William DE MERLAY, Baron of Morpeth
(-By 1129)
Ranulf DE MERLAY, Baron of Morpeth
(-Bef 1157)


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Ranulf DE MERLAY, Baron of Morpeth

  • Born: Morpeth, Northumberland, England
  • Married:
  • Died: Before 1157

  Also called Ranulph DE MERLEY and Ralph de Merlay

  General Notes:

compiler's 27 x great grandfather

  Research Notes:

Ranulph de Merlay signed his father's grant of Morwick to the church of Durham; and, after his father's death, in 1129, went to Durham, and there upon the tomb of St. Cuthbert, by one intellum, offered the same land of Morwick to the said St. Cuthbert and his monks there. He also, in 1138, founded the abbey of Newminster, which, according to Richard of Hexham, was destroyed in the same year by the marauding army of David, king of Scotland. Richard calls him "Vir Potens." He had a grant from Henry the First, of the woods, inclosure, and free chase of Elchamp, now called Ulgham. 1


Ranulph... son and heir; to whom Edgar, son of Cospatric, son of Dolphin, earl of March and Dunbar, in Scotland, gave in frank marriage with Julian, his sister, the lordship of Wytton, and five others. 2


Juliana [de Dunbar] married Ranulf de Merlay of Morpeth, son of William de Merlay of Morpeth, Northumberland, and his wife Menialda. A manuscript narrating the foundation of Newminster Abbey records the descendants of “Ranulphus de Merlay” and his wife until the 16th century. 3


Barons by Tenure. 4

I. Steph. 1. Ranulph Merley, s. and h. of William de Merley; Lord of Wytton.
II. H. II. 2. Roger de Merley, s. and h. ob. 1188.
III. Ric. I. 3. Roger de Merley, s. and h. ob. 1239.
IV. H. III. 4. Roger de Merley, s. and h. ob. 1266, S.P.M. his three daughters being his coheirs...


Newminster is the new monastery founded by Ranulf de Merlay in 1139 as a colony of the Cistercian Abbey of Fountains, Yorks. 5

This Ralph founded Newminster, and, as appears by the Autographo, was interred therein, with his lady and Osbert his son. 6


Ranulf de Merlay was the founder of Newminster abbey, the first daughter house of Fountains abbey. John of Hexham says that eight monks from Fountains came to the castle at Morpeth in January 1138, and built the monastery... The same date is given in an early chronicle of Fountains..., and in an early-thirteenth-century list of Cistercian foundations... Prior Richard of Hexham’s account... tells us that the Scots destroyed the monastery in the same year (‘Hac tempestate, in terra Ranulfi de Merlai, de obseruantiis Cisterciensium destructum est quoddam coenobium, eodem anno constructum’). A deed in Ranulf’s name gives Ritton, part of the wood of Witton, and the vale between Morpeth and Mitford to Newminster ‘quam ego ipse construxi’. The detailed bounds that follow indicate that the deed is forged or at least inflated. Ranulf was also a benefactor of Hexham priory, to which he gave an annual payment of 10s, until he could give the equivalent in land....

Ranulf appears in charters of Henry I only as a beneficiary and is not named in any surviving act of King Stephen. His only known tenancies lay in the earldom of Northumberland, which was given to Henry, son of King David of Scotland, under the terms of the second treaty of Durham of 1139. Ranulf attested four of Earl Henry’s acts: a confirmation to Brinkburn priory, datable 1139; a confirmation to Eustace fitz John of the lands in Northumberland he had previously held in chief, 1139 × 1142; a mandate that the monks of Durham should hold certain lands as previously, 1141; and a gift to the nuns of St Bartholomew, Newcastle, 1141 × 1151... A charter to Brinkburn priory given by William de Warenne, Earl Henry’s son and successor in Northumberland, datable 1152 × 1157, while William was earl, is instead witnessed by Roger de Merlay... Does this give a terminus ad quem for the death of Ranulf? As Roger did not succeed to the fee until Michaelmas 1161 or later, it is more likely to be a simple error of transcription by the Brinkburn cartularist.

Northumberland was surrendered to Henry II by Malcolm IV in 1157. It is doubtful whether Ranulf was then living. The Merlay roll, discussed below, says that Ranulf, his wife Juliana, and his son Osbert were buried at Newminster ‘in boriali parte domus capituli illius monasterii quod condidit’... The roll says that Ranulf was succeeded by his son Roger de Merlay, ‘uocatur Rogerus de Merlay primus’, omitting the tenure of William de Merlay. William was Ranulf’s son, noted above as a witness to Ranulf’s confirmation to Durham. In August 1157 × August 1158 Henry II confirmed to Newminster, at the petition of William de Merlay, everything that Ranulf de Merlay, his father, had given... William occurs in the pipe roll for 1157–8, presenting an account for works at the king’s castle of Wark... At Michaelmas 1161 he accounted for £10 for his fees in Northumberland, and the following year for 4 marks scutage...

A list of Newminster’s benefactors... commences:

Dominus Ranulphus de Merlay, principalis fundator noster, et Iuliana uxor eius, qui nobis contulerunt situm huius abbatie, grangiam de Hulwane et duas Rittonas, Willelmus de Merlay, Rogerus de Merlay primus, magister Osbertus de Merlay, filii predicti Ranulphi, Rogerus de Merlay secundus . . .

William was dead at Michaelmas 1165, when Roger de Merlay accounted for 75s 10d in Northumberland... Roger was brother to William, as appears from a confirmation for Durham, given by ‘Rogerus de Merlai filius Rannulfi de Merlai’, of the land in Morwick ‘pro animabus cari fratris mei Willelmi de Merlai et aliorum antecessorum meorum’... The date must be after October 1162, the earliest date for the witness German, prior of Durham, and before September 1174, when the witness John, archdeacon of Northumberland, died.

Henricus rex Angl(orum) et dux Norman(norum) [[iustic’ uic’]] ministris [[et]] omnibus baronibus suis francis et anglis salutem. Notum sit omnibus uobis me dedisse Ranulpho de Merlay Iulianam filiam comitis Cospatricii. Et sciatis quod inter me et patrem suum dedimus ei in liberum mariale [[sibi]] atque heredibus suis, scilicet Horsley Stanton W[[itton]] Ritton’ Wyndgates et quandam uillam ultra moras ta[[m liber]]e quam aliquis potest liberius inter maria uel [[terras]] alicui dare tenendum in suo dominico. Et ex hoc precipio [[meis]] iustic(iis) ut uideant quod nichil ei desit. Et si aliquis ei contradicere uoluerit, tunc precipio iustic’ et uic’ meis de [[com(itatu)]] Northumbrie ut plenum rectum ei teneant.T(estibus) Patricio filio Ioha(nnis) Peuerell de Baelcamp’ Willelmo de Albini Brito Henr(ico) filio Iohannis Willelmo del Pont del Harche Willelmo Maltrauar’ Willelmo Maldut. Apud Wodstok.

(Henry king of the English and duke of the Normans to his justice(s), sheriff(s), officials and all his barons French and English greeting. Let it be known to you all that I have given to Ranulf de Merlay Juliana daughter of Earl Gospatric. And know that between me and his father we have given to him in free marriage for himself and also his heirs, namely Horsley, Stanton, Witton, Ritton, Wingates and that vill beyond the moors as freely as anyone can freely give to anyone, within the moor or without, to hold in his demesne. And by this (my writ) I command my justices that they shall see that nothing is wanting for him. And if any shall wish to contradict him, then I command that my justice(s) and sheriff(s) of Northumberland that they shall hold full right to him. Witness Patrick fitz John, Peverel de Beauchamp, William d’Aubigny Brito, Henry fitz John, William de Pont de l’Arche, William Maltravers, William Mauduit. At Woodstock.) 7

  Marriage Information:

Ranulf married Juliana DE DUNBAR, daughter of Earl Gospatrick DE DUNBAR and Unknown.


1 A History of Northumberland: In Three Parts, 1832, John Hodgson, p. 374.

2 The Dormant and Extinct Baronage of England: Or, An Historical and Genealogical Account of the Lives, Public Employments, and Most Memorable Actions of the English Nobility who Have Flourished from the Norman Conquest, Volume 1, 1807, Thomas Christopher Banks, p. 135.

3 Foundation for Medieval Genealogy: Medlands.

4 A Synopsis of the Peerage of England: Exhibiting, Under Alphabetical Arrangement, the Date of Creation, Descent and Present State of Every Title of Peerage which Has Existed in this Country Since the Conquest., 1825, Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, p. 425.

5 The Place-names of Northumberland and Durham, p. 149.

6 An Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County of Northumberland, and of Those Parts of the County of Durham Situated North of the River Tyne, with Berwick Upon Tweed, and Brief Notices of Celebrated Places on the Scottish Border, 1825, Eneas MacKenzie, p. 196.

7 Ranulf de Merlay - The Charters of William II and Henry I, WordPress (PDF).

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