The Langley Family
The history of the Langley family commences with two deed extracts in The Victorian History of Lancashire. The first deed states that Sir Geoffrey de Chetham sold tenements and land in Langley to Roger de Middleton. Robert, son of Elis del Holt and heirs holding this property by homage and service. Unfortunately the date on the deed is illegible. However, as the deed was witnessed by, amongst others, Thomas de Prestwich, Robert de Pendlebury and William de Radcliffe, the date was probably about 1265.
The second deed extract mentions that a Hopwood Charter of 1302 was witnessed by Roger de Middleton and William de Langley, his brother. This indicates that the first Langley was William, a younger son of the Middletons, and the use by some Langley branches of a Pheon crest attributed to the Holt family, further indicates that this William de Middleton of Langley was married to a daughter of Robert del Holt.
The descent of the Langleys from this William is not as yet clear. A William de Langley proved his entitlement to land at Langley in 1313. There was also a William de Longeleghe who was King’s Clerk in the area in 1320 and a William de Langley, Rector of Middleton in 1324. Either three separate William Langleys or possibly they were the same man.
Inquisitions (an old term for will probate) on various Langley's were held in 1322. Richard de Longelegh had held a messuage and 12 acres, valued at 12s. John his son held 1 messuage and 13 acres, valued at 7s. William de Longelegh held 1 messuage and 2 ½ acres, valued at 2s. 6d. Robert de Longelegh held 2 acres, valued at 2s. 6d (A messuage was an old term for a dwelling house and surrounding buildings). Why all these Langley's died around the same time is unknown. Robert the Bruce had invaded down the west coast the previous year, but there was also a mini civil war in the area during these years, or it might have been a catch up and they had all died over a period of time.
There are various other Langleys mentioned. In 1324 Thomas de Longeleghe was fined 4d for a breach of the peace and the following year, Margaret de Longeleghe was fined 2d for not having a witness present at a court. On 16th March 1343, a Richard de Langeleghe from Lancashire was found guilty at Oxford of stabbing another clerk in the neck with a bodkin (arrowhead).
After this, the Langley's might have slipped into oblivion, being younger sons and only holding small portions of land. However, Richard and John de Langley (not clear if they were brothers or cousins) who were born circa 1320-1325 struck lucky in 1346. While the main English army was in France, King Philip of France persuaded king David of Scotland that there was nobody left to guard the north of England and that this was a good time to attack, which the Scots did on October 7th 1346, plundering southwards down the east coast.
Upon hearing of this, the Langley's, together with 3,000 other men from Cumberland, Northumberland and Lancashire assembled at Neville’s Cross near Durham to await the arrival of further 3,000 men from Yorkshire. On the morning of the 17th October, while the Langley's and the rest of the army were sitting around having their breakfast, much to the surprise of both sides, the Scot’s army suddenly appeared out of the early morning mist. Not very much happened for a while. The Scots waited for the English to attack while the English, sitting in an easily defendable position, waited for the Scots to attack.
Finally, the English archers got to work. They were the elite of the English army at the time, being able to release over 12 arrows a minute with enough power to fly 400 yards. With 30 or 40 arrows a second descending on them, the Scots were forced to attack. After two hours of fierce fighting, a lot of the Scots were either dead or had been captured to be held for ransom. King David of Scotland was included in the latter section. The remainder of the Scots fled leaving their belongings and spoils of war behind them. Richard and John de Langeleghe now returned to Lancashire flush with money.
Richard (my ancestor) was able to marry Joan, the eldest daughter of Jordan de Tetlow who held a small manor to the south of Middleton. Two years later the plague struck and in the process, killed both Joan’s parents and both her brothers together with her maternal uncle Roger de Prestwich of Pendlebury. The death a few years later of Joan’s other uncle, Thomas de Prestwich of Prestwich, added more land to the family’s holdings.
Many of Richard’s descendants went on to make a name for themselves in the army, church and other important positions. John Douse Langley and his brother Henry Archdall Langley were consecutive Bishops of Bendigo in New South Wales. Another John Langley was one of the engineers involved in the building of the first Aswan Dam on the Nile and went on to hold the position of Under Secretary of State for Agriculture in the interim Egyptian Government after the First World War. His son, Brigadier Charles A. Langley CBE; MC. R.E, was one of the brains behind the invention of the “Bailey Bridge” during the World War Two. Major General Sir Desmond Langley had a distinguished army career, was commander of the House Cavalry and went on to become Governor General of Bermuda from 1988 to 1993.
Meanwhile John, the other brother who was at Neville’s Cross, decided his mud and wattle cabin, or whatever he was living in, was not good enough for him and proceeded to build Langley Hall which was demolished in the eighteen hundreds. John’s grandson, Thomas Longley, was the brains of that family. Educated at Cambridge he entered the household of his over Lord, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancashire and rose to become Gaunt’s chief advisor and one of the executors of his will.
Other descendants of John went on to marry well and settle in various places in Yorkshire (Rathorpe, Ousethorpe and Sheriff Hutton). Also in Shropshire at Brosley, Golding and Shrewsbury Abbey. One of these descendants sold Langley Hall to the Radcliff family in the 1400s.
Written by Peter Langley and published here March 2012