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The Pockley family before 1700

The tiny village of Pockley, situated about 20 miles from York, two miles from Helmsley, and an equal distance from Rievaulx Abbey, has one street, still has thatched-roofed cottages, a little church, and a World-War 1 Memorial to 3 men, of which it is very proud. In 1924, when I first visited it, the population was 150, and it is much the same to-day.

The village seemed a good place to try to find out more about my ancestors, so I visited it again in 1954. The whole of the Yorkshire Moors was under a heavy blanket of snow. I asked the taxi driver to take me to see the present Lord of the Manor, Lord Feversham, and we eventually found him in a field, surrounded by half a dozen farm types, with whom he was holding a conference. I introduced myself, and explained the reason for my call. His Lordship said he was very sorry, but he really could not help me much, as his family had only been there a couple of hundred years:

The village's roots lie deep in antiquity. The original Anglo Saxon spelling of the name was Pochelac, or Poca-leah, meaning "Poca's forest clearing". Various other spellings appear from time to time, including Pocele, Pochele, Poklele, Pokelai, Pockele, Poklee and Pockeley. A recent archaeological "dig" has uncovered the remains of a large, well preserved Roman villa there.

Before the Conquest, Pockley belonged to Ulf and Ughtred, who each held one Caracute as a Manor. In 1056 the Archbishop of York held the land of Ulf, and Robert Courit of Mortain, a half-brother of William the Conqueror, held that of Ughtred. The Count of Mortain's lands came to the Crown in 1106, and before 1284-5 the Archbishop of York had ceased to hold lands in Pockley.

Rievaulx Abbey was founded in 1132. Peter de Roos held Pockley in 1278, and his brother Robert held it in 1284. Robert gave common pasture there for sheep and cattle, timber and wood for the monks' own use in all the woods, and pasture for pigs, free from all payment. In 1338 William de Roos had license to celebrate divine service daily in the Chapel of St. Nicholas of Pockley. In 1546 there was a chantry Chapel for prayers for the dead - which was maintained by a stock of 80 ewes.

In 1616 the claim of Francis Duke of Buckingham to the Barony was disallowed in favour of his cousin, William Cecil, but two years later he regained it. Francis died in 1632, leaving an only daughter Katherine, Duchess of Buckingham and Lady Roos, his brother George the seventh Earl of Rutland being his male heir.

George conveyed the Helmsley Estates in 1634, and they later came into the possession of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Helmsley, Pockley, Rievaulx and various other Manors were in 1650 granted to the Commonwealth Commander-in-Chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax, but George Duke of Buckingham recovered them by marrying Mary, Sir Thomas Fairfax's only child, 7 years later.

Quakers lived in Pockley in 1702, and later primitive Methodism flourished. Illegitimacy was common, 15% of births being those of children, born out of wedlock. A school was built in Pockley in 1881, but the expense of running it caused it to be closed down in 1946.

The name Pockley was exclusively a Yorkshire one for many generations, and references have been found to many people of the name within a fairly limited radius, in places like Burton Agnes, Thorpe Willoughby, Brayton, Ulram, Thurnholme, Haisthorpe, Wintringham, Bridlington and Flamborough. One may assume that the family was connected with the village at some time, and took their name from it. The earliest records of the name include the following, who were Freemen of the City of York:

1414 Ricardus Poklay;
1543 Johannus Poklay;
1576 Johannus Poklay - the Younger;
1579 Petrus Pockley;
1591 Simonus Pokley;
1604 Simeon Pockley;
1628 Thomas Pockley;
1651 William Pockley;
1652 Thomas Pockley;
1688 Thomas Pockley;
1707 Willelmus Pockley;
1773 John Pockley.

Their occupations were fletcher, cowper, silk-weaver, cord-wainer, tailor and merchant tailor.

I have found references to so many Pockleys that it is quite impossible to draw up any sort of credible family tree. The more "recent" references start with Rychard Pockley, who on 23 November, 1600, married Elizabeth Hanson. At one time at least some of the Pockley family were people of importance and substance. There was a Lancelot Pockley of Burton Agnes; a grandson of his married Isabel Burton - presumably important people around Burton Agnes; a grand-daughter married Sir Jeremy Smith, "a Sea Captain of renown"; another grand-daughter married a Thorpe.

In 1667 John Pockley of Thorpe Willoughby bought land in the North Bailiwick and before the end of the 17th Century reference is made to the "Mansion House of the Pockleys"; "The different places of residence of the above family, together with their superiority and extent ...". This John Pockley died in 1679. He was accounted a very rich man, and it was said of him that "his funeral was no more extravagant than befitted a man of his quality and condition". In one of the many law suits which concerned his estates, the wife of Sir George Pilkington, Bart, testified that "she very well knows Mr. John pockley, uncle of Mr. George Pockley, but had little or no acquaintance with the said Mr. George Pockley".

Captain John Pockley of Thorpe Willoughby registered his Coat of Sir William Dugdale's visitation of 1664-5, as under: "Arms at Gules a bend argent cotised or between two covered cups of the second. A dove wings displayed argent in her beak an oak branch slipped "No proofe made of these Armes".

Captain John Pockley, a descendant of Lancelot of Burton Agnes, died without issue, and left his property to George Pockley, the youngest child of his sister Jane, who married a George Pockley. He said of the latter that he was "no little relation, if any, and was a poor man and of little education." He spoke of him and his children as "a company of silly men, who had been meanly bred in regard their father was a poor man".

Young George was sent to Cambridge, and was nearly 14 years old when Captain John died. After leaving Cambridge he lived in London, where he wasted a great deal of money and "was for several nights of the week disordered with drink". George had a grandson, Robert of Brayton, who in his minority, on 20 January 1708, married Theodosia Osbaldeston, of Hunmanby.

This marriage is further proof of the standing of the Thorpe Willoughby Pockleys at that time. Theodosia Osbaldeston was a daughter of Sir Richard Osbaldeston by his second wife, Elizabeth. Her elder brother Richard was Bishop of Carlisle and London, and a tutor of George III. Another brother was Fountayne Wentworth Osbaldeston, M.P, and a younger sister Mary married Robert Mitford of Mitford Castle. Mary's daughter Philadelphia married a man who took the name of Osbaldeston, and they had a son who was the father of George, the legendary "Squire" Osbaldeston, probably the most famous character in all English history in sporting activities. His sister Sophia married Richard Fountayne-Wilson, M.P, High Sheriff of Yorkshire, and his sister Lucy Maria married Thomas Daniell, M.P, High Sheriff of Cornwall. "Squire's" aunt married Sir Walter Barttelot, who changed his name to Smythe.