a wonderful insight into a truly inspirational place

Medieval Greasley and its People


Greasley parish lies one mile south of Hucknall in north-west Nottinghamshire, close to the Derbyshire border and 7 miles north-west by north of Nottingham.  In 1801 the manor of Greasley or Greasley Moor Green as it was known locally had 353 inhabitants.  Due to the prosperity of coal mining in the area, many pit houses were built, although not in the immediate vicinity and in 1853 the village still had only 360 inhabitants.[1] It is in this innocuous place that the ruins of Greasley Castle are situated, a fortified medieval manor house now incorporated into farm buildings and known as Greasley Castle Farm.  Close to the castle site lies Beauvale house, once the country seat of Earl Cowper, who owned a substantial part of the parish, Lamb Close House, residence of Lady Barber and up until the middle of the twentieth century, Watnall Hall the home of Sir Lancelot Rolleston.  For many years the gentry have sought seclusion in the area and during medieval times, it was home to Barons, Knights and Lords of the Manor. 


Greasley Castle Farm lies part way within a valley, sheltered to the north by a hillside.  The parish church of St Mary is positioned immediately to the west of the site and is on even higher ground. It is difficult to determine which came first, a church or manor house, but the rich resources around the castle site such as its eighteen springs, wood, coal, quarries, marl pits and good grazing land must have all contributed to the decision made by such important men to build their caput there. 


The caput or head manor was in existence in the dark ages and consisted of many small settlements each responsible for providing the manor with particular goods or services.  Greasley Manor would have been served by the hamlets of Newthorpe, Moorgreen, Kimberley, Watnall, Hempshill and Brinsley. The caput usually occupied the best land in the estate and Greasley was no exception to this rule, having the nearby resources earlier mentioned. The lord would have had his Hall and court held there and the site could have been anything from the size of a large farmstead to a considerable settlement. Often the multiple estates associated with a caput originated from the sites of iron-age territories or even during the Roman Occupation, early churches also evolved within this system, which could have been the provocation behind the inception of the church at Greasley.[2]

There is little or no documentary evidence to suggest what the area around the Greasley Castle Farm of today was like during Anglo-Saxon times. Rodolph Von Hube suggested that a great Thaine living nearby built the first church.[3] Domesday records confirmed that Greasley already had an established church with a priest by 1086. [4]


King William of England and Normandy sent out officials to establish the extent of his lands in 1085. The Domesday entry for Greasley in 1086 recorded that before the Norman Conquest Ulfi had two manors there, it is possible that this was the same Ulfi who held land at nearby Strelley, Sutton Passeys and recorded as Lord of Olaveston (Wollaton).[5] Information was given regarding only one of the manors at Greasley, which covered approximately one hundred and twenty acres.[6]  After the Norman Invasion the land was held by William Peverel who was the illegitimate son of William having fought alongside him in the Battle of Hastings. [7]  At this time one manor at Greasley had five villagers and two bordars having 3 ploughs. The villagers were a higher class of tied peasant; they held land, but also had to work on the lord’s land. Bordars were also tied peasants but they held very little or no land and tended to live in a cottage outside the main manor or on its border. Some cottages were purposely built on the edge of a manor as boundary markers. The other manor at Greasley was deemed as wasteland and Aylric held it from William Peverel.[8]

From Domesday entries it is easy to assume that all places mentioned were nucleated settlements, reminiscent of the classic Midlands pattern of peasant tofts grouped around a manor house and church. But the landscape of scattered farmsteads within their own fields was also an ancient pattern of settlement. And they were both equally important to the existence of communities throughout time. The prevalence of one type over another would be affected by the necessities of the population and society of the time.  If there was an absent lord of the manor, the population may become more dispersed; living where the best gains could be had.  If a lord was in residence then living within his immediate vicinity may hold greater benefits.


In the same year that Domesday was completed disaster struck England; there was a pestilence amongst the cattle and corn and other crops were left in the fields. Extreme thunder and lightening were reported to have killed many men, this adverse type of weather could have created Aylric’s wasteland or it may always have been barren land unfit for cultivation. [9]


The following year was also catastrophic: -


‘Such a disease came on men that nearly every other man had the worst illness – that is the fever, and that so severely that the men died from the illness.  Afterwards, through the great bad weather which came as we already told (see 1086) there came a great famine all over England, so that many hundreds of men died wretched deaths through the famine’.[10]


Less than forty years later times were still fraught for the people of Greasley; due to the rivalry between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda the country was subjected to a period of ‘soul harrowing’ destruction; pillage – murder – burning and the violation of women of all classes.[11] One ancient writer recorded that  “Thou mightest go a whole day’s journey and not find a man sitting peaceably in a town, or an acre of land, in cultivation”.[12]


In Castles of England, Sir James Mackenzie wrote that William de Grisely held the manor in 1140.[13] He commented that Thoroton described the site as a stronghold of the Grisely family founded in 1341 but neither the quote nor the date are correct since by 1261 the estate had already passed by marriage to the De Cantilupes although the request to fortify was made in 1340 but not by a member of the Greasley family.[14]


In 1154 William Peverel’s lands and possessions were seized by Henry II and the honour of Peverel was given to Baron Ranulph De Meschines, Earl of Chester part of which would have included the Manor of Greasley. [15]

At the beginning of the thirteenth century Greasley was held by one Ralph de Grasele who provided one knight’s fee for the honour of Peverel, which meant that one knights service would be provided for military duties to the Crown for forty days a year, in later years this was commuted to a fine.[16] Nearby, the smaller barony of Kirkby (in Ashfield), provided fifteen knights fees, which may give an indication of the lesser importance of the de Greasley family around this time.[17]


The first Greasley family member recorded with the Greasley name was Albert de Greslet (1050 -1100), son of Richard D’Avranches (1025 – 1066).[18] They were descended from the Kings of Austrasia, Burgundy and Visigoth in Dark Age Europe and came over with the Norman invasion, their lineage can be traced back to 410AD.[19]  According to contemporary sources Albert de Greslet was the 3 X Great Grandfather of Ralph de Greasley who married Isabella and was father of Agnes.[20]  Thoroton recorded that the de Gresleys were descended from another - Richardus de Grisele.[21] ‘Appearing in the Roll of Battle Abbey (Hastings, 1066) the family name first appears as 'Greile', in Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Greslet', and in various later documents as, Gressy, Greslé, Grylle, Grelly, Grelley, Greslai, Greseleye, Grisele, Greasley and Gresley’.[22]


Around the year 1215 Ralph de Greasley married Isabella heiress of Robert de Muskham, the Beauvale Cartulary incorrectly stated that Agnes was married to Ralph, she was in fact his daughter.  A document issued by King John in 1215 granting the manors of Ilkeston and Muschamp to Ralph and Isabella after the death of her father confirmed this.  It took four years for these manors and their appurtenances to be given to Ralph and Isabella, as they had an outstanding account of £100, which was owed to Phillip Marc, Sherriff of Nottingham, who was said to hold the estate in lieu of payment.[23] It is probable that at this time the de Greasley’s lived in a manor house near to the present farmhouse on the Greasley Castle site, a recent geophysical survey showed evidence of earlier structures on a nearby platform and in the tennis court and adjacent rough pasture.[24] The earliest structure may have been an aisled hall, built with a rubble base and

timber framed walls, typical of twelfth century halls such as at Hereford or with a stone shell similar to the halls at Leicester and Oakham.[25


The hall of the de Greasleys would have formed a focal point for the social and economical needs of the tenants. In the early days the family and servants would have dined and slept in the hall and it would have been a prominent feature in the landscape due to its high roof necessitated by its central hearth. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the fireplace superseded the central hearth, and by this time the lords of the manor of Greasley may have built an improved hall with a lower roof, upper room or solar and several living rooms.

 Parliamentary writs describe Ralph de Gresely or Gresel, as a faithful and discreet knight.  He was elected coroner of Nottinghamshire, resigning in 1226 being described as ‘languid’.[26]  In 1228, and still ‘languid’ he resigned his estates to his daughter Agnes and her husband Hugh Fitz Ralph.[27] Hugh was described as a ‘rebellious baron’ and Mackenzie stated that he held the honour of Peverel around the year 1215.[28] However, according to sources he would only have been around the age of thirteen in 1215 so this information seems incorrect.[29] Edwin Trueman and R. Westland Marston in the History of Ilkeston claimed Hugh was the son of Ralph of Wandersley, Lord of nearby Selston, who was a widower; his first wife being Idonea.[30] Hugh and Agnes had a son Hugh followed by a second son Raph in 1227.[31]  It was Raph’s daughter Eustachia who inherited the estates on the death of Hugh senior and a charter in the Dale Abbey Cartulary confirms that both his sons and wifes pre-deceased him.[32] He held the lands of the King in capite, a type of tenure offering either a knight’s service or socage in return. Socage was a fixed amount of money paid to the Crown at regular intervals. On 10th April 1251 Henry III granted Hugh Free Warren in all of his demesne lands in Gresele (as well as Muscamp and Elkesdon).[33] This was in effect a franchise, obtained from the crown granting rights to keep or kill beasts and game.[34] 


In 1261 the Greasley estate passed to Nicholas de Cantilupe, who was married to Eustachia, daughter of Ralph.[35] By this marriage Nicholas acquired not only Greasley which became the family seat from this time but estates at Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Middle Claydon in Buckinghamshire and Lavington, Kingthorpe and Withcall in Lincolnshire.[36] An inquisition concerning Hugh’s lands and tenements was held at Greasley on the Wednesday after Palm Sunday in the same year and attended by twelve local dignitaries such as Ranulf de Wandislley, Gilbert de Brunnislley and Thomas de Kinnerslley to name a few.[37] The manor of Greasley still held the service of one knight’s fee and was described as three carucates of land with a capital messuage (approximately 360 acres and a large house) and valued at £6 per annum.[38]  A further 60 oxgangs of land (750 acres) were held by villeins and valued at £15 per annum, the villeins were tied in tenancy to Hugh Fitz-Raph, they were deemed as his property and could not marry without his consent, everything they owned was his property and they worked Hugh’s 300 acres as well as their own.[39]  Free tenants paid 43s. 9d per annum and also one pound of pepper and another of cummin.[40] These were spices used in cooking that helped to regulate the body’s balance.[41] A further fourteen cottagers paid twelve pence per annum and the rest of the manor was made up of a windmill (26s. 8d. per annum), a dovehouse (2s. per annum), pasture and wood (7s. 4d.) and the advowson of the church (worth £13 6s. 8d. to the Rector).[42]  The windmill may have been situated near to the manor house as the site is enclosed by hills on two sides. Windmills were believed to have been introduced to England from Europe by the returning knights from the First Crusade.[43] Greasley’s windmill would have belonged to Nicholas de Cantilupe and his tenants were obliged to grind their corn there at a fixed rate, which was around 1/16 of the corn grown on the estate.  Nicholas was required to provide enough windmills to meet the needs of his people and as there was only one windmill for the parish it may be assumed that their needs were not that great.  The Dovecote was also a relative newcomer; the Normans introduced it in the eleventh century.  During the medieval period dovehouses played an important part in the domestic economy of the manor and were usually situated close to the manor house. In winter they provided fresh meat and eggs for the lord’s household and throughout the year the bird droppings were used as fertiliser. The whole estate in 1216 was valued at £26 13s. 1d.[44] One interesting point to note is that there was no mention of the fishponds at Greasley in any documentation, fishponds were also used for white meat during winter and would have been an important feature of the site, as was the dovehouse. By the middle of the thirteenth century running a manor was more of a profession than in years previous.  To the lord of the manor it was one of his main sources of income in a thriving community, in order to flourish he had to ensure that his estate produced an excess of goods.[45] This duty was usually assigned to a steward who would oversee all other workers to ensure maximum potential. There is no mention of a steward at Greasley, at this time but the exceedingly large fishponds there may be an indication of creating a surplus stock for a ready market and are conspicuous by their absence in documentary evidence.


Nicholas came from a noteworthy family, which stood well within the favours of both King John and Henry III.[46] His father William, (described as an evil Baron), was King John’s Steward and also Sheriff of Leicester, Warwick, Worcester and Hereford. His brother William was guardian of the nation in the king’s absence in 1242.[47] Other notable members were his nephew Thomas (son of William) who was the Bishop of Hereford and Lord Chancellor of England and another brother - Walter, who was the Bishop of Worcester.[48] Thomas became the last Englishman to be Canonised thenceforth known as Saint Thomas and his shrine in Hereford Cathedral attracted as many pilgrims as that of Thomas á Becket and performed as many miracles.[49] Both Thomas and Walter were personal friends of Simon de Montfort, (Earl of Leicester and brother in law of Henry III).[50]  They were leaders in the movement against King Henry (III) and his son Edward (I) who were defeated and captured at Lewes in Sussex which resulted in the meeting of the first English Parliament.[51] 


Nicholas continued the Cantilupe dynasty when in 1262 his son William was born at Lenton priory in Nottinghamshire.  It is unclear why Eustachia should be staying at Lenton Priory at this time and not at their nearby manors of Greasley or Ilkeston, it had been suggested that she was taking refuge there whilst her husband was at arms with Gilbert de Gaunt against the King who had at that time broken the provisions of the Magna Carta.[52] One further hypothesis was that she was staying at the priory whilst repair work was being carried out at her home.[53]

Nicholas was not lord of the manor of Greasley for long, having attained it in 1261, by 1267 he was recorded as deceased.[54] As a supporter of Simon de Montfort, it is possible that Nicholas was killed alongside him at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. In 1275 jurors at Wythecall in Lincolnshire said that in 1267 “a royal official had emptied the fish pond there, and carried away the fish, thereby damaging the estate to the value of 10s. The villa being at that time in the hands of King Henry III "because of the death of Nicholas de Cantilupe." [55] It was subsequently held in guardianship for his son and heir William who was only five or six years old.[56]


Eustachia, widow of Nicholas courted her own type of danger; as a tenant of a feudal lord, her ‘marriage’ was owned by him - this favour was given to Alan Plunkenet by the king. [57] Sometime before 1272, Eustachia chose her own husband and married William de Roos or Ros, a distant relative; as a penalty William had to pay £133 to Alan Plunkenet with the King as witness.[58]


The estate at Greasley was handed over to William de Cantilupe sometime around 1283, when he reached the age of 21. On 20th July 1283 King Edward, working on the English/Welsh alliance sent orders to the Sheriff of Nottingham to arrange an inquiry of ‘twelve free and law-worthy men of the neighbourhood of Lenton’.[59]  These men confirmed that William was indeed baptised at the church at Lenton Abbey and was of full age.[60]


As Lord of the manor Of Greasley William was part of the assemblage that travelled to Scotland in 1291 with Edward I.[61] The Scottish king Alexander III had died in 1286 after crossing the river Forth to Fife at Queensferry.[62]

Alexander’s grand-daughter Margaret, the Maid of Norway was to be married to Edwards son (Edward II) which would have united both England and Scotland but Margaret’s untimely death in the same year on the voyage to Scotland from her home in Norway left the Scottish throne vacant.[63]  This caused disputes amongst the Scottish nobles and they asked Edward to mediate.  From May to July of 1291 Edward conversed with the claimants which included Robert the Bruce and John Balliol (a distant relation of Alexander).[64] In 1292 Edward chose Balliol as the new king and by this act Scotland came under English control.  In 1293 William de Roos was ordered to muster arms at Nottingham and accompanied King Edward I to Scotland to fight Sir William Wallace and in 1300 William de Cantilupe sent a tenth part of a knight to help King Edward in his final quest to conquer Scotland.[65]


William de Cantilupe held the manor of Greaseley from William de Roos who held it from the Crown; in 1308 an Inquisition regarding Greasley was held at Northampton on 6 August 1308 and stated that Sir William de Roos held the manor for life on behalf of the inheritor of Eustachia (stated as William his son), to the Honour of Peverel, there was now a service of 1/2 knights fee and the manor of Greasley was valued at £20.[66]

 William de Cantilupe married twice; his first wife Matilda died in 1290 and he married his second wife Eva de Boltby in 1292.[67]  On his marriage to Eva, William added the manors of Ravensthorpe, Boltby and Thirlby in Yorkshire to his family’s lands.[68]

An inquisition was made at Nottingham in February 1306 to see whether anyone would be affected if William de Cantilupo gave 13 s. 4d. worth of rent in Greasley to Hugh de Cressi, the parson of Greasley church.[69]  The money was spent on 2 wax torches weighing twelve pounds for de Cressi and his successors to burn in Greasley church at the elevation of the host every day.[70] At this time the inquisition stated that William held the manor direct from the King in chief and provided one knight’s fee by knight’s service and he did suit at the Court and Honour of the liberty of Peverel every three weeks.[71]  William was able to ‘buy out’ of the knight’s fee for the sum of 40 s. each request.[72]


William was closely associated with the Crown which was evident in 1307 when, due to the death of King Edward I, his presence and counsel were required along with other noblemen to discuss Edwards burial and the new kings coronation.[73] The following year he was summonsed by the king himself to attend his coronation. In 1308 Edward married the French Princess Isabella who went on to become the lover of Roger Mortimer after the king’s death. Trueman and Marston reported that during this visit de Cantilupe was abhorred by the caresses between the heir to the throne and a French dandy called Piers Gaveston, this dandy then went on to unhorse four barons in a tournament; one being de Cantilupes cousin the Earl of Pembroke.[74] William was not the only baron who was dissatisfied with the King and Gaveston, Edward did not have his father’s military expertise nor was he as politically minded.   Many of his father’s strongholds were lost, places that great men had given their lives for, this created discontented barons, who particularly objected to Gaveston's control over Edward.[75]


Edward II also requested William’s aid in August 1308 to meet at Carlisle with ‘horses and arms and all the services you owe to us, in order to march thence against Robert de Brus and his accomplices and favourers’.[76] As William died in 1308, it is possible that he died during this meeting, perhaps fighting in a minor skirmish under the Earl of Pembroke to whom he was related by marriage.[77]


On his death William’s estates reverted back to his stepfather, William de Ros, under a law called the ‘Courtesy of England’; the estate belonged to William de Ros as Eustachias husband.[78] An inquest held at Ilkeston on September 15th 1308 stated that Williams son William was the next heir and was fifteen years of age.[79]


Forty days later an order was sent to royal officers ‘not to intermeddle with the manors of Ilkeston and Greasley.’[80]  They had been taken into the kings hands due to William de Cantelupes death, as he had held them from William de Ros, on gaining his majority, William de Cantelupe, the younger would receive the lands back from the king, unless he died before de Ros, then the lands would revert back to him.[81]  William de Ros died in 1310 and the lands were kept by the Crown until William de Cantilupe reached the age of 21 years.[82]


William followed in his father’s footsteps; in 1312 it is probable that he marched with the Earl of Lancaster under the Duke of Pembroke against Edward and Gaveston, the latter was captured at Scarborough castle and beheaded.[83] The Earl of Pembroke had tried to prevent the death of Peter Gaveston but found himself without support.[84] The following year, William along with many others, begged forgiveness from the king and was granted it.[85] In 1314 Pembroke was also at the Battle of Bannockburn supporting Edward II and it is probable that William was a participant.[86]


After turning down two offers of marriage, William received his estates sometime before 1315 as a tenth part of a knight’s fee was requested of him from the king.[87] In 1321 he gave the manor of Greasley to his brother Nicholas and an inquisition was held to determine whether this transaction would affect the crown in any way, which it did not.  Local men such as Richard the baker of Watnowe, John Arnald of Newthorp and Robert of Lenton took an oath to confirm this.  The manor of Grealsey was valued at £6 13s. 4d., the church, £23 6s. 8d.  This transference of ownership could have been due to influences from the ongoing feud between the king and the Earl of Lancaster.  In 1322, the king marched against Lancaster, many men were killed during localised skirmishes in Burton upon Trent and Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, and the Earl was captured and hung, drawn and quartered along with 28 of his knights.[88] It is possible that William de Cantilupe died during this occurrence, as there is no more heard of him.


In 1322, Williams brother, Nicholas de Cantilupe was described as an esquire and in the assemblage of Aymer de Valence, Earl of pembroke, by 1323 he was described as a ‘man at arms in the county of Derby’, this may suggest that he had also acquired the manor of Ilkeston by this time as Greasley is in Nottinghamshire.[89]  Nicholas had gained his military experience fighting the Scots with Edward II in 1319 aged 19 years.[90] In 1326, the same year that Edward III became keeper of the Realm, Nicholas de Cantilupe was knighted and became the third Lord of Greasley, Ilkeston and other manors in Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, having put it off for two years.[91] Truman and Marston suggest that this was because he was short of money, however, the decision may have been influenced by his late father’s opposition to Edward II.


The process of knighthood was a lengthy procedure, which entailed many symbolic gestures to represent the states of life and death.[92] Nicholas, knighted on 19 April 1326 would have purchased a scarlet robe; a symbol of the blood he was prepared to shed for the ‘service of his faith’, a cloak of fine linen; which along with taking a bath symbolised the purity of his acts and thoughts, and a black cloak to signify that death was waiting for him. It is possible that there was opposition to his authority in some of his new manors for in July of the same year that Nicholas became lord of the manor of Withcall in Lincolnshire, he and his men were accused of assault there.[93] 


Under Edward III, Nicholas was able to gain his reputation as a ‘faithful and discreet knight’. With each campaign or battle that he fought it, it is probable that men from Greasley would have formed part of his men-at-arms. Edward was proclaimed king on 24 January 1327, but was not granted full power until a coup in 1330, the country at that time being under the influence of Roger Mortimer, Queen Isabellas lover.[94]  Less than one year later in 1328 Edward was married to Phillipa of Hainault, Edward was sixteen years old, his bride thirteen.[95]


Marriage at a young age was beneficial in an age of war; Mortimer made an attempt for lasting peace with the Scots by betrothing the Bruce’s four-year-old son David to Isabella’s seven-year-old daughter Joan.[96]  The country was said to be outraged, as was Edward who did not sign the treaty, he called it a ‘shameful peace’ and David’s ‘bride’ was known as ‘Joan Make-Peace’.[97] When Edward gained full command of England, he turned a blind eye to the invasion of Scotland by the ‘disposessed magnates’ and when Edward Balliol was crowned king of Scotland in 1332 he sealed an agreement with Edward III giving Scotland as a ‘fief’ of England.[98] Balliols succession to the throne was did not last long and Edward and his knights including Nicholas de Cantilupe under Lord John Beaumont rode up to besiege and take Berwick, at that time a Scottish stronghold[99]. Nicholas fought well during this battle and distinguished himself so much that Edward made him the governor of Berwick Castle in 1335.[100]


Patent Rolls show that in 1329-30, Nicholas de Cantilupe was in France or Flanders under letters of protection from the king: -

‘Nicholas de Cantilupe, who has departed to parts beyond the sea with the kings leave, has letters of attorney from the lord king, under the names of William Parson of the Church of Ilkeston and John de Monte, to last for three years, &c.’[101]


In the same year royal commissioners came to Nottingham to check upon the validity of various landowners, the inquiry into his manor at Ilkeston showed how local people lived at the time; the tradition of infangenthef (a privilege of lords to judge any thief taken within their fee) and outfangenthef (a liberty, whereby a lord was enabled to apprehend any man, from his manor who had committed a crime beyond the boundaries of his estate) were in operation.[102] At Ilkeston there was an annual fair and a weekly market, both latter traditions are still held to this present day.[103] An enquiry was also held regarding Greasley, here the jurors confirmed that Nicholas ‘had the right to all that he claimed there and that he had used it well’.[104]


Nicholas continued in the king’s service; he played a key role in restoring order to the north-east midlands and continually travelled between England and Scotland to carry out his military and judicial duties.[105]  In 1335 under his judicial authority he tried the monks of Thurgaton priory for assaulting John de Oxford from Owthorpe and carrying away his goods.[106] In 1336 he was ordered to arrest Hugh de Freyne who had broken into the castle of Bolinbroke and carried off his ‘aged’ lover Alice, Countess of Lincoln, who was over sixty years of age. [107] Alice was also arrested, having taken a vow of chastity on her late husband’s death.[108] In this same year Nicholas was summoned to parliament for the first time.[109]


As the Hundred Years war progressed Nicholas made many journeys to the continent; in July 1338 he was in Antwerp with the Earl of Derby and in November he was there with King Edward III.[110] In 1339 Nicholas, dressed as a pilgrim under the pretence of a ‘holy pilgrimage’ along with John Beaumont and five other ‘pilgrims’ took a journey to Stirling Castle in Scotland to spy upon the enemy, their journey home was frought with many duels and tournaments, fortunately Nicholas remained unscathed.[111]


Nicholas was held in high regard by King Edward; one Royal visit to France reported that the king was accompanied only by the Earl of Northampton and Lord Cantilupe, during the voyage the king was sea-sick and his head was held throughout by one of them.[112] During this journey the king had left his wife with the French as security, the king was reported to have been in ‘very bad humour’ during this journey and on returning to England he threw most of his ministers into prison.[113] This may be associated with a commission in December 1340 overseen by Nicholas whose duty it was to hear and determine ‘the felonies, trespassers and excesses’ of the king’s ministers.[114]


It was around this time that Nicholas was granted permission to fortify his manor house at Greasley, which was from then onwards, known as Greasley Castle.[115] ‘Licence to Nicholas de Cantilupe to crenellate his dwelling place of Gryseleye co. Notts’.[116]This may have been more to do with status rather than defence, although it could be argued that during his many visits to war torn Scotland and his defence of Northern England against the Scots in Yorkshire had influenced the decision to fortify his home. Herbert Green suggested that de Cantilupe was emulating Roger de Busli and his castle at Tickhill, Henry de Ferrers with his castle and monastery at Tutbury and even the king with his great castle at Nottingham.[117] However, in 1366 a very real threat came to the de Cantilupe family at their home in Greasley, when Ralph Paynel,  ‘chivalier’ and others broke into his castle at Greasley, ravished his grandson’s wife Katherine and abducted her and many items from his home.[118] The same Ralph Paynel was accused of a similar occurrence in 1374 when he was accused of assaulting and threatening to kill a man.[119]


In 1341 Nicholas (3rd Lord) was in France supporting the King and John de Montfort who lay claim to the Dukedom of Brittany, Truman and Marston record him as the instigator of a three year truce between de Montfort and the King of France, unfortunately, this never came into fruition.[120] In the same year NIcholas supported the king in his quarrel with the Archbishop of Cantebury.[121]


Nicholas may have offered thanks to the Lord God for his safe return from each dire journey that he undertook and his appreciation was shown; he founded the Cantilupe Chantry at Lincoln ‘for the support of three chaplains…. to celebrate in the cathedral church at the altar of St Nicholas for the good estate of the said Nicholas and Joan his consort’.[122] In 1343 he asked the King’s permission to build a priory in his park at Greasley.[123] This was duly granted and he assigned ‘ten pounds worth of lands and rents per annum with appurtenances in the towns of Greseleye and Seleston’.[124] A prior and twelve monks of the Carthusian order were now tenants in chief of the king and were allowed to ‘appropriate to themselves the churches of the aforesaid towns’.[125] The testimony for this transaction was given at Greseley on the December 9 1343 and Nicholas de Cantilupes newly adapted ‘castle’ would probably have hosted a grand banquet in celebration of his even further advancing status.  Lords who were at Greseleye on this momentous occasion were Richard de Wylliby, Robert de Strelley, Willaim de Grey, John de Dunesleye and knights Hugh Martell, John Attecople, Willam danvers and many others.[126] Thoroton also named the Archbishop of York in attendance along with the bishops of Durham, Lincoln and Litchfield and the Earls of Derby, Northampton and Huntingdon and Nicholas’s son William and grandson Nicholas.[127]  The extensive fishponds at Greasley would have been put to good use on this occasion, supplying white meat for the banquet table, as it was December.


According to Partington, in January 1346 Nicholas de Cantilupe was reported to be seriously ill and was excused from public duties, this meant that he would not have fought at the chivalrous Battle of Crécy as recorded by Truman and Marston.[128] Fortunately by October 1346, he had recovered enough to take part in judicial duties.[129]


The reign of Edward III was a true age of chivalry, he was inspired by the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table and glamorised many celebrations with pomp and ceremony, dancing girls and grand feasts. Could this be part of what influenced Nicholas’s grand gestures and elite lifestyle? Edward created the Order of the Garter and had a round table built.[130]  The first meeting was held here after a knight’s tournament in 1344.[131]  The table continued to be used by Edward and his knights to celebrate the military successes in the Hundred Years War.[132] In 1348 Edward held the first ceremony of the Order of the Garter at Windsor castle, his ‘new Camelot’.[133]


Nicholas may have been caught up in the fervour of chivalry instigating acts of generousness, it is in this same year that he bestowed a generous gift upon his abbey at Beauvale.  It is from the inquisition taken at Brokustowe on 9 August 1347 to see if the gift would be in the king’s hurt that we get a sense of what Greasley and its people were like.


‘The King grants to his trusty and well-beloved, Nicholas de Cantilupe, that he be able to give and assign to the King’s well beloved in Christ the Prior and Convent of Beauvale, 5 messuages, a windmill, and 40 acres of land in Greasley and Watnowe’.[134]


Sixteen bondmen and women of Watnowe were assigned to the priory including all of their chattels and offspring, also 32 solidates (shillings worth of land) and 12 denariates (pennies worth) of rents in Selston and 2 solidates and 4 denariates in Greasley, which a Richard le Tornur rendered. John le Mogher rendered 12 denariates of rent in Greasley.[135] Several other parts of Selston and Watnowe were gifted and also


‘a messuage and six acres of land in the vill of Gresleye, on the North side of the castle, which William de Beaurepayr holds for life of Nicholas, and which should revert to Nicholas and his heirs; and a messuage and five acres and one rood of land on the North side of the castle, which William de Worthyngton and Agnes his wife held for the life of Agnes, and which should revert to Nicholas and his heirs’.


The total amount of the gift was valued at 10L. a year.[136]


In the late summer of 1348 catastrophe struck – the Bubonic plague arrived at Melcombe Regis in Dorset and by wintertime it had spread to London and started to make its way up through Leicester to York.[137] Historians disagree on the devastation, some claim half of the population died others put the number as high as nine out of ten people.  Despite these calculations it is probable the Greasley people mentioned earlier were eventually affected by this disaster although there is no evidence at the time of the inquisition.


After Nicholas’s gift he still held 20 librates of land and rent in Greasley, held from the King in chief, which amounted to approximately 1000 acres (one librate equals fifty acres).[138] This inquisition shows how Greasley was made up around the year 1347-8; divided into smallholdings of around half an acre to forty acres in size. Earlier we have seen in the gift to Beauvale Priory, Greasley was referred to as a Vill, which does not necessarily mean a ‘village’.  A typical township, would be a nucleated village or hamlet settlement, with three general elements; the village, farmland and moorland waste or common land, however township communities could also live in dispersed farmsteads although in all instances permanent settlement was crucial for the community of a township to exist. In the mid-thirteenth century Henry de Bracton, a lawyer characterised a township: -

"If a person should build a single edifice in the fields, there will not be a vill, but when in the process of time several edifices have begun to be built adjoining to or neighbouring to one another, there begins to be a vill." [139]


It is probable that there were houses on the castle site during the medieval period, even though there is no documentary evidence to support this theory. A land valuation dated in 1612 recorded that at Greasley Castle were Ellis Bateman’s house, Good closes house, Mr Bakers house close and houses, by the orchard.[140] As the valuation was for Greasley Castle alone and not the parish of Greasley it may be surmised that the recorder of the document referred only to the immediate vicinity of the castle site, probably around 120 acres. The following 1846 map shows the proximity of the orchard to the existing Georgian house and castle ruins. This would place a small settlement within the castle boundary that continued as late as the early seventeenth century.  The geophysical survey included in this monograph may support this theory.


A murder near to the castle in 1512 may also confirm this theory: -


On 6 April Peter Harden late of Greasley Castle ‘yoman’ and Thomas Harden of Greasley Castle, ‘laborer’, lay in wait in the field of Newthorpe and assaulted and beat Peter Shaw late of Watnall at Moor Green  where they found him.  Peter Harden gave him mortal wounds in four parts of his head with a staff worth 2d., while Thomas held him in his arms so that he could not move. Peter Harden also struck him in the throat with a dagger worth 12d., giving him a great wound  3 inches long, 2 inches wide and a foot deep, of which he died. Thus Peter and Thomas Harden feloniously murdered him, and immediately afterwards they fled upon horses as felons about 7pm. Joan wife of Peter Harden late of Greasley Castle, ‘huswif’, on divers occasions feloniously encouraged and abetted her husband in the commission of the murder.[141]


Peter and Thomas Harden were outlawed as a result of this act but the information here confirms that there were ‘ordinary’ people living at Greasley Castle. It is probable that they lived in or at the site of one of the houses mentioned in the 1612 document rather than the castle itself.


In 1341 Nicholas had married Joan de Kyme daughter of Sir Humphrey de Littlebirs, widow of William, Baron of Kyme in Lincolnshire, Nicholas himself was a widower, his first wife Typhonia having previously died.[142]  Similarly to Eustachia and William de Ros, the marriage between Nicholas de Cantilupe and Joan appeared to have been brought into question as they were closely related ‘within the fourth degree of kindred’.[143] Pope Clement VI wrote to the Bishop of Lincoln in 1342 ordering him to allow them to be considered married as they were ignorant at the time that they were so closely related.[144]

The head above is set into the wall of the current Greasley farmhouse built circa 1800, its headwear is reminiscent of fashions during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) during his reign, men wore hats over their hoods, could this be the image of Nicholas de Cantilupe, third Lord of Greasley?


This female head is set alongside the male and despite its worn appearance could possibly be in the style of a Tressour Crispinette, dated to the time of Edward III, differing from the Crispinette by its taller sweeping fillet. Could this be Typhonia or Joan de Kyme?


In 1342 Nicholas and Joan visited their manor at Ilkeston, but arrived separately.[145] Their steward at Ilkeston would have prepared the house for their arrival, he was a man named de Loscow, and his deputy steward was called Hugh de Muskham at this time also the parson of the church at Greasley was named as William de Loscoe, perhaps a relative of the steward.[146] The expenses for Joan and her family (which would have included her personal attendants) for the journey from Greasley to Ilkeston included 4d. for beer, 2d., for bread, 1d for eggs and they also ate three chickens.[147] Whilst the de Cantilupes stayed at Ilkeston they ate eleven capons, (2 ½ d. each), cheese, oatmeal (1s.) and a fowl (2 ½ d). The total expenses for their stay was 18s. 8d.[148]


Records indicate that Nicholas was involved in an array of matters; in 1347 he and Joan brought an action to recover property that were part of Joan’s dowry and again in 1351, Nicholas brought an action against John Sleight, knight.[149]  Sleight held lands of Nicholas by military service and did not give his son William’s service when requested. In 1349 Nicholas hosted at the translation of the relics of St Thomas of Hereford, a sermon celebrating his relative Thomas de Cantilupe in the town of Hereford and in 1352, he was commissioned to protect the countries sea defences from the French on the East Coast.[150]


After a varied and important life, Nicholas died on 31st July 1355, he was around 54 years of age, Richard Partington suggests that Nicholas de Cantilupe ‘forged a career on the basis of his ability, his intimacy with Edward III, and the trust placed in him as a regional lieutenant’.[151]

An enquiry into his lands was held in Sandiacre in November 1356, which showed that Nicholas held no lands at all in Derbyshire at his death.[152]  Long before his death he had conveyed them to John de Lysens, knight, Thomas of Newmarket, Knight, and Hugh de Cressy and others (possibly trustees).  His son William was named as heir and was recorded as over thirty years of age, William had two sons, named Nicholas and William.[153]


William was not to inherit directly from his father, he was Nicholas’s son from his first marriage to Typhonia, and Nicholas excluded him from inheriting before he died.[154] Nicholas left his lands at Greasley, Ilkeston, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire in the hands of trustees who settled the estates on his wife Joan, on her death they were to go to Nicholas the grandson.[155] The rest of the manors in Yorkshire he settled on a fine of himself and Joan and heirs of their bodies but as there were none they were settled upon William the younger grandson on Joan’s Death.[156] William (Nicholas’s son) was only to inherit if all of the above named died without heirs although he did try to gain them earlier; in 1356-7 Joan was at the Derby assize court trying to recuperate lands in Ilkeston from William de Cantilupe, Raph Fauconberg and others.[157]  A document was produced signed by Joan under the name of Joan de Kym, which released the lands to them; Joan denied all knowledge of the act and regained the manor of Ilkeston.[158] In the same year Joan was once again in court, at the Nottingham assizes where she managed to reclaim Greasley Castle, thirteen messuages, three carucates of land (360 acres), twenty acres of meadow, two hundred of pasture, one thousand of wood and 10 L. rent.  William de Cantilupe, Fauconberg and the rest were amerced, (paid a fine rather than go to prison).[159]


In 1358 Joan applied for a licence to found a chantry chapel at St Peters Lincoln with accommodation for five chaplains who would pray for the souls of her and her late husband Nicholas.[160] This was eventually moved to the cathedral church of St Marys where (after her death in 1363) both she and Nicholas were buried.[161] After her death the manor of Greasley was passed on to Nicholas’s grandson Nicholas de Cantilupe (son of William).[162] Nicholas was married to Katherine and it was she who was abducted by Ralph Paynel ‘chivalier’ and ravished by him at Greasley Castle in 1366.[163] A Commission was set up to investigate the misdemeanour but either the documents associated with it are long lost or the investigation was cancelled.  It is difficult to determine the nature of Katherine’s character or whether she was a willing participant in this escapade. Nicholas died five years later in 1371 aged 29 and was at Avignon, possibly serving with the Earl of Pembroke who continued to fight in France during the Hundred Years War, the same year his brother William was serving in the king’s service in Aquitaine.[164] On her husband’s death Sir John Auncell another ‘chivalier’ and Katherine claimed the manors belonged to them in joint ‘feoffment’, William, home from France produced a deed showing his legal rights to the manors and claimed his rightful place as lord of the manor of Greasley and Ilkeston amongst others.[165] Katherine and John were married almost immediately after the death of Nicholas and like Ralph Paynel before him, Auncell had somewhat of a dubious character; in 1375 he was tried at the Kings Bench in Lincoln for rape and other various

assaults.[166]He was acquitted of all charges but this verdict was believed to be due to his influential positioning rather that his innocence.[167]