The History of Barnbow. Part 1. THE GRENEFELD YEARS Back to the Main Historical Society page
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The History of Barnbow


from The Barwicker No. 57
Mar. 2000

Barnbow is an area of undulating land lying to the south of the main road from Barwick to Stanks. At the present time there is only a handful of dwellings there but in previous centuries there was a much larger settlement. The history of Barnbow in those earlier years can be discovered only from scarce documents that were written at the time, then preserved and are now made available to us. They almost invariably concern money and property. They were not written to tell us what Barnbow was like in those days but they are the only sources we have which give us any inkling of the lives of the inhabitants at that time.

Barnbow is not mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086 but would have formed part of the manor of Ledston, Kippax and Barwick which is described there. Formerly the property of the Saxon lord Edwin of Mercia, the manor with many others was granted to the Norman lord, Ilbert de Lascy, after Edwin revolted against King William in 1071. At a later date, the manor was divided and Barwick (including Barnbow) became a separate manor.

An inquisition post mortem on the death of Henry de Lascy in 1258 shows that there were seven free tenants in Barnbow: Peter Dawtrey (de Alta Ripa), Richard de Reyneville, Nicholas de Barnbow, Robert Forester, William Hurttenant, Henry (?) and Richard Waleys (Walens). They paid a total rent of 2.12s.4d and 1lb. of cummin.

In 1290 the Dawtrey lands passed in to the hands of Robert de Grenefeld, the brother of William de Grenefeld, who became Archbishop of York in 1304. The Grenefelds were people of influence and major landowners in the area for the next two and a half centuries. Rector Frederick Selincourt Colman in his book 'The History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet' (1908), from which much of this chapter has been composed, includes numerous land transfers in Barnbow and elsewhere.

On the death of Henry de Lascy in 1308/9, his lands, including the manor of Barwick, were incorporated into the vast Lancaster estates (later the Duchy of Lancaster) following the marriage of the de Lascy heiress to the Thomas,2nd. Earl of Lancaster. William de Grenefeld, son of the aforementioned Robert, initially supported his lord, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, in a revolt against King Edward II, but withdrew his support and was granted a pardon on 1 November 1318, "for all felonies and trespasses committed by him up to the 7 August last, the robbery of the Cardinal Legate only excepted". What punishment was meted out to him for this crime against such a prominent person we do not know but the Grenefeld family continued to prosper, unlike Earl Thomas who was beheaded in 1322 for his part in the revolt.

A detailed survey of the manor of Barwick dated 4 October 1341 was drawn up on the instructions of Henry, 3rd. Earl of Lancaster, the lord of the manor, in the presence of 12 named jurors 'and others'. There is a separate section in the survey for Barnbow, detailing its tenants and lands, from which we can infer that it was a distinct geographical unit or 'territory' within the manor, with its own boundaries.

There are seven people described as 'free tenants', namely: Reginald Reynvill; Thomas, son of William de Grenefeld; Ellen de Grenefeld; Robert, son of John de Barnebogh; William Howeson; Thomas de Birne and Nicholas de Scoles. Thomas de Grenefeld and Robert de Barnebogh were two of the jurors. Ellen de Grenefeld, widow of William and mother of Thomas, also held, as a free tenant, a messuage and 7 acres of land in Woodhouse in Barwick manor. The Reynvill family had held land in Barnbow since the early 13th. century. In a charter dated 1348/9, the above Reginald is said to be 'of Bernbowe', so he must have been a resident as well as a land owner.

The free tenants did not own the freehold of the land but paid rent to the lord for the property they held, viz. 10 messuages (houses with their grounds) and 15 bovates of land. A bovate was a measure of land of about 10-25 acres, depending on the quality of the land. The total rent collected from the freemen which, as is often the case in such surveys, does not agree with the sum of the individual items, is given as 1.17s.2d., including 1s.4d. for labour services or 'works.'

There are three men described as 'bondmen', namely: William Morwicke of Barnebogh, John White and Thomas, son of William de Grenefeld. They paid rent for 2 messuages, and 2 bovates and 5 acres of land. It will be noticed that Thomas, son of William de Grenefeld, is in both lists, indicating that the terms 'free tenant' and 'bondman' are used as descriptions of the manner in which they held their land and not as personal titles. These tenants paid in rent a total of 1.1s.0d, plus 4d. for works. In addition to his Barnbow holdings, Thomas, son of William Grenefeld, rented 3 acres of land in Scholes, paying 1s.9d. Both types of tenant had to pay 'suit of court' when they renewed their promise of allegiance to the lord and agreed to accept the customs of the manor.

On their deaths the tenancy could be passed on to their next of kin on payment of double rent for the first year. In contrast to the custom in other parts of the manor, the free tenants, in addition to the bondmen, were obliged to carry out specified 'works' or labour services. In Barnbow these took the form of reaping on the lord's demesne land, but as there is no mention of such land in the Barnbow section, we must conclude that the tenants paid the small sums specified in lieu of these services. For his works, Reginald Reynvill, but not apparently the other tenants, could claim grazing rights, for all his cattle in the pasture of Little Moor and Brown Moor.

As might be expected from the name, the bondman had less freedom and more obligations to the lord than a free tenant. He had to accept when elected the office of 'reeve', an important position concerned in the management of the agriculture of the manor. In order to prevent any loss of labour in the manor, the bondman's son was not allowed to 'be tonsured', that is ordained a priest, or his daugher to marry without licence of the lord. No doubt there were other obligations, not stated in the survey. Barnbow was unusual in that most of the land was held by free tenants whereas in Scholes village at that time there were eleven bondmen and no free tenants.

What can we deduce from the survey of what life was like for the inhabitants of Barnbow at that time? There were nine named tenants renting 12 messuages, the surplus three dwellings being no doubt sub-let to three unnamed tenants. 12 households must have meant a population for Barnbow at that time of approximately 55, about the same as Scholes village at the time. Whether the houses were concentrated in a small hamlet or whether they formed a more scattered settlement we do not know. Most would be frail structures of wood and little evidence of them now remains.

With 17 bovates, perhaps 250 acres of arable land, agriculture was clearly the main occupation in Barnbow. These lands would no doubt be used in an 'open field' system (see 'The Barwicker No.32), where each tenant cultivated several long narrow strips of land in the (usually) three large unenclosed fields. Between crops and when left fallow, the fields were used as common pasture for cattle, etc. Evidence for this method of farming is provided in a land transfer charter of 1348/9, which refers to "2 acres of arable land in Oldefeld in the common fields of Barnbow".

To be successful this method of agriculture required that all the tenants worked to a strict timetable, followed the customs of the manor and obeyed the rulings of the manorial court. It must have led to a great deal of cooperation between the inhabitants in their working lives and hence we can speak of the 'community' of Barnbow, as well as the 'territory' and the 'settlement'. Not all this interaction was neighbourly. In 1303, Robert de Grenefeld sued William de Lasingcroft, for trespass and damage in pasturing 10 cows on Littlemore, adjoining Lasingcroft, which Robert claimed to be his pasture. Robert detained the cows and caused William a loss of 10. The jury decided against Robert and ruled that he had no right of pasture there without William's consent.

In his book the Rev. Colman includes summaries of 14 land charters concerning Barnbow dating from the mid 14th. to the mid 15th. centuries. Some were sworn at Barnbow and were witnessed by prominent men from the manor and elsewhere. They refer to land in Barnbow and other places transferred between named people, some local, some from other parts. As sources of information concerning what it was like to live in Barnbow at the time, as either landlord or tenant, they are of little use. It is from such sources and other records involving property, such as wills and surveys, that allowed Colman, from patient research and not without some speculation, to draw up a pedigree of the Grenefeld family covering two and a half centuries, which he includes in his book.

Henry, 4th. Earl and 1st. Duke of Lancaster died in 1361 without a surviving male heir. The Duchy of Lancaster estates, including Barwick and Barnbow, passed through his daughter, Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, 4th. son of Richard III, to their son, Henry Bolingbroke. When he took by force the crown of England to become Henry IV, he was careful to separate the Duchy estates, of which he had a firm legal right, from the royal estates, of which his claim (as a usurper) was much less strong. This distinction still exists today.

There is no doubt that the Grenefeld family prospered during the 14th. century. In the Poll Tax rolls of 1379, William Grenefeld, the younger brother and heir of the aforementioned Thomas, is listed with the small merchants and craftsmen, and is assessed with his wife at 3s.4d., much the largest sum in the list for the township of Barwick, which included the manors of Barwick and Scholes. He is described as a 'franklyn', usually translated as 'freeholder'. Elena and Johanna Grenefeld are included as single adult women assessed at 4d. each. Randolph del Scholes, who may have been related to the aforementioned Nicholas, is assessed with his wife at the lower limit of 4d., as are the great majority of married couples.

On 2 February 1385/6, William Grenefeld, the franklyn, and his son John, with others, were responsible for the killing of William del Kyrke of Barnbow. We do not know the details of the case but William received a royal pardon on 11 May 1389, whereas his son had to wait another five years until 4 March 1394 for his pardon. The Grenefelds seemed to live dangerously but they continued to prosper.

It was in 1424/5, while the youthful Henry VI, grandson of Henry IV, was lord of the manor of Barwick, that another survey was made. With regard to the property described, the survey differs little from that of 1341. The same messuages and land can be identified as the names of the 1341 tenants are given. In 1424/5, 10 messuages and 15 bovates were held by only four free tenants. John Grenefeld, son of William the 'franklyn' of 1379, had increased the family holding to 6 messuages and 8 bovates of land, and had clearly become the dominant landowner in Barnbow.

Another free tenant, William Kynston, was the chaplain to the chantry chapel in Barwick church. He also held a messuage in Kirkgate, Tadcaster. In the Barwick township poll tax returns of 1379, he is included as a single man and paid 4d. in tax. Thomas Kynston, a carpenter, who may have been William's father, and Robert Kynston, a cobbler, are included in the small merchants and craftsmen section of the returns and are assessed with their wives at 12d each. Another free tenant holding a messuage and a bovate of land in 1424/5 was Nicholas Gascoigne, of Lasingcroft, a member of the family which would furnish the lords of the manor of Barwick two centuries later. The fourth free tenant was Henry Sourby, who held a messuage and three bovates of land.

2 messuages and 2 bovates of land were held in 1424/5 by only one bondman or villein, John Marshall. He also held land in Scholes and is described as 'of Barnboghe' so he was clearly a resident there. John Willeson and William Johnson Diconson, probably residents of Scholes, held jointly 5 acres of land by lease for a fixed number of years. The total rent paid to the lord of the manor by the Barnbow tenants was 3.0s.4d, very little change from 1341.

The survey lays out again in detail the 'works' or labour services but it is unlikely that they were carried out but would have been exchanged for the small sums quoted. The other conditions for the free tenants and the bondmen are give as before, but one wonders how much they were applicable as by then the manorial system of land holding was breaking up. The survey shows that the population of Barnbow and the amount of arable land had changed little since 1341, despite the ravages of the Black Death of 1347 and other epidemics.

Whether Barnbow Hall, the seat of first the Grenefeld and then the Gascoigne families, was built at this time we do not know. It was situated on rising ground facing south over the still pleasant prospect of the valley of the Cock Beck. Before its demolition in 1721/2, it was a house of considerable size. Little is now visible of the hall, as agriculture and the construction of the reservoir for the Barnbow munitions factory during World War I have almost obliterated the last remnants.

In the lay subsidy returns of 1524, which record taxes paid to finance the foreign wars of Henry VIII (see 'The Barwicker' No. 1
March 19866), John Grenefeld, grandson of the John Grenefeld in the 1424/5 survey, was assessed for tax on land valued at 20 and he paid 20s. Henry Ellis of Kidall was assessed for a similar sum. They are both described as 'gentlemen', a place in the social order reserved for those who did not have to resort for their income to manual work. They were the wealthiest men resident in Barwick township at the time.

John Grenefeld, the last of the family to bear the ancient name, died at a great age on 6 January, 1540/1. At the time of his death he held in Barnbow the capital messuage (Barnbow Hall), three other messuages, two cottages, 40 acres of arable land and 18 closes of meadow and pasture, for which he paid rent to the lord of the manor. He held, as the sub-tenant of William Gascoigne, five messuages, 40 acres of arable land, 80 acres of meadow, 70 acres of pasture 'with appurtenances'. He also held other land in Yorkshire.

It is clear from the way that the arable land is described in the record as separate from the pasture and meadow, that the old system of open fields had been abandoned in Barnbow and that the land had been enclosed. The amount of the very valuable meadow land, used for the provision of hay for winter fodder, indicates the wealth of the Grenefeld estates at this time.

John Grenefeld outlived his two daughters and his estates went to their two sons, Nicholas Girlington and John Newcomen, who was married to Alice daughter of John Gascoigne of Lasingcroft. In 1548, Nicholas Girlington brought an action against Thomas Hardcastle and others who "with staves and other weapons in a riotous manner wrongfully entered into a meadow called Lentyng and other closes and expelled the plaintiff". Hardcastle replied that John Grenefeld had surrendered the premises to a forebear of his and that he had enjoyed the use of the premises for many years. The case was lost.

In the four court cases listed here, prominent men from Barnbow were prepared to indulge in violent behaviour to maintain their position and their property. This was not however a lawless society as in the the cases listed, the appropriate legal action was taken to resolve the matter. Despite living dangerously at times, the Grenefeld family had prospered during their two and half centuries in Barnbow.

In 1548, Nicholas Girlington sold his share of the estate to this cousin John Newcomen. In 1568, the latter sold Barnbow Hall and its appurtenances to Richard Gascoigne, his wife's brother, who a year later acquired the remainder of Newcomen' s interest in Barnbow and the rest of the old Grenefeld estates in the parish. The Gascoigne family were to remain major landowners in Barnbow until the 20th. century.


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