The Frank family

One of Roger’s other daughters, Alice, married William Frank, son and heir of Robert Frank, a major landowner in the district. The poll-tax return of 1379 shows that the Frank family were principal landowners in Allerton Gledhow, Weardley and Alwoodley.20 Much of this land had been acquired by repeated fortunate marriages. The return also shows that there were only fifteen adults in Alwoodley rich enough to pay the assessment!21

William and Alice lived at Alwoodley Old Hall for many years and their marriage was blessed with numerous children including Nicholas Frank. His daughter, Agnes, married William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe and in 1349 she bore him a son, also called William, who became Lord Chief Justice of England in 1401. His magnificent alabaster monument can still be seen today in Harewood Church.22

Yet the township still remained subdivided between the Alwoodley and Brandon families, however, successive members of the Frank family gradually reunited all the land parcels so that it became one estate with Alwoodley Old Hall as the central administrative centre, complete with ‘barnes, gardane, Orchard, fishponds and Coniwarren’. This process was aided by the fact that in1539 Henry VIII confiscated all the lands of the Cistercian monks of Kirkstall and closed the abbey. The Ministers’ Accounts of 1540, record the revenues due to the Crown from the former monastic lands and show that William Frank, gentleman, was paying 13s 4d for the rent of a house, outbuildings, yard and ‘appurtenances’ in Alwoodley, property he would soon purchase outright.23 

In the turbulent Tudor period  Henry VΙΙΙ became increasingly worried about the threat of invasion by Catholic countries appalled at this devastating assault on the church. He called upon the lord lieutenants to hold frequent ‘musters’ or meetings of all able bodied men aged 16 to 60 who were eligible for military service. They had to be armed with their own weapons and armour ‘according to their income’. A register of attendees was then sent to the central government. The Muster of the wapentake of Skyrack in 1539 shows that only seven men in Alwoodley turned out!24


oriel window

The Frank family were extremely wealthy and could afford to have a beautiful oriel window made of Tadcaster limestone incorporated into the fabric of their home. This delightful drawing by John Dixon shows the structure in a fairly complete state. It was finally demolished just over forty years ago and the stone still survives today in a local rockery.


20. G.T.Clark, The Return of the Poll Tax for the West Riding, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal VΙΙ (Leeds, 1882)
21. Ibid.
22. Pauline Routh and Richard Knowles, The Medieval Monuments of Harewood, (Wakefield, 1983) p.10.
23. W.T.Lancaster, Adel, Thoresby Soc., ΙV (Leeds, 1895) pp. 282-3; for original grant see: PRO Reference C 143/247/10 William, son of John de Colyngham to grant land in Alwoodley to the abbot and convent of Kirkstall 12 Edward ΙΙΙ.
24. W.Paley Baildon ed., Musters in the Skyrack Wapentake, 1539, Thoresby Soc., IV (Leeds, 1895) p.245.


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