Sir Thomas de Stavile

Arms of Sir Thomas de Stavile c. 1308

The earliest details found for an award of ‘Staveley’ arms are to a Sir Thomas de Stavile (Stavelley), knight of Edward I, from the first Dunstable tournament of 1308 being : gules, a fess between three escalopes argent, also tricked Or.

Escalopes are associated with ‘pilgrimage’ generally and St. James in particular.  The Shrine of St. James the Apostle is in the Cathedral of Campostello in Northwest Spain and pilgrims who made the hazardous journey there (on foot and horseback!) in the middle ages felt they had earned the right to the scallop on their shield. Maybe Thomas made this journey also.

It is maybe pertinent (though I have no evidence to make a direct link) that the three Scallop shells is also the heraldic device used by Jervaulx Abbey, which has such close Staveley connections over the centuries.

Tournaments or jousting contests were popular during the days of knighthood especially from the 14th to the 16th centuries. As each soldier was presented at a tournament, a herald sounded the trumpet and then announced the knight’s achievements and described his Arms. The heralds would then record the Arms as a way of ensuring that a family maintained its protective rights to have and use its individual arms. The participants were all knights and men of great wealth, since the costs of travel, equipment and retinue needed to attend the tournaments was considerable.

They usually started with single contests (jousts) between mounted knights and ended with a general melee. Although combatants used blunted weapons, deaths and injuries were common. Tournaments were watched by noble ladies, one of which might be elected ‘Queen of beauty’ for the day.

The Dunstable tournament of 1308 is particularly important since it is the oldest surviving English Tournament Roll of Arms. It gives details of all 289 combatants who had an average age of 30 ½ (varying from 18 – 52 and by my reckoning Thomas was maybe about 40 at this time). Most of these 289 had been in the Royal army service of Edward I during the 1290’s, in the campaigns in Wales, Scotland and Gascony.  It was held, not surprisingly, in Dunstable in 1308, shortly after the death of Edward I and just after the coronation of his weak, homosexual son Edward II. The Earls organised this Tournament prior to venting their grievances regarding the Kings favourite, Piers Gaveston, who was almost running the country as a Regent and doing it in a most arrogant fashion. Gaveston was later to be captured by the earls and executed in 1313.

This armigerous Thomas Staveley is, I believe, the great-great grandson of Swain de Staveley. (the five generations being Swain i, Thomas ii, Andrew iii, Henry iv and then this Thomas v. His grandfather, (Andrew iii Staveley), was the brother of the celebrated Adam (d. 1225/35) who was Lord of Dent, Sedberg and Garsdale. In 1272 Thomas and his father, Sir Henry, fell foul of the Abbot of the convent of St. Agatha’s of Easby, (a mile east of Richmond), who accused Henry and his son of destroying the mill at Garthdale (todays ‘Garsdale’, in the parish of Sedbergh and deanery of Kirby Lonsdale, 5 miles from Dent. However, the record does state that father and son denied this action vigorously! Thomas’s father, Henry, is also shown in a listing of knights of Edward I and thus presumably must have had the arms granted first. He is recorded in 1255 as having given a large farm at Ingleborough to the monks at Furness Abbey and later, on the 12th March 1275, he witnessed the grant of Rydale Forest by Margaret de Brus to Sir Roger de Lancastria.

Sir Thomas Staveley and his wife Margaret were granted this livery along with their hamlet Thakethwaite, Cumbria. (note: there are in fact two small hamlets so named in the Lake District today spelt Thackthwaite. One is on the River Cocker, three miles or so south-east of Cockermouth near Crummock Water, but I am sure it is the other Thackthwaite, just north of Ullswater, a few miles to the west of Penrith, as a little later, in 1310, their son Walter was involved in a law suit with Henry de Threlkeld; Threlkeld being a village just two miles away).

This land had been given to Margaret on June 28th 1307 by two people. Firstly, Sir Thomas de Lucy (who I believe was her father), (Lord of Langley,  ~ who was to become one of King Edward III's most trusted captains. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Crecy(1346) and built Langley castle at Hexham in Northumberland) and secondly Stephen de Crofton and his wife Ada (from Thursby, nr. Carlisle). Ada was daughter of Gilbert de Dundraw in Cumberland near Carlisle and who, being one of four sisters, inherited a quarter of his estate  which then passed to the Croftons). I strongly suspect that Margaret Staveley was probably ‘nee’ Lucy, as I discovered her heir was a certain Anthony Lucy, indeed, her father may very well have been the Sir Thomas de Lucy above.

In 1311 and 1312, an Andrew de Harcla(y) ‘came before the king and sought to replevy his land in Sedburgh, taken into the king’s hands for his default before the justices of the bench against Margaret, late the wife of Thomas de Staveley.’

Seemingly, in the early 1300’s, half the ownership of the churches at Dent, Sedburgh and Garsdale, (all Staveley country), was held by Andrew de Harcla, (Earl of Carlisle) and half owned by St. Agatha’s Priory. The links between Garsdale, St. Agatha’s and the Staveleys are further demonstrated by the confirmation of a gift to the Chapel of St. John at Garsdale, (sadly no longer extant), by Thomas de Staveley of certain land there, which the monks were at liberty to enclose and cultivate. It was defined as lying longitudinally between "Twursgill" and "Radtherforth" with a heap of stones to the north and Garsdale beck to the South. Today, whilst the heap of stones is long gone, one might presume that "Thursgill" and "Roger Pot" are the modern representatives of these names and thus we can actually identify a tract of land which today suits the rest of the description.

Some years later in 1333, Thomas and Margaret were involved in a legal case regarding other land (4 tofts i.e. cottages plus 120 acres and 16 acres of meadow) in a place called Nether Whitwell which I believe today to be Whitwell and which significantly places Thomas right in Yorkshire and ‘Staveley country’. It can be found in the lower reaches of Swaledale between Richmond and Northallerton, significantly only about 5 miles east of Easby Abbey. The Staveley family seem to have had a long involvement in Whitwell from the second half of the 13th Century. In 1272, Benedict de Frisinton and his wife Sybil, quitclaim a messuage and 4 oxgangs to Andrew de Staveley, Thomas’s grandfather, and by 1286 Andrew’s son, Henry de Staveley, (Thomas’s father), was tenant of the manor of Whitwell. (from Victoria County History – North Riding of Yorkshire. Vol.I, p. 309).

The properties of Thomas and Margaret’s legal case, of 1308, appear to have been rented out to Geoffrey, the parson of Langton church, (Great Langton is today a village a mile and a half from Whitwell), and ownership was now in dispute. Thomas’s wife, Margaret, claimed to have inherited the land - to be held for life – ‘as the inheritance of the heir of John de Harcla, a minor in the King’s Wardship. (I am pretty sure John de Harcla was the son of Andrew de Harcla).

Author: Peter Staveley

(Historical note 1: Andrew de Harcla(y) d.1323 was the first Earl of Carlisle. As sheriff of Cumberland he had defeated and captured Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster in 1321 at the battle of Boroughbridge and the following year had him executed at Pontefract.  Edward II made Andrew the Earl of Carlisle for his services but then had him executed there in 1323 for plotting with Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland although his guilt in this matter has often been questioned. This presumably resulted in Andrew’s son, John, being orphaned which is why he was now in the King’s Wardship as a child. The death sentence of Andrew de Harcla was particularly gruesome. The cedula, or judgment, ran that Sir Andrew de Harcla, Earl of Carlisle, should be stripped of his Earl's robes and ensigns of knighthood, his sword broken over his head, his gilt spurs hacked from his heels, and that he should be drawn to the place of execution, and there hanged by the neck; his heart and bowels taken out of his body, burnt to ashes and winnowed, his body cut into four quarters, one to be set upon the principal tower of Carlisle Castle, another on the tower of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a third upon the bridge at York, and the fourth at Shrewsbury, and his head upon London Bridge. Only five years after this affair, Edward II was himself deposed and cruelly murdered in Berkeley Castle. His youthful son, Edward III, succeeded, and was crowned in 1327.

Given that one of the benefactors of Margaret’s land at Thackthwaite was a Thomas de Lucy it was with interest that I discovered that the executioner of Andrew de Harcla was Thomas’s son, Anthony de Lucy (1283-1343), Warden of Carlisle Castle and later to become Chief Justice of Ireland in 1332 and as I mentioned earlier undoubtedly the same Anthony de Lucy who was the sole heir of Margaret Staveley and was most likely her brother. Anthony was also to be made Lord Lucy in 1342/43. Even more interesting is that Thomas de Lucy was married to an Isabel de Boltby, daughter of Sir Adam de Boltby. I am pretty certain that this is the same Adam whose other daughter Eva de Boltby married Alan Staveley. (Alan Staveley and Margaret’s husband Thomas Staveley were second cousins. See family report at the end of Chapter - The first 500 years).

(Historical note 2: Confusingly there is a contemporary Margaret de Lucy and almost without doubt they were first cousins. This lady’s father was John de Lucy who was the brother of the Thomas de Lucy   above. This second Margaret is known to have married the powerful Sir Hugh Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale, who had risen to high status as Attorney General under King Edward I being granted the Lowther estates in 1283 on which they built Lowther Castle, between Askham and Lowther, which is just six miles from Thackthwaite. Their son, also called Sir Hugh Lowther, was High Sheriff of Cumberland in the time of Edward III.)


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