Family Feuds


The eminent and titled families of Vipont, Percy, Clifford, Sandford, D’Acre, Neville, Wharton and Stapleton were firmly established across the counties of northern England and formed the backbone of the crown’s border defences when the Musgraves first settled in the Westmorland region.
   Living in the village of Great Musgrave from as early as 1095, they were tenants and followers of the Cliffords and, although holding relatively little land or status themselves, the Musgraves were a family dedicated to public service, with successive generations representing the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland in Parliament and holding a number of official positions in the area from the beginning of the 13th century, Adam de Musgrave lived during the reign of King John from 1199 to 1216 and in 1202 he was appointed Lord of Great Musgrave. Alongside this position, he also held the parish of Musgrave for Robert de Vipont, Baron of Appleby. This was an unusual but prestigious position, known as Cornage, which involved little work, a small annual stipend and the single duty of blowing a horn if the Castle at Broughham was ever attacked.
    The Musgraves’ dedication to public duty served to enhance their standing but it also brought them into conflict with other families. Sir Adam's son Thomas married Isabel Sanford and eventually inherited the Sanford manor and lands from his wife's father, William de Sanford. Thomas died in 1265 and was succeeded by his son Richard but in 1278, his inheritance of the Sanford estate was challenged in a court action brought by Thomas de Goldington who claimed that the lands had already been warranted to his father William. This case led to a string of claims and counter-claims by both parties and was not finally resolved until 1300 when it is found that Sir Richard de Musgrave was the rightful Lord of Sanford and that his eldest son Sir Thomas de Musgrave (1280-1314) was his natural successor.
    Sir Thomas took the family traits of public service and personal advancement further with his tenures as Lord of Musgrave and Lord of Sanford and, in 1301, with his marriage to Sarah de Harcla (1282-1327), eldest daughter of Sir Michael de Harcla, Sheriff of Cumberland. Sir Thomas and Sarah Harcla lived in Great Musgrave and had one son, also Thomas (1302-1372), who succeeded his father as Lord of Musgrave and continued to enhance the status of the Musgrave family when, in 1335, he married Margaret de Ros, eldest Daughter of William de Ros, Lord of Helmsley and Joint Lord and Warden of Scotland. Despite these inter-familial relationships, however, it was not until Thomas's heroic actions during the Scottish invasion of northern England in October 1346, that the Musgraves won royal favour and patronage. Thomas de Musgrave was rewarded with a knighthood and a handsome annuity with which he purchased Hartley Castle in Kirkby Stephen from Ralph de Neville.
    The acquisition of Hartley (Harcla) Castle by Sir Thomas de Musgrave provides a valuable insight into the complex and intricate web of title and ownership histories of the estates and lands in the northern counties during the 14th and 15th centuries. Hartley was originally owned by Roger de Clifford but he was hanged for treason in 1315, when his estates were confiscated by Edward II and awarded to Andrew de Harcla, the elder brother of Sir Thomas’s mother, Sarah de Harcla. The Hartley manor house was fortified by de Harcla, some time prior to 1323, when he, too, was accused of treason and ordered by the king to be hanged, drawn and quartered for alleged collusion with Robert the Bruce. Hartley was one again forfeited and, on this occasion, was granted to Ralph de Neville who later sold it through three other hands to Sir Thomas de Musgrave in 1348. So, over a period of some fifty years, the Hartley title, estate and lands changed hands at least six times and, in fact, went full circle when Sir Thomas de Musgrave acquired his knighthood, an annual royal stipend and ownership of the estate where his mother Sarah de Harcla had been born.
    With the family now ensconced in Hartley Castle, it is clear that little changed over subsequent generations in terms of the Musgraves’ practice of strategic marriages and land acquisition. Sir Thomas de Musgrave (1354-1409), the first-born son of Sir Thomas and Margaret de Ros, married Elizabeth Fitzwilliam of Emley, then their son, Sir Richard de Musgrave, married Elizabeth Wollaston in 1377, and their grandson, Sir Thomas de Musgrave (1378-1447) married Joan D’Acre in 1397. Sir Thomas and Joan D’Acre lived at Hartley castle until their eldest son, Sir Richard de Musgrave (1398-1464), married Elizabeth Beetham and inherited the Beetham estate near Kendal on the death of Edward Beetham, Elizabeth's only surviving brother.
    The most notable acquisition, though, came about in 1430 when the marriage of Sir Thomas de Musgrave (1417-1469), at the age of just 13 years, to Joan Stapleton, the heiress of the Stapletons of Edenhall, brought the Musgraves into Cumberland, where the Cliffords were less powerful than the D’Acre family. Although their Cumberland estates were mostly held on behalf of the crown, it may have been to avoid the prospect of their passing out of the Clifford sphere of influence that, in the next generation, Sir Thomas and Joan Stapleton’s son, Sir Richard Musgrave (1431-1491) was married to Joan, daughter of Thomas, 8th Lord Clifford.
    Although the son of this marriage, Sir Edward Musgrave (1461-1544), remained a D’Acre man, his son William (1497-1544) strongly opposed the D’Acres and while looking to the crown for advancement was, in fact, a Clifford supporter. His election in 1529, while still a young man, as knight of the shire for Westmorland can be ascribed partly to his marriage to Elizabeth Curwen, daughter of Sir Thomas Curwen and partly to the patronage of Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland who was the hereditary sheriff of the county. In 1529, Sir William was also appointed marshal of Berwick, being described in the grant as a knight of the body. A year later he was granted an annuity of 20 pounds out of Penrith mills, Cumberland, for the duration of his father’s lifetime and, in April 1531, he was made constable of Bewcastle, with a further annuity of 20 pounds.
    This last appointment provoked trouble with the D’Acres, as this office was one which William, 3rd Lord D’Acre had wanted for himself, and during the next three years disputes between the two families became endemic. In 1534 Sir William Musgrave struck at the D’Acre power base in the west marches. He accused Lord D’Acre and his uncle Sir Christopher of conspiring with the Scots, both against the realm and against himself: Lord D’Acre, he claimed, had ‘sought traitorously to deceive the King, and machinated to the extent that, I, Sir William Musgrave, constable of Bewcastle, and all my tenants might be slain by the Scots, and their houses and chattels destroyed’. The likelihood that Sir William had acted with the approval of the government is apparent from a letter that he wrote about this on 12 June 1524 to Cromwell. ‘This service to the King’, he wrote, ‘will, however, be chargeable to me, and you and I shall especially bear the blame in this matter touching the Lord D’Acre and Sir Christopher his uncle. Therefore stand stiffly upon it, that I may have your aid’. The likelihood is that Sir William was encouraged to attack the D’Acres because of his relationship with the court and, by his alliance, through his Curwen marriage, with a powerful group of border gentry, led by Sir Thomas Wharton who, at the time, were challenging the dominance of all the northern land magnates, whether Clifford, D’Acre or Percy.
    Unfortunately for the Musgraves, Lord D’Acre was acquitted and some of his followers then staged a brief uprising solely to attack Sir William and his illegitimate son Jack Musgrave, who Sir William had made deputy at Bewcastle. This uprising was soon quelled and Sir William then went to help Henry Clifford, the Earl of Cumberland defend Carlisle Castle. In 1534, William D’Acre was accused of treason which threw the whole of the border defence structure into disarray. In response to this, the Earl of Cumberland sent his son Sir Henry to the King’s service in company with Sir William and Sir Thomas Wharton. Although Sir William should have had nothing to fear from his reception, he was so worried about his return to his London house that his wife, Elizabeth, feared he had ‘fallen into displeasure’. In this she was proved wrong, because the border reshuffle of 1537 saw Sir William appointed as Sir Thomas Wharton’s assistant in the west marches at a salary of 10 pounds a year.
    Elizabeth seems to have been nearer the mark in her view that, after his stand against the D’Acre rebels, her husband could never again live in Westmorland. In July 1537 the Duke of Norfolk reported to Cromwell that Bewcastle was not properly held as Sir William Musgrave ‘who has the rule is living in London and his deputy ‘Jack of Musgrave’ is an unsuitable commander’. The Duke recommended Sir Thomas Wharton for the position, describing Sir William as, ‘not a dedicated borderer’, a criticism he repeated a month later after there was further trouble at Bewcastle, this time with both Sir William and his deputy Jack absent in London.
    From this point, Sir William was perceived as being one of the borderers who, in Norfolk’s words, ‘were given opportunities not unlike those offered Wharton, but shied away from the hard duties which rule in the marches involved’. Alongside any such personal shortcoming, though, the truth was that for many years, Sir William had been desperately short of money and was denied all but the most basic assistance by his father, Sir Edward Musgrave whom he had come to oppose because of his support for the D’Acres . His father died on 1 July 1544 and Sir William at last succeeded to the Edenhall estate which he enjoyed for just four months, before his own death on 18 October 1544. Sir William's legitimate son, Richard Musgrave (1534-1555), then inherited the estate at the age of just ten. He married Anne Wharton in 1547 and they had one son, Thomas (b. 1552) who died as a young boy, bringing Sir William Musgrave's direct lineage to an end.
    The line of Sir William’s brother, Sir Simon Musgrave (1510-1597), however, continued at Edenhall through his marriage to Julianna Ellerker in 1551. They had five children: a daughter, Katherine, and four sons: Richard (1549-1617), who left the family home in dispute and died unmarried in Yorkshire, Christopher (1553-1585), Thomas (1554-1614) and John (1555-1608). Sir Simon took over the post as Keeper of Bewcastle in 1585 when his illegitimate nephew, Sir Jack Musgrave died. He appointed his third son, Sir Thomas as deputy in 1589, at which time, the legacy of Sir William Musgrave, Sir Simon’s deceased brother re-appeared in the form of yet another dispute about the Musgrave’s stewardship of Bewcastle, this time in the form of a duel ...
It is agreed between Thomas Musgrave and Lancelot Carleton, for the true trial of such controversies as are betwixt them, to have it openly tried by way of combat, before God and the face of the world, to try it in Canonbyholme, before England and Scotland, upon Thursday in Easter-week, being the eigth day of April next ensuing, A.D. 1602, betwixt nine of the clock, and one of the same day, to fight on foot, to be armed with jack, steel cap, plaite sleeves, plaite breeches, plaite sockes, two basleard swords, the blades to be one yard and half a quarter in length, two Scotch daggers, or dorks, at their girdles, and either of them to provide armour and weapons for themselves, according to this indenture. Two gentlemen to be appointed, on the field, to view both the parties, to see that they both be equal in arms and weapons, according to this indenture; and being so viewed by the gentlemen, the gentlemen to ride to the rest of the company, and to leave them but two boys, viewed by the gentlemen, to be under sixteen years of age, to hold their horses. In testimony of this our agreement, we have both set our hands to this indenture, of intent all matters shall be made so plain, as there shall be no question to stick upon that day. Which indenture, as a witness, shall be delivered to two gentlemen. And for that it is convenient the world should be privy to every particular of the grounds of the quarrel, we have agreed to set it down in this indenture betwixt us, that, knowing the quarrel, their eyes may be witness of the trial.

The Grounds of the Quarrel.
1. Lancelot Carleton did charge Thomas Musgrave before the Lords of her Majesty’s Privy Council, that Lancelot Carleton was told by a gentleman, one of her Majesty’s sworn servants, that Thomas Musgrave had offered to deliver her Majesty’s Castle of Bewcastle to the King of Scots; and to witness the same, Lancelot Carleton had a letter under the gentleman’s own hand for his discharge.
2. He chargeth him, that, whereas her Majesty doth yearly bestow a great fee upon him, as captain of Bewcastle, to aid and defend her Majesty’s subjects therein: Thomas Musgrave hath neglected his duty, for that her Majesty’s Castle of Bewcastle was by him made a den of thieves, and an harbour and receipt for murderers, felons, and all sorts of misdemeanors. The precedent was Quintin Whitehead and Runion Blackburne.
3. He chargeth him, that his office of Bewcastle is open for the Scotch to ride in and through, and small resistance made by him to the contrary.

Thomas Musgrave doth deny all this charge; and saith, that he will prove that Lancelot Carleton doth falsely bely him, and will prove the same by way of combat, according to this indenture. Lancelot Carleton hath entertained the challenge; and so, by God’s permission, will prove it true as before, and hath set his hand to the same.
                  (Signed) Thomas Musgrave - Lancelot Carleton
Meanwhile Sir Simon’s second son, Sir Christopher, had followed his father into public service and was elected as Member of Parliament for Carlisle in 1571 when he was just 18 years old. Sir Christopher Musgrave married Jane Curwen in 1583 but died soon afterwards in 1585, in the same year that his only son, Sir Richard Musgrave (1585-1615), was born. In 1597, at the age of just twelve, Sir Richard succeeded to the estates of Hartley and Edenhall on the death of his grandfather Sir Simon Musgrave and two years later, aged fourteen, he married Frances Wharton, daughter of Philip Wharton, 3rd Baron of Wharton and they had one son, Sir Philip Musgrave (1607-1677). Sir Richard was knighted on 25 July 1603 at the coronation of King James I and, in 1604, he was elected Member of Parliament for Westmorland. On 29 June 1611, the Musgrave Baronetcy of Hartley Castle in the County of Westmorland was created for him in the Baronetage of England. This was a short-lived honour, though, because just four years later, while on a tour of Europe with his friend, Lord Cavendish, he was taken ill and died at Naples, where he was buried in the cathedral.
    He was succeeeded by his son Sir Philip Musgrave and, although the family home at Edenhall has now gone, the title of Baronet Musgrave continues to this day ...
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