Early Staveley Origins

The Staveley family was once rumoured to be of Norman origins, but it is quite clear from the earliest accounts that several generations lived in Anglo Saxon times well before the Norman Invasion in 1066. They were important Thanes (or Theynes - The Thane ranked one level below a Lord or High Reeve or Earl and above the local reeve who oversaw the villeins and the peasants). As we shall see, the family links into the complex dynasty of Northumbrian Earls and they were settled in Yorkshire and Cumbria at least as early as 950 AD, and probably from much earlier, back into the Dark Ages. 

The following account is extracted from 'Early Yorkshire Families' and describes the descent of the Thoresby and Staveley families from Gospatric son of Archil:

"The traditional pedigree of the Thoresby family was due to a Cottonian roll, compiled in the time of Henry VI and now lost, which was printed by Roger Gale in 1722.  The descent given there was from Gospatric son of Archil through his son Dolfin.  Both A. S. Ellis and Farrer were not satisfied of the existence of a son of Gospatric named Dolfin.  A charter, however, is now available, cited in the Hebden section below, in which Gospatric is described as the grandfather of Uctred son of Dolfin."

[Hebden Section - The family descended in the male line from Dolfin son of Gospatric son of Archil. Until recently no proof had been found that Dolfin was a son of Gospatric, as stated in a fifteenth-century genealogy.  But a charter is now available recording that Roger de  Mowbray enfeoffed Uctred son of Dolfin of the land of Uctred's grandfather Gospatric in Ilton (par. Masham); the date being 1138-?1145.]

Among his many holdings at the Survey Gospatric held of count Alan a carucate in Thoresby, in Carperby, Par. Aysgarth, and a manor in Askrigg, par. Aysgarth, formerly held by Archil.

In the Cottonian roll Dolfin is given three sons Torfin, Uctred and Swain.  Certainly Uctred son of Dolfin was the father of Simon the ancestor of the Hebden family.  Torfin is given as the father of Peter de Thoresby, and Swain as the father of Robert de Thoresby, to whom Thoresby passed from his cousin Peter who died without issue; and further Swain is given a having three other sons Ralph, Thomas from whom the Staveley family descended, and Elias, and also a daughter Gonelle wife of John Morville.  Documentary evidence in proof of these statements is far from satisfactory; but some light is given by the following notes.

In 1166 Torfin son of Dolfin was amerced in the wapentake of Hang for a concealment.  In C. 1174-1189 Peter son of Torfin de Askrigg (presumably the same man as Peter de Thoresby) gave to Marrick priory a third of 6 bovates in Carperby, together with Amabel his sister, the second witness being Thomas son of Swain; and on the same occasion, the witnesses being the same, Alan son of Adam made a similar gift describing  Amabel as his maternal aunt.  Swain son of Dolfin gave to Jervaulx abbey a carucate in Horton [in Ribblesdale]; and Ralph son of Swain, mentioned in the Cottonian roll, gave 2 bovates and the service of another bovate there.

No documentary evidence has been found for Robert de Thoresby, said to be son of Swain.  If he was the cousin of Peter son of Torfin he would have been living late in the twelfth century.  There is no reason to doubt the descent from him in the male line.  Richard de Thoresby, given in the Cottonian roll as Robert's son, can be identified as the Richard de Thoresby who witnessed a Marrick charter before 1204.

In 1286-87 of the 9 carucates in Carperby Peter son of Hugh de Thoresby held 18 bovates of Avice Marmion, who held of the earl of Richmond; and of the 3 carucates in Thoresby he held all except 2 bovates of the heirs of William son of Nicholas of York, who held of the steward's fee of the earldom, the remaining 2 bovates being held of Peter by Hugh de Thoresby.  In 1316 Thoresby was held by Hugh de Thoresby.

In the Cottonian roll the Staveley family is given as descending from Thomas son of Swain son of Dolfin, and then from Thomas to his son Adam de Staveley, whose daughter and heir Alice married Ranulf son of Henry of Ravensworth, the ancestor of the family of Fitzhugh.  Evidence given below shows that these statements are correct; and as it has been shown above that Dolfin was a son of Gospatric son of Archil it can be deduced that the Staveley family, as that of Thoresby, descended from Gospatric.

Thomas son of Swain de Staveley gave land in Airton, retaining the lordship of the vill, late twelfth century.  Thomas son of Swain and Adam his son witnessed a Threshfield charter, and with Elias son of Swain and Acaris his son an Arncliffe charter, 1182-c. 1200.  Adam de Staveley gave to Bolton priory land in Calton; he confirmed to Fountains abbey all lands held of his fee in Ilton, Swinton, and Warthermarske (in Swinton); and was named with other free tenants, including Simon de Hebden, of count Alan at the Domesday survey by Gospatric, a manor having been previously held there by Archil.

Adam de Staveley gave to St. Clement's priory, York, 2 bovates in Horton in Ribblesdale, which were attached to the church later given to the priory by this daughter Alice in her widowhood; and it was there, as noted above, that Swain son of Dolfin gave a carucate to Jervaulx abbey.  In an Assize roll of 1203-4 it is recorded that William de Mowbray and Adam de Staveley made an agreement by which the latter acknowledged to the former all his forest of Lonsdale, receiving several facilities, Adam's men of Ingleton and High and Low Bentham being mentioned, but his claim to gallows in Sedbergh being disallowed.  His interest there is shown in his charter to Fountains abbey, addressed to his bailiffs of Lonsdale, by which he granted free transit for the monks' cattle through his land of Lonsdale.  He held land of the honour of Knaresborough in Farnham, where in 1211 he held a quarter of a knight's fee together with a knight's fee in Staveley, 3 carucates in Farnham having been confirmed by king John in 1204 to Adam son of Thomas de Staveley for a quarter of a knight's fee.

Medieval Charters: Yorkshire

Copy of two 13th century grants to Fountains Abbey

1-Witnesses: Master Adam de Stavelay, canon of Sowell (Southwell, then seneschal of Knaresborough), Robert de Plumton, Richard de Goldesburg, Master Walter de Stavell, Richard de Brereton, Robert de Neuton, Baldwin son of Henry de Scriven, William de Goldesburg.

2-Witnesses: Sir Adam de Stavell, canon of Sowell (Southwell) then seneschal of Knaresborough, Robert de Plumpton, Richard de Godlesburg, Master Walter de Stawelay, Richard de Brerton, Robert de Neuton, Baldwin son of Henry de Scriven, Thomas son of Roger de Rypellay.

Adam de Staveley witnessed several charters late in the twelfth and early in the thirteenth century, including two issued by William de Stuteville, who held Knaresborough in 1191-1194 and c. 1201-1203.  He married Alice daughter of William de Percy of Kildale, who brought Barwick-on-Tees in frank-marriage, and in 1211 he owed 100 marks and 2 palfreys for a license for the marriage of his daughter with the son and heir of Henry son of Hervy, the heir being Ranulf son of Henry, mentioned above.  In as assize held in 1218-19, after Adams's death, Hugh de Maunby complained that Ranulf and Alice his wife and others had disseised him of a tenement in Thoresby, but his case was unsuccessful as although Adam had given the tenement to him on his deathbed there had been no seisin.  In 1218-35 Alice and her husband were parties to several final concords, illustrating her inheritance including land in Thoresby, Carperby, Bentham, Barwick-on-Tees, Farnham, Horton in Ribblesdale, Ilton, and Dent.  In 1235 they had a quitclaim of all the lands of Thomas son of Swain and Adam de Staveley in Yorkshire.  Alice died in 1250-53, when her inheritance passed to her descendants, the family of Fitzhugh of Ravensworth which continued in the male line to early in the sixteenth century."

Early Staveleys Tree (PDF)

Select image to enlarge (PDF)

Archil, Gospatric, and Gospatric's sons Gospatric, Dolfin, and Uctred were all alive at the time of the Norman Invasion of 1066  According to entries in the Domesday text (1086) at the time of the invasion this family held land in over 200 properties, and Gospatric was tenant-in-chief of 36 manors.  This strongly suggests the family to be significantly wealthy Saxon Thanes of Cumbria and Yorkshire prior to the Invasion.  The following references are but a few that attest to Gospatric's holdings in the North:

Bulmers History and Directory of North Yorkshire 1890:

Brafferton: When Domesday Survey was made Gospatric had six carucates of land in the manor of Bradfortune, and Halton had one carucate. Gospatric was a noble thane who, after the defeat and death of Harold, at Hastings, made his peace with the Conqueror and purchased the earldom of Northumberland; but afterwards revolting, he lost both the title and his land.

Marrick: At the time of the Conquest the manor was held by Gospatric, and in the Survey it was taxed for five carucates, and there were in it two ploughs, but it was then waste. To whom it was then granted does not appear, but some time after it was in the possession of the Askes, and about the year 1535 it passed in marriage with Ann, daughter and co-heiress of Roger de Aske, to Sir Ralph Bulmer, Knight. The issue of this marriage was a daughter and heiress, Dorothy, who married John Sayer, Esq., of Worsall, and about 1660 the estate was again carried by marriage to the Bulmers. From this family it was purchased by Charles Powlett, Marquis of Winchester, afterwards Duke of Bolton, whose descendant sold it in 1817, to Josias Morley, Esq., of Beamsley Hall, and it is now the property of that gentleman's grandson.

Masham: The earliest mention of the place occurs in Domesday Book, from which we learn that there were in Massan (Masham) 12 carucates of land to be taxed, which in the Confessor's reign, had been held by Gospatric.

Thornton Steward: The manor of Thornton, Tornentone in Domesday Book, belonged at the time of the Conquest to Gospatric, whose lands were subsequently forfeited by rebellion. After the Conquest, Thornton appears to have been held by the hereditary stewards of the earls of Richmond, and hence the addendum by which this Thornton is distinguished from other places of the same name in the county. In 11th Edward I. Humfrey de Bassyngburne held two knights' fees in Thornton Steward, but soon afterwards the manor passed to the Scropes, of Bolton, from whom it has descended to the present owner.


Domesday Text:

Copgrove: Before the conquest, Gospatric, a northern nobleman, was Lord of this village, where he had six carucates of land; three of which, were arable.

Copemantorp Manor. Gospatric had two carucates and two bovates for geld. Land to one plough.

After the invasion much of the land around Sedbergh, Ripon, and Cumbria was confiscated and reallocated by William the Conqueror.  However, the Philimore series on the Domesday Book suggests that some of the lands were retained:

"The Yorkshire Gospatric was the son of Arnketill (Archil), a leading Yorkshire Thane who was involved in the 1068 and 1069 uprisings.  Arnketill submitted to King William at York in 1068, where he also surrendered his son, Gospatric, as hostage.  For this reason, if no other, Gospatric (the younger) was not associated with his father's involvement in the subsequent uprising (of 1069) and managed to retain some part of his own and his father's pre-1066 estate.  He was the only Thane who was tenant-in-chief in 1086, although not all of his lands continued to be held 'in chief', most being depressed to mesne tenancies or freeholds from the crown."

Through this marriage to Alice de Percy, much of the land seized from the Staveley family by the Normans, finally reverted back to Adam.  This included land around Sedbergh, Dent, Berwick on Tweed, Stainton, and Ingleby Barwick.  Adam also had estates at Farnham, Staveley, Knaresborough, Lonsdale, Ilton, Swinton, and Ripon.  Adam de Staveley also gave money and land for the foundation of Jervaulx Abbey in Wensleydale. in the mid-12th century.

Unfortunately we leave the early Staveleys here at the end of the 13th Century.  Although there are a few references to Staveleys after this time, the first plague outbreak was just on the horizon, and for almost 200 years recorded history came to a near stand-still.  A clear and definitive connection between these early Staveleys and the later 15th-16th Century Staveleys of Yorkshire may never be made.

Extracted From: Early Yorkshire Families (pg 87-90), edited by Sir Charles Clay, published by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, and notes by Peter Staveley


Text and Images Copyright © 1999-2009