land, he was not forgiven and took refuge with his kinsman Sir Robert Beaumont of Crosland Hall near Huddersfield.  Sir John Elland and his men then proceeded to Crosland Hall and, waiting in ambush, gained entrance over the moat when the drawbridge was down and slew Sir Robert. On the way they had already slain Hugh of Quarmby Hall and Lockwood of Lockwood, friends of Beaumont.  The bereaved Lady Beaumont promptly took her two sons to Lancashire for safety where they were joined by the fatherless Quarmby and Lockwood and by Lacy of Cromwell Bottom.  There the youths grew-up, planning revenge and training themselves in fencing, tilting, riding and shooting with the long-bow.
In due course Adam Beaumont and the others returned and ambushed and slew Sir John Elland on his way to attend the Sheriff's Tourn at Brighouse. They then sought a hiding place in Furness.  Not content with this vengeance they returned the next year to Cromwell Bottom to plan the death of the new Sir John and his boy.  This they accomplished on Palm Sunday as Sir John Elland and his family were on their way to church.  The alarm was raised and the murderers were pursued to Ainley wood.  The wounded Quarmby's hiding place in a tree was revealed by the chattering of crows and magpies and he was slain, as also Lockwood, betrayed by a sweetheart at Cawthorne.  Lacy faded temporarily into the north and Beaumont died fighting with the Knights of Rhodes.  The Saviles, relatives of the now extinct Elland family, succeeded, to its estates.
Incidentally a branch of the Saviles once owned Marley Hall, between Keighley and Bingley. It was rebuilt by John Savile Esq in its present form, an interesting many gabled building, in 1627.  The Saviles lived in great style at Marley and kept their own fool, hal or jester, Sil o' Marley.  John left an only son Robert, 'a wastrel' who squandered his patrimony and disposed of his inheritance.18

1. 'Hoc est wasta' repeatedly occurs in the Yorkshire entries of Domesday Book.

2. Castles were first introduced for the defence of Herefordshire against the Welsh in the reign of Edward the Confessor who was much influenced by his Norman upbringing. Less than a hundred years after the Battle of Hastings, more than a thousand castles had been built in Britain. There were probably many castles or castlets along the Valley of the Aire, and one at Bradford of which all record appear to have perished.. There was evidently once a motte and bailey castle at Bingley. Later 'concentric castles were [built] such as at Conway and Carernarvon in Wales.

3. Similarly the Romans had 'sleighted' the Brigantian strongholds.

4. According to another source the Manor was bestowed by Henry I on the second Earl Warren as a reward for his enticement to England of Robert Curthose, the king's eldest brother. Robert Duke of Normandy was the eldest son of William The Conqueror but fell out with his father. He was nicknamed courte-heuse on account of the shortness of his legs. He was defeated by Henry at the Battle of Tinchenbrai in 1106 and later imprisoned for life in Cardiff Castle. Prince Henry's footsoldiers were chiefly drawn from England and the English could boast that Hastings had been avenged. Warren was originally de Warrene.

5. For terminology vide Turner p.50 and Speight pp.102-3. Bowen's map 1698 has the same spelling as Speede

6. Side by side with the ancient fields of the far older Celtic pattern. Also Admittanbces. see above p.20.

7. They did not thereby become automatically freemen in the eye of the Law.

8. In Warley the miller was Richard Paget in 1330. He took the multure

9. See page 29.

10. Harwood

11. The Scots were defeated at Falkirk and William Wallace was later betrayed and executed. The Battle of Falkirk 1298 is worthy of a more detailed description. Edward I used the Welsh archers, it was the southern Welsh who had so largely contributed to his success in subduing North Wales, the land of spearmen to break up the 'schiltrons' of Scots pikemen. He thus demonstrated the power of the longbow which was to place England in the first rank of military powers, a weapon which was to weild a great influence over her social history. The long-bowman was becoming an integral part of an English army and a necessity of English tactics. Springing as he did from the yeoman of the country, he was to bring into prominence a new class of people, the men who for good or ill were to mould the constitution of the country. Vide K.H. Vickers.

12. My school friend, Geoffrey Maddock of John Maddock and Sons, Potters of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, N. Staffordshire, founded in 1830, claims descent from this Welsh patriot. [Prince Llewellyn Madoc who was credited with sailing to North America and establishing a settlement there in 1170. The Maddocks can be traced back to Chester but the name is so popular there that it has become difficult to follow the links - Contact: Diana Turner].

13. The first election for a member of Parliament for Halifax was held in 1654 during the Commonmwealth period showing that it was then becoming a place of importance.

14. In 1728 Richard Sterne, the uncle of Laurence Sterne wrote the "Tristram Shandy" [1760] caught a widow Dorothy Maude and her son, Samuel, stealing wood from his grounds. He ordered the Constable of Warley to have both of them whipped publicly from Bridge End, parting Midgley and Warley, to the Smithy at High Road Lane and leading to Halifax.

15. There are quite a few villages named Carleton in Airedale - carle or ceorl being the Anglo-Saxon word for husbandman or farmer.

16. 'The Flowers of the Forest, that fought aye the foremost
      The prime of our land, lie cauld in the clay'.

17. "The Elland Tragedies" by J. Horsfall Turner. Vide also T.W. Hanson Chap. IV. Earl Warrene did not excel himself against the Scots in 1297. Another version claims he abducted the wife of Earl Thomas with the lady's consent.

18. Mention of Marley Hall arouses in me a certain nostalgia, for "Marley Brow", my great uncle Tom Walker's small farmstead was my home during school vacations. The Hall is now a farmhouse where I used to bring in the New Year, receiving in return a piece of spice cake and cheese. On the front entrance are carved the arms of Saville "Three owls on a bend" which also appear in a window in stained glass. see footnote.
The Office of Jester was often held by gentlemen wits of good family or education, e.g. Will Somers, Court fool to Henry VIII, whose potrait is preserved at Hampton Court; and Berdic, joculator to William the Conqueror, who received a gift of three towns and five carucates in Gloucestershire.

Chapter 4 Note 1
William's army must have passed nearby Midgley when he struck across the Pennines from Yorkshire into Cheshire that very wet winter, 'Never', wrote the Chronicler Orderic, "had King William used such cruelty". 'Hoc est wasta' repeatedly occurs in Yorkshire entries of the Domesday Book. With the introduction of the Feudal System the fabric of the Saxon-Anglo-Danish-State was left largely untouched by William though the ranks of the men in charge were changed, for instance the framework of the hundred and shire courts remained but were composed largely of French lords of estate. R.J. Adam.

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Copyright ©  Tim Midgley March 2003. Links revised July 2023. Scanned and corrected from a copy kindly donated by David & Milnethorpe Midgley of Tasmania from an out of print book by John ['Jack'] Franklin Midgley 1970.