Sir Peter Leycester, 1st Baronet (also known as Sir Peter Leicester) (3 March 1614 – 11 October 1678) was an English antiquarian and historian. He was involved in the English Civil War on the royalist side and was subsequently made a baronet. He later compiled one of the earliest histories of the county of Cheshire and as a result of this became involved in a years-long controversy with Sir Thomas Mainwaring as regards whether Earl of Chester Hugh de Kevelioc was the legitimate father of a daughter called Amicia, a lineal ancestor of the Mainwarings. Sir Peter's argument was essentially that there was no evidence for the Mainwaring family tradition, whereas Sir Thomas seems to be seeking support for the view that the Mainwarings are semi-nobility to justify their position as important gentry in Cheshire. The houses of both, near Knutsford, survive, although Sir Peter's is a ruin that of Sir Thomas has been restored.
- 1 Sir Peter Leycester (1614–1678)
- 2 Sir Thomas Mainwaring (1623-1689)
- 3 The Controversy
- 4 After Earl Hugh
- 5 Summary
- 6 Related Pages
- 7 Sources and Links
Sir Peter Leycester (1614–1678)
Leycester was the eldest son of Peter Leycester of Nether Tabley, Cheshire, by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Randle Mainwaring, bart., of Over Peover, in the same county. He became a gentleman commoner of Brasenose College, Oxford, on 13 Oct. 1629, but did not graduate, and entered himself at Gray's Inn on 20 Aug. 1632 (Harl. MS. 1912). At the outbreak of the Civil War he was appointed by the king one of his commissioners of array for Cheshire, and had in consequence to leave Nether Tabley at the close of 1642. He was at Oxford at the time of its surrender to Fairfax in June 1646, and obtained accordingly the benefit of the articles then agreed to. He betook himself to London, where he compounded for his estates for 747l. 10s. The next four years of his life were passed in the garrisons of the king, apparently as a civilian. For some implication in the political movements of 1655 Leycester, after being imprisoned for a while in Chester Castle, was taken to London, and gave his bond for his future good behaviour. His loyalty was rewarded with a baronetcy on 10 Aug. 1660.
Leycester is author of a work of "great research and accuracy", entitled "Historical Antiquities in two books; the first treating in general of Great Brittain and Ireland; the second containing particular remarks concerning Cheshire, and chiefly of Bucklow Hundred. Whereunto is annexed a transcript of Doomsday-Book, so far as it concerneth Cheshire" &c., fol., London, 1673. Ormerod incorporated it with his ‘History of Cheshire,’ 1819. It is usually referred to with the shorter title of "Historical Antiquities" and is one of the earliest histories of the county of Cheshire.
In his Antiquities, Sir Peter Leycester makes the following comment:
- I cannot but mislike the boldness and ignorance of that herald who gave to Manwaring of Pevor the quartering of the earl of Chester's arms which device was never done before the reign of queen Elizabeth in the time of Sir Randle Manwaring late of Pever the elder for if he ought of right to quarter that coat then must he be descended from a coheir to the earl of Chester but that he was not for the coheirs of earl Hugh as you see before married four of the greatest peers of the kingdom viz the earl of Huntingdon the earl of Arundel the earl of Derby and the earl of Winchester's son and heir another natural daughter married one Bacun and had issue Richard Bacun founder of the priory of Roucester in Staffordshire and another as presumed for the reasons given married William le Belward de Malpas
What has happened here is that a "Herald" has revised the Mainwaring Coat of Arms to reflect the decent of the Mainwarings from Hugh de Kevelioc: the Earl of Chester, and thus from William the Conqueror through a child of Henry I. Other rumours that had circulated during Hugh de Kevelioc's time included that hermits living in the Hermitage (Anchorite Cell) had claimed to be Harold II of England and the German Emperor Henry V. In both cases this is most unlikely, but, in both cases, such claims would cast doubt on Angevin legitimacy:
- Harold II for obvious reasons - if he had lived then the Norman claim would be weakened as the succession passed through William's granddaughter Matilda,
- Henry V because his survival - (he was the first husband of William's grand-daughter Matilda) - would have bastardized the king, Henry II.
In 1642 he married Elizabeth Gerard (1620–1679), the third daughter of Lord Gilbert Gerard of Gerards Bromley, at Dutton, Cheshire. They had three sons and three daughters. He died at his home at Nether Tabley on 11 Oct. 1678 and was buried at Great Budworth, Cheshire. His memorial is in the north chapel of St Mary and All Saints Church, Great Budworth. He was succeeded in the baronetage by his eldest son, Sir Robert Leicester (1643–84)
Leycester left a large collection of unpublished manuscripts, they have been calendared by the Historical Manuscripts Commission (1st Rep. Appendix, pp. 46–50). Among them is a treatise entitled ‘Prolegomena Historica de Musica P. L.,’ which could only have been written by an accomplished musician. Leycester also assembled a manuscript titled Lessons for the Lyra Viol. It consists of over 100 works for solo lyra viol. Mention may also be made of a theological dissertation ‘On the Soul of Man,’ dated 1653, which is accompanied by a long correspondence upon the subject between Leycester and his old college tutor, Samuel Shipton, rector of Alderley, Cheshire.
An engraving from a miniature of Leycester at Nether Tabley is given in Ormerod's ‘Cheshire,’ vol. i. p. liv.; another from a portrait, probably by Lely, is prefixed to pt. i. of the Chetham Society's edition of the ‘Amicia Tracts.’
Nether Tabley Old Hall
The ruin of Tabley Old Hall (more properly known as Nether Tabley Old Hall) is located on an island surrounded by a moat in the civil parish of Tabley Inferior, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the west of Knutsford, Cheshire. This originated as a timber-framed country house in the 14th century. Damaged by subsidence, it is now derelict, and what survives is part of an E-shaped front of the house built in about 1650. It is in brick with stone dressings, and contains part of a stone porch with Ionic columns and a dentil cornice. Sir Peter Leycester (1614–78), altered and extended the house between 1656 and 1671. The main alterations were to the east front. This was extended forwards in brick, with projecting wings on each side, giving the house the E-shaped façade. He also added the battlemented parapet below which were oculi. The latter gave the appearance of a two-storey façade, although the oculi looked only into the roof space. The house had a central entrance porch, with an archway flanked by Ionic columns decorated with lions sejant. The doorway from the porch leads into the former screens passage. The back of the hall was left untouched at this time. Alterations to the interior included re-panelling the great hall, adding an impressive staircase, and creating a study for Sir Peter's collection of over 1,300 books. Between 1674 and 1678 Sir Peter also built St Peter's Chapel alongside the hall. The authors of the Cheshire volume of the Buildings of England series say:
- "a few fragments of wall stand almost full height on the island, precariously propped up"
Sir Thomas Mainwaring (1623-1689)
Mainwaring was born on 7 April 1623, and was the eldest surviving son of Philip Mainwaring of Peover (pronounced ‘Peever’) and Baddeley, Cheshire, by Ellen, daughter of Edward Mynshull of Stoke, near Nantwich, in the same county (Wotton, Baronetage, ed. 1771, ii. 116–17). He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, as a commoner on 20 April 1637, but did not graduate, and was admitted a student of Gray's Inn on 2 Feb 1640.
Mainwaring’s ancestors had held Over Peover since the Domesday Book, but his great-uncle Sir Philip Mainwaring was the first to enter Parliament. His father, a ship-money sheriff, fought for Parliament in the Civil War as a colonel of horse. Upon the outbreak of the civil war, Mainwaring cast in his lot with the parliamentary party, and took the covenant and the engagement oath. Mainwaring himself does not seem to have held a military command. Though more concerned with antiquarian pursuits than politics, Mainwaring was a decimator and one of the court candidates for Cheshire in 1656 and he served the office of high sheriff of Cheshire in 1657. He was removed from the commission of the peace in October 1659 after Booth’s rising.
Returned for the county to the Convention parliament at the general election of 1660, he was an inactive Member of the Convention. He was appointed only to the committees for the continuation of judicial proceedings, for the inquiry into unauthorized Anglican publications, and for regulating fees, and did not speak.
Presumably he gave satisfaction to the Government, for he was created a baronet early in the second session and his lease of fines and perquisites in the hundred of Macclesfield was renewed.
He attended the Duke of Monmouth on his Cheshire progress in 1682 in a coach-and-six (see: Roger Whitley), and he was disarmed after the Rye House Plot and bound over at the assizes. He was released from his recognizances in April 1684, and actively supported his son at the general election in the following year. He was listed as in opposition to James II, and during the "Glorious Revolution" accompanied Booth on his march into Staffordshire.
He died on 28 June 1689 at the age of 66 and laid to rest in Over Peover. In 1642, at age 19, he had married Mary Delves, daughter of Sir Henry Delves, 2nd Baronet, of Dodington and had 6 sons and 6 daughters. His only surviving son John succeeded to the baronetcy and was also an MP. The baronetcy became extinct on the death of the fourth baronet, Sir Henry, the first baronet's great-grandson, in 1797; but the title was revived in 1804 in favour of Henry Mainwaring, son of Thomas Wetenhall, a stepbrother of the fourth baronet.
In 1659 Sir Philip Mainwaring (great-uncle to Thomas Mainwaring and not his father of the same name) proposed that the eminent antiquarian William Dugdale (12 September 1605 – 10 February 1686) write a county history of Cheshire along the lines of his successful publication on Warwickshire which had been published in 1656. This proposal reflected the interests and concerns of Mainwaring, his relatives and wider circle during the troubled 1640s and 1650s. Those who regarded themselves as the rightful governors of the county had been profoundly disturbed by a series of challenges to their status and authority during the Civil War and its aftermath. The projected county history, intended to be richly illustrated with engravings of coats of arms and funeral monuments, would have emphasised the elite families’ claim to be the county’s legitimate governors. In the event, Dugdale’s ‘History of Cheshire’ was never written. Sir Philip might have become distracted by political developments as he took up a seat in his last parliament and hoped for some mark of favour from the restored king. Perhaps it was more difficult than anticipated to secure the interest of the senior gentry in the proposed work. Alternatively, the explanation might lie in Thomas Mainwaring’s decision to ask Dugdale to write a manuscript history of the Mainwarings of Peover, exclusively celebrating the ancestry and achievements of his own family, prompted perhaps by his promotion to the rank of baronet in 1660.
Peover Hall is a surviving Elizabethan house to the south east of Knutsford whose history stems back to 1585 when it was built by Sir Randle Mainwaring. A new wing was added by the fourth baronet Sir Henry in the 1760s before the Peels bought the hall and estate in 1919, which was then acquired by the Brooks family some 20 years later. During World War II the house was requisitioned as the HQ for General George Patton of the United States 3rd Army to train for the D-Day landings in 1944. It also housed a POW camp. The condition of the house had deteriorated badly – partly as a result of a fire started by a US soldier – the Brooks family undertook a major programme of restoration and have lived at the hall ever since. The house boasts splendid oak panelling, a long gallery and has been furnished using contents with a historic connection to Peover and the Mainwarings. The gardens at Peover Hall contain a 500 year-old oak tree and an avenue of pleached lime trees. Built in 1654 the Grade 1 listed Carolean stables are the finest of their kind and were a gift from Ellen Mainwaring to her son Thomas,
Leycester having stated that, in his opinion, Amicia, wife of Ralph Mainwaring, was not Hugh de Kevelioc's lawful daughter, Sir Thomas Mainwaring of Peover, who, with Leycester, was descended from her, immediately published a ‘Defence of Amicia,’ 12mo, 1673. A summary of the issues, from Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerages reads as follows, that despite the well known daughters:
- The earl had another dau., whose legitimacy is questionable, namely Amicia, m. to Ralph de Mesnilwarin, justice of Chester, "a person," says Dugdale, "of very ancient family," from which union the Mainwarings, of Over Peover, in the co. Chester, derive. Dugdale considers Amicia to be a dau. of the earl by a former wife. But Sir Peter Leicester, in his Antiquities of Chester, totally denies her legitimacy.
The passage in Dugdale is from his Baronage of England, 1675, reprinted by Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim & New York, 1977; Earls of Chester, pp. 40-41:
- "It is certain that [Sir Hugh] had another Daughter called Amicia, married to Raphe de Mesnilwarin (a person of a very ancient Family, and Justice of Chester, in those days) whose Legitimacy is doubted by some; the cheif reason they give for it, being, that they find no Memorial, that Earl Hugh her Father had a former Wife. That she was his Daughter, sufficiently appeareth, not only from his Grant of two Knight Fees with her in Frank-marriage, unto Raphe de Mesnilwarin before mentioned, where he so termeth her. But by another Deed of Roger de Mesnilwarin her Son, wherein he calls Ranulph, Earl of Chester, (Son to this Earl) his Uncle. As to her Legitimacy, therefore I do not well understand how there can be any question, it being known Maxim in Law, that nothing can be given in Frank-marriage to a Bastard. The Point being then thus briefly cleared, I shall not need to raise further Arguments from Probabilities to back it, then to desire it may be observed, that Bertra (whom I conclude to have been his second Wife) was married to him, when he was in years, and she, herself, very young, as is evident from what I have before instanced. So that he having been Earl no less then twenty eight years, it must necessarily follow, that this Bertra was not born, till four years after he came to the Earldom. Nor is it any marvel he should then take such a young Wife, having at that time no Issue-male to succeed him in this he great Inheritance."
Dugdale's own letters cast some doubt on the story. In a 1647 letter to William Vernon (found in "The Life, Diary, And Correspondence Of Sir William Dugdale") Dugdale seems to state that the story was communicated to him by a Matthew Mainwaring of Nantwich and that he finds it doubtful. Dugdale also suggests that the information was communicated to the Mainwarings by Sampson Erdeswick, who died in 1603 and was an antiquary and author of a History of Staffordshire. The later antiquarian Anthony à Wood (17 December 1632 – 28 November 1695), states that Erdeswicke:
- "being oftentimes crazed, especially in his last days, and fit then for no kind of serious business, would say anything which came into his mind, as 'tis very well known at this day among the chief of the College of Arms"
The "Pamphlet War"
Leycester's contributions to the controversy were:
- ‘An Answer to the Book of Sir Thomas Manwaringe … entituled “A Defence of Amicia,”’ 8vo, London, 1673. The original manuscript is among Gough's books in the Bodleian Library.
- ‘Addenda, or some things to be added in my Answer to Sir Thomas Manwaring's Book: to be placed immediately after Page 90’ [of the ‘Answer’], 8vo, London, November 1673.
- ‘Two Books: the first being styled A Reply to Sir Thomas Manwaring's Book entituled An Answer to Sir Peter Leicester's Addenda. The other styled Sir Thomas Manwaring's Law-Cases Mistaken,’ 2 pts. 8vo, London, 1674.
- ‘A Reply to Sr Thomas Manwaring's Answer to my two books. The second reply. Together with the Case of Amicia truly stated,’ 8vo, London, 1676. The copy in the British Museum is annotated by Leycester.
- ‘An Answer to Sir Thomas Manwaring's Book, intituled An Admonition to the Reader of Sir Peter Leicester's Books, 8vo, London, 1677.
Mainwaring's other writings on the subject are:
- ‘A Reply to an Answer of the Defence of Amicia,’ 12mo, London, 1673.
- ‘An Answer to Sir Peter Leycester's Addenda,’ 12mo, London, 1673–4.
- ‘An Answer to Two Books,’ 12mo, London, 1675.
- ‘An Admonition to the Reader of sir P. Leycester's Books,’ 12mo, London, 1676.
- ‘A Reply to sir Peter Leicester's Answer to sir Thomas Mainwaring's Admonition,’ printed for the first time by W. B. Turnbull, 12mo, Manchester, 1854, from the transcript by William Cole, contained in the fortieth volume of his collections in the British Museum, Additional MS. 5841, ff. 125–140.
- ‘The Legitimacy of Amicia … clearly proved,’ 12mo, London, 1679. This was the last shot after Leycester had died.
The controversy only closed with the death of Leycester (1678), who, in the opinion of the most competent judges, got the worst of it. Wood states that at the assizes held at Chester in 1675 the dispute was decided by the justices itinerant, who, as he had heard, adjudged the right of the matter to Mainwaring. The College of Arms, under the lead of Sir William Dugdale, also declared in favour of Amicia's legitimacy (cf. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 41). A contemporary humorist ridiculed the affair in some verses entitled ‘A New Ballad made of a high and mighty Controversy between two Cheshire Knights,’ 1673 (reprinted in Beamont's Introduction to the ‘Amicia Tracts’ from Ashmolean MSS. No. 860, iii. art. 1, and No. 836, art. 183).
The entire series of the tracts written by Mainwaring and Leycester on this subject were reprinted by the Chetham Society from the collection at Peover, under the editorship of William Beamont (3 pts. 1869).
It would be tedious to simply repeat the arguments set out in the various pamphlets by Peter Leycester and Thomas Mainwaring, and these are very well set out by Beamont in his Tracts written in the controversy respecting the legitimacy of Amicia, daughter of Hugh Cyveliok, earl of Chester, A.D. 1673-1679.. Here then is a brief summary of the main arguments:
Sir Peter averred:
- Amicia was not the daughter of the Earl by his wife Bertred. It is on record that by Bertred the Earl had a single son, Ranulf de Blondeville and four daughters, who were afterwards his co-heirs and carried away all his lands. The Polychronicon and other historians record the Earl's son and lawful daughters, but do not mention Amica.
- That whatever is given in frank-marriage is given as a portion, and that release of the service of a knights fee could not be a competent portion for a legitimate daughter, especially an eldest one. So the dowry given to Randle Mainwaring (Amicia's husband) is of a type that indicates Amicia was illegitimate.
Sir Thomas answered (amongst other arguments):
- Ralph Mainwaring was an appropriate match in rank for Amicia, having the inheritance of the whole or parts of nineteen manors in Cheshire and elsewhere and also being appointed as Justice of Chester, an important position.
- Unlike her sisters, who only married and aquired their fortunes after their father's death, Amicia married in the lifetime of her father.
- That "several years before" three eminent judges and four heralds had found in favour of the contention that Amicia was legitimate and since then others has agreed with the same.
- That in his gift to Ralph Mainwaring at the time of her marriage, Earl Hugh expressly refers to Amicia as his daughter. Witnesses to this gift included Robert, Abbot of Chester, Bertred, his chamberlain and thirteen others. The common law never allowed a dowry to be made with an illegitimate daughter.
- That is his gift to Deulacresse, Roger Mainwaring, Amicia's son, calls the late Earl his uncle; "quondam comitis Cestriae et Lincolniae avunculi mei".
- Ralph Mainwaring accompanied Earl Hugh on many of his visits to possessions and witnessed many of his charters. In other charters Ralph is given precidence among witnessess, indicating high rank.
- Earl Hugh was far older than Sir Peter supposes him to be. Bertrade (Sir Thomas has her born around 1157) was only 24 when the Earl (Sir Thomas has him born around 1129) died in 1181, and so she could at the time not have had any child married or marriageable.
Essentially Sir Peter is arguing lack of primary evidence and Sir Thomas is supporting family tradition. It is difficult at this distance in time to judge the merits of the arguments, although it is interesting to note that Amicia's daughter was named Bertrade, the name of Earl Hugh’s wife who herself witnessed the charter which recorded Amicia’s marriage contract, which may suggest that Bertrade de Montfort was her mother. On the other hand, Amicia is not named among the earl’s legitimate daughters who are referred to in several contemporary primary sources. As regards the date of birth of Hugh there is a clear discrepancy between Leycester's date of around 1147 and Mainwarings date of 1129 (which is important to his case). There are arguments both ways. Hugh, having become Earl upon the death of Ranulph De Gernon in 1153, was apparently granting charters in the 1150's and early 1160's, but these may be forgeries. On the other hand it is known that Chester Castle was apparantly in royal hands during Hugh's minority (1153–62).
After Earl Hugh
Hugh de Kevelioc died in 1181, leaving a young heir (Ranulf de Blondeville) aged 9. Although married twice Ranulf has no legitimate children. Ranulf de Blondeville's adopted son Arthur might have been king of England had he not died (probably murdered by King John).
He was succeeded by John Canmore upon his death in 1232. John did not enjoy the Earldom for long and died on 6 June 1237, again another childless Earl. John's heirs were the grand-daughters of Maud of Chester (the sister of Ranulf de Blondeville). Three of the sisters of John Canmore were therefore the ancestors of Balliol, Bruce and John Hastings - all claimants to the Scottish throne upon the death of Margaret, Maid of Norway, which caused the extinction of the legitimate line of "William the Lion" (John the Scot's uncle). Further detail is given in the John Canmore article. Thus, Hugh de Kevelioc's heirs did enjoy some success and it was a success which meant the records would have been looked at in some detail when the matter of the Scots succession came up. Amicia is less than a ghost in those proceedings, and whether she was wiped from the records as potentially lying in a line of succession that did not serve political ends, simply forgotten at the time, or always was a bastard is something on which little else can now be said.
In 1659 Sir Philip Mainwaring (1589 – 2 August 1661) proposes that the antiquarian and herald William Dugdale (12 September 1605 – 10 February 1686), recently the successful author of a history of Warwickshire, writes a history of Cheshire. Dugdale and Mainwaring discuss terms which involve Mainwaring paying a hefty fee to Dugdale. One of the purposes of the proposed history is to show the noble heritage of the Mainwarings, and bolster their standing in the county. This in part hinges on the supposed descent of the Mainwarings from Earl of Chester Hugh de Kevelioc and hence from Henry I and William of Normandy. Other rumours that had circulated during Hugh de Kevelioc's time included that hermits living in the Hermitage (Anchorite Cell) had claimed to be Harold II of England and the German Emperor Henry V. In both cases this is most unlikely, but, in both cases, such claims would cast doubt on Angevin legitimacy and bolster the status of Hugh.
Dugdale is already aware of an issue concerning Amicia, Hugh's supposed daughter by an unknown first wife, and has written of the matter in 1647 where he expresses some doubt that the Mainwaring pedigree could be traced back that far. In 1669 William Dugdale compiled a history of the Mainwaring Family of Peover in Cheshire for the then head of the family, Sir Thomas Mainwaring. Dugdale asked for the large sum of £150 per quarter until the work was to go to press. One key source for the information that the Mainwarings held was the antiquary Sampson Erdeswicke, who died in 1603 and was later considered by Anthony à Wood (17 December 1632 – 28 November 1695) to be a dubious source. Sir Peter Leycester (3 March 1614 – 11 October 1678) notes (1673) that the Coat of Arms of the Mainwarings has previously been modified to reflect descent from Hugh de Kevelioc (actually it incorporates the three sheaves of Ranulf de Blondeville), which he does not believe. Mainwaring responds and the two spend years in a "pamphlet war". In 1675, Dugdale appears to come down firmly on the side of Mainwaring (who was paying him) and the same year a court at Chester also decides in favour of Mainwaring. Leycester dies shortly afterwards (which does not stop Mainwaring getting in a final shot after Leycester's death).
In the event, Dugdale’s ‘History of Cheshire’ was never written. Plans by Foote Gower (1725/6–1780), a physician and antiquarian scholar born in Chester about 1726, to publish the history of his home county in the 1770s never came to fruition. It was to be George Ormerod of Lancashire, one of the founding members of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, who published The history of the county palatine and city of Chester in the early nineteenth century (borrowing much from Foote Gower). Ormerod's emphasis on the history of the senior gentry families would have undoubtedly met with Sir Philip Mainwaring’s approval.
Sources and Links
- A Defence of Amicia, daughter of Cyveliok, Earl of Chester, wherein it is proved that Sir Peter Leicester ... hath without any just grounds declared that Amicia to be a bastard / by Sir Thomas Mainwaring. 1673;
- Tracts written in the controversy respecting the legitimacy of Amicia, daughter of Hugh Cyveliok, earl of Chester, A.D. 1673-1679. edited and with an introduction by William Beamont;