Extracted from Midgleyana by John Franklin Midgley


We are now well into the high Middle Ages; that crowded and formative period that saw the first evolution of Parliament as already noted, the beginnings of the legal profession and of an English 'establishment'. Another important development was the fact that the English tongue or vernacular gradually came into general use during the long reign of Edward Longshank's grandson Edward III (1327 - '77).  This was not a feature peculiar to England for the Latin of the Middle Ages was slowly being ousted in favour of common speech in all countries.
Latin however continued to be used for legal work for some time to come.  For the first time the English people appear a racial and cultural unit, the upper class no longer French, nor the peasant class Anglo-Saxon.
In this reign Geoffrey Chaucer, the English medieval poet, was born. It was the time of the Hundred Years War when England fought her giant neighbour France for the Plantagenets hereditary dukedom of Aquitaine, of the Black Prince and the astonishing victory of Crecy (1346), to be repeated by Henry V at Agincourt (1415) when the long bow and the grey goose feather again laid low the chivalry of France.  In this 14th century appeared that catastrophe of the visitations of the Black Death. It was also the time recorded by the French poet and historian Jean Froissart (1337-1410) of Arthurian Chivalry, a feeling and conduct towards women which the pagan world had never known, of constancy and devoted service to her, but it was the courtly rather than married love that the troubadours idealised.
Edward III was the beau-ideal of chivalry and of the elaborate code of knightly conduct and manners known as courtesy that had grown up in the French-speaking courts of western Christendom.  He founded the Order of the Garter - 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' - the first service of which was held at Windsor on St George's Day 1349.  Of course little account was taken of those outside this
warrior society
The first Midgley so cafled of any note was Sir William de Miggeley who was a Knight of the Shire and served on five Royal Commissions to deal with treason and other misdemeanours, being granted by Edward III a large piece of land near Wakefield, no doubt that Midgley on the south-west side of Wakefield which is little more than a landmark to-day.1  He served in the Parliament of 1335 - 6.  The Manor of Midgley in Halifax Parish was held by a family named Sotehill about 1326. Their home was Brearley Old Hall,  One of the Soothills married Gilbert, second son of John Lacy.  The manor passed to Henry Murgatroyd on his marriage to Jane Lacy in 1632 and much later a subsequent inter-marriage brought the manor to Henry Farrer of Ewood.2
Some interesting information about ancient Halifax Parish and Midgley Township is afforded by the Poll Tax returns of 1379 for the Morley Wapontake, when Richard II wanted to raise money to pay soldiers who were guarding against the French and the raiding Scots. All persons over the age of 16, excepting serfs, beggars and clergy, had to pay a tax.  Married couples were charged as one person.  Merchants paid one shilling and there were eight in the Parish; twenty-three tradesmen paid sixpence each.  John Lacy of Cromwell-bottom and Henry Langfield of Elland paid 3s 4d. each and John Saville of Elland described as a chevalier paid 20s.  The poorest had to pay a groat (4d), and
even this fell heavily on those least able to pay, consequently there was systematic evasion and falsification of returns.
In the West Riding £341 was raised.  In Midgley 31 persons paid a total of 7s 4d, 2/- more than in Hepstonstall - multiply that by at least fifty upwards for to-day's value.  It has been estimated that at that time Midgley had 86 people.  In Halifax township there were sixteen married couples and six
single persons who paid their groats.  If be added forty-eight children, three priests and one beggar, the total population would be ninety for Halifax.  It was hakfway down the list and not one man in the township was of sufficient social standing to pay more than fourpence. Elland cum Greetland was then the most


important township, sixty-one persons being named and the population calculated to be 188.  The population of Upper Calder Valley or the whole Parish then approximated 2,000.4
These 14th century Returns are very important as they reveal the emergence of surnames.  With increasing numbers of persons living in one place and many called by the same name, there was much need, certainly for taxation records, for a second name.  For instance, eight men in Halifax were named John, and there were 133 Johns, or one-third of the men in the Parish, in 1379.  In Midgley Township the surnames of those who paid tax are interesting. My list from Mr Harwood evidently includes married couples and single persons and some with the same name, viz: Dente, Midgley, Schepard, Paget, Vornvall (Wormald), Fletcher, Townehend, Waldesworth (Wadsworth), de Burgh, Culpon, Okes, Dickonson, Saltonstall and Lemanshill.5
Only two had an occupation attached - John Dente, textor (weaver) and John Midgley, cissor (tailor), probably the same John de Midgley who was constable for the Township in 1371. These two tradesmen were rated at sixpence a piece.
Under the Feudal System before there was a local authority there were no paid officials of the Manor Court and the place was run for some centuries by men described as the "principal inhabitants". If their property or rental was of a certain level they had to take their turn in office as elected Constable, a. very ancient office, or as Surveyor of the roads, or, later, as Churchwarden, or as Overseer of the Poor from Elizabeth's time.  The names of members of the Midgley family as holders of these offices are numerous. These four officials governed the Township until in 1863 a Local Board of Health was granted.  The township has several relics of old times such as stocks, a communal well known as Town Syke, a good pinfold, a stretchergate and a workhouse.
The two occupations of textor and cissor mentioned above provide a significant reference to the woollen manufacture thereabouts already in the 14th century.  Its beginnings go back a long way in time, even before the last Conquest.  From then of course raw wool was also at hand in the monastic land of the dales, such as Fountains, Bolton and Kirkstall Abbeys, and Whalley Abbey, in Lancashire which the Normans founded.6  The many becks and rivers provided power and soft water for scouring the wool, until in modern times the not distant coalfields offered further sources of power and work in the 'dark satanic mills' up-on which the prosperity of the West Riding still rests.  The woollen industry in relation to Midgley Township will be treated fully in the next chapter.
A comparison of the Poll Tax returns gives some idea of the ravages of the catastrophic Black Death which reached Britain late in 1348 and re-appears four times that century.  At least one-third to one-half of the people died. Yorkshire was desolated.  The scourge made its first appearance there at Skildergate in York, which was then a port and Skildergate just over the river wharves.  The plague came to the city through either rats or infected seamen. In the West Riding out of 141 priests 96 fell victims, including two vicars of Halifax in succession.  It would be strange indeed if Midgley escaped these fearful visitations.  It seems that Bingley had not suffered much.  In Bynglay Township some eighty odd householders paid tax and its population would not be less than 500.  It is certain that it was then one of the most populous townships thereabouts in the West Riding.  Indeed Bradford, Halifax and Kyghlay township each had, more or less, only half the population of Bingley. 8 Boulton near Bradforth has a melancholy record: "Quia nemo est manens in eadem villa" -none remaining since the plague!9
Let us pause here and now to record that until comparatively recent times the connection between cleanliness and health was but faintly understood. The science of sanitation and medicine were in their infancy and where men congregated disease found much encouragement.  Infant mortality was under-standably high. The towns were overcrowded and the houses almost touched across the narrow streets which were undrained. The houses themselves were


generally small and badly ventilated - for long sick-rooms were airless - and until the use of matting and carpets for the affluent came in Stuart times, the floors were covered with rushes where refuse mouldered for many months on end.Ordinary pails and privy-tubs were used indoors and their contents thrown the streets which were choked with muck and stank to high heaven.  Here
pigs, dogs and rats were among the scavengers.
It seems incredible to us that our forbears lived in such rough and ready conditions not so long ago and lacked our finer susceptibilities.  The personal hygiene and privacy on which we insist were not then practised even among the upper classes.  No one washed over much, lice abounded,  and everyone smelt strongly in spite of the use of perfume by those who could afford it.  Aromatic herbs were spread in churches and houses and the fortunate few sniffed at sweet-smelling substances carried on their persons when about the streets.  Only from late Tudor into Stuart times were more bedrooms added for privacy, but even when W. C.s were installed from the time of the Industrial Revolution these were far from clean and the cause of noisome smells pervading the whole house.  Finally, apart from practice in martial exercises, public recreation was long confined to crude plays and cruel pastimes such as cock fighting, dog fights, bull and bear baiting.  Drunkenness and gambling at dice and cards were also long a national vice.
To resume, the Black Dealh was a kind of bubonic plague, in its more malignant form characterised by small black pustules and spitting of blood.
 Flea-infested rats brought the plague from the Far East across Europe communicating the disease to man, and probably half the population of an estimated four millions in Britain perished.10  It was not until Elizabeth's reign two centuries later that this population figure was reduced again.  At first the dead were buried in churchyards but soon plague pits had to be dug.  The victims were deposited in them and earth thrown over the bodies in much the same way as the survivors, and we university students, were called upon to cope during the terrible Spanish Flu visitation in 1918.  Crops were left in many places to rot on the ground, cattle and sheep died through lack of attention and their carcasses lay in the fields poisoning the air.  In view of the great demand for English wool for the looms of Flanders, landowners turned their farms into pasture for sheep rather than pay the increased wages demanded through the shortage of labour, despite the 'Statute of Labourers' 1377 compelling the latter to work for the old wages.
The poll taxvof 1380 - 1 following on the last visitation of the Black Death, lit the tinder of political and economic discontent culminating in Wat Tyler's Revolt and the demand for the abolition of villeinage.  One of his fellow leaders was the Yorkshire priest John Ball who preached on the text.
                             "When Adam dalf, and Eve span.,
                              Who was thanne a gentilman?"
This rising of landless labourers against their farmer landlords for freedom and justice appears however to have been confined mainly to Essex and Kent, the southern counties bordering London, and was ruthlessly suppressed.  The most honest portion of the insurgents had gone home believing in the royal promise that their demands should be conceded, but many stayed to terrorise the Londoners resulting in the death of Tyler at the hands of Mayor Walworth. No concessions were forthcoming but the Feudal System and with it villeinage was dying, not so much through acts of rebellion as by economic pressure. The Black Death dealt the system a mortal blow for it became impossible to enforce many of the irksome manorial customs.  The labourer took full advantage of the shortage of manpower by putting a high price on his free service.
A century later, judging by Midgley Township Estate records, there must have been twice as many people as at the time of the Poll Tax.  There were sufficient, along with men on the Warley side acing Luddenden, to petition on the 26th August, 1464, during a pause in the Wars of the Roses, for a church to be built, and King Edward IV had then conferred certain rights.


Owing to the resumption of these Wars on a more bitter scale no doubt, it was not till 1496 that the church was built at Luddenden, a sheltered spot.  Another possible reason for the delay may have been the 'Sweating Sickness' that made its appearance in England raging with swift contagion during the late 15th century.  This rather resembled measles but was much worse and frequently proved fatal.
Actually as early as the 13th century a chapelry had been established through the influence of the Norman families Lacy and Soothill at Heptonstall township, which was situated on the uplands of the Hebden Valley on the western side and remotely opposite Midgley Township.  This was done in order to serve the neighbouring communities of Langfield, Stansfield, Erringden and Wadsworth and to relieve the unwieldiness of Halifax Parish.  Until the end of the 15th century when St Mary's Chapel was built at Luddenden as aforesaid, the inhabitants of Midgley Township were entirely dependent upon Halifax Parish Church. to which indeed they had to travel for burials until the 17th century.11
The circumstances regarding the building and the establishment of the Church at Luddenden were altogether unusual.  The licence.was issued for the celebration of Mass and other divine offices, and also in times of necessity to have the Sacrament of the Eucharist and extreme unction,
"so it be without prejudice to the Parish Church of Halifax". The first chapel was never consecrated nor had rights of sepulture.  Further-more, when in response to a petition parochial rights were granted by King James I at a Court held at Greenwich on 21st May, 1624, no bishop was present at the subsequent consecration owing to an omission in the writing out of the mandate.  In August that year the consecration was performed by two priests, the Revs. Greenwood and Walsh, and attested by James Murgatroyd, William Midgley, Thomas and Jasper Lacy, Gilbert Deane and Gregory Patchett who resided at his residence, the future Swan Inn.  The present Luddenden Church building on the same site dates only from 1814.
During the Wars of the Roses of the second half of the 15th century the two Court factions of York and Lancaster rolled in each other's murderous arms with the resultant self-immolation of baronial power.  The enforced withdrawal of the English 'Godons'12 from France at the end of the Hundred Years War in the middle of the 15th century, and the loss of prestige of the Crown coupled with Henry VI's weak rule had precipitated the outbreak.  A horde of disbanded soldiers who knew no trade but the sword had been unloosed on the land.  Soldiers, of course, were kept by the barons who fought one another, stole one another's land and besieged one another's castles.
It used to be a fancy of historians that peasants and farmers were privileged spectators who paused in their ploughing to watch with mild curiosity the interesting spectacle of the nobility dashing itself to pieces; that the Wars of the Roses only organised these soldiers and the fighting was of little interest to the ordinary common people whose life went on without interruption; that the Wars probably saved many innocent lives for the soldiers were thus trained to fight each other instead of turning robbers.
This is an over-simplification of the real state of affairs in England, for a study of Jack Cade's Revolt and the Paston Letters really reveals. the violence and anarchy that prevailed in the 15th century following on the death of Henry V, the hero of Agincourt.  His son Henry VI was a feeble king who left the direction of affairs in the hands of others, and in the confusion that followed people grabbed what they could, some fairly enough, others by force and fraud.  It was hard to say where authority lay or to whom anyone was responsible.  A way of life had fallen to pieces, namely the old Feudal System with its established grades and functions, its system of loyalties between serf and lord, vassal and king.  'l'here was law in England but no order.  The spirit of the age was bitter, unscrupulous, material. Jack Cade's was a serious revolt, not a riot out for plunder but a considered step on he part of gentlemen and responsible burgesses, who found misrule intolerable and sought a change for the better. Early in June,


1450, the rebels marched on London and appeared at Blackheath.  After a reverse suffered by the King's men the following month, the revolt nevertheless collapsed in disorder.  The story of the rebellion of 1450 in London is strangely similar in detail to that of Wat Tyler's triumph and subsequent fall in 1381, and the parallel is likewise true in other parts of the country.13
The complex hatreds of the Wars of the Roses had long been simmering before the actual outbreak of hostilities at St Albans 1455.  In the subsequent fighting each side committed extremes,  York was beheaded after the Lancastrian victory at Wakefield in 1460, and 35,000 men lay dead on the field after the Yorkist victory at Towton 1461 on Edward IV's assumption of the Crown.14  The cruel spirit of these events spread through the country.  Armed bands galloped widely along roads murdering and robbing with impunity, not to mention the 'sturdy beggars , labourers who were thrown out of work by the spread of sheep farming after the Black Death and prowled about to make their minor contribution to anarchy.  These troublous years definitely had a bad effect on trade   Though the fighting was never close to Halifax for many a summer it would not be safe for instance to send goods to St Bartholomew's Fair, near Cambridge, and the clothmakers would lose many of their markets.  The cloth trade was by far the greatest trade in the country, in fact, it was the only national trade,  Other craftsmen. carpenters, smiths etc. supplied local demands but the weavers made their goods for distant parts.
This moral climate infiltrated England,  The furies of war, ambition, pride, greed, cruelty and hate stamped the Age.  Oaths were broken, treachery became usual, battle ended in massacre.  At Tewkesbury 4th May, 1471, Edward IV cornered Lancastrian fugitives who took sanctuary in vain in the great Norman Abbey.  Blood spattered the nave, stained the high altar and flowed about the immense Norman pillars of the central aisle.  Of twelve Princes of the blood in lawful succession to the throne between 1400 and 1499, six were murdered, five died on the field of battle one was beheaded.  Four of this number were Kings. This bloody swathe through the House of England extinguished the reigning line.
The 15th century had become an Age of purely formal Chivalry. The Knightly Orders such as the Garter and the Golden Fleece were empty of true religious fervour, dedicated to martial pride, to an intense sexuality in which the pleasing of women was all-important to the champions in the lists.15 Sir Thomas Malory was the appropriate troubadour of this hollow chivalry and his "Morte d'Artur" a pagan story. The elaborate outward vanity of the times was most evident in armour and in dress.  Plate armour became suicidally ponderous, perilous vanity against long bow, crossbolts and "hand -Gonnes". Dress took on fantastic forms which persisted well into the following century, the great flaring wings of the 'butterfly" head-dress, the slashed and dagged doublets, the trailing velvet and damask gowns glittering with sequins, the shoes or 'shoon' with absurd curling toes.
There were improvements, however, on the strictly material side. New-fangled forks came in from Italy via France and the noble lords learned to eat from individual silver bowls instead of digging greasy fingers into a common vessel.  The side saddle came to England and the 'handcouvrechef" or handkerchief was invented to supplant the good old-fashioned way of blowing the nose through the fingers into the rushes.  But even if the medieval notion that a peculiar virtue lurked in dirt and masses of hair much as teenage cults affect to-day - was giving way to observing amenities at table and to the pre-Christian practice of regular shaving and baths and to sleeping in a clean bed, all this cannot obscure the terrible human vices of the Age.
Some qualification of this grim scene is possible however. It seems reasonable to suppose that the more out-of-the way places, out of the direct track of these wars such as the remoter parts of the West Riding where plunder was scarce, must have been reasonably inimune from serious depredation. Moreover certain welcome rays were shed through the chaos of the 15th century. While the nobility were pasing through crucial times, and to the exclusion of


many country gentry who remained passive 'dogbolts' or dogsbodies, a new middle class of self-made men of intelligence and ability, without any claim to aristocratic lineage and Norman blood, began cautiously to find its way across this no-man's land of history and to blossom forth under Tudor rule in the spacious days of Elizabeth.  The seivile status of 'bondman' tied to the land without free right of ownership was now a thing of the past.  There was opportunity for those in the lowest rural caste to climb to the upper level of rural economy, from peasant to smallholder, yeoman farmer to squire.  Thrifty peasants hoarded their pennies and gradually added to their nucleus of land, realising that if you look after the pennies the shillings will look after you.16
The incompetence of Henry VI as a ruler in these troublous times must not be allowed to obscure the interest he showed in education.17 To him and William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, formerly Provost of Eton and later Lord Chancellor, we owe the foundations of All Souls College, Lincoln, and Magdalen College, Oxford, and Queen's and King's Colleges, Cambridge, as well as the restoration of Grammar Schools for children of the middle class. Even the artisans were not forgotten.  Merchants were obliged to master the elements of reading and writing, and we may attribute the spread of education far more to the commercial instinct of the nation than to any love of learning. As the century drew to its close the popularisation of education and the consolidation of the common English dialect as the literary language of the land were rendered still more possible by the discovery of printing and the development of this craft by William Caxton, who had formerly worked as a copyist of manuscripts in Bruges.18  In 1475 Caxton printed Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales'.

1. Of a couple of houses, a Methodist chapel and a roadside inn five miles from Wakefield.

2. About 1836 the manorial rights passed from the Farrers to Thomas Riley, whose forebear had established a great merchanting business. and remained in the family till the Land and Property Act of 1922 more or less extinguished these rights.

3. Poll Tax a tax levied on polls or heads. Exactio Capitum. Cicero.

4. Fletcher - one who fledged arrows with feathers.
    Schepard - self explanatory

6. The demesne lands of monastic manors were admirable examples of estate management and improvement. For lot of common people c. 1200 read Edith Pargeter's "The Heaven Tree", and any social history of England.

7. 3000 died in York during the first visitation.

8. Keighley pronounced Keethley - the gutteral 'th' represented by the 'gh' in modern spelling being a survival of pre-Norman times.

9. Turner p.107

10. In time the brown rats extirpated and replaced the medieval black rat. The former was not a carrier of the plague flea to the same extent.

11.Note later chapels elsewhere : St. Paul's at Crosstone in Stansfield, St. peter's, Sowerby, St. Mary's at Illingworth in Ovenden.

12. The God-damns to Joan of Arc.

13. It has been asserted that Jack Cade's revolt was sponsored by Richard Duke of York, but the latter was no Richard  Egalite who would countenance the abolition of tithes and the hanging of bishops.

14. In the thirteen major battles between 1455 and 1485 probably 100,000 combatants perished and after the vengeful slaughter of Wakefield it was 'war to the knife and the knife to the hilt'. As Francis Leary observes it was a time of splendour and agony. The protagonists of 15th century warfare were ruthless in refusing quarter. When granted, quarter had the economic motive of gouging a substantial ransom out of the prisoner. But in Civil War no such motive might exist, for each side considered the worldly goods of the opposing faction as already forfeit under the law of treason and attainder. Are we peoples of the 20th century any better, what with two World Wars of legalised murder on a wholesale scale, running into many millions of dead, 'on our hands and consciences'. The world again is presently a scene of simmering camps and conflicts on the scene of Armageddon.

15. One should not underestimate the role of ambitious women in this bitter struggle between Yorkists and Lancastrians sprung from the loins of the greast third Edward as such :-
   a) Margaret of Anjou, Queen of the feeble Henry VI, who fought to reftain the Crown for her son Edward until he was cruelly killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471. Henry VI was murdered later in the same year.
   b) Cecily Neville, widow of Richard Duke of York killed at Wakefield, 1460 and whose head was impaled on the gates of York, she was the mother of of Edward IV, Richard III and Margaret of Burgundy.
   c) Margaret Beaufort, widow of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, died 1456 and mother of Henry VII.
   d) Elizabeth Woodville, widow of Edward IV, who had advanced the status of her brother and her son by a previous marriage these were regarded as upstarts by the older nobility - and those two sons Edward V and his brother were murdered iin the Tower allegedly by their uncle Richard III.
   e) Margaret of Burgundy, widow of Charles the Bold of Burgundy killed at Nancy, 1477.
All these women had much liberty, money and estates in their own right, and exercised great influence. Even good women when they wanted something for a loved one or saw it as ultimately right, could be more passionately ruthless than men. Then too "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned' Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned"- Congreve
A case in point was Isabella The Fair, Queen of Edward II. Also Eleanor of Aquitane (1122-1204) queen of Henry II.

16. Like his counterpart of 19th century France.

17. Unfortunately Henry did not inherit the strength and ability of his father and grandfather. He could not of course be blamed for the ever inmcreasing occupation costs and the resultant debacle of the policy of his uncles during his minority, in endeavouring to hold on to his father Henry V's conquests in France. It was absurd to expect a nation of 3 million to sit on a nation of 14 million with the richest patrimony in Europe, but then any voluntary disengagement would have offended national pride. France ultimately had a not entirely dissimilar problem in Algeria. Since the capture of Algiers in 1830 over a million European French had settled there for generations. Yet with their Mother country just across the Mediterranean they succumbed little more than a decade ago to the eight million Moslems who wanted more say and France gave too little too late.
It was a story of stupid politicians, a resort to terrorism and resultant blood-bath.
Is there not a lesson here for our republic [South Africa] in the matter of race relations. Should not the Coloured people be closer into the White community which created them? What of the increasing thousands of Bantu born within the Republic?
'Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law of the prophets Vide the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12.

18. Most of all by the printing of the English Bible and Prayer Book in Tudor times.
The court French and the ecclesiastical Latin had long taken second place as people began to think in English, in the mixture of dialects called English.

Chapter 5 Note 12
Edward III's family settlement of 1377 and the "over-mighty Subject" led to the Wars of the Roses. "Weak as is the 14th century. the 15th is weaker still, more futile, more bloody, more immoral" Mowat quoting Stubbs' Constitutional History.
Nevertheless they ushered in the glories of the Tudor reigns, after the caste nobility had been almost completely exterminated in the fighting and hereditary feuds. The country gentlemen and middle classes stepped into their places in the local government of the country and increasing numbers of these also served as King's Ministers. Incidentally the expression "Wars of the Roses" is a misnomer for the red rose was never a badge of the House of Lancaster. Kenneth Vickers. It was an invention of the 16th century. Mowat.

                                                      %%%%%%END OF CHAPTER  5 MIDGLEYANA %%%%%%%%%

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Copyright © Tim Midgley 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 Franklin Midgley 1970.