Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Bad Start for the Lumleys (c.NZ300493)

The Lumley name looms large in the history of County Durham, and the rise of the family in the region begins with an Anglo-Saxon noble by the name of Ligulf (or Liulph) in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. Fleeing the encroaching Normans in the south, he settled ‘up north’ and made a new home for himself among the followers of St.Cuthbert.

He married into the Northumbrian Royal family (to whom he was distantly related) and settled down at what became known as the ‘East Hall’, near the present-day village of Great Lumley. It is long since ruined and (I think) gone, but it was the scene of one of the seminal moments in North-East history.

After the Normans had so savagely ravaged, or ‘harried’, the north during 1069-70, King William I entrusted the bishopric of Durham to one William Walcher. A decent enough man by all accounts, he wasn’t the best of delegators, entrusting much of the administration of his lands to Gilbert and Leofwin, who did their very best to enrage the locals.

Our man Ligulf actually got on quite well with Walcher, but had a bit of a disagreement with him and his deputies on account of some rough treatment he had endured. Much affronted by the accusations, Gilbert and Leofwin conspired to seek revenge on the Saxon upstart. The former is thought to have paid Ligulf a not-so-friendly visit at his East Hall home and murdered the poor chap – probably sometime in the late 1070s

This did nothing to improve relations with the locals. The Normans and their supporters were hugely unpopular in the region, and the murder of Ligulf – a very well-liked guy – was the last straw. So although he wasn’t personally to blame for the crime, Walcher’s failure to punish the miscreants led directly to his own demise. As any student of North-East history will know, the bishop and his entourage (including his two hated henchmen) were soon afterwards jumped upon and slaughtered during a visit to Gateshead.

Walcher’s murder in 1080 brought a further ‘harrying’ for the north by King William’s men. Much of the local nobility were slain or scattered for good – but, as we know, the Lumley family managed to survive.

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