OSMUNDLAW, William, of Langrigg, Cumb.
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Family and Education
m. by 1400, Joan, at least 1s. Kntd. by Nov. 1402.1
Collector of customs, Cumb. 3 Nov. 1402-2 Jan. 1403.
Sheriff, Cumb. 29 Nov. 1402-5 Nov. 1403.
Collector of an aid for the marriage of Princess Philippa, Cumb. Dec. 1406.
Bailiff of the liberty of Cockermouth, Cumb. for Ralph, earl of Westmorland, by 30 Apr. 1407.
J.p. Cumb. 16 Nov. 1413-Jan. 1419.
Escheator, Cumb. and Westmld. 8 Dec. 1416-30 Nov. 1417.
Commr. of array, Cumb. Mar. 1419.
The Osmundlaws were an old family, originally connected with Furness in north-west Lancashire, although by the early 14th century a branch had settled at Waverton in Cumberland. William’s early life remains obscure, but he was evidently a landowner of some substance, at least by the time of his son’s marriage. According to a lawsuit brought some years after his death by his widowed daughter-in-law, he had then been able to dispose of property in Carlisle, Aketon, Aynthorn, Blencogo, Dundraw, Kelsick, Lowthwaite and Whitrigg. Even allowing for exaggeration on her part, it is evident from an enfeoffment of 1400 that he did indeed own land and tenements in Carlisle, Aketon and Aynthorn, as well as other holdings in the vills of Botcherby, Caldecotes, Cummersdale, Etterby, ‘Solum’, Stubsgill, Whelpo and elsewhere in Cumberland. He is, moreover, said to have built Langrigg Hall, which become the family seat; and he also enjoyed a life tenancy of messuages and land in Blindcrake and a burgage in Kirkby in Kendal (Westmorland).2
William is first mentioned in June 1382, when he stood surety at the Exchequer for the farmers of a royal fishery at Carlisle. In the following year he represented the borough in Parliament, but he did not otherwise show much enthusiasm for the business of local government. Indeed, he seems to have confined his interests to acting as a feoffee-to-uses for Sir Robert Muncaster* in Threapland and Blennerhasset, being assisted in this capacity by his neighbours, Sir Clement Skelton* and Thomas Sands*. He may, perhaps, have been related to Sibyl, the mother or stepmother of Robert Bristowe*, for whom he appeared as an attorney at Penrith in 1392, when she was involved in a collusive lawsuit. Some years later he and John Eaglesfield* offered bail in £40 for a local man at the Carlisle assizes, so his relative inactivity at this time was not due to a lack of useful connexions.3 Not until September 1397 did he again serve in the House of Commons, this time as a shire knight for Cumberland. Although the Parliament gave every support to Richard II in his vendetta against the Lords Appellant of 1388, William himself seems to have been more sympathetic towards the King’s victims. At all events, it was only after Henry IV’s seizure of the throne in 1399 that, as a newly created knight, he began to involve himself seriously in administrative affairs, becoming both a collector of customs and sheriff of Cumberland three years later. His term as sheriff coincided with the northern rebellion of 1403, during which he helped to put down the uprising led by the earl of Northumberland’s son, ‘Hotspur’. He may, indeed, have had personal reasons for taking up arms against the Percys, since his allegiance clearly lay with their rival, Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland. After Northumberland’s unsuccessful attempt at insurrection, in 1405, Neville was rewarded with his forfeited estates in Cumberland, and duly appointed Sir William as bailiff of the liberty of Cockermouth. The latter had by then taken on the lease of certain farmland in Cleugh Head, in the same county, at a rent of £1 p.a. payable for the next 40 years at the royal Exchequer, although he actually relinquished his tenancy half way through the term. Given his proven loyalty to the new regime, it is most unlikely that the royal pardon accorded to him in January 1406 for ‘all treasons, insurrections, rebellions, felonies, misprisions, oppressions and trespasses’ had any connexion with the recent unrest in the north: he may, instead (like his close friend, Sir William Leigh*), have been seeking to exculpate himself from charges relating to his conduct as an employee of the Crown.4 Throughout this period, Sir William acted regularly as a witness to property transactions in the northwest. He was still closely involved in the affairs of Sir Robert Muncaster, whose shortage of money led him to remortgage his estates, in 1406, to (Sir) John Skelton*. Together with Sir William Leigh, Osmundlaw attested all the necessary conveyances; and the two men often witnessed deeds for Sir William Curwen* and other local landowners as well.5
By October 1411, our MP had become engaged in a round of litigation with two defendants from Cumberland over a debt of £20, but they never appeared in court and were duly pardoned the sentences of outlawry passed against them. He died at some point after 1423, leaving at least one son, William, who in 1434 leased the abbey of Bromfield in Cumberland from the abbot of St. Mary’s, York. Thomas and Robert Osmundlaw, his mainpernors on this occasion, may well have been his younger brothers.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Osmondelowe, Osmotherley, Osmounderlawe, Osmunderlaw(e).
- 1. C1/29/338; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xvi. 174; PRO List ‘Sheriffs’, 27.
- 2. C1/29/338; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. vii. 245-6; xvi. 170-4; xxxix. 64; Recs. Kendale ed. Curwen and Farrer, i. 31, 34.
- 3. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. vii. 243; xvi. 174; tract ser. no. 2, pp. 174-5; JUST 1/1500 rot. 35v, 1517 rot. 60.
- 4. CPR, 1405-8, pp. 117, 316; CFR, xii. 240; xv. 34.
- 5. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xiv. 402; xviii. 234; tract ser. no. 2, pp. 172, 175-6, 179-80; CAD, vi. nos. C3963, C4560, C7390.
- 6. CPR, 1408-13, p. 326; C1/29/338; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xvi. 174.