Sir Walter Langley Knight
(-After 1213)

Sir Geoffrey de Langley Knight
(Abt 1223-Bef 1274)


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Sir Geoffrey de Langley Knight

  • Born: Abt 1223, England
  • Marriage: Unknown
  • Died: Bef 22 Sep 1274 508

bullet  General Notes:

~Cokayne's Complete Peerage (Stafford, p.172).

bullet  Noted events in his life were:

• Dates & Events. 508
"Geoffrey was founder of the Langley fortunes. He had succeeded at Pinley by 1222, his land at Siddington was retained by members of related families. He sued first Isabel de Cardonville and after her death Hasculf de Harborough. The case was in progress during 1228-1229 and Geoffrey appears to have recovered soon after. Later he augmented the estate by purchasing a further carucate from Hascuif's heirs.

By December 1234, perhaps through marriage, Geoffrey had acquired land at Long Compton, War. A second marriage, before 25 September 1236, brought him the manor of Turkdean, with land and rents at Brightwell, Ewelme, Haseley and Standhill, Hawridge, Bucks., and Woodborough, Wilts. It was primarily by service to the Crown, however, that Geoffrey succeeded in raising the family's fortunes.

Sir Geoffrey de Langley first appears in royal service during the monopolization of office by Peter de Rivaux. He functioned as constable of St. Briavels, deputizing for Peter, during the winter of 1233-1234. Joining the royal curia he became knight-deputy to the Earl Marshal and Marshal of the Household. He may have deputized for Gilbert Marshal who died in June 1241; he certainly did so for his successor Walter. Twice during these early years Geoffrey was employed by the King as a proctor in ecclesiastical affairs.

The Gascon campaign of 1242-1243 proved a watershed in his career. On his return he was detached from the household, given custody of the honour of Arundel and then recruited to the forest eyre. From late 1244 to early 1250 he was associated with the general forest eyre conducted under the headship of Robert Passelewe. On 4 March 1250 he was made Chief Justice of the Forest on both sides of the Trent, an office which he exercised for a space of two and a half years until 25 October 1252.

As Chief Justice of the Forest he earned the rather unenviable enmity of Matthew Paris. According to the St. Albans chronicler he had gained a reputation for parsimony whilst Marshal of the Household. Now he was to be particularly zealous, if not unrestrained, in the interests of the King. Though the Chronica Majora is highly exaggerated in tone there is no doubt that Geoffrey's northern eyre was a particularly lucrative one and may well have caused murmurings.

By 1252 Geoffrey was at the height of his power and high in royal esteem. A member of the Council, he functioned as escort, and perhaps guardian, to the King's daughter, Queen Margaret of Scotland, during 1252-1253, and in March 1254 took responsibility for the English and Welsh lands of the young Prince Edward. His appointment as Edward's steward proved, however, to be a disaster, for in attempting the shiring of Perfeddwlad he provoked the Welsh rising of November 1256. According to Matthew Paris he conducted himself here in a typically high-handed manner whilst the Dunstable annalist writes of his boasting before the king and queen that he had the Welsh in the palm of his hand. To an extent, though, Geoffrey may have been the scapegoat for the failure of royal policy. Out of favour with the King, he was eventually pardoned on 14 February 1258. He was unpopular, too, with the opposition baronage, and was among those royalists whose lands were pillaged in the spring of 1263. Understandably he was little in evidence in national affairs during the troubled years 1258-1267. He had died by 22 September 1274.

Whatever his calibre as a royal servant, there is no doubt that Geoffrey profited handsomely both in terms of royal gifts and in terms of cash and opportunity for investment. He was directly endowed with land during his early years in forest justice. On 22 April 1245 he was granted the reversion of the manors of Milcote and Dorsington, War.; this took effect on 9 April 1246. Meanwhile, on 29 March 1246, he had received Stamfordham "of the lands of the Normans", initially pending the reversion of Milcote and Dorsington though he was afterwards allowed to retain it. Finally, on 29 April 1248, he was allowed to exchange Stamfordham for the Warwickshire manor of Atherstone-upon-Stour, formerly held by the royal steward Geoffrey de Crowcombe. In the same category should be placed the manor of Stareton which he received from Waiter Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, before June 1243, no doubt as payment for his services whilst Marshal of the Household. Before his death, in November 1245, Waiter had quitclaimed the rent due from Geoffrey's land at Long Compton and had given him land and rents in the town of Warwick and in Cotes and Hardwick.

During these years Geoffrey was busily acquiring land from other sources. In essence he was employing the cash reward of royal service to exploit the opportunities offered by his favoured position. In three cases he gained valuable estates through the acquittance of debts to Jews. These were the core of his estate at Stivichall purchased from Wilham de Lucy in or around 1240, the estate centred on Bisseley near Coventry and later known as the manor of Shortley, acquired from Henry d'Aubigny during 1244-1245, and Ashover in Derbyshire which he took on lease for a term of 22 years in 1251 and purchased outright sometime during the next five years. Ashover and Stivichall were acquired by Geoffrey at one and two removes, respectively, from an impecunious landowner. The detail of these transactions reveals a good deal about the traffic in encumbered estates during the mid-thirteenth century. By the same means he acquired rents at Bearley, War., and at Heydon in Ewelme, Oxon.

Several of Geoffrey's other major acquisitions are more difficult to categorise. From John de Monmouth he gained the manor of Chesterton close to Siddington at a date later than 1236 and closer to 1252. Geoffrey may have discharged John's debts to the Jews; but although John did have such debts, he does not appear to have been in serious financial difficulties. Geoffrey's acquisition of Harborough Magna between 1246 and 1252 was, in part at least, a family settlement. Hasculf de Harborough was the relative from whom he had recovered his estate at Siddington. Now Harborough passed to Geoffrey and Hasculf was given in return a life-tenancy of Little Dorsington. More curious is Geoffrey's acquisition of Weston Mauduit. The Langley Cartulary contains no charter of enfeoffment but only two minor grants by Williarn Mauduit of land lying close to Milcote. The inquisition in 1268 on the death of William's son, Earl of Warwick since 1263, records his alienation of land worth £15 per annum in Weston, and Geoffrey was clearly holding this estate before his death in 1274.

Geoffrey also managed to endow his son Walter with an independent estate during his own lifetime. In 1243-4 he was married to an heiress, Alice Breton, with manors at Wyken and Wolfhameote, War., and Bignell, Oxon. In the years which followed his father made considerable additions to the first two properties by buying out both undertenants and independent freeholders. Even before this, Geoffrey had begun building an estate in Somerset which was intended for his eldest son. Numerous small properties were added to the core of an estate at Ashcott acquired from Walter de Chauton. Richard de Chauton was later to sue (successfully) for the return of the property on the grounds that his father had enfeoffed Walter de Langley when the latter was under age. The Langley interest in Ashcott and neighbouring places was certainly established by 1242.

Geoffrey paid considerable attention to the improvement and consolidation of his estates. This can be seen most clearly on the Langley estates south of Coventry. In addition he steadily expanded his income from urban rents in Coventry itself and invested in mills around the town. No less than eight of these were in Langley hands by the middle of the century.

Though the work of an opportunist, Geoffrey de Langley's accumulation was not an entirely haphazard one. A close look at the geographical location of his estates reveals three concentrations; south of Coventry, around Cirencester, and in south-west Warwickshire.. These were kept in demesne, while some, at least, of his outlying property tended to be leased. His monastic benefactions must be seen against this background. The outlying Warwickshire manors of Harborough Magna and Stareton passed to the Cistercian houses of Combe and Stoneleigh at annual rents of £10. 6s. and £20 respectively. His small estate at Long Compton in the southern tip of Warwickshire was given to the Augustinian priory of Wroxton after the Battle of Evesham.

The overall value of the Langley estates is difficult to calculate. Available figures, based on the inquisitions post mortem of Geoffrey and his eldest son Waiter, yield a total of £160. 9s. 2d. This excludes the considerable estate in Somerset and other Midland properties including the land at Long Compton. Allowing for undervaluation, Geoffrey's income at its height can hardly have been less than £200 per annum. In addition his son, Walter, was holding the three manors of Wyken, Wolfhamcote and Bignell for which no figures are available.

After so rapid an accumulation one would expect the Langleys to have risen further, through marriage if not otherwise, and to have reached the parliamentary peerage during the course of the fourteenth century. That this did not happen is largely due to the division of estates after the death of Sir Geoffrey. Siddington, Atherstone-upon-Stour, Milcote, Little Dorsington, Weston Mauduit, Harborough Magna, Pinley and Stivichall with rents in Coventry passed to his eldest son Walter. But the inheritance of his second wife and the lands of their joint enfeoffment, viz. Chesterton, Turkdean, Stareton and Shortley with property at Brightwell, Heydon and Chalgrove, and further rents in Coventry and Warwick went to their son Master Robert de Langley, and afterwards, by some obscure family agreement to Geoffrey de Langley, junior, full brother to Sir Walter. The Somerset lands had also passed to Geoffrey though he lost them in stages between 1280 and 1295. By 1287 he had acquired Atherstone from his nephew Sir John. He was dead by August 1297."
~Peter Langley, A Brief History of the Langleys and Their Estates

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