Posts Tagged ‘Wellow’

Two Fortified Manor Houses in Northern England

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

During Henry III’s reign two fortified and moated manor houses belonging to the Foliot family of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire played a small part in national affairs, and I have been able this summer to visit both of them and take the photographs displayed here.  It seems that they were of the kind classified by archaeologists as ‘ring works’, illustrated in the reconstruction of the one at Grimston, Notts made by Ray Straw for a publication issued by Nottinghamshire County Council in 2008.  This was the subject of one of the project’s Fines of the Month, the one for February 2009, which can be read elsewhere on this site.  It lies on the cattle farm of Sydney and Janet Carr at Wellow, near the site of the lost village of Grimston, which stood on a nearby hill in what is now the parish of Wellow.  It was built, or at least renewed, following the inheritance of the manor by the Yorkshire knight Jordan Foliot, who had served in the armies of King John during the later years of his reign.  It came to him in 1225 as part of his share of the property of his deceased uncle, Robert Bardolf.  The young Henry III and his advisors spent several nights in the manor house during 1227, 1228 and 1229, when travelling to or returning from visits to counties further north; at the time his chamber at his nearby ‘palace’ at Clipstone, a favourite hunting lodge of Henry II and John, and where the monarch usually stayed when visiting the area, was in a state of disrepair.  Among the rewards for these acts of hospitality was a grant to Jordan of a buck and eight does to stock the park he was then creating at Grimston to the north of the manor house.  Later, after Jordan’s death in 1236, the king allowed his son and heir Richard Foliot, still well under the age of 21, to inherit his father’s property immediately, allowing him to avoid the inconvenience and dangers of a long minority.  In 1252 Richard acquired from the king a charter of free warren, granting him control of hunting of the beasts of the warren on both his Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire manors.  He enjoyed his estates until his death in 1299, and in 1264, in return for his renewed adherence to the king’s cause after earlier siding with the rebels, he was granted licence to enclose the manor house at Grimston with a ditch and wall of stone and lime, and to fortify and crenellate it.  The site was later, and still is, called Jordan Castle, and the Carrs’ farm as Jordan Castle Farm.

On a lovely sunny evening in May I was invited by Sydney and Janet to tour the farm at Wellow in the company of a group of visitors from the neighbouring village of Laxton, famous for the survival of its medieval open fields.  I gave a brief talk about the manor house as part of the tour.  In August my family and I made a return visit to Fenwick, in an area of southern Yorkshire north-east of Doncaster, and not far from the former mining village of Askern, to photograph the remains of what I believe to be the original manor house of this branch of the Foliot family, and the home of Jordan Foliot before he inherited Grimston.  We had been to Fenwick before, many years before, and were given to believe that the Foliot manor house there had been on what was then the site of an old hall in the village, in a very dangerous state of disrepair and then in use as a chicken run.  Dissatisfied with this, over a long period I wished to return to have another look, and eventually came to the conclusion that a moated site marked on the map, in a corner of the parish of Fenwick a couple a miles to the south-east of the village itself, might be the right place, an opinion confirmed by its appearance on the relevant aerial photograph on Google Earth.  We were fortunate that we arrived just after the crop that had been sown in the field was harvested, because most of what was there would have been effectively concealed a few days earlier.  The site was somewhat flatter than the slightly undulating one at Grimston, but included a well-defined, roughly-rectangular moat that can be seen in the illustration.  Its relative angularity may make it inaccurate to describe it as a ringwork in the usual sense, and on a single occasion in 1272, when the sheriff of Yorkshire was ordered to seize it because Richard Foliot had harboured some notorious criminals there, it was described as a castle.  I am now happy that the twelfth-century home of the Foliot family of Fenwick, Norton and Stubbs in Yorkshire has, at last, been correctly identified.

Jordan Castle Farm, Wellow, Notts

Fenwick, Yorks