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The Lords of Swineshead

Back to The Bolles of Swineshead or The Bolles of Bolle Hall


The Bolle of Haugh pedigree contains a claim that their line originated with an Alan of Swineshead, father of Thomas Bole of Bole, who was the Lord of Swineshead.  See The Question of the Bolle as Lords of Swineshead.  Alan would have lived sometime in the early to mid-1200's however there were others who were the real Lords of Swineshead from the early 1100's until 1411 when the lordship ended.


For references and a detailed account of the real Lords of Swineshead,see the Gresle and la Warre families below.


In the following summary, the years in brackets are the years they held the title.

The Lords of Swineshead


Sir Albert de Gresley (ca. 1070-ca. 1100) (Lord of many manors in Lincolnshire including Drayton Manor which included the area which would later become Swineshead)

Sir Robert de Gresley (ca. 1100- ca. 1170) (inherited his father’s holdings) (founded Swineshead Abbey in 1135; he's believed to have built the moated castle at Manwar Ings ref. establishing Swineshead as a separate estate which would make him the First Lord of Swineshead)

Sir Albert de Grelley (ca. 1170 – ca. 1175) (heir to his father)

Sir Albert de Grelley Jr. (ca. 1175 – 1181) (heir to his father)

Sir Robert de Grelley (b. ca. 1174, minor heir to his father at age 7 in 1181, in wardship of Uncle Gilbert Basset until he came of age in 1195, d. 1230)

Sir Thomas Grelley (1230 – 1270) (heir to his father)

Under Prince Edmund’s wardship of the minor Robert de Gresle (1270-1273)

Sir Robert de Gresle (1273 - 1282)

Under the King’s escheat (1282-1301)

Sir Thomas Grelley (1301-1310) but had no heir himself (male or female)

Sir John la Warre (1310-1347) by marriage to Sir Thomas Grelley’s sister and heir Joan Grelley

Sir Roger la Warre heir to his grandfather upon his coming of age in 1353 (1353-1370)

Sir John la Warre (1370-1398) heir to his father

Sir Thomas la Warre (1398-1411) heir to his brother; he took up a religious life and granted the manor, lands and advowson of Swineshead to his Bishop in 1411.


See below for an account of their lives.


Swineshead is an old Anglo-Saxon word for a landing place on the Swin river (Swin-heda) which in ancient times ran past a market place there and on into the sea at Bicker Haven.  It is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of 675AD and 779AD.  It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book but was probably included as part of the neighbouring Drayton manor, an estate of almost 2000 acres.


The Abbey of Swineshead

After England was conquered by the Normans in 1066, Sir Albert de Gresley of Avranches, Manche, Normandy was granted land in Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire including Drayton Manor which at that time included the Manors of Swineshead, Bicker and Wigtoft.   He was succeeded by his son Sir Robert de Gresley (b. ca. 1067 d. ?) who founded the abbey of Swineshead in 1135 originally under the Order of Savigny but it was converted to the Cistercian Order in 1147.  Its founding grant was for only 240 acres but it acquired additional land in the Swineshead estate, particularly in Bicker and Wigtoft, by investment and gifts.  In 1166 Henry II granted the monastery a charter confirming the Monks possession of the lands received of the gift of Robert Grelley and Albert his son, founders of the Monastery. ref.

In 1316 Edward II granted the monastery a charter which confirmed the gifts of land which they had received since their founding in 1135.  This gives us an interesting list of their holdings and their patrons over the years.  However, it doesn’t date any of the gifts and we don’t even know if they are listed in chronological order so any of these grants may have been made at any time between 1135 and 1316.  The original document at the National Archives would likely contain much more detail but we do have the catalogue entry for the charter as published in Calendar of the Charter Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. III, 1300-1326 (see Membrane 19):

While this charter is addressed to the ‘church of St Mary, Swynesheued’ it seems to be referring to the church within the abbey rather than to the parish church in the town.  It is strange that they were both dedicated to St Mary but it is clear that the wording of the grant is to ‘the church of St Mary of Swineshead and the monks serving God there…’, and then mentions the abbey explicitly as ‘…  the place within the willows in the marsh of Swineshead in which the abbey was founded …’.

It’s very interesting that there is not one Bolle reference in the charter.  If the Bolles were landowners and parishioners in Swineshead before 1316 they would have been expected to have made some contribution to the abbey’s support, certainly after the death of a family member.  The Bolle land at Holfleet, while technically still in Swineshead parish, was right on the line between Swineshead parish and Wigtoft parish and was actually closer to Wigtoft where we find the earliest Bolles connections.   See The Roots of the Bolle of Swineshead

The Grelley Family, Lords of Manchester and Swineshead


Shortly after the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror granted Albert Greslet (Grelley) a large area of lands and manors in Lincolnshire, Rutland and Nottinghamshire.  In 1135 Albert's son Robert co-founded the Abbey of Swineshead with his son Albert.  Albert married Agnes FitzNigel by which marriage Albert inherited the Barony of Manchester.  His son Albert Jr. (juvenis) succeeded him but died by 1182 leaving his wife, Isabel Basset, an heir of the late Thomas Basset of Headington, Oxfordshire, deceased; a minor son Robert aged 7 (11 in 1185 per Pipe Rolls ref.), and three daughters in the care of their Uncle Gilbert Basset.  Robert came of age in 1195 and assumed control of his lands.  He was stated to be the Lord of Swineshead in the Great Inventory of Lincolnshire in 1212.

Robert was one of the barons who opposed King John’s absolute power over them and the treatment they had received during the recent war with France.  When King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in June 1215, Robert was one of the barons who put up his lands as a guarantee of the noble’s side honoring the terms of the Magna Carta.  When neither side honoured the agreement King John seized the guarantor’s lands including Robert’s.  The First Baron’s War then broke out in November 1215 with the barons being aided by the Kings of France and of Scotland.

In 1216 King John stayed overnight at Swineshead Abbey when leading his army from King’s Lynn to meet an invasion from King Alexander II of Scotland.  The history books tell us that officially King John died near there from either dysentery from drinking the bad local water or too many peaches (Roger of Wendover’s account of the events) during his campaign against the barons in the north.  However, in some accounts from that period, during dinner at Swineshead Abbey that evening he was poisoned by a monk, Brother Simon, who had spiked the King’s wine with poison from a toad.  As the King had food tasters, Brother Simon drank some of the wine himself before serving the King and then retired to his room where he obtained absolution from the Abbot of Swineshead and died, presumably after taking the remainder of the poison.  The King became sick that night but marched on towards Newark while his condition continued to worsen and where he died seven days after his meal at Swineshead.  It is believed by some that Brother Simon was a Knight Templar who had been sent to assassinate the King due to his taxation of the church orders and in support of the Barons War.  Another local tradition in Nottingham is that the monk was actually Friar Tuck who was taking his revenge on King John for the death of Maid Marian.  Shakespeare repeats the allegation that a monk at Swineshead poisoned the King in his play King John but nothing has ever been proven. 

Robert Grelley would not have been at Swineshead when the King stopped there as he would have been off with his men (possibly including a Bolle or two) with the Rebel Baron’s army.  The King having seized Robert’s lands the year before.  My personal theory is that the king was already sick with a stomach ailment when he arrived at the abbey and the Abbot, preferring their founder and generous patron to the stingy king, may have decided to help him along his way.

After King John’s death the rebels made peace with his successor and the Magna Carta was re-instated with a few of the still more oppressive clauses which John had insisted on having been removed.  Robert’s possessions in Oxford, Rutland, Lincoln, Lancaster, Norwich and Suffolk were re-confirmed by King Henry III in 1218.  Sir Robert married a daughter of Henry de Longchamp through whom he obtained the Lordships of Moslingham and Weston in Norfolk.  He died in 1230 and was succeeded by Sir Thomas Grelley (1199-1270).  Thomas’ only son Peter (1225-1261) had pre-deceased him and his minor heir, his grandson Robert de Gresle (Grelly, Grelle or Gresley), became the ward of the King in 1270 until his full age in 1273 when he became Baron of Manchester and Lord of Swineshead (as well as the Lord of many other manors). 

During Robert’s minority from 1270 to 1273 the Swineshead estate was put under the king’s escheat and the wardship of Robert and his lands was assigned to the king’s son Edmund.  In July 1271 the King appointed William de Clifford to the Church of Swinesheved and someone would have been appointed as the local steward or attorney for the estate but the Lordship of the estate would have been under Edmund until Robert’s full age.  He could have granted that manor to someone (as he granted Manchester manor to Walter de Percy) but I can’t find any record that he did.  This is the one point where there is a very slight chance that it might have been a Bolle who was appointed from 1271 to 1273 to oversee one of the Grelly manors, perhaps Swineshead, and that would fit the 1272 date usually given but again there is no document in the rolls to indicate that happened.

Robert Grelley died Feb. 15, 1282 in Lancashire leaving as his heir Thomas, a minor; Amadeus de Savoy held his wardship and had custody of the Manor of Manchester.  The inquisition post mortem of Robert Grelley in 1282 listed his lands in Lincolnshire as Casthorp, Swineshead and the Church of Wiketoft all appurtenant to the Manor of Sixhill; of Heynton near Sixhill and of Bekeby, Bernetheby, Bracebrigge and Chanwick all appurtenant to the Manor of Sixhill.

Thomas on his majority in 1301 became Lord of Swineshead, he died 1310 having had no children; his sister Joan (1281-1353) being his heir and having m. Sir John la Warre in 1294 in Manchester, Sir John became Lord of Swineshead through Joan in 1310. ref.

The la Warre Family, Lords of Manchester and Swineshead

John de Tregoz, Lord of Ewyas, Wales (now Hereford) died in 1300, his heir grandson John la Warre, aged 24 (son of his eldest daughter Clarice la Warre deceased and Roger la Warre deceased) held land in Somerset, Hereford, Wiltshire, Wales, Northampton, Surrey, Salop. but not in Lincolnshire.

John la Warre m. Joan daughter of Sir Robert de Grelle (estates in Manchester and Guerdley in Lancashire and in Swineshead, Sixhills and Bloxholm in Lincolnshire) in 1294.  John la Warre acquired the manor and advowson of Swineshead from Sir Robert (through her brother) in 1310.

By 1316 John la Warre was returned Seventh Lord of Manchester in the county of Lancaster, of Swineshead and Great Casterton in the county of Lincolnshire and of Wakerley in the county of Northampton.  John la Warre d. 1347; succeeded by his grandson Roger (age 18, the son of John de la Warre and Margaret, daughter of Robert de Holand) as Lord of Swineshead in 1353.  Roger’s son John was his heir in 1370.  Roger and John are believed to have been buried in the churchyard of the Abbey of Swineshead.  John’s heir was his half-brother Thomas la Warre in 1398 who would be the last Lord of Swineshead as he chose a religious life.  In 1411 Thomas granted and quitclaimed the manor, lands and advowson of Swineshead to his Bishop.  ref.


When Thomas died and was buried in Swineshead on May 7, 1427 his much depleted estate, which still included the Manor of Brislington in Somerset, the Manor of Wakerley, Northamptonshire and the Manor of Sixhills, Lincolnshire, went to his nephew Sir Reginald West.

Swineshead Abbey in Henry VIII’s Dissolution of Church Lands


The revenue of Swineshead Abbey in 1534 was less than £200; it therefore fell under the first Act of Suppression. The abbot, John Haddingham, received a pension of £24 a year. The monks, ten in number, were paid off in the usual way, with 20s apiece and ' capacities.'  No complaint is recorded against the house at the time of suppression. It was dissolved simply because its revenue was less than £200 a year.


The original endowment of Swineshead Abbey consisted of 240 acres in the same vill, with certain mills and fisheries, and a moiety of the church of Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire. The temporalities of the house were worth £121 16s. 10d. per annum in 1291.   The abbot was returned in 1303 and 1346 as holding half a knight's fee of William son of Robert in Casthorpe. In 1534 the income of Swineshead Abbey was £167 15s 3½d clear.   At the dissolution the crown bailiff's report gives a total of £184 17s 8½ d, including the rectory of Cotgrave and the manors of Gosberton and Quadryng, Great and Little Hale, Cotgrave, and Hardwick Grange.

This site was last updated 06/19/19