Ducange spells it Valvasour (door-keeper), and Sir Henry Spelman and others believe this to be the correct interpretation; but the generally received reading is Vasvasour, the vassal of a vassal, or the holder under a mesne-lord. Thus Wace, in describing the second charge of the Conqueror at Hastings, tells us it was led by the Duke himself, at the head of "a great company, vavassors of Normandy, who to save their lord would have put their own bodies between him and the enemie's blows."

In the case of the baronial Vavasours we must, however, adopt the former signification, as they claimed to derive their name from Sir Mauger le Valvasour, door-keeper to William the Conqueror. He is not to be found in Domesday; but his grandson Sir William, who witnessed Matilda de Percy's charter of Salley Abbey, appears in the Liber Niger as a considerable land-owner in Yorkshire, and was seated at Hazelwood, near Tadcaster, still the home of his representatives. "Haselwood hath beene the chief Seat, and antient Inheritance of the Family, which Towne has a pleasant Prospect, wherein may be discovered the two Cathedrals of York and Lincoln, tho' sixty Miles asunder; and where is a remarkable Quarry of Stone; Of the Stones taken out here was the stately Church at York, built by the Bounty of Vavassours. Their being Benefactors to that Church is also evident from their Arms therein, and the Portraictures of them and the Percies in the Gate, the latter with a Peice of Timber; and of the Vavassors with a Stone in their Hands, showing the Materials each Family contributed to that stately structure."—Leland. Sir William's son Robert was for eight successive years Sheriff of Notts and Derby: and in 1208 paid a fine of 1200 marks and two palfreys to marry his daughter Maud to Fulke Fitz Warine, "an eminent baron in those days." His son John, by his wife Alice, daughter of Sir Robert Cockfield, was the father of Sir William le Vavasour, who had summons to parliament as a baron 28 Ed. I. He was a good soldier; "in arms neither deaf nor dumb;" who followed the King to the wars of Scotland and Gascony, and is spoken of in the first division at Carlaverock:—

"E de cele meis part
Fu Guillames li Vavasours,
Ky de amies ne est muet ne sours;
Baner avoit ben conoissable,
De or fyn o la dance de sable."

"He was evidently," adds Wright, "a man of esteem, as he was appointed one of the judges of the Trailbaston": and in 1290 obtained license to castellate his manor house at Hazelwood. His eldest son Walter was also summoned to parliament in 1313, but died s. p., and his barony ended with him. Henry, the younger brother, carried on the male line, and one of his descendants, Thomas Vavasour, was made a baronet by Charles I. in 1628. The great-grandson of this latter, Sir Peter, who died in 1740, was "the twenty-first Generation in a direct Line from Sir Mauger le Vavasour; Of which Family is this Observation, That they never married an Heir or buried their Wives." It continued for three more generations, ending with Sir Thomas Vavasour in 1826: but during these last descents the ancient tradition concerning the wedded life of the Vavasours was twice broken through. Sir Walter, the fifth baronet, had two wives; and his son, another Sir Walter, married an heiress. The last baronet died a bachelor, and devised his estates to his cousin Edward Marmaduke Stourton, son of Charles Philip, sixteenth Lord Stourton, who took the name of Vavasour, and was created a baronet two years afterwards.

Wotton enumerates many offsets from the parent stock of Hazelwood, seated at Weston, Acaster, Coppinthorp (Copmanthorp), Spaldington, Newton, and Danby, in Yorkshire, and Killingworth in Lincolnshire; three of whom received baronetcies. These were Sir Charles Vavasour of Killingworth, created 1611; Sir William Vavasour of Copmanthorpe, Major-General to the King of Sweden, created 1643; and Sir Henry Vavasour of Spaldington, created 1801; but the two former died s. p., and the latter alone is represented.

The Vavasour with whom the house of Weston ended in 1833, by a most unusual provision, forbade his elected heir to take his name, declaring that the place had been held by his ancestors from the time of Henry II., and that he would be the last Vavasour of Weston. One of them, in the beginning of James I.'s reign, was the unhappy cause of the famous Yorkshire Tragedy. Walter Calveley, of Calveley, madly jealous of the then Vavasour of Weston, stabbed his two eldest children and attempted to stab his wife; but the dagger glanced aside from her steel stomacher; and the youngest child, caught up by its terrified nurse, was carried to a place of safety. The murderer mounted his horse and rode away, but was overtaken and lodged in York Castle; where, having by some means ascertained his wife's innocence and the legitimacy of his children, he refused to plead, hoping to save his estate for them. He was accordingly condemned by the old cruel law to be pressed till he yielded or died; and while undergoing the agonies of this torture, implored an old servant, who had come to see him, to sit on his breast and put him out of pain. The man complied; and for this act of mercy was tried for murder, sentenced to death, and executed! The ghost of Walter Calveley is popularly believed to haunt the woods of Calveley at dead of night, galloping with his men on headless horses, and trying their speed, with the cry, "A pund of more weight—lig on, lig on!"

-- Cleveland

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