Rare Masons title on sale at 1 million GBP likely to cause a stir among global Freemasons community
The title applies to the manors of Walcott, Easthall and Westhall in the English county and is being sold by Noble Titles.
The purchaser will be getting four Lordships in one - besides the Lordship of the Manor of Masons for England it will include also the manorial Lordships of Walcott, Easthall and Westhall. Any female partner will automatically become Lady of the Manor and three to six of their children would go on to hold the honouree Lord or Lady of Walcott, Easthall and Westhall.
No auction date is set as yet, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Originally there were two Halls in Walcott, East Hall and West Hall. William Faden's map of Norfolk dated 1797 shows Walcott Hall but it's not entirely clear from it if this is West or East Hall. However, between 1386 and 1486, there is note of a manor called 'Masons' in Walcott.
The de Engain family of Brumstead and Walcott is first noted in 1404 when Thomas de Engain married Margaret, daughter of John Ellis of Great Yarmouth. In 1405, he passed the manor of West Hall to Lord Willoughby and hence West Hall was united to East Hall in Walcott.
Provenance from 144 years ago
Baron, or rather Lord Graham (Fothergill), Noble Titles owner, explained that the deeds to the Walcott Lordship, have provenance going back 144 years and held in seven different ownerships, latterly Anne-Marie Cartier in 1989. Prior to that they were in the hands of Richard John Henry Tacon (1976), DGT Tacon (1926), Percy Martin [Steward] (1909), KJ Tacon (1901), SA Rose (1895) and one James Palmer (1876).
Genealogical research has discovered that prior to this they were held by the following local family names: Walcott, Edgefield, Rosceline, Malet, Ranulf, Pence and Enggain. Henry VIII held the title in 1538 at the start of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The de Walcott family were Lords of the Manor of Walcott from the late 12th century until the late 14th century.
Originally there were two Halls in Walcott, East Hall and West Hall. William Faden's map of Norfolk dated 1797 shows Walcott Hall but unfortunately it is not entirely clear if this is West or East Hall. However between 1386 and 1486, there is note of a manor called 'Masons' in Walcott.
Walcott under Henry II
The de Walcott family is first noted in East Hall, Walcott in Henry II's reign (1154 to 1189). William de Edgefield was living when his mother, Maud de Walcott, granted two parts of the tithe of her lands in Walcott to the monks of Bromholm Priory in Bacton. Peter de Edgefield, William's father and his wife (Hawise) had a daughter (Letitia) who married Sir William de Rosceline and brought this manor into that family.
In 1240 and, possibly, 1281, Thomas de Walcott held part of the advowson (income) of Walcott church and was lord of West Hall in Walcott. Peter de Rosceline in 1286 claimed wreck at sea and frankpledge. It's known that he and his wife were living there in 1316. Their son, Sir Thomas de Roseceline, inherited the manor after their deaths. Then, in 1286, Sir Walter de Walcott held a moiety (each of two parts into which a thing is or can be divided) in nearby Hempstead and was patron of Wallington in 1302. Walter was then married to Lucia.
In 1286, Alexander de Walcott, son of Walter de Walcott and his brother, Thomas, had 16 messuages (houses with outbuildings and land attached) covering 120 acres including 12 acres of pasture, and 31 acres of wood in Eccles, Hempstead, Palling and Stalham. Alexander was lord of West Hall in 1302, a lord in Walcott in 1315, and by 1316 he and his wife (Maud) also held West Hall. He appointed his brother Hugh as Rector of Walcott's All Saints Church in 1302 and in turn his son John de Walcott took the post in 1322.
Alexander and Maud had four daughters called Cecilia, Elizabeth, Mariota and Margaret. In 1340 Alexander conveyed his right in West Hall in Walcott to Sir Walter de Walcott, his son. A year later, in 1341, Alexander died. Sir Walter was a lord in Walcott in 1347. Walter married Millicent, daughter and heir of Walter de Gunton and held the manor of Gunton. They had three daughters - one was Margaret, who married Thomas de Wymondham - and a son, also called Walter. Sir Walter de Walcott died in 1355. His son of the same name passed in 1366 but not before marrying Joan, daughter of Walter de Clopton.
Walter and Joan had four daughters - Elizabeth, who married Ralph Bray of Wickhampton, Catherine to John Durward, Margery, who became a nun at Carrow Priory in Norwich, and Margaret, who married Sir Robert Berney of Wickhampton and had the manor of Gunton.
There was a Sir Alexander de Walcott living around 1377, although what relation he was to the above is unknown. Local historians believe that he was not the brother of Sir Walter de Walcott. Alexander probably married a daughter from the Westingthorpe family and had a daughter - who in turn married Andrew Brampton.
They had a son called John de Walcott of Wallington who had a daughter called Isabel. She married Robert Brampton. The last record of the family in Walcott was in 1377 with Sir Alexander de Walcott. In 1378 William le Parker sold the manor of Brumstead and the manor of Eccles to Simon de Walcote, Rector of Walcote - note the change in spelling.
There's a great romantic legend connected with the history of the masons. It's a story which connects the Knights Templars with Freemasonry in Scotland, after their return from the Crusades and after the suppression of their Order.
History and tradition mingled
In its incidents, the elements of history and tradition are so mingled that it is with difficulty that they can be satisfactorily separated. While there are historians who accept everything that has been said concerning the connection in the 14th century of the Freemasons of Scotland with the Templars who were then in that kingdom, or who escaped to it as an asylum from the persecutions of the French monarch, as an authentic narrative of events which had actually occurred.
There are others who reject the whole as a myth or fable which has no support in history.
The all-grabbing Henry VIII comes into the picture of course after the Knights Templar were driven out of the Holy Lands following their failed Crusade. The wealth they had accumulated made them the target of envious enemies, and in 1307, at the instigation of Philip IV King of France, the Order was abolished by the Pope. The papal decree was obeyed in England and King Edward II took control of the London Temple, still there today just off Fleet Street - one of the most historic and beautiful churches in the capital.
Eventually he gave it to the Order of St John - the Knights Hospitaller - who had always worked with the Templars. It was Henry VIII who brought about the next change in the church. In 1540 he abolished the Hospitallers and confiscated their property. It's almost impossible to believe that because their Order had been suppressed, these proud soldiers of the cross, whose military life had unfitted them for any other pursuit except that of arms, would have thrown aside their swords and their spurs and assumed the trowel - symbol of the Freemasons.
To have become Operative Masons, they must have at once abandoned all the prejudices of social life in which they had been educated. That a Knight Templar would have gone into some religious house as a retreat from the world whose usage of his Order had disgusted him, or taken refuge in some other chivalric Order, might reasonably happen, as was actually the case. Along with everything else Henry VIII seized was the Lordship of Masons Title. Now this, with the other rare Norfolk documents, are up for sale by Noble Titles.
Fakes for sale online
However, with anyone thinking of buying so-called ancient documents online, comes a warning from Graham Fothergill. Fakes abound out there. He explains: "Many websites sell what are called Seated Titles. That's a title with a plot of land. Now, whilst this sounds legal, they are in fact all fake. What they're selling is a name change and a souvenir plot of land. There's no such thing as a Seated Title legally in the UK. It's just made up nonsense."
You can't simply buy your way into the British peerage. True royal Titles are either inherited or granted by the Queen. This includes Titles like duke, count, viscount, earl, baron and lord - and of course their female equivalents. Selling these Titles is against the law.
But there's another class of Titles in the UK known as manorial Titles, and these can be sold. Manorial Titles date back to feudal times. The Titles are considered property - which means they can be bought, sold, and passed down in a person's will. A person with this title can style themselves as Joe Bloggs, Lord of the Manor of ______. Scottish feudal Baronies are also sometimes put up for sale.
In 1925 the Law of Property Act was introduced in Britain and then amended due to a high court case, Beaumont vs Jeffreys, which separated the Land from the Title in England and Wales. "Titles for all Lordships and Baronies have been separated from the land itself since 1925," explains the Lord, or just plain Graham Fothergill as he's happy to be known most of the time. His own title is inherited - not an off-the-shelf item from Noble Titles - and has been in the family for 700 years. It goes back to the Knights Templar and, perhaps for obvious reasons, Graham was reticent about the details.
Seated Titles not for sale
Land is regarded by law as 'corporeal property' - which means its tangible, it exists as an entity. Feudal Titles like Lordships of the Manor and Baronies are legally classified as 'incorporeal hereditaments' - and as such, the word "incorporeal" means intangible. By logic, goods that are tangible and intangible are by their very nature different or separate, as defined by the Law of Property Act 1925. There is no mention of Seated Titles in British law.
The feudal system in Britain was introduced by William the Conqueror post 1066 - the Battle of Hastings and all that. The land was divided up into counties, hundreds (so called because the country was large enough in terms of land to get one hundred Lordships of the Manor), head lordships - who were Court Lords, presiding over cases of serious crimes - and lastly, Lordships of the Manor. But what of those, well, not so kosher but still legal Titles being peddled online by various companies?
For years, selling these medieval Titles has been a profitable business for real aristocrats feeling the pinch. Those who may have lost ancestral land and mansions but have Titles to spare. These Titles only allow subsequent buyers to call themselves Lord or Lady and get a coat of arms. They are not a British or Irish rank, don't have any rights to sit in the House of Lords, and almost all the original privileges and rights that might have been attached to them centuries ago are long gone.
Based in the UK Elite Titles and Manorial Counsel Ltd, among others, sell legal loophole Titles which are fundamentally a deed poll name change - sometimes called Title Deed Poll. Bit of wool pulling over the eyes here. The buyer is still a plain old Mr or Mrs at the end of the process - they've simply changed their first name. A Mr Lord Not-So-Smart if you will.
Lord Graham of Noble Titles also has something to say on plots of land Titles offered by certain internet organisations for England and Scotland. "They're not real Titles - just a loophole allowing someone to refer to a plot of land and call themselves Laird or Lord. Real Titles in England and Wales have been separate from the land since Beaumont vs Jeffries and the amended Law of Property Act 1925 and Scotland 2004. If Titles were leather, these are 100 percent PVC!"
It doesn't end there. Take, for example, the Grand Duke of Pomerania and Livonia holder, up for sale on royalTitles.net. Graham doesn't mince his words on this one. "Absolute rubbish. It was discovered that he was descended from a duke, now long since passed, who never had the legal right to grant Titles even when he was alive. Today the Duke's descendant is granting Titles ranging from £177 for a single and £265 a pair. The pricing alone tells you it's fake. With genuine Titles your spouse is automatically entitled to be called Duchess."
But if it's just a bit of fun you're after, like a present for dad on his birthday to celebrate him being his very own Lord of the Manor, you can find them for sale online for as little as £16. There's a special 'digital' offer at the time of writing from Lord Titles (lordTitles.co.uk) with five square feet in the Lake District to call your own 'estate' in the Lake District.
Each digital pack contains a printable personalised title certificate, legal title deed, details of the location of your 'estate', title crest, personalised welcome letter, access to the online members area and digital colour brochure. But as already established, services that seem similar can cost thousands of dollars. So how much does it cost to become a lord of the manor?
Buying a legitimate manorial title isn't cheap. Last year, the Lordship of the Manor of Arthuret, which had been held by the same family for more than four centuries, went up for auction and was expected to sell for £6,000 to £6,960. In 2014, the Lordship of the Manor of Whaplode Abbots went on sale for just over £7,400. The Earl Spencer (Princess Diana's father) sold the Lordship of the Manor of Wimbledon for £170,00 in 1996.
In most cases, it's just the manorial title that is being sold. But occasionally, these Titles are sold along with other property, like a manor house that was recently on the market for almost a cool £745,000. The purchaser would have been able to call themselves Lord or Lady of Horton.
Family cash raising
So, who puts these Titles up for sale? Sometimes, it's a family that's looking to raise some cash by putting a bit of its history up for sale, according to Forbes. Other times, it's just a person looking to make a quick buck. In other words, buyer beware.
British heritage research company Noble Titles offer the genuine opportunity to own a real McCoy feudal principality - if you have the readies of course. Far better than owning a mere private island or penthouse suite. A genuine title allows you to become an actual Prince or Princess. So how about this one?
Described as a "truly life changing investment" the title of Honoree Prince or Princess, valued at £388,000, comes with all ownership rights included, and is a legitimate and genuine bestowment granted by a European King or Queen. Wow.
Explains Lord Graham: "A principality is an extraordinary title to own, and they're extremely rare to come across. Whoever purchases the title will find a huge difference is made to their lives, both personally and professionally. They can expect to find many new doors are opened for them, including the opportunity to meet fellow members of the aristocracy.
"The life of royalty is one not just of luxury, but also intrigue, and in this spirit - as well as the highly confidential nature of the Principality - the identity of the bestowing King or Queen will be exclusively disclosed to the Noble Titles recipients."
As well as the right to call themselves a Lord, the ennobled client can appoint people to his court, inherit certain historical deeds and a host of peculiar rights from the dark ages. These can include rights to minerals, rights-of-way and rights to hold court.
So, the investment bit. Is it all worth the outlay? Lord Graham - or simply plain old Graham as he usually prefers to be addressed - certainly thinks so. But then Noble Titles is a business not a long lost relative finder. "A Lordship Title may attract businessmen looking to boost their profile. Other perks include an increased credit rating by banks and an 'extra level of service' received by Lords and Ladies. But yes, most people buy these Titles for business use because when you hand somebody a business card and it has got Lord on there, it really does make a difference in sealing the deal."
Snobbery or status?
But isn't there a big dollop of snobbery at work here? "Well, our clients range from 25-85 years old, some buy for heirlooms some buy for business. All buy to upgrade their status. Is it snobbery? No. It's really a case of wanting to stand out from the crowd."
Titles often come with eccentric rights and deeds, that can be passed down - including the right to appoint a Lady of the Manor. "That could be your daughter or your mother, it could be your wife - or even your mistress," he offered mischievously.
"All you have to do is write to the person saying that you are appointing them to the position - and if they don't behave themselves, you can strip them of it. So, if you think your wife isn't performing in the bedroom, you can take it away again - if you dare."
Noble Titles have documents hundreds of years old which have been recorded in English history books, including those once held by kings and queens of England as well as Titles held by Knights Templars and Hospitallers. Typical examples are Lord and Ladyships, Baron and Baroness and for Scotland, Laird (Scottish Lord) and Lady.
"It's quite sad really. A lot of these historic ennoblements that come to us would have disappeared because people who held them just didn't pass them on, for whatever reason. We at Noble Titles are keeping the heritage of bygone Titles alive," Graham adds.
"Every Title is vetted and researched to ensure it is genuine before we offer it for sale. We are heritage researchers and purveyors of Titles, with over 22 years of experience in genealogical research. We also buy and sell genuine Titles with proof of ownership established. Our researchers are members of the UK Society of Genealogists," he concludes.
152-160 City Road
London EC1V 2NX, UK.
Tel: + 44 203 868 1060/ +44 208 621 7425 and +44 7479 275 006.
Noble Titles, established in 1996, were one of the first companies to use the Internet as a source of information for potential customers and after many years of trading have built up an enviable reputation in the prestigious ancient titles market. Many of their customers remain in touch post sales and some have even become friends. Staff are available 24/7 to assist potential clients with their expertise and provide a totally confidential service.
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