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Thomas of Moulton

Thomas of Moulton

Mention Moulton to Lincolnshire people and they will tell you about John Harrox and his school, the twelfth century church, the mill and – Thomas of Moulton. He, of course, lived at Moulton Castle and signed the Magna Carta. Everyone knows that.

Ignoring he first well known three, the trouble with Thomas of Moulton is that there was not just one, but many of them, and not one signed the Magna Carta. But the de Moultons were an interesting lot, and their story is well worth re-telling.

The history of the great de Moultone family goes back to the Norman Conquest and perhaps beyond. Before 1066, when South Holland was boggy and undrained, the area which is now Moulton was probably part of the lands of the Saxon Earl Algar (or Alfgar), who is remembered in the name of Algakirk. He died in 870 in battle, defending South Lincolnshire against the Danes.

At the conquest, lands were carved up into smaller units, and Spalding and much of the area was acquired, one way or another, by two Normans.

In the Doomsday Book of 1086, when the Norman King William collected details of how his new kingdom ‘was occupied and with what sort of people’, Moulton is mentioned twice in the survey: The area of Westune and Multune were , : divided between Ivo Taillebois and Guy Craon (or Credon), Ivo Taillebois having the largest share. Ivo Taillebois occupied Spalding Castle and was not popular as a Norman overlord; he was a friend (and some say a nephew) of King William, but in South Holland he was much derided because of his name, which meant ‘wood-cutter’, and he was said to be of humble French peasant origin. Now he had the status of Earl and had become a proud Norman overlord. The Norman conquerors did not always have an easy passage as they conquered England, and in Lincolnshire there was much resentment by the local people and hostility to their rule. How Hereward the Wake became the focus of local opposition is told in Charles Kingsley’s novel, which describes how he bravely fought off the Norman usurpers from his hideaway in Bourne. Iyo Taillebois is the villain of the story.

As Ivo Taillebois extended his lands around in Multone, there emerged in about 1100 a family called De Multune, or Moleton, or Multon. Their name must have been derived from the place where they lived, so the village was there before they were.

The name is of great antiquity, and is probably Mula Tun (the settlement of Mula). There is little substance in the suggestion that it has anything to do with mills. Windmills were uncommon in England until they were used in Richard I’s time in the late twelfth century.

A Lambert de Multune, held his lands from Ivo Taillebois and the prior of Spalding, who in turn held of the Honour of Bolingbroke, was first mentioned in the middle of the twelfth century.

He was described as ‘nepos’ (nephew or grandson), and heir of a mysterious person called Bristiva’, who died in 1142, leaving property to Lambert de Multune.

In 1165 Lambert was fined 100 marks for some undescribed misdemeanour, probably connected with land, and there are several mentions of this ‘debt which took some time to pay off. Lambert and his son Thomas are named in several twelfth century documents.

Upon Lambert’s death : 1166, his son, the first Thomas of Multone, inherited from him. These two names Lambert and Thomas, were frequently used by the family, which has caused considerable confusion and uncertainty ever since.

This first Thomas married and had several children, and in 1180 he got into the news because he refused to contribute to the expense of the new parish church at Moulton

The Spalding monks exerted some pressure upon him to no avail.


There is an interesting mystery about what happened next. Upon his death in 1186 he was buried at Spalding Abbey (in the time of Abbot Everard), and at his burial his son, with the agreement of his entire family, gave Weston church to Spalding Abbey. Weston was then one of the few local churches not held by Spalding Abbey, but it permissible for churches to be held by private individuals, which was not popular with the Church.

But whatever the father’s motive for this generous gesture, his son soon claimed it back again in 1189.

The de Multone family remained on bad terms with Spalding Abbey and a 1259 ‘composition’ was reached between a later Thomas and the prior of Spalding at a meeting in Weston church. So far the nature of the composition has not emerged.

In 1283 there is an entry in Bishop Sutton’s register, in which is more than a suggestion that there had been some papal intervention in this dispute because the priory and convent of Spalding had ‘by reason of permission of Pope Honorius IV’ now appropriated the Church at Weston, and made many arrangements with the new incumbent, including building him a ‘suitable house’ and paying him a ‘sufficient stipend’. This new incumbent was William of Littleport, also Vicar of Moulton. But thereafter, Weston church seems to have remained with Spalding.


The next Thomas became the most eminent of all the de Multone family. He was born in about 1160. Firstly he became a soldier and then turned to a more lucrative (and much safer) career in the law.

Matthew Paris says about him:

In his youth he was a stout soldier, afterwards very wealthy and learned in the laws, but overmuch coveting to enlarge his possessions which lay contiguous to those of the monks of Crowland, he did them wrong in many respects.’ Thomas of Multone was soon made a Crown official by Kíng John, and was the Sheriff of Lincolnshire from 1205 until 1208, having pad 1000 marks and 5 palfreys’ for the honour of the office

During his long lifetine (he died aged 80) de Moultone raised the family status a high position by the high offices he achieved and by the rich alliances by marriage he made both for himself and his family.

Traveling to France wIth King John on an expedition to seek to recover the King’s French possessions which ended with a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Bouvines in July 1214,

he returned to find the greater landowners at the point of revolt against King John, and his taxation policy.

They were đìscontented about the new and very heavy taxation imposed on them and objected to his arbitrary and cruel government.

Civil war between King John and the barons soon broke out; not all the baronage were against the King, but Thomas of Moulton (who was a baron by status if not by name), allied himself with the forty who were and joined their forces.

The barons attacked Rochester Castle in September 1215 and it was successfully taken by them (led by William D’Albini or Aubigny, Lord of Belvoir), and they occupied it. The garrison consisted of ninety four knights, forty five men at arms and- Thomas of Moulton.

The siege lasted for seven weeks while King John bombarded the castle with great determination, but without success, and then he dug an underground tunnel which caused the collapse of one of the towers. The garrison soon surrendered. It is said that he cooked bacon fat to make them so hungry they would give in!

King John boasted he would hang the lot of them’. In fact only one crossbowman was hanged; all the rest were taken and held for ransom. Thomas de Multone was committed in custody to Corfe Castle, under the charge of Peter de Mauléon (or Mawley), and his lands were forfeited.

He remained there until after the King’s death in October 1216, but he played no part in the sealing of the Magna Carta in June 1215 at Runneymede when the barons

Swore an oath and exchanged promises to abide by the agreement with the King.

That autumn, John died at Newark after his disastrous journey from Kings Lynn when his treasure was lost, On the accession of the new King John’s son Henry III, Thomas was

forgiven, his lands were restored to him and he resumed his career as a royal servant.

The twenty five Stamford Confederates whose seals appear on the Magna Carta were

excommunicated by the Pope. The Charter was annulled, as the Pope (Alexander III) considered the barons to be in open rebellion to the Crown which the Pope could not countenance.

He had believed in a one sided version from King John. It is more than probable that Thomas was excommunicated too. The Bishop of Lincoln who was present at Rumeymede, brought back a copy of the Magna Carta to Lincoln, where it has remained ever since. The original can be viewed at the castle: there is no sign of the coat of arms or Sigillum of Thomas de Moultone (see cover)


Living at Moulton Castle, he married firstly Sarah, daughter of Richard de Flete (or Delfliet). She brought into the marriage her lands in Fleet. They had three sons, Lambert (his heir) and Alan, and Thomas. (To confuse us, he had another son by his second wife, also called Thomas). In 1213 he made an important investment; he purchased for 1000 marks, from the Crown the right to be the guardian of two young heiresses, who came to live with his family at Moulton. Alice and Annabel (or Amabilis) de Lucy were mere children, but in due course they would inherit the great de Lucy estates in Cumberland and Westmoreland, great Egremont and Cockemouth. As guardian, he had the right to dispose of his wards in marriage.

He acted quickly, he that same year married his son Lambert to Annabel and his son Alan to Alice, thus ensuring their estates would later come into his family.

None of them could have been more than quite small children. His sons would then inherit all the great Cumberland possessions and titles This sort of arrangement was then quite common; and he administered their estates during their minorities.

Resuming his royal duties Thomas de Multone climbed quickly. He became Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and Warden of Linconshire ports in 1230, Keeper of Carlisle Castle in 1233 – 1265, and Sheriff of Cumberland between 1233 – 1236. He was also an itinerant justice for Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire and Yorkshire, traveling as a Royal Justice.

Sarah having died in 1217, he made absolutely sure of his northern holdings by marrying again; he married the widowed mother of his own wards and daughters in law, Alice and Annabel. His new wife was Ada, daughter and heiress of Hugh de Morville’, and widow of Richard de Lucy, owner of the Castles of Egrenont and Cockermouth and huge estates.

Unfortunately, Thomas did not seek the King’s license, probably thought he could get away with it, and had to seek pardon from the King for this transgression. It was a serious offence to mary your wards’ mother and the Archbishop of York was ordered to make seizure of all Sir Thomas’s lands in Cumberiand, including the Castle of Egremont and to retain them.

But money talks; upon his promise to give security, he got hís lands back, for three years he paid a heavy annual fine each year, and gave a palfrey to the Forester of Cumberland for compensation. The office was in his new wife’s gift.

Thereafter, he seems to have spent much of his time in Cumberland and was now known as Sir Thomas of Multone and Egremont, but still used his house in Moulton. As to his children, his eldest son and heir Lambert and his wife Annabel lived at Moulton and upon his father’s death inherited from him.


Lambert was one of the top landowners of Lincolnshire and held lands in Weston, Moulton, Pinchbeck, Skirbeck, Frampton and in Suffolk and made generous gifts to the Church in Skirbeck and Wynestowe.

Lambert carried on family tradition by becoming a lawyer. In 1237 he became a Justice of Assize, probably an itinerant justice who travelled throughout a large area trying cases on the Kìngs’ business. In 1243 he obtained a charter for his Manor of Fleete, allowing a fair to be held, and for him to receive the tolls.

In 1220 his wide Annabel produced his son and heir, another Thomas. He seems to have been rather arrogant and to have had some problems with the Church for in 1246 he went to the extraordinary lengths of obtaining a special privilege from the Pope, which cost him a lot of money, preventing anyone but the Pope himself from excommunicating him. But he did not enjoy his power and privilege for long. His death came as a surprise to everyone, when he died at Moulton Castle in 1247, just as he was arriving home in triumph. Matthew Paris described it

‘Riding with rich trappings very proudly, from a trial at law, no sooner alighted from his horse (but meriting God’s judgement) he was suddenly smitten with a grievous disease, of which falling to the ground, he died before his spurs could be taken off being then at his house in Multone in being Lincolnshire.”


The Moulton family was now quite large; besides those at the Castle, there were Moultons in the now settled village, maybe built on the slightly higher ground near the new church which was started in 1180. The older village may have been at the site of the Castle. Until it has been excavated this is not known for sure.

The population was increasing and by 1260 Moulton Manor had over one thousand people living on it. At the time of Doomsday Moulton and Weston combined had only Seventy seven households.

In 1280 the inhabıtants of Moulton were in trouble.

Bishop Sutton ordered the Dean of Holland ‘to warn and if necessary excommunicate, all those parishioners of Moulton who made a practice of taking away the corpse candles at the end of the funeral services’.

Stealing om he church was a very serious matter indeed, but such a dire threat presumably frightened the parishioners sufficiently to prevent them again helping themselves.

And in the records some members of the Moulton family appear. A government official extorted twenty four marks from Alan de Moulton and other tenants of Moulton Manor in 1381, John de Podendale stole thirty sheep from Roger de Moulton, Robert son of Henry de Moulton stole three oxen in August 1338.9


The other young couple. Alan and Alice, moved away to live on their northern estates in Cumberland. She retained her maiden name ‘de Lucy preferring it to that of Moulton, and Alan soon ceased to use it too.

He, too, preferred to be called de Lucy, the reason for the dislike of the de Moulton name is that he said it reminded the people of Cumberland of mutton, because the words sounded the same to them.

This de Moulton branch settled at Langley and later built a very solid castle. Langley Castle in Northumberland dates back to 1350 and looks today as it must have done when first built.

Alan had a son, Thomas of Moulton, alias de Lucy, and he married, as his family always did, a young heiress, Isabella Boultby.

She was a rich young lady with an indulgent father, and the young couple were allowed to rent Langley Manor house for an annual rent of a pair of gilt spurs.

There was a barony in the family and large estates, and they all passed into the de Moulton family on the death of her father in 1280.

Isabella died in 1294 and Thomas in 1305, but their line flourished. In 1350 their son started to build a new castle on the site of the old unfortified manor house. The area was in the thick of turbulent Scottish wars, but it was completed by 1364, although it was later damaged and destroyed several times. The family fought bravely in the struggles with Scotland.

Their son, Thomas, took over, but died in 1307 in mysterious circumstances. His brother Anthony de Moulton (de Lucy) inherited and survived thirty five years, and completed the building. Finally the estates passed to Maud de Moulton, who married Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland.


The fourth son of old Thomas, the first by his second wife, Ada, was again called Thomas, and inherited much from his mother. He was given the Manor of Holbeach, with a holding in Whaplode by his father.

He also was active in the Scottish wars, marshaling the other Northern barons for the purpose of rescuing the King’s son in law from Scotland., and then he fought against the Welsh.

He married the only daughter of the Lord of Gillsland, Maude Vaux (or de Vallibus), Maude de Vaux was described as ‘decrepiť in 1290 and 1291, and died in 1292, a very rich lady indeed, with Thomas her grandson being her heir. In 1307 he was summoned to parliament as 1st Baron Moulton of Gillsland, probably for his services in the Scottish wars, at the accession of Edward II.

His daughter, Maud or Margaret of Moulton, who was such an eligible match that she was abducted from Warwick Castle and married to Ralph (or Ranulf) de Dacre in 1317 when she was only twelve.

All her estates then went to the Dacre family. This barony is now extinct.


Going back to Lincolnshire to Lambert and Annabel and their children, there followed several more Thomases. Sir Thomas Moulton who died in 1294, obtained charters for fairs for Moulton in 1290.

He was a soldier and sided with Simon de Montfort in the wars of the barons. He took up arms against the King, Henry III with his cousin Thomas of Gillsland (who lost his lands as a consequence), and with other members of his family.

Simon de Montfort, Earl of Lincoln, had a long running battle with Henry III, who ruled for fifty six years, capturing him in 1264, and becoming virtual governor of the kingdom until his death at the battle of Worcester. In 1265 Thomas of Moulton received safe conduct pass to enable him to come to court, so it appears he was forgiven. The only snippet of information is that he commissioned a book, a history of Crowland, from the monks at Croyland, but only remnants of it now survive. Perhaps that was the end of the long standing bad blood between the de Moultons and Crowland monks, when the family was known as enemies of Crowland.

The next Sir Thomas, his son, married an Irish heiress called Ednunda, or Emoina, heiress daughter of Sir John de Botiler, who had large properties in England, Ireland and Scotland. She was an important cog in the de Moulton machine because she brought other manors in the village of Moulton into the family. In 1277, young Sir Thomas was styled Lord of Moulton’. Through Edmunda, he took the manors of Beausolace, Algakirk and Thurston. This This Moulton Manor of Becausolace, Bosolas, Baculas, or Bowsolaz cannot now be identified but it is connected with Goddards Hall in Church Lane, Moulton. With Emoina came all sorts af other interests and rights in Ireland, and when he died in 1287, he left a son, another Thomas, as his heir, who was then aged eleven. THE FIRST BARON

This Thomas became a Sheriff for Lincolnshire, and in 1297 he was summoned to Parliament as the first Baron Multon of Egremont. He acquired all sorts of offices, Captain of Cumberland and Westmoeland and in 1307 raised one hundred and sixty fighting men in the liberty of Egremont.

He joined Edward I’s expedition to Scotland in Juły 1300, when Edward was hammering the Scots, and was at the famous siege of Caerlaverock. The Castle of Caerlaverock was seiged by the King and one hundred knights, and Thomas of Moulton joined in and is mentioned in the narrative poems written about it.

“Thomas Multon’s shield and banner silver were, with three bars red’.

The siege went on long enough for the poem to be written, mentioning all present and describing their coats of arms, and all ended successfully when the garrison submitted and delivered up the castle to the King

“But sixty left it- marvelled we they were so few,

Life and limb the good King spared them, and gave each a garment new.

So Thomas and this generOus King and his knights marched north to fight more battles against the Scots.

The first Baron was buried in Spaldíng in 1322. He was married to Eleanor and they had four children.

Again, he left an underage heir, John, the second Baron, and to demonstrate the importance of both him and the family, in 1317 he was as a small child contracted in marriage to Joan, daughter of the King Edward I’s unscrupulous favourite, Piers Gaveston, and who was murdered soon after. After that, she was considered not the catch they had thought. So instead he married Eleanor” (or Alice), and they were expecting their first child in 1334, when he died. The child did not survive which left his three sisters and no male heir. This is the time when the great de Moulton family started its decline As women could not inherit a title, as they could not own property once they were married, if one of the three sisters produced a male heir the title and the estates would have been saved.


When he inherited the title and the estates in 1329 the second Baron, John and his three sisters must have felt assured of their future.

The Moultons had multiplied; there were now Moultons of Frampton, of Cockermouth, of Essex, Somerset, Norfolk and Surlingham, and they had huge land holdings and Manors besides Holbeach, Whaplode, Moulton and Skirbeck.

John, the second Baron Multon of Egremont married Alice, inherited in 1329 and died on the twenty third of November 1334, when his wife was pregnant. He must have After his death his son was born, but he been quite young. did not survive infancy, but his wife survived to marry again.


The eldest. Joan was born in 1304. She married Robert Fitzwalter, one of the Lords of Dunmow. But he did not survive and Joan married John de Weyland, dying in 1363. Her heir was her grandson, John, who must have died soon after, as there is no account of him.


Elizabeth was born in 1306 and she married Sir Robert de Harrington.!” The entry ‘Robertus de Harington married Elizabeth, fil and coheir Johan de Molton de Egremond’. appears in the Harington pedigree, and they had two sons, John, Lord Harington, ob 1364, and Robert Harrington, ob 1399, Sir Robert Harington died, and and Elizabeth remarried Walter de Bermichan, (Birmingham?), and they had no children.


She was born in 1310, the youngest of the three sisters. She married Thomas de Lucy, her relative, second Baron Moulton of Cockermouth, but he died in 1365. They had lots of children, including Anthony, who became third Baron, thus uniting the two parts of the family again, but for some reason he did not succeed to this title.

The old manor of Moulton continued for some time to be organised in the old way, but finally it became apparent that no direct heir would appear.

It was decided that the only solution was to divide Moulton, Fleet and some other of their manors into three, between the three surviving sisters.

The date of the division is not exactly known, but in the mid fifteenth° century the three names are recorded for the first time. Joan’s share was called Fitzwalter, Elizabeth’s was Harrington, and Margaret’s was known as Dominorum (The Lord’s Fee). As Margaret was well endowed elsewhere her share was not called Cockermouth or de Lucy, as might have been expected.

After that, there was no Lord of the Manor of Moulton.

With no-one at the helm, the family began to lose its power; soon Moulton castle (repaired in 1461), fell into decay, as it had not been lived in for years, probably since the time of the second baron.

AlI the Moulton baronies soon fell into abeyance eventually, and are now extinct.

For the time being, the story of how this remarkable family acquired wealth and power between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, carving for themselves huge tracts of Lincolnshire, Cumberland and Westmoreland, must suffice. There is so much more to find out – so much untapped material in hidden archives.

The story of their castles, Moulton, Egremont, Cockermouth and Langley, and their manors, will be the next chapter.




  1. The only clue so far to the identity of Bristiva or Brictiva reveals she was a lady. In an account of a lawsuit in 1185, Geoffrey, the son of Gurred and Brictiva (Bristiva?), disclaimed a wyngarth (vineyard) in the great garden garden belonging to the common’, and made this quit claim for the souls of Gurred his father, and Brictiva his mother, both of whom were then dead. Brictiva was not an uncommon name for girls then. (Registrum Antiquissimum of the Church of Lincoln), published by the Lincoln Recod Society, vol. 67. p7l.
  2. Rolls and Register of bishop Oliver Sutton, Bishop of Lincoln 1280-1299
  3. Matthew Paris was a monk at St. Albans, a historian and thirteenth century chronicler, who is a great source of interesting comments on contemporary people, usually considered fairly accurate.
  4. A palfrey is a saddle horse for ordinary riding as opposed to a war horse.
  5. See King John, W. L. Warren, Appendix C The accident to King Joh’s baggage, sets out all the theories and contemporary accounts most interestingly.
  6. This sigillum of a knight in armour was Thomas of Multone’s seal, used on his documents to verify them.
  7. It appears he was one of the murderers of Thomas à Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. He held back the Crowd with his sword while the others killed Thomas at his own altar. After doing penance in the Holyland he soon regained royal favour. He died in 1204 with all his estates returned to him, a very rich man, with most of it going to his daughter Ada and her descendants.
  8. Rolls & Register of Bishop Oliver Sutton (Lincoln) 1280 – 1299.
  9. Royal Inquest Lincs. 1341.
  10. Langley Castle, Langley on Tyne, Northumberland, is the only fortified hotel in the country, now a very luxurious place reconstructed by Cadwallader John Bates in 1862 from the ruins of the older castle, in an exact reconstruction of the 1350 building but with all modern amenities.
  11. For more about Langley, Egremont and Cockermouth, read “The de Moultons and their Castles!.
  12. The siege of Caerloverock, published by the Heraldry Society 1960, p.9.
  13. There is some confusion about John’s wife, who some claim to have been Annabel, daughter of Lawrence of Holbeach.
  14. The Fitzwalter’s seal was attached to the Magna Carta – he was one of the leading barons at that time.
  15. There was a branch of Harringtons at Wykeham Abbey, Weston, but Robert was from Exton. By a strange coincidence, later on, John Harrox was their steward at Exton.
  16. Lord Boston’s Muniments. Lincs Notes & Queries (1914) by W. E. oster. The Manor was undivided in 1316 – and divided by 1412-13, according to the Manorial Rolls.


  1. L. Warren (1961) King John Eyre & Methuen Maurice Ashley King John Book Club Associates, London

Graham Plattś Land & People in Medieval Lincolnshire Vol. VofHistory of Lincs. Ed. Maurice Bailey.

Dictionary of National Biography

Arthur Mee The King’s England (Lincolnshire)

South of the Wash. Tydd S. Mary to Spalding (1995) Battleford Books

Douglas Edwards “Fleote, ye maner of its making’ (Privately printed)

  1. E. Foster Lord Boston’s Muniments

Alfred Welby Lincs. Notes & Oueries Vol. XI, Multon of Multon & Egremont. p203-223

Langley Castle. A history ofLangley Castle, Northumberland (Privately printed)

Some Medieval Earthworks in South Lincs. Healey & Roffe. (Unpublished paper)

Extinct Peerages (Ed. 1886) Burke

Pevsner & Harris The Buildings of Lincolnshire (1964)

  1. A. Read 1000 Years of Egremont & Egremont Castle

Ross Manuscripts Lincoln Central Library (Moulton Pedigrees)

John F. Curwen The Castles & Fortified Towers of Cumberland Westmoreland & Lancashire North-of-the-Sands

Professor Hallam Some 13th century census Vol. 10 (1958 p341-361l), Economic Hist. Review

This article is taken from a book titled – Thomas of Moulton by Nancy Snowden. To read more about Nancy click here

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