In 1453 the ‘Hundred Year’s War’ ended with an English defeat. Soldiers returned home disillusioned, and there were thousands of poor roaming the countryside. There was a general air of discontent and under the King’s weak leadership; the shift of power from the King to the nobility increased unchecked.
Richard, the 3rd Duke of York, was a claimant to the English throne. His attempts to gain power were one of the main causes of what became known as the Wars of the Roses. In 1453, King Henry suffered a mental breakdown. At this time the two most prominent Peers of the Realm were Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Henry’s wife, Margaret, also played a major part and was responsible for stirring up mutual distrust between the two claimants.
Richard of York was the most important Peer at that time. He was heir apparent to the then childless Henry VI and he knew that his succession would be threatened if the weak King fell under ‘the wrong influence.’
In spite of not being considered at the time of Henry V’s death (Richard was only 10 yrs old), he faithfully served Henry VI as Governor of both France and Normandy. He had used a great deal of his own money to finance the army in France and was never repaid. Later, when the Duke of Somerset was given command, he received constant financial support. To York this was favouritism and he complained to the King, but to no avail. Somerset was becoming firmly established in Court circles and it was he who persuaded the King to send Richard to Ireland out of the way, giving him the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
In 1453, when the King suffered a nervous breakdown. Margaret claimed the Regency. She was backed by Somerset but her rule was unpopular and Richard became Lord Protector of the Realm in 1454. His first move was the imprisonment of Somerset. This was the start of open hostility between the two men and led to the first battle of St. Albans in 1455. From then on the country was divided as the aristocracy took sides according to their loyalties and ambitions. On Richard’s side were the Neville’s (Earls of Warwick), while the Percy family (Earls of Northumberland) supported the Royal party as Lancastrians.
Henry was incapable of ruling for eighteen months, but in October 1455 Margaret gave birth to a son, Edward of Lancaster. Somerset was released from prison when Henry again took control and once again the tables were turned on Richard. By then, the King’s wife was to all intents and purposes the ruler of the land and she favoured Somerset. York realised that the Queen was intent on his downfall. The only answer was to fight!
Between 1455 and 1460 there was little active campaigning, but in the three months beginning 1460 there were four major battles. Queen Margaret gathered a large army in the north. She was anxious to further the claim of her son as heir apparent. She sought support in Scotland while her Lancastrian leaders, based at Pontefract Castle, began pillaging the Duke od York’s lands in Yorkshire. Richard set off from London to ‘settle this small matter’, but it was midwinter and the going was hard for his 5,000 men. He expected Lord Neville to join him, but he ‘Kingmaker’ had changed allegiance and joined the Lancastrian cause.
The Yorkists fought a skirmish at Worksop and then took refuge in the Castle at Sandal near Wakefield. Parties were sent out to forage for supplies and the battle of Wakefield began when they met up with Lancastrian troops. Richard came out of the Castle, thinking that the Lancastrians were a small forward party, but they were the advance guard of the main army of 20,000. Richard and most of his men were dead within 30 minutes! Richard got his crown – a paper one – placed on his severed head whilst it was displayed on a spike above one of the gates of the City of York.
To find an answer we must go back to the year 1427. By this time, most of the property in the Township was owned either by the Lordship of Conisbrough, the Priory of Lewes, or Roache Abbey. Conisbrough was by far the greatest landowner and this formed part of the estate of Richard, Duke of York.
In 1427, we learn that John Vincent and his wife, Agnes, were granted by Thomas, Prior of the Monastery of Lewes, County Sussex, ‘for John’s good service and councel to be given to them in the future, of a certain capital messuage’ of theirs in Braithwell, called ‘Le Priorie’ with two rooms of theirs, one of which was called ‘Le Shepcote’ and the other ‘Le Peyseberne’, with ‘all the demesne lands, gardens and meadows pertaining to said messuage.’
John and Agnes, or their heirs, within the next 8 years, were to ‘make anew, well and fittingly wihin he said messuage a Hall with a room at the west end 32ft long and 18ft broad, also a house called Bakehous and another house called Kylnehous, with a malthouse and a stone well for drinking water, at their own cost’. (April 25th 1427 Yorkshire portion of the Lewis Chatulary. C.T.Clay F,S,A.).
There was also reference to two Tythe Barns on the same site. (In a document dated 1615 housed in the Lumley Archives, information is given that the Prior of Lewes held the Great Tithes of Braithwell together with a tithe barn and land.)
John was the Priory of Lewes lawyer and estate manager for the lands owned by the priory in South Yorkshire. Richard, Duke of York, also employed him to look after his interests in the area.
Hunter tells us that the house that John built was called Overhall. Most people interpret it that John Vincent lived at what is now known as the Manor House, to the north of the village near to the Church. He certainly did live there prior to him leaving to fight at the Battle of Wakefield, but whether or not this was his first residence in the Township is unclear. The Manor House was occupied at the beginning of the 15th Century by the Schefeld family.
The dimensions of the room the Vincent family had permission to build on ‘Le Priorie’ almost exactly match the size of a room constructed over the western end of the one storey building of Moat Hall. Could the fact that it had been built ‘over’ Moat Hall have led to the name ‘Overhall’? It could be that when the Manor House became vacant, and John Vyncent’s position in the Township grew, that he moved, leaving his son in residence at the Hall?
Listed below are some of the entries. As well as telling us about John Vyncent, they provide us with information regarding other landowners in the Township at that time.
1427 The Feast of St.Michael Archangel (Sept 29th) in the 6th year of Henry VI. Charter (Lat) dated at Braithwell. Confirming a grant from John Westby to John Vyncent, of fourteen acres of land with appurtenances late in the tenure of Thomas Gregory, and lying in the fields of Braithwell. Witnesses: Thomas Vessy of Clifton, Robert Clay of Braithwell, Stephen Cressy, William Cressy and William Wright of the same.
1430 June 2nd. In the 8th year of Henry VI. Letter of Attorney (Lat) from Hugh Grene then late Vicar of the Church of Braithwell, to deliver seisin to John Vyncent, in six acres lying in the fields of Braithwell and Mikilbryng.
1430 August 20th in the 8h year of Henry VI. Charter (Lat) dated at Braithwell confirming a grant from Thomas Vessy of Clyfton and Thomas Roos of Braithwell to John Vyncent of Braithwell and Agnes his wife of a tenement, toft and croft, with appurtenances in the Lordship of Braithwell, then lately acquired from Robert Ingram of Braithwell, of which tenement was From Hugh Grene late vicar of the church of Braithwell between tenemets of William Gymlyng and William Whyte.
1430 October 2nd.in the 9th year of Henry VI. From Hugh Grene late vicar of the church of Braithwell, one messuage and eight acres of land to John Vyncent.
1435-36 February 4th in the 14th year of Henry VI. Charter. John Clay and Robert Clay to John Vincent messuage and genelon in Mikilbryng and 18 acres of land in Braithwell.
1436-37 February 1st in the 15h year of Henry VI. From William Langthwayte to John Vyncent an acre and a half of land in the Little field of Braithwell, abutting Mikilbring Lane opposite the Wayver and on the field of Clyfton called Almowelles.
1441 May 15th in the 19th year of Henry VI. Confirmation (Lat.) of seisin and pession (possession?) dated at London, from Richard of York, Earl of March and Wester, Lord Wyggemore and Clare, to John Vyncent, of a croft in Braithwell situate between the tenements of John Vyncent and William Power and then in possession of John Vyncent, to be held as of the Manor of Connesburgh according to the customs of the manor, in consideration of a yearly rent of 1d.
1442 July 15th in the 20th year of Henry VI. Charter from John Claye senior of Braithwell to John Vyncent and Agnes, a cottage with garden in Mikilbring.
1443 Nov 8th in the 22nd year of Henry VI. Charter (Lat.) from William Langthayte to John Vyncent 14 acres of land lying in the fields of Braithwell (One witness was William Power).
1443 Nov 8th in the 22nd year of Henry VI. Release and Quit Claim (Lat) from John Mapulle and John Ruyston husbandman, to John Vyncent and Agnes his wife, of lands and tenements in the fields of Braithwell, then lately acquired from William Langthwayte.
1446 Charter dated at Braithwell. From Thomas Personson of Wadesworth to John Vyncent, all his landes in Braithwell.
The only sport allowed by law on Sundays was archery. It was part of John’s duty to oversee the male population of the parish (between the ages of 6 and 60) practicing archery after Church. He was also responsible for raising a band of men when required to support his Lord when the need arose. John Vyncent would have been accountable to the Fitzwilliam family in Rotherham, and Sir William Skipwith based at Conisbrough Castle.
The local story is that, prior to John Vyncent marching away with his band of men, he planted two white roses in the Manor grounds as a symbol of his loyalty to the ‘white rose’ cause. All we know is that John was killed at the battle of Wakefield. Where he and his men lie is still a mystery, but it is most likely that they are in some unmarked grave in the vicinity of Sandal Castle.
It is also more likely that John Vincent did not go to support Richard, Duke of York, alone. He would have taken along with him many of the men of the village. Historians tell us that the battle which ensued outside Sandal Castle was most fierce and that no quarter was asked or given. We can only assume that few were able to return to Braithwell after the defeat.