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Thomas De Furnival

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After Waltheof, the first Lord of Hallamshire, was beheaded at Winchester in 1076, a powerful Norman knight, Roger de Busli, who had come over with the Conqueror, became principal tenant to Judith, the widow of Waltheof, as recorded in Domesday Book. Subsequently he held vast estates in Sheffield, Worksop, and Tickhill where he built a castle.

About the year 1090 the Manor of Sheffield passed into the hands of another Norman baron, William de Lovetot, who, early in the twelfth century, built a Castle, founded or restored the Parish Church, built a town mill, erected a bridge over the Don, and founded St. Leonard’s Hospital near to a spot now known as Spital Hill. He was also the founder of Worksop Priory, to which the Parish Church of Sheffield was annexed. Beauchief Abbey was founded by Fitz- Ranulph about the same time.

The de Lovetots, who had their principal seat at Sheffield, were lords of Hallamshire for nearly a hundred years. Having no son in the direct succession, their vast estates passed in 1181 to Maud, an only daughter at the age of seven, who, according to law, became the ward of King Henry II., whose son, Richard Coeur de Lion, gave her in marriage to Gerard de Furnival, son of a Norman knight, and so Sheffield came into possession of the Furnivals.

The name Furnival is derived from a place in Normandy called Fernefal, the hereditary seat of a noble family of that name. This Gerard Furnival was strongly attached to the cause of King John, and tradition says that he entertained the King at Sheffield about 1215 [Highly unlikely - RichardB]

Having joined the Crusades he fell at Jerusalem in 1219, leaving Maud a widow. About eighteen years later his son and successor, Thomas de Furnival, was slain in battle in Palestine, and the body was brought for burial to Worksop Priory, where his mother Maud, who lived to a great age, was also buried.

In the year 1240 another Gerard de Furnival, son of the above Thomas, became third Lord of Hallamshire, but died without leaving children, and was succeeded by his brother Thomas.

This second Thomas, on becoming Lord of Hallamshire, received permission from the King to

"embattle, fortify, strengthen, re-wall "

Sheffield Castle, which a few years before had been burnt and greatly injured, as a reprisal for de Furnival upholding the cause of Henry III against the Barons.

In the restored Castle was a domestic chapel served by two chaplains and a clerk from Worksop Priory, to whom de Furnival arranged to pay five marks yearly. He died shortly after the completion of the Castle, and was buried in the Chapel attached to the Castle.

(See http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/i...?showtopic=5885 )

An anonymous chronicler of 220 years ago says tThat when the Chapel was demolished, after the civil war, a large flat stone was found inscribed with the words:





It is said that the stone coffin in which the body lay was subsequently used as a watering trough at the Manor farm. Anyone visiting the Manor ruins today may see near to the Lodge a large stone coffin supposed to be the one referred to.

This Lord Furnival was succeeded by a son, also named Thomas, the main subject of this chapter, whose lot was cast in stormy times. Amongst other things he was called upon about 1300 to take part on the Northern border in the expedition against Scotland.

He was appointed by Edward the First to be Captain-General and Lieutenant of the Counties of Nottingham and Derby. For many years, up to his death in 1333, he sat in Parliament.

"He was," says Hunter, "the true patriot, not more intent on establishing on a firm basis the rights of the baronage of England, than on raising the character and consequence of the class below."

Amid changeful times "he seems to have been uniformly safe and prosperous as he was always prudent, liberal, and valiant."

This Thomas de Furnival held the lordship of Sheffield for more than half a century, and to him the town owes much more than can be told in words; indeed he may be regarded as its maker.

When of full age he was called upon to prove his rights to the estates and privileges which he had inherited; which, among other things, included the gallows and pillory at Sheffield, the assize (i.e., the standard price) of bread and beer, market rights, the regulation of measures, and various exemptions.

In November, 1296, he obtained from the King a sealed charter for a market every week on Tuesday at his manor of Sheffield, and also for a yearly fair extending over three days.

But something far more important and beneficial to the people was to follow namely, a grant, known as the Magna Charta of Sheffield, which gave to its people special rights and privileges. It may be said with certainty that the oldest and most important document belonging to Sheffield is the original Furnival Charter, which has long been in the possession of the Town Trustees, and of which we give a facsimile.

Written in Latin on parchment 10 and a half inches by 4 and a half inches, to which a wax seal is attached, it is in an excellent state of preservation. Dated August 4, 1297, it bears the signature of Thomas de Furnival, witnessed by persons of rank in the immediate neighbourhood, whose names appear in the translation of the Charter given at the end of this chapter.

The objects of the Charter were :—

(1) The abolition of those base and uncertain services by which the inhabitants of the town of Sheffield held their tenements of the lord, and the substitution in their stead of a fixed annual payment in money, £3 8s. 9d., which was paid by the inhabitants under the description of the Burgery Rents.

(2) It provided for the due administration of public municipal justice, by declaring that the Court-baron should be held at Sheffield every three weeks as before by the lord’s officer.

(3) It declared that the inhabitants of Sheffield should be free from all exaction of toll throughout the whole circuit of Hallamshire whether they were vendors or purchasers.

The provisions of the Charter and their effect will be found in Hunter’s "Hallamshire," and are fully explained by Mr. J. D. Leader in his " Records of the Burgery of Sheffield," and also by Mr. S. O. Addy in his "Hall of Waltheof."

Hunter observes that

" When Sheffield became in consequence of this Charter a free borough, the question naturally arises why it was not summoned to send its representatives to the House of Commons as were other boroughs of less consideration,"

and says that the answer seems to be that the town might be considered as virtually represented by its Lord who was regularly summoned to take his seat in the House of Peers.

The immediate practical effect of the Charter was that it gave to all free tenants and their heirs the freehold property they occupied on payment of a certain sum half-yearly in discharge of all services and demands.

Dr. Gatty says:

" It was a great charter of emancipation which lifted the people out of a state of serfage into that of free citizens."

The fourteenth century was a time of emancipation of the agricultural classes. In the "Transactions" of the Hunter Archaeological Society, vol. 1, page 31, is an article on " Sheffield in the Fourteenth Century; Two Furnival Inquisitions," by Professor Curtis, in which he gives a lengthy and most interesting account of lands in Hallamshire under the old manorial and agricultural system, and shows how the lords, anxious for money, allowed their villein tenants to commute their forced labour services, or “ boon works," into money rents, by which bondsmen and tenants at will, gained a secure position as tenants by copy of Court Roll, and so were known as copy-holders.

Late in life Lord Furnival made an agreement with the monks of Worksop by which, amongst other things, he exchanged the tithes of his manor of Sheffield for an annual payment in money.

Some writers have said that the Town Trust was founded on the Furnival Grant of 1297, owing to the fact that the Trust has the Charter in its possession, but there is ample proof that this is a mistake.

The fact is that the villanes, or occupiers, having been raised to free tenants or freeholders, soon began to dispose of their properties, not seldom for the benefit of the town and its church. This ultimately led to the origin of public trusts, now known as the Town Trust and the Church Burgesses, the latter of which rests on a Charter granted by Queen Mary in 1554.

The Town Trust on its present lines, says Mr. J. B. Wheat, was practically constituted about 1552. The idea that these two public trusts absorbed the whole of the properties in Sheffield enfranchised by the Furnival Charter is without foundation.

The Furnivals were without doubt a wise and beneficent race who ruled the town and greatly advanced its prosperity.

Thomas de Furnival, grantor of the Charter, died in 1332, and was, it is said, buried in the Church of the Barefoot Friars at Doncaster.

He was succeeded by his son Thomas, who died at Sheffield Castle in 1339, end was buried with great ceremony et Beauchief Abbey.

This last Thomas was followed by a son, also called Thomas, described as a " stern and right hasty man," who was with Edward III. during his wars with France, and took part in the great battle of Cressy. He died without children in 1366, and was buried at Worksop, where his mutilated monument may be seen.

His successor to the Castle and Lordship of Sheffield was his brother William, who died in 1383, end whose death ended the male line of the Furnivals.

He left a daughter and heiress named Joan who carried the property to her husband, Sir Thomas Nevil, younger brother of the Earl of Westmoreland.

Their daughter and heiress, Maud, carried the estate to her husband, John Talbot, the first Earl of Shrewsbury; and so the inheritance of the Furnivals passed on to the Talbots.

Hunter’s "Hallamshire" gives a pedigree of the Furnivals with many historical and genealogical details. The London residence of the Furnivals was in Holborn, where stands Furnival’s Inn. The name survives in Sheffield in a third-rate street known as Furnival Street.

It may be said here that about the time of the union of the Lovetots end Furnivals, two other influential families had sprung up in Sheffield possessing large properties and peculiar privileges, namely, the de Ecclesalls, and the de Mounteneys.

The former derived their name from extensive estates at Ecclesall, and had their own chapel, their court, and copyholders; whilst the Mounteneys had their seat at Shiercliffe, and also an ancient moated hall at Cowley, Ecclesfield.

These two families, along with the de Wadsleys and the de Wortleys, fought under the banner of the Furnivals, and, with slight alterations, assumed their arms.

Gerard de Furnival, who was a great benefactor to Worksop Abbey, gave to the canons of Beauchief Abbey liberty to turn thirty cows into his extensive woods and pastures at Fulwood, and also granted an acre of land on which to erect shelters.

His son, Thomas, gave to the canons Fulwood Grange and other lands for pasture for their cattle; his grandson made further gifts to the Abbey, including four acres of meadow land in Sheffield.

Both were commemorated by the Beauchief canons as departed benefactors.

The later Furnivals do not seem to have resided very much at Sheffield, and there is evidence that in the latter part of the fourteenth century they disposed of considerable portions of the Manor between the castle and the church.

We have referred to Joan, wife of Sir Thomas Nevil, and Maud, their daughter, who at the age of seventeen married John Talbot, who became the first Earl of Shrewsbury, through whom the Lordship of Hallamshire passed into the Talbot family, in which it remained for 200 years, when it passed again by marriage to the family of Howard, the present owners.

We thus see that the present Duke of Norfolk with his extensive estates in Sheffield and the district, is the lineal descendant of an unbroken line of ancestors reaching almost back to the Conquest, namely, the Lovetots, Furnivals, Nevils, Talbots, and Howards.

This chapter may fitly close by an attempt to picture Sheffield as it was in the days of the Lovetots and Furnivals.

Hunter says that :

" Some idea of the extent of the town may be formed from the position of the Parish Church. A few struggling huts and smithies forming an irregular street extending from the castle and bridge to the church gate, with a few houses lying towards the town mill, and perhaps a branch stretching in a south-west direction forming what is now called the Fargate, in respect of its distance from the Castle, seemed to have formed the whole town."

The town grew much during the times of the Furnivals. In those times there were in Sheffield makers of arrow heads and the rough weapons and defences of the common soldier; also smiths, who forged tools and made domestic articles. There are records of steel and iron forges.

More over, it is evident that Sheffield was becoming widely known for its cutlery. Chaucer, in his " Canterbury Tales," describing one of a company of pilgrims, a miller, says:

" A Sheffield thwytel bore he in his hose."

The thwytel was a knife carried by the common people. We have the word whittle—to cut or pare wood with a knife-- still in use.

Hunter thinks that the Thomas Furnival, the grantor of the Great Charter, encouraged his tenants in Hallamshire to trade, and that in the fourteenth century the importance of commerce and manufacture was beginning to be well understood.


To all the faithful of Christ who shall see or hear this present writing Thomas de Furnivall the third, Son and heir of Sir Thomas de Furnivall, eternal salvation in the Lord, Know ye that I have demised granted and delivered in fee farm to all my free tenants of the town of Schefeld and their heirs all the tofts lands and tenements which they hold of me in the aforesaid town of Schefeld ; my said tenants and their heirs holding and having of me and my heirs the aforesaid tofts lands and tenements with all their appurtenances within and beyond the town of Schefeld, belonging to them, in fee and heredity, freely quietly well and in peace for ever; so that my free warren be not hindered nor in any way disturbed by the aforesaid tenants.

They my said tenants and their heirs rendering therefor annually to me and my heirs sixty eight shillings ninepence and a farthing in silver at two periods of the year that is to say one half at the Nativity of our Lord and the other half at the Nativity of the blessed John the Baptist in lieu of all services and demands Saving to me and my heirs fealty escheats and suit of my Court from the aforesaid tenants.

Moreover I will and grant that the Court of the said town of Schefeld for my tenants aforesaid shall be held within the aforesaid town every three weeks by my Bailiffs as it has been accustomed to be held in the time of my ancestors. And if it should happen that my said tenants or any of them should be fined on account of any offence in my said Coart I will and grant for myself and my heirs that they shall be fined by their equals and this according to the measure of the offence.

Furthermore I will and grant for myself and my heirs that the aforesaid tenants and their heirs whether buying or selling shall be for ever free throughout the whole of Hallumschire from all dues and demand of toll as they have been accustomed in the time of my ancestors.

And I the aforesaid Thomas and my heirs will warrant all these things aforesaid with their appurtenances aforesaid as it is aforesaid unto my aforesaid tenants and their heirs for ever against all people.

In witness of these things I have completed these present writings after the manner of a chirograph, the seals of the parties are affixed interchangeably.

Witnesses Sir Robert de Ecclissale, Sir Edmund Foliot, Thomas de Schefeld, Thomas de Mounteney, Robert de Wadislay, Ralph de Wadislay, Thomas de Furneys, William de Darnale, Robert le Breton now Senescall of Hallumschire and others.

Given at Schefeld, the 4th of ldes of August, A.D. 1297.


Ides-A term used by the ancient Romans in reckoning time.

N0TE.——The original Charter is in the possession of the Burgery of Sheffield, commonly called the Town Trust. Mr. J. D. Leader says that in the village community founded before the Norman Invasion: " Public property was administered by the people themselves, acting together as a community and called a Burgery, but without any formal charter of incorporation." (Burgery of Sheffield, Page Xxii.)

(We will get the Duke De Alva soon biggrin.gif - RichardB)

(from "Historic Personages in Sheffield, from Waltheof to Wolsey" by Rev W Odom)

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  • 2 years later...
History dude

An anonymous chronicler of 220 years ago says tThat when the Chapel was demolished, after the civil war, a large flat stone was found inscribed with the words:





One publication (I have a PDF of it) says that this stone ended up in Nottingham Castle Museum. Though I have never been able to confirm it!

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