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Wealth ... and Notoriety

Riddlesden and other
built by the Murgatroyds
in the
17th century are the
of other pages.



James Murgatroyd of Murgatroyd and Riddlesden was perhaps the most colourful of the Murgatroyds. Born in 1575 and living to age 78, he died in 1653, and is the one buried in the Table Tomb at the Luddenden church. Living in a period of conflict between the crown and Cromwell, he was not scared to air his allegiances.

"After the death of James in 1601-2 there was a period of some fifty years during which the family could be said to "have never had it so good!' . I assume this because of the great surge in house-building, much of which is still preserved. The list of houses built, re-built or bought by the Murgatroyds does not of itself give any idea of the vast acreage of land which went with the houses. The rents of tenanted land must have brought in a large income. We know from the Will of James (1601) that he had "looms, presses, sheers and a shop!" weaving must have brought in another substantial income whilst of course the "Queens Mill" in the valley of the Ludd continued to provide "mulcture" to the family, levied on every bushel of corn ground in that area. Surplus profits in those days could not be invested in I.C.I. ordinary shares so what could the Murgatroyds do with them - extra land was therefore bought and houses were built. They spread out of the valley, much of which they already owned, towards Ovenden and even a jump to Keighley where 200 acres and East Riddlesden Hall were purchased. It is fortunate for posterity that many of these builders were sufficiently proud to put the date of the operation and their initials (and sometimes of their wife) over the gateway to these houses."

We know that James Murgatroyd of Murgatroyd owned Murgatroyd, Boothsteads, Haigh House and six other houses and paid a Kings Rent of 17s and 11d. in 1632.

James of Murgatroyd not only built many houses, he also had a colourful life and left many interesting records. Two incidents are particularly interesting. The first concerns a Pardon of the 10th February,1625. The second refers to his refusal of a Knighthood. I cannot do better than to reproduce from Tom Sutcliffe's article on the Hollins which he wrote on the 4th September, 1915:-

Charged with "divers offences and misdemeanours committed in the Chapel, chapel porch and chapel yard of Luddingdon, in our County of York".

"Returning to James Murgatroyd of Murgatroyd, the Head Greave of Warley, a 'Pardon of Special Grace, granted to James Murgatroyd of Murgatroyd, yeoman' is preserved among the Hemmingway MSS, in the possession of the Bradford Antiquarian Society.

The Pardon was granted by King Charles 1., on the 10th February, 1625, the first year of his reign and extended to all offences (treasons, witchcraft and others excepted) committed before the previous 25th March. What the particular offence was of which James had been found guilty is not specified in the document, but ten years later another pardon was granted by the King (11th December 1635) to the same James Murgatroyd styled "the elder", this time not on behalf of himself, but of his three sons John, James and Henry Murgatroyd."

At the hearing in October, 1633, and the defendants were "fined in several, about 205 pounds" and also they were sentenced "upon a Saboth day in the said Chappel immediately after divine service to make publique acknowledgement of their said offences and misdemeanours by them committed against God and His Holy religion in that Holy place, and should likewise every of them in a sorrowful manner aske forgiveness of God, the congregation, the relator and his people."

The King therefore, in consideration of this payment by their father, released the sons from the payment of any further fines and from the said excommunications, penances, imprisonments, restraints etc., imposed by the Decrees or Order of the said Courts.

The fines were duly paid, but after an acquittance had been obtained for the fines, his three sons had been "convented and proceeded against before the Lord Archbishop of York" and other commissioners for "Causes Ecclesiastical within the province of York for the same misdemeanours.
..subsequently the offenders, by the sentence of the said commissioners were
fined again 640 pounds or thereabouts".

The document then informs us that James the elder, had paid the sum of 500 pounds into the hands of Sir John Lambe, Knight, towards the repairing of the Cathedral Church of St Paul's London.



A knighthood is offered by King Charles

Amidst this avalanche of misdemeanours and penances which fell on the intrepid Murgatroyds, we find on record one pleasant episode. On the 23rd October 1632 James Murgatroyds second son, Henry, was united in marriage to Jane Lacy, daughter and heiress of Thomas Lacy, of Midgley gentleman, when the bride's father assigned to the bridegroom the lease that he held of the Warley Corn Mills.

In the same year King Charles offered the Squire of Murgatroyd the tempting bait of a Knighthood, which he promptly refused, and paid a fine of 40 pounds. John his eldest son, was also selected for the honour of knighthood, and he, too, paid a fine, in his case of 15 pounds, rather than accept this expensive honour.

The Boon Hen

This story, found in the records of the Halifax Antiquarians Society relates to James who is there described as 'this rich clothier'. He had purchased a tenement near Skipton for which there was due to Lady Ann Clifford a charge or ground rent of a 'boon hen'. He refused to acknowledge the custom and was taken to Court by Lady Ann Clifford who won her case at York Assizes.and James was forced to give the 'boon hen'. The right was there found to have been established some four hundred years. The story goes on to say that the lady invited James to dinner and when the dish was uncovered there was the 'boon hen'. They are reputed to have become good friends, having many things in common including a passion for building houses.
The Will of James (1653)

The Will first provides that his loving Wife Mary should have 'her rights according to the Law and Custom'..

To his second son, Henry he gave Elam Grange in Morton and seven cottages belonging to it. Two closes called Stephen Flatts. An annuity of 3 per annum bought of John Lacy in Midgley. Four houses in Ovenden (including Long Can and Yew Tree) One of these four houses was occupied by Isaac Starkey, and he could have been a relative of Nicholas Starkey, who married James's daughter Grace in 1643. Warley Mills and kilns..

To his 4th and youngest son Thomas of Kershaw House, he left Kershaw House Five houses in Ovenden An annuity of 5.18.4d A number of houses and a Fulling Mill at Keighley. A rent out of the Upper Fulling Mill and a house at Wadsworth. Land in the Parish of Chipping in the County of Lancaster..

To the poor of the upper end of Warley and of Midgley he left 3.To the poor of Ovenden 20s. To the poor of Morton 20s. To the Minister at Luddenden 40s.

"It is appropriate to bring to an end, this part of the history by mentioning the Will of James dated the 17th October, 1653. I have observed that in those days, Wills were often made only days before the death of the Testator. In this case it was but one week between the stated date of the Will and the date of James's burial. In view of the complicated provisions in the Will, one hopes that James was as he stated `weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory'. Cromwell was in power, in Parliament, and had just been proclaimed Lord Protector. These must have been hard times for Royalists such as James. I see that he commenced by stating the date as the seventeenth day of October 1653. Before and after this period Wills gave the date as the .. year of the Reign of..... Charles the First was in prison but James was a practical man and did not risk a reference to his King. It should be noted that the following Will was not proved until 1663 at York. This was because during the 'troubles' the York Probate was suspended and Few Executors would undertake the journey to London. Some of the difficulties and much of the litigation which followed could have resulted from the uncertainty of James's Will and this ten year gap during which the contents of the Will might have been misunderstood or falsified.

James in his Will makes no reference to either the Mansion at Murgatroyd or that called Riddlesden Hall. He made no bequest to his son and heir, John of East Riddlesden Hall. John was however, appointed one of the Trustees with Thomas. From this I deduce that his heir succeeded to these Estates 'inter vivos' in other words `in the lifetime' of James and prior to the Will.

No mention has been made of James's third son, also called James. He certainly existed and there was a James at Hartley Royd who died on the 8th March 1670. I prefer to accept that James pre-deceased his father and this would explain his omission from the Will. This son had only female issue and his daughter Susan was his heir. She died without having married and her estate in Ovenden (no doubt derived from grand-father James) passed to her uncle, John of East Riddlesden Hall."

"So we come to the end of the long life of James Murgatroyd of Murgatroyd accounted by his neighbours to have been worth some 2,000 a year. He was a great figure, well in control of his vast affairs and forceful in character. Perhaps later events could in part be attributed to uncertainty over his Will (particularly as it could not be proved for ten years), perhaps his sons were not of the same calibre but for whatever the reasons, from this time onwards things began to go awry."

1997 R.D.Murgatroyd.
Dated-February, 2002