Blencowe Brides 4: Elizabeth Vipont (c1346 to after 1420)

Elizabeth married Thomas de Blencowe, Adam's middle son. On 22 November 1420, already widowed, she released her dower rights to their son William and his wife Joan. She named Nicholas Vepond (a version of the Veteripont surname) as her father. It is this single fact, supplying her surname, which enabled me to trace Elizabeth's ancestry. I also felt that as I had concentrated on the Northampton Blencowe brides in earlier articles and that I should balance this with a Cumbrian bride, although not someone in my direct ancestry.

Elizabeth was born about 1346 - 1349. Her brother Robert died in 1370, unmarried and without issue. An inquiry into his estate in 1370 stated that he was the son of Nicholas de Vipont, deceased, and the grandson of Robert de Vipont, still living. The enquiry records that Elizabeth Vespount, daughter of Nicholas de Vespont, and wife of Thomas de Blencowe, was required to find security with her husband, and her sister Joan and her husband, William Wythlaw, for the manor of Johnby. By 1371 grandfather Robert had died too.

Elizabeth's parents were Nicholas de Veteripont and Eleanor d'Aubeny (daughter of Robert d'Aubeny (a notable family) and Eleanor de Dufton, who died 1311, daughter of John de Dufton from whom she inherited the manor of Keisley).

Elizabeth's mother, died in 1367, having survived her husband. She lived at Keisley with her children. The manor had a corn mill, orchards and crops which were strip farmed. Most of the manor was however in pastureland for grazing sheep. Elizabeth inherited lands in Dufton, three miles from Appleby, an area that is remote and windswept. It takes only a little imagination to envisage Elizabeth riding these hills, with sheep and cattle rough grazing on the fells, perhaps hunting with her hawk in times of peace. In times of unrest, like others, she would watch the skyline anxiously for the columns of smoke signalling that the Scots were on their way, looting and firing villages and farmsteads as they came.

Elizabeth's paternal family had been prominent in Cumberland for several centuries before her birth, and there is a wealth of information about their deeds, and misdeeds, including a number of court cases involving not only disgruntled neighbours and vassals, but also the Crown. Her 5 x grandfather Ivo (c1160 - c1242) may be seen as Elizabeth's "gateway ancestor" linking her to the Norman-French nobility who came over to England at the Conquest. Vieuxponts (an even earlier version of the surname) were amongst Duke William's supporters at Hastings in 1066. Ivo and his brother Robert, and earlier ancestors fought (and in some cases died) in the Crusades. The Veteripont's chief estates in England and France passed to Ivo's brother Robert, who was Sheriff of Westmoreland for many years. Their mother was Maude de Morville, sister to the Hugh de Morville who was one of the 5 knights involved in the murder of Thomas a Beckett.

Even as a junior branch of the family Elizabeth's nearer ancestors were well off. They held the manor of Alston Moor which was held under the King of Scotland. The manor included a silver mine. Many records remain, documenting disputes with the miners, and even an attempt by the English Crown to wrest the manor back for alleged transgressions of manorial law on the part of the her great grandfather. They also held lands in Northamptonshire, again mostly under the Scottish King. They had other lands where the English King was their feudal overlord. Elizabeth's father (Nicholas) and grandfather (Robert) do not appear to have been active in Cumbrian affairs, keeping a low profile.

Did Elizabeth live in present day Blencowe Hall?

There is conflicting evidence as to whether the present Blencowe Hall is the home that Elizabeth knew. A 1344 gift between Elizabeth's grandfather and Adam refers to Blencowe House as being in Great Blencowe, which is on the opposite side of the river, in the parish of Dacre, from the present house. However a gift in 1406 from Thomas and Elizabeth's trustees to William and Joan (their son and his wife), after giving lands in Little Blencowe, which is in the parish of Greystoke, then gave "a tenement in Blencow on the other side of the river in which Adam of Blencowe once lived with certain lands there called le Keppelandes". The footings of massive walls of a moated tower house can still be seen in the field adjacent to the road, about 2 ½ miles east of the present manor house. This suggests to me that part at least of Blencowe Hall was built during Elizabeth's lifetime.

Elizabeth and Thomas's Descendants — did they found both the Cumbrian and Northampton lines of Blencowes?

On 1 October 1408 Thomas Blencowe and his son William gave lands in Greystoke, Newbiggin and Motherby to Thomas's brother John and his sister-in-law Joan, which were to revert to Thomas if John and Joan's heirs failed.

Joan's will of 22 April 1436, proved 29th April 1436, showed that she survived her husband John. She left gifts to her son Robert and his wife Agnes; to her married daughter Joan and her daughter Joan; and to her daughter Elena, a nun. In 1472 a dispute arose between Richard Blencowe and William Southake (note that Adam Blencowe's second marriage was to a Margery de Southayk), over ownership of the mill and other lands in Blencowe, Greystoke and Motherby on the death of Robert Blencowe, John and Joan Blencowe's son.

The 1408 deed expressly stated that the lands were to revert to Thomas and Elizabeth's descendants if John and Joans line failed of heirs. The arbitration award in 1472, which returned the lands to Richard Blencowe, clearly stated that the dispute concerned the entail.

If John had another surviving son or grandson who founded the Northamptonshire family, why did these lands not pass to them, as they were in the direct male line, rather than reverting to Richard? Also note that Elizabeth's family had had lands in Northampton — possibly she had inherited a small holding which she had been able to pass on to a younger son. Was the John Blencowe who settled in Marston St Lawrence in Northamptonshire in fact also a descendant of Thomas Blencowe and Elizabeth de Veteripont, rather than of John Blencowe & Joan Briscoe? I consider that this is very likely, indeed more likely.

The intriguing possibility (probability?) thereby arises that the Northamptonshire Blencowes can also lay claim to Elizabeth Veteripont as an ancestress, and with that, the intrigue and rich and varied history of her family. This may be wishful thinking on my part — I count the Northamptonshire Blencowes in my ancestry after all — but there is logic to the events outlined above that should be given serious consideration.

The information available on Elizabeth & her forebears rapidly grew beyond the bounds of the newsletter, & I have edited my research into about 93 pages of A4 with illustrations & tables. There are extracts from original documents & comments on what these reveal about the family & their life — being a lawyer in the day job helps considerably as some of the archaic language has only been phased out in the UK in recent times. I cover the history of the time in which she lived, the effects of the Black Death & the Border Wars, & how they lived as well as her ancestry back to the Conquest & a little beyond. Elizabeth started to rather fascinate me!

If there is any interest in copies of this then I will edit it into a booklet - the cost will be around £7.50 plus postage. I can also speak to my I.T. Expert (husband) about whether it could be produced in a CD format. Please let me know via ruth @ whether you would be interested in this project.

Ruth Jenkins