Brough Family Organization

Research Report on the Possible Relationship
of the Burghs of Westmorland, England
and the Broughs of Staffordshire, England

by Michael H. McMichael
BFO Research Committee Member
May 2015

     In 1538 Robert Burgh was described as "a forester of the forest of Leek" in Staffordshire (1). This Robert Burgh is listed in the BFO Global Brough Database as being born about 1488 in Chapel House, Meerbrook, Leek, Staffordshire in England and dying after 13 May 1547. The dissolution of the monasteries in England took place under Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541, and Robert Burgh had been the forester on behalf of the owner of the forest of Leek, Dieulacres abbey, which was itself "surrendered" in 1538 (2).
     By the date of the abbey's dissolution the Burgh family had been recorded as present in Staffordshire for some centuries, as documented in the BFO Global Brough Database. Anne Brough Hind and David Bethell have carried out extensive research into the Staffordshire Burgh/Brough lineage, including noting a Star Chamber case involving Robert Brough/Burgh and the taking of a stag to the considerable irritation of the Earl of Derby, the favourable resolution of which is attributed by those authors as being possibly due to Robert's kinship with "Lord Brough of Gainsborough".
     As noted in this writer's research report dated April 2015 on the Burghs of Gainsborough, it is now apparent that the Gainsborough line descended from the Gernet family of Westmorland. For reasons that will be set out below, it appears very probable that Robert Burgh also descended from that family, the Gernets of Westmorland, and is correctly described as having kinship with the Gainsborough line. But this raises questions as to the attribution of descent from Ralph de Limesi currently proposed for the Staffordshire Brough families.
     To return to the Star Chamber case involving Robert Burgh, the contention of this research report is that it was far more likely that the Earl of Derby's ire was mollified as the result of Robert's kinship with one Sir John Burgh, the son of Hugh Burgh of Salop and through his mother's line, a descendent of the Welsh kings of old. For further details on this lineage, please see the April 2015 research report on the Burghs of Gainsborough referred to above.
     But not only John Burgh's Welsh lineage is relevant here; so too is that from Westmorland. In addition to the materials referred to in the April 2015 research report referred to above, this researcher has recently come across evidence that appears to tie this Burgh lineage to Middleton in Westmorland (3). The great grandfather of John is listed as one Sir Hugh Burgh of Middleton, and the history of Middleton makes it clear that a William de Burgh had been present in that place in 1259 and another in 1346 (4). In the context it is very likely that these de Burghs were part of the Gernet de Burgh line, as Middleton is just some 8 or 9 miles from Burrow with Burrow which, as noted in the BFO Global Brough Database, is a point of origin for the Catterick, Yorkshire, de Burgh/Burgh/Brough line, which in turn is connected to the Gainsborough line through the Cowthorpe, Yorkshire, family.
     However, it should be noted in passing that there appears to be nothing to support the references in Collections Historical and Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire to a Hugh Burgh being the Lord of Burgh upon Sands or of a Guy Burgh selling the barony to Lord Darcy; in fact, it seems that the barony devolved upon the Darcy family through marriage and the failure of the male line of the previous holders (not the Burghs).
     The reference in Collections to a John Burgh as the brother of Hugh Burgh of Salop, MP, does, however, appear to have foundation (5). John was associated with one Roger Leche, MP, who was the Treasurer of England (6) at the same time that Hugh Burgh, MP, was the Treasurer of Ireland (1416 and 1414 to 1420, respectively). In fact John was himself the Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer from 1413 (7), which only serves to reinforce the influence of this family at that time.
     We do know that Hugh Burgh of Salop, MP, died in 1430, having married by 1413 and having a 16 year old son (John) at his death, so Hugh was possibly born in or about 1390, putting his father's birth in about 1365 and his grandfather, Hugh of Middleton, in about 1340. The coincidence of dates suggests that William de Burgh of Middleton was the father, cousin or brother of Hugh of Middleton. As Hugh Burgh the MP is noted as being "landless" it may be that William was an older brother of Hugh of Middleton, who was required to seek his fortune (successfully, it seems) elsewhere.
     The British History Online(BHO) reference to Middleton also contains a representation of the arms of a family named Rigmaiden. As noted in the April 2015 research report (see footnote 2 thereof), the Gressingham de Burgh family bore the "swan" arms also subsequently claimed by the Catterick branch, as well as the Staffordshire line. It is recorded in the BHO material that there was no connection between the Gressingham Burghs and the Hubert de Burgh (Irish Burke) line, and in BHO footnote 15 there is a reference to a John Gernet and there are further footnote references to Gernets and Burghs, especially in BHO footnote 26 where the lineage Thomas son of Adam son of Richard de Burgh is given. The connection with the Burrow line of de Burgh/Burgh, and hence the Catterick branch, via the Gernet family, seems unquestionable.
     However, research carried out for the BFO some thirty years ago by David Bethel and others (8) on the Brough coat of arms clearly states that the "ancient" Brough coat of arms was the so-called "buck's shield" of, inter alia, three bucks' heads and that the Knightley family corrected their arms in the 17th Century from the "swan" arms to also incorporate the "buck's shield" arms. What, if any, connection there may be between the earlier de Burghs/Burghs/Broughs of Staffordshire and the Rigmaidens of Westmorland is uncertain, but it is unusual for two apparently unrelated families to claim the same or similar arms, as can be seen from the famous Scrope -v- Grosvenor case of 1389 (9). This is clearly a matter for further research.
     What appears to be certain is that neither the Gainsborough nor Salop lines of the Burgh family bore the "swan" arms (10). In fact, a substantial case can be made that the "swan" arms were restricted to the Catterick (then Lincolnshire at Saltfleetby (11) and beyond) and Staffordshire lines.
     The Gernet family is ancient and in the reign of Henry I one Vivian Gernet was appointed Hereditary Forester of the royal forest in Lancashire (12). From there descend the later Gernets and, for our purposes, de Burghs and Burghs. What is of note is the position of "forester" that was held by Robert Burgh in Staffordshire some centuries later.
     Anne Brough Hind posits that the early Staffordshire Burghs and Broughs held positions under Church institutions and that it was for that reason that they found themselves in and around Brewood and then Leek. The purpose of the report is to raise for consideration whether a more important driver might have been that a de Burgh/Burgh family, such as that from Gressingham, that is unrecorded in that district after the late 13th Century, found haven with close relatives, and ultimately positions of note, through patronage from successful members of that other line, i.e. the Burghs of Salop. In this regard it is worth noting that each of John Burgh's four daughters married into landed families, some of which continued to hold estates in and about Staffordshire (13).
     In conclusion, the proposition posed by this report is that the Staffordshire Broughs descend from the same ancestors in Westmorland as the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire branches of the family, the earlier separate de Burgh line, descended from Ralph de Limesi, having either been extinguished or absorbed by such as the Knightleys and/or the Westmorland line at some stage prior to the 15th or 16th Centuries.
(1) British History Online, Pp 191-202, under the heading "Forest and warren".
(2) Wikipedia.
(3) Collections Historical and Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire, Pp 94ff, issued by the Powys-Land Club, London 1868.
(4) British History Online, Pp 72-74, under the heading "Manor" and fn (7).
(5) Henry V: New Interpretations, Gwilym Dodd, Boydell& Brewer Ltd, 2013, P.132.
(6) The History of Parliament,, 1386-1421.
(7) The History of Parliament, 1386-1421, Research: Appendix C7. See "Office Holders".
(8) The Ancestors of Richard Brough and Mary Horleston, by D. Bethell, R. Brough and M. Nielson, P.43ff, BFO 1981.
(9) Wikipedia.
(10) England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, by David Bates, London, 1994, p.301.
(11) Lincolnshire Pedigrees, Harlein Society, London 1902, P.205.
(12) The Garnetts of Essex County and Their Homes, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 42, No. 1, (Jan. 1934), by William Garnett Chisholm, P. 72.
(13) Wikipedia.

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