The First Brettons

The family of Ricardus Askenaldus and Ailric Fitz Ricardus

The family name of “Bretton” was derived from the name of the village in which they lived in the 1100’s. We have always locally known the village as “Bretton” and we describe it as “West Bretton” only because it has been known by that name from about 1308. It’s original name was “Bretton” and it was so recorded in 1202 and again in 1297. If anyone wonders why it became “West Bretton” a reference should be made to “West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to A.D. 1500” where, on page 556 it explains that the village was originally divided into two adjoining     hamlets – Bretton and West Bretton, which lay in the honour of Pontefract and the manor of Wakefield respectively. The “West Bretton” name became the generally accepted one as it was then the larger of the two hamlets. However at the time that the surname “de Bretton” was first recorded (from our research) it was  “Bretton” and that is the name the family adopted. The name “Bretton” appears to mean “the homestead of the Britons” – so what is (or was) a “Briton”? The recorded history of Britain and the Britons appears to start with an account by Pytheas of Marseilles, a contemporary of Alexander the Great c. 325 B.C., the first known visitor from the civilized peoples from the Mediterranean coast, who travelled over a considerable part of Britain. There was a further record in 90 B.C., and this was then followed by an account of Julius Caesar, who wrote about half a century before the Christian era and who said, amongst other things,       “All the Britons (the Picti Britanni) dye themselves with Woad of a bluish colour, which gives them a terrible appearance in battle”.

From the fourth century before Christ the British Isles were called the “Pretanic Isles” i.e. the land of the painted or tattooed men. The name Brittani is Caesar’s substitute for the more correct Pretani. The Britons in what is now West Yorkshire belonged to a tribe called the Brigantes, the most numerous and powerful of all the northern tribes. The Roman conquest of Britain started in 43 A.D. and their occupation in all lasted nearly 400 years. In that time three Roman Emperors ruled their Empires from York. The Brigantes were beaten in battle by the Romans but never subdued and in one revolt completely annihilated the 9th Roman Legion at York. The whole 400 years of occupation had no lasting impact on the Brigantes possibly because the lands in (the now) West Yorkshire were dense woodland and swamp and the Romans generally restricted themselves to the roads they had built and the villages established along them. The same cannot be said for subsequent invasions, first by the Anglo-Saxons and later by the Danes. Although each invasion was accompanied by great bloodshed and terrible atrocities, both those two distinct invaders eventually settled alongside their British neighbours and inter-married quite freely.

In our visits to Denmark to see our daughter we can still recognise the Danish words that have been slightly altered and have been part of the English language, and especially the Yorkshire local dialects, for many centuries. It is with this background that we now start the history of the family, a background where three distinct cultures have inter-married and the dividing lines between them have become more and more blurred over the years.

We outlined in our introduction that the line of Richard Aske, Ailric Fitz Richard, Swain Fitz Ailric and Adam Fitz Swain de Bretton were English, (British) aristocracy before the Norman Conquest and were, at that time, amongst the most prominent land owners in the Yorkshire. Following the Conquest, Ailric, the head of the family at the time, kept most of his lands although now as a tenant to the Norman Lord – Ilbert de Laci, who had been granted them by William the Conqueror for his help in conquering England We found a great deal of information about them but we must first clarify the source of the assertion by Rowland Bretton and Dom Hugh Bowler that the family were the first “de Bretton’s”. This came from one source, maybe there are others, in the history of the Beaumont family in Kirkburton Parish Registers and is set out below in full:- The Parish Registers of Kirburton, Co York, with appendix of Family Histories. Edited by Frances Anne Collins. Printed by William Pollard & Co. North Street, Exeter, 1902  Volume II        Appendix        Page cxcii  20: Family of Beaumont Hitherto the earliest known in the pedigree of the Beaumont family has been William of 1200, who, between 1206 and 1211, received from his superior lord, Roger de Laci, Constable of Chester, and lord of Pontefract, the gift of 12 bovates, out of the 48 bovates, of land in Huddersfield (Mr G. W. Tomlinson’s account of the Beaumont family, Yorkshire Archeological Journal vol. viii).

The holder of land in Huddersfield would have command of the road leading from his lord’s castle at Halton in Cheshire to his castle at Pontefract : and there was the honourable condition attached to this holding in Huddersfield, that the tenant had to supply the escort, or conveyance of the lord’s despatches to his Cheshire Castle (A.J. vol.ii-15).

Of this William de Beaumont of 1200 it is recorded that he had been in the Holy Land with his lord, Roger de Laci, during the Crusade in the reign of Richard I, 1189-1199 (Rev. C. Pratt’s History of Cawthorne)

The second William de Beaumont who succeeded his father about 1218, received from John de Montbegan (the childless son of Roger de Montbegan who died in 1228, and who was the grandson [in law] of Adam fitz Swein of Bretton), the assurance that failing an heir to his own body, he would grant to William de Beaumont the Montbegan land at Whitley. This gift was confirmed by the superior lord, John de Laci, Earl of Lincoln, between 1232 and 1240. Why John de Montbegan treated William de Beaumont as near kin and made him his heir, gives the clue to the ancestry of William de Beaumont. The rent that William had to pay, one pair of white gloves, shows that he was considered one of the family and that the rent was not a question of l.s.d. [Pounds, shillings and pence].

It appears by investigation that both John de Montbegan and William de Beaumont were descended from the Saxon Thane, Adam fitz Swein de Bretton. John de Montbegan was the son of Roger, who was the son of of Adam de Montbegan, by Maud, one of the two daughters of Adam fitz Swein.

William de Beaumont of 1218 was the son of William de Beaumont of 1200 alias William fitz Adam de Bretton :       Adam de Bretton of 1176 was one of the sons of Richard of 1158, one of the two sons of Adam fitz Swein fitz Ailric.

It will have been noticed that the lands held by Robert de Beaumont of 1323, Crosland, Meltham, Whitley and South Kirkby, had been held at Domesday, 1086, by Ailric or by his son Swein. “In Crosland the king had one carucate, and Swein had two carucates of land. In Meltham, Cola and Swein had four carucates of land. In Whitley, Gerneber had, in Edward the Confessor’s time, five carucates of land for geld, where two ploughs may be. Now, 1086, Gamel and Elric (Ailric) have four villanes there, with four ploughs : four acres of meadow there : wood, pasturable, one leuga in length and one in breadth”. In South Kirkby, the Domesday record is, “In Ermhale and Torp and Cherchebi (South Kirkby) and Frickehale (Frickley) Suen (Swain) and Archil have 11 carucates of land for geld.” All the above mentioned lands became part of the possessions of the Norman lord, Ilbert de Laci, who appears to have treated the vanquished Saxons on his own lands with kindness, for Ailric and Swein were allowed to keep many of their lands as tenants. Of South Kirkby, Leland writes in his itinerary, that Ailric, the Saxon, the father of Sweyn, possessed the castle of Kirkby, or Pontefract, before the Conquest, which being a place of strength fit to protect the northern parts, William (the Conqueror) gave to Ilbert de Laci. Mr R. Holmes, an expert student of early Yorkshire history, writes “ In Elric there is little difficulty in identifying Ailric of Staincross (Wapentake), the fabled possessor of Pontefract itself. He had been, before the conquest, one of the largest owners in all Yorkshire, with manors in many parts of the broad county, and though indeed deprived of most of them by the revolution that had taken place, he retained several, some even as a King’s Thane, that is with no intermediate lord between himself and his royal master”. The names of the eldest son and grandson of Ailric are well known, Swein Fitz Ailric and Adam Fitz Swein. Before his death in 1158 Adam Fitz Swein founded the Priory of Monk Bretton and endowed it with land or tithes in more than sixty places – a truly royal offering : most of these places were in the Wapentake of Staincross, but some were in Lancashire. It has been said that Adam fitz Swein left only two daughters, because the greater part of his many possessions went to Norman lords who married the Saxon heiresses. There are, fortunately, still two deeds extant (to be found in Hunter’s South Yorkshire), in which Adam’s sons and Grandsons are named : both deeds are in connection with Monk Bretton Priory and one was witnessed at Bretton, Adam Fitz Swein’s chief residence : and the other in Cumberland where this Saxon chief also possessed land.     The first one was the foundation deed of Monk Bretton Priory, and was witnessed by “Alexander and Richard,       sons of the founder, Efwardus de Almaneburi and Robert his brother :     Dolphin de Alvelai, William and Henry his sons, and Siwardus his brother : Herbert the priest :     Thomas de Darton : Bernard de Silkston and Richard his son :     Alan de Bretton, and Adam and Richard his brothers :     Richard, son of Harding, and his brother :     with Matthew de Ozspring, Swein de Holland and Aelsi Bacun” The second deed was witnessed in Cumberland by “Henry, brother to the founder : Rainald, Prior of Wederhall :     Walter his grandson :       Gospatrick, the son of Orm : Alan, his grandson :” and others. Alan, Adam Fitz Swein’s grandson, will be Alan de Bretton of the first deed, with Adam and Richard as his brothers.. In Hunter’s South Yorkshire, vol. ii, 356, is the account of Hunshelf, where Ailric     had three carucates before the Conquest :     he continued to hold them of Ilbert de Laci to whom they had been given :     and in his posterity Hunshelf descended, from the Nevilles, in the line of the lords of Heton ( Kirkheaton ).       Hunshelf is in the parish of Penistone, which parish belonged to Ailric, both before and after the Conquest, and which he held as a King’s Thane. “Richard de Hundechelf gives to Richard Fitz Adam and his heirs, pasture for all his cattle within the limits of the pasture of Hunshelf, which is between the rivulet of Birchworth on the one part, and Holkesdon on the other :     and between the water of Mikel Don (the greater Don), on the south, and the territory of Snowden-hill on the west, at the rent of unum obolum angenti, “a small silver coin about three cents in value”. This is another     instance of a nominal rent being asked from one who was the real owner of the lands, but, being a Saxon, was obliged to appear as a tenant. The name of William Fitz Adam [de Bretton][who became known as William de Beaumont] {see our assumptions, in the introduction to this history, about changes in name, which we made before all this information was seen by us}, grandson of above Richard Fitz Adam Fitz Swein [de Bretton] appears in many charters of about 1200 “know etc that I, Thomas de Burgh, grant to Matthew de Shepley in consideration of homage and service Hayam de Kestebrough which I had for my part, against (abutting on ?) the land which William fitz Adam held of the grant of Sir Roger de Montbegan, which land adjoins the said Haye de Kestebrough towards the north, at the 20th part of a knight’s fee. For this I have received 50 marks. Witnesses William fitz William :     Ric. de Wambewell : John de Rokelay :     Peter de Birkethwaite, Robert his brother : William Fitz Adam :     Henry de Tankreslay       : Robert de Deneby : Henry de Selveley :       Matt. de Lyncanland : Robert de Bery : Hug. de Swalnehill : Robert de Shepley etc” It may be noted that Thomas de Burgh held one knight’s fee in Shepley and that in it was included Westroyds, “which was of his manor of Cawthorne :” see account of the first John Armitage of Kirklees in these family histories. Matthew de Shepley, son of Hugh de Shepley, was a knight and witnessed a charter of the Countess D’Eu in 1219, together with her uncle, William, Earl de Warrenne, whose Seneschal he is said to have been. A.J., vol viii 23n. William Fitz William of Emley, a Saxon like William Fitz Adam de Bretton was near neighbour to the Brettons (Beaumonts) of Whitley. Sir John de Rockley, eldest son of Robert Fitz William Fitz Godric of Emley, gave to the monks of Bretton land in Worsbrough, at the time of Sir Roger de Montbegan, who died in 1228 : the deed was witnessed by “William Fitz William : William Fitz Adam :       Henry de Tancresley, “ etc. Hunter’s South Yorkshire vol. ii 283.     On p. 384 of the same volume is a deed witnessed by “Sir Thomas de Burgh : Guido de Longvilers :     Peter de Birkethwaite :       Henry de Tankersley : John de Rockley : William de Bretton :     Roger de Notton” etc. The second William de Bretton witnessed a Whitley deed about 1230. “William son of Alan de Witteley, gave to God and St. Mary and the monks of Bellaland (Byland Abbey) 2 bovates of land in the town of Witteley with the tofts and crofts to the said bovates belonging and one rood of land in the territory of the said towne, etc all which they had to farm of Alan, my father. Witnesse Henry Wallensis : Rfe de Horbury :     Adam de Preston : William de Bretton :     Adam de Holland :       Rafe de Wombewell, “ Etc   A.J. volune viii The third William de Bretton about 1250 appears in several charters :     to a Convention, which was to begin to take effect in 1251, between Rafe de Horbury and Hugh, son of Swein de Bretton, the witnesses are Sir Thomas Fitz William (of Emley), Sir William de Bretton :     Adam de Crigleston :       John de Horbiri : Michael de Breretwisal : etc. —Hunters S.Y. Vol ii : William (de Bretton) son of Peter, son of Orm confirmed by his father’s gift of land in Bretton to Byland Abbey, and to this deed were witnesses Sir William de Bretton : Sir Robert de Holland : Michael de Breretwisal :     Hugh, son of Swein de Bretton” etc.     Robert de Stapleton gave land at Cudworth to Bretton Priory, and the deed was witnessed by Sir John de Hoderode (who died between 1269 and 1272) :     William de Wannervile, and Sir William de Bretton. In Mr Hunter’s account of Cumberworth, the Bretton family can be traced from Domesday to 1300. Cumberworth is partly in the parishes of Kirkburton, Emley and High Hoyland. “Like Bretton, Cumberworth lies upon the boundary line of Staincross and Agbrigg and like Bretton it was in different fees at the time of the Domesday Survey. There was a carucate in Wakefield Soke, and a small portion in the Terra Ilberti, which Leuuin and Elric (Ailric), the Saxons, had formerly held. Cumberworth was not granted out after the Conquest as a manor of itself, but was held in part of the lords of Bretton (Adam Fitz Swein Fitz Ailric ) : and in part of the lords of Denby and High Hoyland. From a few early charters the following are extracted :- “Sciant etc Henry fil. Rogeri de Serwind de Cumb’wrde quiet. clamavi de me et heredebus meis Domino meo Willielmo de Bretton et heredibus suis, vel cui dare vel assignare voluit, totam terram quam peter mens tenuit in villa de Cumbrewrde de predicto Will’o, cum edificiis superstandibus, et ego post decessum patris mei predictum terram tenui “ etc This Henry appears to be the Henry de Fenton of the following deed, which appears to have been executed about the same time, for Jordan de Heton (Kirkheaton), and Matthew de Shepley witness both deeds. “In the time of Ralph de Horbury, then steward of the Earl de Warrene, Sir John de Hoderode ( who was Seneschal of Pontefract in 1252), Matthew de Shepley and Jordan de Heton, Henry de Fenton quit claimed to Sir William de Bretton all right in a bovate at Cumberworth, which Sir William held of him “ “Sciant, etc, Will. de Dronefeld dedi, etc Thomae de Dronfeud, fratri meo, pro homagio et Servitio suo, “ all my lands in Cumbewrd, with the advowson of the chapel, and all reliefs, wards etc., paying to the lord of the fee the service due, to wit 16d (pence) annual rent, with suit of court, and rendering to me and my heirs a pair of white gloves. Witnesses John de Hoderode, then steward of Pontefract :     William de London, Steward of Wakefield : Sir Robert de Holland : Magister Osbernus, persona de Silkiston (Rector from 1225 to 1280), etc. What the Dronsfields had at Cumberworth had been possessed before them by the de Brettons, as appears by a deed in Hunter’s S. Y. vol. ii, 240. “Omnibus etc.,Ad. de Holaunde, etc, Noveritis, etc, Willielmo de Dranfeud et heredibus etc Release of all claims in the lands and tenements which were William de Bretton’s scilicet in villit de Bretton, Combreworth, Barnby, Keveresford, etc in omnibus aliis locis, exceptis duobus bovatis terrae cum pertinen : scilicet una bovata terrae in Holande (High Hoyland) et alia bovata terrae in Comberworth. The witnesses were Sir John de Hoderode, then Steward of Pontefract, Robert de Stapleton : Thomas de Horbiri : John de Neyvile : Baldwinus Teutonicus :     Thomas de Dranfeud :       Henry the Forester etc.” Sir John de Hoderode, who died between 1269 and 1272 was succeeded by his son Robert who died s.p. between 1297 when he was living in South Kirkby and 1299, when his heirs, Adam Archard of Grymsthorpe, John de Arcubus of Rihill, and Christiana de le Rodes presented Sir John de York to the Chapelry of Cumberworth, because a moiety of the advowson, and certain lands in Cumberworth had been held by Robert de Hoderode — in this place where William de Bretton had retained a bovtae after disposing of the remainder of his lands to the Dronsfields.     William de Beaumont, about 1300 held lands in Brectwissel of the inheritance of Robert de Hoderode A.J. vol. 1, 172. And in Fixby, two and a half miles north of Huddersfield, William de Beaumont also entered into lands lately held by Robert de Hoderode, and his claim to the land (notwithstanding the above heirs) must have been good, because it was upheld in a “Court holden at Wakefield where William de Bellomonte gave 8 s. (Shillings) for reliefe of land which Robert de Hoderode held of the Earl (de Warrenne) in the town of Fekisby” Arch. Jour. vol vii 135 This conjuncture of the de Brettons and Robert de Hoderode and William de Beaumont seems conclusive that as long as this branch of Adam Fitz Swein de Bretton’s family lived near theirown home they were known as de Bretton and when they went to live near Huddersfield they were known as de Beaumont – still keeping the same initial letter for use on their seals, but covering their Saxon nationality by a Norman name. Failing any other derivation for the Beaumont arms, “the lion and the crescents” it may be that the former was taken from Adam Fitz Swein’s Arms – “Or, a lion rampant sable” (Rev. C. T. Pratt’s “Cawthorne”) and the crescents from their Crusader ancestor, William de Beaumont of 1200. In going to reside at Bretton in 1792, Colonel Thomas Richard Beaumont went to the place which had been in the possession of his forefathers at Domesday in 1086. In the “Domesday Book” of 1873, Mr Wentworth Blackett Beaumont of Bretton Hall is given as the possessor of 24,098 acres, with a rental of £34,670. The line of Beaumont’s at or near Huddersfield commenced, as has been said, with William de Beaumont’ of 1200 who as William Fitz Adam received the gift of, or was confirmed in land at Kexborough by Roger de Montbegan. This land may be included in “all other places” when William de Bretton was selling land to the Dronsfields. Roger de Montbegan’s son, John, enfeoffed the second William de Beaumont in land at Whitley. In 1218, this William was called upon to defend his claim to land in Quarmby which had been given to his father A.J. vol viii, 519 : it is said that this second William Beaumont married Alice de Quarmby A.J, vol. vii, 136. The third William de Beaumont had by Elizabeth…………., who was a widow in 1294, four sons, William, Richard, John and Adam : The third son as John de Beaumont was living in Lepton in 1297, (Record series, vol. xvi 90)     The eldest son, the fourth William de Beaumont, most probably married the daughter and heir of Richard of Foss Crosland, as he was in possession of property at Crosland in 1294-95 (A.J. vol. viii 503)     The list for Crosland does not, unfortunately, appear in the lay subsidy for 1297, 25 E. I. but the name appears in the Nomina Villarum of 1315 So there we have the initial link and, in addition, a link between the Brettons and the Beaumonts as well. They are both satisfying and whilst no “Brettons” have ever lived in the present Bretton Hall at least two distant relatives have, the Wentworths and now the Beaumonts from whom the present Lord Allandale, and the last owner who actually lived in Bretton Hall, sprang via the Blackett-Beaumonts.