Calder Valley Connections to Magna Carta
Alan Petford Memorial Lecture
Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: David Cant
Friday, 4 March 2016
David Cant delivered this first annual lecture in memory of Alan Petford, who died far too soon and whose contributions to the study and enjoyment of local history are immense and greatly missed.
The national celebration in 2015 of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta reinforced how the great charter has had resonances down the centuries.
Yet, as local historian David Cant explained to the audience at Hebden Bridge Local History Society, the charter was basically a peace treaty that was broken within months of being agreed.
The battle was between King John and the barons, who formed the second tier in the pyramid feudal structure by which society was organised in the 13th century. Unsurprisingly the discontent felt by the powerful barons was rooted in money. King John had embarked on expensive, and unsuccessful wars in France, and he imposed ever more severe taxes to pay for his ventures. To make things worse he paid scant attention to the rules of chivalry, starving his captives to death rather than taking a ransom.
Faced with an insurgent London, King John agreed to the barons' demands as set out in Magna Carta and despite its annulment in the same year, by 1297 its basic premises were agreed. This formed the basis of our constitution, restricting the power of the Crown to pursue individuals beyond the law. It is the cry of liberty, which established a belief in the right of the individual against an arbitrary state and influenced freedom movements across the centuries and around the world.
The Calder Valley, having no strategically important castles to defend, escaped much of the fighting between King John and his insurgent barons. Two families held sway - the de Lacys held the Manors of Clitheroe and of Pontefract and the de Warennes the Manor of Wakefield, and the de Lacys in particular were skilful in changing sides when it was in their interest.
Neither family tended to spend much time in the area, leaving decisions in the hands of local officials. Much can be learned about every day life in this period from Manor Court Rolls, recording all kinds of infringements and disputes about how the land was used.
Large areas of land were set aside as hunting forests and subject to strict forest laws. The famed independence of our valley may well have its roots in the unwillingness of the barons to get much involved.
Magna Carta is rightly celebrated as a symbol of liberty; it established the idea of the rule of law and the right of the individual, which remains the basis of our constitution.
Find out more about the activities of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society on the website www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk
With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report
Previously, on the HebWeb
Railway Roundabout with speaker Paul Kenny (16 Feb 2016)
Restoring a Unique Organ with speaker Peter Jeffery (31 Jan 2016)
Tales along the Packhorse Way with speaker John Billingsley(18 Jan 2016)
Vanishing for the Vote with speaker Jill Liddington (17 Dec 2015)
Widdop and the Shackletons with speaker John Shackleton(1 Dec 2015)
The History of Calrec: part 2 with speaker Stephen Jagger(19 Nov 2015)
What's in a Name: with speakers Keith Stansfield and Barbara Atack. An insight into local dialects and surnames of the Calder Valley. (9 Nov 2015)
The Lost Kingdom of Elmet (1 Nov 2015)
When Oxford University Came to Hebden Bridge (29 Oct 2015)
The dam that isn't and the great floating plug of the Colden (1 April 2015)
Gruelling Experiences - in the workhouse (16 March 2015)
Pre-History on our hill tops (9 March 2015)
Growing up in Sowerby (16 February 2015)
Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)
Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)
Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)
Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)
Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)
Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)
The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)
Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)
History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)
Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)
Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)
Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner
More history reports in the HebWeb History Section