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Some details on Eleanor's properties - Part 1

September 3, 2014

In the run-up to publication, I've decided to highlight some of the places associated with Eleanor.  I'll be covering places like Leeds Castle and Caernarfon, but I'm starting with a less famous one: Macclesfield, for the simple reason that it was granted to Eleanor almost exactly 744 years ago today - a rare case of a grant of lands to Eleanor in the early days of the month of September.  It is also a particulary appopriate choice because Eleanor's last journey was to inspect this property - at the end of September and beginning of October 1290.

So, in the very early days of September 1270  Edward, as Lord of Chester, granted to Eleanor "the manor of Macclesfield, withthe forest and other appurtenances".  This grant was confirmed by Henry III on 8 September 1270 (CPR 1266-1272, 459).  Quite what these appurtenances were is unclear - there were some lands at Leek and Densington in Stafford and there appear also to have been some lands at Adlington and Bollington, a little to the north of Macclesfield (Parsons Q&S pp 162, 190).

The last one of these, Bollington, was to play a part in a rather amusing story from the 1286-7 period.  In 1286 Hugh Despenser (later known as "the Elder", and father of Edward II's favourite) married Isabel Beauchamp, the widow of Payn de Chaworth, without royal licence.  Eleanor, thus deprived of the wardship of the remunerative Chaworth lands, was furious, and pressed a claim for 1000 marks against Hugh.  To pay it, he pledged some lands near Soham, and he feared that since Eleanor had dower lands there, she would take the lands if he (as he probably would) failed to pay the cash promptly. So concerned was he that he actually sought documented assurances that he'd get Soham back.  However the joke was on Despenser.  What he didn't realise was that Eleanor and Edward had granted a life iterest in Soham to someone else, and that she was much  more interested in her Macclesfield holdings. So when the matter was adjusted later in the year of 1287 Hugh Despenser ended up giving up not Soham - but rights in Bollington. (Parsons Q&S pp 161-3).

Macclesfield indeed became one of ELeanor's major property centres.  From here all her lands in Chester, Stafford and Derby were administered, with sub-bailiffs in charge of her Flintshire lands also reporting to this centre.  Her bailiff was a local man, one Thomas of Macclesfield.

It is also one of the areas which has a particularly high strike rate of unattractive stories about the administration of the property  - with more than one area being seized as associated with a particular property, when it was not.  In most cases such claims cannot be directly attributed to Eleanor; but as I have concluded in the book, they do smack of an administration under pressure from above.  It seems that Eleanor was very keen to ensure that no claim was missed, and that her properties yielded as much as they possibly could.

But there are more pleasant sides to Eleanor's lordship.  At that time Macclesfield apparently lacked a church and, consistently with Eleanor's generous religious patronage elsewhere, in 1279 she founded a church here dedicated to All Saints.  It has later been extensively rebuilt, and rededicted but Eleanor's arms have been maintained, above the main door.

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