Blincoe Families Association Web Site


Adam de Blencowe

by Bro. Thomas Spalding

(Originally published in B.F.A. Newsletter in 1992)

It is possible that all Blincoes (Blencowes, Blynkos, etc.) today are descendants of Adam de Blencowe. If so, the name Adam is a singularly appropriate one. And even if they are not, this 14th-century landholder, soldier, and magistrate should prove intriguing to anyone who has Blincoe blood and a modicum of historical interest. The following does not pretend to be a full or final account. It is based upon only two sources; the Calendar of Patent Rolls, which rolls detail the king's business in the shires, or counties, and the Calendar of Inquisitions Post. Mortem, whose principal concern is the determination of heirs to titles and land. And since most of the facts that follow are from the parent Rolls, it may be assumed that is where the information is to be found unless an Inquisition is mentioned. At a later date I hope to find more about Adam de Blencowe from other original (primary) sources that have been published.

Adam de Blencowe was born about 1310. In a deposition for an Inquisition of 1367 he gave his age as 50 but in one for an Inquisition of 1369 as 1160 years and more" and one for 1370 as 60. (Many gave their ages simply in round numbers). The first record we find about him concerns land. On January 30, 1333, a pardon was granted Adam de Blencowe and his wife Emma for having acquired for life without license a messuage (dwelling), 20 acres of land and 10 acres of meadow and a third part of a mill at Skelton from one Patrick de Suthayk. This was but the beginning of the acquisition of extensive land and property.

On Monday before the feast of St. Peter's Chains (August 1), 1342, William de Craystock [Greystock or Greystoke], Baron of Greystock, granted by charter to "Adam de Blencowe, his heirs and assigns, all lands, rents, and services of free tenants late of John Ridel in the town of Neubiggyng and the hamlets of Blencou on either side of the water running through the same hamlets called 'Penreddokl, with Bolthorn Land, Berket@Land and Ile Guldi Flatt', with all appurtenances thereof, and also with the mill of Blencoull plus right of common pasture within the barony of Greystock. Among the witnesses to the charter was Robert de Vespont [Vipont, of whom later]. The grant was confirmed by the king February 5, 1348.

On June 28, 1347, the king sealed letters patent at Calais in France pardoning Adam de Blencowe for having acquired in fee from William de Greystock without license 22 messuages, 24 acres of land, a mill, four carucates, another 60 acres of land and 10 of meadow, plus 15 shillings in rent, in Newbigging and Blencowe, and from Gilbert de Suthayk two messuages, 24 acres of land and 10 meadow in Skelton.

By a patent from the king dated July 10, 1347, Adam de Blencowe received the closes of Calnethwayt and Braythwaythowes in Ingelwood forest for a yearly rent of 46 shillings and eight pence. This grant was not confirmed until June 10, 1380 (the last record concerning Adam de Blencowe in the Patent Rolls and Inquisitions).

On December 8, 1858, Adam de Blencowe petitioned the king to allow him to keep the land of John Ridel, or Rydel, that had been granted him by charter in 1342, land that had been declared escheat because the heirs of Ridel were enemies of the king living in Scotland. For 20 pounds the king granted the land to Adam de Blencowe and Margaret his wife.

In an Inquisition held in consequence of the death of William Lord Greystock in 1359, it was revealed that Adam de Blencowe had not only received from the baron 100 shillings' a year charged on the manor of Greystock but also held from him a messuage and 12 acres of land at Newbigging for a yearly rent of four pence of cornage.

Much of the land that Adam de Blencowe acquired seemed related in some way to his military service. At the time he was allowed to keep the land of John Ridel, he was pardoned to the extent of 10 marks of the 20 pound fine exacted “for good service in Scotland.” There can be little doubt that this was military service. Though one may be tempted to relate it to the campaign that ended in the battle of Nevillels' Cross in 1346 when the Scots suffered a disastrous defeat and Robert Bruce was captured, it seems more likely that Adam de Blencowe was at this time on a campaign in France.

Soon after he received the pardon in 1347 for acquiring from Lord Greystock land without license sealed by the king at Calais, he also received, on January 30, 1348, a pardon “for his good service in Gascony in the company of Henry, Earl of Lancaster, of the king's suit of all felonies and trespass in the county of Cumberland, before the passage of the earl to the said parts, whereof his is appealed, and of any consequent outlawries.1 This was done by testimony of the earl. (I'm not even going to try to guess the need for such a pardon.)

It would seem that a decade later Adam de Blencowe again fought under Henry of Lancaster, now a duke.. On October 26, 1351, Baron Greystock, who was about to go overseas in the company of Henry duke of Lancaster, named as one of his attorneys for one year Adam de Blencowe. Shortly after, Adam apparently joined the duke of Lancaster in France. On February 9, 1357, Adam is once more granted a pardon at the request of the duke “for all homicides, felonies, robberies, larcenies, oppression, extortions, excesses, conspiracies, confederacies, chaperties, murders, receiving of felons and other trespasses committed before 3 March in the twenty-seventh year (1343], and of any consequent outlawries.11 (Adam would have been a very busy man to have committed all such “outlawries.11 I will guess here that this was some sort of blanket immunity from prosecution on the part of enemies of the king.)

Henry duke of Lancaster, one of the most renowned military leaders in the Hundred Years War, fought against both the Scots and the French. In June, 1345, for example, he arrived in Gascony with 500 knights and esquires and 2,000 yeomen archers. He also participated at the siege of Calais but was not at the battles of Crecy in 1346 or of Poitiers in 1356, the great English victories that revolutionized feudal warfare.. To trace his campaigns would probably be close to describing the military career of Adam de Blencowe. But a large question remains. Was Adam them a horseman or archer? If the latter, he obviously used his military service to advance from the yeoman class to the gentry. It was as a distinguished member of the gentry that he served as a county magistrate.

On November 20, 1362, Robert Tilliol and Adam de Blencowe were commissioned justices of the peace and commanded to hold court four times a year. His fighting days behind him. Adam became a justice or commissioner at a time the justices of the peace were fast replacing the sheriff as the most important county officials, as any good history of England in the Middle Ages will show. In 1360 they were established as police judges in each county and charged with price and labor regulation. To fill this office the six or seven leading men of each county were chosen. In county Cumberland the two leading barons were also commissioned justices; Ralph de Greystock, son of William, and Roger de Clifford. Adam de Blencowe continued to sit as a justice until 1380, when his name disappears from the records. For a few years he also served as a justice for the adjacent county of Westmoreland. In 1366 he and four others (not justices) were commissioned to inquire into the misdeeds of the prior of Wederhale.

Not much is revealed of Adam de Blencowe's immediate family. In his deposition at the Inquisition of 1367, he said that his sister Alice had died 21 years ago and more. The names of William de Blencowe and John son of John de Blencowe appear but one in the records of Adam's years; there is nothing to suggest the degree of relationship they bore to him. The only other de Blencowe was Thomas, who was according to an Inquisition taken at Penrith on a Wednesday before the feast of St. John the Baptist in 1370 the husband of Elizabeth, one of the two sisters and heiresses of Robert de vespount (Vipont). The latter was the son of Nicholas de Vipont deceased and the grandson of Robert de Vipont still living. The Viponts (also Viteripont) were a powerful family before the main branch died out in 1264. In this Inquisition the age of Robert's two sisters is given as 24 and more, but in the Inquisition for Robert the grandfather in 1371 Elizabeth's age is given as 22 and more. That Thomas de Blencowe, her husband, was definitely the son of Adam is shown in a pardon granted him for “all larcenies and burglaries of the house of Adam de Blencowe, his father.”

Adam de Blencowe may have married twice, but it is also possible that the Emma mentioned as his wife in 1333 and the Margaret named as wife in 1358 were one and the same. In this period women not infrequently appear under two or even three different names.

The fact that William Greystock (1321-1359), fourth baron Greystock, acquired for Adam de Blencowe considerable land and bestowed an annual gift of l'OO shillings suggests a close friendship or even kinship.

Several names appear frequently in the records above mentioned, suggesting a rather small and close knit community in the area of the "hamlets of Blencow.11 A Clement de Skelton, for example, witnesses the charter of 1342 in which Lord Greystock granted land to Adam de Blencowe. Along with Adam he was given a pardon in January, 1348. And in 1366 he was one of those commissioned with Adam to inquire into the misdeeds of the prior of Wederhale.

in his deposition in the Inquisition of 1370 Adam attested to the age of one Joan de Eglesfeld (Eaglesfield) by saying that in 1355 he ran into her father John in the market town of Penrith and asked whether his wife had had a son or daughter. John answered that she had had a daughter named Joan, “which displeased him if it might have been better, because he would have been glad of a son.” Another deponent in the same Inquisition was Gilbert de Suthayk, doubtless the same who conveyed part of the land to Adam requiring the pardon in 1347. In 1372 a John de Hoton Rof was granted a pardon at the request of John Lord Neville for the death of a John de Grenehawe, “some time servant of Adam de Blencowe. ” This transaction suggests that Adam was in comfortable circumstances. (It also suggests that it could be useful to have patrons in high places.)

And that's about it. The patent rolls and inquisitions also contain information about the descendants and probable descendants of Adam de Blencowe, about whom I will write at some future date. But I hope to find more on Adam first in other places.

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updated: 17 December 2003