METCALFE family branch

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A brief history of the Metcalfe clan

 The following account of the history of the Metcalfe clan has been put together from various sources. Unfortunately the story varies slightly according to the teller or recorder, but the main theme runs through all the accounts.

The Metcalfe, Metcalf or Medcalfe clan originated in Dentdale. There were two great lines of the family the 'High Road' ones and the 'Low Road' ones. The road in question is the old Camhouse Road. The two groups separated sometime between 1300 and 1350 when the family of a certain Adam Medecalf of Middle Tongue in Dentdale arrived in Wensleydale. Adam himself, was killed in Dentdale during the reign of Edward I.

During the following two centuries the 'Medecalfs' prospered and multiplied greatly. As high ranking officials many of them came into possession of large tracts of land, enough it is said, to supply all the needs of the male members of the family. The head of the clan would ride proudly at the Military Musters, leading men of his own name. The Metcalfes fought at Agincourt where they followed the Scropes of Castle Bolton. They fought well and, on returning James Metcalfe was awarded land at Nappa in Wensleydale, in return for his services. A small tenement known facetiously as 'No Castle' stood on the land, but James, who was ambitious and deeply proud of his family soon obtained a licence to build a battle-mented hall which put 'No Castle' to shame. This was about the year 1416.

This high roofed 'halle' stood between two tall, strong battlemented and castellated towers. The capacious stables and outbuildings enclosed a large paved courtyard, access to which was by a deep, gated archway. The Metcalfes of Nappa continued to prosper and climb the feudal ladder, and, during the reign of Henry VI the second James of Nappa became chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and also held high offices in the lordships of Richmond and Middleham.

The third James followed Richard of Gloucester from whom he received ranks and honours in the lordship of Middleham. He was made master forester of Wensleydale, Raydale and Bishopdale and became High Sheriff of Yorkshire. His son Christopher also held that office and on one historic occasion he collected more than 300 Metcalfes to ride with him to do him honour in York. Mounted on white horses they rode to meet the Judge of the Assize, whom they escorted to York.
Metcalfes fought also at Flodden Field and were in the forefront when Henry VIII needed the support of north-countrymen.

Today the name Metcalfe can be seen on many shop fronts, inn doors, cattle wagons etc. and no less than 2 columns of the telephone directory covering Wensleydale, lists 20th century Metcalfes. Most of us will not be direct descendants of the Nappa Hall Metcalfes, but many of us must be descendants of those who fought at Agincourt, or of the 300 who rode with the High Sheriff to York. The difficulty is proving it.

(Extract reproduced from the Metcalfe Society website)


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