Reblogged from A Medieval Potpourri


Gainsborough Old Hall.  Photo thanks to Graham Oxford Photography Street.

Sir Thomas Burgh was the builder  of Gainsborough Hall, as seen today,  after inheriting the original building in 1455 on the death of his mother Elizabeth Percy,  when he was 24 years old.  The building and enhancement, which took place over the course of  20 years, was enabled by  Thomas becoming a very wealthy man ‘through the force of his personality,  sage advice (he was counsellor to three monarchs),  administrative and business acumen and skill in serving four kings in turn – Lancastrian, Yorkist and Tudor to become the leading magnet in the country (1)   Thomas clearly was one of those adept and charming characters who can both run with the hounds and play with the foxes being awarded lands by Henry VI but later to become and remain one of Edward IV’s favourites. He was appointed Constable of Lincoln and Bolingbroke castles in 1461 – both traditionally Lancastrian prizes –  made an esquire of the king’s body on 2 April 1461 four days after the battle of Towton,  which meant of course he would wait personally on the king in his private chambers,  knighted by February 1463, and was  Master of the Kings Horse by February 1464.    He consolidated the authority of the new dynasty in and around Lincolnshire as Hastings and Herbert where doing in the Midlands and Wales and was similarly rewarded as they were with lands and offices (2). But in those turbulent  times trouble was never far away, and Thomas’ rise and rise had caused resentment, jealousy and anger – then as now one man’s gain could well be another man’s loss.    In late 1469 trouble was brewing in Lincolnshire and this instability was exploited by members of the Welles family led by Richard, Lord Welles,  his son Robert and his brothers-in-law,   Sir Thomas de la Launde  and Sir Thomas Dymmock,  who to settle a private feud went full tonto when they attacked and sacked the Hall.   The Warkworth Chronicle reported ‘the Lorde Willowby,  the Lorde Welles his son,  Thomas Delalond  knyght, and Sere Thomas Dymmoke knyght,  the Kynges  Champyon,  droff oute of Lyncolneschyre  Sere Thomas à Burghe,  a knyght  of the Kynges howse and pullede downe his place and toke all his goodes and cataylle that thei myght find’ (3).  Warkworth may have over egged the pudding slightly with the remark ‘pullede downe his place’ -as pointed out by Nicholas Bennett  – as much of the surviving structure of the Hall predates 1469.  However Emery points out that while it’s possible parts of the Hall were unaffected by the attack  the west range was indeed so damaged that it had to be rebuilt in 1479 (4). Certainly the attack and sacking  must have been extremely violent and a horrendous experience for the inhabitants resulting in Thomas and his family fleeing to Yorkshire. This  volatile situation escalated eventually culminating in  an enraged and galvanised Edward IV marching on Lincolnshire to quell what had now become a full blown rebellion at the Battle of Empingham  – also known as Losecoat Field – near Stamford on the 12th March 1470.  I have only touched lightly here upon the rather confusing toing and froing that took place in the weeks which led to Empingham but for those who would like to delve deeper I can recommend reading The Road to Losecoat Field: The Story of the First Lincolnshire Rebellion by Nicolas Bennett. After the rebellion – which later became known as the First Lincolnshire Rising –  had been crushed and Lord Welles executed, Thomas’ wealth was enhanced by the reversion of the lands forfeited by the executed lord.   Thomas’ powers would be  eclipsed for a while with the readeption of Henry VI until Edward’s triumphant return to the throne in 1471.  When Edward died rather suddenly in 1483 and Richard III became king Thomas was able to seamlessly and successfully transfer himself to the new king’s household retaining all his old offices.  On October 10th 1483 Richard III would spend the night at the Hall on his way to London from York.  That night Richard dictated a letter to a John Crackenthorppe, Receyvor,  instructing him to pay Humphrey Metcalfe, a servant, ‘for thexpenses of oure housholde at oure Castelle of Carlile the somme of fyve hundreth markes’ signing off with Yevene etc at Gaynesburghe the xth day of Octobre the furst yere of oure Reigne (5).  Richard would go on to  create  Thomas a Knight of the Garter.   However following the death of Richard at Bosworth in 1485 –  a battle at  which there is no indication Thomas was present  –   the accession of Henry Tudor brought about the loss of his gains from Richard as well as several of his Lincolnshire offices.  Nevertheless he did manage to maintain his position of royal councillor – no doubt Henry recognised his skills and wisdom – and in 1487 he received a personal summons to parliament.  Rosemary Horrox wrote there is no evidence he took his seat in the Lords and in his will he described himself simply as ‘Thomas Burgh knight‘ (6). IMG_9145

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