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Early Whitmores of Staffordshire

 This web page is a series of notes obtained from various sources, written as far as possible in chronological order, and is not meant to be a history story. The abbreviation W for Whitmore, for others see Abbreviations.

There are conflicts between the International Genealogical Register of The Church of the Latter Day Saints and the local history books of Staffordshire. The IGI, and some American genealogy books, indicate that the Whitmores of Staffordshire descended from Peter de Botrell b. c. 1135, Whitmore, Staffs. I have not yet been able to find a source in the North Staffordshire libraries which verifies this. Indications in ref 1 are that they were more likely to be descendants of Ricardus Forestarious, who was Tenant in Chief of Whitmore in 1086. (For chart of owners of the Whitmore Hall and for chart of early Whitmores of Staffordshire see Download. For picture of Whitmore Hall see Pictures).

The most ancient grant of Coat of Arms for the name Whitmore is a gold trellis design on a green background and a Crest of a falcon on the stump of a tree. The gold denotes generosity, valor or perseverance. Green means hope, vitality and plenty. The ancient family Moto was "Either For Ever". (For copy of Coat of Arms see Download).

The countryside in which the village of Whitmore (four miles SW of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire) grew up has been the centre of occupation continuously since at least Neolithic times c. 4500BC. Many Neolithic stone tools, especially axes and hammers, have been found in all parts of the area, while the Monument, known as the Devil's Ring and Finger, near Mucclestone (six miles SW of Whitmore), is the remains of a Megalithic Burial Chamber. Bronze Age round barrows (burial mounds), dating from about 1800BC, can be seen in the hills around the village of Maer (two miles SW of Whitmore). There is evidence of Iron Age occupation at Berth Hill, once occupied by members of the Celtic Cornovii tribe, Bury Bank near Stone (seven miles SE of Whitmore) and at Hales near Market Drayton (eight miles SW of Whitmore). There was a Roman fort at Chesterton (five miles NNE of Whitmore). The region was occupied by the Anglo Saxons in the sixth century AD. The aforementioned fort at Bury Bank was refurbished by Wulfhere, pagan king of the Mercians.

The history of Whitmore, from Norman times, is bound up with that of the Vill of Knutton, which became caput or head of a group of six out of eight manors comprising the Domesday fiefs (estate held on condition of military service) of Richard Forester in the Hundred of Pirehill (an administrative district). (see ref 1).

At the time of the Domesday survey Richardus Forestarious held Whitmore for the King, Nigel de Stafford, the Gresley ancester, held under him as mesne (middle) tenant. Ulfac held it in the time of King Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042-1066) and was a free man. It was for Geld (tax) at half a hide (one hide = 60-100 acres), with arable land enough for three plough teams. In the desmesne was one team (two or more oxen) , three villeins (tenants) with two bordarii (small-holders) having another. There was an acre of meadow, a wood one league (1.5 miles) long and half a league wide. It's yearly value was ten shillings. (see ref 1).

At this time Whitmore was a small Saxon settlement, together with the neighbouring villages of Acton, Keele, and Butterton. They were small areas of habitation in what was then a heavily forested area. The village, probably containing six houses, that of the Saxon proprietor, Ulfac, with a home farm of 120 acres and a team of eight oxen; three occupied by villiens, each with possibly two oxen and 30 acres of arable land: and two by small-holders with perhaps an oxen apiece and 10 acres of land. There was also 120 acres, which might have been cultivated if another plough was available; and an acre of meadow (land upon which hay was cut). The total extent would be about 1081 acres but Domesday Book was compiled for purposes of taxation and was concerned only with arable land. (see ref 1).

Of the other manors of Richard Forester in Pirehill only two, Clayton and Normacot are mentioned as having land in desmesne (a mesne lord is a feudal lord who granted a third person part of land held from a superior) at the time of Domesday. Part of the former came to a family named Griffin, which although Welsh etymologically (tracing its history through various languages) may have descended from Sagrin. (see see ref 1).

Richard Chevin was a sergeant of William the Conqueror (reigned 1066-1087), to whom the King gave lands in Chesterton and elsewhere for the service of keeping the Forest of Canoc (now Cannock). (see ref 1).

Public record show that Sow, Granborough, Chesterton, Shukborough Inferior, Radway and Entendon Superior in Warwickshire, and Rodbaston in Staffordshire, all Domesday fiefs (an estate held on condition of military service) of Richard Forester, passed to his descendant and successor as Forester, Walter Croc. (see ref 1).

The earliest record of a church at Whitmore is in 1175AD when it was legally decided that the "Chapelry of Whitmore" belonged to the Prior and Canons of Trentham Priory. The current church of St. Mary and All Saints, which is close to the Whitmore Hall, is part of the Litchfield Diocese. (see ref 1).

The first known Whitmore to occupy the site of Whitmore hall was John de Whitmore (d. 1203) who was descended from the Norman lines of Richard le Veneur (the Huntsman), father of Richard Forester, and Ralph deTonei (c. 1000). So the Whitmore male blood line before 1000AD comes from Tonei, Normandy and the female blood line from wherever Richard le Veneur originated. (see ref 1).

In a deed of about 1225, John, son of Ralf de Cnotton, confirms to Ralf, son of John de Wytemore, all the tenements in Wytemore which John Wytemore, father of Ralph, held of Ralph de Cnotton. (see ref 1).

Ralph de Whitmore (v. 1225), son and heir of John, had a confirmation of three virgates (about 90 acres) of land in Whitmore from John, son of Robert Fitz Pagan de Whitmore in 1234. He had a brother Allan (v. 1243) who had a grant of lands in Acton, near Whitmore, in franc-marriage with Margery, daughter of Thomas de Acton. Their son Richard was granted lands in Swynnerton by Ralph, lord of Whitmore, in 1318. Ralph de Whitmore was dead before 1243. (see ref 1).

It is believed that William Burgylen married the widow of Ralph sometime before 1243 and that her name was Emma de Chatesdene, for besides her dower lands in Whitmore and Chorlton (near Whitmore) she seemed to had rights of her own inheritance at Chatesdene. (see ref 1).

John de Whitmore (v. 1243) married Agnes, possibly a daughter of Nicholas de Mere (now Maer), near Whitmore. He left three sons John, his heir, Ralph and Roger. Ralph (v. 1286) had a grant from his father of lands in Whitmore and had issue three sons, Stephen (v. 1316), Adam (v. 1327, Abbot of Dieulacress?) and Roger (v. 1327). Stephen was father of Robert (v. 1380-1388), father of Thomas who had confirmation from James de Boghay of lands in Whitmore in the latter year. Possibly the Whitmores of Madeley were descended from this Thomas. (see ref 1).

A quote from "The Chronicles of Cannock Chase":- "In the year 1276 the King's huntsman put up a hart in Cannock Chase and it ran off to Brewood, where one John Whytemere shot it. The hart collapsed and died in a pond belonging to the nuns at Brewood. John was dragging the carcase from the pond when the nuns appeared to demand half the carcase for keeping their mouths shut. Reluctantly John agreed. Before long the King's huntsman John Giffard put in an appearance and he demanded the other half to keep his mouth closed. John had to agree. Twelve years later all three parties were brought before the Forest Courts for their involvement in the event. John Giffard was fined thirty shillings and John Whytemere was fined half a mark (thirteen shillings). The nuns were let off any fine 'for the good of the King's soul'." - end of quote.

About 1285 William, son of Robert de W, married Agnes de Haselwell the Heiress of Thurstanton, a Cheshire manor held in capite (terms of an agreement), which was settled in 1316 on their son John (see ref 1), who bore his arms "Vert, fretty or.". This conflicts with the book "Thurstaston of Cheshire" (see ref 2). The Whitmores of Apley, Salop, descended from John, lord of Whitmore, living in the reigns of Henry III (r. 1216-1272) and Edward I (r. 1272-1307) bore the same arms, apparently with the sanction of the College of Heralds (see ref 1). William and Agnes had issue > John W (b.c. 1301) and Nicholas W (b.c. 1305).

In 1314 Ralph de Whitmore settled his manor, failing his own issue, on his sister Alice, with the remainder to Roger de Swynnerton and probably died before 1332 leaving an infant son and heir of whom the first record appears in 1342. In the de Standon pedigree it is recorded that Vivian de Standon, who was outlawed and killed in 1318, left a widow Alice and that he altering the arms of his grandfather used "Quarterly ermine and gules fretted or.". It seems likely therefore that he may have married Alice de Whitmore when she was heiress presumptive to her brother and had adopted a variation of the de Whitmore arms "Ermine, fret or.". (see ref 1).

John de Whitmore (v. 1342-85) married Joan daughter, and eventually co-heiress, of Sir John de Verdon, lord of Annesley (Anslow), Biddulph, Buckenhall and Darleston. Had two sons, William and Thomas, who died before him and two daughters and co-heiresses, Joan and Elizabeth. This John de Whitmore accompanied Lord James Audley of Heleigh to France in 1345 as a mounted archer. (see ref 1).

Some early fourteenth century deeds affords a striking instance of the way impecunious (having no money) lords gradually lost possession of land. There is a Cartulary (a register of formal documents) that indicates the economic position of the manor during its tenure by the last Whitmore of Whitmore, at or about the period of the "Black Death" plague (1348-70). The series of grants to Adam, son of John atte Townsende is particularly interesting since it describes the holdings by one comprehensive word - "virgate" (30 acres) or "bovate". In this case some 34 names of adjoining owners were mentioned, including two sons, a brother lord and three other de Whitmores'. (see ref 1).

There was a John Whitmore living at Mere (now Maer, near Whitmore) in 1448. (see ref 1).

Thomas Whitmore (b.c. 1475, d. before 1523), son of Thomas Whitmore (b.c. 1437, d.c. 1482) of Claverley, Salop, (see Early Whitmores of Shropshire) lived at Thornhall, Madeley, Staffs, m. Elizabeth ? (d. 1523) and had issue > Thomas W (b.c. 1500, d. 1573) who m. Agnes ? (d. 1591), William W (v. 1572, had issue), Ralph W (v. 1524), John W (d.s.p. 1572) of Ashley, and Edmund W (d. 1540) who m. Ellen ? (no known issue). Thomas W & Agnes had issue > Thomas W (see below), Richard W (d. 1603) who was unm., a joyner and lived at Ashley & Thornhall, Humphrey W of Betley, Margaret W m. Humphrey Podmore (had issue), Margery W m. George Gorton, Anne W m. John Sherrat (had issue).

Thomas Whitmore (1st s. Thomas W & Agnes) (b.c. 1530, d.c. 1606) of Barr Hill, Madeley, Staffs, m. Joane (d. 1613) da. Francis Roos of Laxton, Notts, and Elizabeth (da. Thomas Scrimshaw of Norbury, Staffs). Joane Roos was a direct descendant of Robert Lord Roos of Hamlake who m. Isabel da. William the Lion, King of Scotland. It is likely that it was this Thomas Whitmore of Madeley who was at the Herald's Visitation of 1583 and failed to prove his pedigree. Thomas probably claimed descent from John de Whitmore living in the reign of Richard II (r. 1377-1399) or Henry IV (r. 1399-1413), judging from the note in Glover's Visitation of Staffordshire 1583 (see ref 1). They had issue > William W (possibly of Wolstanton, Staffs), Rev. Francis W (see below), Rev. Peter W (see below), Ellen W, Mary W who m. Cuthbert Fairfax (brother to Sir William Fairfax and son of Sir Nicholas Fairfax of Walton and Gilling, Yorks), and other issue. Thomas's will shows that he owned considerable land and property at Madeley, nearby Onneley, and also at Weston Coyney near Caverswall, Staffs (about 12 miles east of Madeley). Peter's will says that Thomas was "a true and trustie servitor and faithful wel wisher unto the right worshipfull howse of Bradwall, noe fewer yeires than 35 together before he died". The then head of the manor of Bradwall was Ralph Sneyd, whose da. Ann m. Sir Thomas Scrimshaw of Aqualate. Thomas's mother-in-law, Elizabeth, was a Scrimshaw.

Rev. Francis Whitmore (2nd s. Thomas W & Joane) (b.c. 1530, d. 1598) of Bingham, Notts, m. ? Spurr and had issue > Francis W (b.c. 1590, d. 1649) of Laxton, Notts, & London who m. Joanna ? (no known issue), and Anne W who m. ? Farrar and had issue George, Robert, John, William, Francis and Thomas. The son Francis W brought a suit against his uncle Peter W in 1606 (see ref 3). He also inherited lands in Notts from his grandmother Joane (nee Roos).

Rev. Peter Whitmore (3rd s. Thomas W & Joane) (b.c. 1563, d. 1614) of Barr Hill, Madeley, Staffs, m. Alice ? and had issue > Thomas W (b.c. 1590, v. 1608, no known issue), Emmanuel W (b.c. 1593), Margaret W (unm. d. 1662), and Jane W who m. George Audley of Audley. Emmanuel W m. Anne ? of Gravenhangar, nr Madeley, had issue > Thomas W (b.c. 1620) of Onneley, nr Madeley, Staffs, Peter W (b.c. 1623, d. 1663) of Barr Hill, Madeley, and Jane W. Peter m. Susanna Hinton and had issue Thomas W (b.c. 1650, v. 1682), Mary W, and Anne W. The Rev. Peter lost a suit brought by his nephew Fraunces W in 1606 and was compelled sign over certain lands that belonged to his eldest brother's wife, presumably a widow (see ref 3). He was very bitter about this and left reference to it in his will: "Protestinge heere before all the worlde (yf I die att this tyme) how Peter Broughton and Fraunces Whittmore or one of them twayne weare my Bane, by poysninge me by some ill meanes att London, whilse they keepte mee theire full Wrongfully in sutte about my Lands. — Forasmuch as by the false villayne of the said Peter Broughton who mentayned (as a most damnable champester) an unjust sutte of the said Fraunces Whittmore, upon collor of a forged Deede of feoffment never sealed by my sayde father, for a joynture for my oldest Brother William Whittmore's wiffe, I was compelled by way of certayne Articles before Sir John Tyndall, Knight, to grant to the said Fraunces after my Mother's decease, soe much Landes as shee had specified in her Joynture.  Which maye prove a most wrongffull and sinnfull acte ageynst my owne sonnes and theire beyes, by deprivinge or p'indisinge (sic) them of theire right (unless ytt please god to helpe them) for the which I pray the Lord God to forgive mee."

Extract from Madeley Parish Records "Sarah, the daughter of John Whittmore and Margaret his wife, travelling persons, was baptised April ye ninth, 1694" - end of quote.

Book "Families in the  Archdeaconry of Staffs in 1532", says under Swynnerton, Staffs, — Thomas Whytmore, Joan Whytmore and children Thomas W, Richard W (probably died young), Ellen, Margaret, Elizabeth, Richard W and William W. Wills of the Thorley family indicate that in 1554 Jane da. Thomas Thorley of Standon was wife of William Whitmore and had issue Thomasyn (or Tymison), Jane, William W and Thomas W. Also that a Thomas W was Overseer to William Thorley of Standon in 1586 and this was probably William & Jane's son. Standon is 4 miles south of Whitmore, Staffs.

Book "The History of Dieulencress Abbey", near Leek, mentions an Abbot Whitmore.

 

Abreviations (not including the obvious ones):

References:

1. A book "Collections for a History of Staffordshire", edited by The William Salt Archaeological Society 1933.

2. A book "Thurstaston of Cheshire", by F.C. Beazley, published 1924.

3. The "Whitmore Tracts", by William H. Whitmore 1875.

Acknowledgements:

Grateful thanks to the following who helped contribute to this page:

Christine Cavenagh-Mainwaring of Whitmore for information supplied.

 

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