Burton in Lonsdale in the late medieval period

Tony Stephens and Susan Gregory
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 


Burton in Lonsdale is a small township in North Craven which had some unusual administration and land management arrangements in the late medieval period. These appear to have had a significant effect on the character of the township and its development in later centuries. Not only were the lords of the manor never resident in Burton, but the largest freeholders were also non- resident and were surprisingly important military men and administrators, both at county and national level. Administrative and land management arrangements seem to have changed little as Burton entered the early modern period, and it will be suggested that records from the 16th and 17th centuries therefore provide a useful basis for interpreting documents of earlier centuries.

Late medieval records

The earliest documentary reference to Burton is in the Domesday book, which tells us that the township was in the holding of Tostig, Earl of Northumberland, and was a subsidiary vill of Whittington in the Lune valley. Under the Normans, a castle was built at Burton to support a newly established castle at Carlisle. Burton castle never appears to have been called upon to fulfil an important military role, the only surviving record of its manning being in 1130, when the garrison comprised a contract knight, 10 sergeants, a porter and a night watchman (SGL).

The powerful de Mowbray family held Burton in Lonsdale throughout most of the late medieval period and the Earls of Derby thereafter until the 18th century. The de Mowbrays were required to raise a fighting force of around 100 knights for the king. Settling this number of knights on their lands however left the de Mowbrays with relatively little land for themselves, and Burton in Lonsdale was one of only seven demesne estates they held from the 12th to 14th centuries (Greenwood 1972). As with other de Mowbray demesne estates with a castle (Thirsk and Kirkby Malzeard), Burton was chosen as the place from which the de Mowbray estates in the area were administered. It was from Burton that the 300 square kilometre estate known as the Burton chase was controlled, an estate which stretched from the Bowland Fells to the Wensleydale watershed. While Burton castle may never have been militarily significant, it seems to have had a lasting influence on the structure of the township’s landholdings through being the location from which the chase was administered. An inquisition during the reign of Edward I into the administration of the Burton chase under Roger de Mowbray (English 1996) reveals a degree of maladministration, with the condoning of extortion by officials on residents. Another inquisition (NA C133 84(8)) carried out after the death of Roger de Mowbray in 1298 is one of the most informative Burton sources, particularly when it is considered in the context of later documents.

‘The manor (extent given), including three little assarts upon Aldeburton and Burton Wra, plots by Bounebeck, a meadow called Langestaymyre, a vaccary called Apeltrechnay, a free court and another for villeins etc., held by the king in chief, as member of the baroney of Thresk, by service of doing suit at the king’s wapentake of Youcros every three weeks, and rendering 46s 8d yearly for his free tenants for wapentake fine to the king, to the sheriff of Yorks or his bailiff of Youcross. And he gave by charter to John de Creppinges and his heirs 20 rodales of land of the said manor, each worth 6s 8d yearly, and a plot of land called Kenilbouttes; to Nicholas Youckflet and his heirs 10 rodales and a plot of land and a vaccary; to John de Rypon and his heirs a culture of land upon Ulfesbergh. Heir is 12 and more at the feast of the Assumption 25 EdwI’

This inquisition suggests that, by 1298, the de Mowbrays no longer needed all their demesne land in Burton and had given much of it by charter to John de Crepping, Nicholas Youckflet and John de Rypon. John de Crepping was a member of an important Yorkshire knightly family whose father had been the sheriff of Yorkshire in 1257, a post which John would hold in 1307 (Ormrod 2000). An instruction from the king to sheriffs in 1306, concerning victualling an expedition to Scotland (CPR Edw I. 1301-1307 p.430), lists John de Crepping as the sheriff of both Yorkshire and Lancashire, reinforcing our understanding of the importance of Burton’s largest freeholder. He was probably closely associated with the de Mowbrays - perhaps a member of the de Mowbray household, for he is recorded as one of two executors of Roger de Mowbray’s will (Brown 1902, p76). His military responsibilities included recruiting for Edward I’s campaign in Scotland in 1300, being one of three Yorkshire commissioners charged with raising a third of the fighting force of 15,000 men which was to muster in Carlisle (Candy 1999) . The king must have been pleased with John de Crepping’s service, for he granted him a charter in 1307 for a market and fair at Hutton Wandesley for ‘his good service in Scotland’ (Widdrington 1897).

While the 1298 inquisition tells us that the de Crepping landholding comprised 20 rodales worth 6s 8d each, several later de Crepping inquisitions give 200 customary acres, almost a quarter of the township land (information on rents also supports the contention that a rodale is 10 acres). A de Crepping inquisition of 1361 (NA Edw. III C157(22) ) is our only reference to the effect of the Black Death on Burton, telling us that the de Crepping land in Burton could not be let in 1355 ‘for lack of tenants’. In 1361 the holding was assessed at only 1/16th of a knight’s fee, but had increased to a of a knight’s fee by 1381 (NA C138 8(11)), suggesting that Burton may have recovered relatively quickly from the Black Death.

The de Crepping holding passed to John Thomlinson of Newton Kyme in 1389 (CPR P6), a small village only a few miles from the de Crepping residence at Hutton Wandersley. John Thomlinson is recorded as the king’s bailiff of Ewecross in NA C145 239(3L) and the last record of the Thomlinsons holding the 200 acre Burton estate was in the inquisition taken on the death of John Thomlinson in 1411 (NA C137 85(12)), when William Thomlinson was named as the heir to the land which was ‘held of the king in chief by knightly service’. In 1405 Burton’s lord of the manor was beheaded for his involvement in a rebellion against the king (NA C137 62), a rebellion which William Thomlinson would appear to have taken part in, for he is found in a list of people pardoned by the king for ‘all treasons, insurrections rebellions and felonies’ (CPR Hen IV 3 1405-1468, p75-6).

By the middle of the 15th century, the Tunstalls of Thurland castle were Burton’s largest landholder and Sir Thomas Tunstall’s marriage to Joan de Mowbray, second daughter of Burton’s lord of the manor, probably brought the landholding into the Tunstall family. Sir Thomas’s descendant, Sir Richard Tunstall of Thurland castle, was attainted and lost his lands for supporting the Lancastrian cause at the Battle of Towton in 1461 (Ormrod 2000) while Sir James Harrington, who fought for the Yorkists’ side, was rewarded with Sir Richard Tunstall’s former lands (CPR Edw. IV, p445). His persistent support for the Lancastrians eventually paid off in 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth, in which the two knights again fought on opposing sides. On this occasion it was James Harrington who was attainted, Sir Richard Tunstall regained his lands and was appointed Knight of the Garter. Sir Richard was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1491/2 (Ormrod 2000), the second of our two Burton freeholders to hold this position. William Tunstall duly inherited from Richard Tunstall, and his Inquisition post mortem of 1500 (NA C142 14(96)) tells us that the Tunstall property in Burton was valued at 6 13s 4d. Although it may be a coincidence, this is the same valuation given to John de Crepping’s 20 rodales in 1298 (20 x 6s 8d). Stephens and Moorhouse (2005) have shown elsewhere that many North Craven rentals were stable over very long periods, often allowing properties to be traced through their unique rentals. We have no record of the Tunstall holding passing from the family, but this may have occurred on the death of Sir Brian Tunstall of Thurland castle who was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1514.

One consequence of Burton having a sizeable proportion of its land in the hands of non-residents was that there was insufficient land to settle residents of high status. This was not the case in adjacent townships such as Thornton in Lonsdale where the de Thorntons were of sufficient status to be named frequently in official records. An undated inquisition (English 1996) during the reign of Edward I claimed that the de Mowbrays had infringed the de Thornton’s rights in Kingsdale, and there is a record which tells us that John de Thornton was the bailiff of Ewecross at the end of the 13th century (NA Deed A7596). John de Thornton would still appear to be holding this position in 1322, when John de Mowbray rebelled against the king and was executed. Wapentake bailiffs were responsible for temporary management of confiscated estates, and John de Thornton was one of those ordered by the king to restore lands to those who had made ‘ransom with the king for his life and lands’ (CCR, Edw. II. 1318-23, p.573). Several records have survived which refer to de Thornton’s military service in Scotland and France, including

1357 ‘Pardon at the asking of the king’s son Edward Prince of Wales and for good service to the king and prince done by Hugh son of Thomas de Thornton de Burton in Lonsdale in the prince’s company in Gascony to him of the kings suit for the death of Hugh de Holme of Burton in Lonsdale, John Percyson and Richard Percyson, and as well for a robbery of a horse of the late William de Gairsetang late parson of the church of Thornton in Lonsdale whereof he is indicted or appealed and of any consequent outlawry’ (Cal. of Patent Rolls, p560).

An interesting question arises of whether the ordinary tenants of Burton will have been required to accompany the knightly landholders of Burton and Ewecross to war. We can be reasonably certain that the tenants will have fought at Flodden in 1514 alongside Sir Brian Tunstall of Thurland castle, who was killed in the battle, and Lord Monteagle of Hornby Castle who gained his title at Flodden and is recorded as the steward of Burton in the tax returns of 1522 (Hoyle 1987). It is likely that military arrangements in Ewecross will have been similar to those in the adjacent North Ribblesdale estates, where a contractual clause in the tenancy agreements required the Clifford tenants to ‘be ready to serve the queen and her heirs and successors and the said Earl and his heirs from time to time during the said term with horse and harness and other convenient furniture according to the quantity and the rate of the premises’ (WYAS/L. Huff collection).

Administration of Burton township and the Burton Chase

The 1298 Inquisition tells us that Burton had separate courts for freemen and villeins and that there was also a crown court for the Wapentake of Youcros (Ewecross) which met every three weeks. At the beginning of the 14th century, the de Thorntons of Thornton in Lonsdale were the wapentake bailiffs and the de Creppings were baronial bailiffs for the de Mowbrays - a position which gave them entitlement to their Burton freeholding. Sometime in the 14th century the roles of crown and baronial bailiff were probably combined and the frequency of court meetings reduced to six-monthly. An inquisition of 1344 which mentions ‘4s for food for the kings bailiff twice a year’ (NA Edw.III C69(25)) suggests that the roles may have been combined under the de Creppings, although the Thomlinsons, their successors, are the first Burton freeholders for whom we have documentary evidence of the holding the post of bailiff of the wapentake of Ewecross.

No manor court records survive from the late medieval period, but later records suggest there was little change in administrative arrangements over the centuries. Burton’s manor court records survive for the 18th century, in private hands, and these show courts meeting twice yearly -a court baron which administered the Burton copyhold lands on behalf of the lord(s) of the manor and -a court leet or View of Frankpledge which oversaw some aspects of crown administration of the townships in Ewecross as far away as Horton in Ribblesdale, on behalf of the ‘sovereign king and lord of the manor’. The perpetuation of the late medieval terminology ‘View of Frankpledge’ suggests that Burton was still following late medieval administrative practices in the 18th century.

Documents of the early modern period which are relevant to an understanding of earlier documents

None of the Burton records suggest that there were significant changes in the fundamental structure of the township’s land management during the transition between the late medieval and early modern periods. It is reasonable therefore to question whether the more informative records of the 16th and 17th centuries provide insights into arrangements which were already in place in earlier centuries but are not documented in earlier sources.

There is an extensive set of Tudor tax records for Burton (Hoyle 1987). The Burton tax returns of 1545 are much more informative than most, not only listing all the owners of land but assessing the residents on the basis of 2s for each acre held. The survey shows that the largest number of residents assessed, 17, held 10 acres of land, generally regarded as a subsistence amount of land which would support a family. A small number of families held much larger holdings, the largest of 180 acres being held by the Lawpage family. It is possible that the 180 acre holding of the Lawpage family in 1545 may have been substantially the same holding as that held by the de Creppings, Thomlinsons and Tunstalls. John Lawpage’s probate inventory of 1596 is the only Burton probate record to have been found which shows ownership of weapons of war - quiver, six arrows, a bill, a staff, riding gear, a sword and dagger. Elsewhere in the Lune valley tenants who accompanied Lord Monteagle to Flodden were rewarded by the granting of land. It is possible that the Lawpages may have been rewarded by Lord Monteagle, the steward of Burton, with freehold land which was formerly held by Sir Brian de Tunstall who was killed at Flodden.

A survey of Burton copyhold land (LRO DDK 1541 7a) carried out for the then lord of the manor, the Earl of Derby, enables us to suggest how the township lands were laid out in 1682. For each copyholder, the entry in the survey gives the quantity of land held in named fields, together with the names of the two adjacent copyholders. For a number of fields this information allows us to establish the complete sequence of strips in the fields as they were in 1682. Since a sufficient number of field names have survived from the 1682 survey to the Tithe Award of 1841, the map which accompanies the Tithe Award allows us to locate the copyhold lands in the township eastern zone, as shown in the figure (Stephens 2000). Although the 1682 survey was of copyhold lands only, it contains a sufficient number of references to named freehold fields to allow identification of the northern zone of the town as the location of the freehold lands. The third zone, to the west of the township, was former parkland. Part of this parkland was enclosed in the 16th century, and led to serious rioting and mentions in the Star Chamber proceedings (McCall 1911 p88-89, Lister 1926 p8-9).

The boundary between the freehold and copyhold lands in 1682 lay along Barnebeck, a name derived from Bounebeck of the 1298 inquisition (private communication with Mr Stan Lawrence). Since boune is late medieval English for boundary, the name of the beck suggests that the land divisions revealed by the 1682 survey were already in place at the time of the 1298 inquisition. An entry in the 1682 Burton survey makes it possible to suggest where the freehold 160 acres of arable and 40 acres of meadow held by John de Crepping were located. Crepenstile, a field name which did not survive from the 1682 survey to the Tithe Award, is described in the survey as being located at Whaitber. It can surely be no coinicidence that the land which includes Whaitber and stretches from Barnebeck (Bounebeck) to the township northern border, and is bounded on the west by the road from the village to the north, is found to be 160 customary acres. In Burton, arable farming was mainly on the hillocks, with meadow in the wetter hollows between. There are few low lying areas in the northern zone which are sufficiently big to be put forward as the 40 customary acres held successively by the de Creppings, Thomlinsons and Tunstalls. It is again unlikely to be a coincidence that the low lying meadow immediately to the west of the land which we have suggested above to be the de Creppings arable land is found to be 40 customary acres.

It is also possible to suggest where the de Creppings and Thomlinsons may have stayed when they visited Burton, because of the plot of land known as Kenilbouttes held by the de Creppings in the 1298 inquisition. This plot name re-appears in a deed of 1748 (WYAS/W Deed AB 117 160), where it is associated with a property described as ‘all that capital messuage called Burton Hall now ruinous and quite down’. The location of Burton Hall, just over the highway from the castle and to the west of the court house, is in what must have been the administrative centre of the village. This is where we might have expected the most senior freeholder’s property to be located.

Post medieval land development

By the 16th century we have, for the first time, substantial freeholders who were resident in Burton. We might have expected the freeholders to progressively buy out the copyholders but, for whatever reason, records show that the reverse was the case. An extended family known as the Tathams , who first are seen to be copyholders and rioters against enclosure in the 16th century, progressively built up the largest Burton estate and remained the dominant Burton landowners until the middle of the 19th century.

An archive of Tatham papers has survived (WYAS/L WYL 430 ) which shows the Tathams building up their estate and then, when they became gentry, leasing it out. Even before the 1682 survey, the archive shows the Tathams buying strips in a field known as the Frount, just to the east of Barnebeck. The Frount is one of the fields for which the 1682 survey allows us to recreate the complete sequence of strips which may still be seen in the Frount today when viewed in low light. Most other Burton farmers persevered with arable farming long after the Tathams had espoused pastoral farming and, in doing so, destroyed the evidence of medieval strip farming by modern deep ploughing.


Burton is seen to have changed remarkably little over many centuries. Land management arrangements with Barnebeck defining the division between copyhold and freehold lands, appear to have been already in place in 1298 when the boundary beck was called Bounebeck. Administrative arrangements also seem to have been preserved. John Thomlinson was both bailiff for the lord of the manor and the king’s bailiff of Ewecross in the 14th century being mirrored by the two Burton courts in the 18th century- a court baron for the lord of the manor and a court leet for the king and lord of the manor.

A consequence of Burton having non-resident freeholders who were important military men is that their records tell us where they fought - in England, Scotland and France. Although it is doubtful whether the Burton tenantry will have been required to accompany the Burton freeholders to overseas wars, it does seem likely that they will have been required to fight in England at times when the manor had strong political allegiances, such as during the Wars of the Roses and on the Scottish borders when the realm was threatened, such as at Flodden (1514).


The authors would like to acknowledge their debt to Mr Stanley Lawrence of Austwick, but formerly of Burton. Many of the references referred to in this paper are from his archive, now in the special collections archive at Lancaster University. For many years Mr Lawrence collected material related to the history of Burton in Lonsdale and, without his devotion to this cause, this work would not have been possible.


C Catalogue reference in Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem
CCR Calendar of Close Rolls
CFR Calendar of Fine Rolls
CPR Calendar of Patent Rolls
NA National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office)
LRO Lancashire Record Office, Preston
SGL S.G.Lawrence Archive at Lancaster University
WYAS/L West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds
WYAS/W West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield


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  • Lister, J., 1926. Yorkshire Star Chamber Proceedings, YAS Record Series Vol 70
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Map which accompanies the Tithe Award

Map which accompanies the Tithe Award