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Tracing the De Rilston Family from the Earliest Records

The major part of the information for this article is taken directly from 'The Early Yorkshire Charters[1], Volume 7: The Honour of Skipton' (1). It should be noted that the family name is variously spelled as 'de Rilleston', 'de Rillstone' and 'de Rilstone', but for simplicity the 'de Rilston' spelling is used below.


The Favington or Rilston Fee


In 1166, 4½ carucates of new feoffment [process of assigning property to a person under feudal law for which military service was due] were held by Roger de Favington in the Honour of Skipton. He can be identified as the Roger Fafiton who witnessed various charters in 1135-1154, 1166-1175 and 1155-87.


Although there is no reference relating to Roger which throws light on the locality of his holding, it will be noticed that his holding of 4½ carucates was the only one of that amount in the Carta of 1166, and that in 1287 the only holding of that amount in the Skipton fees was the one held by the de Rilston family. It thus seems likely that the de Rilston family had succeeded to the fee of Roger de Favington.


The earliest member of the family bearing the name of Rilston appears to be William de Rilston who was witnessing charters in 1135-53. At Michaelmas 1166 he owed 60 marks in Staincliffe Wapentake for denying the pledge of his man, and afterwards acknowledging it; and he completed the payment in 1169.


William de Rilston gave land in Bordley, (where he was under-tenant to Adam son of Swain), to Fountains Abbey. He witnessed a charter in about 1170, and was presumably dead at Michaelmas 1175, when Herbert de Arches and Elias de Rilston owed 40 shillings for a licence to make an agreement. William had another son, Alan, who witnessed charters between 1169-1175, but apparently died without issue.


Roger de Favinton and William de Rilston, the ancestor of the Rilston family, were contemporaries. William de Rilston, whose name does not occur in the Carta of 1166 may, at that time. have been an under-tenant of Roger’s in Rilston. This would make the acquisition of the fee [a fee is land which was held of a superior lord in return for which service, mostly military and homage or allegiance was offered] by grant of the lord, of the Honour of Skipton to him or his heir following an 'escheat'; a possible solution. If Roger de Favington had no heirs. [An 'escheat' is a reversion of land held under feudal tenure to the manor in the absence of legal heirs or claimants]. But the possibility of a marriage between a Rilston and a Favinton heiress, however, must not be overlooked.


William’s son, Elias de Rilston, was alive in 1192 when he and his son, also named Elias, witnessed a charter relating to Addingham. Elias de Rilston I had married Alice, the daughter of Uctred and grand-daughter of Dolfin (Dolgfinn in the Domesday Book) who, in 1086, was Lord and Tenant-in-Chief of four geld units of land in Rilston. Elias had two daughters, Alice, who married Roger Tempest ll, and Agnes who married Robert de Steeton. The Tempest family was an important Yorkshire family at this time. Roger Tempest was born in about 1148 and he married Alice de Rilston. They had a son, Richard Tempest, born about 1173. The de Steetons were under-lords of the Percys and this was the family that Agnes married into.


Elias de Rilston II must have died not later than 1228 for, in that year, William de Hebden made a presentation (a moiety) [a half or smaller portion, of something], but it is not clear what it was a moiety of, but probably some land or property from the de Rilston family estate to the church of Burnsall. In a case of 1273, Elias de Rilston lll asserted that his father Eustace was under age when William de Hebden, his guardian, had presented the moiety. Simon de Rilston and Stephanu de Rilston, who was most probably his brother, were witnesses to a gift by Thomas, son of Ralph and Christina of Cracoe, between 1214-1255 (2). It is unclear where these two males fit into the family tree.


Eustace de Rilston II, son of Elias II, attained full age by 1231, when he was a knight on a grand assize. In the same year, he witnessed a charter of John Abbot of Fountains. In 1234, being in debt to the Jews, he gave to William de Hebden a carucate of land in Burnsall and Thorpe, which he had inherited from his grandmother Alice. In 1257, he was granted free warren in his demesne lands in Rilston. Eustace paid the king half a mark of gold for this charter of warren, and he paid that gold in the king’s wardrobe (3). He died before October 1258 when his widow Mabel gave half a mark for a writ. He was succeeded by his son Elias de Rilston lll.


Elias de Rilston III who, on 24 June 1259, confirmed a gift to Fountains Abbey of service and rent from land in Scotsthrop. He witnessed a charter to Fountains in 1262 and, in 1267, gave land in Hetton to Furness Abbey. In 1270, he made an ineffective presentation to Burnsall church and, in 1273, was a defendant in a case relating thereto. He died about 1273, and was succeeded by Eustace de Rilston lll; apparently his son.


Eustace de Rilston III was a defendant in a case against the abbot of Fountains for intrusion into the wood of Littondale, and died shortly before 17 October 1277, when the king’s steward was ordered to demise to John de Collingham the wardship of the lands and heir of Eustace de Rilston deceased, tenant in chief of the Honour of Skipton, in the king’s hand until the full age of the heir. This heir was presumably Elias de Rilston IV.


Elias de Rilston IV, held 4½ carucates of the Honour Skipton Castle in 1287, and died shortly before 23 April 1295, when the escheator was ordered to take his lands into the king's hands. The inquisition held on 14 May 1287 found that Elias de Rilston IV held of the Honour of Skipton Castle a capital messuage [the area of land taken up by a house its associated buildings and land attached] and land in Rilston, meadow in Cracoe and part of the water-mill in Rilston and Hetton. Among his free tenants in Rilston were two tenants holding three bovates in the former place. He also held land in Elslack and Hetton.


His next heirs were his daughters Emma, aged three years, and Cecily aged three months; dower in Rilston and Elslack was later assigned to Sibyl his widow. In 1302-03, the heir of Elias de Rilston, in the king's wardship, held 4½ carucates in Rilston from the lord of Skipton Castle.


Emma de Rilston, daughter and heir of Elias de Rilston IV, and wife of Richard Fauvel, proved her age on 11 March 1303-4, when evidence was given that she was born at Flasby on the Sunday before St. Peter in cathedra 15 years before. That would be 20th February 1288-9, and she was baptised at Gargrave.


In 1314, Richard Fauvel held of Robert de Clifford, who was Lord of the Honour of Skipton, three carucates in Rilston. In 1316, the two lords of Rilston were Henry de Hartlington (who held a carucate in Rilston from the Tempest fee), and Richard Fauvel. On 7 October 1327, the grant of free warren given to Eustace de Rilston in 1257 was confirmed in favour of Richard Fauvel and Emma his wife, Eustace's kinswoman and heir.


In 1328, William, son of Richard Fauvel and Emma his wife, was granted 12 tofts and 11 bovates of land in Hetton by Richard Fauvel. Richard Fauvel was dead in 1342, since Emma was then the wife of John de Malghum. It seems clear that William, on succeeding to the Rilston fee, took his mother's name of 'de Rilston'.


William de Rilston occurs as a collector of wool in the West Riding in 1347, and as William de Rilston of Craven as a collector of subsidies in 1349 and 1350. On 10 August 1355, an agreement was made between Furness Abbey and William de Rilston, Lord of Rilston, relating to common of pasture in Rilston. This was claimed by the abbey as belonging to its free tenement in Hetton by the grant of Eustace, Lord of Rilston and William’s ancestor. In 1362 William de Rilston held of Isabel, widow of Robert de Clifford, lands in Rilston, rendering payments due from precisely 4½ carucates of land.


The eldest son of Thomas de Stainton, Robert de Stainton, gave land in Woolley to Byland Abbey in 1350, he was knighted in 1365, and died in 1369, leaving an only daughter Christiana, who was married to Sir William Rilston and became a widow in 1407. Christiana brought the property of her father to the family of Rilston in marriage. This consisted of Woolley Hall and the manor of Woolley, with 10½ bovates of land in Woolley, 16 bovates of land in Meltham, and six bovates of land in Grimesthorp. The de Rilstons held it until 1490 when Robert, son and heir of Edmund and the grandson of Christiana, sold the greater portion of it to Richard Woodrove of Woolley (4). In 1428, John de Rilston held 4½ carucates in the same places that William de Rilston had held land.


In 1434, Isabel, daughter and heir of John de Rilston, alias Fauvel of Rilston, married Miles Radcliffe. Their eldest son and heir, William Radcliffe, inherited their estates and he, in turn, bequeathed them to his daughter and sole heiress, Ann Radcliffe.


Anne Radcliffe married John Norton of Norton Conyers, a member of another very prominent Yorkshire family. Rylstone remained in the Norton family until 1569 when some members of the family took part in the rising of the North, and their lands were taken by the crown. In 1603, their lands were given to the Cliffords, who had been the superior lords to the Nortons, who were their vassals.

















Notes on de Rilston Family Tree

  1. Alice, the daughter of Uctred and granddaughter of Dolfin (Dolgfinn) in the Domesday Book who, in 1086, was Lord and Tenant-in-Chief of the land with a taxable value of four hides. This land passed to the Honour of Skipton.

  2. Agnes, daughter of Alice and Elias de Rilston, married Robert de Steeton, a member of one of the other important Norman families in the area.

  3. Alice, another daughter of Alice and Elias de Rilston, married Roger Tempest, a son of yet another important local family.

  4. Gilbert, grandson of Alice and Elias de Rilston whose father Henry was one of their sons, married Avice, the granddaughter of Ralph Dean of Kettlewell, another important connection.

  5. There is a further connection with the Tempest family when William Radcliffe, grandson of John de Rilston, marries Jane Tempest.

  6. The daughter of William Radcliffe and JaneTempest.  Anne marries into the Norton family, another very powerful local family.




1. Farrer, W. and Travis Clay, C. (Eds.) (2013). Early Yorkshire Charters: Volume 7, The Honour of Skipton. Cambridge Library Collection: Medieval History. Reissue version. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


2. Katrina, L. (2009). The Lost Cartulary of Bolton Abbey: An Edition of the Coucher Book and Charters. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

3. Henry Ill Fine Rolls Project (2005-2012). Published online at:


4. Walker, J. W. (1924). 'The Manor and Church of Woolley'. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 27, 249-318. Electronic text and additional notes kindly provided by David Hepworth. HTML version by Chris Phillips.


5. Coredon, C. and Williams, A. (2007). A Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases.

Cambridge: DS Brewer.

[1] The Early Yorkshire Charters is a collection of documents, anterior to the 13th. century, made from the public records, monastic chartularies, Roger Dodsworth's manuscripts and other available sources.

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