A Township of Two Manors

Originally contributed by Robin Longbottom, Late Rose Cottage, Sutton.

Whilst doing some research some years ago I came across evidence that the township of Sutton actually consisted of two separate manors and not one as had been commonly accepted. The situation where two manors fall within one township is uncommon but not unknown in many parts of the country. The earliest evidence comes from an action taken in the Court of Star Chamber in the reign of Henry VIII by one John Copley.

The Court of Star Chamber was held in London and was one of the highest courts in the country and therefore accuracy with regard to the petitioner's position and status was of the utmost importance. The petition clearly states that John Copley held the manor of Malsis where certain depredations were being committed by one Hugh Blakey.

The document lists a number of alleged offences committed by Blakey within the Manor of Malsis and then proceeds to list additional ones which took place within Copley's Manor of Sutton. The document is unfortunately undated but is clear evidence that there were indeed two separate manors at the time it was presented. Furthermore it states that John Copley and his ancestors "....were by the space of two hundred years and above lawfully seized by good and just title of and in the manor of Malsis....".

More information is provided by the Inquisition Post Mortum which was taken following John Copley's death in 1543. This states that that he was seized of the following manors "...Sutton, Malsis, Addingham, Cowling, Oakworth, Sawood and Batley". It also states that the manors Sutton and Malsis were "held of William Vavasour esquire". The result of the inquisition was to confirm the "conveyance" of the manors of Sutton, Malsis and Addingham to his son Alvered, whilst life settlements were made for his two other sons Thomas and Henry (presumably the manors of Cowling, Oakworth, Sawood and Batley).

It is interesting to note that as late as 1543 the manors were still regarded as being held to the service of the Vavasour although they no longer appear to hold any land in the township. This was a relic of the days when feudal landowners could call their tenants to arms. The Vavasour had a long connection with the village and are first mentioned in the Domesday Book as tenants of William de Percy when they held land at Hazlewood near Tadcaster (the family remained at Hazlewood until the beginning of the last century). In 1186 William Vavasour is recorded as holding two carucates of land in Sutton near Kildwick.

By the end of the following century they had let the land to one William de Boyville "by homage and service of the seventh part of one knights fee" but in lieu of such service he paid the yearly sum of £10 - 13 shillings - 4 pence. After his death in 1305 the manor of Sutton passed to his son John de Boyville and finally to his son Edmund who sold it to Adam de Copley in 1341. Whether or not the Copley's acquired the manor of Malsis at the same time remains uncertain but the claim in the petition to the Court of Star Chamber made prior to 1543, states clearly that the manor had been held by his family for upwards of two hundred years. This suggests that it may well have come into their hands some years before they purchased the Manor of Sutton.

The consequence of the township comprising two separate Manors has without doubt led to confusion over the centuries and the confusion was no doubt compounded as a result of both being owned by the same family. It does account for the tradition that the Township had two manor houses, one at Malsis (Malsis Hall), which presumably became the principal seat of the owners and the other being commonly regarded as the old property attached to the Kings Arms Inn. The tradition that this old property formed part of the original Sutton manor house was well known in the nineteenth century and probably accounts for the property next door, built on land which formerly formed part of the Kings Arms complex, being called Manor Hill.

Further confusion about the manors also arose when the lands were disposed of by Alvery Copley (grandson of the above named Alvery) in the 1620's. Alvery Copley chose to dispose of much of his inherited manorial lands to the villagers within a number of his manors. Perhaps the best recorded is that of Oakworth for which records of the sale have survived. Whilst he disposed of the land he still retained the Lordship and surviving seventeenth and eighteenth century deeds for Sutton show that the rights of hunting, fowling etc, were to remain the exclusive right of the Lord (and on paper probably still do). With no landed interest subsequent Lords appear to have taken little interest in the village and subsequent confusion arose as to who was the lord of the Manors for Sutton or Malsis.

The Spencer family, who lived at Malsis hall for long periods during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, believed that they were the rightful lords and it appears that they were at one time stewards for the often absentee Copley family. They certainly benefited from the sale in the 1620's when they acquired lands which included both Stubbing Hill and Malsis Hall.

The murky issue of the rightful Lord came to a head when the freeholders of the village petitioned parliament for an act to enclose the common lands in 1815. It should have gone smoothly but with land up for grabs there suddenly emerged two claimants to the Manor of Sutton, William Spencer of Malsis Hall and the more powerful Robert Townley parker of Townley Hall, Burnley. Both believed that land would be allotted to the rightful Lord and not wishing to miss out Robert Townley filed an immediate court action against William Spencer.

The whole matter finished up at the High Court in London and was heard on 9th March 1816. It was however settled on the steps of the court on the 6th March when William Spencer conceded. Parker for his efforts was awarded "One shilling damages, forty shillings costs and one acre of land". The allotments were finally published and proclaimed on Sunday 29th February 1824 by Richard Ayrton of Scale House, Rylstone. Robert Townley Parker for his efforts had to go to the expense of clearing and walling off his Lord's Acre, which lies not far from Cowling Pinnacle and about as close to Lancashire as you can get from Sutton.

As to the Coat of Arms for the village - well, if I had to choose any I would go for the Copley one, after all Alvery Copley ended feudalism in the village when he sold the land to the villagers in the late 1620's.

Robin Longbottom
Late Rose Cottage

Vavasour Coat of Arms
The Vavasour Coat of Arms

Note - after extensive searches on the Internet, no record of a coat of arms for the Copley family has been found; so for the time being, Sutton will use the Vavasour shield as representation. If anybody has any information about a Copley coat of arms, please get in touch by clicking the email icon below-right.

Update March 2007

Steve Copley, a descendant of the Copley family, found the site and provided details of the Copley Coat of Arms.

Copley Coat of Arms
The Copley Coat of Arms

More information at... www.houseofnames.com/xq/asp.c/qx/copley-coat-arms.htm

The "Cross Moline" featured on the Copley coat of arms can be seen carved into boundary stones and features at several locations around the village.