Some years ago a nice lady in the United States contacted me about her family. There were a couple of mysteries. One of these remains a mystery, but I can now shed some light on the other. Although I do try to write stories rather than genealogical exercises, this article is just that: a genealogical exploration. It is also the story of a line of Penrith cordwainers or shoemakers

Penrith Workhouse was exactly the same as Cockermouth Workhouse shown here.

Penrith Workhouse was exactly the same as Cockermouth Workhouse shown here.

Let’s start with a ninety-two year-old ‘pauper’ and former joiner called William Grisdale who died in the Penrith Union Workhouse in 1890. William had spent at least the last ten years of his life in this horrendous institution; which at least gave him food and shelter after he had fallen on hard times. William had married Hannah Butterworth way back in 1821. He spent his whole life as a ‘journeyman joiner’ in Penrith, and between 1821 and 1833 he and Hannah had had six children. Hannah died in 1849 aged just forty-six. Once William’s children had all left in the 1850s, he started to be a lodger with various families in Penrith before having to go to the workhouse sometime in the 1870s.

Nineteenth-century Workhouse 'inmates'

Nineteenth-century Workhouse ‘inmates’

One little mystery is that it is clear that William was the son of cordwainer (i.e. shoemaker) Thomas Grisdale and his wife Jane Dixon. But it seems that William was baptized Thomas in St Mary’s church in Lancaster on 15th December 1799 and was born on 30 November 1798. His parents usually lived in Penrith, where all their other children were born, but had come somewhat south for at least a year to work in Lancaster. Why Thomas had changed his name to William (which was his grandfather’s name) we still don’t know, but it seems he did.

There is more to tell of William’s children, but maybe another time. Here I want to go back and clear up one other mystery.

As noted, William’s father Thomas was a Penrith shoemaker. He born in 1766 in Penrith and when both he and his wife Jane died (in 1821 and 1845 respectively) he was said to have been a ‘shoemaker’. I keep stressing his vocation because it’s important later. Thomas’s father William was a shoemaker too. His father and his mother, Elizabeth Stewardson, were married in Kendal in 1762. We find William mentioned as a shoemaker in Kendal (probably while an apprentice) but shortly after their marriage the couple moved to Penrith where their children were born, including Thomas in 1766.

Cordwainers as the Grisdales might have looked in Penrith

Cordwainers as the Grisdales might have looked in Penrith

Now the mystery was this: Who exactly was William Grisdale? Where had he come from?

When William was buried in Penrith on 18 March 1800 the transcript of the parish registers say he was a ‘shoemaker aged 57’. I will show that either the age given by the informant was a mistake or it is a mistranscription of the original entry. This age led me initially to believe that William was the last child of Matterdale-born Joseph Grisdale and his wife Jane Robinson. Joseph had become the Miller at Pooley Bridge Mill in Barton in Westmorland, and his son William was baptized there on 5 June 1743, which given a few weeks delay from birth to baptism could easily fit William the shoemaker’s supposed age of 57 in March 1800.

But I was never happy with this identification. Millers were a step or two up the social ladder from simple shoemakers and none of the family names prevalent in Joseph’s family ever reappeared among the Penrith Grisdale shoemakers.

I then became convinced that William was actually most likely born in the parish of Watermillock, in which a good part of the valley of Matterdale lies – this as we will see is correct.

Cordwainers/shoemakers

Cordwainers/shoemakers

In the mid-1790s the Penrith Trade Directory listed only three Grisdales: Jacob, William and Thomas, all listed as cordwainers i.e. shoemakers. Surely there was a relationship between the three? Thomas (born 1766) called his first child Jacob in 1791 and the name appears again later. Now Jacob is a very rare Grisdale name. In fact there is only one earlier occurrence of the name and that is a Jacob Grisdale born in February 1748 in ‘High Lowthwaite’, which is geographically in Matterdale but in Watermillock parish. He was the son of Benjamin Grisdale and his wife Grace Railton. And this Benjamin Grisdale was a shoemaker too! And he too had moved to Penrith because when he wife Grace died in Penrith in 1774 she was said to be the ‘wife of Benjamin Grisdale shoemaker’. This Benjamin had another son called Benjamin in 1736 who also became a ‘shoemaker’.

It was pretty obvious that the cordwainers William and Thomas Grisdale in the Penrith Directory were the father and son I have already discussed. Was William perhaps the brother of Jacob the third Penrith cordwainer in the directory or maybe his cousin?

Back in Watermillock in the early 1740s three William Grisdales were baptized in Watermillock church in 1740, 1741 and 1743. The last two rather unhelpfully both being sons of different Benjamin Grisdales. We can exclude the William born in 1743 because we know what happened to him. The William son of Benjamin born in 1741 attracted me for some time but always seemed wrong for complicated reasons to do with exact places of birth.

Ulcatrow in Matterdale/Watermillock

Ulcatrow in Matterdale/Watermillock

That leaves only one William Grisdale who could be our man: William Grisdale son of Thomas Grisdale of Ulcatrow who was baptized on 16 October 1740. But can this square with his supposed age of 57 when he died in 1800? Well it can because rather stupidly I hadn’t looked at the second page of the marriage bond between William and Elizabeth Stewardson made in Kendal on 19 April 1762. Here it clearly says that William is ‘21’. The ‘and upwards’ which follows is part of the printed form, and Elizabeth’s age is clearly said to be 24, which it was. If William was 21 on 19 April 1762 he would have been born between 20 April 1740 and 20 April 1741, which fits precisely with the William son of Thomas Grisdale of Ulcatrow baptized in Watermillock church on 16 October 1740. Actually William can’t have been over 21 because there is no other William Grisdale who would then fit the bill.

This attribution now seems blazingly apparent to me but it wasn’t for a long time. William’s age of 21 makes more sense than say 19 if he had been the son of Joseph Grisdale the Miller. In addition William named his first son Thomas, no doubt after his father. Finally it explains why neither he nor his sons named a son Benjamin, which one might have expected if William were the son of a Benjamin.

Page 2 of marriage bond of William Grisdale and Elizabeth Stewardson in 1762

Page 2 of marriage bond of William Grisdale and Elizabeth Stewardson in 1762

So what was the relationship between shoemaker William and Thomas, father and son shoemakers, and father and son shoemakers Benjamin and Jacob Grisdale? There must have been one; it just depends on how far back we need to go to find it. Remember young Thomas Grisdale (born 1766) called his first son Jacob and the name crops up again later. It’s most likely that father and son William and Thomas worked with father and son Benjamin and Jacob – they were all shoemakers in Penrith. But what was the ‘blood’ relationship?

Here we enter another quagmire of various Benjamin Grisdales. Theoretically there are four Benjamin Grisdales who might be the shoemaker one: 1) Benjamin son of Thomas Grisdale and Mary Brownrigg, baptized in Matterdale in 1696; 2) Benjamin son of Thomas Grisdale of Dowthwaite, baptized in Matterdale in 1706; 3) Benjamin son of Edward Grisdale of Dowthwaite Head and Elizabeth his wife, baptized in Matterdale in 1711, and 4) Benjamin son of Joseph Grisdale of Townhead (Dockray) and Jane Martin, baptized in Matterdale in 1713.

Queen's College Oxford in 1675, where many Matterdale Grisdales studied

Queen’s College Oxford in 1675, where many Matterdale Grisdales studied

To cut a long story short, we can exclude the Benjamin (number 3) born in 1711, because we know he died at Brownrigg Farm aged 68 in 1779. While not as certain I believe we should exclude number 2 as well because most likely he was the father of the later illustrious Reverends Browne and Benjamin Grisdale, who both went to Oxford University. This Benjamin married Watermillock girl Ann Browne in 1738. She was the daughter of  a well-to-do George Browne of Tongue whose son Joseph (Ann’s brother) not only went to Oxford but was later  to become the University’s Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy and Provost of Queen’s College! To be honest I don’t see George Browne letting his daughter marry Benjamin Grisdale the son of the rather poor Joseph Grisdale and Jane Martin of Townhead, but I may be wrong.

I don’t know what became of Benjamin number 1 born in 1696, unless of course he is the ‘pauper’ Benjamin who died in Skelton in 1787 said to be 87 years of age. I admit there is a chance that this older Benjamin was the shoemaker we are looking for but for the moment I doubt it.

If all this is correct then the Penrith shoemaker Benjamin Grisdale was the child of Joseph Grisdale and Jane Martin of Townhead (Dockray) in Matterdale, a couple who are the ancestors of numerous people I have written about on this blog. When Joseph died in 1750 he left some money to his sons including Benjamin, who was thus obviously still alive at the time.

Dockray Matterdale with Dowthwaite Head in the distance

Dockray Matterdale with Dowthwaite Head in the distance

Returning to Thomas Grisdale of Ulcatrow, the father of the shoemaker William Grisdale who married Elizabeth Stewardson in Kendal; who was he? Well at the moment I have not the slightest idea. Could he be linked in some way to the very first Josiah Grisdale who married Sarah Atkinson in Greystoke church in 1735, and who was also living in Ulcatrow in 1737 when his daughter Ann was baptized? This first Josiah Grisdale (from whom countless Grisdales are descended) has always been a complete mystery, because as far as I can see there is no mention of his birth, baptism or even death anywhere. He was clearly a respected Matterdale man because he was a Churchwarden of Matterdale church and also a witness in 1747 to the will of Edward Grisdale the brother of the late Rev. Robert Grisdale, the founder of Matterdale School. He was also a witness in 1754 at the marriage of Joseph Grisdale and Dinah Todhunter. If we could find out anything more about his place of birth or death or his parents it would clear up a lot.

So still more questions than answers. However I think with some certainty we can push the family of the nice American lady I mentioned at the beginning back one generation to Thomas Grisdale of Ulcatrow, whoever he was.

This is on updated version of an earlier article.

Anybody with the name Grisdale today will, like everybody else on the planet, have an extremely mixed genealogical and genetic ancestry. They will have thousands of ancestors, some of whom will have originated in some surprising places. Surnames are usually passed down the paternal line although this is only one line among hundreds we might choose to explore.

Be that as it may. But one of the interesting aspects of the large Grisdale family is that wherever it is possible to trace a person’s ancestry it almost variably goes back to Matterdale. I have yet to find any instance of ancient Grisdale roots in Grisedale in Yorkshire (see here). My belief is that the place Grisdale from which the Grisdales of Matterdale took their name is actually modern Mungrisdale just north of Matterdale and not the Grisedale/Grisdale Beck, bridge, Tarn area just south near Patterdale  and certainly not Grisedale Pike near Kewsick. Mungrisdale was for long simply called Grisdale. See my article Which Grisdale did the Grisdales come from?

1576

1576 map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

 

Of course Grisdale (and its variant spellings) is in the first instance a place name. The etymology is quite clear: ‘dale’ is from the Old Norse ‘dalr’ meaning valley, while ‘gris’ is most likely from the Old Norse word gris, meaning boar, i.e. a wild pig. Whether the four Grisdales/Grisedales in Cumbria and Yorkshire were full of boars when they were settled by Scandinavians or whether they refer to the name of an original settler called ‘The Boar’ is unknown, though I tend to prefer the later interpretation.

oxfordI’ll concentrate here on the Cumberland Grisdales. Because Grisdale is a place name, then the early people taking the name were most likely styled as such because they came from there and had most probably moved some way away. They would have been referred to, for example, as John or Richard of Grisdale (or in the Norman French version John or Richard de Grisdale), to distinguish them from other Johns and Richards living nearby. If people lived in the same place, say Grisdale itself, they’d be no need to say they were ‘of Grisdale’.

Other naming patterns were also used. So one might have say a Robert (the) Butcher, John (the) Tailor or Richard Johnson (son of John). We often also find whole strings of ancestry: like John son of William son of Robert. The patronymic suffix son, as in Richardson, is a Germanic and Scandinavian usage; the Welsh used ‘ap’, Robert ap Rhys would become anglicised as Robert Price; in Scotland there is ‘Mac’, in Ireland ‘O’; while the Normans had ‘Fitz’. I’ve used names like John, Richard, William and Robert here because they were certainly common Grisdale names at a later date. But these names are all Norman and only started to be used extensively in England in the twelfth century after the Norman Conquest. Before that we might conjecture names like Sigulf (of) Grisdale – and Sigulf for example means something like Victorious Wolf! See my article When did the Grisdales become Grisdales? for a fuller discussion of names.

Let’s be more precise in locating the two Cumbrian Grisdales neighbouring Matterdale.

Today on the eastern slopes of Helvellyn, running down to Lake Ullswater, we find a valley called Grisedale with Grisedale Beck (Scandinavian for stream) running down it. At the head of the dale lies Grisedale Forest, which was once a hunting preserve of the local lords, and then Grisedale Tarn. ‘Forest’ it should be remembered did not at this time primarily refer to a wooded area (though it might be so), it was an area strictly reserved for the nobility’s hunting of deer and even boars. In Norman times, these areas were tightly controlled and protected by the lords’ foresters and by forest law. Settlement within the forests was highly discouraged, even banned. As I have argued elsewhere I don’t presently think this is where our Grisdales originally came from. I prefer Mungrisdale which was for centuries just called Grisdale. In my article Which Grisdale did the Grisdales come from? I summarized the reasons for my preference:

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

‘There are two reasons I now believe that it is from this Grisdale that the Matterdale Grisdales derived their name. First, (Mun)grisdale has always been part of the barony and parish of Greystoke (the earliest records of this are from the thirteenth century). Matterdale too was part of the same barony, whereas Grisedale near Patterdale never was. As the barons of Greystoke were the lords and owners of Matterdale (including Dowthwaite) it was no doubt one of them (or less likely one of their vassals) who originally granted the ‘free’ tenancy of Dowthwaite Head Farm to one of their men from Grisdale. Second, while we know that (Mun)grisdale was a small hamlet, it was a significant enough settlement not only to have an early chapel but also significant enough to be mentioned as the place of birth, death and origin of many families recorded in the registers of Greystoke and to be included in the early manorial records of Greystoke. On the other hand it doesn’t seem that the Grisedale on the slopes of Helvellyn was ever more than a ‘chase’ or private hunting ground.’

Norse Fleet

Norse Fleet

So who had settled Grisdale originally? Clearly one or more Scandinavians, whether one was called ‘The Boar’ or not. And when? Well probably in the tenth century. Present day Cumberland and Westmorland (Land West of the Moors) were originally part of a British kingdom called ‘Cumbria’. The people were British and spoke a British language called Cymric – from whence the names Cumbria and Cumberland derive. They lived all over the area, more in the more fertile flatlands surrounding the hills but also partly in the uplands too. One example of an upland Cymric settlement is Great Crosthwaite near Keswick. Certainly this is a partly Scandinavian name – ‘thwaite’ is a Scandinavian word meaning clearing. But the Cross itself refers us back to the sixth century British Saint Kentigern, and a Celtic church and cross dedicated to him had probably stood on the site for centuries before the advent of the Vikings.

The Anglo-Saxons first started to arrive in southern Britain in the fifth century, later in the North East. They hadn’t managed to make much impression in the western mountainous regions of Cumberland, though they did a little more so in Westmorland. What made more impact was the arrival of Norwegian ‘Vikings’ in the tenth century from their bases in Ireland and the Isle of Man. First they raided and then they settled.

vikings_arrive

Vikings arrive

It was most probably one of these Hiberno-Norse ‘Vikings’, who might or might not have been called ‘The Boar’, who first settled Grisdale and gave it its name. For a fuller discussion of the Norse settlement see my article The first Scandinavian settlers in North West England.

One thing of importance is that until the great Norman monasteries and abbeys were founded in the twelfth century – such as Furness and Saint Bees – and they established a huge wool industry based on upland sheep ‘granges’, most of Cumberland was still forested. When individual Norwegians wanted to settle in these remote areas they usually first had to clear parts of the forest, creating ‘thwaites’.

Turning to the name Grisdale: probably coming from present day Mun(grisdale) some people ‘of Grisdale’ started to spread out and create or join other settlements. When exactly this happened is lost in the mists of time.. The first mention we find in the historic record of someone actually called ‘of Grisdale’ was a certain Simon de Grisdale in Halton in Lancashire in the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1332. There is also a burgess and farmer called Rolland de Grisdale in the newly created town of Kendal in 1404/7.  See my article When did the Grisdales become Grisdales?.

Dowthwaite Head Farm

Dowthwaite Head Farm

But the first Grisdales we can truly identify in any numbers were the Grisdales of Matterdale in the mid sixteenth century. The earliest mention is to a freee yeoman farmer John Grisdale farming at Dowthwaite Head in 1524. I wrote about John in an article called Dowthwaite Head and the first Matterdale Grisdales.  One or two other Grisdales appear quite early too in Crosthwaite and a few other Cumbrian areas, but these seem to have moved there from Matterdale.

Matterdale itself is a Scandinavian place name. It lies just a little south of Mun(grisdale) and just over the hill from Grisedale Beck near Patterdale. In later times it had three main hamlets: Matterdale End, Dockray and Dowthwaite Head. The Grisdales of Matterdale were found in all three. A major group of them became yeoman farmers in Dowthwaite Head, a place itself signifying a clearing made in the woods, probably by some Scandinavian – possibly Dudh. Others lived only a couple of miles away at Crookwath near Dockray. Crookwath means crooked ford or shallow in Old Norse. We don’t know whether such places as Dowthwaite and Crookwath were first cleared by Viking settlers in the early days of Norwegian settlement in the tenth century or much later by these settlers’ descendants, who were probably still speaking a roughly Norse language.

Crookwath Barn

Crookwath Barn

We know that many people were well establised in different parts of Matterdale by 1332, because in the 1332 Lay Subsidy Roll we find their names (see here). We also find one of them was living at Crookwath and we know from people who had moved away that Dockray existed too – they took the name ‘de Dockray’.

While it seems reasonable to assume that such places as Grisdale, Matterdale, Dowthwaite, Dockray and even little Crookwath were Norwegian settlements this doesn’t necessarily mean that all subsequent people carrying the place name Grisdale as their family name were genetic descendants of these early ‘Vikings’. They quite possibly could be, but they could as well be, for instance, descendants of British Cymric people who happened ‘still’ to be living in the Grisdale area, or even later Anglo-Saxon or Norman immigrants, or a mixture of all three. If I refer today to ‘Robert from Scotland’ it doesn’t necessarily mean that Robert’s ancestors were Scots, they could have come from anywhere.

Gowbarrow Hall - A Stateman's Farm

Gowbarrow Hall – A Stateman’s Farm

What is sure is that in the years after 1524 and then following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1537 there started to be many Grisdales in Matterdale. We know this both from early entries in the Greystoke Parish records (Matterdale hadn’t yet got a church), from numerous Grisdale wils and from the Cumberland muster role in 1581 when nine Grisdale ‘bowmen’ from Matterdale turned up in Penrith to stand ready, once again, to defend Cumberland against the Scots. It was families such as these Grisdales who first started to carve out the landscape of Matterdale we see today. The Grisdale family or ‘clan’ became classic examples of what is called in Cumberland ‘statesmen’. They were still sheep farmers and tenants of the local lord but they had gained the ‘customary’ right to pass on their tenancies to their heirs. In the seventeenth century these ‘statesmen’ built single-story stone long-houses which accommodated their families and their animals, structures of Cumberland so noticeable to this day. These long-houses were either built on top of, or more usually next to, existing wooden long-houses, which often became the future barns or bryers.

What about the original question: ‘Were the Grisdales Vikings?’ The most likely conjecture is that the historic Grisdales of Matterdale had originated from not so far away (Mun)grisdale, but had done so in the fourteenth century before arriving in Matterdale towards the end of the fifteenth century from elsewhere (see here).

In addition, Grisdale was, it is clear, a Viking or better-said a Scandinavian settlement, dating perhaps from as far back as the tenth century. So it’s quite likely that they were descended, at least in the paternal line, from early Vikings, although by the time they appear in the historical record in any number, in the sixteenth century, they most likely would have had English, Celtic and even Norman ‘blood’ as well.

Greystoke Castle

Greystoke Castle

Another thing to consider more is family naming patterns. These, I think, also tend to argue for a later arrival. We don’t know much about early Scandinavian naming patterns in Cumbria but there is a lot of evidence from, for example, the many Nordic and Icelandic sagas. Some of which refer to events that took place in Britain. Here the patronymic suffix ‘son’ is usually used. Even in the early eleventh century, when Scandinavian Forne became the ‘first’ Norman Baron of Greystoke, he was referred to as Forne Sigulfson and his daughter Edith, who became King Henry I’s mistress, was called Edith Fitz-Forne Sigulfson (Edith daughter of Forne, son of Sigulf). See here and here.

Surnames, as we know them today, whether derived from occupations, places of settlement, topographical features or ancestors, only really started to stabilise in the late middle ages. I discussed what we might infer from naming patterns in my article When did the Grisdales become Grisdales?

The great days of Cumbrian statesmen such as the Matterdale Grisdales were not to last. Their economic prosperity declined. Some were able to take a step up to the level of local gentry, some sank into poverty and obscurity, others moved to the squalor of the industrial towns in Lancashire, yet more joined the army or the church or they went to sea, while others emigrated. The Grisdales of Matterdale did all of these.

We know that there was a free tenant farmer called John Grisdale farming at Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale in 1524. As I have suggested before, either he, or possibly his father or even grandfather, had probably arrived in Matterdale sometime in the later 1400s (see here). We know too that Grisdale refers to where the family originally came from and when they moved from ‘Grisdale’ they would have been given the name ‘of’ or ‘de Grisdale’ by the locals to help identify which John or Edward or Robert they were talking about. I have discussed elsewhere which Grisdale this might have been (see here). My own view is that it was present-day Mungrisdale which for a long time was called simply Grisdale. But it is almost certain that the family was called Grisdale before it moved to Matterdale. Here I’d like to explore the question of when, and perhaps also where, the Grisdales first got their name.

In the future I’ll have a lot more to say about the sixteenth century Grisdales of Matterdale but let’s start with saying a little about English family or surnames – how and particularly when they arose and when they stabilized.

oxfordAs in many countries in England names were for centuries just first or ‘christian’ names: Robert or Richard or if we go back before the Conquest then more likely Alfred or Harold. There was a patronymic system, so you might have Robert son of John, from where might arise Johnson. The same was seen in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Using anglicized names, in Scotland a Malcolm mac Donald, i.e. son of Donald might give the family name MacDonald; in Ireland Fergus O (son of) Neill could give the family name O’Neill; while in Wales the family name Price will have come from a son (ap) of Rhys.

I can’t help mentioning the two Irish homosexuals William fitz Gerald and Gerald fitz William. Fitz of course being the Norman-French designation for son. Hence Fitzroy – son of the king.

Before such surnames derived from ‘first’ names became fixed, simply calling someone Edward son of Alfred might not suffice so we find longer names such as Edward son of Alfred son of William.

Such a system of naming is still found in many countries. In Iceland: ‘A man named Jón Einarsson has a son named Ólafur. Ólafur’s last name will not be Einarsson like his father’s; it will become Jónsson, literally indicating that Ólafur is the son of Jón (Jóns + son). The same practice is used for daughters. Jón Einarsson’s daughter Sigríður’s last name would not be Einarsson but Jónsdóttir. Again, the name literally means “Jón’s daughter” (Jóns + dóttir).’ In Iceland too you can still find matronymic names such as Heiðar Helguson (Helga’s son). It must make Icelandic genealogy very hard.

I will later show early examples of this way of naming for real people in Matterdale and in Grisdale itself.

Another major group of English surnames derive from occupations: Wilfred (the) Smith, Henry (the) Tanner or even Margaret Thatcher. Of course Henry the Tanner’s father might not have been a Tanner, he might have been Edward the Butcher. But if you’re called Tanner then somewhere along the line the occupational name of one of your ancestors who was a Tanner became fixed and became the family name.

Then there are surnames derived from characteristics or nicknames: George Strongarm or Stephen Goodenough.

And then there is another large group of names which are locative i.e. they describe a particular place. In an existing stable community someone might be called by the house where he lived, for example Arthur (of the) Newhouse, or a very specific locality, maybe Thomas (of) Underwood. Such names when they were first used only made sense if the other members of the community knew where the ‘Newhouse’ or ‘Underwood’ was; they wouldn’t have meant much to people from elsewhere. This brings us to names such as Grisdale, names referring to slightly larger and further away places. If Jeremiah had moved to the area from Stafford he would often be called Jeremiah de Stafford. If the ‘de Stafford’ became stuck as the family name and the ‘de’ dropped as it often was we get a ‘Stafford’ family.

It is important to note that it made no sense whatsoever for some who lived in Stafford to be called ‘of’ or ‘de Stafford’, because everyone there was ‘of’ Stafford. Don’t get confused because lords of the manor often took a secondary (sometimes primary) appellation from their manor, i.e. Lord X of Stafford, or even in the late thirteenth century a certain John Lancaster de Grisdale (to whom I’ll return on another occasion). Calling someone ‘of’ or ‘de Stafford’ only made sense when someone moved from Stafford to somewhere else and his origin was used to identify him in his new home. This is the case with the name Grisdale.

One final point here: if a man moved to London from a known town such as Lincoln, Norwich or even Stafford there was a good chance that he would be given that name. But if someone moved from the tiny mountainous hamlet of Grisdale (now Mungrisdale) to London then calling him ‘de Grisdale’ probably didn’t make much sense as no one in London would have had any idea where Grisdale was. If however the Grisdale man moved to somewhere much nearer than London he might indeed have been called Grisdale – this is undoubtedly what happens with our Grisdale family. I’ll give two real examples later.

edward3port

King Edward the Third

Before I do this it might be quite instructive to actually look at the real names of the principal families in Matterdale and Grisdale way back in 1332.

Since the Norman Conquest in 1066, the French-speaking kings of England would continually tax their victims, i.e. the people of England, to pay for their luxuries and incessant wars. They periodically taxed both the clergy and the laity. The later taxes are known as Lay Subsidies and are recorded in ‘Rolls’, hundreds of which still survive. There was a Lay Subsidy in 1332, the sixth year of King Edward III, and luckily it includes Cumberland. Here we find the names of the inhabitants of all the parishes, villages and hamlets, as well as the value of their goods and how much tax they should pay (in this case a fifteenth). Both Matterdale and Grisdale (now Mungrisdale and spelt Grisedale in the lay subsidy) were in the Ward of Leath, and here are the inhabitants’ names:

Matterdale 1332:

Robert son of Alicia, Henry del Crokwath, William son of Richard, William de Blatern, Richard servant of Richard, Robert son of Robert, John Gedirwit, John de Burton, Adam son of Robert, John Dickson, Adam son of Richard, Waddle forestar, Adam de Withebathin and Robert son of William

Grisedale 1332:

William Slegh, Robert son of John, Robert son of Gilbert, Adam son of Peter… there were more names but the Roll was ripped after Adam.

Crookwath Barn

Crookwath Barn, Matterdale

What you can immediately see is how many families didn’t yet have a surname – notice all the ‘sons of’. But some family names had stabilized: William Slegh and John Dikson to name just two. It’s interesting to note that Wilfred Grisdale married Ruth Slee in Matterdale in the seventeenth century and Dickson was a common family name in Matterdale for centuries to come. And then we have the place names: further away places such as ‘de Burton’, ‘de Blatern’ and ‘de Withebathin (Wythburn?), and then local places such as ‘del Crokwath’ – Crookwath being a tenement near Dockray in Matterdale which was farmed by the Grisdales in the seventeenth century. We even find the occupational name Waddle forestar.

So in 1332 the process of stabilizing surnames in Cumberland was nowhere near finished, and you can find the same in all the other places covered by this Lay Subsidy Roll.

One point of parochial Grisdale interest is that while we can see that although families such as the Slees and Dicksons were already in Matterdale in 1332 the Grisdales clearly were not.

In England in general surnames were formed over the period of about 1250 to 1450. In the south of the country many had become fixed by 1350 but in the north, including Cumberland, it wasn’t until about 1450 that most families had a fixed name.

Now let’s return to the question: when and possibly where had the Grisdales become Grisdales?

As I have already said, it is my belief that the first Grisdales arrived in Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale in the second half of the 1400s or maybe as late as 1500. As we have seen even surnames in Cumberland had stabilized by this time and thus we can be reasonably sure that when they arrived they were already called Grisdale or just possibly still ‘de Grisdale’ and that therefore they had not come directly from Grisdale.

Where had they been before?

Are there any mentions of Grisdales before we hear of John Grisdale, the early sixteenth-century farmer at Dowthwaite head? There are just two.

In the year 1407 a certain Rowland de Grisdale held one burgage in the new town of Kendal in Westmorland from its lord Sir William Parr. He had held the same in 1404. Also in 1407 ‘Rolland de Grisedale’ held two tenements (i.e. farms) in Underbarrow/Bradley Field, just a couple of miles west of Kendal, of Sir William Parr’s son John. We know that he had held this tenement in 1390 as well.

Burgage is a medieval land term used in England and Scotland, well established by the 13th century. A burgage was a town (“borough”) rental property (to use modern terms), owned by a king or lord. The property (“burgage tenement”) usually, and distinctly, consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land (Scots, toft), with a narrow street frontage. Rental payment (“tenure”) was usually in the form of money, but each “burgage tenure” arrangement was unique, and could include services. As populations grew, “burgage plots” could be split into smaller additional units. Burgage tenures were usually money based, in contrast to rural tenures which were usually services based. In Saxon times the rent was called a landgable or hawgable.

Burgage Plots

Burgage Plots

It’s interesting to note that almost six hundred years later another Grisdale, Richard, was farming in exactly the same place as Rolland Grisdale was in 1407! I wrote about this later Richard here.

Bradley Field Farm. Here or near here Rolland de Grisdale farmed around 1400

Bradley Field Farm. Here or near here Rolland de Grisdale farmed around 1400

Now we don’t know if this Rolland/Rowland Grisdale was in any way connected with the Grisdales of Matterdale who first appear in the records about a hundred years later. But bear in mind two things. First, if Rolland de Grisdale of Kendal had children its most likely that they would have been called ‘de Grisdale’ too; the fact that we don’t find any children has to do with the paucity of the records not the fecundity of fifteenth century Lakeland people! Second, lo and behold, in 1571 in the Greystoke church records we find the burial of ‘Rolland son of John Grysdell of Matterdale’. It might of course be a pure coincidence, but it just might not.

Just try a thought experiment. If this Matterdale Rolland died as a young man in 1571 then his father John could well have been born in the first quarter of the 1500s, and indeed his father might have been the John we know was farming at Dowthwaite Head in 1524, who I think must have been born in around 1470 – 1480. If Rolland of Matterdale had been named by his father John after his own grandfather (as was often done) then we are within spitting distance of Rolland de Grisdale of Kendal. Of course this is pure conjecture, but the fact is the Matterdale Grisdales had to have come from somewhere before they arrived in Matterdale and Rolland of Kendal is the only person bearing the Grisdale name we find in any fifteenth century record.

Halton Lancashire on the River Lune

Halton Lancashire on the River Lune

But now let’s go even further back to the very first Grisdale I can find: Simon de Grisdale. Simon appears in the 1332 Lay Subsidy Roll we have already discussed, not in the Lake District but rather in the parish of Halton in Lancashire, a few miles from Lancaster. He held a tenement in Halton of its lord William de Dacre.

Now here’s another coincidence? Because Dacre lies immediately adjacent to both Matterdale and Grisdale in Cumberland. William was the lord of this Dacre.

He (William) was born on 12 March 1265/6 in Castle Naworth, Yorkshire, the son of Ranulph and Joan de Lucy. He first married Anne Derwentwater (Derwentwater is a lake in the Lakes district of Cumbria). Next he married Joan Garnet, the daughter and sole heir of Sir Benedict Gernet, the Royal Forester.

He obtained a charter for free warren of all his demesne lands at Dacre and Halton in about 1303/4 (actually he first got the manor 1297)…. He joined the expedition of Edward I, the “Hammer of the Scots,” in to Scotland the same year. He was also engaged in the wars in Scotland between 1308 and 1311. The family had neither been rich, nor members of the baronage, but the family’s fortunes rose with the success and booty gained by William in these wars.

‘Though the Dacres and their heirs held Halton for about three centuries, their history belongs to Cumberland and there is little trace of their interest in Lancashire.’

Dacre Castle in 1802, Built by the Dacres in the mid fourteenth century

Dacre Castle in 1802, Built by the Dacres in the mid fourteenth century

Remember too that Dacre was part of the barony of Greystoke as were Matterdale and Grisdale (Mungrisdale).

So is it too much too imagine that when William de Dacre wanted to find farmers for his new Lancashire manor he might have asked his Cumberland steward and he found a Simon living in Grisdale to whom he granted a tenement in Halton, and who then became known as Simon de Grisdale?

Again, I repeat, all this is pure conjecture. So what might we be able to say?

From what we know of English surname formation, and particularly in northern England, the most likely scenario is that sometime in the fourteenth or fifteenth century (and I would say more likely in the fourteenth) an ancestor of the Matterdale Grisdales had moved from Grisdale/Mungrisdale to somewhere else where they started to be called ‘de Grisdale’. The ‘de’ part would most likely have continued in use for quite a while before eventually disappearing – there are hundreds of examples of this. And then, I think, one of this family, called by now Grisdale (and its variant spellings), arrived to take up the farming of the tenement at Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale in the latter part of the 1400s. This might have been the John Grisdale we find in the records or possibly his father.

Could the person who originally left Grisdale have been the Simon de Grisdale we find in Halton in Lancashire in 1332? Could Rolland de Grisdale in Kendal around 1400 have been one of the family too? We don’t know but it’s certainly possible, after all if Simon and Rolland de Grisdale had sons where did they end up?

1576 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

1576 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

 

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

 

Welshman Eric Grisdale was born in Caernarvon in 1920. He started work as a clerk but when the war came Eric joined the RAF and became a bomber pilot. In the early hours of 23 May 1944 Eric was piloting a Lancaster bomber of 626 Squadron as part of a massive incendiary attack on Dortmund. Despite severe engine problems en-route the Lancaster delivered it load of fire and death on Dortmund. But while on the way home Eric’s Lancaster, now running on ‘two and a half engines’ was suddenly attacked and shot down by a German night fighter near Eindhoven in Holland. Four of the crew of seven managed to bail out safely but the other three died. With the help of the courageous Dutch Underground and Flemish partisans, Eric managed to evade capture and spent nearly four months in hiding, constantly moving around. Eventually he met up with the advancing U.S. Army and made it home.

This is Eric’s story. Actually many years after the war he wrote his own story in a short book called One of the Few. Despite my best efforts I have yet to obtain a copy. However from the accounts of others who talked with Eric, the squadron’s operational logs and the official RAF ‘Evasion Report’ I think we can reconstruct Eric’s Lancaster flight and his subsequent evasion.

But first let me extremely briefly tell how Eric’s very English forebears (with the Norse name) had come from Matterdale to Wales. They weren’t the only Grisdale family to do so and they certainly weren’t the first.

Llanbeblig Church, Caernavon

Llanbeblig Church, Caernavon

Like countless others I have written about on this blog, Eric Grisdale was descended from seventeenth-century Matterdale couple Joseph Grisdale (1687-1750) and his wife Jane Martin (1687-1769). We could of course go even further back. To cut a long story short, Joseph’s grandson Thomas Grisdale (1772-1841) had moved in the 1790s with some of his brothers from Matterdale to the Lancashire cotton mill town of Bolton. The whole family became cotton weavers and I have told of many of them and their descendants before. One of Thomas’s grandsons was called Elijah, born in Bolton in 1836. His father George (1807-1887) was a ‘Power Loom Weaver’. For reasons I don’t know twenty-three year-old Elijah married Llanbeblig girl Margaret Cowburne Howells in Caernarvon in 1859. The family was very poor and Elijah died in Caernarvon’s workhouse in 1878. To skip a couple of generation, RAF pilot Eric Grisdale was the great grandson of this Elijah who first brought the family to Wales. If you would like more detail please contact me.

Let’s now fast-forward to the Second World War. Eric joined the RAF on 28 February 1941. He trained with No. 26 OTU (Operational Training Unit) and did his bomber conversion with No. 1653 Conversion Unit. I haven’t got Eric’s full RAF record so I’ll just say that he was most probably a founder member of Lancaster 626 Squadron when it was formed at RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire in November 1943. The squadron undertook many bombing missions over enemy territory and Flight Sergeant Eric Grisdale was one of their pilots.

Sixteen 626 Squadron crews at RAF Wickenby in January 1944

Sixteen 626 Squadron crews at RAF Wickenby in January 1944

On the 22 May 1944 a huge bombing raid took place – the destination was Dortmund. Among the 361 RAF Lancasters there were fourteen from 626 squadron, one of which, with the markings UM-U, was captained by Eric.  On board were most of his usual crew: Sgt R. A. Sindall RAF, Flight Engineer; Fg Off J. B. Morritt RCAF, Navigator; Flt Sgt R. H. Punter RCAF, Bomb Aimer; Sgt I. A. Prestwell RAF, Wireless Operator; Sgt R. J. Turtle RAF, Mid Upper Gunner and Sgt R. W. Richardson RAF, Rear Gunner. Canadian navigator Morrit had replaced Eric’s usual Canadian navigator G. A. Pierce.

Eric Grisdale and his crew at RAF Wickenby

Eric Grisdale and his crew at RAF Wickenby

The aircraft carried a 400lb high explosive ‘Cookie’ and 7920 lbs of incendiary bombs. It took off from RAF Wickenby at 10.30 in the evening. I am indebted for what follows concerning the flight to Tony Beeton.

‘As the aircraft crossed the Dutch coast the port outer engine started to give trouble and ran very roughly. After awhile it ran smoothly again so the decision was made to continue onto the target. The crew had an uneventful trip to the target and began their bombing run just a little behind the allotted time. As the pilot held the aircraft steady, following the bomb aimers instructions a piece of flak shrapnel hits the starboard inner engine with a loud bang but the pilot held his course until the call “Bombs Gone” when he banked to starboard and headed for home.

By now the starboard inner had lost its oil pressure requiring that it be shut down. At almost the same time the port outer engine started to give trouble again and the Lancaster was flying on two and a half engines, slowly losing height.

Lancasters being attacked by German night fighters

Lancasters being attacked by German night fighters

At about 02.00 hours whilst flying at about 19,000 ft over Holland, the Lancaster was suddenly raked by bullets from an enemy night fighter all along the port side. The port fuel tank was ruptured and the port wing caught fire and was burning furiously. The Pilot called to the crew over the intercom and found the Wireless Operator and Navigator had been killed by the burst of gunfire. He realised that the position was hopeless and as the aircraft was becoming difficult to handle, gave the order “Abandon Aircraft”.

The only response he received was from the Rear Gunner who said calmly “Do you mean now”. The pilot replied “Yes”. As the Pilot made his way down to the escape hatch in the Bomb Aimers position there was a violent explosion within the aircraft, followed a few seconds later by another. The next recollection the Pilot had was being free from the aircraft and falling towards the ground. He managed to open his parachute and watched as his burning Lancaster fell past him and crashed onto the ground. There were no signs of the other crew members.’

It sadly turned out that Sergeants  Morrit, Prestwell and Richardson had been killed, but the other four crew members, including Eric, had made it safely to the ground, where they found themselves near Asten outside Eindhoven in German-occupied Holland. Sindall and Turtle were soon captured and became POWs. Here we can read Eric’s own words, taken from the official RAF ‘Evasion Report’ written after an interview by M.I.9 at RAF Hendon on 15 September 1944, two days after Eric had flown home from Brussels. I’ll quote it in full as it’s quite brief.

23 May 44, Baled out near Eindhoven.

I was the pilot of a Lancaster aircraft which took off from Wickenby at 2230 hrs on 22 May 44. We were shot down by a night fighter, and baled out at 0115 hrs on 23 May 44. On landing I looked for other members of the crew and hid my parachute. I could see no one, so started walking South West.

After walking some distance I was stopped by a party of civilians, one of whom spoke very good English. They took me to a doctor, who treated my broken hand and cuts and bruises on my face. I was then taken to a farm about two miles from Someren… a small village South East of Eindhoven.

Next morning I was joined by F/Sgt, Punter… and we stayed at this farm for seven days.

Till 7 Jul 33, Camp near Eindhoven.

From here we moved to a camp run by the Dutch underground movement in woods near Eindhoven where we met F/Sgt. Gardner and F/Sgt. Sparkes. We were later joined by F/Sgt. Tend, R.A.F F/O Walker, R.A.F., F/O Walker, R.A.F., Sgt. Simmons, R.A.F., Sgt. Kinney, U.S.A.A.F., and Lt. Cooper, U.S.A.A.F. We remained in the camp until 7 Jul, when we moved to a farm for one night.

Crossed into Belgium.

Next morning we went by train from Venraij to Sittard. Here we lived in a private house in the town for three weeks. We were then moved to another house, near Roggel. We stayed there for two nights and then moved to a hut in the woods, where we stayed for ten days. From here we moved to a hut in an orchard near Kempen and, after two days, to a farm near Hunsel. Four days later we were taken over the border with Belgium.

We spent three nights on a farm near Kinroy. As the Germans were active in this part, we moved into the woods. After thirteen days we moved to another wood near Eelen, where we met some Belgian Partisans. We stayed with them for five days.

12 Sep 44, Contact with U.S. Troops.

The Allied lines were rumoured to be very near, and the Partisans foregathered in a wood near Rotem. We spent four days with them, but had to leave on account of an attack by the Germans. We headed. W. Towards the Allied lines.

On 12 Sep we were told by a farmer that Allied tanks were in the vicinity, and that evening we met an advanced unit of U.S. Troops.

Dutch Resistance group in 1944

Dutch Resistance group in 1944

I’m sure Eric’s own book provides many more details and observations, but for now I’ll leave the story here. The day after Eric and the others had met the Americans he was flown home from Brussels to RAF Hendon.

Eric had spent nearly four months avoiding capture but only succeeded with the help of many courageous Dutch and Flemish people; I’m sure he was always grateful to them.

In 1946 Eric married Enid Jones in Caernarvon, he died in 1990.

slaughterhouse-five-by-kurt-vonnegutBut let’s not forget the countless thousands of German civilians who died horrific deaths in cities all over Germany which were subjected to Allied fire-bombing and subsequent firestorms, as was Dortmund on this night of 22/23 May 1944.

The great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who was a POW in Dresden and dug corpses from the rubble following a massive incendiary raid on that city in February 1945, later wrote:

You guys burnt the place down, turned it into a single column of flame. More people died there in the firestorm, in that one big flame, than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

I do recommend you read Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five, unless that is it is still banned in parts of the United States as it once was.

‘A firestorm is caused when hundreds of smaller fires join in one vast conflagration. Huge masses of air are sucked in to feed the inferno, causing an artificial tornado. Those persons unlucky enough to be caught in the rush of wind are hurled down entire streets into the flames. Those who seek refuge underground often suffocate as oxygen is pulled from the air to feed the blaze, or they perish in a blast of white heat–heat intense enough to melt human flesh.’

Survivors of such raids told how:

The detonation shook the cellar walls. The sound of the explosions mingled with a new, stranger sound which seemed to come closer and closer, the sound of a thundering waterfall; it was the sound of the mighty tornado howling in the inner city.

As the heat intensified people ‘either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots’.

The results of incendiary bombing

The results of incendiary bombing

Enough of that! On a less strident note I’ll end, as I often do, with two poems:

My brief sweet life is over,

My eyes no longer see,

No Christmas trees,

No summer walks

No pretty girls for me,

I’ve got the chop, I’ve had it

My nightly Ops are done,

Yet in another hundred years

I’ll still be twenty one.

R.W Gilbert

And:

“Darky” Call by Pip Beck

Through the static

Loud in my earphone

I heard your cry for aid

Your scared boy’s voice conveyed

Your fear and danger;

Ether-borne, my voice

Went out to you

As lost and in the dark you flew

We tried so hard to help you,

In your crippled plane -

I called again

But you did not hear

You had crashed in flame

At the runway’s end

With none to tend

You in your dying …

from “A WAAF in Bomber Command”

Eric's Lancaster was the only one of 626 squadron not to return that night. See above

Eric’s Lancaster was the only one of 626 squadron not to return that night. See above

So the Grisdales of Matterdale became not only Canadians, Americans, Australians and even South Africans, some, God help us, became Welsh too. I’m only joking – have a look at my name. But some Canadian Grisdale men married French Canadian women and became ‘French’ – now that’s truly beyond the pale!

Oh and it’s nice to find the Dutch still remember Grisdale’s Lancaster crew: https://www.bhic.nl/lancaster-bij-het-ven

 

 

‘Wythburn’s modest house of prayer, / as lowly as the lowliest dwelling.’ – William Wordsworth in The Waggoner

Most of the farm and buildings in Wythburn were flooded in the late nineteenth century when Thirlmere reservoir was created to supply water for Manchester, only the chapel and one farm remain, the rest is under water or has been demolished.  In 1768 a young Joseph Grisdale was already a ‘husbandsman’ there. This Joseph farmed at Wythburn for at least the next twenty years and had six children there with his first wife Sarah Graves, who he married in Crosthwaite (Keswick) church in 1773. The second of these children was the Joseph Grisdale (born 1778) who would go on to farm at Orrest Head near Windermere (see here).

Wythburn Valley by Joe Hush

Wythburn Valley by Joe Hush

In 1894 when the work on the reservoir was just finished, the famous Canon Rawnsley wrote about Wythburn church’s bell:

Thirlmere

Thirlmere

We have come “over t’ Raaise Gap” now (Dunmail Raise). We are in Manchester at the Lakes. … That brand-new bell and its brand-new belfry of the little Wythburn Church is a bit of Manchester work … For how many years the little bell had hung in its simple cobble-stone rough-cast belfry at Wythburn Chapel one cannot say.

In a moment, at the bidding of new lords of the soil, the rough old things are demolished; replaced by something spick, span, and new. One almost wishes the good fairies would take away in the night the well-dressed stones and build up again that queer old cobble belfry; one would forgive the parish clerk, if next Sunday he should be found as his fore-elder in the office at Wythburn was once found, “astride of the roof-ridge waiting to give the ‘third ring’ to call the worshippers to prayer.” On asking that clerk of olden time why he was perched roof-high, his answer to the Wythburn priest was, “O Sir, Jemmy Hawkrigg brak yan o’ his car reapps tudder day i’ t’ hayfield, and they gat t’ bell reapp an’s forgitten to bring ‘t back ageaan, seah I’ve been fworst to git up on t’ riggin and ring wi’ my hands, and I thowt it was neah use comin’ doun ageaan between time and I’se stoppan to give t’ third round and than I’se be wi’ ye.”

Also threatened by the dam was ‘The Rock of Names’, on which Wordsworth had written:

O thought of pain / That would impair it or profane! / And fail not thou loved Rock! to keep / Thy charge when we are laid asleep.

The rock was on the right hand side of the old road, now submerged, and on it were carved the initials:

W.W. (William Wordsworth).

M.H. (Mary Hutchinson).

D.W. (Dorothy Wordsworth).

S.T.C. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

J.W. (John Wordsworth).

S.H. (Sarah Hutchinson).

‘As the rock could not be saved from submergence, various applications were made to the Corporation of Manchester for leave to remove it, and ultimately it was agreed to allow it to be taken to the Wordsworth Institute, Cockermouth. In attempting to do this, however, it went to pieces – it was blown up by the workmen making the dam. The fragments containing the initials were preserved, and have been built into a cairn on the solid base of the mountain, at a point above the new road diversion, in a line with the rock from which they were taken. This was done by persons in the neighbourhood.’ So wrote Philip Wilson in the 1890s. Later, in the 1980s, they were removed to the Wordsworth Museum at Dove cottage in Grasmere.

The Rock of Names

The Rock of Names

Wythburn church

Wythburn church

Joseph Grisdale the eighteenth-century Wythburn farmer was the son of a Matterdale-born ‘Waller’ also called Joseph who was born in Dowthwaite Head, Matterdale in 1704. As a Waller he moved around a lot. He married twice and lived in Martindale and then in Dacre. Our Wythburn Joseph was born around 1748 or slightly earlier, and was most likely the son of ‘Waller’ Joseph Grisdale and his second wife Mary Sisson, who were married in Barton church in Westmorland (on the east side of Ullswater) in 1738. When his father Joseph died in Bald End How in Matterdale (to where he had returned in old age) in 1768, his Letters of Administration mention his son Joseph a ‘husbandsman in Wythburn’.

When Joseph’s mother Mary (nee Sisson) died aged seventy-seven in 1781 in Matterdale, she refers to a number of children in her Will, namely, Joseph, John, Jane, Ann, Mary, Martha and Sally. She also refers to her ‘step-daughter’ Betty Otley, who was born to Joseph Grisdale, the Waller, and his first wife Agnes Lancaster in Martindale in 1737.

Dacre on Ullswater where many of Joseph the Waller's children were boirn

Dacre on Ullswater where many of Joseph the Waller’s children were boirn

Joseph and Sarah had six children, all baptized in Wythburn Chapel. When Sarah died in 1788 aged forty, Joseph married Betty Gately the next year in Crosthwaite parish church.

It’s most likely that Joseph then took his family to farm in Langdale because we find several mentions of a Joseph Grisdale farming there in 1798.

wyhtburn wiborn 1760

Wythburn (Wiborn) in 1760

wythburn 1800

‘Withburn’ in 1800

 

wythburn sheepfold

Wythburn sheepfold

 

one wythburn farm

One unsubmerged Wythburn farm

 

 

This is the third short pictorial sketch of one line of Matterdale Grisdales who farmed around Windermere and in Langdale in the nineteenth century. The previous two concerned Jeremiah Grisdale’s farther John (see here) and grandfather Joseph (see here). Here I’ll show some pictures of the Langdale sheep farm called Middle Fell Place. Jeremiah Grisdale, whose name morphed later on to Grisedale, was the tenant farmer at Middle Fell Place from about 1887 to his death there in 1920.

Middle Fell Place, Langdale

Middle Fell Place, Langdale

Jeremiah was born in 1851 at his father John’s Langdale sheep farm called Stool End; he was the last of seven children of John and his wife Ann Airey. He probably stayed working with his father until he was twenty-one when he married local Langdale farmer’s daughter Jane Gillbanks Clark in 1872. Like his father and grandfather before him, Jeremiah now started work as an agricultural labourer before he could get the tenancy of his own farm.

Knott House farm, Grasmere

Knott House farm, Grasmere

Over the next about fifteen years Jeremiah worked at Knott House farm near Grasmere (he might have worked elsewhere as well). Knott House farm was right next door to ‘Winterseeds’ to where his father and mother had retired in the 1870s, so they would still have been close. At Knott House Jeremiah and Jane had five children before they got the tenancy of Middle fell Place in Great Langdale in about 1887, four more children were to be born at Middle Fell.

When Jeremiah’s grandson Ernest Grisedale (the E had now been permanently added) was interviewed in Vancouver in Canada in 1980 he said: ‘My grandfather had a big sheep ranch in a place called Langdale’, this was Middle Fell Place. Ernest was the son of Jeremiah’s son Jeremiah and had attended Grasmere school before his family emigrated to Vancouver in 1913.

middle fell by simon whitfield

Middle Fell by Simon Whitfield

John died at Middle Fell Place in 1920 and his wife was still there when she died in 1931.

All the following images are of Middle fell Place.

middle fell map 1770

1770

 

middle fell 4

 

 

mid fell dogs eating great langdale

 

mid fell geese and chickens

Middle Fell Farm  Langdale

middle fell place

 

middle fell 5

middle fell 3

Stool End is a sheep farm in the bleak but spectacular valley of Great Langdale in Westmorland. It is much beloved as the subject of photography by the walkers in the Lake District. It was and is a mountain sheep farm. Throughout the third quarter of the nineteenth century the farmer at Stool End was John Grisdale.

Stool End Farm, Great Langdale

Stool End Farm, Great Langdale

Grasmere Church

Grasmere Church

John was the second child of the farmer Joseph Grisdale I wrote about recently (see here). He was baptized in St. Oswald’s church in Grasmere where in the adjoining Dove Cottage William and Dorothy Wordsworth were living at that time. He spent his early years on a farm somewhere in Grasmere/Langland and then in Staveley near Kendal, but in about 1824 when John was sixteen the family came back to become tenants at Orrest Head farm near Windermere, where John would have helped his father Joseph.

John married Ann Airey in Windermere church on 6 June 1831. Now he had to establish himself as a farmer, which like his father involved several moves while his seven children were being born. First they farmed Black Moss farm just outside Windermere before moving for a very short period to the east of Kendal, to Old Hutton where they had a small farm at Eskrigg End.

Then probably in the summer of 1851  the family made its way back to near where it started and became the farmers at Stool End Farm in Langdale. Here in 1851 their seventh (surviving) child, Jeremiah, was born; he was baptized in Langdale’s Holy Trinity church on 29 June.

The family remained the tenants at Stool End for over twenty years. Sometime in the 1870s John finished his hard life as a mountain sheep farmer and retired with his wife and their son John to a former smithy called Winterseeds, just north of the village of Grasmere. Ann died in 1880 and John in 1884 aged seventy-eight.

Here are some more pictures:

Winterseeds Grasmere

Winterseeds Grasmere

 

stool end map 3

Map showing Stool End (bottom)

 

looking across stool end

Stool End in the distance

 

stool end 7

Stool End

 

 

langdale 4

Langdale

 

Great Langdale

Great Langdale

Langdale Holy Trinity 1857 built

Langdale Holy Trinity built in 1857

little eskrigg end farm

Little Eskrigg End farm, Old Hutton

great langdale

Great Langdale

 

stool end new 2

Stool End

 

stool end new

Stool End

 

stool end langdale

Stool End