Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Pilkingtons of Pilkington

This post was originally published on the English Historical Fiction Authors' Blog. However it is relevant to The Yorkist Age so I have reproduced it here for the benefit of anyone who hasn't already seen it.

'Pilkington' as a place name no longer exists, but it was formerly a part of what is now the Metropolitan Borough of Bury in Greater Manchester (Or Lancashire if you are a traditionalist) and included a very large park for the hunting of game. The manor house was at a place called Stand, the highest part of the lordship. It is said that the name 'Stand' originated from the one-time existence of a stand from which the ladies of the family could watch their menfolk as they chased deer around the park that spread out to the south. The Pilkingtons of Pilkington were the senior branch of their name, and had acquired considerable lands in Lancashire, where they were long established, and elsewhere in England. (There was, as usual in such families, a distinct tendency to marry heiresses, and much property was added by this method.) In the fifteenth century Sir Thomas Pilkington even obtained permission to build a small castle in the town of Bury, four or five miles to the north of Pilkington. Scanty remains of this structure survive, following excavation works some years ago.

Sir Thomas, who was born about 1425, was high in the favour of King Edward IV and was High Sheriff of Lancashire on no less than fourteen occasions between 1463 and 1484. He was created a Knight Banneret at the siege of Berwick in 1482.  In 1467 he was granted the right to hold two fairs and a market at Bury, and in 1483 received an annuity of 100 marks (66 and two thirds pounds) out of the revenues of Lancashire.

Unlike many other Yorkists, Sir Thomas transferred his allegiance seamlessly to Richard III. Sir Thomas was of course a northerner, and it is safe to assume that he knew Richard (as Duke of Gloucester) far more intimately than did most of the gentlemen of southern England.

Sources vary as to whether Sir Thomas fought at Bosworth or was merely on his way to the battlefield, but he was certainly treated as if he had fought, and he was attainted by Henry VII and forfeited almost all his very substantial lands. Those in Lancashire were given to Thomas Stanley (now Earl of Derby) Henry Tudor's stepfather, and were never recovered. Some of the other lands which Sir Thomas had thoughtfully transferred to his son some years before were retained in the family, though in one case at least the manor was improperly seized and King Henry had to be persuaded to give it back.

Sir Thomas remained Yorkist in sympathy, and fought at the Battle of Stoke (1487) on the side of Lambert Simnel (whoever he was). He was perhaps lucky to survive what was a very bloody battle, but the cost this time was his lands in the Midlands, an inheritance from his grandmother, Margaret Verdon, in some of which he had only a lifetime interest.

Little is known about Sir Thomas after this time. If he was not actually in prison he probably lived with his son, Roger Pilkington of Clipstone Notts. and Bressingham, Norfolk. However he certainly survived, for in August 1508 Henry VII granted him a pardon, absolving him of all offences, but not restoring his lands.

Sir Thomas died about 1509, to be succeeded by his son, Roger. However when Roger died in 1525 the senior line of the Pilkingtons died with him in the male line, the remaining lands being divided between Roger's daughters.

Other branches of the Pilkington family survived, including the one that founded the famous glass making firm. It's interesting to note that in the grounds of what was the Stanley's principal home, Lathom House, destroyed in the Civil War, the present day Pilkington concern has a laboratory complex.

The main home of the Pilkingtons (known locally as Stand Old Hall) remained in place, albeit derelict and partially demolished, until relatively recent times. It is now completely demolished, and all that remains are a few pieces of timberwork that are displayed above the bookshelves of Whitefield Library.

The main source for this article was History of the Pilkington Family by Lt. Col. John Pilkington. (1912)

Take a look at the Old Man and Scythe Pub in Bolton. Relevant? Because the Man and Scythe was the cognizance of the Pilkingtons and may be found illustrated here. James, Earl of Derby spent his last night on earth here before being executed for his part in the Bolton Massacre. The Pilkingtons perhaps had a last laugh at the expense of the Stanleys...