Pre-1500 notes for Acworth Pedigree

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Profile for William Acworth

Born: about 1375
Location: Ackworth, Yorkshire
Father: Uknown
Mother: Unknown
Wife: Unknown
Marriage date: 1400 (approximate)
Children: Humphrey Acworth, William ?
Died: About 1432
Location: Probably at Biscott, Luton, Bedfordshire, England


Flag of Yorkshire (adopted 2008)
... ... ... was born in Ackworth, Yorkshire, England.

Birth & Childhood

William was probably born at Ackworth[1][2], close to Pontefract in Yorkshire in approximately 1375.

William's parents are unknown but he is most likely descended from William de Acworth mentioned[3] as Receiver at Wakefield for the Earl of Lancaster on 13 June 1323[4] and again on 16 June 1324[5]. The strong link to the Earle of Lancaster influenced many later events in the family as they were on the side of the Lancastrians in the War of the Roses. Other Acworths at the time include: Henry de Akeworth who receives pardon for burglary in consideration of his going beyond the seas in the King's Company on 30 October 1339; and Adam de Ackeworth and Beatrice his wife who organise Church services in Pontefract in their memory[6] on 23 November 1340.

Historical Context

William lived through 'interesting times'

  • John of Gaunt became Duke of Lancaster on 23 March 1361. He inherited the Duchy through his wife Blanche, the daughter of Henry Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster. Duke Henry died of the Black Death and the inheritance by John of Gaunt brought the Lancastrian estates into the Royal family.
  • Richard II 1377 – deposed 1399. The son of the Black Prince, Richard was extravagant, unjust and faithless. In 1381 came the Peasants Revolt, led by Wat Tyler. The rebellion was put down with great severity. The sudden death of his first wife Anne of Bohemia completely unbalanced Richard and his extravagance, acts of revenge and tyranny turned his subjects against him. Richard II hated John of Gaunt's son Henry of Bolingbroke. He was determined to ensure the Lancastrians had no claim to the throne after Richard's death without issue.
  • On 16 Sep 1398, Bolingbroke was exiled for 10 years but promised his Lancastrian inheritance on his father's death.
  • On 3 Feb 1399 - Richard II confiscated the Lancastrian estates, declared Bolingbroke a traitor and exiled him for life on 18th March 1399.
  • Henry IV (1399 – 1413) The son of John of Gaunt (third son of Edward III), Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, returned from exile in France to reclaim his estates previously seized by Richard II; he was accepted as king by Parliament. Richard was murdered, probably by starvation, in Pontefract Castle in 1400. Henry spent most of his 13 year reign defending himself against plots, rebellions and assassination attempts. In Wales, Owen Glendower declared himself Prince of Wales and led a national uprising against English rule. Back in England, Henry had great difficulty in maintaining the support of both the clergy and Parliament and between 1403-08 the Percy family launched a series of rebellions against him. Henry, the first Lancastrian king, died exhausted, probably of leprosy, at the age of 45.

As the Acworths worked for the Lancastrian household it appears they were his supporters and a job in 1399 in the royal household was the reward.

William Acworth appears to be part of the Royal Household of Henry IV by 1400. On 24 Feb 1400, William as the King's Sergeant, is sent to the Prior of St. Frideswide Oxford, to take of that house such maintenance as Nicholas Spaldyng deceased had therein[7].

  • Henry V (1413 – 1422) the son of Henry IV was a pious, stern and skilful soldier. Henry had honed his fine soldiering skills putting down the many rebellions launched against his father and had been knighted when aged just 12. He pleased his nobles by renewing the war with France in 1415. In the face of tremendous odds he beat the French at the Battle of Agincourt, losing just 400 of his own soldiers with more than 6,000 Frenchmen killed. On a second expedition Henry captured Rouen, was recognised as the next King of France and married Catherine, the daughter of the lunatic French king. Henry died of dysentery whilst campaigning in France and before he could succeed to the French throne, leaving his 10-month old son as King of England and France.
  • Henry VI (1422 – deposed 1461) Gentle and retiring, he came to the throne as a baby. His protector[8] was Duke Humphrey, the younger brother of Henry V. Henry VI inherited a losing war with France, the Hundred Years War finally ending in 1453 with the loss of all French lands except for Calais. The king had an attack of mental illness that was hereditary in his mother’s family in 1454 and Richard Duke of York was made Protector of the Realm. The House of York challenged Henry VI’s right to the throne and England was plunged into civil war. The Battle of St Albans in 1455 was won by the Yorkists. Henry was restored to the throne briefly in 1470. Henry’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury one day before Henry was murdered in the Tower of London in 1471. Henry founded both Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge, and every year the Provosts of Eton and King’s College lay roses and lilies on the altar which now stands where he died.

The Move to Bedfordshire

William seems to have moved south shortly before 1400, presumably at the time of the corronation of Henry IV in 1399. The previous King Richard II died at Pontefract Castle close to the village of Ackworth that William had been brought up in.

Henry V and his brother Duke Humphrey fought at The Battle of Agincourt in 1515. It would not be surprising if William Acworth had taken some part in the action. In any case he seems to have had money to spend the next year when he bought lands in Bedfordshire in 1416[9] where he paid 100 marks of silver (about 67 pounds) for 1 messuage, 6 tofts, 240 acres of arable land and other property in Biscote, Luton and Lymbury and in 1418[10] where paid 40 pounds for a moiety (half) of the manor of Byscote.

Education & Legal Career

As William acts as attourney to Humphrey Duke of Gloucester from 1420?, he must have received a legal education at some point prior to this. There is no record yet as to where this must have occurred but as Duke Humphrey is strongly associated with Oxford[8], the possibility exists that they met there.

Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VI: Volume 1, 1422-1426 - confirms William Acworth of Bedford was the Attorney to Duke Humphrey - younger brother of Henry 5th. [11]


It is not known when or to whom William married but this would have been about the time he moved south in 1399 as his first son Humphrey[12] is born in 1401. THe case in the Court of Common Pleas where Humphrey is a defendant states that he is the son and heir of William Acworth (fil & hered Willi Acworth) of Luton, Beds, Gent. William was dead by this time, otherwise Humphrey would be heir apparent. It is not known where they lived prior to his purchase of the Manor at Biscott in 1418.


William Akworth is recorded[13] as being dead by November 1432. ==Research Notes==

  • 1420 William Acworth, plaintiff, trespass close and taking at Luton, (Common Pleas)[14]
  • 1420 William Akworth, plaintiff, Statue of Laborers, (Common Pleas)[15]
  • 1425 William Acworth, esquire, plaintiff, trespass at Luton, (Common Pleas)[16]

Acworth Arms and History

The Acworth Family are descended from those who lived in the Parish of Ackworth[17] in Yorkshire. Ackworth is seen to be only 6 km from Pontefract where the Castle has figured in English History on a number of occaisons. In 1536, the castle's guardian, Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy handed over the castle to the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, a Catholic rebellion from northern England against the rule of King Henry VIII. Lord Darcy was executed for this alleged "surrender," which the king viewed as an act of treason.

In 1541, during a royal tour of the provinces, it was alleged that King Henry's fifth wife, Queen Catherine Howard, committed her first act of adultery with Sir Thomas Culpeper at Pontefract Castle, a crime for which she was apprehended and executed without trial.

The Wikkispedia entry for the Parish of Acworth gives the historical background for the Parish dating back to the 8th Century.,_West_Yorkshire

The earliest occurrence that has yet been found of the adoption of the name appears in the publications of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, wherein John Ackewrde is shewn to be one of the jurors in an inquisition post-mortem on Emma Wasthose held on 13 February 1250[18].

Tabard of the Acworth Family of Bedfordshire

In the British Museum MSS Room may be seen a roll displaying ancient devices in coat armour, of which this griffin segreant (Lion rampant) is one, with the name Acworth beneath. The date of the drawing would be, from the style of the armour, thirteenth or fourteenth century.

In the Church at Luton in Bedfordshire there is a memorial brass commemorating John Acworth.

Memorial brass in Luton Church - John Acworth and wives Alys and Amy.

The brass shows an effigy of a man between his two wives and underneath are eight boys and nine girls. The man is in armour, his head resting on a helmet, with crest: Out of a coronet a hand grasping a sepent. A fine rubbing of the brass can be seen in the British Museum MSS. Room (Ref 32,490, F F 15). It has the following inscription at foot:

Pray for the soules of John Acworth squire & Alys and Amy his wyfes whiche John deceased the xvij day of Marche the year of o'Lord MDXEEE (17 March 1513) on whose soules thu have m'cy.

The brass shows four shields, three of which are three crowns quartered with three roses. The fourth shield is a griffin segreant.

The three crowns quartered with roses are the Leche Family Arms and the crest grasping a serpent is also Leche. What family the three roses indicate is uncertain. That the Leche crest should be displayed in three places makes it even more remarkable. The fourth crest is a griffin segreant and there may be no doubt that, although not enrolled at the Heralds' College, it represents the arms rightfully belonging to the Acworth Family. The griffin segreant is the device seen on the tabard.

William Acworth died in 1606, approximately 100 years after his Great Grandfather John Acworth, but was clearly still aware of his right to bear arms. The memorial brass at St Michael's Church, Oxfordshire clearly shows the same shield as that used in 3 of the corners of the Luton Church memorial brass.

William Acworth memorial brass

Abraham Acworth was born approximately another 100 years later in 1719 and died in 1781. He applied for a grant of arms. The letter awarding this is reproduced below[18] Page 41 (frontpiece)</ref> and is a nice example of the ceremony of the times...

Arms of Abraham Acworth

The Grant of Arms to Abraham is given:

To All and Singular to whom these Presents shall come John Anstis, Esquire, Garter Principal King of Arms and Stephen Martin Leake, Esquire, Clarenceux King of Arms, Send Greeting, Whereas those Badges or Ensigns of Gentility commonly called and known by the Name of Arms have heretofore been and are still continued to be conferred upon deserving Persons to distinguish them from the common sort of people who neither can or may pretend to use them without Lawful Authority and WHEREAS Abraham Acworth of the Parish of St John the Evangelist in the City of Westminster, Esquire, hath represented unto the Right Honorable Thomas, Earl of Effingham, Deputy (with the Royal Approbation) to the Most Noble, Edward, Duke of York, Earl Marshall, and Hereditary Marshall of England, that his Ancestors have for upwards of a century borne and used for their Arms: Quarterly First and and Fourth Ermine on a Chief Daucette Gules, three Crowns Or within a Border Sable, Second and Third Argent Three Roses Gules and for the Crest an Armed Arm grasping a Serpent proper Issuing out of a Ducal Coronet Or, but for want of due Entrys being made in the Records of the College of Arms is unable with certainty to prove such right thereto as the Strict Laws of Arms require, and being unwilling to continue such Ensigns of Honour without an unquestionable Authority hath therefore prayed his Lordship's Warrant for Our Exemplifying and confirming the same Arms and Crest with such variation as shall be necessary to be borne and used by him and his Descendants and the Descendants of his father John Acworth according to the ancient usage and the Customs of Arms and forasmuch as his Lordship duly considering the Premises and also the Qualifications of the said Abraham Acworth did by Warrant under his Hand and Seal bearing date the Twenty seventh day of June 1748 Order and direct Us to Exemplify and Confirm unto him the said Abraham Acworth and the Desendants aforesaid such Arms and Crest accordingly, Now Know Ye that We the said Garter and Clarenceux in pursuance of the Consent of the said Earl of Effingham and by Vertue of the Letters Patent of Our Offices to each of Us respectively Granted do by these Presents Exemplify and Confirm unto the said Abraham Acworth the Arms and Crest following Viz Quarterly per fesse dovetail First and Fourth Ermine on a Chief dancette Gules dancetre Gules three Crowns Argent within a Border Sable Besanty, Second and Third Argent three Roses Gules each charg'd in the centre with a Mullet Or And for the Crest On a Wreath of the Colours an Armed Arm Or Issuing out of a Coronet charged with three Strawberry leaves Gules the hand grasping a Serpent proper holding in its mouth an Annulet Sable as the same in the margin hereof are more lively depicted to be borne and used for ever hereafter by him the said Abraham Acworth and his Descendants and also by the Descendants of his Father John Acworth with their due and proper differences according to the ancient usage and practice of Arms without Lett ot Interuption of any person or Persons whatsoever in witness whereof We the said Garter and Clarenceux Kings of Arms have to these Presents subscribed Our Names and ffixed the Seals of Our seveeral Offices the Seventh day of July in the Twenty Second year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second by the Grace of God King of Great Britain France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc, and in the year of Our Lord One thousand seven hundred and forty eight. John Anstis: Garter Principal King of Arms
Stephen Martin Leake: Clarenceux King of Arms

In 1905 Green and Acworth[18] expresses a lack of satisfaction with the 1748 document:

On 7 July 1748 Abraham took out a grant of arms for all descendants of his father John Acworth, but the grant became extinct in 1818 by the death of his son Buckeridge Ball. The charges on the shield are evidently intended to bear some outward resemblance to the quarterigs shewn at Luton, Bedfordshire, of date 1513, but sadly garbled; and the indication thrown in of bastardy on a composition that is also intentionally deprived of any inner meaning is needless and absurd. But Abraham was unaware of the grounds on which he might with propriety have used the much older griffin device; he states in fact that he has lost trace of his desent, though his family have long used arms.

Early Acworth History

The recorded early history of the family begins with a William Acworth who was the attourney to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, younger brother to Henry V. Clearly, William must have come from an established family to have reached this social level. He is thought to have moved south from Ackworth in Yorkshire and buys lands in Bedfordshire and establishes the family at Biscott Mannor.

The Wikipedia History of Acworth provides some interesting clues to these earlier years. The earliest mention of the village appears in the 1086 Domesday Book: "Manor in Ackworth". Erdulf & Osulf have six carucates of land to be taxed, where there might be five ploughs. Humphry now holds it of Ilbert. [Humphry] himself has there one plough and a half, and fourteen villains, and two boors. There is a Church there, and priest; one mill, of sixteen pence. According to the Domesday Book, Ilbert de Lacy was Lord of a Manor able to employ five ploughs. His vassal was the Humphrey mentioned in the book, who himself owned one-and-a-half ploughs (about a quarter of the manor). The rest was divided between two farmers, who also acted as Humphry's tenants. De Lacy was a Norman knight, who received land for services to William the Conqueror.

Note: Humphrey was a name that occurs in the early Acworth Family Tree as a son of WIlliam Acworth. As William Acworth served Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, it had been assumed he had named his son Humphrey in honour of the Duke. It is also possible that Humphrey was a family name.

Ilbert de Lacy was born in Laci, Normandy in 1045. He was the son of Hugh de Lacy. He invaded England with William the Conqueror and took extensive part in taming the north for which he was awarded lands in Yorkshire and other counties. He made Pontefract his base and built an extensive castle there.

Of considerable interest are the Lacy Family Arms:

The Lacy Arms

These arms appear to be the same as the Acworth Family Tabard. So was John Acworth, and Wiliam before him, in the service of the Lacy Family?


  1. [Wikipedia contributors, "Ackworth, West Yorkshire," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, [1] (accessed March 12, 2022).]
  2. ["Google Maps - Ackworth, Yorkshire" [2]]
  3. [Green, W.A. and G. Brindley Acworth. Pedigree of Acworth of Bedfordshire, Etc.: Together with some notes on the genealogy. London: Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, 1905. FamilySearch. See also this space page: Acworth Pedigree]
  4. ["Close Rolls - 16 Edward II" [3]]
  5. ["Close Rolls - 17 Edward II"[4]]
  6. ["Caledar of Patent Rolls - 14 Edward III - Part III" [5]]
  7. [["Close Rolls, Henry IV: November 1399," in Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry IV: Volume 1, 1399-1402, ed. A E Stamp (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1927), 98-100. British History Online, accessed March 13, 2022, [6]]
  8. 8.0 8.1 [Wikipedia contributors, "Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, [7] (accessed March 13, 2022).]
  9. ["Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy" Bedfordshire Fleet of Fines CP 25/1/6/77, number 7. [8]]
  10. ["Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy" Bedfordshire Fleet of Fines CP 25/1/6/76 Number 17 [9]]
  11. ["Close Rolls, Henry VI: March 1426," in Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VI: Volume 1, 1422-1429, ed. A E Stamp (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1933), 222-223. British History Online, accessed March 13, 2022, [10]]
  12. ["Common Pleas - 1434 "[11]]
  13. ["Close Rolls - II Henry VI" [12]]
  17. [Wikipedia contributors, "Ackworth, West Yorkshire," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, [13] (accessed March 12, 2022).]
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 'The Acworth Family Pedigree - Page 13'

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