The Ingleby family can trace its history back to 1090, when Sir Robert Ingleby owned land in the village of Ingleby, near Saxelby, Lincs. Another branch of the family had extensive lands in and around Ingleby Greenhow and Ingleby Mill in North Yorkshire. When Sir Thomas Ingleby (c1290-1352) married the heiress Edeline Thwenge in 1308/9 she came with a very substantial dowry: Ripley Castle and its surrounding estates. Like most wedding presents, it has taken the family several generations to work out what to do with it!
Life was far from easy: in 1318 the Scots, under Sir James ‘Black’ Douglas, plundered the region mercilessly, destroying 140 of the 160 houses in nearby Knaresborough. In the following year a bovine plague killed almost all of the cattle in the region, leaving thousands destitute and milk in short supply. In 1349 the Black Death struck, wiping out almost half of the local population and leaving numerous hamlets bereft of people. The old village of Ripley was abandoned and the survivors built a new settlement on the site of the current village, on the doorstep of the castle. Sir Thomas was in great favour at the king’s court in London and was appointed as an Advocate in 1347. In 1351 he was appointed as a Justice of Assize. He died the following year and a magnificent tombchest in All Saint’s Church, Ripley, has the figures of Thomas and Edeline lying recumbent on the top, he in his armour and chain mail, she in a long robe and head dress.
His oldest son, also called Thomas (1310-1369) also married well: Katherine Mauleverer was descended from Aelfwine, an Anglian of proud descent and one of the largest landowners in the North of England. He followed his father into the royal court, and accompanied Edward III on a hunting trip to the royal hunting forest of Knaresborough in 1357. The king found a wild boar and threw his spear at it, but only injured it. The boar charged the king’s horse, and the king was thrown to the ground. Thomas killed the boar, saving the king’s life. He was knighted, granted the boar’s head emblem as his family crest, and granted the right to hold a weekly market and annual horse fair in Ripley – both continued to be held until the early 1900’s. He was appointed as a justice of the King’s Bench in 1361, the only judge to hold that position apart from the Chief Justice. He could claim £40 pa for expenses, and a further £20pa for holding assizes in different counties.
Thomas’s brother, Sir Henry Ingleby, enjoyed an equally notable career. Rector of several parishes, he was appointed Master of the Rolls and Keeper of the Writs, serving under the Lord Chancellor William Edington: he had an office in the Tower of London and paid 40 shillings a year for the privilege of collecting the wool tax from the monasteries. He also oversaw the network of royal horse dealers who bought horses for the royal household, then sold them at a profit: the proceeds were used to build Windsor Castle. He died in 1375 and was buried in York Minster.
Sir John Ingleby (1434-1499) inherited the estate from his father at the age of five: his trustees had to testify to his correct date of birth in order to get the estates out of trust when he came of age. Their testimony paints a remarkable picture of an average day in the life of 15th century England. ‘Ralph Acclom remembers John’s birth because he was staying with John, Abbot of Fountains Abbey and rode across with him to baptize the baby. Ralph Apilton remembered John’s birth because he killed a deer between Ripley and Hampsthwaite. Robert Atkinson remembered the date because he rode with John Slingsby from Ripley to Sherburn and was robbed and beaten up, losing 28s and 8d.’
John built the castle gatehouse – still there today – and married a wealthy heiress, Margery Strangeways of Harlsey Castle. She bore him a son and heir, William. In 1457 John abandoned his wife, son estates and earthly possessions to become a monk at Mount Grace Priory a Carthusian charterhouse near Northallerton which had been founded by his great grandfather – and was the last resting place for his parents. He was appointed prior of Sheen in 1477 and first visitor of the English province between 1478 and 1496. The royal family worshipped at Sheen and John became the first of three executors for Queen Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV, in 1492. He was Henry VII’s special ambassador to Pope Innocent VIII, the king describing him as ‘my captain and envoy’ in one of the letters that John delivered to the Pope. Henry appointed him to oversee the conversion of priory at Sheen into the royal palace of Richmond between 1495 and 1499, and the Pope appointed him bishop of Llandaff on 27th June, 1496. He was buried at the church of St Nicholas in Hertford. His luckless wife, Margery, effectively became a widow when he took holy orders: she spent eleven years raising her son before marrying Richard, Lord Welles. Her luck was no better second time round: Edward IV reneged on a promise of safe keeping and had her husband beheaded in 1469, less than a year after their marriage.
Sir William Ingleby (1518-1578) married the staunchly Catholic Ann Mallory and lived through a period of profound religious turbulence. When Henry VIII suppressed the smaller monasteries in 1536, Yorkshire’s old established Catholic families rose in revolt: the Pilgrimage of Grace was a populist and peaceful revolt that received such widespread support throughout the North that the king, heavily outnumbered, was forced to sue for peace. Reneging on a promise of safe keeping, Henry had the organizer, Robert Aske, arrested and put to death: 200 of his fellow pilgrims shared his fate. William received a reward for his staunch loyalty to the crown: Queen Mary wrote ‘For the opinion I have conceived of Sir William Ingleby…I have appointed him Treasurer of Berwick’. The Rising of the North in 1568 was potentially even more serious. The rebels set out from nearby Markenfield Hall and mustered an army that far outnumbered the king’s resources. Sir William, as High Sheriff of York, was obliged to muster additional troops but while doing so was surrounded in Ripon market square, by a group of rebels amongst whom were two of his sons, David and Francis. He had to fight his way out and, deciding that Ripley Castle was too weak to defend, took refuge in the duchy of Lancaster’s Knaresborough Castle until the troops under his command were strong enough to defeat the rebels. The earl of Sussex wrote to William Cecil ‘Sir William Ingleby has served the Queen as truly and as chargeably from the first suspicion of this rebellion, as any man of his rank has done. He has delivered to me, from time to time, better intelligence than I have received from any others. He be such that her majesty may rest assured of his honesty and loyalty’. The rebellion was crushed: David and Francis fled into exile but Sir William’s own son in law, Thomas Markenfield, was executed.
Francis Ingleby (1550-1586) studied at Brasenose College, Oxford and read law at the Inner Temple. In 1583, having received a heavenly visitation while staying at Ripley, he emigrated to Reims and became ordained a Catholic seminary priest, returning to England in 1585. There are remarkable parallels with today: a native Englishman, passionately supporting a minority religion, goes abroad to receive militant training in his faith. He returns intent on spreading the word and overthrowing the established religion and government. Francis was hung, drawn and quartered on York Knavesmire in 1586 and beatified by the Pope in 1987. His brother David (1547-1600) became known as ‘the Fox’ for his ability to outrun his pursuers. He was the man who guided the seminary priests around the North of England, leading them from one safe house to another. He married Lady Ann Neville, daughter of the exiled earl of Westmoreland – and another staunch Catholic. David was heavily implicated as a co-conspirator of John Ballard in the Babington treason, a conspiracy to remove Elizabeth I from the throne and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. He and Francis were described as ‘the most dangerous papists in the North’. A huge manhunt was launched to find them: a secret priest’s hiding hole, built to conceal them and other visiting priests while they were at Ripley, was only discovered by accident in 1964. A set of instructions written out for a spy being sent to the royal court in Scotland listed numerous things that the spy should and should not do: it ended with a very simple warning ‘ beware of David Ingleby’. David died in exile in Belgium: Elizabeth I, taking pity on his by now impoverished widow, awarded her a pension provided she behaved herself. Their cousin Mary Ward spent several of her formative years staying with the Inglebys. In 1609 she founded a Catholic Society for Women, modeled on the Society of Jesus. They founded schools and taught in them, and the nuns were strongly encouraged to work in the community. Pope Urban VIII suppressed the order and it wasn’t until 1877 that her society was fully restored with papal blessing. The Bar Convent in York – which she founded - was the first teaching convent in the world.
Sir William Ingleby (1546 - 1618) hosted a visit by James VI of Scotland en route to the king’s coronation as James I of England in 1603. Within two years William was heavily implicated in a plot to kill the king his family and hundreds of MP’s. The Ingilbys were related to or closely associated with, nine of the eleven principal conspirators of the infamous Gunpowder Plot. The mother of Robert and Thomas Wyntour, two of the leading conspirators, was an Ingleby. They had spent the week before the plot was unearthed at Ripley, buying horses from the surrounding district. Sir William and his son were arrested and charged with treason, but were, surprisingly, acquitted of all the charges. The third charge was that of bribing witnesses.
Sir William Ingleby (1594-1652) supported Charles I throughout the civil war, raising a troop of horse to fight under the generalship of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. He fought at the battle of Marston Moor, alongside his redoubtable sister, ‘Trooper’ Jane Ingleby, and somehow managed to escape the bloody rout that saw the king’s northern armies defeated for good. He made the safety of Ripley, but was his arrival was followed almost immediately by that of the victorious rebel general, Oliver Cromwell. Sir William leapt into the priest’s secret hiding place, leaving his sister to look after Cromwell. She at first refused to let him into the castle, swearing that she would defend it against all comers. After some negotiation, he was allowed to enter and spend the night there, guarded at pistol point by Jane, to prevent him from searching the castle for her brother. Cromwell, stunned at being held at gunpoint by a woman having just won the greatest victory of his career, did nothing and she saw him off the premises the following morning. Sir William’s son, also called William (1620-1682) was deeply religious – and a closet ‘rebel’. He managed to get the family’s entire fortune captured by the rebels and his father, believing him to have done it on purpose, wrote him a blistering letter, threatening to disinherit him. The letter, signed ‘your loving father’, can be seen at the castle today. William junior was not good looking: his portraits confirm that. In 1659 he employed a dating agent, a Mr E Pitt, to find him a wife, and again we have the correspondence: the mission was successful.
Sir John Ingilby (1757 – 1835) married Elizabeth Amcotts, a Lincolnshire heiress. His father in law promised him funds to help the young couple rebuild the castle. Sir John had a row with his father in law half way through the project, and ended up so heavily in debt that he had to flee the country for eleven years while his land agent sold timber to pay off his debts. While he and his wife were abroad their oldest son died at the age of 18, and they were hustled from one European city to another as the Napoleonic wars consumed the continent. A bundle of frequently harrowing letters, written to his agent while he was in exile, survives. By the time he returned, his marriage was over: having had 11 children by his wife, he had a further 5 by Martha Webster, daughter of a local tenant farmer. One son, Edward Webster, had problems involving a gamekeeper’s daughter near Skipton and was placed on board the RM Reynolds at Ramsgate with £200 and a supply of clean shirts: his stepbrother was ordered to remain on the dockside to ensure that he didn’t leave the vessel before it set sail for Sydney. This proved to be a life-changing experience and he and his successors thrived Down Under: Robert Webster was the minister of state for the Olympics in the NSW state government when Sydney won the bid for the games.
Sir John’s son Sir William Amcotts Ingilby (1783-1854) was the product of a broken home, and a great eccentric. He was a drinker, gambler and general reprobate: he became an MP, as many such people do. He was a leading Whig, and an outspoken supporter of the reform Act of 1832. His dress sense was spectacularly awful ‘’As to your friend, Sir William Ingilby I am told by a lady who saw him and absolutely took fright at it, that this eccentric baronet walks about Ripley and Ripon too, in his dressing gown, without smalls or loincloth on. The absence of the former was luckily disguised by the wrap of the gown, and is alleged on hearsay: but the naked throat, shirt collar displayed a la Milord Byron, had a striking effect, and produced the scarecrow impression.’ Believing that his tenants and workforce should be well housed in this age of industrial revolution, Sir William demolished the entire village of Ripley and rebuilt it as a model estate village, copying an idea that he had observed in Alsace Lorraine. Instead of a Town Hall, Ripley has a magnificent ‘Hotel de Ville’ – certainly the only one of its kind in England! He died without heir and left the estate to his cousin Henry, telling him that he was doing so because ‘ I don’t believe that you are any longer the canting hypocrite I took you for’.
Sir William Ingilby (1829-1918) was a somewhat dictatorial Landlord. He disapproved of alcoholic drink being served on the Sabbath day and closed down the three pubs in the village when the Landlords refused to close on Sundays. The village remained dry for 71 years until the Boar’s Head opened in 1989. When a child ran out of the front door of one of the village houses and startled his horse, causing him to be deposited on the ground in the middle of the Main Street, he prevented further embarrassment by imposing an edict that the villagers should not use their front doors.
Having survived several plagues, invasions, civil wars, wars, religious turbulence, a plot to commit regicide, numerous periods of deep recession and everything else that has befallen this country in the last seven hundred years, the Ingilbys can justifiably breathe a sigh of relief that they have arrived safely at this astonishing landmark. Theirs is a story of how one family has been tossed around in the choppy waters of England’s stormy history – and somehow survived, despite being on the losing side more often than not. The history of the Ingilbys is a microcosm of the history of England and features a cast of extraordinarily brave, foolish, eccentric and courageous characters, black sheep and white. They have gone from high office in the court of kings and queens to running a wedding and conference venue and hotel, but they are still at Ripley and the story continues as they steer their family and business through these challenging times. Sir Thomas and Lady Ingilby have four sons and a daughter. A more detailed history of the family, complete with family trees not just of the Ingilby family but various families that became related to the Ingilbys by marriage over the centuries, will be added to Ripley’s website (www.ripleycastle.co.uk) very shortly to commemorate the 700th anniversary.
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