The Manor of Stanbury
The Manor of Stanbury
After first dismissing the fraudulently “revived” manors or invented manors, genuine manors may be considered under two headings ~ those that are now only empty titles with little or no connection with the lands and churches and inhabitants on which manors were based historically, and those that, despite the legal separation of the manorial title from the manorial lands, still have an active manorial lord who possesses traditional rights and contributes to the life of his manor.
Stanbury, in Brontë country, settled in the Pennines amid the moors of West Yorkshire, is one of the latter. The Lord of the Manor there retains historic rights over pastures, feedings, wastes, warrens, commons, mines, minerals, quarries, furzes, trees, woods, underwoods, coppices and the ground and soil thereof, fishings, fowlings, etc, etc, etc. The manor extends to over 1,900 acres, has a known history from 1086, and shows traces of habitation stretching back to the Bronze Age.
The lands of the manor of Stanbury had an early strategic importance owed to its location astride the east-west route between the old castles of Clitheroe and Pontefract, key elements in the pacification of the north enforced by William the Conqueror, and influential factors throughout the turbulence of the mediaeval centuries. The manor lands were part of the honour of Pontefract held in 1086 by Ilbert de Lacy and descended to the heirs of that family until Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln died in 1311 and his only child, Alice, took them (together with the Earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury) to her husband Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster.
arms of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln
arms of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Henry de Lacy,
Lord of Pontefract and Earl of Lincoln
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Alice de Lacy became a helpless tool in the royal politics dedicated to destroying Thomas. In 1317 she was kidnapped, probably at the King’s instructions, by Sir Richard de St Martin who claimed he had been familiar with her before her marriage and was her true husband. Thomas rebelled, was defeated by the King at Boroughbridge, and was beheaded at Pontefract in 1322. Thomas’s brother Henry succeeded him as 3rd Earl of Lancaster and the Pontefract honour then continued in the Lancaster family until 1361 when Blanche, co-heiress of Henry de Grosmount, 4th Earl and 1st Duke of Lancaster took it to her husband, John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III.
arms of Henry, Earl of Lancaster
arms of John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt,
Duke of Lancaster
Henry, Earl of Lancaster
England then began the long period of conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. The eldest son of John of Gaunt usurped the throne from Richard II (murdered at Pontefract Castle) and reigned as Henry IV, the House of Lancaster then remaining in power until replaced by Edward IV of the House of York. The last Yorkist King, Richard III, was replaced by the first of the Tudors, Henry VII, great-great-grandson of John of Gaunt. During these years the great honour of Pontefract, a rich asset of the Crown, was slowly dismantled and the manor of Stanbury, so long part of the royal demesne, eventually had its rents bought in 1671 by Henry Marsden.
Royal arms of England arms of Benjamin Rawson
Benjamin Rawson
King Henry IV
In 1795 the descendants of Henry Marsden sold the manors of Stanbury and Bradford to Benjamin Rawson, and when in 1844 his granddaughter Frances Penelope Rawson (daughter of Thomas Rawson of Nidd Hall) married Henry, 13th Viscount Mountgarret, she took with her a family interest that led to her aunt in 1891 leaving to her husband and her son Henry, 14th Viscount, the great wealth of the Rawson family (then half a million pounds and 9,000 acres). Richard, 17th Viscount sold the manor of Stanbury in 1997 to its present owner, Tom Lee, who reactivated its Court Baron and engaged himself actively in the affairs of the manor and the welfare of its residents.
The arms of Henry 13th Viscount Mountgarret, Or a chief indented Azure and a crescent Gules for difference, clearly show the Mountgarrets to be a cadet branch of the famous Irish Butler family. His only son, the 14th Viscount quartered them with the arms of the Rawsons (see right), placing the latter most unusually in the 1st and 4th quarters. It is most probable that this unusual precedence given to the Rawson arms was a key condition of the legacy that brought the Rawson fortune to the family. It should be noted however that to the arms of Benjamin Rawson of Darley Hall (see above) three martlets have been added, but this may have been for his son Thomas Rawson of Nidd Hall.
arms of Viscount Mountgarret
14th Viscount Mountgarret
Brontë Parsonage Museum
Ponden Hall
The house where the Brontës lived ~
now the Brontë Parsonage Museum
Ponden Hall, regularly visited by the
Brontë sisters ~ and still a family home
A mile and a half east of the village of Stanbury lies the larger village of Haworth where the home of the Brontë sisters has now become the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Stanbury and Haworth have been linked since at least 1150 when the township of Haworth consisted of the hamlets of Stanbury and Haworth and two others, and in 1242 these supplied half the half-knight’s fee due from the valley of Bradford. Haworth today is an attractive centre for tourists seeking to experience the inspiration the area gave the Brontë sisters, and offers steam enthusiasts an opportunity to enjoy the nostalgia of the Keighley and Worth Valley preserved railway and its stock of old locomotives. Steam locomotive
Main Street, Haworth
Main Street,
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
The high moorland of the manor of Stanbury is, of course, directly connected with the Brontë sisters’ books, especially perhaps with Wuthering Heights, Top Withens being the original of Heathcliffe’s farmstead, and Jane Eyre. Ponden Hall, a listed Elizabethan farmhouse built in 1680 with a Georgian extension dated from 1801, situated on the Pennine Way within the manor boundaries, was much visited by the sisters. They spent many happy days in its library, and it became the model for Thrushcross Grange in Emily’s immortal novel. Here on these moors the visitor, and especially writers and artists, can imagine too the ghosts of the unforgettable characters in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and understand the inspiration that has made the Brontës world famous.
Top Withens
Top Withens in the Manor of Stanbury
Location of Stanbury
Obviously, not all manors can have histories as rich as Stanbury’s, but most manors do have a history, and that history may be brimming with half-forgotten incidents and memorable personalities capable of being rescued from oblivion by owners with a real interest in their manors. The preservation of those histories together with the improved welfare of their manor’s inhabitants through the modern use of Courts Baron should become the principal interests of manorial lords, and not the adoption of pretences to nobility as is regrettably so often the case.
Emily Brontë
Charlotte Brontë
author of Jane Eyre
Some of the photographs on this page appear by courtesy of and may not be used elsewhere without the express permission of the copyright holder.
The Baronage pages seldom recommend manorial lordships, but Stanbury is a fine example of what most buyers seek.
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