Brearley in the parish of Midgley
is situated on the floor of the upper Calder valley whilst the
village of Midgley lies on the hills above. The area represented
a strategic point for the manor of Wakefield where the north-south
Roman road and the west-east Calder valley and cross-Pennine pack-horse
route met. Brearley Hall is described as 'an ancient mansion of Midgley
'1 and 'the ancient residence of Midgley's lords of the manor'6
Arthur Comfort in 1913 said6:
'Few homesteads are more
pleasantly situated than Brearley Hall, which stands on an
eminence between Mytholmroyd and Luddenden Foot. Antiquaries
tell us that this is the ancient residence of Midgley's Lord of
of the Manor, and, digging very deep into the past, they refer
to the time when the Soothills were Lords of Midgley in the 14tb
century, with Brearley Hall as their seat'
It is from the vill, township or parish name of
Midgley that some of the earliest Midgley toponymic names originated.
THE MANOR PASSES FROM THE DE MEAUX TO THE SOOTHILLS
Sir John de Meaux [Melsa] held the manor Midgley in 1307,
1318 and 1331 At some time, perhaps in 1317/1318, the manor of Midgley
may have briefly passed to Henry de Soothills, an adherent of
the earl of Lancaster. At the time the 'Nomina Villarum' was tested (1316) the
manor was shown only to be held in capite by
earl (John) de Warrene10 who subsequently lost it along with the
rest of the the manor of Wakefield during 1317/1318. Whether the
sold, gained through marriage, or more likely illegally entered
during the rebellion of Earl Thomas is not known but by 1326 it was recorded as being held by the Soothill family.
During the late 1300's Thomas FitzHugh of Brearley is recorded
in a land grant by John FitzWilliam who married Elizabeth
Clinton, (natural?) daughter of William Clinton, earl of
The original stone
house was probably built in the 1300's for the Soothills (Norman-French: Suitille,
Anglicised to Sotehill, Sothill, Sothull &c. )
This family are known to have held
the manor of Midgley in 1326 when they possessed Brearley Old Hall. The lord at
this time was Thomas de Soothill (d. 1326) uncle to Henry I de
Soothill [b. ~1278 d. 1350-1352] whose
father Sir John II had died in 3 Edward II [1309-1310]. Thus it
is probable that the manor devolved to Henry in or after 1326. Henry
and other members of his family are known for having been involved in the rebellion of Thomas earl
of Lancaster, Henry having being pardoned about June 1322.8
The manor may have been returned to the Meaux family when
Edward III came to the throne at which time Sir Thomas de Meaux
of Billinghay, Linconshire probably sold it to Gerard de
Soothill [b~1278, d ~1350] who is next recorded as lord of
In 1353 a Hugh de Brearley and Maud his wife are recorded
and three years later William de Brearley was a witness to a
THE MANOR PASSES TO THE LACYS
In the mid 1400's the daughter and heir of Gerard
II Soothill married Gilbert de Lacy second son of John Lacy, who
then became lord of Midgley. Gilbert's
daughter Jane/Joan Lacy married Henry Murgatroyd4.
In the 15th century it became the home of the Lacy family to
which the ownership of the house is perhaps most identified."2
|It would appear that the lordship entered
the Lacy family of Cromwellbottom as a record shows that the lord of Midgley
in the early 1500's was a Hugh Lacy (probably a
cadet line of the
Laci family of Pontefract). Hugh was the son of Gilbert and was born about 1489 at Brearley Hall (will was proved
1570). Hugh had married Agnes Saville of the Savilles
of Thornhill. "The Lacy's had strong local
land and property ties and a close association with the Farrar
of Ewood Hall and of Elphaborough, to whom through
marriage in 1598 the ownership of the hall passed [when Mary Lacy, daughter
of John Lacy lord of Midgley, son of Hugh married Henry Farrer.
Henry Farrer thus gained the lordship of the manor of Midgley by
marriage.] This event led to
the erection of Upper Brearley Hall in 1621 which stands to the north
east of Brearley Wood."2 In 1636 the house was encased in
stone, probably during the time of the tenure of the Farrer
This extract suggests there were in fact, two halls, though Roy
Stockdill could only find one shown as "Brearley Hall" on the David & Charles
reproduction of the original OS map from the 1840s. None appears on
the modern OrdnanceSurvey.3
Indeed, it appears that there were two
halls one called Brearley Old Hall, behind cottages near the corner of
Burnley Road and Brearley Lane Top), the other Brearley Hall:
"Across the road (Burnley Road, the main road through
Brearley) - behind the cottages of Brearley Lane Top stands Brearley Old Hall,
a private residence. The history of this family residence is not wholly
clear but it is presently the relic of a late Tudor house constructed around 1600 on
the site of an earlier timber structure."2 "The house front was rebuilt about 1905."2
Brearley Old Hall is commonly confused with Brearley Hall further
Old Hall in Brearley (and Brearley Hall to
the east of Mytholmroyd. On the 1840 O.S. map Brearley Old Hall
is in fact marked as 'Lower Brearley'. It is now a grade
II listed building (O. S. grid ref: SEO268926083). On 29th August
1696 a member of the Midgley family who resided at 'Brearley
Hall' was buried at Luddenden Church. [Luddenden register]
aerial view of Brearley Old Hall, Brearley
aerial view of Brearley Hall, Mytholmroyd
In 1599 John Midgley, Henry
Farrer esq. and Leonard Weddell opposed the inheritance of John Lacy esq.
and Alexander Dawson gent. in respect to the manor of Midgley which
consisted of 9 messuages, 9 cottages, 2 watermills and lands in Midgley,
Brearley, and Cheswelley. A warrant was issued against the heirs of John
and Hugh Lacy, esqs., both deceased, the father and grandfather of John
Gilbert Lacy*=====Joanne Soothill
Nicholas Savile=========Margery Wilkinson
d. ~ 1492
Hugh Lacy======================Agnes Savile of Thornhill
Lord of Midgley
2 other sons and 4 daughters all no
of Henry Farrer, the manor of Midgley passed to the Farrer line
*Gilbert de Lacy (1425-1492) gained Brearley Hall and
Midgley by his marriage to the Soothill heiress.
In the early 1800's 'Upper Brearley Hall' (erected 1621) was used as a private
school run by a Dr. John Fawcett (d. 1817 at Ewood Hall). Later in 1841
Branwell Bronte, the brother to the Bronte sisters of Haworth lodged here
at Brearley Hall.9
The interior of Brearley Hall.12
Descent of the
manor of Midgley [Word Doc. 2013 vers.]
1. Baines Directory of the County of York, 1823.
2 Heritage Walks around Mytholmroyd (information
kindly provided by Roy Stockdill)
3. Roy Stockdill, email comm.
4. Midgley ,John Franklin, Midgleyana,
Cape Town, 1968.
5. Sutcliffe, Tom. The Brearley Halls in Midgley, Lower
and Upper. Papers, Reports, &c. Halifax Antiquarian
6. Comfort, Arthur. The Ancient Halls of Halifax. 1913.
7. Yorkshire Feet of Fines 1599.
8. Close Rolls, Edward II April 1322;
Ibid June 1322; Yorks. Arch. Journ. vol. XCI, pp. 97-98,
9. Barker, Juliet. The
Brontes, 2010; 1841 census
10. Kirkby's Inquest and Nomina Villarum, p.
11. Y. A.
J. v. xiii, (1895), p. 51. Grant made 8 April 1378 at Sprotborough.
12. Print from 1879 printed by R. Leyland & Son, Corn Market, Halifax.
Copyright © Tim Midgley April, 1999, revised 17th February