13th October 1538. From 1066 to Modern Britain.
One cannot go far in Britain without being reminded of history particularly of the powerful Norman families keen to stamp their presence by castle and monastic foundation.
One such family was that of Henry de Ferrers who had fought at Hastings with the Conqueror and then rewarded with lands spread widely over the shires, but which HQ (caput) was centred around Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire.(1)
In 1148 in the reign of Stephen, Henry’s grandson, Robert Ferrers, 2nd Earl of Derby and Earl of Nottingham, founded Merevale Priory, Warwickshire, the place where he chose to be buried, in 0x-hide.(2)
Then came a major set-back in the 13thc, when Sir Robert III de Ferrers, 6th Earl, supported the wrong side of Simon de Montfort against Henry III, resulting in confiscation of the de Ferrers’ title and lands.
Then 300 years later Robert’s foundation Merivale was dissolved Today in 1538 when the Priory signed its surrender to the agents of Henry VIII. The days of glory were over, or were they?
The first six de Ferrers were a volatile mix of rebels and favourites. Robert 2nd earl was typical of the time in going on pilgrimage to Santiago da Compostela where he would have earned relief from time in Purgatory, and as well as Merivale, he founded Derby Priory which relocated to nearby Darley Abbey.
His son William, the 3rd Earl of Derby was of a rebellious streak and supported the sons of the King, ‘Henry the Young King’, Richard and Geoffrey against Henry II in the Revolt of 1173-4.
However the Earl seems to have regained the confidence of the monarch, and later became a loyal supporter of Henry’s son Richard I (The Lionheart). He died in 1190 at Acre on crusade.
The next William adopted his father’s allegiance to Richard, as well as becoming somewhat of a favourite of Richard’s brother King John.
William the penultimate and 5th Earl of Derby was buried at Merevale where his effigy still lies, though somewhat mutilated (see below).
Ironically Bredon Priory, Derbyshire given by the Conqueror to Robert de Ferrers, was later to be bought after the 16thc Dissolution, by the Shirley Family of Staunton. They were distant descendants of the Normans, and went on to create a new Ferrers’ peerage.
(1) A Lordship could range from a field to vast areas so ‘Honours’ varied in the 11/12thc at a time before there was any extensive peerage.
However these lands were held by the favour of the king and could be escheated, as de Ferrers 6th earl found when supporting de Montfort in the 13thc.
Ref: wikipedia.org/Effigy Pic:
Ref: heritage-explorer.co.uk/Pics of refectory of Merevale.
Merevale was endowed it with nearby manors of Weston, Orton on the Hill along with Twycross and Gopsall.