Focus on Middleham and Richard III: Our Collections

By Gail Falkingham, Record Assistant

In this third post in our series on Richard III, we feature more archive material held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office, to celebrate Richard III’s connections with Middleham and North Yorkshire. This includes 15th century documents from the Lawson of Brough family archive, and a 17th century copy of the granting of the markets, fairs and tolls of Middleham to Richard Duke of Gloucester, 1480.

In previous posts, Focus on Middleham and Richard III: The Collegiate Church and The Castle, we featured material relating to Middleham and its collegiate church and castle.

Agreement for personal service from the Lawson family of Brough archive [ZRL]

During the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487), after the death of Richard Neville, who had defected to lead the Lancastrian army against the House of York at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Richard, Duke of Gloucester took action to recruit the prominent retainers of the former Earl of Warwick into his own service. Gaining the support of men of local status helped Richard to secure his position in the North under King Edward IV, his elder brother. These retainers included a significant number of his own relatives, one of whom was his brother-in-law William Burgh of Brough, near Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Amongst the Lawson family of Brough archive, which contains deeds and papers of the Burgh family from c.1270-1562, are three parchment documents dated 4th October 1471 [ZRL 1/35-37]. The first of these is an agreement for personal service between Richard, Duke of Gloucester and William Burgh, squire [ZRL 1/35].

ZRL 1/35  Agreement for personal service  between Richard, Duke of Gloucester and William Burgh, squire, 4th October 1471.

This document confirms that William will support Richard for the rest of his life and, suitably horsed and harnessed, he will be ready to fight for the Duke in times of peace and war given reasonable warning and reward. The reward is mentioned as being a yearly fee of 10 marks sterling from the revenues of the vaccaries (cattle farms) of Sleigholme and the Lordship of Middleham:

William is witholden and beleft for terme of his lief with and toward the said Duc ayeinst alle persons his higeaunce except, And the same William wele and covenably horsed and harnesed shalbe redie to ride come and goo with toward and for the said Duc aswel in tyme of peas as of werr’ as alle tymes and unto alle plac’ uppon resonable warnyng to be yoven unto hym on the behalf of the said Duc at his cost’ or resonable reward, the said William taking yerely for his fee ten marc’ st[erling] of thissues prouffit’ and revenues comyng and groweng aswel of the ferme of the vaccarie of Sleigholme as of the fermes and revenues of the lordship of Midelham by the hand’ of the receivors fermors baillyf’ or other occupiours therof for the tyme beyng at the termes of Martynmas and Whitsontyde by even portions. And the same Duc shall have the iij des of alle wynnyng’ of werre wonne or goton’ by the said William and the iij de of iij des  of all his servaunt’ that he shal have at the wag’ or cost’ of the said Duc. And if any capitain or man of estate by the said William or any his servaunt’ by taken the said Duc shal have hym, yevyng to the taker resonab!e reward for hym”.

Two further documents in this collection confirm this reward; a warrant to the bailiff of the vaccaries of Sleigholme and lordship of Middleham to pay 10 marks each year to William Burgh [ZRL 1/36] and a letters patent of Richard, Duke of Gloucester conferring the right of such a payment to William Burgh for life [ZRL 1/37].

All three documents are signed by Richard in the top left as ‘R. Gloucestre’.

The white boar was a symbol of King Richard III, used by his household and followers from the 1470s. William Burgh may have worn the symbol of the white boar to show his allegiance to Richard.

YORYM : 2012.577 The Stillingfleet Boar Badge, dating to c. 1470s-1500.
Silver-gilt livery badge in the form of a boar.
Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: CC BY-SA 4.0

The Markets and Fairs of Middleham

A weekly market and annual fair at Middleham were granted to Ralph Neville (c.1364-1425) by Richard II in 1388. Until the 1930s, markets were held in Middleham on Mondays. In 1479, Richard, Duke of Gloucester granted the town the right to hold two annual fairs, a tradition which continued into the 19th century.

A medieval stone cross towards the centre of the town of Middleham marks the location of the lower market place, where the townspeople would come to buy and sell goods. Such crosses were also used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamations and announcements. Less than 2,000 of such medieval standing crosses are thought to exist; the significance of the Middleham example is recognised by its designation as both a scheduled monument of national archaeological importance and a Grade II listed building. 

Note the absence of the Celtic-style cross-head in the current photograph. A modern iron cross has been inserted in its place. The listed building description mentions that the old cross-head of c. 1920 is now held in the church.

The Swine Cross, located in the upper market place a short distance to the west of the Market Cross, is also a scheduled monument.

The schedule entry records the details of a plaque on the monument which reads:

This cross is thought to commemorate the grant obtained for Middleham in 1479 for a fair and market twice yearly in Whitsun week and at the feast of St Simon and St Jude by Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. The heraldic animal may be his own cognisance of the white boar, or the emblem of the family of his wife, Anne Neville, co-heiress of the lordship of Middleham”

Later copies of both these grants can be found in the Middleham Parish Council collection [PC/MID 1/2/1-2]. A badly damaged paper copy of the 1479 grant, written in Latin, can be seen below [PC/MID 1/2/2]. Copied in 1686, the edges of this document have since been gnawed away by rodents prior to its deposition with the County Record Office.


Find out more:

Further details about the Record Office collections can be found in our online catalogue

Copies of Bertram Unné photographs may be viewed and purchased via our online shop

Details of archaeological sites, finds and historic buildings in Middleham and surrounding areas can be found in the North Yorkshire Historic Environment Record (NYHER) maintained by the historic Environment Team of North Yorkshire County Council. The online NYHER database may be searched via the Heritage Gateway website.

The portrait of Richard III and an associated exhibition of related objects, including the Middleham Jewel, will be on display at the Yorkshire Museum in York from 9 July – 31 October 2021.

You can find out more about the Stillington Boar Badge worn by Richard III’s supporters in a 23 minute Live Curator Talk with Lucy Creighton, Curator of Archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum on the York Museums Trust YouTube channel

Further Reading:

‘The Burghs of Brough Hall, c. 1270-1574′, by A.J. Pollard, 1987, in North Yorkshire County Record Office Journal 6, pp.6-24.

‘North-Eastern England During the Wars of the Roses: Lay Society, War, and Politics 1450-1500’ by A.J. Pollard, 1990, Clarendon Press.

‘The North of England in the Age of Richard III’, ed. A.J. Pollard, 1996, Alan Sutton Publishing.

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