Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Outlaw John Ainsworth

I have this story by searching through bits and pieces of inquisitions and land records from the British Archive online and records of Manchester...

This story takes place at exactly the same time as Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow and has many of the same people, on the eve of the War of the Roses...

Middleton was a parish in the west country near Manchester, England, north of the Apenine Moors. The Ainsworths lived there, in Lancashire and were farmers and landowners. John Ainsworth married Maud de Middleton whose father was Roger de Middleton Lord of Middleton Manor, and that moved the Ainsworths into Middleton Manor as dukes in 1361. Upon the death of Roger de Middleton, John de Ainsworth was appointed Duke of Middleton Manor "by the courtesy of England".

But... these were dangerous times in the mid-1300's, for John of Gaunt ran the countryside of Lancashire.

John of Gaunt was a ruthless and powerful man, younger brother of Edward the Black Prince and best friend of Henry Bolingbroke, Plantaganet, who would soon conspire to remove Richard II from the throne of England and ignite The War of the Roses. In those days Henry Bolingbroke was First Duke of Lancaster and John of Gaunt 2nd Duke of Lancaster.

Middleton Manor was well situated, and the property brought in sizable revenues each year. This is probably why several noblemen brought charges against John de Ainsworth, claiming to the Inquisition of Manchester that John Ainsworth had killed their comrade Adam de Knolles, one of the Duke of Lancaster's men, with an arrow in the forest. No other witnesses ever appeared in court and the inquisition decided that John Ainsworth was from thenceforth outlawed and his lands (some messauges in the county) were forfeit, but he could remain at Middleton Manor until the death of his wife Maud. John of Gaunt immediately told the rascal Richard de Cuddleworth that he could have possession of Ainsworth's lands for a year, and consequently Cuddleworth told Nicholas del Panter that he could have all of it upon the death of John de Ainsworth. At the time, the noble gentleman Robert Radcliffe lived peacefully upon the land as a tenant.

John de Ainsworth remained in Middleton Manor as duke. No one attacked him. No arrows were fired. No, as a matter of fact, two years later John of Gaunt was called before the Inquistion of Manchester because he had failed to answer a summons from the Exchequer because the Duke and his barons had failed to declare and pay taxes.

John of Gaunt never did claim Middleton Manor nor did he do in John Ainsworth, outlaw. John de Ainsworth was still living as duke of Middleton Manor after the death of his wife, in 1382. He died in 1386 and Ralph de Barton peacefully took his place as duke, introducing himself in that capacity in the parish chapel.

In 1399 John of Gaunt was himself declared outlaw and his lands were forfeit.

John Ainsworth, son of John Ainsworth, outlaw, married into a wealthy family from Blackburn (15 miles to the north) whose ancestors included Leofwin the Saxon Lord of Pleasington and Gamaliel its first Norman Lord. By this marriage, the manor of Pleasington became an Ainsworth holding.

No comments:

Post a Comment