Our association with the de Lacy family goes back to Norman times. At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 Bradford was part of the parish of Dewsbury and Ilbert de Lacy was the Norman lord of the manor. It is likely that Ilbert would have had a chapel on his manor and there may well have been a small wooden or wattle church here during the Norman period.
Alice de Lacy was a local benefactor and a key figure in relation to the Cathedral’s history and its growth during the late thirteenth century and onwards. She was the widow of Edmund de Lacy, a descendant of Ilbert de Lacy.
Looking through documents, records and memorials, we can find many male figures with historical connections to the Cathedral because of their position or actions, but it is quite rare to find a record of a female with a direct link to the Cathedral’s history.
The first mention of the parish of Bradford as distinct from being part of the parish of Dewsbury appears in the register of the Archbishop of York in 1281. Alice de Lacy gave a grant to the parish of Bradford that is recorded in the register of Archbishop Wickwayne. We also know the name of the rector appointed to the job by Alice de Lacy, Robert Tonnington.
It is also recorded that the de Lacys endowed the church with 96 acres of land, and the ground adjacent to the church was used not only as a burial ground but also for the holding of markets and fairs.
As with many women of that time, not a lot is known about Alice de Lacy personally, other than in relation to her husband and children. She was born Alesia di Saluzzo c. 1230 in Savoy, Italy. She was related to Queen Eleanor of Provence, the wife of King Henry 111. She married Edmund de Lacy in May 1247, at Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire. She died before 1311 and was buried in the Church of the Black Friars, Pontefract.
Alice and Edmund’s son, Henry de Lacy, was a great friend of King Edward 1 and was present at Edward I’s death. He was the most senior of the English earls and remained influential during the early years of the reign of Edward II. He was buried in the old St Paul’s Cathedral and his tomb, along with the Cathedral, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The shield of Henry de Lacy, 1249-1311, (See opposite) can be seen on the wall of the south choir aisle of Westminster Abbey. It is one of a series of shields of individuals and families who were benefactors to the building of Westminster Abbey (from 1245-1272).