, is principally noteworthy for having produced four bishops in two generations in the reigns of Edward I and Edward III. The family owed its estates at Eresby and elsewhere in Lincolnshire to the marriage of Walter Bek to the heiress of the hereditary stewards of the bishops of Durham in the mid-twelfth century, while in the thirteenth century its members served the earls of Lincoln as constables of Lincoln Castle. According to a brief family history, added to the register of the Gilbertine priory at Alvingham in the late thirteenth century (Bodl. Oxf., MS Laud misc. 642), the estates had been divided among four younger sons at the end of the previous century, after the death of the eldest son, Hugh Bek, on crusade. Of the family of Henry Bek of Eresby (fl
.1200), said to be not very wise, two grandsons became bishops, , bishop of St David's, and , bishop of Durham. The eldest of Henry Bek's grandsons, John Bek
, Lord Bek (d.
, had a career in royal administration, acting on a variety of commissions, mostly of an economic nature, and as a justice of assize from 1276. In 1255 he secured a grant of a market and fair at Spilsby, founded a chapel there, and was probably responsible for the first of a tradition of great houses in the adjoining manor at Eresby. He took part in Edward I's Scottish campaigns and was summoned to the parliaments of 1295 and 1296. In his will drawn up in 1301, he sought burial at Kirkstead Abbey. With an unknown wife he had a son, Walter, who predeceased his father, and three daughters.
Of the descendants of Henry Bek's brother, Walter Bek of Lusby, two great-grandsons were bishops, , bishop of Lincoln, and , bishop of Norwich. This Antony had also produced a brief family descent (preserved in BL, Harley MS 3720) before his elevation to a bishopric, and the two histories are remarkable in demonstrating the family's close and continuing interest in its own lineages. The eldest grandson, Sir John Bek of Lusby
, had been a prominent member of the affinity of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, but continued in the service of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, on the latter's acquisition of the Lacy earldom, perhaps with the support of Sir Robert Holland. He was a witness to the agreement at Horninglow, Staffordshire, in 1318 which had sought to bring peace between Lancaster and Edward II, in 1319 served under Lancaster in the Berwick campaign, and in 1321 acted as the earl's spokesman in delivering the bill of grievances which was presented to the magnates at Sherburn in Elmet. In the following year he was captured in the earl's service at the battle of Boroughbridge, but was later pardoned and employed in royal service. He died about 1324.
Chancery records · Bodl. Oxf., MS Laud misc. 642 · C. T. Beke, Observations on the pedigree of the family of Beke or Eresby in the county of Lincoln, Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, 4 (1837), 33145 · C. M. Fraser, A history of Antony Bek, bishop of Durham, 12831311 (1957) · BL, Harley MS 3720 · J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 13071322: a study in the reign of Edward II (1970) · J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 13071322, DPhil diss., U. Oxf., 1967, esp. appx 4, Lancaster's retainers: summary biographies · F. Palgrave, ed., The parliamentary writs and writs of military summons, 2 vols. in 4 (182734) · special collections, TNA: PRO, ancient petitions, SC1 · Canon of Bridlington, Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon, Chronicles of the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, ed. W. Stubbs, 2, Rolls Series, 76 (1883), 25151 · GEC, Peerage, 2.89
BL, Harley MS 3720 [register of Antony Bek]