The Percy Family

By Wikimandia - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Percy family, Earls of Northumberland, were influential figures, with their ancestral seat at Alnwick Castle providing a power base in the north.

The Percy family, a lineage of immense historical significance, has roots that trace back to the Norman Conquest of England. Founded by William de Percy, a companion of William the Conqueror, the family was granted extensive lands in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, establishing their presence as a formidable force in the region.

Over the centuries, the Percy’s became synonymous with the political and social fabric of Northern England, particularly in Yorkshire. Their influence extended beyond mere landholding; they were instrumental in shaping the region’s destiny through their roles in major historical events, such as the Wars of the Roses, which saw them in a prolonged rivalry with the House of Neville.

Their influence began to rise post-Conquest, as they acquired vast tracts of land throughout the region. Historical records from the 11th and 12th centuries indicate that the Percy’s were enfeoffed with lands by the monarchs of the time, which laid the foundation for their extensive holdings. Over the centuries, their estates expanded through strategic marriages and acquisitions. Notably, in the 14th century, the union of Thomas de Crathorne with the heiress of Peter Bagot is believed to have consolidated the Percy family’s landholdings in Yorkshire, as suggested by historical accounts from Crathorne, a parish within North Yorkshire.

The Percy family’s stronghold in Yorkshire was further cemented by their possession of significant manors and estates, such as those in Kildale, where they held land from at least the 13th century, as indicated by the presence of Percy Cross on Kildale Moor, a landmark denoting their influence in the area. Their power and wealth were not just in land but also in the political realm, as they held titles and positions that allowed them to shape the governance of the region.

Moving into the modern era, the Percy family’s land ownership has evolved with the times. While they still retain titles and some land, the scale of their ownership has changed due to various factors such as economic shifts, societal changes, and legal reforms. The family’s historical estates, like many other aristocratic holdings, have been subject to sales, subdivisions, and public acquisitions. However, their legacy in Yorkshire remains evident through the landmarks, place names, and historical records that continue to bear witness to their once vast dominion.

Today, the Percy family, through the Dukes of Northumberland, still holds a presence in Yorkshire, albeit not as extensive as in the medieval and early modern periods.

The Percy’s influence on Yorkshire is multifaceted, encompassing political, social, and architectural domains. They were the Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland, and their main seat at Alnwick Castle was a centre of power and governance. Their Yorkshire estates, including the formidable Wressle Castle, were not just symbols of their wealth and status but also sites of significant historical events. The family’s patronage of religious and educational institutions further cemented their legacy in the region. The Percy family’s stewardship of the land and their strategic marriages into other noble families expanded their influence and helped to shape the cultural and political landscape of Yorkshire throughout the medieval period.

Wressle Castle, a significant historical structure located in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, was constructed in the 1390s for Thomas Percy. It was designed not only as a military fortress but also as a statement of wealth and power, reflecting the status of its owner within the social hierarchy of medieval England.

The castle originally featured four ranges built around a central courtyard, complete with corner towers and a gatehouse facing the village. Its history is marked by the turbulent times it witnessed, including the downfall of Thomas Percy, who was executed for rebelling against Henry IV, leading to the confiscation of the castle by the Crown.

Ownership of Wressle Castle fluctuated between the Crown and various grantees until it was returned to the Percy family in 1471. The 5th Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy, later refurbished the castle, elevating it to the standards of royal properties. The castle’s ornamental landscape, including its gardens, was an integral part of its design, showcasing the grandeur of the estate. Despite its fortifications, Wressle Castle was never besieged, although it was garrisoned during the English Civil War and partially demolished thereafter. The south range is the only section that remains standing today, bearing witness to the castle’s storied past. In the 21st century, efforts have been made to preserve what is left of Wressle Castle, with organizations like Historic England and the Country Houses Foundation funding repairs to the ruins.

The architectural contributions of the Percy’s are still evident in the ruins of castles and the grandeur of estates like Syon House and Northumberland House. The family’s impact on the region’s architecture is a testament to their wealth and taste, as well as their desire to leave a lasting mark on the landscape. The Percy family’s legacy in Yorkshire is also reflected in the enduring cultural traditions, local lore, and the very identity of the region, which bears the imprint of their centuries-long presence. Their story is a tapestry of ambition, power, conflict, and artistry that has left an indelible mark on the history of Yorkshire. The Percy family’s narrative is not just a chronicle of one family but a mirror reflecting the broader historical currents that have shaped England over the ages.

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    The Percy family, Earls of Northumberland, were influential figures, with their ancestral seat at Alnwick Castle providing a power base in the north.

    [See the full post at: The Percy Family]

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