Archive for December, 2017

Connections – Sir James Harrington & the Cornish Rebellion of 1497

Once again, historian Mike Ingram has unearthed a gem during his research  which sheds some insight into the later years of the 15th Century and the fate of the Northants Harringtons.

Examinacions taken at the Towne of Northn the xxvi day of April, in the xxxiii’ yere of the reigne of our Soveraine Lord Kyng Henry the viiith, before Sir Edward Montague, Knyght, Sir Thomas Tresham, Knyght, and Richard Catesby, Esquyer, by virtue of the Kyng’s Comission to theym dyrected for the pte of Thomas Latham, keapr of the Parke of Molton.

Also he saith that one Nicholas Assheton, gent beyng under keapr to Sir James Harryngton, knyght,of the said pke James a Latham, yoman, and William Harryngton, yoman, underkeaper to the said Sir James of the said waren and conyes wtin the said felds of Kyngsthorp, &c., from the beginning of the reigne of Kyng Henry the vii untyll Blackheyth feld, which the said deponent supposd was above the space of xiv or XV yeres, had the keapyng of the said waren, toke the pfits of the conyes within all the said felds of Kyngesthorp, &c., wtout lett or intrupcion of any pson or psones ; and further the said deponent . . . sayd William Harryngton

were there in the tyme of the said Sir James Harryngton. And imedyatly after the said Backhethfeld the said Sir James Harryngton was put from the office of the said Pke and waren, and then the same office was gyven to Sir Nicholas Vaux, and he was Mastr Keapr of the said Pke and waren … his life, which was by the estymacion [of the said deponent the] space of xxviii yeres . . .
H. Maye, gent, was his underkeap of the said pke and waren, and had the keapyng and pfetts of the conyes w’in the said felds of Kyngsthorp, &c., duryng the said tyme of xxviii yeres or therabouts, savyng at one tyme aboute xxi yeres past the inhabytaunts of the said towneship of Kyngsthorp complayned to the kyng’s moost honorable counsaill that the said keapr and warener had increased the nomber of the conyes witn the felds of Kyngsthorp aforesaid so greatly, that their corne and grasse in the same felds of Kyngsthorp was utfly destroyed and spoyled, and when they could not upon their said complaynt gain redresse and remedy, that then the said inhabitaunts did put in tillage and ayre Wt ploughs the same ground where the conyes had made their clappers and had their moost resorte ; and after the death of the said Sir Nicholas Vaux . . . son Lord Harryngton had . . . beyng his underkeapr by the space of iii or iiii years ; and the same Richard Humphrey had Wagstaff under him to walk and keape the said warens, and duryng the said tyme of iii or iiii yeres the said Richard Humfrey and his underkeapr had the keapyng of the said waren, and toke the pfetts of the conyes in a peysable manr, as any other prsone or prsones dyd at tyme within the remembraunce of the said deponent. John Relson, of Kyngsthorp … of the age of Ixxi years or therabouts … in the said townes of Boughton and Kyngsthorp by the space of Iv yeres last past, and now he is a bedesman in Seynt Devys in Kyngsthorp aforesaid, sworne and examyned, deposeth and saith that he did know James Latham, Nicholas Aysheton, and William Harryngton, underkeps to Sir James Harryngton, knyght, whiche Sir James had by the kyng’s gyft the keapyng of the said parke, and his said underkeap had the keapyng of the conyes within the said felds of Kyngsthorpe, &c., and toke the pfetts of the same conyes by the space of xiiii or xv yeres, but whether they had any waren w^in the said felds of Kyngsthorp, &c., or not, he knoweth not, and furthermore, the said deponent saith that the nombr of conyes is increased in the felds of Kyngsthorp in dyverse places, wherby the grasse and corne that groweth yerely there is greatly hyndred and apeyred,^ but he saith that he hath known many moo conyes wtin the said felds in a certeyn place called Blackwell Hill than are at this present day of his deposition. Richard Abbey, of the towne of North”, of the age of Ixii yeres . . . saith that one Sir James Harryngton, Knyght, at the begynnynge of the reigne of Kyng Henry Vii was maisf keapi’ of Moulton pke, and in that tyme one Thomas Abbey, father to the said Richard, another called John Lawforde, of the seid towne of Northampn, bocher, went oute of North” towne in a dark nyght with a lantern and a candell lyght in the same unto the warren betwene the felds of the said towne of Northn and Kyngsthorpe feld, intending to stele conyes wt a ferrett and pursenette, and then the underkeap of the said pke for that tyme beyng mette wt them, and they told him they went to seek for a bullock that was broken from them, and they inquired if the said keapr had sene any, and he said nay, and dyd bydde them goe on theyr weys to loke if they could fynde hym, and after they were depted from hym they had that that they dyd come for.

So, what is this all about and why is this interesting?

The above is an inquest taken  in the year 1516 into some land south of Brixworth, near Kingsthorpe, which changed hands away from the Harringtons following the Battle of Blackheath Field. This battle, also known as the Battle of Deptford Bridge took place  in Blackheath (south east London) on the 17 June 1497 and was the culmination of the first of the Cornish Rebellions against Henry Tudor.

Following the battle,  Sir Nicholas Vaux is rewarded with the land. Sir Nicholas was knighted by Henry Tudor after the battle, and Henry VII took the opportunity to reward those who took part and punish those who rebelled.

What is also interesting, is the date.  We know from Sir James Harrington’s will that he apparently dies on 26th June in 1497, nine days after the battle.  He is aged ~54.

It is also worth remembering the context here:

  • We believe Sir James is knighted at the coronation of Henry VII in 1485 (aged 42). The is strange given the previous family allegiance to York, and the Stanley – Harrington feud over Hornby Castle. (There is a great blog on this here, and a great piece on the castle here). However, history is what it is!
  • His uncle Sir Thomas Pilkington leads the rebel army at Stoke Field. After Bosworth Sir Thomas Pilkington seems to have holed up at Urswick in North Lancashire.
    Sir Thomas was attainted and his estates confiscated by the victor, Henry VII, for being on the losing side at Bosworth. He might have got his manors back later if he had kept his nose clean and sworn loyalty to the new regime. But it seems he was a “conviction Yorkist” and he just couldn’t do that. He joined the rebellion of the Earl of Lincoln and Lambert Simnel. This was crushed at the Battle of East Stoke in 1487
  • Sir James loses his only son and heir William to an accident whilst crossing the mersey  on his wedding day (March 4 1490). His estates will be split between his 11 daughters on his death and pass to their husbands.
  • We known from his will that a large amount of his lands had already been feoffe’d to his relatives. This was a fifteenth century form of tax avoidance and also made it hard for others to claim ownership.

It is interesting to speculate on Sir James’ involvement in the first Cornish rebellion.  Why is he being punished?  There are perhaps three possibilities:

    1. It is a pure coincidence. Henry uses the later death of Sir James to reward the Vaux family.
    2. Sir James Harrington is involved in the battle and perhaps dies of his wounds. But which side is he on? Has Henry summoned him for war following his knighting? The army of 8,000 men assembled for Scotland under the command of Giles, Lord Daubeny (Henry’s chief general and Lord Chamberlain) was recalled and directed south. Is Sir James and his household part of that army? If so, punishing him by reassigning land may be harsh (though perhaps convenient).
    3. Or, has he rebelled? By this point, the Harrington’s are out of the picture on Hornby Castle and the Stanley’s firmly in control. Henry Tudor will not look again at that issue. Aged 54, and with no male heir, perhaps he decides for one final roll of the dice?


At this point, we must speculate. Without a blue box and a glamorous assistant we won’t know for certain, but the dates have aroused enough interest that this line of enquiry is worth investigating further and we’ll report back if we find anything.

As to the ultimate fate of Sir James, his will states that he is to be buried in the parish church in Brixworth if he dies within the county.

First I bequeth my soule to Alle myghti God and to oure blissid Lady Saint Marye and to alle the glorious Companye of Hevin and my body to be buried in the Parifsh Chirch of Brixworth aforesaid yf I fortune to deceafse iiygh the Countre And if I do not, thenne where myne Executpurs shall seme best

Did he die elsewhere? Well, in 2015 the Churchwarden at Brixworth allowed us to lift the victorian carpets over the Choristry and examine some of the medieval tombs underneath. The brass has gone, but we hope further work will reveal whether these are Verdun’s or the Harringtons of Wolfage Manor. One will be his father Sir William for sure.

Sir James also had a final request:

I woll that a prest be founde for ever to singe in the Parissh Chirch of Brixworth to pry for my soule my children soules and all cristin Soulis


The Vicars of Brixworth Church

Thomas Newbury was priest at Brixworth for 44 years, he must have known Sir James well and would no doubt have sung as instructed. Perhaps next time you are passing Brixworth Church – a world famous heritage site – you will visit and light a candle in memory of the Lords of Wolfage Manor and hope that one day all their secrets will be revealed!

All saints brixworth

All Saints Church, Brixworth. Showing the Medieval Annex.


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