Brearley Old Hall, Brearley in the parish of Midgley

Brearley is situated  on the floor of the upper Calder valley while 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 said:

'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'6

It is from the vill, township or parish name of Midgley that some of the earliest Midgley toponymic names originated.


Sir John de Meaux [Melsa] held the manor of Midgley in 1307, 1318 and 1331 At some time, perhaps in 1317/1318, the manor of Midgley may have briefly passed to Henry de Soothill, an adherent of the earl of Lancaster.  At the time the 'Nomina Villarum' was tested (1315/1316) the manor was shown only to be held in capite by earl John de Warenne10 who subsequently lost it along with the rest of the the manor of Wakefield during 1317/1318. Whether the manor was 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 Huntingdon.11


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, Lincolnshire probably sold it to Gerard de Soothill [b~1278, d ~1350] who is next recorded as lord of Midgley. 

In 1353 a Hugh de Brearley and Maud his wife are recorded and three years later William de Brearley was a witness to a deed.

THE MANOR PASSES TO THE LACYS                                                                                       

In the mid 1400s the daughter and heir of Gerard II Soothill married Gilbert de Lacy [arms: argent, six pellets sable, three, two, one] 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





                                                               Click for a modern version viewed from Spring Bank

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 Norman De Laci family of Pontefract). Hugh was the son of Gilbert and was born about 1489 at Brearley Hall (his will was proved in 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  [Farrer] family 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. This event led to the erection of Upper Brearley Hall in 1621 which stands to the north east of Brearley Wood."In 1636 the house was encased in stone, probably during the time of the tenure of the Farrer family.
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 Ordnance Survey.3

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 [Lacy].7
                                          Gilbert Lacy*=====Joanne Soothill                    Nicholas Savile=========Margery Wilkinson
                                           d. ~ 1492          |                                                                                 |
                                                                 Hugh Lacy Esq.======================Agnes Savile of Thornhill
                                                          Lord of Midgley               
                                                          b~1489, Brearley             |
                                 |                                                                           |                                     |
                         Margaret/Mary =====William Farrer+       John Lacy snr. Esq.                  2 other sons and 4 daughters all no issue  


                                                                                               John Lacy jnr. Esq.                                                                

          |  +Son 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. 

On 24th October 1599 John Lacy (snr.) of Brearley sold the manor and lordship of Midgley to Henry Farrer of Ewood Esq. and John Midgley of Headley in Bradforddale. This included the capital messuage of Brearley within the manor of Midgley, the water corn mill of Brearley Milne, 3/4 of a water corn mill and fulling mill called Brighouse Milnes and all other lands and tenements in Midgley, 'Cheswlley', Brighouse, Rastrick, Brearley, Luddenden and Hipperholme.14 In the following year John Lacy of Brearley Esq., Henry Farrer of Ewood Esq. and John Midgley of Headley, yeoman, sold the manor of Midgley to Thomas Pilkington of Nether Bradley Esq. for 200 pounds. This sale included 3/4 of the water corn mill called 'Brighouse Mill' in Brighouse etc. The document was signed by Lacy, Farrer and Midgley.15

 In the early 1800s 'Brearley Hall' [Upper Brearley Hall ] was used as a private school run by a Dr. John Fawcett (d. 1817 at Ewood Hall).  

      Descent of the manor of Midgley  [Word Doc] 


TWO HALLS                                        

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), which I will call the LOWER HALL the other Brearley Hall which I will call the UPPER HALL:

"Across the road (Burnley Road, the main road through Brearley) - behind the cottages of Brearley Lane Top stands Brearley Old Hall, our UPPER 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,  our UPPER HALL, further east. 

                                        The interior of the 'Brearley Old Hall' [The Lower Hall].12 

On the 1840 O.S. map Brearley Old Hall is in fact marked as 'Lower Brearley'. In 1841 Branwell Bronte, the brother to the Bronte sisters of Haworth lodged here at Brearley Hall.9 It is now a grade II listed building (O. S. grid ref: SEO268926083). On 1st August 1691 William Midgley was buried at Luddenden Church, residing at 'Brearley, Midgley' while five years later on 29th August 1696 another unnamed member of the Midgley family who resided at 'Brearley Hall, Midgley ' was buried at Luddenden Church. [Luddenden register]


Ordnance Survey map 1894 for Brearley and Midgley showinggEwood Hall, Brearley Hall/ Lower Brearley /Brearley Old Hall, Brearley House and Brearley Hall/Little Brearley Hall/Upper Brearley Confusing? Maybe!

1. Baines Directory of the County of York, 1823.
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  Society,1922.
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; Y. A. J.,  vol.  XCI, pp. 97-98, n.4.                                                                      

9. Barker, Juliet. The Brontes, 2010; 1841 census.                                                                                                                                                      

10. Kirkby's Inquest and Nomina Villarum, p. 361.

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. Old Brearley Hall was also known as Upper Brearley Hall.


14. Y.A.S Record Series vol. 6: Yorkshire Deeds, vol. 5 p.19.

15. Ibid. p. 20.


Copyright   Tim Midgley April, 1999, revised 24th January 2024..