The Saviles - Sir John Savile's Household

Sir John Savile's Household
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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 adapted from a dissertation 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.

The Savile family began to rise in status in the mid-fourteenth century when the head of the family, Sir John Savile, married Isabel de Elland in 1353. Isabel de Elland was an heiress and the marriage brought the family the manors of Elland and Tankersley, which significantly extended their property. Other lands held by Sir John in this period included the manor of Marsden and lands in Brighouse, Carlinghow and Cheshire.

Sir John Savile saw much military service and was present at most of the important military events in the mid-fourteenth century. In 1346-7, Sir John saw action at the Siege of Calais and in February 1356, he joined the Black Prince in Gascony and was probably at the Battle of Poitiers later that year. Furthermore, Sir John Savile fought in Brittany with Henry, Duke of Lancaster and in 1367 he was a member of John of Gaunt’s retinue that fought at the Battle of Najara in Spain. Additionally Sir John Savile and Robert Rokley assembled 30 archers at Plymouth for service in John of Gaunt’s campaign in France in 1373. In this period of Savile history, the family served the Dukes of Lancaster and when Sir John was given a license to found a Chantry at his manor of Elland in 1396, the purpose was to pray for the souls of the Savile family along with Henry, the late Duke of Lancaster and John, Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster.

Sir John’s military service was matched by an equally interesting career in local government. Savile was appointed to Commissions of Oyer and Terminer (‘Hear and Determine’) in the West Riding, a court that investigated and tried all criminal activity (in 1364, 1365 and 1370). Sir John was also elected as one of two Knights of the Shire to represent the West Riding at Parliament in April 1376, October 1382, April 1384, November 1384 and January 1389/90. After having been a representative at Parliament, a Knight of the Shire could expect to serve as the Sheriff of a county in the years following their election. Sir John held the post of Sheriff of Yorkshire on three occasions in 1380, 1382-3 and 1387-8. Sir John performed other duties for the Crown, including several Commissions of Array for the West Riding and a Commission to assess a Royal tax in 1379. In 1382 and 1385 Savile was also included among the gentry of the West Riding ordered to maintain peace and break up illegal gatherings in Yorkshire. In 1384, Richard II granted Sir John an exemption from holding public office against his will. However, Savile continued to serve in positions of civil authority until 1394 and this suggests the exemption was granted due to Savile’s age rather than any malpractice.

Sir John died in 1399 and his will was proved on September 23rd 1399. His wife, Isabel de Elland, was also veiled in November of the same year. Savile’s will leaves little indication of the financial status of the family at the time of his death, however Sir John left 14s 4d to his poor tenants at Golcar and expressed the wish to be interred at Elland, the manor he gained through his wife. The only other family member mentioned in the will is John Saywell of Shelley who received six spoons of silver, one silver cup with a cover, six quarters of corn, two quarters of barley, a bed and a brass pot.

Other individuals sharing the Savile name were active during the period. Thomas Savile served as a Sergeant-at-Arms to the Crown from the 1370s until the fifteenth century and a John Savile served in France before and during the campaigns of 1361. This John Savile was accused of the murder of a Wakefield man, which supports the likelihood he was a West Yorkshire Savile, although John received a Crown pardon in 1361 for ‘…good service done in the war in Brittany in the company on Robert de Herle…’ Perhaps this John Savile (or another of the same name) joined Military Orders and was serving with the Knights Hospitaller by 1400. In a letter patent dated 15th March 1400, this John Savile described himself as ‘Brother of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and Preceptor of Temple Bruer in the Diocese of Lincoln.’ The seal placed to the bottom of the letter shows the Savile coat of arms of three owls and a black bend.

After the death of Sir John Savile in 1399, he left three children, John, Henry and Isabel, with the leadership of the family passing to John (for clarity I’ve given him the title John the younger). John the younger had also been knighted in or before November 1399 when a grant was given to John Sayvill ‘chivaler’ several months after the death of his father. His political career was less grand than his father’s and he only performed two official duties; the Commission of Array for the West Riding in 1399 and as Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1402. Sir John the younger died in 1407 or 1408 and it is likely that his minor political career was due to the longevity of his father rather than his unsuitability for the task. Sir John the younger had taken a wife during his lifetime and his marriage to Isabel Radclyffe did produce issue but their son had predeceased Sir John the Younger.
The second son, Henry Savile, gained considerable land through marriage to Elizabeth de Thornhill, a West Yorkshire heiress. Elizabeth stood to inherit the estates of the Thornhill family and proved to be an attractive marriage prospect in the Yorkshire region. Although she was only 2 years old when these lands came to her in 1370, the Savile family purchased the rights to her marriage from the Crown for £126 3s 4d. She was then wedded to Henry Savile, which established a younger branch of the family at the manor of Thornhill. As second son, Henry Savile had a minor political career and served on the Commission of Array once in 1403. Despite holding the Thornhill estates, Henry Savile was never knighted and retained his status as esquire.

The Saviles 1415-1449

Henry Savile died in 1415 and his son, Thomas, inherited the Thornhill estates. Thomas Savile was destined to become the head of the family as the Elland Saviles died out and he inherited the property of his uncle. As Thomas was resident at Thornhill, the principal seat of the family transferred from Elland to Thornhill. During the Fifteenth century, the heads of the family were always the Saviles of Thornhill.

Sir Thomas Savile continued the family tradition of serving the crown and he had been made Knight of the Shire in 1442. He also performed various other tasks, including a Commission for the defence of the Realm in 1417 and an appointment to raise a loan for the King in March 1439. Sir Thomas Savile had been knighted and this came in or before 1430, as documents after 1430 acknowledge his status. Sir Thomas had a rather short and uneventful political career, although in the period under his leadership, the family became affiliated to the Duke of York. This affiliation would lead to the Savile family’s support of the Yorkist faction when armed conflict began in 1455.

The will of Sir Thomas, who died in 1449, suggests he was a pious man, with many grants to religious houses in the vicinity of the Savile estates. Certainly, he was a patron of Thornhill Parish church and in 1447 he had paid for an extension to the Church to provide a private family chapel. Surviving stained glass in the windows of this chapel link it to Sir Thomas, with a Latin inscription that translates ‘Pray for the soul of Thomas Savile, Knight, who caused this chapel to be built, AD. 1447.’ Illustration in the glass shows Sir Thomas and his wife, Margaret, at prayer, with the arms of the Savile and Thornhill families quartered on Lady Margaret’s dress and Sir Thomas’s armour. In this will Savile also bequeathed his best horse and trappings towards the expenses of his funeral and a set of vestments of yellow cloth and a cap for the priest, deacon and sub-deacon of the church at Thornhill. Since the seat of the family had transferred to the Thornhill estate, Sir John left instructions for his body to be interred with his wife in this church and three marks were left for a tomb to be raised over their bodies. Other provisions for the church included a bequest of 40s for a table for the High Altar and a like amount for candles to burn before the crucifix. He also bequeathed 24d for a chaplain to celebrate for the souls of his family for six years after his death. The various other Houses patronised by Savile are indicated by his gifts. The friars of Pontefract received a donation of 13s 8d and the House of St. Robert at Knaresborough received 3s 4d. Three South Yorkshire Houses received gifts, the Friars of Tickhill and the Carmelites and Friars Minor of Doncaster each were given 8d. To a recluse at ‘Beston’ (Beeston) Savile granted 3s. 4d. It was usual in the fifteenth century for prosperous landowners or merchants to leave some provision for the repair of a public highway or bridge. In Savile’s case, a donation of 40s was bestowed to the ‘fabric and repair of the bridge at Horbury.’ The remainder of Sir Thomas’s goods were granted to Sir John, his son and heir, who was also named executor by his father. Apart from Sir John, Sir Thomas Savile left three daughters, all of who married into local families of esquire or knightly status. Margaret Savile was married to Sir John Hopton, Alice Savile to William Mirfield and Elizabeth Savile to Sir John Harrington.

The Saviles 1449-1482

The son of Sir Thomas, Sir John Savile, assumed the leadership of the family after his father’s death. Sir John Savile lived through most of the Wars of the Roses and saw action at some of the major battles. His military career began in 1441, when he was part of the Duke of York’s retinue in his expedition to France. A surviving list of a purchase of armours from 1441 mentions ‘John Savyle’ as one of the recipients. Three suits armours were purchased by Sir John de Cressy, one for himself at a cost of £8.6s.6d, one for his squire at £5.16s.8d and one for John Savyle at £6. Since this purchase is contemporary with Savile’s presence in France and considering Sir John de Cressy was Captain of Lisieux, Orbal and Pont l’Eveque, it is likely that the John Savyle mentioned was John Savile of Thornhill and the armour was a new harness intended for use in the Duke of York’s French campaign.

By May 1442, John Savile had been knighted by the Duke of York. He was also made steward of the lordship of Wakefield and Constable of Sandal Castle, both possessions within the Duchy of York. With these responsibilities, Sir John Savile became one of the Duke of York’s principal estate managers in the North and a trusted member of the Yorkist faction. In the 1450s when the Duke of York was at the height of his influence, Sir John Savile played an important role in the Duke’s political strategy. In 1450, Savile was elected to parliament, which can be attributed almost directly to the influence of York who tried to fill the House with his supporters and oust those loyal to King Henry VI. Sir John’s loyalty to the House of York in this period is unquestionable, as he fought with the Duke at the First Battle of St. Albans in May 1455 and in the weeks following the battle, was appointed as Sheriff of Yorkshire.

When armed conflict resumed in 1459, the Savile family remained loyal to the Yorkist cause and Sir John’s eldest son (John Savile, esquire) fought with the Earl of Salisbury at Blore Heath in September of the same year. It is likely that Sir John sent the men of the Savile estates under the command of his son so the family would escape attainder if the House of Lancaster defeated the Yorkist forces. Salisbury aimed to join with the forces of York and Warwick at Ludlow, however he was intercepted in Staffordshire by the army of Lords Audley and Dudley. Fortunately Salisbury was victorious, a combination of outstanding generalship and Yorkist archery destroying any Lancastrian resistance and he was able to complete his march to Ludlow. However the upper-hand gained by this Yorkist victory was to be short-lived. On October 12th 1459 Warwick, York and Salisbury were forced to flee abroad after they were betrayed at Ludlow. In the following days after their flight, a Lancastrian Parliament met at Coventry and passed at Act of Attainder against, Warwick, York, Salisbury and 24 of their supporters including John Savile esquire. (An Act of Attainder stripped a person of all their property and possessions and made them liable for execution). Additionally, in December 1459, Sir John Savile lost his office as Steward of Wakefield and Constable of Sandal Castle and was replaced the son of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a known Lancastrian.

The Savile family’s misfortune was short-lived, and after the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Northampton, Sir John was reinstalled to his previous offices and the Act of Attainder against John esquire was reversed. It is not known whether the Saviles took any further part in the Wars of the Roses until the Battle of Wakefield. No documentary evidence has come to light regarding whether the Saviles were present at this battle, although it is very likely they were. Sir John was the Constable of Sandal castle at the time of the battle and the Yorkist army was camped all around the area. Furthermore, the principal seat of the family at Thornhill was five miles to the west of Sandal and most of the Savile estates were within a day’s ride of Wakefield. Finally, Sir John Savile was one of the Duke’s foremost supporters in Yorkshire and it is extremely unlikely that the family and their retainers could have avoided being drawn into the conflict at Wakefield.

The Battle of Wakefield proved to be a disaster for the House of York, with the death of the Duke, however, his eldest son Edward, Earl of March, took over the leadership of the faction. On the following Palm Sunday 1461, the army of Edward engaged and defeated a large Lancastrian force at the Battle of Towton. The battle was a decisive victory for Edward and the House of York, although it is unlikely that Sir John Savile was present. No member of the Savile family is listed as having fought at Towton, although Sir John was certainly of the status to be listed among the peers if he had been present at the battle. It is a distinct possibility that Savile had been captured after Wakefield and held prisoner by Lancastrians. A surviving deed of enfeoffment dated 29th March 1461 had been witnessed by John Neville (the Marquis of Montague), Sir John Savile and John Woodruff. John Neville had taken no part in the battle of Towton and had been captured after the Second Battle of St. Albans and held prisoner in York until his release on 30th March. For all three men to witness the deed, it is likely that Neville, Savile and Woodruff were present in York on March 29th , the day of the battle at Towton. It would seem that Savile and Woodruff had been imprisoned after the Battle of Wakefield and detained at York. Both men held office from the Duchy of York, Woodruff as receiver of the lordship of Sandal and Sir John Savile as the steward of Wakefield and Constable of Sandal castle. Certainly, the others mentioned in this deed were tenants in the Wakefield area. It appears that after the Battle of Wakefield, those in the area of Yorkist persuasion were taken into custody and took no further part in the campaign until Edward’s victory at Towton. Furthermore, two days after the ascendancy of Edward IV, Sir John Savile retained his offices in the Duchy of York and was appointed Sheriff of Yorkshire immediately after. To be selected and confirmed in these offices it is evident that Savile enjoyed crown favour and retained the trust of the king. It further suggests the support of the Savile family for the House of York had not been lukewarm and a genuine reason had kept them from attending the Battle of Towton. Additionally, recruitment to the King’s household in the 1460s was mostly restricted to the tenants of the Duchy of York. At least five of eight appointed were from the Wakefield area, suggesting Sir John Savile had secured their entry and the King had been happy to accept his recommendations. Edward IV enjoyed an unbroken rule from 1461 until September 1470, when the Readeption of Henry VI forced the erstwhile king to flee abroad and seek refuge with the Duke of Burgundy. The exile of Edward IV, proved short and with support of the Burgundian Court he landed at Ravenspur in East Yorkshire on 14th March 1471. The support of the gentry of the Wakefield area as Edward marched south was criticised in the ‘Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV’ a work that had been commissioned by the returning king shortly after May 26th 1471. The author, probably a member of the court, recorded that from the Duchy of York’s territory around Wakefield and Sandal, a Savile area of influence, ‘came some folk unto him, (Edward IV) but not so many as he supposed would have come.’ It is likely Sir John Savile was included in this number, and a reversion of the offices of Steward of Wakefield and Constable of Sandal Castle that had been granted to Sir John Pilkington on July 5th 1471, advocates Edward IV had been less than pleased with Savile’s efforts of his behalf.

More localised conflict involving the Savile family occurred in the late 1470s. During this decade, the Yorkist dynasty was secure with the wider threat of the Lancastrian dynasty virtually extinct. Whereas family feuds had often been settled on the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses, a lack of medium to settle old scores, meant disagreements between Lords were settled with armed conflicts between relatively small numbers of their tenants and retainers. Such an episode occurred in September 1478 when a commission of Oyer and Terminer was issued to inquire into numerous felonies committed in Yorkshire, for the most part, between 1460 and 1478. This commission was headed by several of England’s foremost peers, including the King’s brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Northumberland. Of 200 indictments presented to the commission, thirty-four were associated with a feud that had developed between the Yorkshire families of Savile and Pilkington. The fruition of violence belonging to this particular dispute seems to have begun on April 12th 1478, when Sir John Pilkington of Skipton-in-Craven, took in maintenance one of Sir John Savile’s tenants, Richard Elistones. Savile had raised a hedge on his manor at Elland, to which Elistones objected, claiming it had enclosed part of his tenement. Elistones then enfeoffed Pilkington with the land, in order that he would aid him against the Saviles, despite the Savile family asking Pilkington in an affable manner not to do so. On the orders of Sir John Pilkington, a sizeable retinue of his supporters, led by his bastard son Robert, then broke down the hedge and through their violent manner scared other Savile tenants from their holdings. The Savile response followed on May 14th led by Thomas Savile of Thornhill, son of Sir John Savile, due his fathers age and illness and his nephew being engaged in the King’s service. Raising a host of 100 men, Thomas Savile proceeded to Elland and attacked Richard Elistones and another yeoman, John Holes. Both were driven from their homes and the Savile followers erected dykes over Hole’s land claiming as they did this: ‘if ther be any man that will pull down this dyke he shall die therfor other elles lose an arm or a legge.’ Again, with a retinue reinforced with his two uncles and other family members to the number of 400, Robert Pilkington marched to Elland on May 19th and pulled down the dykes erected by the Saviles. They then proceeded to the Pilkington manor of Efletburgh with the intent of awaiting the Savile response. Reinforced by the Stansfield family and with a retinue of 300-500 men, the Saviles again made up the obstructions at Elland, before making their departure to Efletburgh, where they demanded: ‘come forth thow Robart Pylkynton and thy servaunts oute of that place or elles we shall pull it down over your heads. Following this, the Savile entourage dined at Halifax and were later ambushed by Robert Pilkington and his 400 men on Skircote Moor, while attempting to return peacefully to Elland, they claimed. A battle ensued and casualties were suffered on both sides. This battle, however, did nothing to resolve the conflict and on May 22nd Sir John Pilkington’s brother, Charles, descended on Sandal Castle with up to 400 men, demanding Sir John Savile come forth and fight them. On May 24th a servant of Sir John Pilkington declared, speaking for his master, that all men in the Lordship of Wakefield, should attend Almondbury on May 26th and declare their support for Pilkington. Not only was Wakefield the Lordship where Savile was steward, Pilkington’s servant declared that all those staying away were to do so at their peril. Pilkington’s tenants did come forth and declare their support for him, and in the meantime the Pilkington family fortified several of their strongholds. With these last moves by the Pilkingtons, the legibility of the indictment ends.

There is scant evidence to suggest what had caused this conflict, however the King’s Bench records a verbal disagreement between Sir John Pilkington and Sir John Savile’s eldest son concerning a minor land dispute between Pilkington and another party in April or May 1478. Combined with this, the reversion of Sir John Savile’s offices at Wakefield and Sandal, to Sir John Pilkington in 1471, probably signalled a marked deterioration in relations between the two families. Investigation by the commission indicates that a history of sixty crimes perpetrated by the Pilkington family, from as far back as the 1460s, on occasion targeted both the Saviles and their supporters, the Stansfields. Indeed, in a sentence of death passed against Thomas Pilkington, his conviction had been given for livestock theft, including 142 rams belonging to Isabella Savile. It must be noted however, that both the Saviles and the Stansfields were not completely free from indictment during the commission. Four accusations were brought against the Saviles, one for cattle theft and three for expulsion and ten against the Stansfields. Several family members from both sides were sentenced to death at this commission, mostly for crimes not related to the felonies committed during the feud. The King however, appears to have called a halt to the commission on 26th September and the further consequences against each party are unrecorded. Violence between the minor nobility was not uncommon during the reign of Edward IV. Certainly, a feud between Lords Lisle and Berkely in 1470 had resulted in a minor battle at Nibley Green in Gloucestershire and in Lancashire, law and order was plagued by the Harrington-Stanley feud between 1469 and 1473. Violent crime between lords was commonplace in late fifteenth century England, however for men with the right connections, it was possible to openly defy the law and royal orders for years on end and yet still receive crown pardons and retain the king’s favour. Perhaps this explains why minor lords were so eager to resort to arms rather than any other means of arbitration.

Sir John Savile and his family continued successful political careers throughout the reign of Edward IV and Sir John and one of his younger sons, William, were regular members of the West Riding Commission of the Peace. William was a trained lawyer and a member of Gray’s Inn in London, so despite being a younger son with no prospects as head of the family, his legal knowledge made William a logical choice as Justice of the Peace (indeed he remained in the post until 1498). However, after the Savile-Pilkington feud, Sir John was never reappointed the Commission of the Peace (along with Sir John Pilkington) which suggests the King had reconsidered his suitability for the role. Sir John also held position in other day-to-day local government, such as assisting on Commissions to investigate Crown revenues that had fallen into decline and serving on Commissions of Array for Yorkshire. Along with other gentry of a similar status, Sir John Savile served the Crown in efforts to break up illegal gatherings in Yorkshire.

In 1474, the Savile family were retained into the affinity of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. An indenture from the family papers records that:

‘Witnesseth that the said John (Sir John Savile) is belest, withhold and retained with the said Duke for term of his life, his allegiance to the king’s highness except, so that he shall be ready at all times when he shall be required to await and attend upon him as well in times of peace as of war without any delay sufficiently horsed, harnessed and accompanied so that he may make in all fields as other journeys and places taking of the said Duke reasonable costs and expenses for the same provided. Over that in time of war if it fortune any man of worship or captain to be taken by the said John or any of his accompany, the said Duke to have him yielding a reasonable reward to the taker of the same. And also the said Duke shall have all the third of thirds, for the which retainder the said John shall have yearly 10 marks of fee to be taken of the revenues of the Lordship of Sheriff Hutton by the hands of the receiver there for the time being, as in the letters patents thereupon made more plainly it shall appear. In witness whereof the parties abovesaid to these present indentures interchangeably have set their seals the day and year abovesaid.

This indenture is not unusual considering that Gloucester was given virtual control of the North by Edward IV after the Yorkist dynasty was secured in 1471. Moreover, the North was traditionally a region of Lancastrian sympathy, susceptible to Scottish raids and the scene of petty rivalries between English lords jealous of encroachment in their spheres of influence. In July 1474, the second premier magnate in the North, Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, agreed to Gloucester’s supremacy in the region. Each lord recognised the other’s rights and privileges and Gloucester acknowledged the influence of the Percy family in some areas of the North. This allowed Gloucester to extend his influence in Yorkshire without alienating Northumberland.

Sir John Savile died in 1482 and it is thought to have been at Sandal castle, which had been an occasional residence while he was the Constable. Sir John was borne through Wakefield at his funeral and interred at the parish church in Thornhill. His will was proved on 21st June 1482 and Lady Alice Savile was veiled shortly afterward on July 3rd. Savile’s will gave instructions that he should be buried at the family chapel in Thornhill Church and he left £10 to be divided among his servants, according to their merit and status. To his grandson he left items including a bed, farming equipment and items for use in the brew-house. The will also gave various grants of land to his wife and children for their support and it is clear from this that Sir John and Dame Alice held land in…

• Bothamhall (Bothamsall, Notts?), (Broomhall)
• Rishworth (WR)
• Golcar (WR),
• a messuage at Coldeby and associated lands in the Isle of Axhome (Lincs),
• Estrington (Eastrington ER?)
• Hundesworth
• Thurlstone (WR)
• Thornhill (WR)
• Ovenden (WR)
• Wadsworth (WR)
• Skircoates (WR)

Savile also left provisions for his sons, including sums of money and life annuities from some of these manors. His children and their portions were…

• Henry (40 shillings, plus a life annuity of £4)
• Richard (40 shillings, as above)
• Nicholas (40 shillings, as above)
• William (20 marks, a half share of the manor of Hundesworth)
• Thomas (20 marks, as William)
• Margaret (£40)
• Isabel (Married Oliver Mirfield)
• Elizabeth (Married Robert Waterton and mentioned in her brother-in laws will, Ralph Snaith.)
• Anne (Married three times, John Butler, Ralph Snaith and Sir Roger Hopton.
• Brian (not mentioned in the will, but instructed in 1440-1 to take holy orders, perhaps he was an illegitimate son?)

Sir John Savile’s son and heir, John Savile esquire (who had fought at Blore Heath in 1459) was killed fighting in the Duke of Gloucester’s campaign in Scotland in 1482. He had married twice, firstly to Jane, the daughter of Sir Thomas Harrington with whom he had two children and secondly, Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas, Lord Dacre. John Savile esquire had been expected to take over the offices of his father at Wakefield and Sandal either at the surrender or death of the elderly Sir John. However, due to his untimely death, the leadership of the family passed to the son of John Savile, esquire – a third John Savile.

The Saviles 1482-1509

This third John had been present with his father in the Scottish campaign and was created a Knight Banneret by the Duke of Gloucester after the siege of Berwick on 22nd August 1482. This established a favourable relationship with Gloucester and Sir John remained loyal to the Duke after his usurpation of the throne in 1483. After Gloucester’s coronation, which Savile attended, the King brought the men from his Northern affinity to serve in crown offices in the South. This included Sir John who was created Captain of the Isle of Wight in February 1484. This appointment was for life and Savile was to receive all the profits from the island, an annual salary of £200 and the power to appoint and dismiss offices. Despite these generous terms, Sir John did not seem willing to hold this position in person and appealed to the King to let him carry out the office via a deputy. This request displeased Richard III and he issued a humiliating 5000 mark bond for Savile’s future good behaviour…

‘…Condition that if the above John Savile during his life be off good behaviour towards our sovereign lord king Richard and his heirs, Kings of England, and serve him as well in time of war as of peace to his power, whensoever by the King thereto commanded, and that he keep the Isle of Wight to the use and surety of Our Lord, then this recognisance be void…’

Sir John Savile also lost his offices at Wakefield and Sandal castle in winter 1484. This may have contributed to a growing dissatisfaction with Savile’s treatment by Richard III, although it is likely that Sir John lost these offices due to Sandal becoming the residence of the heir presumptive, John de la Pole. Despite the disagreements, Sir John Savile eventually took up his office in the Isle of Wight and served Richard III in local government in the South, being appointed to Commissions of Array and Commissions of the Peace for Hampshire and Southampton. Additionally, Savile was given land in the South including the manor of Stratton St Margaret in Wiltshire, the Manor of Cornhampton in the county of Southampton and the manor and lordship of Wogwille in Devon. Annually these lands were worth £66 14s 2d. The importance of Savile’s position in the South cannot be underestimated, as it was in this region that Henry Tudor and other dissident Lancastrians were expected to land.

In 1485, when Tudor seized the crown, Sir John Savile was one of the first of the Yorkshire gentry to make his peace with the new King. Indeed, the Savile connection of over 40 years to the House of York was brought to a swift end. Certainly, no records indicate that Sir John had fought alongside Richard at Bosworth and within a month of Tudor’s accession, he had been appointed to the Commission of the Peace for the West Riding, a position which he held regularly until 1504. Indeed, Tudor appears to have placed much trust in Savile’s loyalty to his dynasty as immediately after his appointment as a JP in 1485, he was made the member of a Commission of Array for Yorkshire in expectation of a Scottish invasion. Furthermore Sir John was made Sheriff of Yorkshire on November 5th 1485 and was relieved of the Captaincy of the Isle of Wight and re-instated to his offices as Constable of Sandal and Steward of Wakefield. This patronage by Henry Tudor continued, and on November 29th 1485 Savile was created Feodary of the honour of Pontefract and Steward of the Lordship of Bradford 4th March 1486. When the king attended Yorkshire to quell disturbances in the North of the county in April 1486, Savile attended his person and was present at the Coronation of Elizabeth Woodville in November 1487. During the rebellion of the earl of Lincoln in 1487, Savile supported Henry Tudor and was appointed to the defence of the city of York. In addition to this, by 1487 Sir John was also a Knight of the Body in the King’s household.

Evidence suggests that Savile was an unpopular and reckless manager in the running of some of his offices. In 1490, Savile was accused of malpractice by tenants in the Wakefield area. These accusations were taken seriously and a letter patent from August 1490 records:

Commission to look into complaints of the citizens of Souerby, Warley, Northourum, Ovenden, Hiperom, and Shelf against John Savyll, Knight, Nicholas Sayvill, Edward Whalley and Robert Thomas.

In 1501, Savile also demanded and obtained £20 from one John Nawte, whom he accused of fighting against the King at Stoke Field in 1487. This allegation was brought against Sir John as support of an accusation of malpractice, so it is likely that this money was gained through extortion rather than a formal fine. It appears Savile was found guilty of these claims and was removed as Steward of Wakefield in June 1502 and as Steward of Bradford and Feodary of Pontefract around the same time. Certainly, Thomas Trigot had replaced Savile as Feodary on 15 March 1501 and Sir William Calverley as Steward of Bradford in 1502.

During his lifetime, Savile had been married twice, firstly to Alice Vernon and secondly to Elizabeth Paston. The marriage to Elizabeth Paston proved to be an important move for the Saviles and is perhaps their most prestigious marriage during the fifteenth century. Elizabeth Paston’s mother, Jane Paston was daughter of and co-heiress to Edmund Beaufort, first cousin to the countess of Richmond; the mother of Henry VII. Through this marriage, Savile had brought royal blood into the family. Sir John Savile died in 1504 and was interred in the family chapel at Thornhill. His eldest son, Henry, assumed the leadership of the family. To give some indication of the status of the family in the late fifteenth century, at the time of Henry’s death, he owned 300 messuages, 300 tofts, 10 water mills, 22 000 acres of land, excluding wastes and commons. His annual income from these lands was around £400 a year which was roughly equal to the money received by the family in the 1460s (excluding the money gained from crown offices).

The Savile family line has continued through to the present day, however the history of the family after 1504 falls outside of the scope of this study.
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