The Langtons of Leicestershire

By David Langton

25 April 2011

The biggest concentration of Langtons in the world is in St Margaret's parish in Leicester (1881 census). This means that the Leicestershire population of Langtons is a very ancient one. If you are one of these Langtons your ancestors have been in the area for eight hundred years and you hold the keys to Langton origins in Leicestershire. Without the help of 2 or 3 of you we can't solve the puzzle. It is also more likely than not that the surname Lenton derives from the local pronunciation of Langton rather than from more distant Lenton villages (see Lenton article). So if you are a Lenton you are probably descended from these early Langtons.

The earliest recording of the Langton name in Leicestershire is in May 1210 when Robert De Langeton is identified as a juror for an important case to be held in Gloucestershire. He was presumably at the time holding land in the Langton villages south east of Leicester. There are five villages in close proximity on or around a low ridge, Church Langton, West Langton, East Langton, Tur Langton and Thorpe Langton. The village/manor that figures the most in the story is that of West Langton. The tale is complicated by strings of people holding land 'of' one another including Langtons holding land 'of' other Langtons.

It is possible that there is more than one Langton progenitor from West Langton and that there may be more than one DNA code. Perhaps a sister's family adopted the Langton name seeing an advantage for itself given the high national prominence of the Langton name around 1300 when both the Chancellor of England and the Treasurer of England were Langtons. More to the point it seems that both of them were Leicestershire Langtons. An additional complication is that the most famous of these Langtons, Walter Langton Treasurer of England said that he was the eldest son and heir of Ralph Peverel and his supposed heir was his nephew Edmund Peverel. However this raises more questions than it answers, such as given that he was really a Peveral why did he call himself Langton and not Peveral? Further if his nephew Edmund Peverel was his heir why wasn't he also his executor? The executor of the fabulously rich Walter (53rd in The Times all time rich list) was in fact was someone called John Langton who seems to have functioned as assistant treasurer and who, in all probability was Walter's son. Whilst Bishops were supposed to practice celibacy most only practiced a little and few managed to reach perfection in this area.

Further difficulties are also worth noting in that at the same time as Walter Langton was Treasurer, John De Langeton later Bishop of Chichester was Chancellor. It is not entirely clear if John of Chichester hailed from Leicestershire or Yorkshire although the weight of evidence is with Leicester. John of Chichester also seems to have been involved in arranging the marriage of yet another John Langton (not very rich at all) from the junior Langton line in Leicestershire with Alice (very rich indeed), the Banastre heiress in Lancashire. It should be noted that we now have at least three, contemporaneous John Langtons all of which, are of not entirely certain origin and this gives everyone plenty of opportunity for confusion. Finally there is confusion over Walter himself as he is frequently misidentified with a Walter Langton a cleric in Keighley Yorkshire. This is impossible, Walter of Keighley was from the Yorkshire Langton family. This confusion has led to the claim that Bishop Walter was nephew of William Langton Dean of York. He wasn't. .

I will now attempt to provide some sort of chronological outline. Let's return to the Langton progenitor Robert de Langeton the proposed juror of 1210 who may or may not be the ancestor of all the Leicestershire Langtons. Surprisingly and uniquely in matters Langton we can to some extent jump further back immediately. Bishop Hugh of Lincoln writing in 1220 about the church at Langton intimates that Roberti de Langeton's family came from Utica in Normandy as did Hugh de Braybroke's family. They may or may not have been related. They were both connected with the monastery of St Ebrulfi. The two references may be to the same Robert in 1210 or 1220 but they could equally be to two Roberts father and son. Robert seems to have had a son Richard married to Sarra living about 1240. Richard and Sarra may have had three sons; Ivo living in 1256, Robert living about 1270 and Walter living in 1262 married to Denise and living in Billesdon just to the north of the Langton villages. .

Ivo seems to represent the senior line of Langtons. His son was Thomas and Thomas seems to have been the main Langton landowner round about 1300 with other Langtons and Peverels holding land 'of' him. We have a certain line of descent down from Thomas. It runs on to Robert, then Thomas, then Richard (in tax roll of 1392), then Robert, then Thomas, then Richard. The final Thomas is described as Armiger i.e. he was entitled to bear a coat of arms. He is probably the Thomas with the memorial tomb in Church Langton church. He was married twice his second wife being Alice who tried to hold on to the property rather than letting it pass to Thomas's son Richard who took her to court for it. We know therefore that in 1471 this line was still holding the manor of West Langton and lands in West Langton, East Langton, Kirk Langton and Thorpe Langton. Richard was probably the grandfather of Arthur who with his wife Dorothy in 1547 sold West Langton Manor and presumably the rest of their lands in Langton to the crown's bailiff. What brought Arthur to the state of needing to sell the Manor is unclear. He may have been in debt or fined for some misdemeanour. What happened to Arthur and his money is uncertain, although I make a suggestion below. At this juncture it is worth pointing out that the History of Leicestershire Vol 5 Gartree Hundred has this hopelessly confused conspiring to make the Langtons of Lowe in Lancashire Lords of the Manor of West Langton, they weren't. .

Let us now return to the second of Richard and Sarra's two sons Robert. Robert had a son John who in 1290 was holding land 'of' Thomas from the senior line. John was about to get lucky and marry Alice, the heiress of the Banastre family in Langton. This was fixed by John De Langeton later Chancellor of England and Bishop of Chichester. In arranging this fix John De Langeton refers to John Langton as his brother (fratri). This term may perhaps be understood as cousin or step brother or brother in law rather than brother. Despite claims seen to the contrary it is unlikely that two full brothers would both be called John. It is possible that John of Chichester was from the senior line of Ivo and Thomas and he may well be the John De Langeton holding land in Leicestershire in 1286. .

The third son of Richard and Sarra may have been a Walter who married a Denise and lived at Billesden just north of the Langton villages. This can't be Bishop Walter but one could argue that maybe they were his real parents if he was in fact born a Langton and not a Peverel. In 1286 Walter de Langeton clerk held lands in Leicestershire as did John de Langeton. The land holdings in the Langton villages are very complex not least because there seem to have been two estates. .

In Domesday book 1086 the bigger estate (West) Langton/Tur Langton is 13 carucates held of the Archbishop of York. The smaller estate is 11 carucates of land held by Hugh de Grandmesnil. Writers seem to have been oblivious to the fact that there were two estates and latched on to the small land holdings of the Bassets (a junior line) and Peverell as if they were the main land holders when in fact they were tenants. The more famous family at the time both locally and nationally were the Langtons. One possibility is that Walter son of Ralph Peveral changed his name to Langton for the advantage it gave him of a more famous name. Perhaps his mother was a Langton. Thomas Langton son of Ivo Langton held land in a variety of ways in West Langton in 1279. He held so much land he was clearly the main land owner in the area. Thomas seems to have held some (probably a minority) of this land of Philip Marmion who held it of Peterborough Abbey. At the same time in Thorpe Langton Ralph Peverel was the principal tenant of the Basset fee holding land of Thomas de Langton who held it of Richard Burdet who held it of Robert de Tateshall who held it of Ralph Basset. One writer even refers to this land as the honour of Peverel. In reality it was a few acres.

In 1335 a trustee Adam de Manchester acting on behalf of the senior Langton line in Lancashire (formerly the junior line in Leicestershire) conveyed what is described as a third of the manor of West Langton to Robert de Langton (a second son of Robert of Lowe) and his wife Margaret. The Langtons of Lowe in Lancashire are descended from Robert Langton and Margaret Orel. The situation was then that in terms of the relationship between the Langtons and the Peverels both Peverels and the junior Langton line of Lowe (junior in both Leicestershire and Lancashire) held land of the senior Langton of Leicestershire line of Ivo and Thomas. Moreover it seems that in Thorpe Langton Ralph Peverel was succeeded by Bishop Walter Langton by grant of Richard Pydyngton, the Basset line having become extinct. In 1306 a Richard Langton was rector of Kings Norton, given the name he is likely to be from this family. There were therefore two lines of Langtons holding land in the Langton villages, the senior line of Ivo and Thomas down to Arthur and the junior line of the Langtons of Lowe up in Lancashire who may have had limited involvement in the Midlands. The Lowe involvement in the villages did however last longer, at least until 1595 when Richard Langton of Lowe died seized of the manor of Hindley Lancs but also holding lands in Langton.

Possible descendants of Arthur can be found in the 1647 will of Robert Langton of St Mary's Leicester, fellmonger buried in church with 2 wives. He held land at Braunston which he left to his son Hariell (perhaps his wife's family name), a second son is called Robert and another son Thomas, the deceased also left two daughters. Less likely to be related is George Langton of Cosby disclaimed of his coat arms in 1682 with the Herald's Visitation declaring that he was not a gentleman. George must have been reasonably affluent and perhaps you are descended from him. Perhaps too the Heralds got it wrong and George was of noble descent and you might be able to overturn an injustice and reinstate him after all these years. Then again why is there a Langton farm near Hinckley? .

There are some early marriages: Isaac of Loadsby to Mary Munns in 1702, Joseph of Wigton to Mary Jelly in 1723, Robert of Leicester in 1630 to Joan Collyn, Roger of Ingarsbye in 1624 to Jane Spencer, Thomas of Wigton in 1618 to Mary Smith, Thomas of East Langton to Anne Jelles in 1720, William of Knaptoft in 1614 to Anne Wale, William of Knighton in 1705 to Mary Read, Haneel of Leicester in 1715 to Eliz Lewis, Hanniell Langhton in 1694 Ferrers , William Langhton 1694 of East Langton to Ann Atkins. .

Fratri (brothers) let me appeal to you. What we would like to do is create a database of DNA linked to each Langton village in England. It's ambitious I know but if we manage it any Langton in the world, be it California, Sydney, Cape Town or even Tipperary will be able to test their DNA and say I come from that Langton village in Leicester or Lincoln or Yorkshire or Durham or In return you stay at homes in Leicester will be able to say our family spread to, New Zealand, Wonga Wonga and now Peru. There are perhaps 9,000 Langtons worldwide that have moved away from their roots but less than a thousand who have stayed put. The really important guys in all this are the ancient populations, 200 in Leicester, 100 in Lincoln, 200 in Yorkshire, 100 in Derby and Notts and a handful in Newcastle, the Borders, Hertfordshire and Essex. The Langtons of the world need your help. .

Please have a look at the DNA project. The deal is this - For every Leicestershire Langton DNA you send in I write another Leicestershire Langton article. Forthcoming attractions will be Bishop Walter, Treasurer of England and all round nice guy, acquitted of having sex with the devil and acquitted of murdering his mistresses' husband. (Not many clergy can claim that!). Walter's son lived in Leicester you may well be descended from him. Best of luck in claiming the money. Then there is Chancellor John de Langeton who had at least three sons. Finally there is yet another John Langton Chancellor of Cambridge Univerity under Henry VI and one of the founders of Kings College Cambridge but also rector at Church Langton installed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. You may wish to call him Granddad. Surely there must be at least one of you that has already had a DNA test. At least one of you who has been researching your Leicester ancestors and your findings are rotting in a draw until someone throws them out after your death. Please contact Lost Langtons. I hope to be writing another article soon. Don't leave it to everyone else, and your DNA sequence is what you want for your next birthday /anniversary /Christmas.

Postscript for anyone called Lenton: If your name is Lenton your ancestors probably emigrated from Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire or London. If you are a Lenton your name probably derives from the Langton villages South West of Leicester. We will need your DNA to confirm this but you are the first group that left England that we can say with some real confidence that you came from Langton in Leicestershire. This means among other things you may be related to Bishop Walter 53rd richest man ever. Also, Chancellor John Langton of Cambridge University, chaplain to the Queen and big mate of Henry VI is also one of yours. If you are a Lenton from anywhere send your results in.