Home / Lords Of The Manor Burghwallis

Part 1:  Early Lords – Domesday Book to time of James I/VI


The aim of this booklet is to look at the history of the Manor of Burghwallis through the men who governed it, the growth of the village, and how lives were affected by events both local and more widespread throughout England.

1066 We are all familiar with this date, drilled into us from schooldays, as when the Norman, William (the Conqueror), made his claim to the throne of England and defeated Harold’s army at the Battle of Hastings.

Taking over rule of England was not accomplished easily and during William I early years there were many uprisings.  The Norman invaders were naturally hated by the Anglo-Saxon population and William had only a few thousand men to control a population of about 2 million.  His strategy was to built motte and bailey castles throughout England as protection for his followers from where they could control their new possession, the land.

In January 1069 the people of Yorkshire and Northumbria rebelled but this was quickly put down by William.  However peace didn’t follow as in the following autumn an expedition came from Denmark to Yorkshire, where many of the people were descended from earlier Viking settlers, and with this support the people of Yorkshire rebelled again.  This time William adopted a ‘scorched earth’ policy where villages and crops were burnt, livestock killed, and the land ‘salted’ to destroy it’s productivity; this has come to be known as the ‘harrying of the north’.  Years of famine followed, many starved to death, and some were later reported to have resorted to cannibalism to survive.  Although Burghwallis was at the southern edge of this area of devastation this would undoubtedly have affected its inhabitants, especially as the village stands so close to the major highway to the north.  Toc, the Anglo-Saxon who held Burghwallis, most certainly took action in order to protect his land; however he was not to hold it for much longer.

William I confiscated almost all the land, both in Yorkshire and the rest of England, giving it to his Norman followers as reward for their loyalty and support; their motive in following William to England would have been to gain the spoils of conquest, such as land.  Only a very few Saxons held onto what they had. 

In Yorkshire a large section was given to Ilbert de Laci who as a tenant in chief held ‘a broad belt of land across the West Riding, with the majority of the Staincross and Osgoldgross wapentakes and much of the Honour of Pontefract.’  The southern boundary of his land was the Ea Beck, which meandered through a very marshy area at that time and probably presented a boundary that was more difficult to cross than the River Don.  De Laci built a castle at Pontefract to serve as his centre of administration, with all his land in the Deanery of Doncaster being held by sub-in-feuded persons.  Land to the south of the Ea Beck and into Nottinghamshire, including Adwick-le-Street, Bentley and Arksey north of the Don, were given to Roger de Busli.

1086 Another memorable date, that when the Domesday Survey was undertaken.  William I wanted to know exactly what he held in this land of England, down to the last person, area of land, livestock, and any other taxable item such as churches and mills.  He also wanted to know who had held the land in the time of his predecessor Edward the Confessor, who held it now, and whether the value of the land had increased or decreased.

In the time of Edward (1043-66) Toc, an Anglo-Saxon, had three carucates of land in the manor of ‘Burg’ which had farming capacity for three ploughs.  At Scanhalla (Skellow) there were five manors held by Glunier, Northmann, Alsige, Adelo and Leuecol with four carucates of land which could be taxed and farming for three ploughs.  All the villages around Burghwallis had decreased in value by at least 25 per cent, including Burghwallis.  The value of the manor of Sutton and ‘Neuose’ (Moss) had decreased by one tenth, its only worth in 1086 being one mill which produced a tax of 6 shillings;  this seems to have been the only mill in the area at that time but the Lords of Burghwallis and Skellow were soon to go into competition against it.


1086 There were two persons named Poitevin in the Domesday Survey of Yorkshire, William and Roger; both are shown in the ‘Dives Roll’, which is supposed to be a list of all those present at the Mass said for William the Conqueror before the Battle of Hastings.  It has been much debated among historians as to whether these two were brothers, cousins, or merely from the same area of France; however based on early documents there is some connection apparent.

The manor of Burghwallis and five manors of Skellow were given into the control of William known as the Poictevin, or Pictavus, also the manors of ‘Aiketon (Acton), and Lied’ (Lead).  

At Skellow William constructed a small motte and bailey castle, just to the east of the Skel beck, (now in the grounds of Skellow Hall) in a prominent position both for keeping control over the two manors and monitoring movement of persons along the great Roman Road.  The two adjoining parishes curved around the parish of Owston.

Sketch plan

At both Burg and Skellow William had in his demesne land for one plough, with three villanes and three bordars having two and half ploughs at Burg and ten villanes and five bordars having three ploughs at Skellow.  There was a total of 10 acres of meadow and just under a square mile of pasturable woodland.  The value of Burg had fallen from forty shillings to thirty shillings and Skellow from sixty shillings to forty shilling during the twenty year period. 

At Lead he had land for one plough, with 5 villanes and bordars working land with two ploughs and at Ackton land for one plough with 8 villanes and bordars working with one plough.

There is no mention in the survey of either a church or mill at any of these places.

Roger the Poitevin was given the manors of Altofts and Whitewood.  

Roger and his descendents are mentioned in several charters, enough to form a family tree, but of William and his descendents there is virtually nothing.  About 1093 both William and Roger gave donations from their Tithes to the chapel of St. Clements that Ilbert de Lacy was building in Pontefract Castle.  

After this Roger’s descendents gained more land; 1121-2 a mill at Saxton was given to Nostel Priory by Roger and c.1135 he signed a charter of Ilbert de Lacy.  Around 1147-54 his son Robert gave land in Altofts to Pontefract Priory and later he described a William le Peitevin of Headingley as his knight.  Robert had a son Roger and the line can be traced to the fourteenth century.

William the knight was from a branch at Headingley, descended from Thomas le Poitevin mentioned in the reign of John (1199-1216); there were four generations in this branch down to 1280.

The next mention of the Pictavus family at Burghwallis is of Robert, whose line ended in seven daughters, his heirs.  Whether this Robert was a direct descendent of William of Burg there is no knowing; he could quite well have been descended from one of the other Pictavus lines who had possibly inherited Burghwallis through family connections.

The early village

In the time of the Poitevins Burghwallis would have been a small collection of wooden or wattle and daub thatched roof houses clustered around the church, probably in the area of the present Hall and rectory.  There may also have been houses situated to the south of the church and the original village street in what is now Burghwallis Park, so forming a linear village layout.

The church of St. Helen at Burghwallis is considered to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, based on the plan, thickness of walls, the style of the corner stones and the herring-bone layering of the limestone slabs.  Another factor for there being an early church at Burghwallis is that in 1086 there was a church and priest at Brodsworth which would serve the other side of the Ee Beck and Roman Road, and also a church and priest at Barnby Dun to serve that area, so a church at Burghwallis would have been central to the area between the Ee Beck and the River Went.  ‘A dedication to Helen or Ellen is likely to have been an early one’ but the church was apparently of no taxable value in 1086; building may have been abandoned at the Conquest or possibly the church was damaged when William I ‘ravaged’ the north in the 1070’s.  As the construction of the tower and the half columns supporting the arch into the tower are of Norman design it would be either William Pictavus or his descendents who oversaw the rebuilding of the church. 

When William Pictavus was in this area he would have stayed in the small motte and bailey castle that he had constructed at Skellow, in which part of his followers would have been left to control the local population.  This would have been built of wood, as were most of the early castles, using forced labour from the subdued populace; they would not have been able to resist the might of the Norman knights on horses wielding swords.  Whether it was the Pictavus family or their successors who built the first manor house at Burghwallis cannot be ascertained, but it would not have been built in such an unprotected area until society had become peaceful again after the Conquest. 


c.1770 Thomas Jeffries –  the old road approaching Burghwallis from the south. 

The road across the Park left the Mile Lane against the entrance to Squirrel Wood and crossed the stream and the Park before bending sharply NW towards the present Hall.  This eastern part of the road existed as a raised bank partly edged with large stones until the then grass Parkland was ploughed in the 1980s. 

This sharp right-handed bend is not logical unless it was that the road originally continued across the Park towards the probable site of the early Manor House, then westwards to join the early village street near the junctions at the Bridle Path corner.

The short section towards the present Hall would have joined the old road through the village which passed south of the Hall, the Church and the Rectory until being closed by the Anne family when the South wing was added to the Hall about 1800. 

Charlton Anne mentions that ‘The old Manor house is said to have stood in the ‘park’, where there is now a square pond and traces of building can be seen.’  This trace of building was visible up to about the nineteen sixties, when the park was still to grassland.  A low bank formed a rectangular area, and to the south, on lower ground, was a rectangular depression that filled with water during the winter months, most likely a medieval fish-pond; this is shown on the Enclosure map of 1813 as a rectangular pond with wings to the north.


Enclosure Award map of 1813 – probable site of early manor house in red

Pottery of the 14th and 15th centuries has been found here and it seems likely that this is the area of the early manor house, at a short distance from the church and early village.  Study of early aerial photographs by the south Yorkshire Archaeology Service has produced a plan of earthworks that fits in remarkably well with the area in which the pottery was found, showing a possible building platform, garden or field boundaries and pond.

Now that the field has been ploughed the area appears as a levelled off platform just to the south, down drop, side of a geological fault line dividing the limestone from the marls.  


Pottery sherds found at the probable site of the early Manor House


Pottery sherds from the area of an infilled pond.


Pottery and glass from a drain dug in the 1980s across Burghwallis Park

As mentioned, the Burghwallis branch of the Pictavii died out in the male line by the latter half of the twelfth century, leaving seven daughters as coheirs..

Hunter (1830) gives the marriages of these coheirs as ‘Eva, who married Richard son of Robert de Reecroft, Dionysia mother of Richard le Wallis, Muriel from whom descended Henry de Rockley, Agnes who married Elias de Midhope and had James’ and Galiena, Agatha and Matilda, one of whom married the lord of Tankersley.  Hunter believed all these marriages took place in the reign of Henry III (1216-72

However Robert Wallensis who married Dyonisia was Seneschal of Pontefract for Ilbert de Lacy from 1195-1211, the reigns of Richard I and John; their marriage may have taken place earlier because according to an inventory made for the Templars in 1185 the Wallis’s held land in Burghwallis and Skellow, specifically the Mill, at this date.  Robert de Waleys had died by 1252 when his son Richard le Waleys presented a rector to the church; Wm. de Holm, Elias de Midhope, and Richard de Tankersley are all mentioned as co-patrons.  From this it appears that all these spouses have inherited portions of the manors of Burghwallis and Skellow as their wife’s dowry; they also appear in land deeds relating to the manors.  There was much intermarriage between the descendents of these daughters which are traced in ‘Seven Sisters’, an essay at the end of this book.

Reecroft – of this family I have found nothing further.


 The Burghwallis Rockleys were a branch of the family who held the manor of Rockley in Worsborough.

They built a house in Burghwallis named after the main family home, Rockley-Hall.  At the period when members of the Rockley family lived there a small village existed on the eastern bank of Shirley Pool.

Another Henry de Rockley descended from the Robert Rockley who married Muriel Pictavus had married Ellen, daughter and heiress of William de la Hay, who is thought to be also descended from the Pictavus family through a female line.  

(These intermarriages between the local gentry can become confusing, especially as early records are scarce.) 

 In 1340 a Robert Rockley held the land around Rockley Hall in Balne but on his death his widow Celicia left Burghwallis with her young son and leased the Hall. 

Map showing Shirley pool and site of village and Rockley house

Rockley Hall at Burghwallis was still standing when Hunter wrote ‘South Yorkshire in the 1830s; he mentions that ‘there is still a house by the name of Rockley-Hall.’  This hall had been demolished before the Ordnance Survey map of 1854 was produced. 

Rockley Hall appears to have been the house occupied in the sixteenth century by the Adams family who acquired the manor of Owston; the Will of William Adams, 1542, states that he was ‘of Rockley-hall, in the adjoining parish of Burghwallis.’  

The site of a building thought to be Rockley Hall has been located and surveyed recently, in a field to the north of Rockley Lane, along with the site of a nearby deserted medieval village, situated on the eastern banks of Shirley Pool.  

A report published by the South Yorkshire Archaeological Unit states that at: ‘the site known locally as Rockley Hall ….. the plough soil assemblage suggests a substantial stone building roofed in stone tile of at least two wings fronting onto a courtyard.  The date range for the pottery suggests occupation from the 13th to the 18th century.’  These dates fit in very well with the documentary evidence.  

At the site of Shirley the ‘plough soil was found to contain large quantities of limestone and river cobbles in association with numerous concentrations of mediaeval pottery.  The spread of material suggests the sites of several houses and the date range of the pottery suggests occupation from the 12th to the 16th century.’  

It is suggested that the village may have been associated with peat cutting on Rushy Moor.


 Henry de Tankersley married one of the heiresses of Robert Pictavus and claimed land at Burghwallis at the end of the 12th century.  

Henry’s granddaughter Alice had married Richard Tyas by 1289 and so Henry’s land at Burghwallis passed to the Tyas family.


 This branch of the Tyas family also held land under the de Lacis, namely the manor of Lead which in 1086 had belonged to William Pictavus.  How it passed to them is lost in the mists of time but many of them were buried in the church at Lead which may have been built by either the Pictavi family or the Tyas.  It contains several of their grave memorials, Baldwin, his wife Marjorie and son Franco.  Richard was the son and heir of Franco and had married Alice Tankersley.

Of Richard’s two daughters, Joan married John de Wentworth and Constance married Henry de Rockley.  In 1319 Richard Tyas granted Henry de Rockley £20 a year ‘to be taken out of the manors of Burgh-Wallis, Tankersley, Woodsome and Lede’; was this dowry given to Constance on marriage?  (From the various ways of calculating, this would be equivalent to about £14,000 today.)  Richard also had a son, Franco, and in 1323 he granted all his tenements in Burghwallis and Skellow to this son. 


 The major holding in the manor of Burg passed into the Wallis family through Dionysia Pictavus and they subsequently added their name to the village; in Archbishop Clifford’s Register (1266-1279) it is called ‘Burg Waleys’

A water mill situated on the Skel stream between Burghwallis and Skellow was in existence by the middle of the twelfth century.  It is mentioned in an Inventory of 1185 made for Geoffrey Fitz-Stephen, Master of the Order of Templars.  It is recorded as ‘APUD BURGUM, (Burgh Waleis), unum molend, qd. Robertus Walensis tenet pro 20s.’  From this it seems that the first Mill on the Skell was built by the Wallis’ shortly after inheriting from Pictavus.  Also an inquest held at Potterlame, 2 March 1307, records that ‘Richard de Waleis pays a yearly rent of 15s. for a watermill at Burghen-Walleis, given by his ancestors to the House of Templars at Templehurst.

Sir Richard le Wallis is the first recorded to present a Rector at St. Helen’s, Burghwallis, in 1253 ‘with the assent of William de Holm, Elias de Midhope and Richard de Tankersley, his co-patrons’.  The last one of that family to present was Sir Stephen Wallis, in 1344.   

However the family’s position as Lords of the manor had been interrupted by a brief lapse in the 1320’s, when Richard le Wallis appears to have forfeited the manor for a short period because he supported the Earl of Lancaster.  In 1321 Lancaster, one of the leaders of the baronial opposition to Edward II, was at the head of a rebellion but was defeated in battle at Boroughbridge and taken prisoner.  Lancaster was executed near Pontefract Castle and his titles and estates were forfeited along with those of many of his followers.  ‘Henry Tyas and Richard Wallis were found to have been among his adherents and they were attainted when their manors of Braken, Burghwallis and Newton Wallis were forfeited and were granted by king Edward II to Henry Lord Scrope for the good service rendered by him.’    In 1323 King Edward II as custos of the lands of Richard le Wallis presented the Rector followed in 1327 by Sir Geoffrey le Scrope.  However, in 1327 Parliament posthumously reversed Thomas of Lancaster’s conviction and subsequently the attainder was reversed on the manors of Burghwallis, Newton Wallis and Braken and the three manors were restored to Tyas and Wallis.

Richard Wallis was succeeded by his son Stephen, a fine of 1328 stating Stephen’s claim to the manor;   

‘Stephen son of Richard le Waleys and Anora daughter of Robert de Umfravile, late Earl of Anegos, by William de Waynflet, Anora’s attorney – against – Richard le Waleys.  The manor of Burghwaleys and the advowson of the church of the same manor, county York, and of 50s rent in Sibthorpe and Ayleston, co. Notts.: To hold to Stephen and Anora and the heirs of their bodies, of Richard and his heirs, paying yearly one rose at the Nativity of St. John Baptist for all service to them, and doing all services due to the chief lords; reversion to Richard and his heirs.  Stephen and Anora gave 100 marks.’

Burghwallis was inherited by another Richard and then his son Stephen, the last in the male line of this branch of Wallis; he presented a rector to the church in 1344.  


 Stephen Wallis had died by 1351 leaving as his heiress an under-age daughter, Elizabeth.  Sir Robert de Swillington, described as ‘chivaler’, and his wife Anora were given custody of Elizabeth, ‘in the hands of the Lord by reason of the minority of the age of Elizabeth daughter and heire of Stephen Walleys’.   They held the manor during this period, Sir Robert presenting rectors to St. Helen’s in 1350, ‘59, ‘69 and ‘72; according to his ‘inquisition post mortum’ of 1392 it appears that he held Burghwallis for term of life.  

The Poll Tax of 1379

In January 1377 King Edward II asked Parliament to impose a Tax to raise funds for an army to attack France, and the result was a Poll Tax.  Most people paid 4 pence, with trades people paying sixpence or one shilling, depending on the value of their trade.  Burghwallis was taxed at twenty-nine shillings and Skellow thirty-four shillings and eight pence

This was the first survey after 1086 for which there is a surviving list of all those in the manor eligible to pay tax, namely those of 16 years and older.  Burghwallis had an adult population of eighty-eight, comprised of thirty-four married couples and ten each of single males and females.  There was no mention of the then Lord and Lady of the manor, Robert Swillington and Anora, but the village had a wright, a taylor and a draper.  For other services the villagers could visit Skellow which by then, although with a similar population (eighty-four) seems to have developed into a centre for clothing, where they had a smith, a faber (craftsman), four taylors, a draper (dealer in fabrics etc.), a walker (fuller of cloth), a skinner (dealt in hides), a souter (shoe maker), a bower (made archery bows) and a farmer, William of Frickley, at the Grange. 

The first taxes of the 1370’s were paid, if somewhat grudgingly, but by 1381 when the tax increased to one shilling per head people were having to sell possessions to find the money and rioting ensued. 


After the death of Sir Robert Swillington the manor of Burghwallis reverted to the rightful heir Elizabeth, daughter of Stephen Wallis, and her second husband Sir John Dependen, who became High Sherriff of Yorkshire for 1399.  A Fine of 1392 gives ‘John Dependen Knight and Elizabeth his wife, deforcient, of the manors of Helagh, Cotingley, Hanley, Burghwallis and Newton Wallis.’  In 1397 ‘The King confirmed to John Dependen Kt. and Elizabeth his wife, daughter and heire of Stephen son of Richard le Waleis, in fee, free-warren in his lands of Burgh-Walleis, Newton-Walleis … granted to Stephen le Walleis.’   

Sir John Dependen died in 1402 and requested, following teachings of the ‘Erimetic movement’, that he wanted no gathering of feasting neighbours at his funeral and that all his mourners were to wear black; he also requested to be buried in coarse woollen cloth rather than the usual cloth of gold or silk displaying the family arms.  


Sir John Dependen and Elizabeth’s heiress was a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir William Mowbray and their descendent Alexander Mowbray had a daughter, also Elizabeth, who married Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe; he was the next to present a Rector to St. Helens, on the 25th May 1412.


 A number of Rectors were presented to the church by ‘William’ Gascoigne between 1412 and 1545, the Lordship of Burghwallis passing through several generations of the main branch of the Gascoigne family who lived at Gawthorpe near Leeds.  

It seems however that younger members of the family looked after the estate, for a Fine of 1490 regarding land at Pontefract mentions ‘John Gascoigne de Burghwales esq., and Mary his wife’; John was a younger brother of the then Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe.  

Burghwallis Hall

The early manor house in the Park would have been old, deserted by Lords of the Manor who lived elsewhere, and probably demoted to a farmhouse.  It would definitely have been unsuitable for a member of the high status Gascoigne family.  Pottery fragments from the site of this old Hall suggest it was abandoned by about 1500, therefore it was most likely the Gascoigne family who built the original ‘Tudor’ part of the present Hall at Burghwallis.  


The earliest part of Burghwallis Hall showing the great chimney stack at the back

Although the core of the Hall is Tudor the house developed into an H-shaped building, typical of early Elizabethan style.  

This aerial view is from Google earth with the chimney stack to the top of the photo.  The main entrance would have been central between the two cross wings.


The large wing on the right was added by Michael Anne in the early 1800s.

In 1521 Sir William presented a distant cousin, Henry Gascoign, as Rector of Burghwallis church.  Henry died in December 1540 and as requested in his Will was buried in the high quire at St. Helen’s, Burghwallis.  

The inscription on his tombstone reads “Hic jacet dominus HENRICUS GASGOIGN quondam istius ecclesiae rector, qui diem clausit extremum XXVII die mensis Decembris, anno Dom. M.CCCCC.XL. cujus animae propitier Deus. Amen.”


The tombstone of Henry Gascoigne at the north side of the altar

Although there was a tradition that a priest should be buried facing the congregation that he taught, it appears from the orientation of his tombstone that Henry Gascoigne was buried following the Christian rule with his feet to the east.

His stone is inscribed with a cross mounted on three steps (for faith, hope and charity), a chalice for the Catholic rite of Holy Communion, and a shield showing the Gascoigne coat of arms, the demi-luce, impaled with a chevron, probably that of mother’s family.

The Anne family had an interest in Burghwallis from about this time for in 1545 John Anne the younger is mentioned as holding the manors of Frickley and Burghwallis of William Gascoigne, but as Thomas Gascoigne of Burghwallis, another younger brother, didn’t die until 1554 he was most likely still resident at Burghwallis Hall whilst John Anne would be living in the Hall at Frickley.


A tombstone with the engraved brass of a figure of a man in armour in the church of St. Helen, lying immediately before the entrance through the rood screen from the nave into the chancel, is of Sir Thomas Gascoigne who died in 1554.

The effigy of Thomas Gascoigne was originally surrounded by an inscription, four shields showing coats of arms and a representation of his ‘Helm’, the ceremonial helmet that he would have worn at tournaments.  

In his Will, proved 9 July 1556, Thomas leaves to Jane his wife lands during her life within the lordship of Burghwallis, i.e. Rockley Hall and Shirley &c; with remainder if he dies without issue to his brother-in-law Mr. Leonard West and “to my sister” his wife.  

Thomas Gascoigne apparently disliked his brother but was fond of his sister Barbara and in his Will left Burghwallis to her and her husband.


Leonard West was the youngest son of Lord de la Warr.  His father bequeathed him the manors of Hasilden and Sutton Mandeville, Wiltshire, and Bradwell, Dorset, but they were under his mother’s control until he was 18.  He seemed to be in financial difficulty and in 1539 sold Bradwell; this seems to be around the time of his marriage to Barbara Gascoigne.

‘In 1552 he benefited by the will of his brother-in-law Thomas Gascoigne, whose dislike of his own brother and affection for his sister led him to leave the Yorkshire manors of Burghwallis and Thorpe to the Wests in the event of his dying childless.  On Gascoigne’s death West braved the brother’s threat to murder one of West’s servants, who was to support the will for probate, by reading it twice in the courtyard at Burghwallis before taking possession, and when after his departure the brother turned out his servants he brought the dispute before the court of requests. In November 1555, after an intervention on the brother’s behalf by his kinsman Michael Wentworth the court awarded Burghwallis to West.’ 

Fines of Easter and Hilary Term 1551 mention the interest of the West family:

Deforcient: ‘William Gascoigne, esq., son and heir apparent of William Gascoigne, junr. Kt. Manors of  Sheplley and Broughwalleys and 100 messuages with lands there … Rokleyhall, and Shurlehowse, and the advowson of Broughwallyschurch, a portion of which, after a term of one week, remains to Leonard West and Barbara his wife and their lawful issue, and failing such, to William Gascoigne, junr., Knt.  In another portion, Thomas Gascoigne, gent., the son of William Gascoign, junr., Knt., has certain rights.’ 


 ‘Deforcient: William Gascoigne, esq., and Leonard West and Barbara his wife, Manor of Burghwalys and 60 messuages and 20 cottages with lands there ….. and the advowson of Burghwalys church, which, after the decease of Leonard and Barbara, remain to Thomas West, their son and heir apparent, and his lawful male issue, and failing such, after his death, to William West, the brother of Thomas, and his lawful male issue, and failing such, after his death, to John West, the younger son of Leonard and Barbara, and his lawful male issue, and failing such, after his death, to the lawful heirs of William Gascoigne.’ 

In April 1554 Leonard West obtained a seat in the Parliament; possibly as he ‘styled himself as the servant of Queen Mary and helped to bear the canopy at her funeral’ this may have been by royal recommendation.  Obviously he was a staunch Catholic at this time, so it isn’t surprising that little is recorded of him when Elizabeth took the throne.  He presumably settled at Burghwallis, although the estate seems to have been sublet as in Bernard’s Survey of 1577 Martin Anne, another gentleman from a Catholic family, is shown as holding ‘the manors of Frickley and Burghwallis from Leonard West.’ 

Leonard West died on the 15 June 1578 leaving the manor of Burghwallis to his son William West.  William had died before 21st August 1586 for at this date his assigns presented the Rector; he was succeeded by John West, a younger brother, who in 1594 transferred the Manor of Burghwallis with other land to Richard Fenton:

1594 Easter Term   36 Elizabeth

Richard Fenton, gent. and Jenetta his wife, from John West, gent and Frances his wife.

Manor of Burghwallisand 60 messuages, 20 cottages and 2 watermills with lands in Burghwallis, Skellowe, Carcrofte, Sutton, Campsall, Auston als Ouston, Frickley, Elmesall, Upton, and Wrangebrooke, also the advowson of Burghwallis Church.

A warrent against William Gascoigne and his heirs.

Did John West sell the land to Richard Fenton?  So far nothing has been found as to how and why the transfer took place.

1594 Trinity term

John Parkyn and Richard Jerves from Richard Fenton, gent., and Jenetta his wife and George Anne, esq., and Margery his wife 2 messuages with lands in Ecclesfeld, Sowtha, and Warmesworthe.


Richard Fenton was born in Sheffield about 1530 and in 1554 was third of the twelve Capital Burgesses there.  He married Janet, daughter of Thomas Symkinson of Doncaster who is reputed to have founded the Grammar School there, and by 1568 was residing at Doncaster.  Richard Fenton was a Catholic who adhered to his faith during the religious changes that took place throughout the reigns of Henry VIII and his successors Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. 

‘In 1577 Richard was held liable to a fine of £10 for non-attendance at church. On 2nd September 1580 he and his wife were presented by a jury at Wakefield for non conformity and on 13th October of the same year Mrs. Fenton was presented by the grand jury at the Borough Sessions for not coming to Church and again on 25th of the same month “she absented herself maliciously and disobediently”. Her fine was 12 pence for every Sunday over a period of 2 years.’ 

By 1583 Richard had apparently left Doncaster as in a conveyance of land he is described as of ‘Northleaye’ in Derbyshire; his adherence to the Catholic faith was having an adverse effect on both his life and his standing in the community.  ‘In 1588 Fenton was imprisoned at the County Gaol in London. The previous year at the Common Council meeting in Doncaster, “it was enacted and henceforth debarred and put out of and from the Company of the Mayor and the Aldermen until he shall reconcile himself to the liking of Her Majesty’s officers and the Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council of the town.”24 

Richard was not to settle in peace at Burghwallis, for in 1599 he was one of upward of fifty Catholics of Yorkshire who were prisoners in the Castle of York.  He was eventually released and is presumed to have died at Burghwallis Hall in 1617 at the grand old age of nearly ninety; however there is no mention of his burial at Burghwallis in the parish register and another source gives his death as ‘around 1604’ when mentioning his house at North Lees.’  ‘Most of his life was one of fines, persecution and often imprisonment, nobly borne.’26 

He was succeeded by his only daughter Margaret who had married George Anne of Frickley, a member of another Catholic family who already held land in Burghwallis and were to become Lords of the Manor from the end of the sixteenth century for some three-hundred and fifty years. 


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. Furthermore 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 end of the twelfth century, to be more precise.

At the time of the Domesday Survey, 1086, the manors of  ‘Burg’ and ‘Scanhalla,’ (Skellow) were held by William le Poictevin or Pictavus 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. 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 and 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, Hunter only followed the main line in any detail, being the Wallis’s from which the parish took its name.  However, by looking elsewhere in the two volumes for 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 ownership of one family 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.

Stephen le Wallis was succeeded by a daughter, Elizabeth.  She may however have been underage at the time of her father’s death, because 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 is in the church. 

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.

We will now look at the descendents of 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.”  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.  There is no indication however that the family lived at Burghwallis, the main family seat being at Lead/Lede.  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; (the pedigree of Rockley is to be found in this section.)  In 1319 the great grandson of Muriel, Henry de Rockley, was granted a yearly rent of £20 by Richard le Tyas 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, whom Hunter shows to be the”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 from ‘Pictaviensis’ to de la Hay 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 would then have inherited Burgh(wallis), so he was most likely descended from one of the other branches of Pictavii in Yorkshire; whatever the relationship, he 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.  This marriage between Henry and Ellen would bring adjacent land-holdings together under one tenancy. The Rockley-Hall at Burghwallis however was not the main residence of the Rockley family; this was the also-named Rockley Hall on the land which 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 had 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.

Margaret L Pidcock Burns

[This article was originally published in ‘Yesterday Today’, a ‘Doncaster Libraries’ publication]