This article continues from Part I (Old Hutt) and looks at the sites
of Lovel's Hall near Halebank which was the
manor house of Francis, Lord Lovel, aid to Richard III, who also fought at
Lovel's Hall, has now completely disappeared, although the square 'platform' and the filled in moat can be clearly seen from the air. Situated north of Linner Farm at the Halebank end of the historical Township of Halewood, it was probably constructed by the Holland family in the mid 14th century.
The second Lord Holland died in 1373 and the land passed to his daughter Maud. Through her marriage to Sir John, Lord Lovel of Minster Lovel in Oxfordshire, ownership eventually passed to her great-great grandson, Francis, Lord Lovel (b.1456).
Francis became a close friend and loyal supporter of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who knighted Francis in 1481. Two years later, he was created Viscount Lovel by Edward IV. When Gloucester became King Richard III in 1483, he appointed Lovel later that same year to several offices, including that of Chief Butler of all England, Privy Chancellor, and Lord Chancellor of the Kings Household. In 1485 Sir Francis fought under Richard in the Kings' darkest hour, the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard was killed on the battlefield and the Crown taken by Henry VII. Francis had survived, but fled for his life.
After taking sanctuary in St.John's Abbey, Colchester, he led an unsuccessful revolt against Henry in 1486, before fleeing to the Furness Fells with other rebels. After a second failed uprising in June 1487 at Stoke-by-Newark, Lovel disappeared. Contemporary reports suggest he was killed on the battlefield, but they are by no means reliable. His name was later among a list of rebels offered asylum by James IV of Scotland, but there is no evidence that he ever went there.(1) It may have been a rouse to divert the attention of his enemies as to his true whereabouts.
What became of him is still a mystery to this day and as a consequence, several legends exist regarding his demise.(2) Edward Hall's Chronicle of 1542, for example, tells that he escaped from Stoke by attempting to cross the nearby River Trent at Fiskerton, but the bank was much too steep for his horse and they fell back in and drowned. This was a good tale to explain the lack of a body. Another story, once strongly believed by the people of Hale, was that once he had reached the opposite bank of the Mersey, near Runcorn, and on rushing to reach his house on the other side, he attempted to cross the river by the ancient ford, but was forced by the current towards Ince and was drowned. This is undoubtedly a corruption of the River Trent tale and must be discounted as local folklore.
A third tale is rather more intriguing. Francis Bacon in his History of the Reign of King Henry VII also mentions that Lovel may have died in the battle, or drowned afterwards, but then adds that 'yet another report leaves him not there, but that he lived long after in a cave or vault'.(3)
Now in May 1708, almost a century after that document appeared, workmen were digging the foundations for a new chimney at Minster Lovel Hall. During the excavation they discovered an underground vault. Inside they found the skeleton of a man still seated at his desk on which was a book, paper and pen. Nearby was a cap, mouldy and decayed. Unfortunately, everything crumbled to dust soon after the fresh air was allowed inside.(4) But could this have been the vault mentioned by Bacon and the body of Sir Francis, who had died alone, still in fear of his life?
Officially, a court held just after his disappearance decided that he had escaped to the continent and had died at Flanders, but due to the lack of evidence we will probably never know what really happened.
Sadly, nothing is known of what his Hall looked like, although it was probably a substantial building. It is unlikely he ever resided there. His fortune and landholding was extensive as he held manorial land throughout the country, furthermore, the family base was still at Minster Lovel. He may have visited Halewood on occasions, but the Hall probably became so named due to his ancestor John Lovel's inheritance on marriage to Maud Holland, rather than Francis' occupancy.
A few months after Bosworth, Lovel was attainted and his lands were sequestrated. His land in Halewood was given to a loyal supporter of the new King, the first Earl of Derby, in whose hands it remained for several hundred years.
The Hall appears to have been the home demesne around which a medieval open field system of farming was arranged.(5) A study of field names, together with maps of the late 18th-mid 19th century, reveals a pattern of elongated fields which seem to have evolved from the piece- meal enclosure of furlong strips. Other features associated with the medieval open field arrangement may also be present, and in this respect, Cowell suggests evidence may exist of a former medieval park.(6)
A medieval park was an enclosed area, generally wooded, for the private use of the lord of the manor, in which animals were kept for hunting and to provide a constant supply of fresh meat. The bounds of the park were usually quite substantial, being banks with wooden fences known as pales and associated with ditches, to keep wild animals out and the deer within. The perimeters can often be recognised on the map by long continuous field boundaries, generally almost circular in shape, against which later field boundaries have been set.(7)
(recent aerial photo showing new railway estate constructed close to the moat). Early 14th century references are made to the park of Linnall in Hale, although the documents suggest that the park was located next to the township boundary of Ditton. Seventeenth century field-names called 'Linnow', adjacent to the open field area in Halewood, may represent the area of this former park. The name of Linner Farm, on Higher Lane (now Halebank Road) appears to be derived from 'Linnall'. Most of this former park area, which lay between Halebank and Ditton Brook, is now occupied by housing.
Near the north eastern boundary of the park, below the Ditton Brook bridge, are the occurrences of 'Peel' field names.(8) The element of 'Peel' frequently refers to a tower house or palisaded enclosure, but is often associated with moated sites. In this instance the proximity to the border of the park suggests that there may have been a Keeper's or hunting lodge situated there which could also have been moated.
(Right: Halebank ribbon development around Linner Farm. Lovels Hall is sited towards the top right (not visible)).
The settlement nearby was not as concentrated as in the 'typical' appearances of medieval villages found further south. Nevertheless, three small nucleations were evident, all of whose inhabitants had shares in the open field system. Most central to the this system appeared to be a linear settlement on Higher Lane, south of Lovel's Hall, although this consisted of only three farms to the north of the road. Another small concentration occurred near the Halebank crossroads centred around the former village green (at the Potter's Lane/Hale Gate Road junction).
It is possible that this medieval settlement had decayed by the 18th century leaving just hints here and there of its former appearance. More field work and documentary work is needed to fully understand the developments.
Mike Royden (1992)