The Barony of Copeland


The Barony of Copeland


It seems that none of the families associated with the two Allerdales were part of William I invasion in 1066. These original Norman’s appear to have had their grant of land elsewhere in England. Also the area known as Cumberland appears to have been granted to Gospatric the “Earl” of Northumbria by William in 1067, as he considered the county of little or no value. So when Henry I & II started to take an interest in this area because of trouble with the Scots then they involved Norman adventurer’s who wanted to have a part of the action, many of whom married into the pre-existing notable families.

The Barony of Copeland centred upon Egremont


It was Henry I (1100-1135) who carved out the five great Baronries from Cumberland and gave the Barony of Copeland to William de Meschiens, the brother of Ranulf, who then installed himself in Egremont and built the castle. William would then have divided part of his property between his friends & supporters - and the many Manors of Copeland would be formed. It is probable that the geographical boundaries were already in existence but the distribution amongst the landholding classes would be radically different.

The very ancient Barony of Copeland or Coupland, was also constituted the Deanery of Copeland, in the Archdeaconry of Richmond, in the Province of York.

The major part of Copeland did not appear in the great Domesday Survey of 1086. The surveyors employed in this work did not consider our area of sufficient value to warrant its inclusion. Thus in Cumberland the survey finished at the River Esk which was the northern boundary of the Manor of Millom. It should be noted that the area mentioned along with south Westmorland and north Lancashire are recorded under the west riding of Yorkshire !

At this time Copeland consisted of all the land lying between the rivers Derwent and Duddon & the Irish Sea. William now settled at Egremont, built his baronial castle and changed the name of the remaining part of his grant to the Barony of Egremont. When William de Meschiens divided his Barony he granted areas of land to his extended family, friends & supporters and these became the foundation of the Manor system. It is likely that the land divisions were based in part on existing arrangements.

Lords of Copeland.jpg

The Great Barony of Copeland, which became known as the Barony of Egremont at a later date, was therefore  divided by William de Meschien as follows. The land to the south of the Esk was allocated to one member of the de Boyvill family and was entitled the Lordship of Millom, while the land round and about Muncaster was granted by the Baron to a member of the Pennington family of Furness & became the Lordship of Muncaster. These two lordships allowed the Baron, who was only occaisionally resident in his Castle, to retain control of his lands. The land situated on the south bank of the River Cocker, and known as the Honour of Cockermouth, was retained by the Crown until it was finally granted to Anthony de Lucy in 1323  for services rendered to the King.

Note: Just who was responsible for which action is not clear because of the lack of written information originating from those times. Involved in events were a Ranulph de Meschien the father who had two sons Ranulph [1050-1128]  and William [1055-1132] also one daughter Agnes; it was this William who became became the first Baron of Egremont. The son Ranulf was promoted out of Cumberland in 1121 to become the Earl of Chester.

When the Baronry of Egremont was created to cover the same area as Allerdale above Derwent, the first Baron granted some of his land to his neighbour, Waldeve son of Gospatrick of Northumbria, who held the land to the north of the river Derwent, known as Allerdale below Derwent. This grant was for a strip of land along the southern bank of the Derwent that included the five vills or townships of Brigham, Eaglesfield, Dean cum Branthwaite, Greysouthen and the two Cliftons cum Stainburn. This strip of land came to be known as the Honour of Cockermouth.

The two Mesne Lordships under the Paramount Lordship of Copeland.

Where Mesne indicates a subordinate lordship

1. MILLOM:  A Godard de Boyvil and his brother(s) were apparently gentlemen adventurers who came with the Meschien brothers to this country about A.D. 1072 or a little later and became possessors of lands in Cumberland. It is also claimed that these two families went to the 1096 Crusade together; it was therefore not surprising that William granted the Lordship of Millom & Kirksanton to Godard and family. It was Godard that built the first castle at Millom.The title stayed with this family for four generations until Adam de Boyvil (1182-1224) died without male issue and the Lordship passed with his daughter Joan, in marriage c.1220, to her husband John de Hudleston who died in 1252. This family held it in turn until another daughter, Elizabeth Huddleston, acceded to the title upon the death of her father in 1745. She married Sir Hedworth Williamson who sold the Millom Manor & estate to Sir James Lowther for £20,000, in order to pay off the debts owing by the estate.

2. MUNCASTER  William Meschien also granted the area about Muncaster to Gamel de Pennington, a member of the de Pennington family of Pennington-in-Furness in the year 1208; it has been suggested that there were family connections between the two families. In about 1260 the first fortified structure was built by Gamel de Pennington which in turn was enlarged with a Pele Tower in 1325 at the time of the Scottish incursions into England.

The Pennington family held the Lordship of Muncaster through nineteen generations, until in 1676 Sir William Pennington was created the 1st Baron of Muncaster. It was the 4th Baron who in about 1850-60 employed the architect Anthony Salvin to rebuild the then decrepit building in the form of a medieval Castle, incorporating the medieval Pele tower into the new structure. The Barony of Muncaster became extinct upon the death of the 5th Baron of Muncaster in 1917 when the estate were transferred to the Ramsden family of his mother, Frances Catherine Ramsden a member of the Ramsden family of Longley Old Hall near Huddersfield.

Note: Sir John Ramsden,bart. carried out the wishes of the last Lord Muncaster, who died in 1917, that the family should adopt the original family name of Pennington. This was accompished when his youngest son Geoffrey W. Ramsden adopted the name on his 21st birthday.

The Barony of Copeland passed through several families from its inception and first holder, William de Meschiens of Egremont, who had an only daughter Alice. From her it passed through the families of Romley, Fitz Duncan and others until they devolved to Amabil & Alice Lucy. The estate then passed from the Lucy family through Matilda the only daughter and heiress to Lord Thomas Lucy who died 1368, to the Percy  family by marriage. She had married the first Earl of  Northumberland in 1369 although this was not her first marriage, not an uncommon event in those medieval times.

The Baronry stayed with the Percy family from 1339 until the Lady Elizabeth Percy the only daughter of the 11th. Earl of  Northumberland took the Barony of Egremont with her when she  married Charles Seymour the Duke of Somerset in 1682.  There were two short periods when the Baronry reverted to the Crown when the Percy family were not in favour with the king, these were in 1531 to 1537 upon the death of the 6th Earl and 1571 to 1572 when the Percy family apparently supported the wrong side during a conflict

Laterly the Barony passed into the Wyndham family when the said Charles Seymour who had two children, a son Algernon and a daughter Catherine. Catherine married Sir William Wyndham. This couple produced Algernon, Dukeof Somerset, who in turn had a son (who died single) and a daughter Elizabeth Seymour who married Sir Hugh Smithson. On the 2nd.of October 1749 he was created Baron of Warkworth and Earl of Northumberland. The next day he was also created the Earl of Egremont and Baron of  Cockermouth. He died on the 7th.Febuary 1750 when his nephew Sir Charles Wyndham, who died 1763, succeeded as the Earl of Egremont. The Barony passed through this family until in 1829 it was held by the Rt.Hon.George O'Brien Wyndham Earl of Egremont, Baron of Cockermouth and Lord Lieutenant of Sussex who died in 1837. His second son Maj.General Henry Wyndham succeeded on the death of his father.

This was in fact a re-creation of the Baronry which was first created in 1449 for Thomas Percy [ 1442-1460 ]

When the 3rd Earl of Egremont died without issue in 1845 the earldom became extinct. As succession George Wyndam [ 1787-1867 ] was created the 1st Baron of Leconfied in 1859 and when he inherited the substantial Egremont estates

The Manors belonging to the Earls of Egremont are tradionally divided into two parts, the Percy Manors and Wharton Manors. The Court of  Dimissions for the Percy Manors where Customary tennants are admitted to their tenenments was held annually, at Christmas time, in Cockermouth Castle. The papers associated with the Percy Manors are still to be found at Cockermouth Castle under the Leconfied papers.

Nev.Ramsden November 2012