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A journey through Hunter’s ‘South Yorkshire’

From observations I perceive that most people seem to use ‘South Yorkshire’ as a basic reference when looking for information about a specific place, reading only what is written under that one town or village heading. The work does not have a comprehensive index, listing only the main sources for each specific topic, and further information about places and people is often included in genealogical information contained under other areas. By studying all the families who intermarried into a specific family of a district, and especially by concentrating on the alliances made by female heiresses, it is possible to trace the changing fortunes of land inheritance. Further more this lends to an understanding of why later marriages between cousins far removed were more likely to be the concerns of family fortunes rather than in the interests of true love.

Once upon a time there were seven sisters …….around the beginning of the thirteenth century, to be more precise.

At the time of the Domesday Survey, 1086, the manors of  ‘Burg’ and ‘Scanhalla,’ (Skellow) were held by William Pictavus or Poictevin under the lordship of  Ilbert de Laci; he also appears to have held Leid (Lead) and Ackton. William is mentioned as having given two garbs in Skellow to the Chapel of St. Clement in Pontefract Castle before 1100.


The manor of Burg appears to have descended through the male line of Pictavii until the beginning of the thirteenth century, at which time it was held by a Robert Pictavus/le Poitevin. Robert was succeeded by seven daughters, all presumably his coheirs. Hunter, in the section on Burghwallis, lists the marriages of these coheirs as:-

“Eva, who married Richard son of Robert de Reecroft.

Dionysia, mother of Richard le Wallis.

Galiena, Agatha and Matilda.

Muriel, from whom descended Henry de Rockley, who was the defendant.

And Agnes, who married Elias de Midhope, and had James.”

He mentions that “one of the coheirs married the lord of Tankersley;” this must have been either Galiena, Agatha or Muriel. Also, that “Rockley is believed to have descended from the Pictavii in the line of De La Hay.” There was still a house in the parish by the name of Rockley-Hall when Hunter wrote, but this appears to have been demolished by the time of the first O.S. map of 1854. There were also “Midhopes and Barnbys possessing lands here ….. and Tyas had possessions here.”

Under Burghwallis, only the main line is followed in any detail, being the Wallis’s from which the parish took its name. However, by following elsewhere in the two volumes the genealogies of the families into which these coheirs married, it has been possible to extract much more information about how the land was divided between them, and how some of the holdings were brought back under one ownership by marriages between distant cousins.


Dionysia was the daughter who married into the family from which the manor was to acquire its final name, becoming known as Burghwallis; she married Robert, seneschal of Pontefract, the son of Henry le Wallis. Her son Henry married Elizabeth, who was the daughter and coheir of Jordan de St. Mary and Alice Haget (died 1247).  Their second son, Sir Richard le Wallis, inherited Burghwallis from his father and land at Frickley through his mother; he presented the first recorded rector to the church in 1253. Apart from a brief lapse in the 1320’s, when Richard le Wallis appears to have forfeited the manor for a short period during the affair of the Earl of Lancaster, Burghwallis remained in the hands of the Wallis family until at least 1344.

Swillington and Gascoigne

Stephen le Wallis was succeeded by a daughter, Elizabeth. She was however underage at the time of her father’s death, so from 1350 to 1372 the rectors were presented by Sir Robert de Swillington, who in his inquisition of 1393 appears to have held the manor for ‘term of life.’ Elizabeth married twice, having a daughter who married sir William Mowbray. His grand-daughter Elizabeth married Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe, Lord Chief Justice and a man of great wealth. The manor was to continue in the lordship of the Gascoigne family for the next one hundred and seventy years, though it is probable that these sir Williams had very little direct contact with Burghwallis. The first mention of a Gascoigne living there is of Thomas, a younger son, who died in 1554; his commemorative brass in the church. 

West and Anne

After his death the manor appears to have passed to a younger sister as her dowry, for in Bernard’s Survey of 1577 Leonard West of Burghwallis, husband of Barbara Gascoigne, lays claim; Martin Anne of Frickley is said to have held the lordship of Burghwallis from this Leonard West. Elizabeth, daughter of Martin Anne, became the second wife of Francis Gascoigne, brother of Barbara and the last sir William Gascoigne. The Wests continued to make presentation to the church, the assigns of Leonard’s son, William, doing so in 1586 and 1606. Hunter was not clear how the manor passed from the West family to the Annes, previously of Frickley, although they had possessed land here from an earlier time. They were lords of the manor from the early seventeenth century up to the late 1930’s.

Tankersley and Tyas

Now, to return to the sisters of Dionysia.  One of them married the lord of the manor of Tankersley. Under the history of Tankersley we find that the lord in question was Henry de Tankersley, who “is said to have married one of the coheirs of Robert le Poitevin, the lord of Burgh (-Wallis).” Hunter also states here that “the marriage of these coheirs is to be referred to the reign of Henry III;” [This information would have been handy if repeated under Burghwallis, as little indication of date is given there.] (However further research suggests the time of Henry II rather than Hn III,)  Either his (Henry’s) son or his grandson had two daughters Joan and Alice, coheirs, who married respectively Hugh de Eland and Richard le Tyas. Initially both Richard Tyas and Hugh Eland presented to the church at Tankersley (1290), but it seems that eventually Tankersley passed into the line of Eland and holdings at Burghwallis and Skellow became the property of the Tyas family, Richard le Tyas being shown as holding land there in 1284 and 1319; also Lead which had belonged to the Pictavus family.  There is no indication however that the Tyas family lived at Burghwallis, the main family seat being at Lead/Lede, although their coat of arms was displayed in earlier windows in the church.  Richard and Alice had two daughters, coheirs, Joan who married John de Wentworth and Constance who married Henry de Rockley, (died 1340). 


Of the two remaining sisters, Muriel married Robert Rockley, whose family seat was near Wosborough.  In 1319, the great grandson of Muriel, Henry de Rockley, was granted a yearly rent of £20 by Richard le Tyas, (the above mentioned) to be taken out of the manors of Burghwallis, Tankersley, Woodsome and Lede.  Henry and Richard were distantly related through marriage. Henry de Rockley married Ellen the daughter of William De La Hay, who had land at Stainborough. The pedigree of Rockley is to be found under the section on Wosborough. Here Hunter shows Henry de Rockley to have married Ellen, “daughter and heir of William de la Hay, or de Holme, son of Roger, son of Robert Pictaviensis de Burgh.”  A likely explanation for the change of ‘surname,’ is that one of the ‘sons’ was actually a son-in-law.  It seems unlikely that this Roger was the son of the Robert Pictavus with seven daughters, as he [or his heirs] should then have inherited Burgh(Wallis); whatever the relationship, he seems to have held land in the eastern part of the parish of Burghwallis.  The hamlet of Haywood used to be part of the parish of Burghwallis, and Rockley-Hall was situated not far from Haywood. A recent survey undertaken by the South Yorkshire Archaeology Unit has identified the site of Rockley-Hall, and also the site of a settlement not far away, on the eastern side of Shirley Pool. This marriage between Henry and Ellen would bring adjacent land-holdings together under one tenancy. The Rockley-Hall at Burghwallis however may not have been the main residence of this younger branch of the Rockley family; this was the also-named Rockley Hall on the land that had belonged to de la Hay at Stainborough.

The son of Henry and Ellen, also Henry, married Constance daughter of the Richard le Tyas who held land in Burghwallis in 1319.  These were distantly related cousins, Robert Pictavus being the great-great-grandfather of Constance and the great-great-great-grandfather of Henry. Thus land which had been the inheritance of two of the daughters of Robert was to be reunited by the joining of two of his descendants, and also land that had been split from the family holdings at an earlier period.  The family of Rockley seems to have left Burghwallis by the end of the fourteenth century. Sir Robert, grandson of Henry and Constance, was still a minor on his father’s death, c.1340, and his mother Cecilia let the house. The next Sir Robert founded the Chantry at Wosborough, and from the pedigree in Hunter it appears that he had taken up the family seat at Rockley in Wosborough when the main line ended in the death of an unmarried heiress.


There is the marriage of one further daughter of Robert Pictavus to consider, that of Agnes to Elias de Midhope; he is to be found in the section on Hallamshire. In 1260 he ‘put his lands in Burghwallis in pledge.’  The land passed through the female line into the family of Barnby, whose history is to be found in the section on Barnby, under Cawthorne.  In an inquisition-post-mortum of 1558, Ralph de Barnby was said to have held the manors of Sutton and Burghwallis, among his many other land-holdings. The inheritance of the Barnby family was distributed, by the marriages of heiresses, between several families, and there is no mention in Hunter of to whom the land at Burghwallis passed.

Although there is only one reference to Burghwallis in the index to ‘South Yorkshire’, this being to the main section, through following family lines it has been possible to find fourteen other mentions in family genealogies and associated information. This has greatly increased the understanding of the intricacies of changing land-ownership within the parish.

It has been possible to build up an extended family tree, starting from Robert Pictavus, which illustrates at a glance over four centuries of the history of one small parish. It has also provided a list of names from which further information can be sought through family documents.

Note.1. a ‘garb’  is a payment of rent with corn.

Margaret Burns 


Eva = Richard           Dionysia = Robert le     Galiena = Henry de             Muriel = Robert de        Agnes = Elias de

          REECROFT                      WALLIS     Agatha     TANKERSLEY                  ROCKLEY                   MIDHOPE


                                   BURGHWALLIS        TANKERSLEY              WOSBOROUGH          HALLAMSHIRE

                                  Elizabeth = 1.                 Alice = Richard le         Henry de = Ellen, dau.of      Alice = Edmund de

                                                     2                               TYAS             ROCKLEY   William de la                 BARNBY



                                   daughter = sir William                Constance  = Henry de        Nicholas = Mary   Beatrix = John

                                                     MOWBRAY                                   ROCKLEY  BOWDEN                            ALLOT

                                  Elizabeth = sir William                       Cecilia = Robert de           Thomas 2. = Elizabeth = 1.John

                                                     GASCOIGNE                                  ROCKLEY        BOWDEN                        ALLOT 


                             Francis        =  Elizabeth

                        GASCOIGNE      ANNE

Extended family tree to show the parishes in Hunter’s ‘South Yorkshire’ in which extra information on the families of Burghwallis can be found. (The parishes are shown in bold type.)