The Elland Feud is one of the more gruesome episodes in Calderdale’s sometimes violent history.
The story goes back 600 years to the first half of the 14th century and while there may be debates over the details there seems to be little doubt that this story of warring families really happened.
It all stems from rivalry between Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and John, Earl Warren, which turned to hatred and jealousy among their various supporters, in particular the de Elands of Elland Hall and the Beaumonts of Crosland Hall, Huddersfield.
In 1294 Lancaster married Alice de Lacy. The marriage was not a success and in 1317 Alice was kidnapped by supporters of Earl Warren in Dorset and taken to Reigate Castle.
Lancaster retaliated by laying siege to Conisborough, Knaresborough and other Yorkshire castles belonging to Warren.
In the fighting Exley, of Exley Hall, near Halifax, killed a nephew of Sir John Eland, of Elland Hall. Sir John was a rich and powerful man, Lord of the Manor of Elland and various other places and who owned a great deal of land, including Barkisland, Brighouse, Norland, Rishworth, and Stainland. He was also High Sheriff of Yorkshire – and loyal to Earl Warren.
In compensation Exley gave land to Sir John but he was dissatisfied with this and, in fear of his life, Exley fled to his kinsman, Sir Robert Beaumont, of Crosland Hall.
Beaumont and his friends, Lockwood, of Lockwood and Hugh, of Quarmby, were loyal to Lancaster.
In about 1341 Sir John de Eland raised a well-armed band of Elland men and set out to kill Beaumont at Crosland Hall. En route they called in at Quarmby Hall, entered at dead of night and slew Hugh of Quarmby.
They then went on to Lockwood Hall and killed Lockwood before heading for Crosland Hall. This was a moated hall and the drawbridge was up so the killers had to await their chance.
They hid until dawn, then, early in the morning, a maid servant lowered the drawbridge, de Eland’s men rushed in, overcame Sir Robert Beaumont and beheaded him, staying long enough to enjoy a post mortem feast.
This was not, however, the end of the matter. The surviving Lady Beaumont fled for safety with her two sons, Adam and John, to Burnley, where they were joined by the sons of Lockwood and Quarmby and Lacy, of Cromwell Bottom.
Over the succeeding years, as they plotted revenge, they honed their skills with sword and longbow and returned to Yorkshire in 1353, intending to kill St John de Eland. They ambushed him on the way home from his court in Brighouse and though his men fought hard de Eland was killed.
The following year the four killers returned to Elland where they broke into Elland Mill and captured and bound the miller and his wife.
There had been talk in the town of a threat to de Eland’s son, Sir John Junior, now master at Elland Hall. It was Palm Sunday and Sir John, his wife and son, set out to go to church.
As a precaution Sir John wore a suit of armour under his clothes, but as the group crossed the dam stones of the Elland Mill – Elland bridge, it is thought, having been washed away by recent storms – Adam Beaumont stepped out of the mill and fired an arrow which glanced off Sir Thomas’s armour.
Lockwood’s first arrow did the same, but his second hit de Eland in the head and he fell dead in the river. His son was wounded and was carried back to Elland Hall, where he died.
Elland was in uproar. As Beaumont and his friends headed for Ainley Wood they were pursued by armed men from the town. There was a fight in Ainley Wood and Quarmby was wounded. He was later found hiding in a tree and killed.
Lockwood went to Cannon Hall, Cawthorne, near Barnsley, where he was betrayed by a woman he had befriended and was ambushed by the Elland men and killed. Lacy escaped north and Beaumont went abroad.
The end of the feud also meant the end of the main line of the de Eland family – and the rise of another local family, the Saviles.
Eland’s son had also been killed in the ambush at Elland Mill and his daughter, Isobel, was his only other child. She married Sir John Savile, of New Hall, Elland, who became Lord of the Manor of Elland and took possession of Elland Hall.
The Elland Feud was turned into a poem, sometimes known as The Ballad of the Eland Feud. It runs to 124 verses, but the author is unknown and some writers shed doubt on its authenticity.
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