Yorkshire Deeds Under the heading of West Bretton

Yorkshire Deeds (YAS) Volume V Under the heading of West Bretton

The following deed is already included in the family history in a shorter version and the following (original) deed is taken from the Byland Chartulary where it gives a longer list of witnesses and corrects two mistakes to the witnesses originally given. It is dated by Farrer as being around 1190 to 1220.

“ Grant in frankalmoign (frankalmoign is a form of tenure by which religious bodies held lands, especially on condition of praying for the soul of the donor) by Swain son of Ulkil de Brettona for the health of his soul and the souls of all his ancestors and heirs to God and the monks of St. Mary of Byland (given as Bella Landa and later Beghland) of all the ridding (rodam)(  rode-land   –   land cleared and brought into cultivation) in the territory of Brettonia called Smidiroda and all the land which he had on the west of Smidiroda from the bounds of Sitlingtonia as far as the conduit (ductum) of Emmelia on the north of the way leading from the said conduit towards Brettonia together with the dwelling place (sede) of Smidiroda, the wood, and other easements contained in the said land : and common pasture for two hundred sheep by the greater hundred (“The greater hundred” refers to the old Norse hundred – ie 120) and other beasts cultivating the said land throughout all the territory of the said vill: the monks to make their sheepfold for the said two hundred sheep on either side of the conduit, and to enclose the said land at will. The monks would give the grantor and his heirs 6s. yearly to wit 3s. at Whitsuntide ans 3s. at Martinmas. Witnesses Robert Walensis, John de Birkine, Thomas de Horbiry, Adam Phililli, Jordan de Hetona, Adam de Mirefield, Roger de Tornet, Thomas de Tornetonia

Note. We (SB & CB) will attempt later to try to put the early Brettons into some sort of order using the approximate dates of the deeds they made or witnessed. eg. Swain was presumably at least in his early 20’s when this deed was signed sometime between 1190 and 1220  It is possible that he was named after Swain fitz Ailric who could, looking at the intervening time scale, have been his g.g.grandfather. However it will be mainly supposition which has no real tenure in genealogy unless it gives a relationship – as in “Swain, son of Ulkil de Brettona”. It is interesting though to see how different generations of the family appear to swing between the Norman and the Old Danish in their choice of names.  

It is also interesting to see the old version of so many modern place names mentioned as witnesses eg. Birkine – Burkin, Horbiry – Horbury, Hetona – Heaton (as in Kirkheaton etc), Mirefield – Mirfield, Tornet/Tornetonia – Thornhill, and following ,  Floctona – Flockton, Denebi – Denby, Holand – Hoyland  The Sitlingtonia is of course Sitlington and Emmelia is Emley so, therefore, is Smidiroda the present SmithyRoyd, which is the area adjoining the steep hill from Middlestown (Sitlington) to Thornhill ? If so then the area of land in question is much larger than we first thought because there is a very large area between SmithyRoyd and Emley


There are several very old deeds listed in Volume 5 of “Yorkshire Deeds”, which, between them, provide the names of quite a few members of the Bretton family, some of which are from the 1100’s and 1200’s. These give a unique (although brief) insight into some of the relationships of the family immediately following on from Adam fitz Swain de Bretton. Without going into all the details (some of these mentions were only about people being witnesses to other people’s deeds) here are some of the names, with the relationships as described.

Yorkshire Deeds – Volume 5 – West Bretton pages 6/9

15. Swain son of Ulkil de Brettona grant to Byland Abbey (described earlier) dated by Farrer as being between 1190 and 1220. He states that Swain de Bretton and Maud his mother were parties in a fine with Alan de Criggleston in 1202 and that Swain was alive in 1243.

16. Witnesses to a deed are William de Bretton and his son Thomas referring to the immediately above deed and therefore roughly around the same time.

17. Grant and confirmation by Henry de Brettona to God and the monks of St.Mary of Byland, of the land and pasture that Swain, his brother, had granted them in the territoru of Brettona to do what they wished therewith, quit from all terrene service etc etc. Witness Alan de Brett(ona)

18.Grant and confirmation by Alan, son of Adam de Criggleston with Witnesses Swain de Bretton, William de Bretton, Thorold de Brettona  (around the same time.)

19. There is an interesting deed between (amongst others) the Monks of Byland Abbey and Swain de Bretton, Hugh son of Swain and Peter, son of Orm de Bretton regarding the “new land, taken into cultivation before Martinmas 1226 in the territory of Bretton” in which the men mentioned above (plus the others) granted in Frankelmoign to God and the monks of St.Mary of Belland “five acres of land in Migelaieflat (Midgley) in the territory of Bretton” and also a licence “to take stones for burning at their Grange of Bentelaie, namely in the territory lying between the ridding of Hugh de Oselete  and William de Bretton so long as the quarry shall last and with free entry and exit for them, their men and their transport for coming and going to the said land and quarry.

This photograph is reproduced by kind permission of English Heritage and I am grateful to them and to their staff for their help. I am especially grateful for the help of Dave Macleod, Senior Investigator, Aerial Survey and Investigations at York,(who took the photograph) Liz Jenkins and Chantelle Smith, all three of whom pulled out all the stops to allow me to add this photograph to our website. I think it says something about England (and English Heritage) that here we have a small reference to a deed in 1226, hidden in the Chartulary of Byland Abbey, and nearly 800 years later we are able to see the results of that gift from members of the Bretton family to the Abbey. I have seen these workings for the last 65 years but never before have I had the opportunity to see them so spectacularly displayed.

20. Whitsuntide 1243 Quitclaim by Swain de Brecton, son of Ulkil of the rent that the monks had paid him annually and confirming that the monks had in no wise been bound to his heirs for the said rent but only to him during his life as a recognition of fraternity Witnesses included Sir William de Bretton, Brun de Brecton and William, son of Thorald.

21.  Grant and confirmation by Hugh son of Swain, of all the grants made by Swain in the territory of Brettona. This was presumably after Swain’s death (1243 or later). Witnesses included William de Bretton and William and Robert, sons of Swain.

Yorkshire Deeds Volume 4 – Flockton – page 62

218 Grant to William, son of Michael de Netherflockton of land – witnessed byJohn de Bretton and Richard of the same  (prior to 1250/60)

The following is an excerpt from an article by Angela Petyt regarding the above deed (that is a grant of mining rights by licence from William Bretton to the Abbey of Byland of his “grange of Bentley) (This is the Bentley Springs that we have mentioned previously in our family history where the old iron workings are still visible to this day.

“The contribution of the Cistercian Order to the economic development of the north was little less than revolutionary.”

A discussion of this view of the Cistercians in the period 1130-1300.

By Angela Petyt

Some monasteries had the good fortune to be granted land under which were substantial mineral deposits, and they were not slow in exploiting it. Rievaulx possessed Flockton Grange and Byland had Bentley Grange at Emley and Denby Grange. All these estates were situated near Wakefield in the West Riding, a long distance away from the abbeys themselves. In every case, the abbey concerned took care to ensure a monopoly of mining rights, free passage to the site, and an adequate supply of timber for charcoal. Most mining sites were near to a river, which would be diverted if need be to bring water to the mine. One example of a grant of mining rights is a licence granted in 1226 by William de Bretton to Byland Abbey regarding Bentley Grange. “He also granted the monks a licence to take [iron] stone for burning at his grange of Bentley… and to quarry as much stone as they could with free entrance and exit to them and their men”. The usual type of mine was a circular shaft sunk to the level of the vein with the ore at the bottom of the shaft, and when this was all removed, they sunk another shaft nearby. When the ore was removed, it was washed and put into a furnace, either a stationary or moveable one. The best example of such circular shafts (bell pits) is at Bentley. Iron was a very valuable commodity — needed for plough shares, horseshoes, arrow tips, spades, nails, ship’s anchor’s etc., and thus the monks profited from their efforts and enterprise.

Grants to Northern Cistercian Monasteries – (I) Early gifts and acquisitions – from Swain, Son of Ulkill de Bretton to Byland Abbey; BM Add Mss No. 7459; BM Add Mss No. 7427; British Museum additional charters 1432; Rievaulx Cartulary Nos. 94, 95, 294; Fountains Charters BM Cotton 241v (II) Consolidation – DDSR/1 Savile of Rufford papers; BEA/C3/B7; BM Add Charters 7456; Byland Abbey deeds Add Mss No. 7534 British Library; Licence granted by William de Bretton to Byland Abbey for iron-smelting on Bentley Grange; BEA/B3/B10; Kings Bench, Westminster, DCCXCVII – between Henry Abbot of Byland and Thomas son of William (de Bretton) (Case 263, File 30, No. 15); Byland Abbey deeds Add Mss No. 7435 British Library; VR 4968 Fountains Charters

The following information was obtained from Bretton Hall, now the University of Leeds, and formerly the home of the Wentworth family. We are indebted for it to Leonard Bartle, the Custodian of the Bretton Estate Archives, a former colleague of mine and now with such an enviable job.

Yorkshire Deeds – Flockton

141. St. Matthias the Apostle – V Edward III (February 4th, 1330/31) William de Bretton is mentioned as holding landto the west of the Toftes”

147. Friday the morrow of the Apostles Peter & Paul (June 30th 1346) Quitclaim by Margery (Marieria), daughter and heiress of Robert, son of Adam de West Bretton, dwelling in Flockton, in her virginity, to Richard, son of Henry le Doubar, her brother (fratri), named the son of Cecily, her mother, of all rights in all the lands and tenement, with buildings, woods, meadows and pastures which Robert, her father, had of the grant and feoffmentof Adam de Braytwayt in the vill and within the bounds of Flockton, and which should have fallen to her hereditary right after the decease of Robert her father and Cecily her mother.

158.  November 30th. 22 Edw. IV (1482) Grant by Christopher Dyghton, son and heir of Christopher Dyghton, late of West Bretton, to Richard Wentworth esq., his heirs and assigns, of a messuage with all lands, meadow, feedings and pastures, woods and mines belonging thereto with apputenances within the vill and territory of Overflokton, which messuage lay between the tenement of Henry del Syke on the west and that of Henry Milner of Emley on the east. Also appointment of Wm Dyghton of Woolley and John Bretton of West Bretton as joint attorneys to enter and deliver sisin.

46.    1383 Grant by John Dronsfield of land “between the land of John de Bretton del Broderode which croft was called Symonecroft—- and the land of John de Bretton  of Littlemore—- by the land of John de Bretton on Trumclyf  ?????????? Cecily, daughter of Gilbert de West Bretton

48  June 20th 1414 John de Dronsfield  –  land at Netherbretton

1424  and 1425 John Bretton witnessed deeds Yorkshire Deeds Vol 7 page 157 (455)

Royston, All Saints Church, ist November, 1422

John de Bretton was one of eleven who appointed Wm. Hepworth, vicar of the church of “Ruston” as their attorney to deliver seisin to Thomas, son of Robert Smyth of Carleton of all lands, tenements and meadows etc etc, in accordance with their charter.

Aug 3rd. II Richard III (1484)   (459)

Grant by John Bretonar, Chaplain, to John Woderobe, of Wolvelay esq.,, his heirs and assigns, of all his puparty, of all the lands, tenements, mead and pastures with apputenances in Ruston etc.

(footnote. Also a release Aug 6 by the same to the same, of all right in the same. Same seal)

Yorkshire Deeds Vol 8 page 19

48. West Bretton. Exhaltation of the Cross September 14 (1317)

Indenture by which the Abbottand convent of Byland demised to master John de Dronfield ten acres of land in the territory of Bretton, those which they had of the grant of Peter, son of Orm de Bretton to hold for a term of 20 years, rendering yearly to the abbott and convent and their successors, 3s sterling in equal portions at Whitsuntide and Martinmass

(Vol 6. West Bretton number 33)

67. Deed dated 29 June, 21 Edward IV, (1481) where John Bretton was a witness.

69. Deed dated  April 30, III Henry VI, (1511) when John Bretton was a witness (This would be the son of the previous John Bretton and the grandfather of the Martyr.

71. Deed dated  September 30, 36 Henry VIII (1544) relates to a grant by Thomas Wentworth of West Bretton to William Calverlaye of Calverlaye, esq, and Richard Wheatlaye of Woolaye, gent, of land etc. Richard Bretton was a witness. Richard Bretton was the Martyr’s father.

Page 23 under the heading of Briestwhistle (Lower Whitley)

74. No date given. Notification to the Archbishop of York and the Chapter of st. Peter by William, son of Michael de Brertwisil of his grant to God and the monks of St. Mary of Byland (Bellelanda) of common pasture of all their beasts of Denabi, both of wood and plain, throughout all the territory of Brertwisil wherever his beasts or those of his men of the said vill fed outside the corn and  meadow (except in his park towards Witherlai) and all other easements within the said vill and without, growing oak excepted, the grantor’s men of Brertwisil not to be prevented from cultivating their lands in the territory of the said vill; the grantor not to receive thenceforth the beasts of any man within the common pasture of Brertwisil without the consent of the monks except his own beasts and those of his villeins of Brertwisil; nor would he make more meadow within the said common than was done in the time of King Richard;  also grant of free entry and exit  to the said pasture to them, their men and their beasts; to hold of the grantor, free from secular service,for the health of his soul and of all his ancestors and heirs, and for 5 marks of silver which the monks have given him in his great need.  A witness was Swain de Brettun.

Yorkshire Deeds volume 6 page 134

445.  Deed 445 dated 18. August 20 Henry VIII (1528) gives us the first mention of Hollinghurst, the estate where Richard Wentworth, the father of Francis Wentworth, the wife of the Martyr lived at the time of their marriage. It ( and deeds 226 and 447 following) appear to bring the Hollinghurst estate into the ownership of Sir Thomas Wentworth, the grandfather of Francis and the father of the above Richard wentworth, his second son.

The following excerpt is from an article written  ?? (thought to be in the 1930’s) by an inhabitant of West Bretton.

Page 33  During this early part of the 15th century, an incident occurs which seems completely unrelated  to the history which has gone before. The village of West Bretton has, for a long time, been connected with Monk Bretton priory according to J. W. Walker in his book on the subject. Its initial founder, Adam fitz Swain, was the son of Ailric, whom it was thought was one-time Saxon Lord of West Bretton. Throughout its life the Priory aquired interests with various families in the area who acted for beneficiaries for its well-being. None more than the de Bretton family, whom it seems were very influential and wealthy. This was brought about by the fact that a grave-slab was found in the Chapter House bearing the initials “D. W. Bretton.” This most definitely thought to belong to Sir William de Bretton as he left a large bequest to have his body buried within the Monastery’s walls:-

“Sir William de Bretton, Knight, left a rent of 4 shillings from an essart  called Gilberode in Hoyland which Gilbert son of Correlius held, and also the homage and service of the said Gilbert, and when the Testator died, the monks to receive his body” (Monk Bretton Chartulary ; page 80, number 220. Yorkshire Archaelogical Society)  He is mentioned as the son and heir of John Bretton, of West Bretton: whose father was Richard Bretton as also was his grandfather (Momk Bretton Chart. Page 19, number 26)

In 1444 Sir William de Bretton gave Thomas Haryngton, esquire, and other trustees, certain land and tenements in Monk Bretton, which his father and grandfather had leased to the prior and the convent for a term of years. 1st November 23 Henry VI (Monk Bretton Chart. Page  18 number 24)

20 September 1274. Ralph de Bretton was examined  for priesthood in Blida church ( the first recorded ordination from this House) (Reg. Clifford, York. Surtees Society) 197.

From the Catholic Encyclopeadia Volume II   a mention of “Venerable John Britton – or Bretton”

Olyef (Olive) daughter of Thomas Bretton married Edward Thurland son and heir to Thomas Thurland of Gamston who married Jane daughter of Robert Wylloby, sister to Sir Henry Wylloby.  Mentioned in Glover’s “Yorkshire Visitation 1563/64”

Again in the visitation of 1584 Glover mentions that Aleson, daughter of Thomas Bretton of West Bretton married Hugh Babthorpe of Babthorpe.  

You will note that one snippet of information we found in the records of Sandal Magna Parish Church there is a mention of “Martha, daughter of Thomas Bretton”  but no date and no comment on whether it is a birth or death. As the records are probably in chronological order all we know is that it would be between 1695 and 1710.   There is a Thomas Bretton right at the beginning of Hugh Bowler’s family chart for the Brettons as the youngest brother of John Bretton, the Deputy Secretary of the Council of the North. This ties in as the two marriages are “good ones” and the families (at that time) would be on the same social standing.

From the Nottinghamshire Archives – Savile of Rufford deeds & Estate papers

File ref : DD/SR/26/49       dated 1321

Agreement for the demise by Richard, son of Sir John de Thornhill (a relative of the Brettons) to William Danyel di Thurgerland and John de Bretton of his manor of Denby (Denby, Yorkshire) etc with certain chattels for 12 years at an annual rent of 44s. 0p in silver.

Ditto – Foljambe of Osburton deeds & Estate Papers

Yorks. Fairburn 1/214/3 March 1427/28

“Thomas Bretton senr of Thribergh”

Yorks South Hiendley 1/273/1  early 14th Century

“John son of John de Bretton and wife Johanna”