The Folville Family
Mabel Folville, the wife of John Woodford (1358-1401), was the heiress of a Leicestershire family which achieved notoriety due to the activities of the seven sons of John de Folville, John, Eustace, Laurence, Richard, Robert, Thomas and Walter.
Eustace Folville appears to have been the leader of his brothers. The crimes alleged against him included five murders, a rape and three robberies. Robert Folville and Richard Folville, who in 1321 became the rector of Teigh in Rutland, were also accused of numerous crimes.
The manor of Ashby Folville passed to the younger John who, it appears, was the only brother not to have indulged in a life of crime.
The Folvilles were first recorded as criminals when four Folvile brothers, Eustace, Robert, Walter and Richard, were indicted for the murder of Roger de Belers, whilst another brother, Thomas, was arrested for aiding and abetting their escape to France. The attack took place on 19 January 1326 on the road between Melton Mowbray and Leicester near Kirby Bellars.
De Belers was a Baron of the Exchequer and a strong supporter of Hugh le Despencer and King Edward II. According to Nichols, he was distantly related to his murderers through his great-grandmother, Emma Folville who was the great-aunt of the Folville brothers. The Woodford family was related to the de Belers family through the marriage of John Woodford of Brentingby to Alice Prest. Lettice Prest, the sister of Alice, was married to James de Belers.
There is a widespread perception that Eustace and others like him were basically honest and forthright, at least more so than the authorities that pursued them. This popular support seems to be rooted in a sense that the Folvilles were allies of the common people, combating the crooked establishment which oppressed them. There is at least some justification for this view. Roger de Beler was certainly highly corrupt. He used his office to seize land and siphon money to his patrons, and his murder should be regarded less as a crime by the Folvilles alone, and more a conspiracy by several Leicestershire landowners. Eustace's accomplices were members of the Halewell and Zouche families, which suggests a breadth of ill-feeling against Sir Roger, going well beyond any one group.
Eustace Folville was buried in the chancel of St Mary's Church, Ashby Folville. The figure on his tomb is much
appears that most of the Folvilles' criminal activities were directed
against the supporters of the Despencers. On almost every occasion they
avoided punishment and were pardoned for their alleged crimes.
The lordship of Ashby Folville passed from John de Folville to his second son Geoffrey de Folville who married Isabel Tilney. He died before 1370 and it was his daughter Mabel who married John Woodford, through whom the Woodford family gained the manors of Ashby Folville and Newbold Folville.