Brough Family Organization

The Early Broughs of Leekfrith, Staffordshire:
1300's to 1500's

by Catharine Ann Brough Hind. March 2004
Incorporating material she wrote for the 1988 RBFO book:
The Ancestors and Descendants of the Broughs of Staffordshire, England

     We may wonder what prompted our ancestors to uproot their lives from one area only to flourish in considerable numbers of households in another. What was the catalyst, the crises, the advantage?
     In 1327, Lord William de Burgh of Burgh in Ronton, South Staffordshire, married as his third wife, Joan, daughter of Lord de Weston, whilst William, eldest son of Lord de Burgh, married Joan`s niece Elizabeth de Weston, and they too had a son they called William. In 1328, the newly-widowed Joan granted to this grandson lands of her late husband--the first such grant between the de Burghs and the de Westons before 1348 and 1349 as the Great Pestilence, the Black Death laid waste to England and whole communities were depopulated. Both of these families were ravaged by it as much as any other and poor Joan was in the eye of the storm as her loved ones died around her.
     Three generations of her own de Weston family conceded their lands and made bequests to her and her de Burgh kin. The grants and wills made at short intervals of eighteen months by both sides contained fewer names at each writing and tell a sad story with an inevitable conclusion. Staffordshire suffered terribly as land stood denuded of beasts and crops, for too few men survived or had strength to man the ploughs. Those who could, moved on, hoping to find friends or relatives in remoter places.
     The family pedigree of that time of these generations show one central male heir: William Capelanus (Chaplain). Such a one, a monk of Dieulacres Abbey, became Vicar of Leek in 1370. When the Abbot and monks involved themselves too enthusiastically in violence and murder between some of the tenants of their monastic manor, the Vicar was brought to book for receiving known murderers at his Vicarage. Absenting himself he returned with Letters of Protection signed by John de Knightley, whose wife Elizabeth was a grand-daughter of Lord William de Burgh, with a lionesses share of his estates. Her Northamptonshire descendants portray William Capelanus as the surviving heir on the pedigree they had drawn up in the next century.
     Another Capelanus in the north of the county was Thomas del Brugge. Two monks and a long history of senior members of the family having been Seneschals to one or another Monastic House were perhaps the magnet bringing de Burghs to the Leekfryth was Dieulacres Abbey. The 1532 census taken in each Archdeaconry of the county survives and whilst not entirely legible of the majority that are, two full households of Bourgh families, of two and three generations match the earliest wills--husbands, wives and children, and even grandchildren. Together they indicate that several generations of each House implies long settlement in the district from the preceding century.
     Early documentation speaks of Robert Brough of Ye Chplhse, Meerbrook, who as Forrester to the Monastery, was responsible not only for the welfare of its flora and fauna but for its tenants and workers. The trees were every bit as vital a crop to the economy of the monks and the district as any blade of oats that grew on their fields, and the deer and birds were used for both food and sport. Robert was the family`s Senior Statesman, as it were, and there can be little doubt that his position was a central factor to the successful leases, grants and purchase of properties that were formerly part of Dieulacres` Monastic Manor estates sold off after the Reformation and demolition of the great Abbey in 1538.
     By now,seven Houses of Broughs were established on the Fryth: Chappelhowse, Rochegrange and New Grange, and Windygates--all certainly monastery properties. Waterhowse and Brownsword which may have been built since then, albeit on former Dieulacres, for they are not shown on its 13thc map. The one Brough house that is on the map but indicated as not monastery property is Middlehulme--it was however paying rents to the Abbey. One important thing to bear in mind is that the Fryth country was still being stripped of its oak forests for farmland and every family would take a part and rent or lease portions.
     The most important document of the time to us,is the Last Will and Testament of that Elder statesman Robert Broughe of Chappelhowse, who named his four sons and three grandsons, two Brough and a daughter's child; Edmund of Brownsword and Robert and Thomas his sons; Richard of Windygates; and William Burgh and Thomas Burgh. One other of his family is John Bullocke, his seemingly widowed son-in-law, and young grandson John.
     Robert`s assets were considerable and two most interesting factors were that his small bequest of money to the shrine of St Chad in Lichfield and rather more for the Service of St Mary in Meerbrook which "if God`s Service do decay, shall be returned to Edmund my son" indicate surely that he was pessimistic indeed for the future of The Faith after the Reformation. Further testimony of family devotion to Christian Life is shown in the ownership of a silver cross and a silver heart,along with the Seal of the Convent Yarde, entrusted to Edmund. I suggest that these last were treasured artifacts from the worshipping life they had known at the monastery.
One other Burgh amongst those with whom there is business to be concluded is John of Middull Hulme, a more distant kinsman.

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