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The Roots of the Bolles of Swineshead Parish

(1100’s – early 1200’s)

Back to The Bolles of Lincolnshire

See also The Bolles of Swineshead Parish

There are many Bowles family trees on the Internet that claim a 'likely' descent from the Bolles of Swineshead.  The major attraction seems to be to be able to claim descent from a Norman Lord.  The Bolles of Haugh pedigree is widely accepted as proof that the earliest known ancestor of The Bolles of Haugh was an Alan Bolle who was Lord of Swineshead in about 1272. 


Unfortunately, I have found that the Bolle of Haugh pedigree in the published Heralds Visitations is incorrect.  In fact there are indications that while the Heralds may actually have been recording the claim they may also have been documenting a much humbler origin for the Bolles.  This can be demonstrated by references in original sources from that period.  See The Alan Bole, Lord of Swineshead Question for more on that.


While the Bolle were tenants on the Lord of Swineshead's estate they did not actually live in Swineshead town proper and were certainly not Lords.



Bolles in this Area Prior to Alan Bole


The Bolle appear as small landowners in the late 1100’s in the Hoffleet area at the extreme south end of the civic parish of Swineshead with closer ties to Wigtoft and Bicker than to Swineshead. 


Bolle in the Lincoln Assize Court Roll of 1202


The records of the assize courts held in Lincoln in 1202 have been extracted and published by the Lincolnshire Records Society.  One of the cases from the Kirton Wapentake (which included the villages of Swineshead, Bicker, Wigtoft, Surfleet, Algarkirk, Donington, Fosdyke, Quadring & Gosberton) involved the murder of one Reynold son of Picot.  The charge was made by Reynold’s brother Joce (short for Jocelyn sometimes written Goselan) son of Picot and Joce’s pledgers (the people who would guarantee that he would appear at the assize to present his charge) were Robert and Thomas sons of John (likely John Bolle who was also present at the assize as was his son Robert) and a Roger Bolle.   See Bolles in the Lincolnshire Assize Rolls of 1202


At the same assize ‘Robert son of John Bolle’ was fined 1 mark for selling wine ‘against the assize’ as were 1014 other vintners in Lincolnshire.  This was following King John’s efforts to standardize measures for the sale of grains, beer and wines and indicates that his standards for wine selling were not being strictly followed in Lincolnshire. 


Also in this assize a John, a parson of Swineshead (possibly a monk at the Swineshead Abbey or the priest at the parish or the abbey’s church), was charged and paid a fine of 1 mark for concealing the death of one Osbert son of Wigan.  John’s pledger was Walter of Pinchbeck.  (side note: a Walter of Pinchbeck was the Abbot of St Werburgh Chester, elected 1228, died 1240).  In another case an Asti son of Osbert of Hoffleet brought a charge against a Robert son of Reginald for a death.

See also Bolle Hall in Swineshead Parish for much more about the location and nature of Bolle Hall.



Osbert was of Hoffleet south of Swineshead, closer to Algarkirke and right across the country lane from the site known today as Bolle Hall.  This map shows the boundary lines between the Swineshead, Bicker and Wigtoft parishes with the Bolle hall right where they meet.

While all this makes sense and is consistent there is no absolute 100% proof that brothers Robert and Thomas and the John who concealed the death of Osbert of Hoffleet were the sons of John Bolle of Bolle Hall near Hoffleet.  The Robert son of John Bolle (fined for a wine selling infraction) may be a different Robert than the Robert son of John who was a pledger for Joce son of Picot.  The John, parson of Swineshead, who concealed the death of an Osbert may have been a different John who concealed the death of a different Osbert who wasn’t the father of Asti whose father Osbert lived next to the Bolles and had someone close to him killed just then.  There may well have been several Johns, Osberts and Roberts sons of Johns in Kirton wapentake. 


However, the assize court of 1202 was not held locally, it was held quite a ways from Swineshead in the Great Hall of Lincoln Castle. Not the kind of place which just anybody with an idle interest might drop by.  You would have to have a reason to be there.  The session for Kirton wapentake involved a fairly small number of cases and a fairly small number of people would have travelled all the way to Lincoln to attend these trials.  There probably weren’t two different murders of an Osbert committed in Kirton in the last year which were being dealt with in the same assize.  John of Swineshead who concealed the death of an Osbert and Asti, son of an Osbert, alleging a murder were probably there on a related event.  Similarly, it makes more sense that if John Bolle had to be there to present himself on the appeal of having concealed the death of Osbert and if Robert son of John Bolle had to be there on the wine selling infraction that he would most likely also be the Robert son of John who along with a Roger Bolle were the pledgers for Joce son of Picot.  William of Bicker may well have been another Bolle but there is nothing to indicate that other than that he was grouped with them.  There was no William there for another case.


If this was all there was then it wouldn’t be enough but there are also the following references to Bolle in this period which are consistent with Robert, John and Thomas Bolle all living in the Hoffleet area.



Register of the Cathedral Church of Lincoln


The Registrum Antiquissium of the Cathedral Church of Lincoln Vol. VII, (The Lincoln Record Society, Vol. 46, 1953) under ‘Charters of the Ridings of Lindsey’ has a grant dated between 1202 and 1215 of a meadow in Rauenstoft (Ravenstoft) and 4 selions of land in Hoffleet from Alan son of Osbert of Hoffleet to the church of Lincoln, for the souls of his ancestors.  The witnesses to the grant were Robert son of John of Wiketoft (Wigtoft), Thomas son of John of Wiketoft (the two sons of John as above) and a Thoma (Thomas) Bolle of Redic.  The location of Redic is lost today but was more likely a field-name than a townland.  In the Lincoln Assizes, Robert and Thomas, sons of John, were grouped with a Roger Bolle on a case involving Osbert of Hoffleet while in another case a Robert son of John Bolle received a fine.  Then Robert and Thomas, sons of John of Wigtoft, are grouped with a Thomas Bolle as witnesses on a charter in Hoffleet for Osbert’s son.


As the editor of this extract points out, in this grant from between 1202 and 1215, Alan son of Osbert of Hoffleet had probably just inherited ½ of his father’s land ‘as his reasonable share’ which would date this document to just after Osbert’s death.  That would be consistent with the fine against John of Swineshead (although Bolle Hall was near Wigtoft it was actually in Swineshead civil parish) for concealing an Osbert son of Wigan’s death and Asti son of Osbert of Hoffleet’s charge of a murder in the 1202 assizes.  So Alan and Asti (sometimes Astelin) were the two sons of Osbert of Hoffleet. 



Note: Thomas Bolle of Redic in this reference from around 1202 may have some connection to Thomas of Rederwyk (Redirwyk in a later paragraph) of Tid, a jurist in an inquisition taken in Elloe Wapentake (just south of Wigtoft) in 1274 (Hundred Roll of 2 Edward I) or at least Redic may be Rederwyk.


See The Bolle’s Neighbours at Hoffleet



Bolle in The Lincolnshire Assizes of 1219


The strongest case for the Bolles originating on the land at Hoffleet where they would later build Bolle Hall is in the case held at the Lincolnshire Assizes of 1219.  At this time many of the largest landholders were attempting to enclose the common lands which had been traditionally shared as common grazing land by many local farmers.  In this case Robert Grelley, the actual Lord of Swineshead, had attempted to enclose a meadow near Swineshead for the greater use of his tenants in Swineshead and to stop its use by the men of Algarkirke.  While the sheriff had ordered Robert Grelley to appear before him on several occasions to respond to the men of Algarkirke’s ‘assize of novel disseisin’ (an action to recover lands of which the plaintiff had been disseised, or dispossessed) but Grelley had not bothered to appear or even to send his Steward although on one occasion he sent one of his serving-youths to represent him.  It came down to a pair of counter claims between the men of Swineshead parish who were Grelley’s tenants and the men of Swineshead parish who held their land as free tenements in Algarkirke.  At the assize in 1219 the jurors decided that the complainants has been disseized and that no disseisor had come to oppose the claim therefore the complainants had seisin (the right of access to the common) and the disseisors were ‘in mercy’ (they were at fault and received fines).  The charge stated that the disseisors (Robert de Grelley’s men) were Godfrey son of Arnold, Godfrey of Swineshead the clerk, Robert the cook, Michael the sergeant, Robert son of William, Gunner son of Arnald, William son of Ailmer, Robert son of Ailmer, John son of Agnes, Robert son of Agnes, Robert son of Walter, Tholi son of Acke, John son of Algar, Richard son of Algar, William son of Joscelin, Hereward Tholeman, Martin son of Agnes, Aubrey le Wimpler, Geoffrey le Regrater, John Wrid’, John son of Gudemer, William his brother, Everard son of Guthmer, William Bene, John of Frampton, Robert son of Richard, Norman son of Algar, Robert son of Joscelin and Robert Oldheved. 


The complainants who re-acquired their rights to their day on the common land in 1219 are listed as Alexander of Ibtoft, Lambert son of Alan, Alan son of William, Gerard son of Richard, Thomas Bolle, Thomas Slegh and Conan son of Thomas.


Just as a side comment, there is a reference in this case to an illegal attempt to change the day of the assizement which Ralph, the sergeant of Kirton wapentake believed was the work of a Theobald Hautein.  This Theobald is also mentioned in the extracts of the Lincolnshire Assize Court of 1202 as a pledger for the accused in the case in which Robert and Thomas sons of John (likely John Bolle) and Roger Bolle were the pledges for Joce son of Picot.


Ref: Selden Society, London. Publications. V. 53; Rolls of the justices in Eyre being the Rolls of pleas and assizes for Lincolnshire 1218-19, and Worcestershire, 1221


Robert Grelley’s daughter Agnes had first married William de Amundeville but was soon widowed (1169).  Her second husband was Theobald Hautein of Hellesdon and Oxnead, Norfolk who also died leaving her a widow with three sons, the eldest being Theobald Hautein Jr. who became Robert Grelley’s steward.  Since Grelley lived in his principle manor of Manchester, his grandson Theobald was probably left in charge of his many manors in Lancashire and just made frequent trips to the relatively distant manor of Swineshead.  The men of Swineshead listed in the assize of 1219 as ‘sons of Agnes’ (John and Robert) were possibly Theobald’s brothers.


Allen Bolle


The Bolle of Haugh Pedigree refers to an Allen of Swineshead and his son Thomas Bolle as the earliest known ancestors of that line. The Hundred Roll of 1274 refers to a John Bolle, seemingly as an official accused of extorting 2s in connection with a hanging in Kirton Wapentake (which would include Swineshead) but does not mention Allen or Thomas.  This does not mean that they did not hold land in Kirton Wapentake, just that they were not involved in any of the reviews of landholders which had been called by the assize court which sat in Stanford that year.  There was a ‘Thomas son of Alan’ listed as one of the jurors which might be a reference to Thomas Bolle but there’s no way to be sure.  It does confirm that a John Bolle was of full age and that he held some position of authority in Kirton wapentake.  There is also a reference to a John de Bole, one of the very rare instances when the ‘de’ appears with the Bolle surname, but it’s hard to know whether it’s like that in the original document or was just added in the transcription.


An Alan Bolle and a Thomas Bolle are mentioned in a hearing held in Elloe Wapentake which is the administrative district immediately south of Swineshead Wapentake.  Thomas of Wigtoft was involved in the same hearing.  One line on p. 273 which looks something like “Cōvićtū est qđ Thom’ nicħ cep’ nũc Alan’ Bolle q' obit țō n’.” may be an important key to their relationship to each other.  I could really use a translation of that line.  I only have received one comment regarding this section that "the statements regarding Thomas Bolle are concerned only with various depredations committed by him in abuse of his office as a royal sub-bailiff".


So it seems that both held positions of some local authority, John Bolle in Kirton wapentake and Thomas Bolle a bit further southeast in Elloe wapentake.


Godfrey Bolle


After Alan of Hoffleet’s death his land was left to his sons Simon and William. (See The Bolles Neighbours at Hoffleet)   At some time between 1272 and 1307 Simon sold his share of one piece of their father’s land in Hoffleet Stow to his brother William. (Lincolnshire Archives, Grant and Quitclaim Simon, son of Alan de Hoffleet to William his brother)  This plot was described as lying between Godfrey Bolle’s land on the south, William’s land to the north and just east of the common way (probably the road running north/south between Swineshead and Wigtoft but on the opposite side of the road from the Bolle Hall site). The tenants on this land included a Robert Bolle and his sister Lucy. The tenants on this land also had access to ‘the fourth part of one bovate of land’ in the common land in Dreytun hundred. 


There is a reference in the Fine Roll 46 Henry III ref, so in 1261-1262, for an Agnes and Lucy, daughters of Gilbert Bolle, paying half a mark to appear at the Lincolnshire assize. There is no indication in the calendar entry for what case they wanted to present or from what part of Lincolnshire they were from.  However, as I haven’t found any references for Bolle elsewhere in Lincolnshire in this period the chances are good that they would have a connection to the Lucy Bolle mentioned just above.  Gilbert could actually even be Godfrey.  Transcription errors from medieval scripts are not uncommon.  The ink is generally very faded and the script is often very indistinct with e, u, n, m, i’s etc. all flowing together looking just like a row of bumps.  It doesn’t help that personal names were usually Latinized with varying degrees of success.  Godfrey appeared as Galfridus and Godfrydus in various documents.  Randolph as Rannulfus, Randolfus etc.  John as Johanes, Jos etc.  Often just an abbreviation of the name was used, William appears as Wm etc.  Generally though the first letter of the name is capitalized and so is distinct from the flow of the letters to follow.  Where the cataloguer has written Gilbert it might actually be Gilbert but it could well also be Godfrey.  The original document would have to be examined. 


Summary of the Bolles Found in the Bolle Hall Area Previous to the Known Bolle Pedigree


Roger Bolle (adult in 1202)


Thomas Bolle of Redic (with connections to Alan son of Osbert of Hoffleet)


John of Wiktoft (with connections to Osbert of Hoffleet)

1.   Thomas Bolle (adult in 1202)

2.   John Bolle

3.   Robert Bolle (adult in 1202; vintner)


Thomas Bolle of Swineshead civil parish holding land at Hoffleet  (which was in Swineshead civil parish) in 1219


Robert Bolle holding land at Algarkirke in 1279


Godfrey Bolle of Hoffleet (adult in ca. 1280) (juror for Kirton wapentake (which includes Swineshead civil parish) in 1288 to 1300; held tenement at Wigtoft in 1316;

Robert Bolle of Hoffleet (tenant on land adjacent to Godfrey in 1280)

Lucy Bolle (sister of Robert Bolle of Hoffleet)

This site was last updated 02/19/21