The “Brettons” of West Bretton from Adam Fitz Swein de Bretton

The “Brettons” of West Bretton from Adam Fitz Swein de Bretton

The direct pedigree of the Bretton family (of Flockton Green and West Bretton)     is considered fairly accurate back to about the middle 1400’s, mainly through the work of Dom Hugh Bowler, the Roman Catholic historian who spent a great deal of time on tracing the life, and martyrdom, of Blessed John Bretton. Before that there are numerous mentions of “Brettons'” in , for instance, “The Burghs of Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire” by J. W. Walker C.B.E., F.S.A., in the Yorkshire Archaeological Society Journal XXX p.312 :     “The Chartulery of the Abbey of Byland” in the 12th Century : and Hunter’s “Deanery of Doncaster” vol II Yorkshire (1831). The “History of Barnsley” by Jackson and “Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield” by W. G. Collingwood, and the “History of Monk Bretton Priory” have also provided information – as well as the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, ”Wakefield – its’ History and People” by J. W. Walker, and “West Yorkshire- An Archaeological Survey to 1500”. Further information was contained in “ A Literary and Biographical History or Biographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from the breach with Rome in 1534 to the present time” Vol. I. by Joseph Gillow published in 1895.

The information tends to be in scraps and, unless documents which may have been kept privately now arrive in the public domain (in such a place where they may be seen by future searchers) it is unlikely that the missing links will be filled in. For the benefit of (any) future research the following information has been culled from the above sources. It is both an attempt to assemble as many pieces of a jigsaw as possible, in the hope of completing (so far as possible) the picture, and an attempt to provide an interesting glimpse of the way people lived in the 12th to 16th centuries.     Even more important in a family history it is, to us, quite fascinating in its glimpses of the life of our ancestors so many years ago.

To put the way of life in the 11th to 15th centuries into perspective let me quote a few examples from the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield. These have nothing to do with the Bretton family but are     striking examples of how hard the life was.

  1. (1274) “It is presented that Alice, widow of Elias Baugeclar broke the barn of Robert, son of Henry de Crigeliston, and stole four sheaves of corn ; Robert pursued her and took the corn from her and allowed her to go. Fined 13s 4d”     She did not wait for the fine and immediately became a fugitive. The Court Rolls showed an almost immediate       followup – “These are the chattels which were found in the house of Alice, widow of Elias Baugeclar, a fugitive, viz., 3 bushels of Draget, sold for 8d. 1 quarter of oats, sold for 17d.., half a quarter of a bushel of oats for 10d, a small hutch (a “hutch” was a kind of cupboard) value 6d.,one empty jar value 7d., and other small utensils value 2d. Total 4s. 2d. The Grave of Sandale is to seize them into the Earl’s hands” and finally ” Robert, son of Henry de Crigeliston gives 2s for license to take all the land which Alice, wife of Elias de Baugeclar, a fugitive, held of the Earl in Crigeliston, for ever, doing services and customs”     So not only was she fined over three times the value of all her chattels but her accuser then took over the lands she had tenanted. It appears that she never returned home after being caught since, if she had done, she must surely have taken with her the food that was later found in her home. It seems fair to assume therefore that the contents listed above represent everything she possessed.
  2. The privilege of Infangthief was exercised by the Earls Warrene in Wakefield. This was the right to execute in a summary manner all thieves who were taken with the stolen goods in their hands. Starting in the Anglo-Saxon times this was retained in Wakefield until the 1650’s and was the decision of a jury of 12 tenants of the manor. and the death sentence depended upon the coroner being present. In 1275 Jack of Ireland was prosecuted for stealing a robe of burrell ( a coarse woollen cloth of a reddish hue). The verdict of the jury was that he should hang.

In 1314 John de Blackhowmore was brought up for breaking into the house of Roger Walgar and stealing goods valued at 10 shillings and he was executed.

In 1332 Richard de Rode was prosecuted for breaking into the house of Johanna de Tothill’s father and stealing her clasps and jewellery to the value of 20 shillings. He was hanged.

Also in 1332 John Race was beheaded for robbery and his house and lands of 25 acres were confiscated.

It was a very hard life indeed for everyone.

But now back to the items mentioning members of our own family ………………

Hugh de Bretoil (spelling ?) was a witness to a charter from King Henry II granting Dodworth to the monks of Pontefract (between 1154 and 1189)

Page 556 (West Bretton) 1166 An Archeaeol. Survey…..

West Bretton hamlet, charters of which have been published by Sir Charles Clay and Farrer may have been held in 1166 by Ulfketill de Bretton, whose son Sveinn granted and quit-claimed Smitherode in Bretton to Byland Abbey between 1190 and 1220, a gift confirmed by Henry de Bretton and Hugh, Sveinn’s brother and son respectively. In 1202 Sveinn de Bretton and his wife Matillis released their right in 2 bovates of land in Bretton to Alan de Crigglestone in exchange for Alan’s release of his right in another 6 bovates there. Sveinn was granted a bovate of land in Bretton by Adam son of Thomas in 1219. Sveinn’s son Hugh leased his meadow to the north of his mill to Ralph de Horbury from which Ralph was to have the hay crop from 1251 to 1271.

Peter, another of Sveinn’s sons, granted his land in Bretton to Thomas fitzWilliam in the mid thirteenth century.

Between 1190 and 1200 Peter son of Orm and William his son; Swein, son of Ulkile de Bretton, Henry de Bretton, brother of Swein; Hugh, son of Swein, and Alan de Criggleston granted Byland Abbey 10 acres of land in Bretton with common pasture for 200 sheep and as many oxen could plough the land. His holding was probably an undertenancy but it is not clear whether it lay in West Bretton hamlet or in Bretton hamlet. A note for the above statement says that he gave them 10 acres in Brectona wheresoever they should chuse, to wit, Rushcliff and Trunclive and three acres under Trunclive with right of common for forty sheep and such cattle as were requisite to plough the land. William the son confirmed this gift : and amongst the witnesses were Sir William de Bretton, Sir Robert de Holland, Hugh, son of Swein de Bretton. The same 10 acres were leased in 1317 to John de Dronfield     (Hunter’s “deanery of Doncaster Vol II) (1831)

Page 558 Bretton 1166 (West Yorks – an Arch. survey)

Hunter has proved the descent of the manor of Bretton through the Dronsfield family (with whom the Bretton family had links dating back to the conquest)

In the early 1200’s Thomas de Dicton and his brother Henry bought much land in Woolley from (amongst others) the Brettons of West Bretton.Y.A. J. VolxxvII       p.264

Between 1246 and 1258 Adam de Hoyland released all his claim to the land which William de Bretton had held in Bretton, Cumberworth and elsewhere to William de Dronsfield…..

Richard de Bretton who was alive in 1158 had       three sons – Alan, Adam and Richard de Bretton.       Adam de Bretton had three bovates of land at       High Hoyland, a neighbouring village to West Bretton in 1176 and had a son –

William Fitz Adam de Bretton who was alive in 1200. (“Fitz” is from the French Fils and means “son of”)

William de Bretton was a witness to a charter of Richard de Craven to Pontefract Priory during the reign of Henry II (before 1189)

“Charter of Henry Rasur de Bretton granting to the monks of     St. John of Pontefract (with the consent of Alice, his wife) the land situate nigh to the Bridge of Barnsley, towards the north, which is called Stephene Crimbil, with all the liberties and easements belonging thereto, and to the land called Lagelay, to hold in pure and perpetual alms, for the salvation of the souls of the said Henry and Alice and of their ancestors. A witness was Hugh son of John de Bretton (from History of Barnsley – during early years of the reign of King John – 1199 to 1216)

A John de Bretton witnessed a Sykes of Flockton deed c. 1200.

Between Swanus de Bretton & Matilda his mother demand(t) & Alan de Crigleston ten(t), of 2 bouates (bovates) of land with the appurtenances in Bretton, the right of Alan & his heires for euer (ever) And Alan remitted etc all his right and claime which he had in 6 bouates of land with the appurtenances in Bretton which John de Thurgarland (Thurgoland) held to the forsaid Swanus & Maud and their heires for ever. (Fines 4 John [1202-3] Wapentake of Agbrigg) {additional note to this entry stated that “the Prior of Bretton is returned as Lord of West Bretton in this wapentake” – 9 E 2 1315/1316} Note:It is extremely interesting to see (above) the the Archaeological Survey to 1500 describes this transaction as being carried out by Sveinn de Bretton and Matillis his wife rather than Swanus de Bretton and Matilda his mother !!

William de Bretton was a witness to a charter in the 7th year of the reign of King Henry III (1223)

William de Bretton was a witness to a charter in the reign of Henry III (page 70 – Hist. of B.)

William de Bretton was a witness to an agreement in 1242 between Rafe de Horbiry and Henry, son of Elias de Ketelesthorp (Dodsworth’s Yorkshire Notes under heading Ketelthorp)

Henry, son of John de Bretton witnessed a charter (King Henry III reign ? – 1216 to 1272)

(unfortunately many early deeds were not dated) (page 75 H. of B.)

“Charter of John de Cellario de Bretton, granting to Gerard de Bernesley,     son of Averdus, and his heirs and assigns, two crimbles in the fields of Bretton, viz., those which belong to his two assarts, to wit, Lamerod and Langlay which he held of the Lord Prior of Bretton (Monk Bretton) which lay nigh unto the Mill of Bernesley,     and one crimble butted on the Mill, and the other end of the water, and one end of one crimble butted on the Dearne, and the other end on the bridge. To hold to him and his heirs in fee and inheritance, freely and quietly, paying thereout annually three pence in lieu of all service at the Annunciation of the Blessed Mary. For that grant the said Gerard gave him two shillings as the price”. One witness was John son of Hugh de Bretton (page 80 H. of B.)

Dominus (knight) William de Bretton was a witness to a charter of Adam de Oldfield (in Henry III reign ?) page (81 H of B.)

A William de Bretton ( the Dominus William above ?) witnessed a Whitley deed c.1230. and a Scoley deed in the same year. (Scoley is not even a hamlet – described as on the right hand side of the road to Pontefract from Hemsworth and almost due south of Nostell.

The name “Sir William de Bretton” (possibly the same William) appears in several charters c. 1250 [The title “Sir” was commonly used for priests before the reformation but it may have been a knighthood] In a deed around 1230’s/40’s William de Bretton is described as “Dominus” –Knight – in the Pontefract Chartulary

A “Swein de Bretton” and       Matilda (Maud) his mother (wife, in another record), are mentioned in 1202

Swein de Bretton, son of Ulkile de Bretton (Ulfkettil in another record) is probably the same person. (Whilst these names would confirm a saxon origin for the Brettons, Swein had a brother, Henry, which is a Norman name and at least 5 sons, Hugh, Robert, William, Henry and John.

(History of Sandal Castle mentions that “Bretton” is an old British (Saxon) name.)

Robert, son of Swein de Bretton grants to Agnes, daughter of Sir Thomas Fitz-William, land and a house which he has in Bretton, conditionally that she rendered annually to the light before the altar of St. Mary, in the church of Sandal, one penny, ad Pascham floridam, for all services, suit of court etc. saving the service to the chief lord of the fee, with warranty against all men, as well Jews as Christians. (Hunter’s Deanery of Doncaster Vol II – also on page 325 of “Wakefield it’s history and people” by Walker.)

Hugh de Bretton is noted in a deed of 1251. “Convention between Ralph de Horbury and Hugh, son of Swein de Bretton. Hugh demises to Ralph his meadow on the north side of the mill of the said Hugh for twenty years for a certain sum of money given in magna necessitude sua : the first crop to be taken in 1251 and the last in 1271, Ralph to have sufficient hedge-wood from the wood of the said Hugh to inclose the meadow, or to ditch it, whichever shall be thought the most expedient. Hugh engages that Ralph shall have a suitable road for leading his hay” Witnesses Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam, Sir William de Bretton, etc.

“John, son of Thorold de Bretton to Agnes, daughter of Sir Thomas Fitz-William, land and tenements, with all services etc to hold at a rent of 6d. (Hunter….)

Robert, son of Thorold de Bretton, to Juliana, his sister, for her homage and service and for 20s paid as a gersome, totum illud toftum cum edificiis deuper plantatis, quod Willielmus frater mens quondam tenuit in West Bretton with two acres in Bromley to hold at a rent of 2s. (Hunter….)

John, son of Geoffrey de Clayton, to Alexander son of Hugh de Brettona messuage with common of pasture, rendering annually twelve pence of silver fratribus Hospitalis Irlhm. scil. de Nova Terra, Newland. (Hunter….)

Sir William de Bretton witnessed a charter from Thomas Faber to Sir Ralph de Horbiri of a toft in Bretton and six acres. (Hunter…..)

Roger son of Osilsete (Ossett) to William de Clayton, all lands in West Bretton in the places undermentioned : Scrikhurst, Mapilhurst, Laterod, Walterode, Grescroft, Haldenrod, Crofton, Water-rod juxta Grescroft, Fitchfield juxta aulam, Westfield versus Clayton and Bromley, to hold to the chief lord by homage and service and rent to him of 5s. per annum and Ixd per annum to the brothers of the hospital of Jerusalem. Witnesses Sir William de Bretton, Sir Thomas de Horbiri, Swain de Bretton, Hugh, Robert, William and Henry, his sons……….. (Hunter………)


We mentioned earlier references to the relationship between the de Brettons and the Dronsfields. Hunter states that the respective Lords of the manor of West Bretton were the Brettons, the Dronsfields and the Wentworths. The Wentworths later married into the Blackett/ Beaumonts from whom the last Lord of the manor of Bretton (and the last occupant of Bretton Hall) – Lord Allandale – sprang.       Lord Allandale sold the estate in the mid 1900’s and resided then at his other estates in Northumberland. The Colonel Blackett/Beaumont who bought Bretton Hall in the 1700’s was descended from the Beaumonts of Beaumont, Whitley who were in fact de Brettons’ who changed their name on moving to Beaumont – so the wheel had come full circle.

Hunter then goes on to discuss this. He says :- “Hitherto there has been no appearance of the Dronefields or Dronsfields, for the name is written both ways in their early charters, in whom the various early interests in Bretton seem to have coalesced. The name, however , is found in some undated charters respecting Bretton, belonging to the reigns of Henry III and Edward I (1216 to 1306) and it is, I conceive, to the former of these reigns that we are to refer as the period when the Dronsfields became settled in Bretton. Our genealogical antiquaries have done little for this family: nor have I seen any attempt to connect them with the people, (de Brettons) some of whose charters have now been abstracted, and yet it can hardly be doubted that they came to Bretton in consequence of some connection with the family, who appear with no other addition than de Bretton. This I infer from the following very important charter : “Omnibus etc Holaunde etc. Noveritis etc. Willielmo de Dranfeud et heredibus etc Release of all claims in the lands and tenements which were William de Bretton’s, scilicet in Villis de Bretton, Combreworth, Barnby, Keveresford, et in omnibus aliis locis     exceptis duobus bovatisterrae cum pertinenciis, scilicet una bovataterrae in Holande, et alia bovataterrae in Comberworth. The witnesses are Sir     John de Hoderode, then steward of Pontefract, Robert de Stapleton, Thomas de Horbiri, John de Neyvile, Baldwinus Teutonicus, Thomas de Dranfeud, Henry the Forester and others.”

He then goes on to say “ Other Dronsfields appear in Bretton in deeds without date. William —-(de Bretton) and Cecilia his wife grant to John de Dronfeld and Thomas his son a tenement in Bretton and the reversion     of another, which Edmund de Dronfeld holds for term of life: Henry (de Bretton) son of Cecilia gives to John, his brother and Cecilia his wife, nine selions in West Bretton between the land of John de Dronfeld and of Robert de Dronfeld. Edmund de Dronfeld is mentioned in another part of this deed as being the brother of John. ………………….land which they held of the said Thomas in West Bretton which Juliana had of the gift of Emma her mother, and of Robert (de Bretton) son of Thorold, rendering a rose in tempore rosarum …………………. Robert, son of John, son of Swain (de Bretton) to Thomas son of Thomas de Dronfeld half an acre in the south field of the town of West Bretton, near the King’s highway which passes through the midst of the town of Bretton ……………”

Note. Again the lack of any attempt to obtain reasonable recompense for the land would appear to indicate that the two parties were related.

John son of Gilbert de Bretton to John de Dronfeld who is here called Dominus de Bretton a toft and croft in Littlemore, Edmund de Dronfeld de Bretton a witness. Dom Hugh Bowler, in a letter to Rowland Bretton on 2/April/1956 identified Edmund de Bretton as Edmund de Dronfeld de Bretton

“Richard de Bretton came in full Court, and proved a black ox to be his ; and he found Robert the Baker of Bretton and John the Clerk of Cutherwrth as pledges for producing it or 7s. 6d., it’s value, within a year and a day” (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls on Friday the morrow of S. Nicholas in the 3rd year of the reign of King Edward I [1274])

Priest’s orders were conferred on Ralph de Bretton of the House of the White Friars (Carmelite Friars) of York in 1274. from Victoria History of Yorkshire iii, 291

Richard de Bretton and John de Bretton were jurors in a murder trial . Monday in the morrow of Holy Trinity [June 9th – 1275] Edward I

“William del Hyrst the first time, as to a wager of law against     William son of Adam de Waddeswrth, by Robert Aleyn, and against John son of Thomas Buste, by Henry de Byrry and against John Momyl who did not come, by Richard de Bretton ….. plus many others (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls, Eve of S. Laurence [10th Aug] 3rd year of King Edward I 1275)

“Richard de Bretton against William de Letterby, says, for himself and Michael his son and mainpast, that on Whitmonday this year he sent his son to a certain essart, called Stonroyds, to distrain for a rent due to him, to wit, 2d. for one part and 6d. for the other part ; Michael made the distress, and took a steer and a cow and two heifers and drove the cattle to his father’s fold ; and William de Letterby came on the King’s high way, with a bow and arrows and beat and wounded Michael, and drew blood from him, and took the cattle away from him by force, and made rescue of them, by force and unjustly, and against the peace ; he claims 33s. 4d. damages and produces his suit. William comes and denies the force etc, and says that he holds nothing of Richard in that essart for which he ought to pay rent of 2d. and 6d., as Richard says, and denies the rest of it word by word. He must therefore wage his law ;     pledges of the law, Peter de Bretton and Luvecok de Bretton [de eadem], who are also pledges for William’s good behaviour towards Richard Bretton and his son. Richard finds Henry de Bir’ as pledge for his good behaviour against William and all others.” ( Wakefield Manor Court Rolls, Friday in Whit week in the 3rd year of the reign of King Edward I [1275])

“Richard de Bretton and Michael, his son the first time against William de Letterby, as to receiving a [wager of] law, by Pagan de Crigel[iston] and John de Bretton ; pledge Robert Alayn. And because William offered himself, he has a day at the next court. (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls, Friday in the Vigil of S. Peter [June 29th] in the 3rd year of the reign of King Edward I     [1275[)

“Richard de Bretton, the second time against William de Letterby as to a wager of law, by John de Bretton ; Pledge Robert Aleyn ; Michael his son, the like, against the same William, by Henry de Byry. As he, William, offered himself, a day is given at the next Court. (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls Friday in the eve of S. Margaret the Virgin 3rd year of the reign of King Edward I, 1275)

“Richard de Bretton and Michael his son are in mercy for withdrawing themselves from receiving a wager of law by William de Letterby touching a seizure of cattle ; Pledge John son of Swayn de Bretton. Fine 2s. (Wakefield manor Court Rolls on Friday, the eve of S. Lawrence [Aug 10th] in the 3rd year of the reign of King Edward I [1275]

“Agnes de Bretton complains of John Kay, Robert del Grene and Amabel his wife, John With-the-hounds (cum Canibus) and Margery his wife, John With-the-hounds, junior, Roger son of Christiana, Hugh Bille and Walter Appecok for trespass. They did not come and therefore are to be distrained” (Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield page 213, on Friday after mid-Lent in the 14th year of the reign of Edward I [1286])

“Agnes de Bretton complained before Sir John de Kyrkeby, of Robert de Grene and his wife, Henry de Swynlington, Lance del Clyf, John juvene cum Canibus [called John cum Canibus junior at the previous court], Roger son of Christiana, and Walter Appecock, for trepass. They compounded with the said Agnes for 8s. ; pledges Henry Schorthose and John cum Canibus. She shall not make further complaint in any court for the said trespass” (Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield,on Friday next after the Octave of Easter in the 14th year of the reign of King Edward I – 1286)

“Agnes de Bretton complains of Henry de Swylington, Robert del Grene, Lance del Clyf, son of Christiana, Walter Appecok and Margery,     wife of John With-the-hounds [cum Canibus] for trespass ; Pledge, William de Barneby. Let them be summoned. She also complains of Henry Schorthose for the like” (Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, on Friday the 1st of June in the 14th year of the reign of King Edward I [1286])

“The defendants to the suits of Agnes Bretton [as above] are to be resummoned” (Friday before the Nativity of Blessed John the Baptist [24th June] in the year etc etc (1286)

“Agnes de Bretton, plaintiff against Henry de Swillington, Robert de Grene, Lance de Clyf, Roger, son of Christiana, Walter Appecock, Henry Schorthose and Margery, wife of John With-the-hounds [cum Canibus] was called and did not come ; therefore she and her pledges are in mercy” (Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield on Friday the Feast of S. Margaret the Virgin [July 13th] in the year etc [1286])

1293 Thomas de Hybernia de Thorgerland, Thomae de Dronfeld, domino meo et Joannae uxori suae and annual rent of 6d. to be taken from Cecilia and Elizabeth, daughters of William, son of Peter de West Bretton, for lands which they held of me in West Bretton, of the fee of Thomas de Dronfeud my lord with all wards etc.

Richard de Bretton was a witness of a sale of land in 1296 between John son of Rafe de Horbiri Kt and John son of William de Thornhill. (Dodsworth’s Yorkshire notes “Miggley in Shitlington”)

Richard de Bretton was a witness at a court in Ossett (Ossete) on Friday of the first week of Lent, 1297 as follows :-

Magge Codling, sister of Henry Schorthose, arrested at the suit of Evote, daughter of Ralph de Uchethorp, with regard to a burnet hood (pro uno capucio burnetti), says she bought the hood honestly in Wakefeud market. Eva withdraws her complaint and she and her pledge are in mercy and she is delivered to prison because she withdrew. And the said Magge nevertheless puts herself on the the verdict of the following twelve men …. (including Richard de Bretton) who say that she is good and true and she goes quit. Eva to remain in the Lord’s prison until she finds security to satisfy the Lord for her withdrawal. Fine, 12d.

“Alverthorpe. – Agnes de Bretton complains of Adam son of Gerbot, and says that he sold her and Adam, her husband, an acre of land near the fulling mill, surrendering it in open court to them and their heirs. The defendant admits it, and says that when he was Grave her rent was in arrears, and by the Steward’s order he seized the said land into his own hands, and not otherwise. The court finds for Agnes, who is to recover seisin ; Adam’s fine is forgiven, because he is poor. Pledge, William son of John Hoskel.” (Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield on Friday the feast of S. Edmund the Archbishop [Nov. 16th] in the 24th year of the reign of King Edward I [1296])

Richard de Bretton – Juror – 22nd July, 1286 (W.M.C.R.)

Richard de Bretton -Juror 11th Nov 1296 (W.M.C.R.)

Richard de Bretton – Juror     – 1st week in Lent 1297 (W.M.C.R.)

Richard de Bretton – Juror – Tourn on Sunday, next before Ascension Day, 1297 (W.M.C.R.)

“Alice, widow of Nicholas de Brocholes, the first time against Robert, son of Molle in a plea of detaining cattle, by Richard de Bretton ; Pledge John de Ryley” (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls on Friday after the Translation of S. Thomas the Martyr [July 7th] in the 25th year of the reign of King Edward I [1297])

“The daughter of Agnes de Bretton 1d for dry brushwood from the old park.” [Wakefield Manor Court Rolls – Friday in Easter week 1297]

“Adam Gerbot sold an acre of land to Agnes de Bretton for one and a half pence per year and not 6d. as he says. Fine 3d. (12th March, 1289, Wakefield Manor Court Rolls)

“Henry de Swillington v. Adam Gerbot and Richard his brother ; they let him an acre of land in le Fal for three crops and he manured it ; and afterwards Agnes de Bretton recovered the land against him as her own, whereby plaintiff lost two crops and his manure. Adam acknowledges it and must satisfy the plaintiff. His fine pardoned because he is so poor. May 1st, 1298 912 Edward I) (W.M.C.R.)

Richard de Bretton Juror (Wakefield M.C.R. 25 Edward I – 1297)

“Agnes de Bretton unjustly raised the hue after Henry de Swylington for carrying away corn which he had sown on land that she claims which is the Earl’s villein land. She is to come before the Steward” (Wakefield M.C.R. 25 Edward I, 1297)

Richard de Bretton – Juror 15.7.1298 Wakefield MCR

Richard de Bretton – Juror 19.6.1308 Wakefield MCR

“In the year of our Lord 1303 Adam de Wannervill, Lord of Hymelesworth let to     ferme to John, son of John de Bretton all his right which he had for the terme of 27 yeares next following, in all his tenement which John de Bretton, father of the forsaid John, lately held of Nicholua, mother of the forsaid Adam, in the town and territory of Hornecastell etc etc.”       Dodworth’s Yorkshire Notes – Wapentake of Osgoldcross – in the writeings of Francis Wortley Kt and Baronet. (Horne Castle is in Staincross Wapentake)

“Agnes de Bretton fined 4d. for her two maids breaking dry wood” (28th October, 1307 Wakefield Manor Court Rolls)

“Agnes de Bretton sued Amice de Swylington for Trespass. Pledge William Taillour” (3.7.1308 Wakefield Manor Court Rolls)

“Agnes de Bretton sued Amice de Swylington for trespass” (8.9.1308 Wakefield Manor Court Rolls)

“Agnes de Bretton and Amice de Swylington have a love day” (Fri after Michaelmas 1308, WMCR)

“Agnes de Bretton withdraws her suit from Amice de Swylington. Fine pardoned because she is so poor” (1.1.1309 Wakefield M.C.R.) ( Poor ? 15 months ago she had two maids !)

“Elias de Bretton was pledge for John de Chevet” (3.7.1308 – Wakefield Manor Court Rolls)

Thorold de Bretton had three sons named John, Robert and William

Richard son of Richard de Bretton, lease of lands at Bretton to Thomas de Dronfsfeld for twelve years from Pentecost 1310, at a rate of 12d. of silver. (Hunter’s Deanery of Doncaster etc)

1310 (4 Ed II) Robert son of John de West Bretton to Thomas son of Thomas de Dronefeld three acres in West Bretton which he has of the gift of John de Kent. (Hunter …..)

“4 Edw. II (1311) Robert, son of John de West Bretton” (Hunter)

1315 (9 Ed. II) Henry de Seyvill and Amabil his wife to Edmund de Dronfeld, two messuages and forty four acres, which they have of the gift of Richard de West Bretton, father of Amabil (Hunter…)

1316 John son of Thomas de Dronfeld, leases to Hugh le Key and Diota his wife, a messuage which Peter (de Bretton) son of William formerly held in West Bretton for twenty years. The tenants to have spinas et stipites for fencing and to build a grange. (Hunter)

1320 (14 Ed. II) Robert son of John son of Swein de West Bretton to Edmund son of Thomas de Dronfeld a piece of land called Heghrode. (Hunter….)

1321 (15 Ed. II) Robert son of John son of Swein de West Bretton to John son of Thomas de Dronfeld a messuage between the toft of Edmund de Dronfeld and the meadow of the said John. (Hunter…)

“In prison. – Richard, son of John de Bretton, wounded Robert del Hay in the head with a sword, in which he was helped by Robert, his brother. Robert del Hay died of his wounds, and his murderers fled. They were to be taken. They are taken and are in prison

  1. Henry le Hyne fined 1 shilling for drawing blood from Robert de Bretton. This must be the same Robert de Bretton mentioned in the last note and who also owed money. We shall check the date of the “killing” of Robert del Hay to see whether it was before this episode or after. If it was before the previous episode then the two Bretton brothers had clearly been released from prison by 1324.

“The township of Bretton says that Richard of       (de) Bretton delivered a waif cow to William Goldsmith, foreign bailiff at the time when John of Doncastre was Steward. Therefore let it be enquired of him what became of the aforesaid cow.” Wakefield Manor Court Rolls 1315 (8 Edward II) (the above Richard ?)

“Bailiff ; Dionisia, daughter of Cecilia of the Wro is defendant against Richard of (de) Bretton in a plea of debt by Nicholas Smith (faber). Pledge William de Marjoriam and because the aforesaid Richard appeared a day is given etc” (Wakefield M.C.R. 9. Edward II, 1315)

“Bailiff ; Richard of Bretton complains against Dionisia the daughter of Cecilia of the Wro in a plea of debt by John Patrikes. Pledge William de Marjoriam and because Richard appeared a day is given etc” (Wakefield M.C.R. 20.11.1315)

“Bailiff ; Richard of Bretton, plaintiff and Divonia, daughter of Cecilia of the Wro have leave to make a concord in a plea of debt and the said Richard puts himself, 12d.” (W.M.C.R. 6.12.1315)

“Bill from Richard of Bretton for having an aid 3s.” (W.M.C.R. 6.12.1315)

“Richard de Bretton’s wife (fined) 12d for brewing” Wakefield Manor Court Rolls 1315 (8 Edward II)

“Bailiff ; John Scharp sues Richard de Bretton for debt. Surety Thomas de Wyttelay” (W.M.C.R. 24.6.1316)

“Richard de Bretton sues Dyonisia, daughter of Cecilia of the Wro for debt. Surety Thomas de Wittelay. (W.M.C.R. 25th July 1316)

“John Bretton remain out of office of Constable in Bretton ” (10 Edward II 1316 Wakefield MCR)

“Relief. John son and heir of Richard of (de)Bretton an infant under age, is delivered to the custody of Dionisia his mother on account of his fealty, 6s.     (9 Edward II 1316 Wakefield MCR)

  1. John son of Gilbert de West Bretton, to Edmund de Dronefeld an acre of arable. (Hunter…)

1336/7 (11 Edward III) Richard son of Robert of West Bretton to John son of Adam of West Bretton and Cecilia his wife, a       messuage abutting on the highway which leads from West Bretton to Pomfrayt (Pontefract), to hold to the church of Saint Ellen of Sandal at the annual rent of 5d. (Hunter…..)

1345 Edmund son of Thomas de Dronfeld de West Bretton, manumits to Robert, son of Adam de West Bretton dwelling in Flocketon, cum tota sequela et progenie procreata seu procreanda et cum omnibus catallis suis in quocunque loco fuerint manentes.

1365/6 brings the first mention, in West Bretton, of the Wentworth family. Edmund de Dronsfeld junior release of rent of a messuage held by him in West Bretton by John de Dronsfeld. First amongst the witnesses is John de Wyntworth. The arms on the seal are paly of eight, not six, with the bend and mullets. (Hunter…)

The following excerpts from Hunter are nothing directly to do with the Bretton family but show how the great estates of the Dronsfields came to the Wentworths to whom the Brettons later intermarried through Frances Wentworth, the     wife of the martyr. As Hunter was convinced that the Dronfields only came to Bretton as a result of contacts with the de Brettons the relationships have now come full circle.

1397 (21 Rich II) A deed (charter) from William Dronsfeld of West Bretton to Sir Richard Dronsfeld, rector of Heton, (is the “Sir” because he is a priest ?), Robert Barnby, Richard de Keresford and Sir John de Calthorn, rector of the mediety of Hoyland all lands in West Bretton, Bulcliffe, High Hoyland, Bargh, Cumberworth, Darton, Keresforth, Barnby, Barnsley,Oldeton, Wollay, Sandall, Wykerslay, Staynton, Olyrton,Ingburchworth,,and Frith. The Dronsfelds had by this time aquired a great estate . To this deed is       a beautiful seal of the arms with     the inscription SIGILLVM WIL’MI DE     DRONSFELD.

August 1405 (7 Henry IV) there follows in Hunter, under the heading of Parish of Silkston the will of Sir William Dronsfeld (Knight) which is attached as a photocopy to save typing a very lengthy will. It shows how some of the lands at Bretton and Bretton Hall, came to the Wentworths. Agnes, the wife of John Wentworth of Elmsal and mother of the Richard Wentworth who starts the charts of the Wentworths of Bretton, is the sister of Sir William Dronsfeld. The remainder of the pages of Hunter are quite fascinating and, as they relate to the village of Bretton they are also photocopied and attached – all as Appendix 3

(The following is from pages 84 and 90 of “Monk Bretton Priory”)

“In the floor of the presbytery were found three interments ; opposite the aumbry in the south wall was a large stone coffin without a lid, which contained much red dust, and measured 5 feet 18(?)inches in length, 15 inches at the top and 9 inches at the foot (inside) ; closely adjoining the stone coffin on its south side was one made of squared stone slabs jointed together, which contained a well preserved skeleton of a female. It is probable that these two coffins held the remains of the founder of the priory Adam FitzSwain and his wife —-”

“In the chapter house the whole convent assembled after prime for chapter each day ; the martyrology for the day was first read, followed by notices of the dead from other priories asking for the prayers of the brethren ; then a portion of the rule of St. Benedict was read, after which confessions were made and the discipline then awarded was carried out.

The chapter house was the usual place of burial for the superiors of a monastery ; just within the entrance lie two grave slabs, one bearing an elaborately incised floriated cross-head on a shaft with a stepped base, but no inscription, measuring 6 feet two and a half inches long, 2 feet 2 inches wide at the head, and 18 inches at the foot ; the other 5 feet 10 inches long, 19 inches wide at the head and 16 inches at the foot, bears an incised cross with floriated head within a circle on a stepped base, on the right side of the shaft of the cross is a sword, over both shaft and sword a shield is carved and above the shield is inscribed D.W.BRETTON. [Sir William’s coffin was smaller than that of his wife]{The “D” stands for Dominus – Sir}

This Sir William Bretton was son and heir of John Bretton, of West Bretton ; his father was Richard Bretton as also was his grandfather [Chart., 19 (26)].     In 1444, Sir William de Bretton gave to Thomas Haryngton, esquire, and other trustees, certain lands and tenements in Monk Bretton, which his father and grandfather had leased to the prior and convent for a term of years. I Nov., 23 Hen.VI [Ib., 18 (24)].

On the 4th November following these trustees released to Richard Ledes, prior of the monastery of Blessed Mary of Monkbretton, these same lands and tenements. [Ib., 19 (25)] This gift was probably made on the understanding that the donor should be buried within the priory walls”


The history of Monk Bretton priory refers to Sir William Bretton as being the son and heir of John Bretton. The “Wapentake of Agbrigg” mentions that William Bretton, son & Heir to John Bretton held land in socage in 1425/6. They must be the same people and as it is unlikely that either of these two records can be mistaken about the possession of a title it must be presumed that William aquired a title between 1426 and 1444. (by the death of his father ? – or by some other means ?)

Drawing of gravestones shown in ” Monk Bretton Priory” and still visible in situ in the ruins of the Priory in 1996


“Thomas, son of Erskyn de Bretton, sues Robert, son of John de West Bretton for 16s. 8d. debt under the following circumstances : In 6 Edward II Thomas agreed to buy all Robert’s land and paid him 26s. 8d. as an instalment of the purchase price of £12 ; afterwards Robert wished to withdraw from the bargain, and promised to return the 26s.8d. of which he has repaid only 10s. Damages, 13s. 4d. Robert is ordered to pay 16s. 8d. and 12d. damages and is amerced 12d.” (Wakefield Court Rolls 25th January, 1316 – 8 Edward II) (“Amerced” means to punish by a fine)

“Diota de Bretton fined 6d. for brewing” “Magota daughter of Thomas de Bretton fined 6d. for brewing” Both 6th December 1324 (18 Edward II) At the same tourn a Henry de Dyker was fined 6d. for fishing in the Lord’s water at Keldre without licence – ( fishing licences went back so far ?)

“Diota, formerly wife of Richard de Bretton fined 3d for brewing beer etc.” (Wakefield MCR 3rd May, 1325)

Grant by John Tylli to Adam, son of Robert de Bretton, of Hingebirchworth, of one oxgang (same as a carucate) and toft adjoining in the town and the territory of Thurliston whereof one half was etc……….(19th April, 1326) (Vol XIII Y.A.S. 1895)

A muster roll of cavalry Temp Edward III (1339/40) published by the Yorkshire Archeological Journal, 1898, Vol XIV states “ the battalion was located for 77 days at the Ville of St John of Perth. They were commissioned to defend the stronghold during the early months of the year until ’ the season when kings go out to battle’ should arrive”. (we thought that the phrase about kings going out to battle – quoted in the contemporary report – was a marvellous one)

Amongst the muster Roll was Wils Breton, paid 4d per day as a Hobilar Pedite (probably armed with a battle axe like foot soldiers but mounted on a hobby (small horses) for rapid evolutions and long marches.

Johs Breton was a horse archer and also paid 4d per day

Grant by Wm de S. Elena of Waddeworth to Robt. Bretton of Ellesham of a rent of 40s. from his lands at Waddeworth, Yorks. (27th Nov. 1340 (Y.A.S. Vol XIII 1895)

Y.A.J Vol XXVII page 266 – Thomas de Stainton bought much land at Woolley between 1310 and 1340 from (amongst others) the Brettons of West Bretton

John de Bretton witnessed a quitclaim (undated, at Shitlington)

Osbert de Bretton was a witness to a charter by J. Durandus “out of the coucher of the Priory of Bolton” (undated) (Y.A.S. Vol XIII 1895 page 131) (meaning of “Coucher” is unknown)

John de Bretton was a juror in 1349 (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls)

John de Bretton witnessed the Dronfield deed founding Bretton Chapel in 1358 and other deeds dated 1362 (app. to parish records of Kirkburton – Frances Anne Collins) and 1369 Dodsworth’s Yorkshire Notes Vol. VIII p.486 sale of property in Meltham) and an undated one for land at Shitlington Nether (page 51 of the same volume.)     {Note Nether Shitlington was locally known as Netherton. Shitlington gave rise to three “tons” called for their position relative to each other Nether, Middle and Over (i.e Upper)}

John de Bretton capellanus – Chaplain of Rastrick in 1363.     from J. Horsfall Turners “History of Brighouse, Rastrick and Hipperholme”

There was a William Bull de Wakefield, cap., presented to the vicarage of Sandal Magna in May, 1357 by the Dean and College of Westminster : he died and was succeeded by John de Briton in November, 1361.

William de Bretton was a witness to an undated charter of land from William son of Alan de Witteley to the monks of Bellaland (Byland?) Dodsworth’s Yorkshire Notes (as below)

Dodsworth’s Yorkshire Notes in the Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal Vol VIII. In the Evidences of John Holcroft of Marton 1635. P.P. 170     “Know p’sent that I, Jone, late wife of William de Bretton, in my widowhood have given etc. to John le Hunt the elder & John de Heghrode (now Heyrod, North of Stalybridge in Lancashire) all my lands and tenements at Crawshalgh (probably Crawshaw Hey, Saddleworth) in the towne of Quicke (Whyk – a manor which belonged to the Stapletons and now part of Saddleworth) in the countie of Yorke etc which lands and tenements happened to me by vertue of a certaine guift jointly with the foresaid William my husband etc. To have and hold etc etc.,   Feast of St Michaell. 12 R. 2 (1388). (note. Ailric had lands at Oldham and Saddleworth. Is this part of this land ?)

In the Subsidy Rolls of 1378 three Bretons are listed at Thriebergh – Thomas Breton and Alicia, Artificer-Carpenter : Robertus Breton and Johanns seruiens Thome Breton (Yorks Arch. and Topographical Journal Vol V)

John de Bretton was granted letters of administration of the estate of John del gates late vicar of Dewsbury on 12th March, 1397-8.

William Bretton son & heire of John Bretton of Bretton cometh & acknowledgeth that he holds in socage of the Lord 5 Bouates of land in Bretton and payeth therefore yearely (Wapentake of Agbrigg at the court 4 H 6 1425/26)

William Bretton, son and heir of John Bretton of Bretton pays 3 shillings yearly for 5 bovates of land in in Bretton, 1425 (probably the son of the John Bretton mentioned in 1358,1362 and 1369). The History of Monk Bretton Priory gives further information about this (?) William. It states that there was a Sir William de Bretton, son and heir to John Bretton of West Bretton who in turn was the son of Richard and the grandson of another Richard. No titles are ascribed to these other three Brettons’. Is this an error and are they descended from the Sir William de Bretton mentioned in 1250 – or did this “new” Sir William (described as being alive in 1444) belong to another branch (unlikely) or did he receive a knighthood in his own lifetime as we surmised in the note on page 23 ? – without doubt he did not get the title as a priest because he is buried alongside his wife and has a sword and shield inscribed on his grave)

Page 98. H. of B.) 6th year of Edward IV. (1467)

“Charter of William Bretton granting to Thomas Boton, John Thomson, chaplain, and Thomas Robinson, one close called Sighrode, lying near the bridge of Barnsley with all his other messuages, lands and tenements, meadows,     woods and pastures in the parishes of Roystone and South Kirkby, with the appurtenances, to hold of the aforesaid Thomas, John and Thomas, their heirs and assigns, of the chief lords of those fees, by the services therefore due, and of right accustomed : the aforesaid William declaring that he and his heirs would warrent the aforesaid to the said Thomas, John and Thomas, their heirs and assigns for ever, and that he, the said William Bretton had substituted and put in his place his beloved in Christ, John Walker of Roystone and Richard Wilde of Barnsley, his joint and several attorneys, to deliver for him, and in his name, to the aforesaid Thomas Boton, John Thomson, chaplain, and Thomas Robinson, full and peaceful seisin, both in one close called Sighroyd, and also in all his lands and tenements within the parishes of Roystone and South Kirkby, according to the form and effect of this charter etc. In testimony to which he affixed his seal WITNESSES : John Clyfe, John Person, William Rainald and others. Given at Ackworth, 5th January, 6th Edward IV” (Note : the two different spellings of Sighrode and Sighroyd are copied verbatim)

Sighroyd was then given by John Thomson and Thomas Robinson to the Prior of Monk Bretton on 20th May, 7th Edward IV (1468)

John Bretton is a party to deeds concerning the estate of Richard Wentworth of Bretton, 1476.

Hunter, in “South Yorkshire, Doncaster, Vol II says :-

In 25 Henry VI. 1447, Richard Wentworth describing himself as of Everton, esquire, gives to William Fitz-William, of Sprotborough, and Nicholas Fitz-William esquires, his whole manor of West Bretton and manors of Bulcliffe and Cumberworth, with appurtenances in West Bretton, Bulcliffe, Cumberworth, Little Bretton, Darton, Clayton, High Hoyland, Ingburchworth, Fryth, Carhouse, North Elmsall, Staynton, Wickersley and Rotherham. He made his will in that year so that we have probably in this feoffment all the places where his estates lay, and we may presume that the other portions of the Dronsfield lands went with the other co-heiresses to the Bosviles. In his will he directs that he shallbe buried in the church of Holy Trinity at Everton. He names Richard and Thomas his sons, and he gives his daughter Isabel fourscore marks for her portion.

The legal estate in Bretton, etc, remained in the hands of the two Fitz-Williams and their heirs till Feb 2nd, 15 Edward IV (1476) when William Fitz-William lord of Sprotborough as heir to his father conveyed them to John Bretton and Thomas Mooke ( note. We have spent much time trying to discover information on Thomas Mooke as he appears to marry the widow of Thomas Bretton of Upsall, North Riding of Yorkshire – more on this separately), who on February 8th following conveyed them to John Conyers, Robert Constable, William Evers,and Robert Rythers, knights, William Gascoin William Fitz-William, John Fitz-William, son and heir of William,Thomas Fitzwilliam of Aldwark, Henry Sotehill, and John his son and heir, Thomas Wortley of Wortley, and Nicholas his son and heir, George Hopton of Swillington, John Woodruffe, John Fitz-William of Adwick, John Everingham of Birkin, John Nevil, Thomas Lacy, John Sotehill junior, Richard Peck and John Kaye, esquires, William Wortley, Hugh Wombwell, Robert Barnby, and John his son and heir, Ralph Barnby, and William Staynton, gentlemen.

On the same day the same premises were conveyed by Bretton and Moke to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, George, Earl of Shrewsbury, William Fitz-William, John, his son and heir, William Hopton, Henry Sotehill, and John, his son and heir, Thomas Wortley, and Nicholas, his son and heir, and John Woodruffe, esquires. On the same day Richard Wentworth, describes as of Bretton, esq., gave to the Duke of Gloucester, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Sir Gilbert Talbot, Sir James Harrington, Sir John Conyers, and Sir John Pilkington, Knights, William Hopton, Thomas Wortley, John Everingham, John Wombwell senior, William Wortley, and Thomas Hopton esquires, all his goods and chattels, moveable and immoveable, wheresoever they are found,with power to dipose     of them as they please, without any hinderance from him or his executors.

Hunter appears puzzled by all this. He says that he sees nothing in the political circumstances of the times to account for these extraordinary feoffments, nor could he see anything in the private life of the lord of Bretton himself to explain it. [note. This comment is surprising. The following comments from “The story of the Peerage” by L. G. Pine, (Wm. Blackwood & Sons Limited, 1956) appear to us to explain them. S.B & C.B.]

“Under the old theory of Feudal dues, not only did the Crown own all the land of England – as it still does – for fee simple is not absolute ownership – but in practice this produced large revenues for the Sovereign. There were all sorts of feudal dues – the guardianship and the marriage of wards, the aids payable to the King on the marriage of his daughter or the knighting of his son : there were fines for the alienation of land : inheritance dues, which resembled what are now known as death duties, which had to be paid before an heir could enter upon his father’s property, and sums were payable in lieu of knight’s service.

To avoid payments of these dues had been one of the great objects of tenants in the 15th and 16th centuries, and one of the means of doing this had been through the medium of trusteeship or “uses” as it was then called. So successful had this device been that under the early Tudors the Crown had lost a large part of it’s revenues. To remedy this Henry VIII had caused to be passed through parliament the Statute of Uses (1536) which rendered a trust or “use” inoperative and thus restored the old position.”

( In our minds there is little doubt that the feoffments recorded above were made purely as a trust or “use” to obviate the payment of death duries on the Wentworth estates. S.B. & C.B.)

A John Bretton is also mentioned on page 327 of “Wakefield it’s history and People” by Walker.  Thomas Sayvile was to endow a second chantry to St Mary’s alter at St Helen’s Church Sandall Magna but he died and his wife Elizabeth also died in January 1493/94. The lands which were to endow the chantry were then surrendered to a number of people including John Bretton. to carry out the wishes of Thomas Savile.

Transcription from the latin of a will by John Bretton (Probate register 8 Folio IV)

“In the name of God amen. On the twenty fifth day of the month of November in the year of our Lord fifteen hundred and eight I, John Bretton, being ill of body but of sound mind, make my last Will       and Testament in this manner. Firstly I commend my soul to Almighty God, to the Blessed Lady and to all the Saints, and my body to be buried in the church of All Saints at Anneslay.         Item: I bequeath as my Morturariam, my best ox (“Morturarium” – a bequest to the Testator’s Parish Church in recompense for tithes that may not have been paid).   Item: I bequeath three pounds of wax candles to burn about my body on the day of my burial and on the seventh       day. Item: I give and bequeath to the church at Anneslay one cow. Item: I give and bequeath to the same building (or “the building of the same”) 26 shillings and 8 pence.         Item: I bequeath to Margaret Bickerstaff one ………. (a young animal – possibly a calf) of two years of age.         Item: to each person who shall come to my burial and on the seventh day I bequeath one wheaten loaf and …… ?         Item: I bequeath to each of my ……… (probably “Godchildren” – literally “spiritual children”) one sheep, one full year old.         Item: I bequeath to Christopher Perott one ….. (a young animal – possibly a heifer).   Item: I bequeath to Alice, my sister, one cow.         Item: I bequeath to my son Richard two…. (possibly bulls) of three years of age, and two……. (possibly bulls) of two years of age, and two ……?   Item: to the same Richard, half a quarter of wheat and half a quarter of malt barley.         Item: I give and bequeath my dwelling place with all its belongings to Elizabeth, my wife, for the period of 12 years, and then to revert to my son, John, if he should be alive, and if the said John should have died then I wish my dwelling place to revert to my son, William, and if the said William should have died then I wish the said dwelling place to revert to my son Thom, if he should be alive, and if all have died without heirs, I wish the dwelling place to revert to the son of Richard (or “to son Richard and his heirs”)** The remainder of all my goods not bequeathed above I give and bequeath to my wife and to Thom my son, whom I appoint and constitute as my Executors that they may dispose matters for the good estate of my soul as may seem best to them, and as they shall have to answer before the Supreme Judge in the Day of Judgement.   Item:         I give and bequeath to my …….. (possibly “mother-in-law” or “step-mother – literally “to my legal mother”) ………….. (literally “sanctum et vestitum” – “holy and clothing”). Possibly “shelter [sanctuary?] and clothing” out of my own goods for as long as she shall live.   Item: I appoint George Bikerstaff as the Supervisor of this my Testament. Given at Annesley on the day and in the year mentioned above, the witnesses being Prior de Felley, John Savage,Chaplain and others.

And on the twentieth day of December in the above mentioned year of our Lord the said Testament was proved and the administration of the goods was granted………..”

** This part of the will does not make sense if you regard the “son of Richard and his heirs” or “son Richard and his heirs” to be referring to his own son Richard, because he had just said that if all his children should have died without heirs he wished it to revert to ….. The other possibility is that the “son of Richard” referred to was born outside wedlock


This will has taken a good deal of time to place. The name “Anneslay” and the Priory of Felley meant nothing in the context of Yorkshire. There was an Annesley House mentioned in the 1300’s in Elland within the wapentake of Morley but no village ever existed and there was no such parish church. Eventually “Anneslay” was traced to Nottinghamshire between Sutton-in-Ashfield and Nottingham. It was then in the Diocese of York. The Priory of Felley was close by and is now occupied by the original owners of Anneslay Hall. Even by our modern road network it is about 56 miles from West Bretton using the very direct route of the M1. In 1500 it must have been much further.

Yet it is clearly the will of the John Bretton who starts our chart. The names of his wife and his children are exactly the same as those we have identified in West Bretton apart from Alice, his daughter, who could well have died before the will was drawn up. The dates on the will and those on our chart are 5.11.1508 and 25.11.1508, a possible transcription error, and it is too much of a coincidence to think they are not the same person.

Yet we have been, so far, unable to trace any connection with Anneslay at all. Why should John Bretton of West Bretton make his will there, die there and ask to be buried there ? Were his family and neighbours expected to make a long journey and to stay there until the seventh day ? If the church of All Saints was his his parish church for the purpose of tithes how long had he been there ? Or was the “ Morturarium” he gave simply because he had never paid tithes to that church and he did not want his body taking back to Sandal (probably his nearest church to West Bretton) Why was a witness the Prior of Felley Priory – did this mean that he was staying at the Priory ? This is our preferred solution. We wonder whether the Prior of Felley is a friend or perhaps relative of his. We have discovered that Felley Priory was a Cluniac Priory – just as Monkbretton was. Was there some connection between the two priories ? There were 35 Cluniac Priories in England ( the Cluniac congregation of the Benedictine Order ) and transfers between them was at the discretion of the Abbott at Cluny. Perhaps John Bretton had known the Prior at Monkbretton ? Perhaps some day we may       know the answers to these questions.

There are, in Ripon Minster Library, two very fine books written by William Bretton of London in 1505 and 1510.

They are Lyndewodes Provinciale – published by Paris University Press in 1505 and Speculum Spiritualium, etc also published by the Paris University Press in 1510. The second of these is in a fine binding with Tudor Rose and labels borne by Angels, “hec virtute de celo missa sereno Eternu@ florens regia sceptra feret” (this on last cover) (Y.A.& Top J. vol II under Ripon Minster library)

Feet of Fines of the Tudor Period. In the Public Record Office Part I   1518 – Trinity Term, 10 Henry VIII   page 32 Thomas Brettan is named as a Deforciant for 5 messuages with lands at Thrybergh. In the fine the description is       Thomas Brettan als. Thomas Glentham de Thrybergh, gent. and Margaret his wife.

Y.A.J       XXI (1911) says :-

Mr Fallow has left transcripts made by him in 1905 of certain State papers preserved at the Record Office, which gave the names of the clergy of a considerable part of Yorkshire, who were taxed in 1526 and 1527. Under the heading IN DECANATU DE BULMER occurs :-

dns (Dominus)       Th…s Bretton, cap. (chaplain) par de Cokewald (Coxwold, North Yorkshire) v marc (the subsidy) ( 5 marks equalled £3. 6. 8d.)

In the Subsidy Roll for the Wapentake of Agbrigg and Morley of the 15th Henry VIII (1523) in the Y.A.& Top. J. Vol II John Bretton pays 6s. 8d. in Westbretton Half for ’10 March lands”) The Subsidy Rolls passed 1522 and 1523 granted a yearly subsidy to the King for 4 years. The Roll gives the principal persons in each township and the amount they paid. In some cases the value of the land was given in Marks (written “March” in the original documents. A mark was 13s.       4d.) The total amount for the Westbretton Half was 11s.       2d. in that year)

John Bretton was appointed Deputy Secretary of the King’s Council of the North in 1528.       The King’s Council was basically a Law Court which was very powerful politically. It consisted of the Lord President of the Council, the Councillors themselves, and a Secretary who was also titled and styled “the Keeper of the Signet”. The Council was directly answerable to the monarch in terms of law and order for a large part of the North of England. The standard reference on the subject “The King’s Council in the North” by Rachel M. Reid contains the following note on page 254 “In 1528 Richmond’s Council appointed John Bretton deputy to Uvedale (ref. L & P iv. no. 4042..) At that time the King’s Council was based at Sandal Castle, a castle of some importance, and it is no doubt through this local association that John Bretton was appointed. He died three years later and nothing is known about       this short-lived appointment.

The Council’s jurisdiction was both civil and criminal and as soon as it was established in 1484 it moved from Middleham (the home of King Richard when Duke of Gloucester) to Sandal Castle. It sat 4 times each year at Sherriff Hutton near York and probably as many times at Sandal. Not all the original members are known but the Earl of Lincoln was its official head and the Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Morley, probably Sir Richard Ratcliffe and John Dawney were members, as was Miles Metcalfe the Recorder of York.

Transcript of the will of John Bretton – 1529

“In the name of God Amen. the third day of decembr the yere of our Lord God a ml v(c) and XXIX I John Bretton of hool mynd and memorie make this my last will and testament in manner and forme foloving first I bequeith my saull to almyghty God and our lady Sancta Marie with all the company of hevyn and my body to be beried within the churchyard of Sandall         Item I bequeith my best beest in the name of my mortuarie         Item I bequeith to Grace Bretton my daughter XII marks in porseon of hir barme part   Item I bequeith to Isabell my daughter XII marks the porceion of hir barmepart         Item I bewit to Isabell Cowden my daughter on cow         Item I bewit to Anne Tottington on cow         Item I bewit unto the hye alter of Sandall XIId       The rysidew of all my goods unbequeith I gyff unto Rychard Bretton my son whom I make my full executor thes beyng witnes William Whetly John Gledhill, Rychard Walker, John More

In dei nomine Amen admisso probacionibus super faccione testamenti presentibus annexis coram nobis officiali alme Curie Ebor sede archiepiscopali ibedum vacante iposum testamentum rite factum et legitime probatum”

Richard Bretton was on the panel for the Lord at the Great Court held at Wakefield before Thomas, Earl of Rutland, 4th October 1538. He was also on the panel for the Tourn the following day

Richard Bretton was elected Constable of West Bretton in 1537 (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls) This is presumably the father of the Martyr John Bretton and who died in 1558

A Katherine Bretton was one of two witnesses to a heresy trial in Rotherham in 1537. They were reading in church when someone who had uttered the same words elsewhere said that Blessed Mary was not the mother of Jesus Christ and that God was not especially present in the host – he was everywhere.

The following section headed “Richard Bretton O.S.F.” was placed in the family history because of a remark by Anstruther, the famous Catholic historian, stating that he was probably an uncle or close relative of John Bretton the martyr. We assumed (now it appears, wrongly) that he would have some good reason for making that statement and it was therefore added in good faith. Whilst we were researching “William Bretton of Maryland” we had quite a bit of contact with Caroline Dalton, Archivist, New College, Oxford University, who was most helpful. In the course of the discussions we mentioned Richard Bretton O.S.F. And she checked the college records for him. She found him there in the early 1500’s  but , according to their records, he came from London. We have no records of any of our family moving to London so we must assume that he was NOT a family member. He has only been left in the history because we have no other way of bringing his privations and faith to the attention of a wider group of people. Family member or not we still admire his tenacity  (Stan and Christine Bretton)

Richard Bretton (Britton) O.S.F.

We find it quite startling that, after so many years of research into the family history, we have only just (Sept. 1997) discovered the existence of Richard Bretton O.S.F. and set out below the entry as it exists in “ A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from the breach with Rome in 1534 to the present time Vol I.” by Joseph Gillow, published in 1895. There is no mention at all of this Richard Bretton in any of the charts or letters from Dom Hugh Bowler so it appears that he was also unaware of his existence.

“Britton Richard, O.S.F. was probably an uncle or near relative of John Britton of Britton, in Yorkshire, martyred at York in 1598.

He was of New College, Oxford, and at the age of 24, by dint of study, was clearly convinced of the faith, and openly did all he could to oppose the process of schism. He denied and ridiculed the ecclesiastical supremacy of Edward VI, the boy-king, and defended the authority of the Pope.

For this he was tried, and fearless of death he confessed in court more amply still, for which he was committed to prison.

Sanders, who knew him personally, and lived in the same college with him, says, “He was in years a youth, but in courage an old man ; he maintained, not by word of mouth only, that the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of St. Peter, is the sovereign head of the Church, and in that dignity the sole Vicar of Christ, but also by his writings, which he presented to his judge, proving his faith and confirming it by the testimony of the Scriptures and the ancient Fathers. And he too was kept in prison for the sake of Christ”

He practised great austerity, mortification, and abstinence, his only food being bread, to which on feast-days he added a little broth. His wonderful austerities and constancy in the faith won others over – among whom Sanders was one – who visited him in prison, and resolved, if the opportunity arose, to contend for the faith as he had done.

The accession (to the Throne) of Mary brought him his liberty, and he entered the Order of Franciscan Observants and was clothed at Greenwich, where he died almost immediately afterwards, probably in 1554.”

Lewis, Sanders Anglican Schism : Parkinson, Coll. Anglo-Min., p. 249

We discovered this book in the Minster Library at York Minster and it is, according to the Librarian there, a very rare book – hence, no doubt, our failure to find it previously. It is no different from any other piece of information we have found, in that it immediately opens up a multitude of other areas to research. Edward VI was born in 1537 and reigned from 1547 to 1553 and was followed by Mary I who reigned from 1553 to 1558. If the reference to Richard Bretton ridiculing the supremacy of Edward VI occurred at the beginning of his reign, and Richard was then 24, he must have been born no earlier than 1523 (and no later than 1529). He must have been released immediately Mary took the throne because he died the following year, at an age of between 25 and 31. From the way that the entry reads one must suppose that he was nearer 31 than 25 otherwise he would have been in prison only about a year – and that is not the impression it gives. We have assumed therefore a date of birth of approx. 1523 to 1526 – approximately the same date of birth as John Bretton the Martyr.

That being so we have difficulty fitting him into the family chart. Gillow gives no evidence of his statement that he was probably an uncle or close relative of John Bretton the martyr. He could not be an uncle because John Bretton’s father was also “Richard” and he only died in 1558. It was common for two brothers or two sisters born of the same parents to be given the same name if the first child died quite young but this is clearly not the case here. The nearest relative he could be would be cousin or half cousin.We have no record of Richard Bretton having any brothers (but that is not to deny that one may have existed) but the martyr’s grandfather had three brothers, Richard, William and Thomas and the grandson of either one of them would have been the martyr’s half cousin. No work seems to have been done to trace their families so it cannot be proved at the moment. It is, to us, reasonable to accept Gillow’s statement of some relationship since he was a leading authority on Catholic history whose scholarship is widely known. It seems reasonable to assume that his death at such an early age would have been influenced by the privations he is reported to have suffered. It is hard not to believe that Richard Bretton suffered just as much for his faith as his more famous relative, John Bretton.

Richard Bretton was a juror at the tourn held at Wakefield on 10th April, 1540

Richard Bretton , Bailiff, Panel of the Lord, Tourn at Wakefield 12.4.1551

Frances Wentworth, the wife of Blessed John Bretton was the 5th daughter of Richard Wentworth of Hollingshurst, in the parish of Thornhill.(who himself was the second son of Thomas Wentworth of Bretton Hall) This information came from Dom Hugh Bowler and Roland Bretton.       Our own research led us to “Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire” West Riding – Volume II compiled by Joseph Foster – 1874.       The pedigree concerned is that of “ Wentworths of Elmsall, Bretton and Baron Wentworth of Nettlested” and shows all the information we were seeking. It confirmed that Frances Bretton was the daughter of Richard Wentworth of Hollingshurst who was, in turn, the second son of Thomas Wentworth of Bretton Hall. But – as I say elsewhere in this history every piece of information leads to other unsolved mysteries. Richard Wentworth appeared to have three sons and no less than eight daughters. If the pedigree is true to the way in which these were usually written then Frances would have been the eldest daughter and not the fifth. The puzzle is that the date of marriage is given for two of her sisters but not for Frances herself (though it confirms she married John Bretton). The marriage dates for the two sisters are 1581 and 1583.

The marriage agreement of John Bretton and Frances Wentworth was dated 26th June, 1543 and was followed one week later by a deed of grant. Hugh Bowler surmised that it would be a child marriage and estimated John to be about 14 at the time. We find it strange that Frances was married 38 and 40 years before two of her sisters. The documents of Frances Wentworth’s marriage agreement are precise and have been checked, but we wonder whether the marriage took place as early as Hugh Bowler suggests. We have now seen notes by Rowland Bretton where he feels as we do. If the marriage took place immediately after the agreement, and the dates of the other two marriages are correct, then the mystery remains.

However the link to the Wentworths and to Wentworth Woodhouse are proven. An interesting thing is that later on in the same pedigree is shown the poet, Lord Byron

The following transcript is the will of Richard Bretton.

“In the name of God Amen the XIII day of September in the yeare of our Lord 1556 I Richard Bretton of West Bretton of the parishinge of Sandall Magna in the countie of York, yoman, beyng holle of mynd and of perfite rememberance maketh this my last will and testament in maner and forme followinge         Fyrst I bequithe my soull to God almyghtie my maker and redemer and to all the celestiall companye of heaven and my bodie to be buried within the sainctuarie of Sandall Magna also I will that all my goods be devided in thre equall partes the one part to Annes Bretton my wyf       the other part to Jennet Bretton and Richard Bretton my children and the third parte I will be brought furthe of it and my detts paid with all my legaces and funerall costs and charges borne of the same also I gyve and bequithe to the hye alter for tythes and oblacions forgotten VIIId (8 pence) also I give and bequithe unto Richard my sone an ew and a lambe also I gyve and bequithe to Jennet Bretton my doughter a silver gyrdle with a buckill and a penny of silver and she to have it after the decease of Annes Bretton hir mother also I give and bequeath to Robert Bretton my bastard son all my wayne geare and ploughe geare. The residue of all my goods unbequest I gyve and bequithe to Annes Bretton my wyf and Robert Bretton my bastard sone the whiche I make my full executors.       Thes beyng witnes Richard Wentworthe Umfray Newton Thomas Roo and Robert Brodle Clarke Eodem die domini supradicti idem decanus certificavit de approbacione huiusmodi testamenti per Umfrifum Newton at Thomas Roo testes supranominatos iuratos etc commisaque fuit administratio bonorum eiusdem executoribus nominatis iuratis etc. Salvo iure”


Richard is the father of the martyr, John Bretton. John is not mentioned in the will because, in his marriage agreement to Frances Wentworth his father, the above Richard, had already passed on the estate. What the rest of the estate mentioned in the will consisted of is not clear but as it was divided into three with other things going to the baseborn son, Robert one can only assume that, from the time Richard passed on the estate to John and Frances, (some 15 years), he had increased his estate sufficiently to leave something to his wife and     other children. This seems to have happened so many times since the 1100’s with various members of the family apparently giving away large holdings of land but still managing to retain a substantial estate. The transcription in the will of “Annes” is clearly a mistake for “Agnes” but one query remaining is the omission from the will of Marie another daughter who was still alive and whose will is shown later in this history. Why she was omitted will probably never be known.

Feet of Fines of the Tudor Period of Yorkshire Part 2. 1579 – Easter term 21 Eliz.     page 133 John Bretton is a plaintiff with Alice Wentworthe, widow, as the Deforciant regarding 6 messuages with lands in Croston (Crofton) Pountfrett (Pontefract) Wakefield, Eland, Bradley, Bankroyde and Cryggelleston.

1583 Thomas Saville, Gent. had dealings with Robert Bretton

In one of the additional pedigrees given in Visitations of Yorkshire 1584-5 and 1612, p. 598 edited by Joseph Foster there is a pedigree of Babthorpe of Babthorpe, whose Arms are :- “Sable, a chevron or between three crescents ermine” Hugh of Babthorpe, 3rd son of Adam of Babthorpe married Aleson, daughter of Mr Thomas Bretton of West Bretton.

Note : the colours or and sable are the same as Adam Fitz Swain de Bretton’s and the crescents the same as the Beaumont family (originally named Bretton)

John Bretton, the Catholic Martyr.

The main reason that the history of the Bretton family from West Bretton is so complete is the Martyrdom of John Bretton. For some reason, from all the 40 English Martyrs he attracted the interest of       the leading Catholic historian, specialising in that period of history, Dom Hugh Bowler. He spent many years researching the life of John Bretton and his family and produced two articles which were the cornerstone of all our knowledge of the times when it was, at best of some concern, and at worst dangerous to be a Roman Catholic. The “new” religion, the Protestant Church of England was still in it’s infancy and draconian laws were introduced to ensure that it became the only religion in England in the 1500’s and the 1600’s. From 1559 laws increased in severity until in 1584 it bacame high treason to attend a Catholic mass. A large number of Catholics, especially in the middle and upper classes continued to defy the crown and to conduct illicit masses in their homes. Such people had to register as “recusants”. This led to the large number of “priest holes” (hidden rooms) in some of the present stately homes, where priests, who had had to go “underground” could be hidden when searches were made. Very, very few people carried their recusancy to the limits of John Bretton though. All the contemporary reports suggest that he was executed at the Knavesmire, York, on 1st April, 1598, the day after his trial on 31st March of that year. Apparently he was offered his life if he would “appostate”, attend a Church of England service and renounce the Catholic faith. He refused and was executed the following day. The two articles by Dom Hugh Bowler, were, after his death, and with the permission of the Catholic Records Society, used to produce a booklet which we published in 1987 with the intention of bringing the lives of John and Frances Bretton, and the work of Hugh Bowler to a wider audience than that his original articles attracted. These articles were, without doubt, masterly presentations of the subject by the foremost expert on the Catholic tribulations of the 16th and early 17th century, but their circulation was only to very specialist publications. We thought     that we could widen that audience. The booklet is far too big to include in this history but is attached as Appendix 4

We sought information on the grave of John Bretton without success. It is the considered opinion of scholars of recusant history that he was probably buried in a mass grave somewhere near Knavesmire. The authorities would not have dared risking his family taking his body home in case his example led to him being venerated.

Note. Dom Hugh Bowler gave the marriage agreement between John Bretton and Frances Wentworth as 26th June 1543 and the date of the deed of grant settling the estate on John and Frances as being one week later. He presumed a child marriage immediately at age 14. The difficulty with this supposed child marriage, as Rowland Bretton points out is that their children are born much later, three we know are born in 1576, 1577 and 1578 which seems an awfully long time after a marriage in 1543. Equally, we are confused, as we have said previously in this history about the disparity in the dates of marriage of Frances Wentworth and her sisters. For example we discovered that her sister’s were married as follows :- Alice in 1583 : Isabel in 1581 . Although Frances’s father had 11 children, clearly over a good number of years, we could not understand Frances being married 38 years before her sisters. Is it possible     that, although       the marriage agreement is in 1543, the actual marriage took place some years later – and, if so, for what reason ?

We know (from “the Parish Chest”, by W.E. Tate     a lecturer at Leeds University, published in 1960) that before the reformation espousal could take place at seven years of age, at the end of the period of infancy : with marriage at twelve for the girl and fourteen for the boy. But what was possible and what was always the case could be two different things. We have not been able to trace the date of marriage of John and Frances)

Further detail about John Bretton, which does not appear in the booklet about him is contained in “An abstract from the earliest remaining Court Roll in the Rectory Manor of Dewsbury” by J. S. Chadwick F.S.A. in Yorks.     Archealogical Journal XXI (1911)

At the Court of Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, held there on Thursday, the last day of September, in the 16th year of the reign of our said lady Queen Elizabeth (1574) appears the name of John Bretton, “excused and appears by his tenants”. The suitors ( copyholders or customary tenants attending to do their fealty at a Court Baron are called the suitors or homage), and they were to be sworn to frame their presentments with impartiality.

There were five recognised essoins or excuses – i.e.

  1. Ultra Mare.   “I have gone abroad”
  2. De Terra Sancta.   “ I have gone to the Holy Land”
  3. De Malo Veniendi. “ I cannot manage to come” ( this was called the common excuse)
  4. De malo lecti.   “I am ill in bed”
  5. De servitio Regis.   “ I am on the King’s service

Further information on essoins can be seen in Bracton, De Legibus Anglie, vol V 130/367, Rolls Edition.

The name of John Bretton appears among the names of suitors at almost every Court held on, or subsequnt to 11th April, 17 Eliz. (1575). These courts were held twice yearly at about the end of April and September, but after his name frequently appears “excused” or “appeared by tenants” and his name never appears on the list of jurors. (He was, of course, in hiding during this period). He was usually described as John Bretton, Gentleman and is so called on the occasion of the Court held 1st October, 18 Eliz (1576). On 30th September, 21 Eliz. (1579) he is said to have “appeared by tenant, B. Whitley.”

This, however, appears to be the end of the lenient treatment for John Bretton, treatment no doubt merited by his standing in the local community. Subsequent     entries show the change in attitude as pressure was put on the Courts by the Privy Council. At the very next Court on 13th April,     22 Eliz. (1580) “John Bretton, Gentleman” was amongst others who had not appeared “ so they are in mercy of the sums marked over their heads”. (There were no sums marked). But in John Bretton’s case is added the following :- “They are put in paine that if John Bretton make defaulte of appearance at the next courte to do his sute and service according to the custom of the manor, that shalbe a good cause of seisure of all his copyhold land into ye Queen’s matie (majestie) her handes”

At the Court held on Wednesday 5 Ocober, 22 Eliz (1580)….. “The jury say that John Bretton, Gentleman, who holds of the lady the Queen as well freely as by copy of the Rolls of this court according to the custom of the manor, divers lands and tenements and hereditaments within the Lordship of Dewisburie, hath withdrawn and ceased his services and suit of this court for six years now last past and more, although he hath often been solemnly summoned (exactus fuit) to this Court and divers preceding Courts in contempt of the lady the Queen, and against the custom of this manor as at the same Court it hath been found and presented by the Homage on inquiring on behalf of the said lady the Queen, so a precept is issue (preceptum est) to the reeve of the said lady the Queen ….. to take and seize as forfeited into the hands of the said lady the Queen and of the issues (exitibus) thereof to answer to the said lady the Queen at the next Court.

Court of Elizabeth etc held on Wednesday 25th April, 24 Eliz (1582) (No courts appear to have been held the previous year)

“The jury have a day of enquiring what lands and tenements John Bretton held of the lord of the manor as well freely as Copy up to the last Court

Sum………………………………xviij     d.

Expenses…………………………. ij s.

Remains to the Queen….Nothing.

But deficient………………………vj       d.

It is allowed in the Roll of the Court of Wakefield

Examined, extracted and delivered”

Court held Thursday, 14th April, 28 Eliz. (1586)

“They present that John Bretton, Gentleman, who holds of etc. by Copy etc., three acres of land lying in Northfeilds and Crackenedge, within the lordship of Dewsebury, and by the rent of 13d., hath withdrawn and ceased his services and suit of this Court for the last 7 years now last past and more,although he has been solemnly required to do this at this same Court, and diverse preceeding Courts, in contempt of the lady the Queen, and against the custom of the manor, as has been accounted and presented at this Court     by the Homage on behalf of the lady the Queen, therefore the reeve is ordered to take and seize the three acres into the hands of the said lady the Queen, and to answer for the proceeds (exitibus) therof to the lady at the next Court.”

Court held Tuesday 11th October 28 Eliz. (1586)

“John Bretton (and others), tenants etc are amerced 4d each for not appearing”

“That John Bretton, gentleman, who held three acres of land in Northfeilde and Crackenedge, within the jurisdiction of this manor (infra preposituram hujus Manerii), by Copy etc. and by a rent of 13d., according to the custom of the manor, had withdrawn and ceased his services and suit of Court for 7 years and more, although, etc., as by inquisition made thereof at the Court held at the said manor on Thursday 14th April last, was found and presented, wherupon a precept was made to Chrystopher Mitchell, reeve of that manor, that he should seise into the hands of the said lady the Queen the aforesaid three acres, and that he should certify therof to that same Court (ad istam eandem curiam) which said reeve now here at this instant certified (modor hic instanter certificatavit) that by virtue of the said precept he had seized etc., upon which a first proclamation was made in full Court here as the custom of the manor in such case exacts and requires if anyone should wish to claim etc”

Court held Tuesday, 2nd May 29 Eliz. (1587)

“Of three acres of land lying in Northfeilde and Crackenedge, late of the lands of John Bretton (second proclamation).”

Court held Tuesday 11th October, 29 Eliz (1587)

“Of three acres of land in Northfield and Crackenedge, late of John Bretton, gentleman” (Third proclamation)

Court held 14th April, 32 Eliz (1590)

John Bretton, gentleman, has a day at the next Court to show his evidences to the Homage how he holds his lands seised, to prove them of free tenure if he can”

Court held 28 September, 33 Eliz. (1591)

“Memorandum that since at the Court held at the Rectory of Dewisbury on the 11th October, 28 Elizabeth, it was presented that John Bretton, gentleman who held of the lady the Queen three acres of land lying in Northfeild and Crackenedge within the lordship (preposituram : perhaps jurisdiction would be a better word than lordship) of this manor, by copy of Court Roll, by a rent of 13d. according to the custom of the manor, had withdrawn and ceased his service and suit of the aforsaid Court for seven years then last past and more, although he had been solemnly required to do this at that same Court and divers preceeding Courts in contempt of the said lady the Queen, and against the custom of the manor, as had been found and presented by another Inquisition made thereof at a Court at the aforsaid manor held on Monday, the 14th April then last, on which a precept was made (preceptum fuit) to Christopher Mytchell, reeve of this manor, that he should seize into the hands of the said lady the Queen the aforsaid three acres, and that he should certify thereof immediately to the said Court, which said reeve certified that he by virtue of the aforsaid precept directed to him seized into the hands of the lady the Queen the said three acres of land, as he was ordered (prout sibi preceptum fuit) upon which a First Proclamation was made in full Court here as the custom of the manor in such case exacts and requires, if anyone wished to claim etc., and now to this Court it was presented by the Homage on diligent examination and scrutiny afforded thereof, and by the evidences shown to them, that in the Inquisition formerly held as is premised (ut premittitur) there was a mistake in this, viz., that the customary lands which the aforsaid John Bretton held of the said lady the Queen, Lady of this manor, are three acres of land and meadow lying in Southford, in the lordship of Dewisbury, other than the aforsaid three acres of land lying in Northfeild and Crackenedge, wherefore it is considered as well by the Steward as the Homage that the seizure of the aforesaid three acres of land in Northfeild and Crakenedge at the aforesaid Court should be revoked and held for nothing (revocetur et pro nihilo habeatur). And nevertheless on the petition of the aforesaid John Bretton for that he had ceased his services and suit to this Court for the time aforesaid, his fine is affeered (afferatur) by the Homage at ijs., and it is enjoined on the reeve to levy that money (leare denar. illos) to the use of the lady the Queen and to answer therefore at the next Court.”

Court held on Tuesday, 15th April, 37 Eliz. 1595

“John Bretton (and others) are amerced 4d each for not appearing”

Note. Dom Hugh Bowler said in his work on Blessed John Bretton that there seemed to be a great reluctance on the part of John Bretton’s friends and neighbours to take the strong action against him that the Privy Council was urging. This appears to be an excellent example of this reluctance. This action had been going on for twenty years and it is inconceivable that the people comprising the Court, including a large number of jurors, could confuse the whereabouts of the land that John Bretton owned. Not only is the location of the land wildly different in reality to the location given so many times in various Courts, but it is only a fraction of the land he owned in Dewsbury. That finally, after all those years the action was dismissed because it was the wrong land, must have caused a good deal of amusement and one is bound to wonder whether, throughout the whole episode, the Court Officials were also aware of the mistake. It is typical of John Bretton’s approach that he continued to totally ignore the whole proceedings although, sadly, he was destined to be executed just less than three years from the date that he ignored the last of these fines.

Dr. Matthew Britton (Bretton) D.D. (alias Rawson D.D.) (Eldest son of John Bretton     the Martyr)

He was born in 1564, brother of Richard Bretton who was ordained in 1610 (D.D.7) He arrived at Rheims 15th August 1584 and was sent to Rome on 22nd February, 1586 where he was admitted into the English College, at the age of 21. He entered the Hospice on 2nd April, 1586 (F. 559) and was ordained in the Lateran on 15th April, 1590 (Vic.). He left Rome on 22nd April, 1592, reaching Rheims on 2nd July, 1592. He spent a nearly a year at the English College at Rheims , proceeding to Douai on 20th February 1593. where he became Prefect and was made Professor in 1599 (matriculated and took his STD {D.33}) He moved with the college from Douai to Rheims in 1593. Whilst at Douai he was invited to the Monastery of Regular Canonsat Hennin near Douai to read lessons in divinity but did not remain long and returned to Douai where he sang Mass at the consecration of their new church on 3rd July, 1603. He was sent to England on 29th May, 1604 where he used the alias of Rawson (WCA, VIII, no 12. p 39). His apostolate was in Lancashire where he was mentioned in 1610. (OB. I, 26) and around 1625 (CRS. I, 115) in which year he was elected to the Chapter (OB, Chapter Roll). On 1st June, 1625 he was appointed archdeacon of Westmorland and Cumberland and died sometime before 1643 (Pope’s Brief, 1643 p.15, 23 ; WCA XLX, 58)

cf.d.201,209,246,249,280 ; DD,7,57; R.58

Gillow suggests that he was living in Lancashire in 1635 at the age of 70 years (“being much esteemed for his learning and prudence”.)

The above is taken from Joseph Gillow “A Literary and Biographical     History or Biographical Dictionary of the English Catholics etc etc. Vol I” published in 1895 and from Anstruther I, 53.

Gillow quotes as his sources Challoner, Memoirs ; Douay Diaries ; Peacock, List of Roman Catholics of York; Foley, Records S.J., Roman Diary.

Britton (Bretton) Richard     Anstruther II, 36

He was brother of Matthew Britton (Vol I) so of Yorkshire. He was educated at St Omers and entered Douai on 21st June, 1599. He was sent to Seville where he signed a deed 28th May, 1608 and received viaticum in April, 1610. He left for England 3rd July, 1612 but returned 4th August, 1613. He may be identical with Richard Francis Britton OSF (Gillow). John Britton, who was martyred at York 1st April, 1598, had sons Luke and Mark (CRS, 53, 17). It is therefore likely that Matthew and Richard are also his sons. John’s wife was Frances and they lived at West Bretton, Sandal Magna Yorks (ib)

cf, DD, 7,102,115,123; Henson.

It is also thought that a cousin of Richard and Matthew, – John Bretton, – also became a Priest

Whilst Luke Bretton, the Martyr’s son, Apostatised, according to Dom Hugh Bowler, he apparently later repented and sent his son Francis to Douai to be educated in 1630, risking all the penalties involved. Francis was alive at Douai in 1635, alias Francis Burdet. There was no other known trace of his but many years ago we found a “Sir Francis Burdet”     in the area of Bretton and wondered whether there was any connection. It is possible that he took his name from the aunt of his grandmother, Francis Bretton, the wife of the Martyr. This aunt, Isabel, married a Thomas Burdet and it would be a useful name to choose.

Transcript of the will of Marie Bretton

“Marie Bretton of Bretton in the countie and diocies of Yorke singlewoman being sick in bodie but of good and perfect memorie did make this her last will and testament nuncupative * the XIXth day of April 1598 in thes wordes following viz.     Matthew Newton shall have all the goods I have and to him I give them to dispose of them as he thinketh good thes being witnesses Christofer Jackson Alice Bilcliffe Alice Sparks with others

Et eisdem die et anno dictas decanus certificavit de probatione huiusmodi testamenti per testes nominatos iuratos etc. Commisaque fuit administratio bonorum eiusdem defuncti Matheo Newton Vertute administratione sibi in ex parte     directe urato etc. Salvo iure cuius Tunque etc.”


Marie Bretton was the sister of the martyr, John Bretton, and whilst there is no record of the general state of her health it is surely too much of a coincidence that she made this will     only 19 days after her elder brother was executed at York. One has to suppose that it was this fact that caused her ill health. The will was proved only a few months later on 7th July, 1598

Luke Bretton married Mary Pullan at Sandal Magna, 18th June 1604 (Northern Genealogist v.III)

Luke Bretton, gent. of Walton cum Bretton was fined £12 for refusing Knighthood at the Coronation of Charles I in 1625 (Y.A.S. Record Ser. Vol 61, Page 96, Wapentake of Agbrigg and Morley)

From “A List of the Roman Catholics in the County of York in 1604” (transcribed from the original MS. in the Bodleian Library, and edited with genealogical notes by Edward Peacock, F.S.A. ; London : John Camden Hotten, 74 & 75 Piccadully, 1872)

West Riding

Agbrigg & Morley

Sandal Magna

ffrances Bretton wedow of Bretton, Dorothie Bretton her daughter ; old recusants.

“The editor has not endeavoured in any manner to supply the deficiency (i.e. a true notion of what was the state of the Roman Catholic population of England during the reign of Elizabeth and the first two kings of the house of Stewart). The few notes he has given are almost solely genealogical, but he would not be doing his duty if he neglected to draw attention to two things which are specially worthy of observation. Firstly that although this list does not include the whole of the places within the county of York, almost all the old historical families of the shire are represented therin ; and secondly, that the inquisitorial proceedings of the government officials were not confined, as so many fancy them to have been, to persons who, from their high position, had it in their power factiously to oppose the Government in Church and State, but that poor farm labourers, servant maids, tailors and fishermen were, as much as their social superiors, the objects of strict scrutiny.”

“That the cruel penal laws which disgraced our statute book were not always carried out in their full severity to the letter is certain, but the amount of bloodshed they occasioned has been much under-rated and the domestic misery of which they were the cause scarcely even dwelt upon……. But is it not fitting that we sometimes should turn our mind from the luxuries of this self indulgent time to those well-nigh forgotten ancestors of ours, who, for the sake of what they believed to be the truth, were content to be put in peril, and oftentimes to sacrifice, all the objects which are commonly thought to make life desirable ?”

From p. 338, Part III of “The Reformation in England” by Philip Hughes, (London : Hollis and Carter 1954)

“Queen Elizabeth put to death, solely because of their religion, between the years 1577 and 1603, 183 of her Catholic subjects. Of these 123 were priests, I was a friar not yet ordained, and 59 were layfolk – 3 of them women.”

From an article on “Yorkshire Recusants” contained in “Chapters in the History of Yorkshire” by James J. Cartwright, M.A. of the Public Record Office (Wakefield : B.W. Allen 1872)

pp 146 -8 and 153


“May it please your good Lordships to be advertised, that your letters written at Windsore the 15th October, came unto my hands on Tewsdaye at night the 22nd of the same, and accordinge to his (sic) mats (majesty’s ?) pleasure, and your Lordships order, I have with all diligencie travelled therin, and have sent to your Lorships herewithall, the names and abilities os suche within my dioces, as refuse to come to churche, useing the help of such herein, as your Lordships in your letters named unto me; yt was not possible for me in this shortnes of tyme to search owt all, being required by your Lordships to returne answer within 7 daies : for as yet I have not visited my dioces, and so canne not come by full understandinge of the offendours. But these are to many, whose intollerable insolencie, perverse and contemptuous disobedience, Is with speed to be repressed, or els hardly the state canne stande in quiet saftie. I had in full purpose to have advertised your Lordships herof, and for redresse praied the assistance of your autoritie, but your Lordships have happilie prevented (gone before : anticipated) me and I trust you will bring to good effecte and perfectly finishe that which uppon good and due consideration you have taken in hande. God willeth that these estraied sheepe be called home and be compelled to come in.     And it must needs put in daunger the publique quiet, yf they be suffered to lyve in this sorte. I have already laboured what I canne synce my cominge hither, as well by persuasion as by execution of discipline to reforme them, but litle have I prevailed, for a more stiffe necked wilfull or obstinate people did I never knowe or heare of. Dowbtlesse they are reconciled to Rome and sworne to the popr ; they will abide no conference, neither give eare to any doctrine or persuasion. Some of them when the praier for the Quenes Matie (short for majesty) hath ben read unto them have utterley refused to say Amen to it. Others do glory (and that not of the simplieste sorte) that they never knewe what the bible or Testament meant. To some I have offered lodginge and diet in my howse, that I might have conference with them for their conformitie, but they chose rather to go to prison. Thus much I write to give your Lordships a taste of their evill dispositions, and the most of them have ben corrupted by on Henry Comberforde, a most obstinate Popishe prieste now prisoner at Hull. While we expecte your Lordships further order, we procede here accordinge to our Commission, lest yf we should surceasse they would grow the stowter, thinkinge that our hands were shutt uppe.

Thus I take my leave of your good Lordships, commending the same to the good direction of God’s holy spirite. From Bushopthorpe this 28th of October, 1577

Your Lordships at Commandment

  1. Ebor “ (Domestic, Eliz., Vol. CXVII

Enclosed with this letter is the following paper :-

“The names, sirnames, additions, and dwellinge places of such within the diocesse of Yorke as have been detected to the L. Archb. of Yorke and other her Mat-ies (majesty’s) Commissioners in those partes for their disobediences in refusinge the churche and publique preyer, etc and do not conforme them selfes ; with a note of their habilities etc.. (The following is one of many entries)

Their Habilities (abilities, i.e. income) – nil, and yet the most obstinate and perverse. John Brettan and Frauncys his wife, of Sandall Magna.

pp 159-60

Sir John Hotham to Sir Francis Walsingham

“Right Honorable my most humble dewtye remembred, may I signifye upon you that having receyved commaundment by letters from the Lordes of her Ma-ties (Majesty’s) most honorable Privye Councell, to call before me certeyne Recusants, within the County of Yorke, and to demaunde of eche of them the furnyshinge of a Lyght horseman, or els to pay 25£ in monye, so yt is that the Recusants beinge dispersed into dyverse partes of the Countye, and diverse of them not to be founde within the Countye I cannot with such convenyant spede certyfye unto you, ( as is required by there Honours sayd letters) every one their particuler answeres wherefore I have thought good to signyfye unto you, howe farre my proceeding hath bene, as here followeth, cravinge pardon for the rest, which god willinge shal be performed with all diligence, ceasinge to troble your honour any further, I humbly take my leve ; Yorke the 21tie of October, 1585

Your honours most humble at commaundment

John Hotham

amongst a few other names “John Britton is supposed to be in goale in Manchester”

A Robert Bretton of the Chapelry of Brotten (“o” not “e”),(in the North Riding) weaver, servant of Christopher Pressicke, weaver was a recusant for the 12 months from 8 July, 1619. Any connection with West Bretton ?

1620   Luke Bretton sold some land in Dewsbury and Thornhill to “Anne Saville, Widow”. This would be Anne (nee Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse) the widow of Sir George Saville. Sir George was very helpful to Frances Bretton when she was trying to retain her estates.


The estates of the Bretton’s and Sir George Saville in Dewsbury are commemorated to this day. An area of Dewsbury is known as “Saville Town” and there is still a “Bretton Street” in the same area. It is amazing how these names have persisted after nearly 400 years.

It is thought locally that the farm occupied by John Bretton was the one known as Hoyle Farm (adjoining the Woolley Tunnel and owned in 1957 by W. H. Hoyland of Birch Laithes Farm.

Luke Bretton’s will is contained in the Yorkshire Archaeological Society – Record Series – Volume I. The Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem for the County of York for the reigns of James I and Charles I in the     Public Record Office, London – the Court of Wards and Liveries

1638/39 14 Charles I Bretton Luke         W.       61.           2

(Dorothy Percy who married John Bretton, (who sold the estate in 1662), was the eldest daughter of John Percy of Stubbs-Walden, York. The marriage is thought to have been     c. 1640) . Dorothy’s father       married Frances Yonge daughter of Andrew Yonge and sister and co-heiress of Sir Andrew Yonge of Beorn (Burne) “in com Eborum Knt’.” One of Dorothy’s sister’s, Elizabeth married Thomas Ingleby, of Thornton Woods in com Ebor. (note. Is Thomas Ingleby any relation to another Yorkshire Catholic Martyr, Francis Ingleby, who was born at Ripley Castle about 1550 and after ordination ministered at York. He was martyred on 3rd June, 1586)

Pedigree of Percy of Stubbs – Walden Arms :- Per fess Argent and Gules, a lion rampant per fess Sable and Argent.       Dugdales visitations of Yorkshire 1894

Copy of the agreement by (Captain) John Bretton selling the Bretton Estate in 1662


The twelvth day of September 1662

Received then of Mr Joshua Crawshaw of Woolley by the appointment and directions of Lewes West, Clerk the whole and just sum of one hundred and ffifty pounds of Lawful English money in pt. of a greater sum due unto me by the said Lewes West upon the thirtyeth day of November next for the purchase money for Certaine Messuages and lands with Happurtenances in Bretton within the County of York and I doe hereby for me my executors Administrators and Assignes request (?) and discharge the said Lewes West and every one of them of and from the further payment of the said one hundred and ffifty pounds in part of the said purchase money as aforsaid

In witness thereof I have hereunto put my hand and seale the day and year above written

Sealed and delivered

in the presence of                                                 John Bretton

John Hedon

Matt Husband and one other


We have, so far, been unable to trace John Bretton after he left Yorkshire to go to live in London. We know he had a daughter but are unaware as to whether he had any further children after he moved. We have also looked very hard to find details of his commission as “Captain”, a title he used continuously, without any success until we came across the following :-

Calendar of Committee for Compounding etc. Cases 1643 – 46           HMSO 1890         1150 25th March, 1646 JOHN BRETTON or BRITTON, Bretton, co. York

c.179 727    Compounds for delinquency in serving as captain of a foot company under the Earl of p.e.179 730  Newcastle for a year. Deserted in 1644 and has ever since lived at his house in the   d. 179 728    Parliament’s quarters.

9th May, 1646     Fine £200; if he bring in a certificate that he came in before 1st. December, then to pay one tenth prot. 4 177

20th November 1650.   Begs an abatement of the second moiety of his fine in allowance of 400L charged upon his estate, the deed in proof of which he could not

previously produce. Also allowance of 15L rents, received by the County Committee out of his estate.

20th November. Petition rejected

16 Jan. 1652   Noted as lapsing payment of the latter half of his fine.

15th May       Fine paid and estate discharged.

There was always a question mark about his reasons for deserting but we have now found an entry relating to documents in a Yorkshire Archaelogical Journal about the civil war. In particular one letter contains an appendix of a list of Roman Catholic gentry of the neighbourhood to whom the Earl of Newcastle had granted commissions to raise forces. John Bretton was named amongst them BUT this act was greatly contrary to His Majesty’s proclamation, 10th August 1642 by which he had expressly forbidden any “Popish Recusant” to serve in his army. The author then states that with our modern feelings we can hardly imagine the bad feeling caused by this breach of faith. Here then possibly we have a reason for his desertion. It would be hard to fight for a King who so deplored one’s life long faith, especially as Captain John Bretton was a direct and close descendant of Blessed John Bretton the Catholic Martyr.

There is an Exemplification of Recovery for John Bretton :-

“Robert Sanyell (a variant of Savile), gentleman, versus Lewis West, Clerk. 3 messuages, 4 gardens, 100 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 10 acres of wood, 50 acres of pasture, common moorland and common of pasture for all animals with appurtenances in Bretton and in Sandall Magna……and Lewis through Joshua Howorth his attorney ……vouched to warranty John Bretton and Dorothy, his wife …… given at Westminster 28th November, 1644 (15 Charles II)

There is also a Quit Claim :-

John Bretton late of Pontefract and now of St. Giles in the fields, London, to Lewes West late of Bretton otherwise called West Bretton and now of Great Salkeld (Cumberland) clerk. All right and title in several messuages, lands, tithes etc described in a deed of 26th July, 1659

12 September 1662

“On the 22nd April, 1644 a Captain Britton was buried in the Side Queare of York Minster during the seige of York in the Civil War from the 22nd April to 16th July, 1644” . Enquiries at York Minster were of no avail and although the side quire is easily identified there is no marked gravestone.

We spent a lot of time in the North Yorkshire archives trying to trace the family history of Richard Bretton who appeared in Thomas Bretton’s will of 15th July, 1656. He was described as an “infant” at the time of the will and his mark was attached to the will a copy of which is in Somerset House – Register Ruthen 334 and reads :-

The will of Thomas Brettin (noncupative) “The fifteenth of July, 1656 memorandum that Thomas Brettin of UPSALL of the parish of South Kilvington in the Countie of Yorke, skinner, did vive voce declare himself and make a will in these terms following. Imprimis I give to my brother William Brettin and my brother Roger Robinson’s five children everie one of them a lambe : Item. I give to my wife Isabell Brettin and my son Richard Brettin (whom I make my executors) one close called Stretefield within the Lordship of Sowerby and six bonds of six pounds a year with the rest of my estate equally to be divided between them, and if my wife be with child at my decease my will is that that childshall have that close called by the name of the Stretfield in the Lordship of Sowerby after the death of the mother. And that if she has no more children to me, then to my sonne Richard after his mother’s decease. In witness whereof we who are present at the making hereof by the said deceased doe set our hands the day and year above written. Thomas Brettin, his mark : John Marshall : William Veratten : William Wauberan, his marke : Richard Brettin, his marke”

This will was proved in London before the Judges for Probate of wills and granting administrations lawfully authorised 28 September, 1657 by the oath of Isabell, now wife of John Meeke, the relict of the said deceased and one of the executors named in the said will. To whom Administration of all and singular the said deceased’s goods, chattells and debts was granted and committed. She being first (by virtue of a commission) sworne well and truly to administer. Power is nevertheless hereby reserved to make and grant like probate and Administration to Richard Brettin the natural and lawful sonne of the said deceased and other executor by him named, when he shall legally require the same.

The link with the village of West Bretton is through the names of the legatees and others. He leaves a lambe to William Bretton and     his brother (?) Roger Robinson’s children – and a William Bretton was living at West Bretton between 1655 and 1656. He was a near neighbout of William Robinson and Matthew Mooke (They were all consecutive names on the Hearth Tax Roll of 1666)

and by the time the will was proved in 1657 Thomas Bretton’s widow was married to John “Meeke” – an easy variation of “Mooke”

A Matthew Mooke’s wife was Mary, Matthew Bretton’s sister. There then was a Matthew Bretton of Kilvington who died c. 1667 and was described as “late of Bretton”. It appears that Matthew Bretton was a servant working for Lady Anne Middleton of Kilvington. We do not know what connection she may have had with Upsall, which was within the parish of Kilvington but it was presumably a strong one.

The link with West Bretton becomes clearer when you consider that “Lady Anne Middleton of Kilvington appears to be Anne, daughter of Charles Markham of Ollerton, widow of Robert Waterton of Walton (only a few miles from West Bretton) and who married Sir John Middleton, Knight, of Thirntoft and Walton, at Wragby on 8th September, 1642. He died 20th April, 1654 and then she married her third husband Francis Nevile of Chevet, at Royston in 1657. The apparent linking of this lady as Lady Anne Middleton is that her daughter, Mary Middleton, married Roger Maybell Esq., of Kilvington and was buried     30th April, 1685 at St. Saviours, York.

Francis Nevile’s pedigree in J.W. Clay’s edition of Dugdales Visitation of Yorkshire 1655/6 shows that Lady Anne was his third wife and that he was 73 years of age on 15th September, 1665. His death must have occurred within the next few years as his son and successor, Sandford Nevile died 17th March 1672. It appears that Lady Anne Middleton went up to N. Kilvington after his death and took her personal servant, Matthew Bretton with her. Why Thomas and Matthew Bretton (brothers?) were up at Kilvington at different times     is not known. So many of the registers for that area are not available but there were Brettons in Thornton le Bean as far back as 1577 and still there as Brettaine’s in 1641 with Brettins at Kepwick ( a beautiful little place) in 1630. Whether this close conjuction of the names of Bretton, Robinson and Mooke at West Bretton is sufficient to link Richard Brettin with West Bretton is sufficient has still to be followed up.

Dom Hugh Bowler sought without success records of the purchase by Richard Bretton of his farm at Nether Flockton (Flockton Green).

In the Yorkshire Archeological Society Journal (Y.A.J.) Vol. V. the following comments appear about the Bretton Deeds : “This is a remarkably fine series of about 170 of the de Brettons, Dronsfields and Wentworths, who have been successively Lords of West Bretton”. This note is contained in “A memoir on the Collection of Charters and other documentary matter illustrative of the Topography and History of England, but especially of the County of York, made by John Wilson, of Broomhead, between 1735 and 1783” The collection passed into the hands of William Walker of Sheffield in 1807 and was in his possession until 1823. Possibly the City Librarian, Sheffield, or the Secretary of the Hunter Archaeological Society, Sheffield may know where they are. It is possible that the Rev. Joseph Hunter used them for his Deanery of Doncaster Vol.II.

There was a Wiidow Bretton on the Hearth Tax List of 1672,     as still living in Bretton.

There was a door lintel inscribed “T,B. 1682” in the village in the 1950’s

Richard Bretton, buried 24.4. 1736 is the first record of Brettons in Flockton apart from the sale of a dwelling to Robert son of Adam West Bretton in 1345. Did the family continue in existence in Flockton from that date to the Richard Bretton.     It was he who, when living in West Bretton, was mentioned in the West Bretton Court Rolls of 1703, prior to his move to Flockton. Presumably the “Widow Bretton” mentioned in the Hearth Tax List of 1672 in West Bretton his mother, was the wife (name unknown), of Matthew Bretton who died in 1667.

William Bretton was elected Constable of West Bretton in 1639 (Wakefield Manor Court Rolls). Presumably the William who died in 1691.

The will of Richard Bretton, Yeoman, of Walton, Suffolk

Unto all persons to whom this shall come – Greeting. The 9th day of June, 1681 according to ye computation of ye Church of England, I, Richard Bretton of Walton in the county of Suffolk, yeoman, being of perfect Memory and Remembrance praised be God, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following viz :-

First I bequeath my soule into ye hands of Allmighty God my Makor, and my bodye to be buried in Christian Buriall at ye discretion of my Executor and Executrix.

I do give and bequeath my personall estate to my loving wife, Anne Bretton, and Richard Bretton, my son, to be eaqually divided betwin them and my mind and will is that my mother, Anne Harvey and my wife Anne Bretton shall have their dwellings in part of my son’s house in Walton, and it is my mind and will that if my son, Richard Bretton, shall refuse to let or suffer my mother Anne Harvey to dwell in part of his house during her life then in such cause my mind and will is if my son Richard shall give he £5 of Lawfull mony of England and she shall then provide for herself else where. Allso my mind and will is that if my son Richard Bretton shall refuse to suffer my wife Anne Bretton also to live in part of his house aforesaid then it shall be lawfull for my wife to have and enjoy one half of my personal estate to her and her heirs for ever but if my son shall preferably suffer my said wife to dwell in part of his said house then my mind and will is that my wife Ann Bretton shall only have and enjoy half my personal estate during her life only and then that to return unto my son Richard Bretton and my mind and will is that Richard Bretton my son shall have one silver cup and two silver spoons and my mind and will is that Ann Bretton my wife shall have one silver spoon and a silver dram cup only during her life and at her decease to return to my son Richard, and my mind and will is that all other of my personal estate whatsoever I give unto mu Execuror and Executrix, Richard Bretton my son and Anne my wife as is afore expressed they paying all my just debts and making them sole Executor and Executrix of this my last will and testament, revoaking all other wills and testaments formerly made.

In witness herof I have here unto sett my hand and seal the day and year first above written.

Witnesses Edmond Crosse                                                       The mark of Richard Bretton

ye mark of Elizabeth Eade                                                                  (impressed     seal ??)

We were seeking descendants of Richard Bretton of West Bretton who was born in 1607, was at Douai in 1631 and was Auditor and Estate Agent for the recusant Mannock family in Suffolk from 1633 to 1638.

This is clearly not him BUT it may be his SON !!     It was common to describe one’s wife’s mother as “Mother” so Anne Harvey may well be Anne Bretton’s mother. This Richard was a yeoman – a working man, BUT he has a seal to impress on the will according to the above AND he had two silver cups and three silver spoons. A fortune to a Yeoman who couldn’t write (he made his mark). The seal, cups and spoons COULD have belonged to Richard Bretton the Auditor and passed down to him – the seal would have the same initials. This is to be followed up by looking at the original will to see if it is an impressed seal.

Thomas Carter the elder of Thorpe Audlin, in his will dated 20th April, 1643, proved 17th September 1648 named William, Thomas and Jane, children of Thomas Brettaine as well as his own family.

Jane Bretton (probably the same as the one above) married George Ellin at Badsworth June 29th, 1652. Under extracts of Parish Registers, Badsworth     in genealogical notes and pedigrees – Ellin Family, Womersley, Sheffield.

The following list of Recusants in Sandal with Walton and Bretton in the Wapentake of Agbrigg and Morley is taken from “The Catholic Recusants of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1558 to 1790 by Dom Hugh Aveling O.S.B. of Ampleforth Abbey (Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society (Literary & Historical Section) Vol x. Part 6 1963 Only those people with the Bretton name, or known relatives have been taken from those records.

1580       Thomas Waterton of Walton esq., wife and family

1580-82 Matthew Wentworth esq., wife and family : Robert Bretton, and wife and mother, Thomas

Waterton of Walton and his wife

1584-89 As above plus John Bretton, gent, and his wife

1590-95 As above

1603       Frances Bretton, Widow and her daughter

1607       Frances Bretton and her daughter, recusants and Thomas Waterton, non-communicant

1615       Frances Bretton, widow and another, recusants : Thomas     Waterton, non-communicant

1621       Thomas Waterton esq., recusant

1623       Thomas Waterton and his wife, and Luke Bretton and his wife, all recusants

1624       Mary, wife of Luke Bretton, recusant.

1637       Thomas Waterton of Walton and his wife : Matthew Bretton

1663       Matthew Bretton

1666       Watertons

1673     William Bretton

1681     Thomas Waterton esq., and his wife

It is perhaps significant that in 1780, exactly two hundred years since the list of recusants was started, the records show that there were between ten and 19 recusants, even more that at the first listing. They were, and are, a stubborn lot in West Yorkshire, and this was shown by the number of John Bretton’s children and relatives who became priests around the time of his persecution, and after his execution.

Ruth Bretton married John More of Austhorpe 3rd April, 1685 at Whitkirk. (Dugdale’s Visitation of Yorkshire – Pedigree of More of Austrop) (stated to be the daughter of ……. Bretton of…….. Co. Derby, gent.) (note. There are other Brettons as well as Brittains in the “Records of the Parish of Whitkirk)

Elizabeth, wife of Mr Bretton of Lupset “burried       the iith day of Aprill, 1695. (registers of the Chapel of Horbury – Yorkshire Parish Register Society 1900)

Mary Bretton of Woodhome married John Jackson of Woodhome on 18th October, 1705 in York Minster. (Register of Marriages in York Minster)

One piece of information that is still to be placed is taken from a book apparently called “Minor Gentry” Vol II page 546. to the effect that Dorothy, daughter of John Bretton of Bretton by Tidswell married Robert Eyre, 2nd son of ? Eyre of Grainfoot. No other explanation was given by Rowland Bretton from whose notes this information was taken. The note states that this Robert Eryre’s parents were married at Bradfield on 19th October, 1563 and that his mother was Ellen, daughter of Chris Wilson of Bromhead, Co York. There is a village of “Bretton” not far from Tidswell in Derbyshire but we have been there and it is one Public House and two houses. The only old building out of the three is the pub. We cannot find Grainfoot on the most detailed map and Bradfield is nearer West Bretton than it is to either Tidswell or Bretton in Derbyshire. The only Dorothy, daughter of John Bretton on our chart is the martyr John Bretton and his daughter Dorothy was born in 1577 and was alive in 1605 -but where we cannot trace. She was a recusant in 1603 and, apparently in 1607 but no further trace exists. Further information is being sought.

In the Thornhill Parish Registers of the late 1700’s the name “Bretton is spelled :-









Richard Bretton paid 1s. 5d. rent for a farm at Flockton in 1709 (Wakefield Manor Book of 1709. page 81.

In bundle 22 (Flockton) in the YAS it states that :-

The court houlden for the manor of fflockton (no date)

“itm. We lay in pain that Richard Bretton switch his hedge and Scoure his Dike adjoyning Milne Laine and keep the water out of the said laine before the first of July upon paine of 3s. 4d.”

In the court Baron of Flockton, 1705 it says :-

Wee present impr John Rhodes for stoping and diverteing an ancient and comon ffoot way leading thrurrow the Pingle ovr. Rich’d Britton’s ground ovr. the Polding Ing over Blakeley Crift into the Milne Layne within this mannor. 10s. 0d.

Itm. Wee present Richd. Britton for not remoeving his stile to the place where it formerly stood near Steven Eastewood’s house within this mannor and according to a pain formerly laid to that purpose, 5s.0d.

10th October 1728 Administration of the goods of John Bretton of Nether Flockton P. Thornhill deceased intestate was granted to Mary Bretton widow, his relict

In 1974 we, (myself,Christine, Kathryn and Elizabeth) moved back to Flockton, where our family had lived from at least the 1600’s. We bought a very old house, known as “Greenhead” on the edge of the village.     It had once been part of the estate of Flockton Manor and brought with it some of the old deeds on parchment of that estate. It came as a complete surprise to us, however, when, one day, whilst researching the Bretton history at the archives of the Yorkshire Archeological Society in Leeds, we came across an agreement granting the tenancy of Greenhead and the surrounding farmland to one of our ancestors in 1705. The transcription of that agreement is attached as Appendix 5

An old map of Flockton shows that he tenanted and farmed all the fields round Greenhead and, when we eventually built our present house in the gardens of Greenhead we called it “Treeroyd” after the name of the field next to both our new and old houses.

The above information is put as accurately as possible in chronological order up to the earliest complete record of John Bretton who was born sometime in the 1400’s.

No coats of arms were ascribed to the 17th century Brettons’ ( according to Roland Bretton, a leading authority on Heraldry). He states that none are recorded in the College of Arms. After his death the coat : ” Or, a lion rampant sable” was ascribed to Adam Fitz Swein,     and Roland Bretton incorporated it into his own arms when they were granted in 1937.

Note on Rowland Bretton

We had read some of the copy letters that passed between Rowland Bretton of Lightcliffe and Dom Hugh Bowler the Catholic Historian and formed the opinion that most of the research that Hugh Bowler discussed was new to him. And yet we could never reconcile this with the fact that he incorporated the Armorial Bearings of Adam Fitz Swain de Bretton into his own Bearings when he was granted them in 1937. Rowland fits into our tree as being descended from John Bretton , bap. 30.3.1712 and buried 6.8.1759). Unfortunately he died shortly before we traced him and according to his executors complete family trees that he had done had been thrown away. The executor (David Hallows, the Deputy Head of Halifax Grammar School) kindly let us have scribbled notes, photocopies of (some) correspondence with Hugh Bowler, and a family (Methodist) Hymn Book published in 1805 that had been left by him.” We knew he was an expert on Heraldry but that was all the information we had. We were delighted, however, to find very extensive notes,     (in January, 1998 – unfortunately after we had “finished” this history and run off a copy comprising some 52 pages) some of which we had duplicated but others which were very useful, particularly the source of his contention that Adam Fitz Swain was later known as Adam Fitz Swain de Bretton.

Rowland was elected a member of the Heraldry Society and entitled to use the letters F.H.S. We also found a copy of his coat of arms but in black and white and are trying to get a colour copy to add to this history.     Robert Noel, Bluemantle Pursuivant at the College of Arms agreed to look up the Armorial Bearings and send the illustrated result to me. Unfortunately, however, we were not prepared to pay the fee of £550. Even in 1998 £550 for a colour photograph, which is all we asked for, is just a     little high (about £548 too high).