Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Nocton Hall - D'Arcys

Domesday Book

In 1086, the date of the Domesday Book, the two English owners had given place to a single foreigner, Norman de Adreci, or D'Arcy, one of the companions of William the Conqueror.
N.B: in Domesday, Nocton is spelt "Nochetune" and in later documents, "Noketon" and "Nokton".

In addition to Nocton, D'Arcy was given 32 other parishes in Lincolnshire. The parish must have been of some importance in those days because D'Arcy preferred to live there. The parish numbered 41 households including the Lord of the Manor, the priest, "twenty six sokemen, nine villeins, and three bordars" with nine plough teams and two "talliage"of £2.0s.0d. The value of the manor in 1086 was reckoned at £10.0s.0d.

For eleven generations from circa 1070 to 1350 the D'Arcys held the lordship of Nocton; for twelve more generations from 1350 to 1660 their descendants on the spindle side continued the succession. This family improved the Estate and the Hall, which must have existed in Ulf's time, but apparently no attempt was made to fortify the Hall as no trace of anything in the shape of a castle exists.

Norman D'Arcy's son and successor, Robert D'Arcy, lived in the days of the great monastic revival under Henry I. and Stephen. He gave the churches of Nocton and Dunston to the Benedictine Monks of St Mary's Abbey at York, and granted certain lands at Nocton and Dunston to the Cistercian Monks at Kirkstead Abbey, near Woodhall Spa.

Nocton Park Priory

It was Robert who founded the Priory in the Park at Nocton, dedicated to St Mary Magdelene for a Prior and four Canons of the Order of St Augustine. The Priory stood in what is still known as Abbey Hill and the only remains of it are some large stones, broken hillocks and uneven turf on the rising ground which overlooks Nocton Fen. Some broken pottery was found on the site a few years ago and presented to Lincoln Museum.

N.B: the ashes of a Mr JH Dennis (who latterly owned the Nocton Estate) are scattered in a small fenced enclosure on the site.

The D'Arcys, throughout the ages, were Lords of Parliament, most of them were soldiers, fighting for the King abroad or against the King in several civil wars. One, Norman, in 1215 was one of the barons in arms against King John, from whom they exacted the Great Charter on June 15th. Thomas D'Arcy (who married a d'Eyncourt of Blankney) won a law suit which he brought against the Bishop of Lincoln for appointing a Prior of whom he disapproved.

Nocton Priory - seal
Thomas's son, another Norman D'Arcy lost a law-suit which a Prior brought against him for stopping up a right-of-way from the Priory to the Watermill at Dunston. Prior Lane at Dunston is still in existence, leading from the old mill in the direction of Abbey Field. It probably follows the line of the main drive through Nocton Wood, past the trees now known as the Nine Brethren and the Odd Tree, as it is quite obvious these were, years ago, boundary trees and probably divided the Lord of the manor's land from the Priors.

The importance of the D'Arcy barony must have entitled its holders to a writ of personal summons to the great council of the realm from the earliest days in which these special writs were used to distinguish the barons from the tenants-in-chief of lower rank. We find Norman D'Arcy personally summoned to the Parliament of September 1283, and the status of the Lords of Nocton as hereditary barons by writ was clearly established in the person of his oldest son, Philip, born 1259 who was summoned in like manner to every Parliament held from February 1297 to January 1307.

In 1314 another and graver quarrel arose between the Prior and the Lord. Matters came to such a pass that the Prior addressed to the King's Council a petition setting forth that Philip D'Arcy "keeps in his Manor of Nocton several unknown men who are sworn never to to cease from doing all the damage and injury that they can to the said Prior and his house, and who indeed are constantly from day to day seizing the said Prior's farm-beasts, both plough-oxon and others, and doing divers other injuries; so that for this reason the lands belonging to the said Prior lie untilled and unsown, and for those things the said Prior prays that a remedy be provided him". The Council appointed three justices to examine and decide the case, but unfortunately no exact record can be found of the trial or its result; but one account states that Philip was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months.

This same Philip joined in the revolt of Earl Thomas of Lancaster against the King, and was made prisoner with him at Boroughbridge in 1322. His estates were forfeited, but were restored shortly after the execution of the Earl, and Norman then accompanied Edward III. to his Flemish Wars of 1338-1339.

Philip died on March 25th 1340 and on his death Sir Philip de Lymbury and Agnes, wife of Sir Roger de Pedwardine, relatives through marriage, were declared coheirs of the D'Arcy Estates. From Philip's death to 1444, Nocton is totally without history. To fill the blank we have only the pedigrees showing how the Lymbury share of the estate descended to one, Nicholas Wymbishe. It was during this period that the estate was divided between the coheirs, with some probably sold, thereby reducing the once vast acreage.

During the D'Arcy period several attempts were made to establish a market at Nocton which might have considerably influenced its material well being and social development. In 1214 the second Norman D'Arcy obtained from King John a Charter for himself and his heirs to hold a market at his manor in Nocton "but so that it should not be to the injury of the neighbouring markets". The same Charter included the grant of a warren in the same manor. But the forfeiture of Norman's estates in the winter of 1215-6 probably involved the deprivation of this Charter.

In 1281 his grandson, the third Norman, being summoned to show by what tenure he held his estates, and what "liberties" he claimed in them, thus enumerated his rights at Nocton - free warren, gallows, a market every Tuesday, assize of bread and ale, and all other liberties pertaining to a market, and a fair every year on the eve and day of St Mary Magdelene" - 21st and 22nd July. There is no trace that these rights were ever granted.

During the plague known as the 'Black Death', the Vicar and Prior died and also the last of the D'Arcy family. For the next fifty years Nocton was at "sixes and sevens" until a Nicholas Wymbish, whose great grandmother had been a D'Arcy, bought out the interest of his cousins and restored order and prosperity to the parish. He enriched the Priory by gifts of land and houses in London. Nicholas Wymbish was a clergyman, a Canon of Lincoln and Archdeacon of Nottingham; he was also a lawyer and held high office in the Court of Chancery.

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