[Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 29, pp. 68-89 (1929)
Electronic text and additional notes kindly provided by David Hepworth
HTML version by Chris Phillips]


[Continued from vol. xxviii, p. 419.]


In one of the Pontefract documents referred to above ([YAJ, vol xxviii,] p. 384) Richard de Sevilla describes himself as "filius Hugonis Pincerne de Sandala" ([Pontefract Chartulary, YASRS] Record Series, vol. 30, p. 446), which at once demands a preliminary inquiry. Who was this Hugh the Butler, for that is the meaning of Pincerna, though the persons so described in early times were not the mere domestic servants of our own day?

Most of the great nobles of the realm modelled their households on that of the King, and so had their chamberlains, butlers, stewards, etc. The office of Pincerna Regis, the King's Butler, was appendant to the Earldom of Arundel, and as such was claimed by the late Duke of Norfolk at the Coronation of King Edward VII.1 Just as the King's butler was a great noble, so in turn the Earl's butler was as a rule one of his principal vassals or tenants.

The original paternal holding of the Butlers seems to have been at Skelbrook, Armthorpe (near Doncaster), and Doncaster.

Hunter's account of Skelbrook begins as follows:

"The earliest mesne lords of Skelbrook, of whom we have any account, are found with the addition of le Boteler or le Butler. Johnston2 brings them from Emma, a daughter of Adam de Rainevile; but they seem to be descended, in the male line, from that Harvey, then tenant under the Lacis in Domesday Book, all the old genealogies agreeing to deduce the great family of Butler from an Harvey, who lived in the reign of the Conqueror. [He then goes on to mention Theobald Butler of Edlington and the great Irish house of Butler, and to suggest that the alleged descent of the last-named family from a Harvey is due to a confusion of them with the Skelbrook Butlers.] The Butlers of Skelbrook were a different race from the Butlers of Ireland" ([J. Hunter,] South Yorkshire, vol. 2, p. 457).

Mr. A. S. Ellis, in his valuable notes on the Domesday tenants in Yorkshire, in his notice of Hervey, who held Skelbrook under

1 Wollaston, The Court of Claims, p. 228. The office was also claimed by Lord Mowbray and Stourton and by Mr. F.O. Taylor.
2 Referring to the MS collections of Nathaniel Johnston, M.D., now at Campsall [now at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and some at the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds].


Ilbert de Lacy, identifies him the Hervey who held Haseley and three other manors in Oxfordshire under the Bishop of Bayeux. In the time of Henry III these Oxfordshire properties were in the tenure of one William de Scalebroc, and were then parcel of the Honour of Pontefract. Mr. Ellis goes on to say that Hervey's "successors or descendants" at Skelbrook were styled Pincerna, or le Boteler, and seem to have been butlers to the de Lacis. Robert Butiler witnessed a charter of Henry de Lasci (Old Mon. [Monasticon], i, 657 [referring to the original printing of the Monasticon, not the early 19th-century edition.]), and Hugh Pincerna, son of Alan son of Robert, who held Skelbrook and Armthorpe in the time of King John,1 was probably a grandson.

Mr. Ellis, it will be noticed, is more cautious than Hunter, and describes the Butlers as "successors or descendants" of Hervey. It is likely enough that they were descendants, but I know of no evidence to prove it, and at so early a date it is hardly to be expected that any should be found. He also thought that they were a Breton family, and that Hervey was the same as Hervey de Campels, a small vill near Avranches.2

ROBERT BUTLER, 1.A. Mr. Ellis states (see above) that Hugh Pincerna, who held Skelbrook and Armthorpe in the time of King John, was the son of Alan son of Robert; he gives no authority for the grandfather, Robert, and we shall see presently that the statement is incorrect. It seems likely enough, however, that the early Robert Butler was of the same family as the late Hugh Pincerna, and on this footing I begin with Robert, who may well have been Hugh's great uncle. I have found only one document referring to him: Robertus Butiler ejusdem [i.e. Henrici de Lasci] witnessed a grant by Adam Fitz Peter to Pontefract Priory of land in Fareburn; Mr. Holmes dates this as approximately 1160 ([Pontefract Chartulary,] Record Series, vol. 30, p. 425; also Old Mon., vol. 1, p. 657; Mon. Ang., vol. 5, p. 126). Mr. Farrer dates it cir. 1165-77 (Early Yorkshire Charters, vol. 3, p. 365).

THOMAS DE ARMTHORPE, 1.B. Thomas may have been a brother of Robert Butler, 1.A., and was certainly the grandfather of Hugh Butler; for this we have Hugh's own statement (see below). He must have been born somewhere about 1125. Thomas de Arnelthorpe gave to Roche Abbey the grange of Arnethorpe, the grant being confirmed by Pope Urban III in 1186 (Mon. Ebor., p. 319, where other persons called de Arnethorpe are mentioned; Hunter, South Yorkshire, vol. 1, p. 87).

1 No authority is given for this statement and it appears to be incorrect.
2 For information respecting Hervey de Campeus or Campels, see A. S. Ellis, Domesday Tenants (Yorks. Arch. Journal, vol. v, p. 309); Pontefract Chartulary (Record Series, vol. 25); Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters, vol 3, pp. 178, 183, 189, 229, 230.


He had two sons, Alan and Robert, both of whom appear to have been dead in 1202; see below.

ALAN, 2.A.,eldest son of Thomas de Armthorpe, 1.B., was probably born about 1150. I have not found any document referring to him, and cannot say whether he was known as de Armthorpe, or Butler, or by some other designation.

He was dead in 1202. He was the father of Hugh Butler.

ROBERT, 2.B., second son of Thomas de Armthorpe, 1.B., was the father of John (see below, 1202); I have no other note concerning him. He was dead in 1202.

HUGH BUTLER, 3.A., was probably born about 1175; he was the son of Alan, 2.A., and apparently succeeded to the paternal property on his father's death in or before 1202 (see below). His name occurs frequently in the Pontefract Chartulary as a witness. Mr. Holmes refers to him, under date 1216, as "the aged Hugh Butler, seneschal of Pontefract," but gives no reason for thus assuming him to have been then an old man.

Mr. Holmes distinguishes between three Hugh Pincernas, Stewards of Pontefract, two of whom were contemporary, "belonging to the early part of the thirteenth century" ([YASRS vol 30,] p. 399). "The first (he says) was Hugh Buticularius, who at the date of no. 23,1 was seneschal2 to John de Lascy the Constable, before he became earl" 15 (ibid.). The second Hugh, referred to in no. 335 (p. 434), was of Sandal, connected with the Warren fee.3 There was also a third Hugh Pincerna who, later in the century, between 1240 and 1246, tested no. 304 (p. 384) as "seneschal to the lady of Bradford," Margaret de Quency, widow of John de Lascy, who had been Earl of Lincoln in her right. When, however, we turn to no. 304 (p. 384) we find that Hugh is not called Pincerna or Butler, being simply, in the ablative, "Hugone senescallo domine de Braford"; I accordingly discard this reference altogether. As to the earlier references, Mr. Holmes gives no reason for the distinction he draws, beyond what can be gathered from the quotation given above, and I doubt its accuracy. The two Hughs, if there were two, never occur in the same document. It is still more remarkable that Hugh the Steward never describes himself as of Sandal; that description only occurs in

1 Mr. Holmes dates this charter merely as "before 1232" (p. 38).
2 This Wardour-street Gothic sort of word is used all through; except in quotations I shall substitute the English word "steward."
3 Mr. Holmes assumed, very naturally, that the Sandal mentioned in the description of Hugh Butler, was Sandal Magna, near Wakefield, and only a few miles from Pontefract. It seems quite clear, however, the it was Kirk Sandal, near Doncaster, of which parish Armthorpe was then a chapelry, or possibly Sandal Parva, in the parish of Kirk Sandal.


charters of his children, after he himself was apparently dead. Moreover, while Mr Holmes attributes the ownership of Armthorpe and Skelbrook to Hugh the Steward, to the exclusion of Hugh of Sandal, the descendants of the latter were clearly lords of Skelbrook, as will appear in due course. For these reasons I assume that Hugh the Steward and Hugh of Sandal were one and the same person; he may have gone to live at Sandal after relinquishing the office of Steward of Pontefract.

Mr. Holmes seems at one time to have identified his later Hugh Pincerna with a Hugh Dispensator, who also occurs as a witness to two charters, nos. 29 and 30 (pp. 44, 45), the first of which is dated 1258. On pp. 39n., 157n., and 301n., this identification is distinctly asserted, while on p. xxvii the Hugh Despenser is stated to be "the lord of Parlington, who was made Lord Chief Justice a few months later, and was the father of Hugh le Despenser 'the elder,' whose relations with the young king, Edward II, led to such fatal results." In my opinion Dispensator and Pincerna are not interchangeable, and the names and families are alike distinct.1

In his official capacity as Steward of Pontefract Hugh Butler witnessed a large number of charters, none of them dated. Mr. Holmes tells us that his tenure of the office was from 1211 to 1216 (p. 361).

The Pontefract Chartulary contains remarkably few dated documents, a fact which increases enormously the difficulty of ascertaining conjectural dates. Mr. Holmes as a rule does not give his reasons for assigning such dates to undated documents; even where he says that a particular charter is before or after a particular year, he rarely, if ever, states the facts which led to his statements. We are thus left in the dark, and may consequently arrive at wrong conclusions ourselves. There is a group of seven charters, all witnessed by Hugh Pincerna, the Steward, and all undated, to which Mr. Holmes assigns dates from circa 1238 to circa 1246 (pp. 277, 278, 295, 297, 383, 384, 386). All these are said to refer to the second steward of the name, who is stated to have succeeded Adam de Neirford, steward from 1232 to 1238 (p. 277n.). I have not the local knowledge to enable me to check these alleged dates, but some of them seem very arbitrary. I am inclined, in the absence of any conclusive evidence of there ever having been a second steward of Pontefract named Hugh Pincerna (Mr. Holmes furnishes none) to place all these documents

1 A Robert Dispensator and a Robert Butiler both witnessed no. 321 (p. 425), dated cir. 1160, showing that the distinction between the two names was well understood.


before 1216. The point is perhaps not very material, since I do not base any argument on the group of charters referred to.

Undated. - Sir Hugh Pincerna witnessed a charter of Michael son of Elias de Sothill, relating to land in Ardsley (Lord Savile's deeds, Record Series, vol. 50, p. 4).

1200. - Hugh son of Alan gave 20s. to have an action about 5s. rent in Trowell and Chillewell in Nottinghamshire, against John son of Robert de Arnetorp, tried coram rege at Mid-Lent (Rot. de Oblatis, 2 John, p. 102; Surtees Soc., vol. 94, p. 21n. I have failed to find the record on the Curia Regis Roll for Easter Term, 2 John). This is the earliest dated note that I have found of Hugh; his identity is proved by the next note.

1202, July 25, 4 John. - Fine between Hugh son of Alan, plaintiff, and John son of Robert, deforciant, of 6 carucates of land in Arunthorp [Armthorpe, near Doncaster] and 18s. rent in Danecastre, which John admits to be the right of Hugh as son of the elder brother. Hugh regrants part of the property to John and his heirs, and they both agree that if either shall die without issue by his wife (de uxore sibi desponsata) his share of the property shall go to the other and his heirs (Feet of Fines, Yorks., John; Surtees Soc., vol. 94, p. 21).

The clause about the respective wives and issue is curiously worded; I think it is merely the rather clumsy equivalent of the phrase sine herede de corpore suo legitime procreato that we meet with so frequently in later documents, and perhaps does not necessarily imply that either Hugh or John was without wife and children at the date of the fine, though it certainly suggests it. Alan and Robert, the respective fathers, were both clearly dead, but perhaps recently.

1205, Michaelmas Term. - Fine between Hugh Pincerna, plaintiff, and William son of Reynold and Gilbert son of Robert, deforciants, of two bovates of land in Scauceby [Scawsby, par. Brodsworth]; to hold to Hugh and his heirs of Gilbert and his heirs, by the free service of 6d. a year; etc. (Feet of Fines, Yorks., John; Surtees Soc., vol. 94, p. 96).

1206, Michaelmas Term. - Fine between Hugh Pincerna, plaintiff, and Hugh de Scauceby [Scawsby], by Alexander his son, deforciant, of a bovate of land in Scauceby; to hold to Pincerna and his heirs, of Scauceby and his heirs. Pincerna thereupon granted it to John son of the said Hugh de Scauceby (Feet of Fines, Yorks., John; Surtees Soc., vol. 94, p. 109).

1211-12, Hilary Term, 12 John. - Fine between Hugh Pincerna, plaintiff, and John son of Robert, deforciant, of the woods and moors


which Hugh claims to belong to 3 carucates of land in Ernetorp [Armthorpe] which remained to him by a fine made between them in the 4th year of John. John admitted the claim and released the property to Hugh and his heirs (Feet of Fines, Yorks., John; Surtees Soc., vol. 94, p. 164).

These fines are most useful in giving some dates; the first one shows that Hugh was of age in 1202.

Undated; about 1212. - Hugh Pincerna, Steward of Sir John the Constable of Chester, and Henry de Sewilla, witnessed a charter of Adam son of Roger de Crosland, relating to land at the Hermitage [now Armitage Fold] in [South] Crosland (Pontefract Chartulary, Record Series, vol. 30, p. 558).

1215-16, Jan. 6. - Order to the Sheriff of Yorkshire to put Master Robert Talebot in full seisin of the land of Hugh Pincerna in Arnethorp and Skalebroc, as the King has granted it to him during pleasure (Close Rolls, John, p. 245).

Mr. Holmes's comment on this is that Hugh had "fallen under the royal displeasure" (p. 400), but as the land was not held of the Crown it is difficult to see how this would enable the King to make a grant of this nature.

1218-19. - Alice Aguillun is in mercy for not prosecuting against Peter son of Herbert touching a tenement in Muletorp [Mowthorpe], and her pledges also, viz., Hugh Pincerna of Arnaldetorp [Armthorpe] and Richard de Stainford (Assize Roll [JUST 1/]1040, m. 3d.).

1231. - Hugh le Boteler sued Robert Morker for 6 carucates of land in Normanton, in which Robert had no entry save through William Morker, to whom Thomas de Arnethorpe, Hugh's grandfather (whose heir he is), demised them for a term of years now ended. The plaintiff afterwards withdrew (Curia Regis 48, m. 13d.; Assize Roll [JUST 1/]1042, m 25d.).

Hugh married Avice de Saville, whose identity and relations are dealt with in the previous section. In her widowhood she seems to have resumed her maiden name, at any rate when dealing with her own property; this was frequently done in the thirteenth century, and many examples could be cited.

Neither Hugh Pincerna nor Avice de Saville, his wife, appear to have given any property to the monks of Pontefract. There are no deeds at all of Hugh's, but there is one of Avice's; unfortunately, neither this nor any other of the group is dated.

I, Avice de Seyvile, in my widowhood and free power, have granted to William my son, his heirs and assigns, for his homage and service, paying yearly a pair of white gloves at Christmas, that


bovate of land in Bolehalch1 which Henry son of Ketil, my native, held, together with the said Henry and all his chattels and sequela. Witnesses, Sir Baldwin Teutonicus [Tyas], Sir William de Bretton, Jeremiah de Leysers, John de Midehope, Adam de Holand [Hoyland], John de Seivile, and Richard Pincerna (Record Series, vol. 30, p. 469).

There is no clear indication of the date of this charter, but I think it is closely allied to the family group, one of which was witnessed by Sir Walter de Ludham, steward of Pontefract, who held that office from 1240 to 1246 (see below). Silkston was Saville property, and the land in question was probably granted to Avice by her father.

Hugh and Avice had two proved sons, William and Richard, and two daughters, Idonia and Dionisia. Mr. Holmes thought that John de Saville was also their son, coming between William and Richard, but he was clearly a son of Sir Henry de Saville, and probably Avice's half-brother (see ante, Section II [Early Saville; YASRS vol. 28]).

The two daughters of Hugh Pincerna are only known through the following two charters from the Pontefract MS., which clearly prove their identity.

Undated. - I, Idonea, late wife of Michael de Doncaster, in my lawful widowhood, have granted and quitclaimed to the monks all my right in that bovate of land which Rainer son of Hugh the Reeve held in Bolehalt in the territory of Silkeston, which Richard de Sevile, my brother, with the consent and at the wish of the said Michael, my husband, formerly sold to the monks, who have given me 20s. of silver. Witnesses, Sir Walter de Ludham, then Steward of Pontefract, Sir Robert de Stapilton, Henry Walensis, Adam de Preston, and William de Bretton (Record Series, vol. 30, p. 465). Sir Walter de Ludham was Steward, according to Mr. Holmes, from 1240 to 1246, and I think that these dates cover the whole of this group of charters.

Undated. - I, Dionisia daughter of Hugh Pincerna of Sandal, have released and quitclaimed to the Prior and Convent of Pontefract all my right in that bovate of land in Bolehale in the territory of Silkston, which Avice, my mother, gave me in her widowhood and which William son of Ketil held of me, together with the same William [and others], my natives; also all that land in Silkston which Thomas son of Geoffrey Lesurais held of me. The monks have given me 6 marks of silver, 4s. 1d. Witnesses, William de

1 In Silkston; it occurs only in these Saville deeds, and is indexed by Mr. Holmes under Bolehall. There is a farm called Bullah Hall at Silkston, which perhaps represents it.