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The Lordship of the Manor of Barwick-in-Elmet

Barwicker 3
September 1986

Readers of a Christmas edition of the Skyrack Express were, no doubt, surprised to read that the Lo r-d s h Lp of the Manor of Barwick-in-Elmet was for sale. It was one of a list of about 100 titles offered for sale jointly by Strutt and Parker, Estate Agents of Chelmsford, and Manorial Research, Ltd. of Kennington Road, London. Offers in the region of £6,000 were requested. Lordships of three other local manors were also on the list, namely Scholes and Parlington, offered at £6,000 each, and Garforth, at the impressive price of £25,000. Included in this sum are important documents, five of them bearing Great Seals of the Monarch of the day. There are 40 documents connected with the Barwick Lordship, dated from 1537 to 1827.

The whole package was assembled so that the sale could be held in 1986, which has been declared Domesday Year. The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded the wealth of England in the reign of William I. Information was compiled from more than 13,000 manors and their lords, and this was compared with the situation 20 years earlier, before the Norman Conquest.

Lordships were granted by the King or his principal Lieutenants in return for a promise of military service when required. A manor was an economic unit. Those living within it were allocated land in return for services to the lord. Barwick-in-Elmet was held by Edwin of Mercia at the time of the Conquest and he was confirmed in the lordship by 'William the Conquerer in 1067. He joined the rebellion of the northern earls in 1071, was killed and his lands granted to Ilbert de Lasci (Lacy), who had come to England with the Conquerer. Through the successors and by marriage, the lands were added to the vast estates of the Dukes of Lancaster. These lands exist nominally today as the Duchy of Lancaster.

Soon after Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, inherited the estates, he usurped the throne of Richard II, to become Henry IV. He was careful to separate Crown lands, to which his claim could be challenged, from Duchy lands, to which his right was absolute. The Manor of Barwick remained in the Duchy until 1603, when James I granted it to his wife, Anne of Denmark, for life.

At her death in 1619, the Prince of Wales, later Charles I, received the manor, but in 1687 he mortgaged it, with the Honour of Pontefract, to the City of London. 2 years later, it was sold and eventually passed into the hands of Sir Thomas Gascoigne. The title remained with the Gascoignes until 1972, when the last member of the family died.

For centuries after the ending of the Feudal System, with its military service, lords of the manor had important rights and duties as prominent landowners. These diminished with the establishment of more representative local government. Manorial ranks will have our full support and encouragement in any research into the history of the Manor.

Mr Franks has negotiated the ownership of the documents relating to the Manor. These will be deposited, for safe keeping, with the West Yorkshire Archive Service, where they will be available for inspection by the general public, now and in the future. This is in accordance with the policy of the Manorial Society, whose Chairman, Robert Smith, states, "it is only by access to these crucial primary sources that historians and researchers can get a clear picture of English social and economic development during the Middle Ages and the Tudor period."

The title is used after the name and style, that is Mr Raymond Franks, Lord of the Manor of Barwick-in-Elmet. The lord may adopt a coat of arms and use it, with the title, on stationery, silver, legal documents, etc. He can use the title on his passport and one can imagine situations where this could be useful.

The title does carry with it some property rights, in theory at least. The Lord owns the sub-soil, without mineral rights unfortunately. How he exploits the sub-soil without disturbing someone else's top-soil is an interesting question. He also owns the roadside verges, which formed part of the Lord'S common, but Mr Franks disclaims all liability for their proper upkeep. He is also the nominal owner of the land on which the Maypole and War Memorial stand. We think that the Maypole Committee can continue to sleep soundly in their beds, without fear of any disturbance of their ancient ceremony.

Manors and their lords go back in our history for a thousand years. Now in Barwick, only the title exists, as a reminder of a system that dominated English economic life for centuries.

Arthur Bantoft.

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