Social and Economic

Land rights and war

8 July 1487 Plumpton Letter: The Earl of Shrewsbury to Sir Robert Plumpton regarding land rights.

One consequence of the wars was the seizing of lands from those who had lost. In some cases, this was not done through legal channels. This resulted in good (or bad) lordship being demonstrated, such as the Earl of Shrewsbury’s intervention below. It could also lead to legal recourse such as petitions to Parliament.

“I recommend unto you assertions shown to me by my right beloved Dame Joyce Percy, now attending to my wife, how you, contrary to right and conscience have interrupted Dame Joyce of certain lands lying within the lordship of Arkington within the county of York. Which land was purchased of one Robert Percy, knight, her late husband, deceased, and by him granted unto the said Dame Joyce so wherefore, if it be so, I greatly marvel, willing and desiring of you therefore that unto such time as this matter may be had in good and proper examination you will in no ways [indecipherable] or deal with the said land but suffer the said Dame Joyce and her assignees peacefully to occupy the same without any manner of interruption to the contrary… and over this I am informed that one Richard Nicholl late tenant to said Dame Joyce was now in the field against the kings good grace for which cause you have seized his goods…. I will desire you, considering the said Dame Joyce was innocent and [knew] nothing of said misdemeanours you will see that of his said goods such duties may be contested as he owe unto her by reason of any tenures of buildings and that you will tender her in these premises the rather for my sake so as she have not cause to make further suit for her remedy therein, as I trust you”.

Earl of Shrewsbury, 8th July 1487.

Land Rights

Land Rights had been a bone of contention throughout the Wars of the Roses. With attainting of lords, deaths, people going into exile, and agreements regarding the enfeoffment of estates all taking place quite regularly, it could be hard proving who had right to a parcel of land. There are several famous cases of land rights causing clashes. In East Anglia the death of Sir Fastolf resulted in disputes over his estates. This culminated in a siege at Caister Castle. In the north west, Richard Duke of York became involved in a clash between the Stanley family and Harrington family. In the south west the last private battle between two barons was fought at Nibley Green over land rights. The aftermath of the Yorkist victories of 1471 saw a conflict between the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester over the Warwick inheritance.

Medieval Land Rights Links

University of Nottingham – Feoffment

Mapping the Medieval Countryside – The Law of Inheritance

Image Credit

Calverley Hall, Yorkshire. Wikipedia. By Betty Longbottom, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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