A comparison of two pedigrees for the Lawrences of Ashton Hall

The Legend

     Robert Lawrence joined the Third Crusades in 1187 A.D. led by Richard Couer de Lion. He traveled by ship first to Cyprus and then to what was then called Palestine. There he took part in the siege of Acre. One version indicates that he scaled the walls of Acre with four other men and opened the gates to the armies of the Crusades. Another version indicates that he was the first to raise the flag of the Crusades on a Palestine hill during the siege of Acre. For his deeds he was knighted by King Richard in 1191 A.D. and was given Ashton Hall. Another writer indicates that he was created a Knight-Banneret (a military Knighthood and the highest grade in the Middle Ages) and was allow to bear for Arms, "Agent, a cross ragulée gules," a red cross of trunks of trees having pieces like couped boughs projecting from the side in a slanting direction, on a silver shield. This Arms is registered with the College of Arms in London, England. Sir Robert Lawrence also is referred to Robert de Lancaster in some texts. This probably is more accurate as surnames did not come into common use until the late 1200s or early 1300s.

     According to the Imperial Gazetteer of England, Ashton Hall is the seat in the township of Ashton-with-Stoddy, Lancashire, between the Preston and Lancaster railway and the estuary of the Lune, about 2 and 3/4 miles south of Lancaster. Ownership of Ashton Hall eventually passed by marriage to the Dukes of Hamilton.

     One source indicates that within the halls of Ashton Manor is a silver cup adorned with the motif of Roman armies and the Roman General, Julius Agricola who was born in the year 40 A.D. Legend indicates that General Agricola arrived in Lancaster in the year 89 A.D. where he and his armies built the first wooden fort upon a hill where Lancaster Castle stands. During his stay, he met and fell in love with a young British girl by whom he had a son. He was unable to take the girl and child with him when he returned to Italy where he had a large estate, wife, and children. He gave the cup to the girl as a legacy. The son supposedly became the first silversmith in a long line of silversmiths and, according to legend, was the direct ancestor of the above Robert Lawrence. No basis for the legend appear in existing records but no doubt the thousands of Romans marching through England left some genetic connections behind.

     There are no Doomsday Book of 1086 lists for Lancaster, nor fees lists, or fines lists that mention the name Sir Robert Lawrence. However, his existence is proven by the recording of his knighthood in the College of Arms and his mentioned in the French scribe's rendition of the Intinerarium, a day by day account of the Third Crusade.

The Facts

     Manuscripts written by Schuyler Lawrence dispute the above account of the ancestry of the Lawrences. His account can be found in a communication to the editor of the New England Historical Society written December 1935 and which can be found at the LDS Family History Library on microfilm no. 0517241.

     Schuyler also wrote a Lawrence Family Record Series of manuscripts containing the following: Part I, A Bibliography of the Lawrence Family; Part II, The Lawrences, Squires of Ashton, Lancs.; Part III, A Branch of the New Jersey Lawrences by the Hon. Warren Wirt Henry Lawrence; Part IV, Lawrence of Chelsea, Middlesex, and of Delafore, Ivor, Bucks 1570-1750, Baronets 1628-1714; Part IX, A Partial List of Lawrence Rectors and Ministers in English Parishes; and Part X, Miscelleneous Lawrence Pedigrees. I have not identified or located Parts V through VIII. Only two copies of Schuyler's manuscripts supposedly exist in the United States and supposedly four copies in England. The two copies in the U. S. are at the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, main branch. After numerous visits and requests for the manuscript I have been unable to locate the copy at the Library of Congress. However, the New York City Public Library does have a copy on microfilm which I was able to copy.

     According to Schuyler Lawrence's account, the Lawrences did not take possession of Ashton Hall until almost 100 years after the Crusades. The first mention of the family is in a suit filed in 1292 where Lawrence de Lancaster sets forth his claim to 30 acres of land in Skerton. The suit mentions the first three generations of the family begining with Roger de Lancaster but has no mention of a Sir Robert Lawrence or Sir Robert de Lancaster. The son of Lawrence de Lancaster, John, was the first to use the surname Lawrence taking it from the given name of his father. This was one of the many ways surnames came into being. John Lawrence was granted Ashton Hall for life in 1324. One of the sources for this information is the Victoria History of Lancashire written in the early 1900s. This work is based primarily on land records and is not a work from which it is easy to put together a pedigree. A copy of the Victoria History of Lancashire is on microfilm at the Library of Congress. I have made copies of the parts dealing with the Lawrences and Ashton Hall, examine them, and conclude that they substantiate Schuyler's findings. This along with other sources I have been able to examine cause me to believe that Schuyler's account is accurate.

     Perhaps the Roger de Lancaster mention in Schuyler's manuscript has some relationship of the Sir Robert Lawrence of the Crusades if he existed. The Arms given in the College of Arms is the Arms for a Sir Robert Lawrence is that used by this Lawrence Family. However, I don't believe this is true. Through recent research conducted in 2006 and 2007 I have determined that Roger de Lancaster was the illegitimate son of Gilbert FitzReinfrid, son of Roger FitzReinfrid who was steward to Henry II king of England. I have yet to find any connection to the so called Sir Robert Lawrence of the Third Crusade.

     It's my belief that it is likely that the information reported in a Visitation of the 1600s is the source of a false pedigree that may have been based on a distorted family tradition handed down over centuries and in turn this was used early genealogist in their publications giving rise to its acceptance as fact.

A Comparison

     The two different lineages appear to basically agree (except for discrepancies noted below) starting with Sir Robert Lawrence, b. 1371, who married Margaret Holden, and from whom many of the American Lawrences are descended. Prior to this Sir Robert Lawrence major differences occur.

     A comparison of these two lineages is outlined in below.

According to H. G. Somerby & OthersAccording to Schuyler Lawrence,
Victoria History of Lancashire, &
additional research
Roger FitzReinfrid, steward to King Henry II, b. ca. 1114, d. aft. 1198, m. Alice de Breton
Sir Robert Lawrence, b. about 1155/60, d. 1216, had arms (a cross raguley, gules) conferred upon him by Richard Coeur de Lion, for his bravery in scaling the walls of Acre, A.D. 1191Gilbert FitzReinfrid aka Gilbert de Lancaster, b. ca. 1162, d. bef. 1220, m. Hawise de Lancaster, b. ca. 1169, and gained the Barony of Kendal
Sir Robert Lawrence, b. about 1185/90, m. about 1215 dau. or Trafford, Esq. of LancashireRoger de Lancaster
James Lawrence, m. about 1252 Matilda de Washington, dau. of John de WashingtonThomas de Lancaster
John Lawrence, m. about 1283 Margaret Chesford, dau. of Walter ChesfordLawrence de Lancster
John Lawrence, d. about 1360, m. Elizabeth Holt, dau. of Holt of Stabley in LancashireJohn Lawrence d. after 1350, m. Elizabeth Holt
Somerby appears to have left out a generation. The dates provided by Schuyler Lawrence would indicate that Sir Robert probably was not the son but the grandson of John LawrenceEdmund Lawrence d. 1381, m. (1) Alice de Cuerdale, m. (2) Agnes de Washington, dau. of Robert de Washington
Sir Robert Lawrence, b. about 1350, m. Margaret Holden, dau. of Holden of LancashireSir Robert Lawrence b. 1371 d. 8 Sep 1439, m. Margaret Holden
Sir Robert Lawrence, m. Amphilbus Longford, dau. of Edward LongfordRobert Lawrence, Jr. (not knighted) d. 1450, m. (1) Amphibilis Longford, m. (2) Agnes Croft
Sir James LawrenceSir James Lawrence b. 1428 d. 1490, m.(1) Cicily Botler, m. (2) Eleanor, wid. of Thomas, Baron Hoo & Hasting, coheir of Lionell de Welles
The pedigree that I have from Somerby doesn’t follow the main line beyond this pointSir Thomas Lawrence, m. Mabilla Redmain (According to Schuyler Lawrence, but I think this marriage may be an error as there also is a Thomas Lawrence, 2nd son of Robert Lawrence and Margaret Holden who is said to have married a Mabilla Redmain. Further research indicates that this Mabilla Redmain may actually be Mable de Croft also known as Mabilla (possibly "my beautiful one) daughter of John de Croft of Yealand Redmain.
Sir John Lawrence, died without issue

Other Discrepancies

     Additionally, the Somerby pedigree continues with the descendants of Nicholas Lawrence of Agercroft indicating that Nicholas was the son Sir Robert Lawrence and Amphilbus Longford. Schuyler Lawrence indicates that this Nicholas died without issue and that the Nicholas Lawrence of Agercroft that founded that line probably was a son of Edmund Lawrence who married a daughter of Miles de Stapleton and who was a brother of the Robert Lawrence who married Amphilbus Longford.

     Another conflict arises where Schuyler Lawrence indicates that the children of Robert Lawrence, son of Robert Lawrence and Amphilis Longford, and his wife Margaret Lawrence, daughter of John Lawrence of Rixton, are Robert, John, and William and none of them had issue. However, Charles A. H. Franklyn in his "A Genealogical History of the Families of Paulet (or Pawlett), Berewe (or Barrow), Lawrence, and Parker" indicates that Robert and John are the sons of Robert and Margaret, but that William is the son of John, not his brother, and that William had six children. Isaac Lawrence (who marries Grisell Lawrence, daughter of Sir John Lawrence, Baronet, of London, and sister of Robert Lawrence, the immigrant to Isle of Wight, Virginia) is descended from this William Lawrence.

     Sir John Lawrence of London, Baronet, is descended from Arthur, son of Thomas Lawrence, the second son of Robert Lawrence and Margaret Holden, and Thomas's wife Mabilla Redmain or Mable de Croft.