While the de Wolverton family were in decline, the de Longueville family were on the way up. Maigno le Breton, founder of the de Wolverton line, had acquired large estates after the Conquest and was assessed at 15 knights’ fees in service: that is he had fifteen knights under his patronage, each of whom would have had a manor or part of a manor to support himself and his family and indeed his ability to arm himself for potential combat – no mean expense.
The de Longuevilles by contrast appear to have started their life in England as knights but initially without any grant of land. They emerge on the record in the 12th century, a century after the Conquest in the Manor of Overton in Huntingdonshire, part way between Oundle and Peterborough. The manor only has one entry in the Domesday Book of 1086 but the holdings are shared between Eustace the Sheriff and the Bishop of Lincoln, Eustace having the larger share.
This quite large manor was divided into two which later assumed the names of Orton Longueville and Orton Waterville after the dominant families of the 13th century. was subinfeudated, possibly by 1135, to Roger and John, both “men of Eustace”. One or the other may be the ancestor of the de Longuevilles but there is no documentary evidence to make that connection All we know is that the de Longuevilles hold this manor as one knight’s fee to the Lovetoft barony. The Lovetoft Barony appears to have comprised the holdings of Eustace the Sheriff although in the murky world of 12th century records any lineage with Eustace is unclear.
This information does at least help us to place the de Longuevilles. Their heritage was modest but over a period of centuries they appear to have established themselves as a middling rank family with some landed resources. The Orton Longueville family emerges with Henry who held the fee in 1166. Henry had at least three sons of record but his heir was Reginald who died before 1219. His son John became the tenant and he died before 1265 leaving one son Henry as a minor. In the practice of the day Henry became a ward until he became of age, under the protection of his overlord Roger de Lovetoft, who was then able to enjoy the revenue from the manor. However, Henry was able to advance himself through marriage to Roger’s daughter Petronilla.
Some genealogists have tried to connect these Longuevilles with the great magnate, Walter Giffard de Longueville. In the first place there is no actual evidence for this and in the second it is highly improbable that any descendants of the great man would languish in the lower ranks of knighthood. This connection appears to have originated with a book published in 1741 and may indeed have originated from the family itself in an attempt to burnish their lineage. Unfortunately more than a few amateur genealogists have repeated this error.
Exactly how and why part of the family moved from Orton to Little Billing is unknown. What we do know is that a John de Longueville acquired the Manor in 1301. He may have had land there prior to this because he gives some land in Little Billing to St John’s Hospital in Northampton. Later in 1323 he founded the Austin Friars in Northampton. He is not the John de Longueville who inherited Orton Longueville from his parents, Henry and Petronilla and who died in 1316 and he is not directly descended from Henry and Petronilla.
It is possible, and even likely, that he descended from a younger brother of Henry and therefore both Johns share a common grandparent.
In the 14th century there were three, possibly four, ways to acquire land – through inheritance, though marriage and through service. The fourth possibility, through direct purchase, cannot be totally ignored, but in this case is less likely. The Longuevilles of Orton do not at this time appear to be that wealthy. The facts that we do know is that the title to the manor was transferred (alienated to use the terms of the time) to Sir John Longeville in 1301 and there was a so-called foot of fine to put this on record. The rather odd name comes about because these transactions were usually recorded on a single sheet of parchment, on which three copies of the deed were made – one on the left, one on the right and one at the foot. Each part of the document was cut with wavy lines so that the originals could be matched without forgery. The two parties to the agreement kept the right and left hand copy and the court retained the foot.. They are called fines because the agreement was a final concord – fine for short. Thus the court records, which are in most cases the only surviving records, became known as feet of fines.
The Manor of Billing was part of the barony of Winemar the Fleming, the same man who held Hanslope. The descendants of Winemar, who took the name Preston, after Preston (Deanery) which they also held, appear to have run out of male heirs and in 1284 it is was in the hands of the widow Alice de Preston. What happens after that is unclear but Longueville may have come into the Manor through marriage to one in the female line of the de Prestons.
We know from record that Henry was put into wardship as a minor. He was the heir and there were estates to manage. A younger son with nothing to inherit may well have been given over to the custody of a related family and it may have been this that brought the young John to Little Billing. There will have been no need for any record, which is why we have none, but he must have acquired some wealth somehow, possibly through a will from his relative but if no feudal holdings were involved there would be no need for royal intervention and a local deed would have been sufficient. We must assume that this was lost.
The 18th century genealogy traces the later Wolverton Longuevilles from a Thomas Longueville of Little Billing. The precise relationship with the John mentioned above is not a matter of record. He could have been a son or grandson He married Beatrix Hastings and they had at least one son, Thomas. This Thomas married Isobel. And he died in 1361. They had a son John and his son, also John was the one who married Joan Hunt and thereby came into the Wolverton inheritance.
The de Wolverton line, as we have seen, produced no male heirs after the death of Ralph de Wolverton, then only a boy, in 1351. At this point the great Barony of Mainou is broken up. Chalfont St Giles and Padbury were settled on the four sisters of John de Wolverton’s first marriage and Wolverton and Wyke Hamon (Wicken) divided between Ralph’s elder sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth.
Margery married John de Hunte of Fenny Stratford, and gave birth to a daughter, Joan, who becomes important later. In the meantime, Elizabeth had married Willima de Cogenhoe
Margery outlived her first husband, then a second, Roger de Louth and a third, Richard Imworth, but not the fourth, John Hewes, who after 1393 granted his interest to John de Longueville and his wife Joan.
This is the beginning of the Longueville story in Wolverton which was to last until 1712.