The Morvilles

This is a short essay on the Morville family due to their importance to the history of the North of England and Scotland and also due to the fact that the family is so horribly mangled on Wikipedia and elsewhere, with at least 2 Hugh Morvilles repeatedly confused with each other. 

The name of the progenitor of the Morville family is unknown, but there would appear to have been 4 brothers who were in England in the early twelfth century.  The only placename like Morville in the country at Domesday was in Shropshire, but this seems to have nothing to do with the later family.  The eldest of the Morvilles mentioned in England seems to have been Herbert who was also lord of Montebourg in Normandy.  Herbert was also a forester of Yorkshire for King Henry I in September 1130.  He had 3 children, Roger, a priest, Herbert and his heir, Richard, who held 5 fees of the Mowbrays in Yorkshire in 1166 and was still living in Yorkshire in 1178.  He also appears to have been the same Richard Morville who was active in Scotland for King David (1124-53) before 1140 and King Malcolm (d.1165) in 1160.  Richard seems to have been the last of Herbert's line.

The next possible brother was Hugh Morville (d.1162).  He is quite well known for being constable of Scotland.  In September 1130 he was recorded as owing Danegeld in Surrey, Northamptonshire and Rutland, apparently as a follower of King David of Scotland.  Before 1124 he was also witnessing documents for King David.  His interests appear to be totally Scottish, even after the loss of the Northern counties to King Henry II in 1157.  Before 1130 he had married Beatrice Beauchamp, who had a brother Roger Beauchamp of Cumberland and 2 sisters, Alice and Amabile.  Hugh died in 1162 leaving at least 5 sons and a daughter, Ada, who had married Roger Bertram (d.1177) of Mitford.  However, the 2 sons of interest in this essay are his eldest, Hugh (d.1173) and Richard (d.1189).  The 3 presumably younger sons, Robert, Malcolm (slain while hunting before 1189) and Roger, have only left minor traces in the Dryburgh chartulary.  The elder 2 sons had more impact on history.

Hugh Morville (d.1173+) would seem to have been the elder son of Hugh Morville (d.1162).  He first comes to notice in Yorkshire in 1158 where he was the farmer of Knaresborough.  Presumably this was concerned with the northern counties coming back under English control in 1157.  He also witnessed a single charter for King Malcolm (1153-65) with his father, the elder Hugh (d.1162) - Hugo de moreuill & hugone de moreuill filio eius.  On 30 December 1170 it was this Hugh Morville who helped kill Thomas Becket and then fled to first Saltwood castle and then to the royal fortress of Knaresborough which he was holding for the Crown.  Despite the outcry against the killers, Hugh and his accomplices remained based in Knaresborough castle until 1173 when he joined the rebellion of the Young King Henry (d.1183) and lost control of the fortress back to King Henry II (1154-89).  After this he went to the Holy Land in penance and presumably died there soon after.

The younger Hugh Morville (d.1173+) was succeeded by his brother and heir, Richard Morville (d.1189+).  He presumably succeeded to the Scottish estates of his father Hugh Morville (d.1162) and was recorded as constable of Scotland in 1166.  He may have been the Richard who witnessed a grant of King David (1124-53) as early as 1140.  By 1160 he had fined 200m (£133 6s 8d) for having the lands of William Lancaster (d.1170), whose daughter, Avice (d.1191) he was recorded as having married in 1170.  He would appear to have joined his brother Hugh (d.1173+) in opposition to King Henry II (1154-89) and on 8 December 1174 was given as one of the hostages for the release of King William the Lion (1165-1214).  He obviously made his peace with Henry II (d.1189) if he had ever left it and was last mentioned in 1189.  Presumably he died soon afterwards and certainly before his wife Avice who died on 1 January 1191.

Richard Morville left a son and heir, William, who died childless in 1196.  His inheritance was then divided amongst his 3 daughters, Muriel, who married Robert Beauchamp of Hatch (d.1177+), Matilda who married William Vipont (d.1198) and Helena who married Roland Galloway (d.1200).  His inheritance was therefore split 3 ways.

The third possible brother of the first unknown Morville could have been William Morville who died after 1142.  His main estates lay in Devon, although he also seems to have witnessed a charter for King David of Scotland (1124-53) before July 1138.  He was succeeded by his son, Eudo, who was born before 1142 and died sometime after 1177.  Eudo was succeeded by his son, William (d.1235) and grandson, Eudes (d.1237), who left only daughters. 

The fourth and possibly youngest of the possible brothers was Simon Morville (d.1167).  He made his fortune in Cumberland and before 1140 married Ada Engaine, the great granddaughter of Robert Trevers (d.1100+), the lord of the barony of Burgh by Sands.  This barony had been set up by Ralph Le Meschin (d.1129) in the early twelfth century when he became lord of Carlisle.  After Cumberland was returned to King Henry II (1154-89) by King Malcolm of Scots (1153-65) in 1157, Simon Morville was recorded as owing 50m (£33 6s 8d) for having the land of Ralph Engaine.  According to charters in the Lanercost chartulary, Simon's wife, Ada, was the granddaughter of Ralph Engaine, who had married Ibria Trevers before 1110.  Ralph thereby inherited Burgh by Sands from her father, Robert Trevers, it then passing through his son William to Ada, the wife of Simon Morville (d.1167).

Simon Morville also had or acquired lands in Lazonby and Kirkoswald before his death in July 1167.  Simon's son, Hugh Morville (d.1201), is often confused with the killer of Becket.  This Hugh made a charter to Wetheral priory in the late twelfth century concerning Burgh by Sands.  In this he confirmed the gifts of his father, Simon Morville, as well as Ralph Engaine and his son William, thereby confirming the descent given above.  Hugh was active in Westmorland from 1162 and often associated with Robert Stuteville (d.1186), who's daughter, Helewise (d.1228+), he eventually married soon after the death of her first husband, William Lancaster in 1184.  During the Young King's war of 1173-74, he sided with the Young King Henry III (d.1183) and consequently lost his Westmorland estates.  Indeed his dapifer was fined 100s for being one of those who rendered Appleby castle to King William of Scotland in 1174.  Hugh worked his way back into royal favour and served both King Richard (1189-99) and briefly King John (1199-1216).  He was given a licence to build a house at Kirkoswald, enclose the wood and have a weekly market and yearly fair there on 1 March 1201.  He then died, probably before September 1201, when it was recorded that Richard Lucy (d.1213) of Egremont held his lands by virtue of his wife, Ada Morville (d.1232/39), the rest of Hugh's lands going to his other daughter.  The next year William Briewer bought the custody of Hugh's other daughter, Joan Morville (d.1247), for 500m (£333 6s 8d) and eventually married her to his nephew, Robert Gernun (d.1234).  This marked the extinction in the male line of this branch of the Morvilles as well.

The full essay with footnotes is available by clicking here.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry

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