Early History

by Kenrick Armitstead

THE MASSIE FAMILY came to this country at the time of the Conquest from Mascey near Avranches in Normandy. In 1086, in the Domesday Book, Hamon de Massy is shown as holding nine lordships in baronry from Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester.

Hamon has his seat at Dunham Massey, and his family held it for over two centuries, five generations in succession bearing his name. Hamon III founded Birkenhead Abbey, and Hamon IV, the last of his line, who died in about 1341, left no heirs although he was married three times. His first wife died on his wedding night; he than married her sister Alice de Beauchamp, from whom he was divorced, presumably on grounds of consanguinity. She was probably the mother of his illegitimate son Hamon, who died in his father's lifetime in Gascony without issue.

His third wife was Joan Clinton, sister of the Earl of Huntington. She persuaded him to sell the reversion of Dunham Massey after his death to Oliver de Ingham, justice of Chester, for which he received in 1316 1,000 marks plus 44 marks a year for life.

On his death his four sisters should have been his coheiresses, and the eldest of them, Cecily, contested Oliver Ingham's rights, and even took possession of Dunham Massey during Ingham's absence in France on the King's service, but was expelled by the king's order, and did not regain possession until after his death. She was married to John Fitton of Bollin, and from his family it passed to the Venables of Booths, Earls of Warrington, and thence to the Earls of Stamford. It is now owned by the National Trust. No trace remains of the castle of the Masseys.

At one time the ramifications of the parent stock were represented by 17 families in Cheshire alone-"masses of Masseys, groves of Grosvenors and Leghs like flies" as the old Cheshire saying had it. The Masseys of Sale, who branched off in the reign of King John, and gave their name to Saughall Massie, ended in 1685. From them descended the Masseys of Backford and Timperley, whose last heir died in the reign of Henry V, the Masseys of Eggerly, still flourishing under James I, the Masseys of Godley and probably those of Hough and Kelsall. The Massies of Tatton ended about 1475 with Sir Geoffrey whose heiress married William Stanley. There were ten lords of Tatton, of whom Sir Richard followed the banner of the Black Prince throughout the French wars and led the archers on the last expedition, receiving a grant in recognition of his services in Gascony and Poitiers. The Masseys of Dunfield descended from a bastard of this line. Then there were the Masseys of Grafton and Withenshaw, and the Masseys of Puddington, whose ancestor Richard was probably the brother of Hamon Massey V of Dunham Massey. He was sheriff of Chester in 1277. Sir John Massey of Puddington is mentioned by Holinshed among those slain at Shrewsbury fighting for the king.

William Massey, the last of this family, was a zealous Roman Catholic attached to the cause of the pretender, and is said to have fled home after the battle of Preston, escaping to the Wirrall by swimming his horse over the Mersey. The brace horse is said to have dropped dead as it reached the stable door. William was seized at Puddington Hall and imprisoned in Chester castle, where he died soon after, leaving his estates to his godson Thomas Stanley who assumed the name of Massey.

Last Update: 04/10/99
Web Author: Nigel Watts
Copyright ©1999 Kenrick Armitstead & Nigel Watts - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED