Ninian Staveley

One of the most famous sixteenth century Staveley figures was Ninian Staveley (b. abt. 1500), 'a commoner from the Lordship of Masha1.  Ninian descends from the Stainley line of Staveleys, and was the son of John Staveley and Margaret DEVIAS of Ripon Parke.  Although Ninian held official appointments, such as that of 'Keeper of the Kings Woods' and trustee of Ripon Park, he is primarily renowned for his role in the Pilgrimage of Grace.  This northern Catholic rebellion of October 1536 was a rising of the commons against the Henrician Reformation of the church.  The uprising began in Beverley October 8th and ended October 27 once the rebel armies and Henry's government agreed to a truce.

The rebellion was comprised of nine armies or 'hosts', and Ninian was an early recruit of the Bowes Host responsible for the Richmondshire uprising.  Initially the revolt was led by commoners and began in the eastern end of Wensleydale on the evening of October 11, 1536.  A few hundred were recruited from Masham and Kirkby Malzeard the first night and set about occupying Jervaulx Abbey (previously tied to Adam de Staveley), and restoring the previously dissolved Coverham Abbey.  The captains of this initial action were identified as three commoners of substance all from the lordship of Masham:  Ninian Staveley, Thomas Lobley and Edward Middleton1.  Their roles as captains however were not to last.  Shortly after the restoration of Coverham, the revolt acquired gentry leaders.  Ninian and his comrades however did resume their roles as Captains in the January 1537 uprising.

Ninian was no stranger to trouble and controversy, even before the events of 1536.  One year earlier, in 1535, Ninian Staveley, Thomas Lobley, Thomas Horseman and Christopher Redman were accused of forcibly entering the home of Richard Redman, in Hilton Yorks.  Richard own testimony states that...

"many other riotous and evily disposed persons, to the number of ten, on the 30th September 1535, with force of arms, that is to say, bows, arrows, swords, and staffs, of their malicious and cruel intent, wrongfully and with force, entered in the said house and therefrom expulsed your orator and did him assault and hurt in diverse places so that he was in great jeopardy of his life, to the most cruel and perilous example...


Despite Ninians' misdeeds, he appears to have not suffered great consequence, and later references to him would give the impression of a relatively untarnished image:

30 Sept. 1540: John Staveley de Ripon parke co. York Esq. appoints Ninian Staveley his son & heir apparent and Robert Mease his attorneys to receive seisin for his use of the premises in Thurkelby, Duggilby, Caitwike and Bewholme in Holdernes according to a certain Charter of Feoffment of Bargain and Sale by John Staveley de lynby co. Nottingham Esq. and Constance his wife to John Staveley de Ripon parke. (Signed:) per me Johannem Staveley.

13 Feb. 1548: Court of the Canons and Chapter at Ripon John Staveley Esq. has died: he held of the prebendary of Nunwyk 2 messuages and 3 bovates of land and meadow in the vill and fields of Staveley formerly the land of John Broune; 2 third parts of one messuage and 3 bovates of land and meadow lying there formerly land of John Day; and one messuage 2 closes and 2 bovates of land and meadow in Copthewyke formerly the land of Thomas Coundall. After John's death came Ninian Staveley gent. son & next heir of John Staveley. And he took the premises of the said prebendary for a yearly rent, and gave a fine in the name of relief, made fealty and was admitted.

28 Nov. 1552: Court of the King's Exchequer Ninian Staveley gent. came and took from the lord king a parcell of waste in Northstaineley lying on the E. side of pulleynkeld containing in length 66 ells and in breadth 63 ells, granted by the king's steward to Ninian and his heirs.

28 Oct. 1553: Bargain and sale by Christopher Staveley of the City of London, merchant to Ninian Staveley of Ripon Parke co. York his brother, for a sum of money paid beforehand by Ninian, of one messuage buildings orchards and gardens, also all his cottages tofts lands etc. rents reversions and services in Northstanely co. York in the tenure or occupation of Christopher Rayuner all of which Christopher had for the term of his life as a legacy from his father John Staveley. For the sole use of Ninian and his heirs.


1Ninian Staveley was revealed in the 1535 muster returns for Hang East as coming from the town of Masham.  He was represented as a horsed and harnessed billman.  Thomas Lobley and Edward Middleton were both from Healey within the Lordship of Masham.  Lobley was described as a harnessed footman with bill, and Middleton as a harnessed horseman with bow.  A bowman or billman equipped with jack, sallet and a pair of splints was considered fully harnessed.  A jack was a protective, sleeveless jacket or jerkin made of layers of leather or resined linen.  The sallet is a helmet that protects the back of the neck, made either of steel or hardened leather, and splints are pieces of plate armor worn to protect the arms.


Text and Images Copyright © 1999-2006