A Frank exchange

The Royal family were regularly short of money and in 1610 Parliament allowed James I a lay subsidy. Tax-payers were divided into two classes – firstly those who were charged in respect of their income from land and secondly persons taxed on their ‘movables’, which included crops from land. In Alwoodley, Robert Frank, was described as ‘gentleman’, and had to pay £5 6s 7d assessed on his income from land, whereas Richard Frank, Francis Wetherell and Henry Skelton each paid £3 3s.28 All must have bitterly resented paying such large amounts of money to the King.

Nevertheless Robert Frank was a generous Christian and it is obvious from his will dated 22 February 1618 that he was a very wealthy man who not only owned the whole of Alwoodley but had a sizable estate at Knottingley. Sadly Robert had no children of his own and the chief beneficiary turned out to be his brother, Bryan, who was given eight oxen, eight cows, six feather beds and bedsteads, all his furniture including ‘a long table in the hall, the formes thereunto belonging, a Cupboard…a trunke and a little flanders Chist called a gartevian with all Chaires and stools and seaven quishings.’ He also received all the expensive pewter and brass items from the halls at Alwoodley and Knottingley and the ‘waynes, ploughes, yockes teames and all the Furniture belonging unto them.’

Robert’s other brother, Richard, received forty pounds and generous terms on the twenty-one year leases he held on two farms. His son was to be given ten pounds and his daughter forty pounds. Bryan’s son, also called Robert, was given all the plate and a signet ring whereas his nieces, Isabel and Elizabeth received forty pounds and twenty pounds respectively.

Poor Alice Frank received a mere twenty shillings.

Robert gave each of his servants two shillings and made various charitable donations including twenty pounds to the poor of Harewood Parish and a similar sum to those living in Adel. The Vicar of Harewood was given twenty shillings and the parson of Adel half that amount.29

It is not clear what happened to the family fortunes during the next eight years but by the time Bryan Frank made his will on 9 August 1626, he was in serious financial difficulties. He left his Knottingley property to his wife, Ann, but instructed that upon her death this was to be divided equally between their eight children - four sons and four daughters. His Alwoodley estate, excluding the ancient demesne lands surrounding Alwoodley Old Hall, was now mortgaged to Sir Richard Tempest of Bowling, William Oglethorpe and Richard Tempest and there seemed little hope of retaining it as the repayments could not be met. Ann was to keep the remaining parcel of land for her own use provided that she paid his children forty pounds ‘…of lawfull money of England.’ But the situation was perilous.

It must have been distressing for this ancient family to discover that their father’s profligacy was likely to lead to the loss of Alwoodley and Bryan’s eldest son, Robert, struggled valiantly to reduce the debt. On 5 February 1637 he used the manor as collateral to obtain a new loan from his brother, George Frank, ‘citizen and merchant tailor of London’ for the staggering amount of £5050, a sum far in excess of the real value of the estate. But the situation proved hopeless and the following year Robert, William and George Frank reluctantly sold the manor to Sir Gervase Clifton and Robert Leeke for £3604, thus ending centuries of their family’s association with the people and the district of Alwoodley.30


28. G.D.Lumb ed., Subsidy Roll of the Wapentake of Skyrack, 1610, Thoresby Soc., XXΙΙ (Leeds, 1915) p.109.
29. Borthwick Institute, York, Vol.35 fol.443.
30. WYL72/LF Additional 13.

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