History of the Savile family

Sir John Savile’s Household portrays the family, servants and retinue of the Savile family from the middle of the fifteenth century until the beginning of the reign of Henry Tudor. The following history of the Savile family has been adpated from a disertation by one of the group members, Adam Woodland. This outline of the family starts with early origins of the Saviles and continues with a history of the family up to the reign of Henry VII.

Early History

The origins of the Savile family are difficult to determine. Historians and genealogists writing in the seventeenth century claimed the Saviles were descended from the ‘Savelli’ or ‘Sabelli’ of Rome who were supposed to have been Roman consuls before the birth of Christ. It is certain that these accounts are entirely fictitious and it is more plausible that the Saviles began by holding small amounts of land in West Yorkshire and gradually extended their property. The earliest documentary evidence regarding the Saviles supports this. In 1225, Henry de Seyvil is mentioned in a document that granted him a license to found a Chantry in a chapel at Golcar (West Yorkshire) and in 1251-2 and 1274-1307 other Saviles are mentioned in Court and Assize rolls relating to West Yorkshire.

In 1286, a more detailed account of the Savile family appears during the reign of Edward I. The account takes the form of a lunacy inquisition conducted against Peter de Sayvell at York, and contains a list of some of his lands and possessions. The inquisition opened by stating that ‘Peter de Sayvell is clearly mad and an idiot and incapable of managing his land’ The inquisition records that Peter de Sayvell held land in Smeaton, Skelebrook, Golcar and Thurleston which are all in West Yorkshire. Although these lands might have been relatively small, the family certainly had a permanent and significant presence in West Yorkshire by the thirteenth century.

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