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.