The Vale of Lyvennet

Its Picturesque Peeps and Legendary Lore

By John Salkeld Bland



The first historic record of Meaburn is in the reign of Henry II, at which time the Barony of Westmorland was in possession of the Morville family. Roger de Morvill had a son and heir, Hugh, and a daughter, Maude. This daughter was married to William de Veteripont and carried with her in marriage to her husband part of the manor of Meaburn. This manor previously included both the Meaburns (sometimes spelt Medburn or Mayburn), and all the lands between call Meaburn Field. The other portion of the manor belonged, in the right of succession to Sir Hugh; he, being one of the four knights who assassinated Thomas a Becket, his lands were confiscated and became the property of the King; whence the two divisions of Meaburn were afterwards known as King’s Meaburn and Maud’s or Maulds Meaburn. William de Veteripont then held the manor in right of his wife, and gave four oxgangs of land at Maulds Meaburn to the Hospital of St. Leonard at York. Ivo their son also gave lands to the same hospital, circumscribed by the following limits:-

“From the nether or lower head of Undercot gill, into the syke which is in the upper head, and so all along by the same sike southwards on to the ditch by the highway side which leads from Appleby to Tibbay, and so, nigh unto the public way or street westwards unto the boundary of Akesby, unto the mills, and unto the ground which the said Ivo had before given to foresaid hospital.”

Ivo de Veteripont was brother to Robert, to whom King John granted the confiscated lands of Sir Hugh de Morville, and made him Baron of Westmorland. Ivo was succeeded by his son Robert, who gave to the Abbey of Shap 22s. yearly to be paid out of Maulds Meaburn in the name of alms corn. In 1243 Robert granted the manor to John le Faunceys, son of Hugh, to hold to him and his heirs, rendering yearly for all services one pound of cumin.

This payment was to Ivo, but there were other services to be performed to the Barons of Westmorland, paramount lords of the fee. John le Faunceys granted on the other hand that Johan, daughter of Ivo, should peaceably have and hold the several lands and tenements granted to her by her father, with the service of villains and bondsmen.

In 1257 Philip le Faunceys had a grant of free warren in Westmorland and Cumberland. He had a son Gilbert, whose son Richard married a daughter of Sir Michael de Harclay, then the King’s ward, about 1278.

In 1292 occurs the name of John Franceys, of an ancient family there, as a juror in a case at Appleby, and also in 1307; so that it is probable the family of Frauncis holding Meaburn, and holding and living at Cliburn were of the same stock. In 1315, at the death of Robert de Clifford, the inquisition finds that Richard de Frauncis held of him the manor of Meaburn Maud and Whale, by homage and fealty and the cornage of 33s. and the wardship, worth 40s. In 1342 Isabella de Vernon held Meaburn, the family of Frauncis having doubtless ended in a daughter married to Vernon. The name Richard de Vernon occurs as holding the manor in 1370, 1392 and also in 1423, including Whale, by cornage of 33s. In 1519 we find a Richard Vernon of Nether Haddon, Derby, holding lands in Newby and succeeded by a son George, doubtless of the same family. In 1553 we find Sir George Vernon, Knight, lord of the manor of Maulds Meaburn by the like previous services. He was succeeded by Sir Thomas Stanley, Knight, who sold it to Sir Richard Lowther, Knight in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Sir Richard Lowther gave his tenants of Maulds Meaburn their choice to hold their tenancies after the customs of any one of a certain number of manors. They chose Ravenstonedale, then under Philip, Lord Wharton, and the copy of an indenture made between Philip, Lord Wharton, and his tenants in the 3rd and 4th of Philip and Mary and also in the 22nd of Elizabeth was to stand as an indenture between Richard Lowther and his tenants of Maulds Meaburn. Sir Richard Lowther, during his life, gave the manor to his eldest son, Christopher, and he also confirmed the indenture; but when he came into possession he was so heavy in exaction of service from his tenants that they refused in many cases to comply, alleging that such was not the custom in Ravenstonedale, nor named in the indenture. The consequence was an appeal to some court of law.*

The land at that time was for the most part unenclosed, and was known as Oxgang, Demain and Improved Lands, or lands enclosed. The most important of the last were the Cow Pasture and the Ox Close; the latter had been enclosed sixty years previous to this period, and contained about 100 acres. The Cow Pasture, 250 acres; they were both used as common pasture. Another large enclosure was the Park, at that time fenced half way round with a wall of stone, and the other half with quickset hedge. Dryevers, Mires, Flass, Garth and others were enclosed about thirty years previously. For these improved lands the lord demands 12d. an acre and eight years fine; the tenants refuse, and it is proved that such were laid on in his father’s time, and the Demain lands were raised 13s. 4d. in lieu. Then again he wishes the tenants of all lands that were Demain to pay eight years fine. In this he is defeated, it being ordered that they were to enjoy them for one year’s fine, on account of having compounded with his father, and paying 500 and so having the customs alleviated.

According to the relation of John Lambe of Kirkby Stephen, aged ninety years, there were, when he lived at Maulds Meaburn, sixty years before, seventy-four oxgangs of land (the oxgang was the greatest portion), and that then, and in the time of his father, the tenants paid 5s. for each oxgang as rent due to the lord yearly, paid at Pentecost and St.Martin’s, and 7d. likewise as a myline ferme, in respect of grinding corn; for this reason their moulter was very light, only one peck of meal for ten bushels, and also the same for every ten bushels of shillings.

The Demain lands also paid the same.

This Christopher denies, claims the 7d. as part of the rent, and that they ought to pay moulter after the rate his witnesses say is done in Ravenstonedale, namely for all corn ground at the lord’s myline, except outs they pay the 30th part of corn unground, and one 30th part in meal after being ground, and for shilling oats one 13th part for shilling and for making groats of the same one 30th part and for grinding the same into meal one 30th part. The tenants refuse, and the miller, at the command of Mr. Lowther, refuses to grind; so they carry to the neighbouring mills of Barnskew, Crosby, King’s Meaburn and Rutter, at the same time saying they are not compelled to grind at his mill at any rate, except for a certain portion of land. This rouses his anger considerably, and he reminds his oxgang tenants that it is their duty to keep in repair the millstones, wheels, hopper, and race pertaining to the mill. The case was brought before the Queen’s Counsellors at York, and it was ordered that suit be done to Mr. Lowther’s mill only for 154 acres and 32 perches of the oxgang land; that for oats only are they bound to Mr. Lowther’s mill; and for all other grain they can go where they will. This order is dated 31 Queen Eliz., 1589, and as affirmed, was publicly read to and served upon about thirty of the wayward tenants on Meaburn Green, hard by The Crosse thereupon; but they were either not there, or being a stubborn set, heeded it not; for Mr. Lowther’s mill was still deserted; law was again referred to, and from the evidence given there were various infringements of the order; amongst the rest Thomas Kitchen of Wickerslack borrowed a peck of big of a neighbour, and got half of it ground at Crosby and the other half at Barnskew. However, to set all right a commission was ordered to set out the 154 acres, 32 perches. After much difficulty it was settled and a list drawn out of the occupiers, areas and names of the lands where each piece was situated. They are scattered all over the township, each tenant having a portion, and curiously enough the names are those retained by fields at the present day, with scarcely any alteration.

Mr. Lowther requires a general fine of one year’s rent on the change of the lord, in lieu of which it is agreed: The tenants to pay 100 nobles on St. Peter’s or Lammas next at the Feast of Pentecost, if Christopher Lowther and his brother Jerrard will be bound that it shall not be changed for eight years after October 11th, 1592.  He next wishes to have imposed a running fine or gressome, which in Ravenstonedale is 12 15s. 4d., paid by a certain number of the ancient customary or oxgang tenants every seven years. The tenants of Oxgang land had to pay 25s 8d. as a boon rent yearly, and those of the Demain after the rent they took their tenements with or without boon. The lord demandeth boon days over and beside but in this case is defeated.

Another complaint is that the tenants do not comply with the following custom in Ravenstonedale, namely: If the lord or his officers cause a tree to be felled on any man’s tenement, whoever gets the tree has to pay 2d. to the tenants, who also had the top, and was bound to fence up the gap or stoven till it was out of harm from cattle; if he neglected this, he had to pay 6d. to the lord for each stoven not fenced up. Also each tenant had to plant three ashes on his tenement each year, and two for every tree felled, for the increase of wood. Some of these demands, however, he could not succeed in having fulfilled.

Another grief is that the Demain tenants have unlawfully felled scores of ash trees in the park, and spoiled the coppice or young wood for spring. The tenants say it grew on part of their own tenements, and if they had gone beyond bounds, they had been cleared at the late court.

Another service disputed was the carrying of coals. The tenants of Maulds Meaburn had to carry sixty horseloads, every and each horseload containing two bushels after the measure used at the pit; they had to bring them from wherever. Mr. Lowther chose to buy them, which was on Stanemore, and to carry them to his residence, which was Lowther. They had to give notice to Mr. Lowther, each when he was going to bring his share, and Mr. Lowther was bound to pay the bringer the price he paid for them at the pit. Christopher complains that they do not bring their yearly suit, and are behindhand for the last year, twenty-five bushels. The tenants say he refused to pay them for the coals they brought. To remedy this Mr. Lowther has to pay for the coals at the pit first, which if not done, the tenants shall not be obliged to carry them.

Another grief is that Mr. Lowther had felled trees in the park, and wished the tenants to spring and fence; this they refused to do, and even pull down the fences there were, and thus it remained for some time. It was finally concluded by a commission being sent to set out what ought to be springed. The first part was the lower part of the park, next the Lyvennet, which was to be cut and then well fenced for seven years. The next portion is the north part of the park, which was to be cut at the Lord’s pleasure, and then fenced as spring for seven years. The next was the south corner of the park, to be cut, also at the pleasure of the lord, and then fenced for seven years; but only one of the three parts to be fenced at one time, and at any time after these springs have had sixteen years growth. Mr. Lowther or his heirs may cut down the hazel and birks at twenty-one years growth, and the ashes at thirty years growth; it was also ordered that the tenants should fence first, as their cattle were most likely to have the grass, Mr. Lowther being resident at a distances, but who was to fence the other two was not decided.

The fiercest squabble of all was the following: Christopher Lowther caused to be erected, as he and his witnesses affirm, a little court-house, on the middle of Meaburn Green; a number of workmen were at work upon it, and it was on the point of being finished, the frame and timber was set up; lathed and sparred, and thatched with straw on one side. At this time, being the 22nd October, 1585, a large number of the wives of the tenants, instigated by their better halves, abused the workpeople and Mr. Lowther, and even threw stones at them. This did not cause them to desist building, so on the night of the 28th, a number of tenants, headed by James Fletcher, armed themselves with pitchforks, hand-saws, axes, long-piked sticks, swords, daggers, and other unlawful engines, and levelled it to the ground. Mr. Lowther wished to have recompense for the timber destroyed, and the pullers-down punished. This trial is held at York, where the tenants and their wives had to appear in defence; in which they say that what Christopher affirms is all utterly untrue about their unruly conduct; that according to the indenture the lord could not build on the waste without general consent of the tenants; that if he was allowed to build this he would build others; they had spoken to him quietly, but he refused to listen, and so they pulled it down, for by so doing he was infringing upon the green within the town gates on which they grassed their horses for service upon the Borders; they say the house was a large one, intended for a court-house and for Mr. Lowther to put his horse in when he visited the town. A recompense of 8 seems to have been awarded him, and the pullers-down fined, some to 3 6s. 2d. and some to 40s. This does not satisfy, and he brings the trial on again, but does not seem to succeed, only in obtaining a decree to have a piece of waste ground on which to build a court-house‡.

These disputes have been examined before commissioners who held courts at different places, some bearing date from Kirkby Stephen, Morland Church and Brough Chapel; but when the cases were brought before the Queen’s Councellors, they are dated at “Eboracum”.

The names of those called as witness give some light as to the residence of the neighbouring gentry, or those who lived in the manorial houses. At Reagill Grange lived Anthony Wharton, who some time was in tenure and occupation of Meaburn Mill. At Shap Abbey lived Richard Wharton, gent., who, as well as he at Reagill Grange, were members of the Wharton family to whom the lands of Shap Abbey were granted. At Little Strickland lived John Rigg, Esq.,; his father was steward of the manorial courts at Maulds Meaburn in Sir George Vernon’s time. At Craik Trees lived Ambrose Lancaster, aged eighty years, and also Thomas Lancaster, both of whom were strenuous supporters of the lord of the manor.

The disputes have evidently been very warmly contested by both parties, some of the cases standing on for five or six years. There are also accusations of base and wilful perjury. Whether the courts granted justice in every case or not, we know not; but the truth seems to have been often tampered with. At last Christopher Lowther, in summing up his griefs, concludes by praying to have an end of suits, and says he has been kept so for ten years by his tenants, that he has become impoverished, and having so many children he is utterly unable to do Her Highness’ service upon the Borders, according as he is bound, as others of his calling. The tenants humbly reply that they too wish and end of suits; they too are impoverished; but that Mr. Lowther has always been plaintiff against them.

Another important service due to the lord, but about which they have not had dispute, was the Border service. When this service was required by the Prince, the lord’s steward sent a letter to the bailiff and constables telling them what service was required, and with how many men. These they appoint and muster in great haste, some on horse and some on foot, according to their rate. Four men were also sworn to rate the charges for victuals and carriage in such journeys as going to the Borders required. This tax was levied only when summoned to go. Those who refused to go when warned were sent by the bailiff to the warden to receive what punishment he chose to inflict. In 1595 a list has been made out bearing the date 19th February or that year, of all men musterable in the Lordship of Maulds Meaburn for this service, of tenants and young men from sixteen to sixty years of age, levied by the constables, James Fletcher, Robert Atkinson, Anthony Wharton, Richard Hodgeson and John Winter, and Mr. Christopher Lowther, Esq., Landlorde of ye Lordship, and Leader of ye men; 39 on this list are entered as “archers furnished,” each having to serve with “a nag;” one of these, it appears, is “deceased,” two are “under age,” and three having substitutes entered as “his son.”

The next list is “Tenants that are footmen” 59 in number, of whom 18 are archers furnished, 7 entered as archers, 2 as billmen, 16 not furnished, and 15 before whose names is the letter F. These were the fighting men, besides whom is a list of 28, who are “sons, and men not being tenants.”  From an abstract of the muster for the Border service within the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, taken in 1584, that of the two counties amounted to 8350, of whom Westmorland furnished 4142; 1400 of these were archers furnished, 1300 billmen furnished, 1342 able men unfurnished, and 100 light horsemen furnished amongst the gentlemen and their household servants. The mustering places were Sandford Moor, where mustered 1981, Greenholme 2669, and Strickland Moor 1269. The last place was the rendezvous of the Maulds Meaburn tenants. There is still a lingering tradition of the last as a mustering place. In 1618 Mr. C. Lowther was in a special commission with Lord Wharton and Lord William Howard and others for repressing disorders on the Borders. When King James I came into England on his accession to the Crown, in 1603, he attended him with a gallant company from the Borders of Scotland to Newcastle, where the King conferred upon him the order of knighthood, and there is little doubt but that in that gallant company were some of the staunch yeomanry of Maulds Meaburn. In the list of names for those deputed to serve on the Borders are five Robinsons, five Parkins, five Winters, five Harrisons, four Teasdales, four Whartons, three Fletchers, two Salkelds, two Kitchens, &c. But by far the most numerous are the Addysons, who mustered 16; a name now quite extinct in the parish.

*It seems that the documents from which Mr. Bland gathered these curious particulars, represent the defendants’, that is the tenants’, side of this question; and it is very hard to tell whether the oppression they allege was real or imaginary. On the other hand, Mr. Lowther undoubtedly had cause for complaint for on Mr. Bland’s showing, the tenants more than once did wilful damage, and refused to comply with the order of the court

A possible explanation is this: the Vernons were absentee landlords, and left things to take care of themselves; Sir Richard Lowther expected things to be managed properly, and saw that they were; and the change would not be popular, though perfectly just and fair. Something about the story suggests that the trouble was organised by some individual who possess professional knowledge; perhaps the former steward had been dismissed by Sir Richard, and was taking his revenge in this way.

‡ We are inclined to think that this result, which Mr. Bland rates rather low, constituted a decisive success.  The court had already shown that the tenants’ method of redress was unlawful, had punished them for it, and made them pay compensation for the damage they had done.  It might be argued at this point that they had a genuine grievance, and were merely wrong in their choice of remedy; but the decree deprives them of this excuse; for the court would not have permitted Mr. Lowther to have a piece of waste land for this purpose, if by building there he would be infringing the rights of the tenants.  Hence his position is justified from the very beginning.




The Vale of Lyvennet, Its Picturesque Peeps and Legendary Lore, By John Salkeld Bland, 1910.
Originally transcribed by Diane Coppard and Kate Burns, and reproduced here with their permission.

19 June 2015.

Vale of Lyvennet Index


Contact details

Steve Bulman