Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Knight's Tale

Despite the idealised image portrayed in Victorian fairytales (not to mention the mediaeval romances of ‘La Morte d’ Arthur’ and ‘Charlemagne’) implying that knights of the Middle Ages fought with valour to right social injustices, in reality they were often far from benevolent. (Actually I can think of several far more accurate descriptions for their behaviour, but this is a family site so I’ll keep them to myself.) Most were corrupt and self-serving, bearing scant loyalty towards their own workers, the crown or even their fellow aristocrats.
Take Sir Adam Banastre, for instance, whose notoriety achieved new depths, even by fourteenth century standards. Yes, I know we’ve probably written about Sir Adam before somewhere, but he’s a favourite of ours so we’re going to write about him again. If you’ve any complaints address them to ‘somebody who cares’ c/o ‘If you can get better history than this for free somewhere else then be our guest’ Street.

Banastre owned what is nowadays Thornton Hall Farm towards the eastern end of Woodhouse Road in Little Thornton. What’s left of the farm is illustrated below. (I’ve gone to a lot of trouble drawing up these pictures to inject a bit of culture and sophistication into this board. Again, if you don’t particularly like them, the address to complain to is mentioned above.)
Before Thornton Hall was rebuilt at its present location, this was the site of principle manor house, perched on the hill overlooking the early mediaeval village of Thornton (or to give it its Saxon name, Torenton).
There was a reason for this location. Norman aristocrats had, in effect, stolen the land from and murdered a great many Saxons during the invasion. Understandably the peasants carried a bit of a grudge, especially against such notorious thugs as Banastre. Manor houses on hilltops, where the Saxon villages could be kept in a constant line of sight, were constructed more for defensive purposes than they were for idyllic views.

Nothing remains now of the original hall, of course, the present structure being mainly of Victorian construction. However, some of the walls on the outskirts of the property (such as the one illustrated below) retain sections of earlier stonework.
Actually, this particular wall (which belongs to the out house alongside the stile leading to Bucks Lane) was probably part of the grange owned by Cockersand Abbey. It certainly fits the location of that building as mentioned in documents from the mediaeval period.
The wall surrounding the garden belonging to the farm cottages is also made from a mixture of pebbles and lime mortar, typical of early mediaeval constructions and almost certainly dating back to Banastre’s reign.

Want a picture of the wall? (You might as well, because it’s not going to get much more exciting than this.)
Banastre himself, much like his father, seems to have been permanently in trouble with the law, stealing turf, causing fights, arguing, trespassing and generally making a nuisance of himself, behaving with as much regard for civility as you’d expect from a typical spoilt brat. The Lancashire court rolls are peppered with his misdemeanours. On one occasion, for example, he and his dad (along with a number of other aristocrats) had become so blasé about legal proceedings they even failed to turn up at court to answer the charge of poaching. Needless to say, unlike common peasants, neither was hanged but instead fined twenty shillings for none-attendance of court.
As well as Thornton Hall, Banastre owned other lands around Thornton, Staynall and Singleton; lands that, despite his obvious trespasses into other properties, he didn’t want to share with anybody else.

Unfortunately Lancaster Abbey also owned the field illustrated below near Thornton Hall, on which they’d erected their tithe barn.
(No…obviously the tithe barn isn’t there now. And, yes, it is a bit of a basic drawing. What did you expect? It’s a field. There’s only so much artistic merit that a rather boring patch of grass surrounded by an even more boring barbed-wire fence can achieve.)
Anyhow, monks had been crossing Banastre’s land, which irked him somewhat. The grange (mentioned a bit earlier in this article) being right on his doorstep was probably annoying enough, but having a herd of tonsure-sporting, wheat-carrying, bible-bashing transvestites traipsing up and down your driveway all day would have been extremely irritating.

Especially for a spoilt brat.

So Sir Adam, once again, took the law into his own hands.

Naturally matters span out of control. Following a complaint from the Prior of Lancaster, Edward the First was called in, setting up a royal commission to investigate, and it soon transpired that: “…Adam Banastre, knight…and certain other malefactors and disturbers of our peace, took the said Prior at Poulton with force and arms and brought him therefrom to Thornton, and imprisoned him there and maltreated him and assaulted his men and servants there, and beat, wounded, imprisoned and maltreated them…and did other enormous things to him to the grave damage of the said Prior.”

Once again Banastre received a fine and was forced to sign a pledge allowing the monks to cross his land in future.

Interestingly enough, these ‘rights of way’ are still in existence nowadays. The illustration below shows the one that runs along the west side of Tithe Barn Field from Woodhouse Road. (It is there…honest. Worth checking out if you’ve got nothing better to do this weekend perhaps.)

Banastre’s reign of terror didn’t last, however, and where the King’s law failed his peers managed to succeed. Following a quarrel between Adam and Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, a fight was arranged in the Ribble Valley. Banastre’s men were soon overpowered and, while attempting to hide in a barn, Sir Adam was discovered, dragged outside and beheaded.
Which short, sharp curtailment of his antics brings an equally short, sharp curtailment to this article.

19 comments:

RVB said...

As well as Thornton Hall, Banastre owned other lands around Thornton, Staynall and Singleton; lands that, despite his obvious trespasses into other properties, he didn’t want to share with anybody else.

Isn't much of Britain still occupied by a ruling elite? Upon a little visit to Bath, I was told that the vast array of monotonous hedges and its associated castle (an area some three square miles) was owned by one single ponce.

"and imprisoned him there and maltreated him and assaulted his men and servants there, and beat, wounded, imprisoned and maltreated them…and did other enormous things to him to the grave damage of the said Prior"

I'm easily tortured by wooden spoons too, Brian.

Brian Hughes said...

"Isn't much of Britain still occupied by a ruling elite?"

Unfortunately, yes. 1066 and all that has a lot to answer for...although, of course, we might make some progress as a nation if we stopped fawning to 'em and waving flags when they strut past.

"I'm easily tortured by wooden spoons too."

I find metal forks more effective.

Jayne said...

Banastre really was a very naughty boy and, thankfully, had some enormous thing done to him with the end of that sword.
Spare the rod....

John said...

It's been a while since I read Le Morte de Arthur, but wasn't that romanticized fiction? Still, even then the Knights were only human, and less than perfect. I think Monty Python and the Holy Grail portrays Knights in a more realistic fashion.

Still, it might help for you to give a little background on the political situation during Banastre's time, and what being a Knight meant then. Obviously a thug like this wasn't knighted for his noble deeds...

And refering to monks as transvestites is hardly pc. These guys had to work hard without the benefits of a good woman to come home to at night... don't you think they had enough problems? And then getting beat up by the local gentry? Let 'em rest in peace, huh?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Ann O'Dyne said...

... some Knights of the Present Ages should also be dragged outside and beheaded for being corrupt and self-serving, and bearing scant loyalty towards their own workers

plus ca change etc

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne

"Spare the rod...."

...but kill the emu.

John,

"...it might help for you to give a little background on the political situation during Banastre's time, and what being a Knight meant then."

Okay...potted history time. All the knights in Britain at the time were, basically, descended from the backers of William the Conqueror (aka William of Normandy and William the Bastard). Their forebears had joined said tyrant on his invasion of England and the mass slaughter of peasants, nicked all their land, wealth and possessions and generally enslaved the entire nation. Several generations down the line and we meet Sir Adam, the spoilt offspring of aforementioned slaughtering, thieving frenchies, still with all the power and wealth and with the same amount of conscience as a vampire bat suffering from an iron deficiency. In other words, you really wouldn't want to be working class with this lot around.

"...refering to monks as transvestites is hardly pc."

Excellent.

Annie,


"...some Knights of the Present Ages should also be dragged outside and beheaded..."

Only some?

Jayne said...

Yummmm, grilled emu with a light basting of cracked pepper and/or dijon mustard.

Off topic - enjoying the tv series "Tales from the green valley" about the Brit archaeologists who lived 17th century farming style for 1 year.

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

Haven't heard of that one. Then again I'm not impressed by these 'recreationist historical lifestyle' programmes with their secret diary rooms and allegedly unobtrusive twenty-strong filming crews etc. Besides, most of the farmers round here are still living the 17th Century lifestyle, only without the latest technoligical innovations of the day.

Jayne said...

No, it's certainly nothing like "The 1940's House" or "The Edwardian Country House" etc, much better with historians and archaeologists talking about putting into practice the things they've unearthed/read/found or surmised from their fields of study.
But they do have a not-so secret dairy where they milk the cows....

Andrew said...

It is interesting that the law prevailed over an aristocrat...eventually. Now don't you have some old bloke's house to demolish, looking for something that may not be there?

And Reuben, probably Prince Charles. You should not call him a ponce. Show some respect.

Don't dis our emus Brian. They are kewl and on our coat of arms, and are quite tasty too. Bit like chicken.

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

"But they do have a not-so secret dairy where they milk the cows...."

I'd be worried if the dairy was secret...how would the cows know where to go?

Andrew,

The only emu I have anything against is currently stuffed in a trunk in an attic someplace after it's owner fell off a roof adjusting his television aerial.

And you're right about Prince Charles. He's not a ponce. He's a jug-eared, inbred, parasitical %$£***&^&%.

Bignick 47 said...

Hey Brian - you're a dead good drawist!!! Those piccies are really good - I'm impressed.

Brian Hughes said...

Cheers Nick. To be honest I drew 'em up for one of the books (can't remember which one off hand) because drawings reproduce better in print. I was going to use the original photographs that I'd based them on for this posting...but I've no idea where they are. Probably stuffed at the bottom of a mountain of old newspaper clippings in the corner of my bedroom or somewhere.

Jayne said...

I'd heard rumours Rod Hull's son resurrected Emu from the depths of the trunk, Brian, for "special interviews".

Brian Hughes said...

Oh God. That means they'll probably resurrect Michael Parkinson as well for a one off special. I don't know which is worse.

RVB said...

Andrew, I'm with Brian on this. That bastard has gotten away with occupying BBC news time that would better be occupied by stories that are relevant.

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

Rod Hull wasn't that bad, surely?

Jayne said...

I tried to find the song for you, Brian, but alas no one has uploaded it to YouTube...yet.
But I can share the lyrics of the Toy Dolls' = " http://www.lyrics007.com/The%20Toy%20Dolls%20Lyrics/No%20One%20Knew%20The%20Real%20Emu%20Lyrics.html">No One Knew The Real Emu.

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

Unfortunately that would require me having to bend down and plug my speakers in...which seems like too much effort somehow.