Greasley Castle

The remains of Greasley Castle are to be found in later outbuildings at Greasley Castle Farm.
The remains of Greasley Castle are to be found in later outbuildings at Greasley Castle Farm.

OF the larger Notts parishes that of Greasley ranked second only to Worksop, its boundaries extending over some 20 miles. The hamlets of Kimberley, Brinsley, Watnall, Newthorpe, Moorgreen with Beauvale and an outlying portion of Hempshill were included within its limits, and a castle and two monasteries —Felley and Beauvale — have added interest to its annals. But time has wrought a great change in the Erewash valley. Coal and other industries have transformed it within recent decades; erstwhile rustic little villages have developed into townships invested with autonomous powers and the Greasley of to-day has been shorn of much of its former territory and civil and religious authority.

The light sometimes thrown by archaeological discoveries or by the study of place-names is lacking here for no remains of distant antiquity have been revealed and experts confess themselves unable to explain the parish name though, like Grassthorpe, its first part may relate to abounding greensward. It may not be: without significance that Greasley is neighboured by places such as Annesley, Brinsley and Kimberley whose terminals indicate woodland clearings, but all that can safely be assumed is that in early days these were settlements made by Saxons and Danes in the vast forest tracts that stretched northwards from the Trent and westwards to the Peak.

Greasley Castle on the 25" to 1 mile Ordnance Survey map, c. 1900.

The village emerges

Not until the Norman Conquest do we hear of its existence, and then Domesday informs us that under the Confessor, Ulsi had two manors here, of which only one was taxed to the geld, the other being waste. The valuable one was not large, consisting of four, bovates, but it had a church and a priest, and it had a wood more than a mile in length and three-quarters of a mile in width. Ulsi had been a great Saxon proprietor, and at Strelley the Conqueror permitted him to hold some of his old land as his tenant, but Greasley and his other possessions in the Hundred of Broxtowe went to form part of the great fee granted to Wm. Peverel.

Peverel's tenant, Ailric, had shared Cuckney with Ulsi, but had lost his manors at Brinsley and Bilborough, and it is thought that he may have been the founder of the family which assumed the name of Griseley and held the manor of the Peverel overlords, retaining it when the last Wm. Peverel, a staunch supporter of King Stephen, fled from the wrath of Henry  II, in 1155.

The confiscated fee was granted to Prince John in 1174, and in the following year the vill was amerced in 40s.—twice as much as Bulwell—for the mysterious forest offences for which so many of the leading men of the district were fined. The king had just founded Newstead Priory. Sherwood Forest was being defined or, enlarged as a royal chase, Henry II was expending vast sums upon the erection of a stone fortress on the castle rock at Nottingham, and for these expenses the heavy fines for real or alleged forest trespass would be useful.

13th century Greasley

In the reign of John the Griseleys faded out, their property descending to the Fitz-Ralphs, and Ralph de Graslee greatly enhanced his fortune by marrying the heiress of Robt. de Muscamp; lord, of Ilkeston and other domains. In 1213 he made fine with the king in 500 marks to enter into his wife's inheritance; he must have died soon afterwards, for in 1216 Hugh (or Hubert) Fitz-Ralph suffered the loss of Ilkeston, Muskham, Greasley and other estates "because he was an enemy and had not paid his debts to the Crown." He was one of the barons who had compelled John to sign the Magna Carta, and upon the accession of Henry III he discharged the outstanding debt, and had his lands restored. King John had placed them in the custody of the notorious Philip Marc, who in 1219 was summoned to render an account of the issues, sales and wastes made during his stewardship, which had probably been oppressive and destructive.

Ill and worn out with military service, in 1227 Hugh demised his fees at Greasley and Claydon (Bucks.) to his son Hugh, who in 1252 was granted a fair at Ilkeston and free warren at Greasley and Muskham. The second Hugh dying in 1261 was succeeded by his granddaughter Eustachia, who carried her great inheritance by marriage to Greasley's most distinguished owners, the Cantelupes. The Greasley thus acquired had a capital messuage, a mill and a dovecote, a pasture protected by woods, extensive lands, free tenants who paid a total rental of 43s. 9d., 1lb. of pepper and the like of cummin, and villeins who each paid 12d. a year and rendered manorial services.

Earlier Cantelupes had been active adherents of King John, land one was in his retinue at Runnymede when that monarch signed the charter, while Fitz-Ralph lord of Greasley stood among the king's opponents. The Thomas de Caiitelupe, whom the barons in rebellion against Henry III made Lord Chancellor, probably had no immediate connection with Notts., though indirectly he may have involved his Greasley relative in the war, for when Nicholas was accused of supplying the men and horses to the foe, his possessions were seized into the king's hands. A jury, however, returned that they were not satisfied as to his guilt, and once again the manor was restored.

This Nicholas died in 1283 and was succeeded by his son William, who had been born in Lenton Priory, where his mother seems to have taken refuge during the wars. The new heir was a minor, and when his mother; espoused Wm. de Roos. his step-father, was allowed "by the courtesy of England" to hold Greasley and its members for life, the heir as he grew; up holding them of him. In 1305 the; rector claimed the tithes of Willay, which he averred had been seized by the Prior of Felley, but it was found by inquisition that Willay was merely an extra-parochial enclosure and "no vill," though subsequently Felley had its tithes. It was another Wm. de Cantelupe who, in 1319 passed Ilkeston and Greasley to his brother Nicholas, of whom local annals have much to say.