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The Duchy of Lancaster
The castle at Leicester initially was a motte and bailey, built by Hugh de Grentmesnil in the 1060’s. It was located overlooking the River Soar. Also there was the earliest construction of the Church of St. Mary de Castro, an armoury, stables, a hall, and additional out buildings. All of these were enclosed by a timber palisade. The motte was a tall mound of earth topped by the keep, or timber tower, which was the last point of defence.
After Hugh de Grentmesnil, the castle was held by those titled Earl of Leicester, then Earl of Lancaster, and by the fourteenth century they were titled Duke of Lancaster. Hugh de Grentmesnil had rebelled against Henry I, waging a private war and in the process destroying much of Leicester Castle. His lands were given to Robert de Beaumont, Earl of Leicester who rebuilt the castle in stone. Robert’s son Robert le Bossu succeeded his father and continued fortifying the site in stone. Robert Blanchmains, son of le Bossu, aligned himself with the king’s son, Henry in the rebellion of 1173. He removed to castle Breteuil in Normandy and his English lands were seised. The castle at Leicester was burnt by the king’s army.
Simon de Montfort was the next Earl of Leicester. After the Baron’s rebellion, which included Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and Robert Ferrers, Earl of Derby, the estates were granted to Henry III’s son, Edmond Crouchback who was granted the honor of Leicester, castle and manors. Edmund Crouchback was also created the first Earl of Lancaster in 1267.
Thomas, son of Edmund Crouchback, inherited the earldom and after marrying Alice Lacy, daughter of the Earl of Lincoln, he acquired other land holdings, including Pontefract in Yorkshire, Halton in Cheshire and Bolingbroke in Linconshire. Thomas, earl of Lancaster, was involved in the murder of Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s favorite. For this he was beheaded in 1322, forfeiting his estates, being attainted for treason. Roger Beler was placed in charge of the administration of the honor and castle of Leicester by the king. He was followed by Roger de Belegrave. Thomas’ brother, Henry of Wryneck petitioned for the earldoms and eventually became third Earl of Lancaster and Leicester. He built Trinity Hospital where he was buried.
Henry of Grosmont, nephew to Thomas became the fourth Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, first Earl of Derby, first Earl of Lincoln and Lord of Bowland. He was elevated in 1351 to Duke of Lancaster and was the first of that title. He was a diplomat and a soldier and was a participant in many of the campaigns of Edward III. It was because of his achievements in the French campaign that he was made the first Duke of Lancaster. Henry was given sovereign rights in justice and administration, and administered the law courts and appointed the sheriff, judges, justices of the peace and others. He was also expected to defend against the Scots in the north.
Upon Henry’s death in 1361, John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, and first Earl of Richmond, son-in-law of Henry of Grosmont, inherited the Dukedom and the same powers Henry had held. John died in 1399 and Richard II confiscated his estates. He had banished John’s son Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV.
Henry Bolingbroke returned while Richard II was fighting in Ireland, gained control of his strongholds, captured Richard II and imprisoned him in Pontefract Castle. Richard was murdered and a few months later Henry was crowned Henry IV, King of England. That year the title passed to Henry of Monmouth, son of Bolingbroke, who in 1413 ascended the throne as Henry V. It is during his reign that Alexander Gee of Leicester is noted in the records. Henry IV had entailed the Duchy of Lancaster for his heirs, keeping it separate from crown possessions. As the traditional seat of the Dukes of Lancaster, the castle in Leicester was used for ceremonies, including the knighting of Henry of Monmouth.
The tenants served as men-at-arms and archers in Henry V’s French campaign which ended at Agincourt in 1415. His son, the demented Henry VI, who ascended in 1422, was faced with fighting between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, and in 1461 Edward IV of York became King, after murdering Henry VI. He confiscated the Duchy, but kept it separate from other crown lands, for the enjoyment of the monarch. From 1454 to 1471 the War of the Roses saw 13 battles, culminating in the victory of Edward IV and the House of York.
Richard III was his youngest brother, and he came to the throne in 1483, being implicated in the murder of Edward’s two sons, the Princes of the Tower. Richard III, the Yorkist King, stayed in Leicester before the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485, in an inn, as the castle was not habitable. On August 22, 1485, Richard III was killed at the battle of Bosworth Field (Redmore Plain). According to testimony, he was brought dead off the field to the town of Leicester, for viewing. According to Sir Thomas Frowyk, a contemporary, King Richard was slain at Redmore field 8 miles beside Coventry upon …seint Bartilmewis eve and was bered ate Laycet’ in the new vorke (new work)…. His body was later moved to the Grey Friars. The location of the remains is unknown. Henry VII united the houses of Lancaster and York.
The Bishop of Lincoln ordered a count of the population of every town, village and hamlet in 1564 in the archdeaconry of Leicester, which showed the entire county contained only 9, 300 families, with the town of Leicester at about 590 households.
Rothley was located just south of Mountsorrel.
Rothley is a village on the River Soar. It was also known as Rodeley, Rodolie, Rocle, and Role in the records. In the Domesday Book it is Rodolei. Adjacent to Rothley is Mountsorrel, where a castle was built in 1080 by Hugh Lupus, the first earl of Chester. Hugh Lupus was the son of Richard, Viscount d’Avranches. In 1086 the King held the manor. At that time there were five carucates (600 acres) of land which were held of King Edward at Rodolei. In demesne were 2 carucates with 2 ploughs; and 29 villeins, a priest, 18 bordars with 6 ploughs; a mill which payed 4 shillings, 37 acres of meadow, a demesne wood 1 league long and ½ leagues wide, wodd of the villeins 4 furlongs long and 3 furlongs wide. The vill was worth 62 shillings a year. The manor included Allexton, Barsby, Seagrave, Sileby, Tugby, Skeffington, Marefield, South Marefield, Halstead, Caldwell, Wycomb, Tilton, Asfordby, Keyham, Wartnaby, Twyford, Somerby, Frisby, Saxelby, Grimston, Baggrave, and Gaddesby for another 204 Sochmen (Sokemen) with 157 villeins and 94 bordars holding 82 ploughs. The income for the soke was ₤31, 8 s. 1d.
In 1260 there were 84 tenants in the vill, nearly double the 47 at the time of Domesday. There were two tiers of peasant households. About 28 held 31 virgates, which is similar to the 29 noted in 1087. The remainder appears to have been labourers. At this time Stephen Seagrave was sheriff, and with Ralph de Neville, bishop of Chichester, he served as Chancellor during the absence of King Henry III.
In the Fine Rolls of Henry III 1229 to 1230 is:
For the men of Rothley. The king, by his charter, has granted to the men of Rothley that they and their heirs are to have the vill of Rothley forever with the demesne, woodland and mill of the same vill at fee farm by rendering £10 blanched per annum to the king and his heirs by the hand of the sheriff of Leicestershire for all services, saving his tallages of the same vill to the king, and that they may have the assarts made in the same vill which they previously held from the king by rendering 22s. per annum to the king and his heirs, as is more fully contained in the aforesaid charter made for them. Order to the sheriff of Leicestershire to permit them to hold the aforesaid vill in peace according to the tenor of the aforesaid charter.
As early as 1203, the Knights Templars held land at Rothley which had been given them by John de Harecurt. This is known as Rothley Temple. It held about 450 acres. King Henry III confirmed and expanded this gift by granting the Manor and Soke of Rothley to the Knights Templar in 1231. The land was held as a preceptorship, with a resident knight of the Templars Military Order. The men of Rothley petitioned that the charter they held of the king should be upheld by the Templars, who wanted erected a Chapel and other structures there. Within the parish there were five chapels. The yearly income from Rothley Bailiwick was ₤62. In 1251, Old Dalby, Rothley and Heather were placed under a Preceptor and the land at Rothley Temple was rented out for farming. In 1309 Rothley contained a hall and chapel, and livestock including 350 sheep. The castle became the property of Robert le Bossu in 1151 whose charter for Leicester was witnessed by John de Joi. Rothley included Gaddesby, Caldwell, Wykham, Grimston, Keyham, Wartnaby, and the Temple, and covered over 6,000 acres. In 1316 Theoblad Neville and Cecilia, his wife, held Rothely manor. In 1333 it was Robert Gaddwsby who held the manor, which passed to William Hackluyt in 1376.
The Saxon Cross of Rothley
This is the base of what once was a Christian Cross.
Rothley was given to the Knights of the Hospital, or Knights of St. John, in 1312 with the dissolution of the Knights Templars. In 1351 they formed a commandery, the smallest division of a landed estate which was under the control of an order of knights, which was centered at the manor of Old Dalby and included Rothley and Heather. The Hospitallers were known for their care of sick and weary travelers. Their order included knights, who were of noble birth, the clergy, and squires who attended the knights.
In 1524 Anthony Babington, esquire was appointed to the office of supervisor, feodary and governor of all the lands and tenements of the Courts of Dalby and Rothley, including holdings in Lincoln, by the prior of the hospitale of St. John. Among the preceptors of Dalby were Henry Babington in 1525, John Babington, who died in 1533, and John Babington, the younger, his nephew. Sir Henry Poole became preceptor in 1535, and remained there until 1540. Also among the knights resident were Sir James Babington and Sir Ambrose Cave in 1524. In 1531 Sir John Sutton, knight, commander of Beverley and Temple Bruer, accepted Nicholas Upton and Philip Babington to be members of the order. Sir Philip Babington appears to have left the order at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.
In 1529 Humphrey Babington, who was from the Ottery branch, leased the manor of Rothley from the Knights Hospitallers. Philip Vyllers was Lord Grand Master in 1532. Humphrey was a younger brother to John Babington, both being sons of Thomas Babington of Dethick and Edith Fitzherbert of Norbury who was the granddaughter of John Marshall of Upton, Leicestershire. Sir John Babington was a farmer of the preceptory of Temple Bruer, Lincoln in 1522, and first appears as a Commander of Dalby and treasurer in 1526. Sir John died before 1533, and his Knight of St. John effigy is included on his father’s altar tomb at Ashover, Derbyshire.
The manor was confiscated by Henry VIII in 1540. Henry Cartwright, an insider with the Court of Augmentation, acted as agent for Ambrose Cave, and purchased lands in Rothley, which he promptly sold to Cave. The purchase included the manor (house) of Rothley, 2 messuages, 6 tofts, a watermill, 500 acres of land, 100 of meadow, 200 of pasture, 40 of wood, and 100 of furze and heath and 10 shillings of rent in Rothley. Humphrey Babington’s lease was succeeded to by his son Thomas Babington, who purchased in the manor and soke of Rothley from Ambrose Cave in 1565. They were lords of the manor and soke of Rothley until 1845.
To the preceptory of Dalby and Rothley came rents in 1502, from Sir Henry Willoughby, knight for lands in Willoughby, Nicholas Temple for lands in Welysburgh, Henry Barker for the manor of Hether, John Villers, knight for the rent of the fishing in the water of Rothley, and others. In 1510 fee and wages were paid to John Dygby knight, 20s and Thomas Villers, chief steward, 40s. An examination of the rents paid in 1510 and 1524 does not include any names which can be attributed to the family of Gee, including the first name Alexander, without a surname. In 1526, with others, Sir John Digby, and Sir John Villiers mediated a dispute between Sir John Babington, Knight of the commandery of Dalby and Rothley, and the yeomen freeholders of Rothley concerning the enclosure of the manorial demesne lands of Rothley Temple. Tenants in the soke of the manor of Rothley would have recorded the lineage of the family, to document the descent of title in any land they held as a freehold.
In 1534 it was William Kingston, a landowner in Rothley, who was Constable of the Tower of London at the time Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Previously, Cardinal Wolsey had died, allegedly from illness, in Kingston’s arms at Leicester Abbey. The chapel of the Knights Templar still exists; the mansion was called Rothley Temple and is now a hotel. On the map, Rothley is located a few miles south of Mountsorrel on the Soar River.