Ilbert de Lacy was awarded the Manor of Methley along with many others as a reward for services rendered by William the Conqueror. The land had previously been held by Osulf and Cnut (Canute?) who may have been of Saxon or Norse extraction.
By the end of the 13th century the Manor had passed into the de Methley family. In 1312 John de Methley probably the first Lord of the Manor aligned himself with the Earl of Lancaster.
A critic of King Edward II for his absences in France, and the discharging of his royal duties to Piers Gaveston who had been appointed Regent in the absence of the King. Lancaster following an abortive insurrection was arrested and executed. In 1313 Edward II became reconciled with his nobles when he needed help in repulsing Robert the Bruce from raids on northern towns.
John de Methley was granted a pardon in 1323 and his lands were restituted. One wonders, would it be the same John de Methley, or son of, who with others was appointed by the king Edward III in 1343 to arrest any protectors of Cardinals or others scheming to impugn the sovereign by means of Papal Bulls? (this is long before Henry VIII).
Around this time the de Lacys who never relinquished complete control of the Manor (as they were tenants in chief) appear to have passed it over to the Hospital of St Nicholas of Pontefract. However the de Methley family are traced up to about 1400. It is claimed that during the 14th century, John de Waterton of Lincolnshire married a lady of the ‘de Methley’ family and that Robert Waterton was a descendant of that pairing.
In 1408 the Master of the Hospital released to John Waterton of Lincolnshire the rights to Woodhall in Methley which were lands and tenements situated in Woodhall which were part of the Manor of Methley. In 1410 the Master of the Hospitall of Pontefract transferred to Robert Waterton, the Manor of Methley in exchange for Manors in Lincolnshire and Wath-on-Dearne thus making John Waterton a tenant of his brother Robert.
Sir Robert Waterton the new Lord of the Manor it would seem was a man of great importance. It was reported that in 1399 he had been appointed ‘Master of the Kings Horses and Armour’. He was a confidante of Henry IV and was described in 1404 as the Kings Esquire, he also became Master of the Kings Hounds in the north of England (Hungate?). Five years after the success of the longbow (Armour) in 1415 at Agincourt he was commissioned by the King to pursuade the Gentlemen of Yorkshire to proceed to the war in France (2nd phase of the 100 Years War).
He married Cecily Fleming heiress of the nearby Woodhall estate in Stanley, like his brother he was a soldier and between them they served four kings from Richard II to Henry VI. Sir Robert’s son died and his successor, the young Sir Robert who was to become High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1441 died in 1476 leaving no offspring and the estate was split to the 4 daughters of his sister Cecelia.
Cecelia had married into the Welles family – her husband Sir Lionel Welles was killed in 1461 at the battle of Towton where the White Rose of Rouen and the Ragged Staff won the day. Lord Welles was up in support of the house of Lancaster in what was to become known later as the Wars of the Roses, his life had filled Methley with stories of the battles and engagements. He remained loyal to the losing side, loyal as others changed despite the fact that his father and grandfather had been pro-active Yorkists.
That same 30 years war took the life of his son the daring Richard Welles who could not make his peace with King Edward IV, as with Robert Welles a wild son who would skirmish in vain with the Kings forces and both were to suffer the loss of their heads.
Last of the Lords Welles, came John who reconciled himself to the king. He was the uncle of Henry Tudor and led an uprising against Richard III, John escaped to Brittany and joined his nephew. He was present at Rennes Cathedral at Christmas 1484 when Henry Tudor promised to marry Elizabeth of York. John landed at Milford Haven with Henry Tudor in August 1485 and was at the Battle of Bosworth. After Henry was crowned and married to Elizabeth of York, John and her sister Cecily were married around 1487 when he was created a Viscount.
On his death the influence of the Welles’ was gone, in 1488 an act of partition instructed that the old Waterton estate be shared by :- Thomas Lawrence, Sir Christopher Willoughby, Sir Robert Tempest who received parcels of land in Methley including Dunsford House, and finally Sir Robert Dymoke who received the Manors of Methley, Woodhall, Hazel House and the greater part of the village on the death of John’s wife Cecily.
The Dymokes of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire were also extremely influential, Sir Robert served Richard Crookback, Harry Tudor, and Henry VIII, tradition was that as Kings Champion, a Dymoke of Scrivelsby would ride into the kings banquet at Westminster on a charger and challenge all men in defence of the kings right, with mailed glove.
His son was to be Kings Champion to all of Henry’s three children at their crownings, but under Elizabeth the Dymokes did not prosper, Sir Robert, in 1580 is said to have died a captive recusant at Lincoln (he was implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, fortunately being Kings Champion saved him, his title and kept his head attached to his shoulders. His son Sir Edward was the last Dymoke to hold the title Lord of Methley.
In 1583 Sir Edward Dymoke of Scrivelsbie and Methley now released the lands to one Harrison of Leeds and within ten years the land was sold on to Henry Farrer of Ewood and William Savile, attorney of Wakefield. Smaller purchases were also made in 1590 including one by Mr Shanne.
John Savile, Baron of the Exchequer, the eldest son of Henry Savile of Over Bradley, Staniland, Nr Elland purchased the Manor in 1590. He was to be knighted and was the founder of the Methley family of Saviles. Baron Savile was to marry 4 times, his third wife was Dorothy widow of Sir Martin Frobisher of Altofts. He was succeeded by Henry his son to his first wife, who was knighted at the coronation of James I in 1603 and created a baronet on 29 June 1611. Sir Henry had several children but he outlived them all and his baronetcy became extinct.
The Manor then passed to his half brother Sir John Savile who was knighted at the same coronation in 1603 and was to become High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1648. He purchased the Manor and following his death in Fleet Street in London,where he was buried nearby and his heart was brought to and buried in Methley Church.
He was succeeded by his son – Sir John Savile and who on his death in 1716 was buried in the chancel of Methley Church.
The next heir, Charles died in 1741 and he was followed by his son, John Savile who became the 1st Earl of Mexborough and Baron Pollington. Sir John Savile M.P. was created Baron Pollington of Longford, Ireland on 8th November, 1753 and Viscount Pollington and Earl Mexborough of Lifford in Co. Donegal on 11th February 1766.
The Earls Grandson, John the third Earl succeeded in 1830 following the death of his father, also John – the second Earl who had been M.P. for Lincoln 1808-12 and Pontefract 1807-12, 1812-26 and 1831-32. (How did he do that!)
John Charles George, the fourth Earl, M.P. for Pontefract 1833-37, 1841-47 died in 1899. The fifth Earl, John Horatio born in 1843 died in Florence in 1916 having made a career in the army – it was he who purchased the Arden Estate near Helmsley. Much of Arden has been remodelled on Methley Hall.
The elder son of the Fourth Earl, John Horace succeeded his half brother and became the sixth Earl in 1916. This Earl and his family ceased to reside at Methley in 1918 moving to Arden, returning to Methley only for the shooting season. It was at this time that the Hall started to be affected by mining subsidence. The house was spruced up in 1935 for the visit of Queen Mary and the Earl of Harewood but thereafter was left in the care of a housekeeper (Mrs Wood).
The Hall was occupied by the army during during the second world war and on occasions the Earl would stop there complete with ration book.
The sixth Earl died in 1945 and was succeeded by his son John Raphael Wentworth Savile as Seventh Earl, the early years were spent at another of the estates at Thorner. He served as a JP and during the war and served as ADC to the Governor of Bihar and was a Captain in the Intelligence Corps. It was the seventh Earl who commenced opencast mining at Methley towards the end of the 1940’s and the same man who then disposed of the contents of the Hall in 1951.
After offering choice of the contents to members of his family, the library fireplace found its way into a flat in West London but can now been seen in the long gallery of Burton Agnes Hall. Some of the 18th century doors can be found in the home of the Scrope family in Co Durham. The Minstrels Gallery was donated to Leeds City Council and is now in Temple Newsam House Leeds. The large family portraits were taken by York City Art Gallery.
The present and Eighth Earl John Christopher George Savile formerly Viscount Pollington succeeded in 1980 married firstly in 1958 to Elizabeth Harriet Grimston………..to be continued.
the Estate was converted into a private company in the early part of the 20th century and of a total holding of 10,000 acres some 5,000 acres were in Methley and Castleford and Whitwood. Further holdings were at Pollington and the Halifax area in Yorkshire and a large holding in Hertfordshire.
I am indebted to Juanita Louise Knapp, B.A. (who is preparing a publication of the history of the Welles family of Lincolnshire 1086 – 1499) for her comprehensive review and suggested amendments to the period covering the Watertons, Welles and Dymokes along with recommended list of books I am equally indebted to Barry Robbins who conrtibuted so much to the following Savile stewardship.