Cleborne family genealogy

Or Cleburne, of Cliburn, County Westmoreland; Hay-Close, County Cumberland; Killerby, County York; St. John’s Manor, County Wexford; and of Ballyculitan-Castle, County Tipperary.

Arms: On a field argent, three chevronels braced in base sable, a chief of the last.

This ancient and knightly family may be traced in the male line to the early part of the 11th century; and, on the “spindle” side (through the Curwens), to the Scoto-Pictish and West-Saxon Kings. It derived its sirname from the Lordship of Cliburne, in Westmoreland, but the early descent of the manor is involved in obscurity, owing to the distinction of northern records in the border wars and feuds of the 12th and 13th centuries. The first record of the name appears in the Domesday or Great Survey of England, A.D. 1086, Vol. I., p. 234. See Jackson’s “Curwens of Workington Hall; Symon of Durham; and Freeman’s Norman Conquest, IV., 89.

Cliborne is pronounced “Clebburn.” The name is spelled in over thirty different ways, and is often confounded with Glyborne, Clabon, Claybough, Clayburgh, Giberne, Caborne, and other entirely distinct families of diverse origin.

The word Cliborne is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “claeg,” sticky earth, and “borne,” a stream. Danish “Klaeg,” clammy or sticky mud. Ferguson derives it from A.S. “clif,” a hill, and “burne,” a stream. And Picton, from Norse or Danish “Klif-brunnr,” the Cliffstream (compare “Klifs-dabr,” Cliffdale). In the time of Edward the Confessor Cliburn contained but ten carucates or 1200 acres. At the Survey there were 1440 acres; and by modern measurement it embraces 1360 acres, or ten miles in circumference. It is situated on an eminence on the Leith rivulet, about six miles from Penrith, and is bounded, E.S.W. by the Parish of Morland, and North by Louther, Clifton and Bingham.

Ridpath and others state that the greatest part of Carlisle perished, and the records of the North suffered by fire in 1173; and again in 1292 when the principal records and charters of the North were destroyed.

As no Survey was made of Cumbria (which included Cumberland and Westmoreland), Cliborne was entered among the Leicestershire manors of Robert de Vesci, who may have received it as a gift from the Conqueror after his second conquest of the North; or he may have inherited it among the lands of the Saxon Ethelric (Domesday, p. 377.) Nicholson, the Historian of Westmoreland, says: “The manor[1] of Cliburn was early divided into two moieties, Cliburn-Tailbois, and Cleburn-Hervey; the first derived its name from the owners, a branch of the Tailbois, Barons of Kendal; Cliburn-Hervey in like manner; but it had gone out of that name before the commencement of any of our accounts” (A.D. 1370). VoL I., p. 457.

Though the antecessors of Hervey in Cliborne are not known, “Cleborne,” as a man’s name occurs as a donor of houses in York to the Priory of Nastel, A.D. 1120 (Burton’s Monast. Ebor. p. 309), and “Clibû fits Ælstani” appears in a charter of Bishop Galfira, A.D. 1133-40. (Surtees Hist. Durham, III., 149.) The founder of the present family was undoubtedly a Norman or Breton Hervey, after whom a moiety of Cliburn was named; but whether this Hervens was a cadet of the great feudal Baron of Vesci, as Sedgewick implies (Appleby MSS.), or of the equally powerful house of Acarius of Ravensworth, is not clearly shown. (Senhouse Somerville MSS.)

Both families held land in the immediate vicinity of Englewood; in both, the Christian names of Hervey, Geoffrey, Robert and William appear, but the arms of Cleburne are clearly Fitzhugh; and Ravensworth, the chief seat of that family, is within twenty miles of Cleburn.

The Vescies held in Englewood and Camerton till late in the 12th century. They were patrons of Franceys of Warnel-Bauk, a branch of the Franceys of Cliburne, a family of some note there; and it is a singular coincidence that Robert de Vesci should hold Cliburne in 1086, and that a descendant, Hervey de Vesci (thought by some to have been lord of that manor in the 12th century) should pay a fine for marrying the widow of Sweyn FitzAlric in 1130 (Pipe Roll, 31 Hen. I.), and not again appear as “De Vesci” in the records of Cumberland or Westmoreland.

Watson Holland (Somerville MSS.) says: “A moiety of Cleburn came to Hervey in marriage through the Viponts, who in turn derived it from the hereditary Forresters of Englewood.” This is a more reasonable conjecture than to suppose that in the time of Henry I. “Ranulph Meschin gave it with Graystock and other lands to the ancestors of Walter Fitz Ivo, whose grand-daughter Alice married Henry Fitz Hervey of Ravenswath, and having brought him large possessions in the north, that he enfeoffed Alan of Cleburn.” This Walter Fitz Ivo was probably a Tailbois, who Hodgson thinks was the immediate progenitor of the “Greystocks;” and it is certain that Cleburn-Tailbois and Yanwith were possessed by members of the Tailbois family holding under the Viponts and Cliffords in the 13th century. (Chart. Nuominstor, Fetherstone Castle.) In the Vetinpont inheritarum partitionem, A.D. 1267, the ‘ ‘ homage of Lucas Tailbois was assigned to Idonea de Vertenponto for Cleburn Tailbois” (14 Edw. I., 1286, Hist. West. I., 457.) And by an Inquisition held 8 Edw. II. (1315) “Lucas Tailbois held of Robert de Clifford, one moiety of Cliburn, the Wardship valued at £13 6s. 8d., and Cornage at 12s. 4½d.” In further proof of tradition we now know that Lucy, sole daughter and heir of Ivo Tailbois and the Countess Lucy, married for her second husband Ranulph Meschin (first Earl of Chester of that family), whose daughter married Robert d’Estrivers, forester of Englewood. His daughter Ibria married Ranulph Engayne, whose son William married Eustachia and had an only daughter and heir. Ada Engayne, married to Simon de Morville (1138-57), who had Roger de Morville of Meaburn, father of that Sir Hugh de Morville (vita 2 John, 1201), who granted part of Cliburn, known as Clifton,[2] to Gilbert Eugaine and his heirs, temp. Hen. II. This Sir Hugh’s sister Maud de Morville married William de Vetinponte (N. and B. Hist. Westd., p. 266), and had by her “Maud’s Meaburn” (Taylor’s Halls of Westd., p. 259), which he gave to one of the family of Franceys[3] of Cliburn. The other half of Meaburn—“Meaburn Regis,” belonging to Sir Hugh de Morville, was seized with all his other lands and possessions into the King’s hands, for his complicity in Becket’s murder (31st Dec., 1170), and his forfeited estates were granted to Robert de Vetinponte, who may have enfeoffed Alan Fitz Hervey with that moiety of the manor known as “Cliburn Hervey.”

The manor must have been exchanged at a very early period with the Barons of Kendal (who owned nearly all the “Bottom of Westmoreland,” including Barton Louther and Morland) or with the Chester Earls; for Ranulph le Meschin, who married Lucy, the daughter and heiress of Ivo de Tailbois, 1st Baron of Kendal, granted the Barony of Coupland to his brother William Meschines, who divided his lands among his kinsmen and followers. “To Waltheof Fitz Cospatric, he gave the manors of Clifton, Little Clifton, and Bingham, and to Ketel son of Eldred, Morland and Workington. (Denton MS.) Kethel gave the church of Morland to the Abbey of St. Mary’s at York, and left Workington to his second son Orme, and Morland and Grayrigg to his son and heir Gilbert, second Baron of Kendal, whose son William Tailbois (de Lancaster) gave these manors by a charter In liberum maritagium together with Agnes his daughter, to Alexander or William de Windsor.” (Collins’s Peerage.) Ranulph retained for himself the Forest of Englewood, and probably the adjacent manor of Cliburne, came to his daughter, who married Robert d’Estinor (Hereditary Forester of Englewood), from whom the Morvilles inherited. How Clifton, Bingham, and Little Clifton, passed from Waltheof to the Morvilles, does not appear; but it is certain that Sir Hugh de Morville gave Cliburn-Clifton to Gilbert Engayne, temp. Henry II., to which grant Hervey Niger was a witness, temp. Hen. II. The forfeited estates of Sir Hugh were granted by King John (1199-1216) to his councillor Robert de Vetinpont, upon whose decease (Clans. 51, Hen. III., 1267) they were divided between his two daughters: Cliburn passing to Idonea (wife of Roger de Leyburne), who at her death (8 Edw. III., 1335) left it with all her other lands in Westmoreland to her great nephew Robert de Clifford; while in the hands of the Crown (Hen. II. and John, 1175-1216) Cliburn may have been granted to Alan, son of Henry of Ravensworth, by the King, or he may have been enfeoffed by the de Morville (who gave Clibburn-Clifton to Engayne) before his lands passed to the Vetinponts. Be this as it may, in 1292 (20 Edw. I., Hist. West. I., 275), and at an Inquisition held 8 Edw. II., 1315, Cliburne was found to be demesne land of Idonea de Vipont, wife of Roger de Leyburne; but Hervey and his descendants held the manor of Cliburn-Hervey, by “Knight service of the Crown” (Collins’s Peerage, p. 426) and by “cornage” only, of the Viponts and Cliffords. (Escheats, 8 Edw. II., Hist. West. I. 277.)

The church of Cliborn is a quaint Norman structure, situated within a stone’s throw of the Hall. It is mentioned by Grose, “among the antiquities worthy of notice in Westmoreland.” (Antiq. Eng. and Wales, vi., 22.) It was dedicated to St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and marks one of the resting places of the Saint’s body in its flight from Holy Island to escape the Danes, A.D. 873. There is no mention of the church in Domesday, but its omission “is no evidence, or by no means proof that one was not in existence when the survey was compiled.” (Notes and Queries, 26 S. VII., 139.) The present structure was probably built by Orme or a Baron of Kendal in the early part of the 11th century, and was granted to St. Mary’s, at York. It was confirmed to the Abbot and Convent of St. Mary’s in 1136, by Adelulph, 1st Bishop of Carlisle (Hist. West. II., 250-1), and its Advowson was granted to Sylvester, Bishop of Carlisle in 1284. (Hist. West.) Thanks to the munificence of its worthy Rector (the Rev. Clarke Watkins, Burton, M.A.) the old church is in excellent preservation. It contains a quaint font of the 15th century, an ancient cross, a few brasses, and some fine stained glass in the east and south windows. In the chancel is a handsome mural tablet to the memory of Sophia Portia Burton (daughter of Sir William Pilkington of York), first wife of the present Rector, who died on the 9th Sept., 1861. On the north side is one of those curious “Leper windows,” now so rare in England, which is filled with painted glass “in memory of Cuthbert Louther Cleborne.” All the original monuments and brasses were probably destroyed or stolen, during the civil war, like those of the Cliffords at Skipton; and the modern ones very imperfectly replace some earlier memorials and inscriptions, removed, lost, or destroyed in former church requisites.

Cliburn Hall, with its deer-park, terraced walks and pleasure grounds, had fallen into decay before the end of the last century, and has since undergone many changes to fit it for the purpose of a modern farm house. Taylor (Manorial Halls of Westmoreland, p. 253) says: “Since the traces of foundation walls surrounding the Hall, and from the extensive range of buildings that are attached to it, this must, in the time of Richard Cleburne, have been a place of very considerable importance.” It was rebuilt in 1567, by the said Richard (who married the heiress of Kirkbride), upon the site of an earlier structure, or on the foundations of the ancient fortalice or “Pele of Cliburn,” for the 13th century donjon or keep remains. This massive tower contains three stories, and its upper part “carried the battlemented parapet which was removed within the memory of the present tenant, when the new roof was put on.” (p. 254.) And again, at p. 252, he says: “With the successor of Thomas Cleburn ended the race of Cleburn at Cliburn, and the Hall manor passed to the family of Louther. One of the sons went over to Ireland and founded the important family of the Cleburne of Ballycollaton in Tipperary. In the ancient church of Kilbarron there is a memorial flagstone to this William Cleburn of Ballycollaton, second son of Thomas, ob. 1684.” The descendants of this family are still benefactors of the Church of Cleburn, but the great vault at Kilbarron continues to be the burial place of the race.[4]


[1] Manor: Single manors in one county were frequently entered in the Domesday (for convenience) under other shires; as, for instance, Torhilmenstone in Gloucestershire is entered under Hertfordshire; Lapley, in Northamptonshire, under Essex. See Ellis’s Introduction to Domesday, fol. 180; and Freeman’s Norman Conq., I., 444.

[2] Clifton: Part of Cliburn was known as “Cliburn-Clifton” and is accounted for as such with the other moieties of “Tailbois-Clifton” and Hervey and Little Clifton.

[3] Franceys: Probably descended from the Francigena who held five carncates of land in Cliburn of Robert de Veci. (Domesday, p.234.) Hutchinson says (Hist. Cumb. ii., 378, and Gilpen MS.) that “John le Franceys of Warnel-Bank probably came over from Normandy with William de Vesci.” The Franceys of Meaburn ended in a daughter married to Vernon (15 Edw. iii.) and “John, son of Robert le Franceys of Clyburn who married Elizabeth dau. of the last Walter Tailbois of Cliburn. Tailbois m. 1423,10 Hen. V.”—Hist. West. 457, and Dugd. MSS.

[4] Race: “Nobiles,” says Coke, “sunt qui arma antecessorum suorum proferre possunt.”

“Princes or lords may flourish or may fade,

A breath can make them, as a breath has made.”

So Littré defines a noble as less than a gentleman: “Tout gentilhomme est noble, mais tout noble n’est pas gentilhomme; le prince fait des nobles, mais le sang fait des gentilhommes.”—Dict. de l’Acad.