In 1649 the Croft family lost Stillington Manor when it was put up for sale by Parliamentary Forces stationed in York. At the time Sir Christopher Croft was ill, and would die in July that year. His son Thomas, who lived in Stillington, had joined the Royalist Forces being reported to have died in either late 1648 or early 1649 of wounds he received fighting alongside the notorious Sir William Vaughan of Shropshire.
The Manor was purchased by Major George Gill of Leeds, and the Crofts rented Stillington from him at £20, 16 shillings and 3 pence per half year. However when nothing was paid after the first six months Gill had the Purchasing Committee chase up the money.
Many histories either record that the Crofts were reinstated with the manor or that they bought the Manor back from Gill.
Who was George Gill?
George Gill was a ‘gentleman of Beeston’ a township near Leeds. On 17 May 1643 Gill was commissioned captain of horse in the Fairfaxes’ Northern Army, having spent £600 (some borrowed) in raising his troop. He fought at Adwalton Moor (between Leeds and Bradford) on 30th June 1643. This was a Royalist victory and the Parliamentarian Forces were effectively ejected from the West Riding. After Adwalton Gill spent further money (about £450) reinforcing his troop after the loss of men, horses and equipment during the fighting at that battle.
Later Gill served in Lincolnshire in Sir Thomas Fairfax’s regiment of horse. On 25th January 1644 Gill fought at the battle of Nantwich, in Cheshire, with the Yorkshire horse. It was a victory for Parliamentarian Forces. In February he accompanied Christopher Copley to London to lobby for Fairfax’s return to Yorkshire. Gill was major in Copley’s regiment of horse from (at least) mid-June 1644 until November 1645, when he was ordered to relinquish his troop to the colonel. He remained militarily inactive, due to the defeat of Royalist forces, until 1650. It was during this period that Gill repeatedly petitioned the Parliamentary Council in York for the money he had paid to raise and re-equip his troop of horse, which had been effectively taken from his command.
In 1647 Gill presented the Parliamentary Committee of the North with a bill for 2,257l.16s. 3d. covering back pay, loans, and the original £600 raising of his troop which he claimed Lord Fairfax had promised to repay. In May 1647 he was paid his back pay for both his active and inactive service which amounted to some £1500 and it was later claimed that Gill had accepted this as full payment of monies owed. Gill did take the money, some of which was paid in church land made available from the Dean and Chapter of York. Other officers had been paid in a similar manner.
A short time later Gill then put in a claim the £600 for his troop, which had been disallowed as it was alleged that he had already been paid. This was sent to Parliament for ratification. Gill later claimed this was his request. It was alleged that when these funds were not forthcoming Gill sent a bill to the Paymaster General of Yorkshire, who presented it to the Northern Committee and it was then paid. However in the meantime Gill had been paid a further 747l. 18s. 1d which covered his entire bill. On top of that he was paid interest of nearly £50 which he said was less than he should have received.
In May 1649 Gill gained approval from the Council of State to raise a regiment of foot, being commissioned as a Major, but on 1 August 1650 he was forced to relinquish command to Matthew Alured following allegations that he had defrauded the state in the matter of the money paid to raise and then equip his troop.
In his defence Gill wrote a pamphlet detailing the case, claiming that he had been victimised due to personal malice, over a quarrel concerning the Leeds town charter and, especially, by Alured’s scheming to gain the regiment. He also claimed that he had earned the emnity of Sir William Allanson - a noted Parliamentarian, MP for York, a wealthy merchant and a former Lord Mayor of York who had bought Crayke Castle in 1648 - by his purchase of Stillington Manor. It is quite possible that Allanson, who knew Sir Christopher Croft well, had opposed Gill's purchase of Stillington. He certainly intervened when Gill demanded his rent and had petitioned the Purchasing Committee to withold the money, which they did.
Gill writes of Allanson 'I be verily of opinion, that if I had not opposed his Brother, or Stillington had not been too neer Crake Castle, we might have been friends to this day...'
There were many such attacks in Gills pamphlet entited 'The Vindication of George Gill' or 'Innocency Proved'. Neither statement was strictly correct and just inflamed the feelings of those within the Northern Committee who had investigated the case. To read Gill's very lengthy publication click here
He also claimed that by accepting Dean and Chapter of York lands in recompense for the money he was owed he had lost out. This probably referred to the fact he hadn't been able to collect his rents.
After petitioning Paliament for a stay on the judgement Gill’s case was heard in early 1651. Once the evidence was presented from the Northern Committee Gill decided the best course of action was to admit partial guilt and hope for leniency. The verdict was that Gill was to give up any Dean and Chapter lands and in recompense he would receive the exact money owed, but no more.
Stillington was therefore returned to the hands of Parliament. It then appears that the Manor was sold to Thomas' widow, Olive, for their two sons John and Thomas.
These sales by Parliament were deemed invalid once Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. From that time until 1753 the Croft family leased Stillington from its Prebendary.
George Gill went back to his long suffering wife and children. There was no place for him in the Parliamentarian Army. Several lawsuits appear to have been taken out against him with regard to the lands he had formerly owned and for non payment of debts. Gill's assertion in a letter that 'supporting Parliament's cause has brought me to ruinous calamity' seems to have been one of the more truthful statements in this affair, though George Gill's apparent ability to make enemies may have had a great deal to do with his eventual downfall.