Archive for May, 2013

write a lot about Matterdale; but what about its school? I discussed the Rev. Dr. Robert Grisdale in an earlier article. He was Matterdale School’s founder and benefactor. Here I’d simply like to tell a little more of the founding of the school. In particular I’ll reproduce the foundation Indenture or Trust Deed and tell something of the school’s early history. I know that many of my own ancestors attended the school; which makes it all the more pertinent for me.

Matterdale Old School

Matterdale Old School

By the early eighteenth century the Rev. Robert Grisdale had become a successful and reasonably wealthy clergyman. Even though he now lived in London, he obviously wanted to help the children of his native valley. The first step was to secure some land on which a school could be built. In 1716 he managed to persuade the Hon Charles Howard (the Baron of Greystoke) to denote 1.5 acres for this purpose. The land lies up a small rise just a few hundred yards west of Matterdale Church, a church where at the time one of Robert’s relatives, Thomas Grisdale, was still the curate. Then the school had to be built. How was this financed? Well it seems that Robert Grisdale paid for it himself.

In 1901 the Rev. Whiteside wrote[i]:

The present school was probably built, with the dwelling-house under the same roof, just prior to 1722. That is the date of the indenture whereby the Rev. Robert Grisedale, D.D., of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, who sprang from Dowthwaite in Matterdale, entrusts the management of the school and school estate, to thirteen trustees and their successors.

As Whiteside said, in 1722, when the school was complete, all was set to provide for its future maintenance and the appointment of schoolmasters or mistresses. I reproduce the full text of the Indenture or Trust Deed of 1722 at the end. It’s rather long. I include it here because it is not otherwise easily accessible and because one or two of you might care to read it?

The initials of the first schoolmasters or mistresses are inscribed on the school’s mantelpiece: W. W, I. B, T, D, T. B, L H, J.H, D. B and T. W. The first named schoolmaster was John Hodgson in 1799. There is an interesting story about Hodgson, who was ‘the famous historian of Northumberland, and one of Westmorland’s worthiest sons… He was a native of Swindale in Shap’.  In a letter written by him to Sir W. C. Trevelyan, in 1843, Hodgson wrote:

When I was at school at Bampton, forty-three years since, Professor Carlyle, then chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle, was anxious that I should go with him, as his secretary in the expedition he made with Lord Elgin, as ambassador to the Ottoman Court. I ardently wished to have been able to go; but instead of sailing through the Hellespontus, and seeing Hoemus and Rhodope on the right of the Propontis, and Caucasus and Taurus on the left, I was content to become in that year (1799) the schoolmaster of Matterdale, in Cumberland. It was, however, very curious that four years afterwards the Professor was appointed chaplain of Bishop Barrington, and I had to be examined by him at Newcastle for deacon’s orders.

In the Antiquary a notice of Hodgson says, ‘The salary was small, but the place was interesting in a high degree to the young schoolmaster, as it gave him an opportunity of studying the geology of the district.’

Photos May 2013 266

Matterdale New School

As you will see if you read the Indenture of 1722 reproduced below, keeping the control of the school somewhat in the Grisdale family was a major concern of Robert Grisdale. It was obviously quite effective, because a hundred years later the Grisdales were still predominant among the school’s trustees, including descendants of Robert’s brother Edward.

What was Matterdale School like? Today the building is empty and rather forlorn. It was closed in 1907 because it was too small, a new school was built to replace it. But for two centuries it was full of bustle and life. The Rev. Whiteside tells us:

The building, which is not now very attractive, has suffered from restoration, like many a church. Up to the passing of the Education Act in 1871, I am told, it was a fine and symmetrical edifice, with a spacious staircase of thick oak in the centre; but to meet the requirements of the Department the school was enlarged, both in length and height, at the expense of the entrance hall and staircase and upper rooms.

The Indenture for the school’s foundation in 1722:

This Indenture made the 6th Day of August in the year of the Reign of the Sovereign Lord, George, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith etc A.D. 1722. Between the Rev Robert Grisdale of the parish of St Martin’s in the Fields within the Liberty of Westminster, Clerk, of the one part, and Edward Grisdale of Dowthwaite, Brother of the said Robert Grisdale, William Wilson of Dowthwaite aforesaid, Nephew in Law of the said Robert Grisdale, Joseph Grisdale of Dowthwaite aforesaid, John Greenhow of Crookwath, Thomas Atkinson now of Matterdale End, John  Mounsey of Brownrigg, Joseph Grisdale of Townhead in Dockray, Thomas Grisdale of Bonsons, John Wilson of the Pinfold aforesaid, John Wilson of the Mills, Richard Wilkinson of the Hollas, Edward Dawson and John Sutton of Matterdale End aforesaid, Tenants or Inhabitants of the Manor or Lordship of Matterdale within the Barony of Greystoke & County of Cumberland, nominated and appointed by the said Robert Grisdale Trustees of the Free School hereinafter mentioned of the first part.

Whereas the Honourable Henry Charles Howard Esq. the 4th day of October in the Third year of this present Majesty’s Reign A.D. 1716 then Lord of the said Manor by John Mounsey & Henry Capps, Gentlemen, his stewards, by & with the free consent & approbation of the Trustees  and others, Tenants or Inhabitants of Matterdale aforesaid testified by subscribing their names thereto, did for the considerations therein mentioned for Himself his Heirs & Successors Lords of the Manor in open court grant & convey unto the said Robert Grisdale a piece or parcel of pasture ground, lying & being in & upon Matterdale Common containing by Estimation six roods be the same more or less, situated & being on the West side of Matterdale Church commonly called Butts Hills near Thwaites Gate in order to have a school house erected there, by the appointment and Direction of the said R. Grisdale & at his own proper costs & charges to finish the same, for & towards the education of the children there to be taught and instructed by a schoolmaster or schoolmistress or both of them at the discretion of the said R. Grisdale, who as patron & Founder thereof, did thereby agree to Endow the same with the yearly endowment of Ten pounds for the only use & benefit of the said school for ever, as by the said in part recited grant, now remaining as of Record in the Court of the said Barony of Greystoke relation being thereunto had many more at large appear (?)

And whereas the said schoolhouse is since completely finished & the same made every way convenient for the good ends & purposes aforesaid, and a study fitted up and prepared with Books for those that are desirous to inform themselves in polite learning according to the intentions of the Donor.

And Whereas the said R. Grisdale hath presented a Mistress to the said school & hath for some years last allowed her the salary or sum of £10 a year by quarterly payments, and hath also since endeavoured (though without effect as yet) to find out a purchase of a Freehold Estate or some other good & sufficient security so that the salary or sum of £10 a year may forever hereafter be settled on the said school payable as aforesaid.

Now this Indenture also witnesseth that until such time a Freehold Estate or some other good & sufficient security can be had & obtained for securing the sum of £200 so that the sum of £10 a year may forever hereafter accrue & become payable to the Master or Mistress of the said school which shall happen to be the teacher thereof, the said Robert Grisdale doth hereby for himself covenant promise grant & agree to & with the said Edward Grisdale, William Wilson etc the Trustees aforesaid, & their successors Trustees of the said school that he, the said R. Grisdale, shall & will during his natural life yearly & every year until such purchase or other security shall be had & obtained as aforesaid pay or cause to be paid unto the said Edward Grisdale, William Wilson etc their Successors/Trustees of the said school or to some of these for the purpose aforesaid the yearly Salary or Sum of £10 at the most usual Feasts or Days of payment in the year (this is to say) the Feast of St Michael the Archangel, the Birth of our Lord Christ, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist by even and equal portions, the first of the said payments to begin & be made on such of the Feast Days which shall first happen next ensuing the date hereof.

And this Indenture further witnesseth that in case no such purchase or other security as aforesaid shall be had & obtained during the natural life of the said R. Grisdale then the said R. Grisdale doth hereby for himself his Heirs Executors and Administrators and for every of them covenant promise grant & agree to and with the said E. Grisdale, William Wilson & the Trustees aforesaid & their successors Trustees of the said school, that the Heirs Executors or Administrators of the said R. Grisdale shall & will within one year next after the Decease of the said R Grisdale advance & pay or cause to be advanced & paid unto the said E. Grisdale, William Wilson etc the Trustees aforesaid or their successors Trustees of the said school or some of them the sum of £10 of Lawful money of Great Britain, that is to say the sum of £200 to be laid out in the purchase of Lands or put out upon some good security at Interest in order to be a standing salary for the benefit of the school, & the sum of £10 residue of the said £200 to be and remain for a yearly salary to the then Master or Mistress of the said school, & then (?) the said yearly payment of £10 per annum from thenceforth for ever to cease, anything herein contained to the contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding.

Provided always & it is the true intent & meaning of the parties to these presents that in the case the said £200 shall fall short & not produce the annual Interest of £10 or the said schoolhouse shall want some necessary reparations that then in both or in either of the said cases the said R. Grisdale doth order & appoint and it is hereby agreed by the said E. G., W.W. etc the Trustees aforesaid for themselves & their successors Trustees of the said school, that it shall & may be lawful to & for the said E.G., W.W. etc the Trustees aforesaid & their successors Trustees of the said school not only from time to time to raise the Quarterage of the scholars belonging to Matterdale aforesaid, that shall then frequent the school any sum of money the said £200 shall fall short of producing the yearly sum of £10, but also such sum & sums of money as shall be needful or necessary for keeping the said schoolhouse in all convenient & necessary reparations,

And it is also hereby further declared & appointed by the said R. Grisdale & the said E.G, W.W. etc the Trustees aforesaid do for themselves & their successors, Trustees of the said school, covenant & agree to & with the said R. Grisdale his Heirs Executors Administrators & assigns by these presents that in case there shall arise any Difference or Dispute about the management of the said school, that then & in such case the said Trustees & their Successors, Trustees of the said school (upon complaint of any three or more of the said Trustees or their Successors Trustees of the said school by petition or otherwise made to the Chancellor of Carlisle for the time being & praying him to hear & determine their said cause of complaint) shall & will finally submit to & abide the direction & determination of the said Chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle for the time being.

And it is further declared and appointed by the said R. Grisdale & the Trustees aforesaid do for themselves & their successors, Trustees of the said school covenant & agree to & with the said R. Grisdale, his Heirs  Executors and Administrators that they the said Trustees and their successors Trustees of the said school shall as often as occasion shall be & require by death of any of the Trustees, or their removal out of the Dale not having then any Estate therein within the space of Three months next after such Death or Removal meet & make choice of as many as will make up the number Thirteen hereby appointed, whereof the person inheriting the Estate of the said Mr Grisdale’s Father always to be one, & the person inheriting his Brother Edward’s Estate in Dowthwaite aforesaid be another. And also as often as occasion shall be, & require by Death Removal or otherwise to meet & make choice of a Master or Mistress by a plurality of voices, but if it can be agreed upon a Mistress rather for the advantage and improvement of the girls inhabiting in Matterdale aforesaid.

And the said Trustees of the school covenant, promise grant & agree to & with the said R. Grisdale that it shall & may be lawful to & for the said R. Grisdale during his natural life not only to make choice of such Master or Mistress he shall think proper & convenient to teach the said school but also from time to time as occasion shall be & required by Death or otherwise as aforesaid to elect & choose new Trustees in the place & stead of any of the Trustees herein before nominated & appointed.

In witness whereof the said parties to these presents have interchangeably set their hands & seals the day and year above written.

[i] Rev. J. Whiteside, M.A., Incumbent of Helsington, Matterdale Church and School, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian And Archaeological Society, Vol 1, 1901, Ed. W. G. Collingwood, M.A

The farm at Dowthwaite Head is the ‘cradle’ of the Matterdale Grisdales. When did the first person who would bear the Grisdale name arrive there? I’m afraid no definitive answer is possible. The family weren’t nobility and thus the early records of their lives are scant. So some of what follows is conjecture, some isn’t.

Grisedale Valley, Cumberland

Grisedale Valley, Cumberland

In an article titled Were the Grisdales Vikings? I discussed the Scandinavian/Norse-Irish name Grisdale. It just means Valley of the Pigs. There are several places called Grisdale or Grisedale in Cumberland. As I mentioned, the ancestors of people called Grisdale had at some point obviously moved from one of these Grisdales to elsewhere. At first they would have been called, just for example, John or Robert of (or ‘de’) Grisdale, to differentiate them other Johns or Roberts – like John (the) Forrester or Robert (the) Smith.

It’s my belief that the Grisdales of Matterdale most likely came from next door Grisedale Valley. Grisedale Beck runs down through the valley from Grisedale Pike, under Grisedale Bridge, to finally empty into Lake Ullswater near Patterdale. It’s a rather deserted place today but hundreds of years ago the records show it was a thriving small community. Most likely one or more person/s moved the few miles from Grisedale to Matterdale and it was from him or them that the family took its name. (See new view here.)

One shouldn’t be too concerned by more modern variant spellings: Grisdale, Grisedale or even Grizedale. It’s all the same name. In all the earliest records there were in fact no Es and certainly no Zs. When early Grisdales signed their names, or they are mentioned elsewhere, we find Grisdale, Grysdale, Grysdall, Grysdal, Grysdell. Grysdel and even Grysdaille. The variant E was usually added later by priests at the time of baptisms, marriages or deaths. Gris after all is the Old Norse word for a pig.

When did the move from ‘Grisedale’ to Matterdale happen? And where exactly did the earliest members of the family settle?

Dowthwaitehead Farm

Dowthwaitehead Farm

The earliest historically attested Grisdale in Matterdale was farmer John Grisdale. In 1524, in a survey of the barony of Greystoke he is listed as a ‘yeoman’ and as a ‘free tenant’. His farm was given as being at Dowthwaite Head. John is not only the only Grisdale mentioned but he was also the only ‘free tenant’ of any name living at Dowthwaite Head. He was clearly an adult man and might have been born sometime, say, between 1475 and 1500. I guess he was living with a wife, and possibly already had children, and raising sheep there. Dowthwaite Head was without any doubt the ‘cradle’ of the Matterdale Grisdale clan. Some of the family remained there for at least three hundred years – while others moved to other areas in Matterdale and from there further afield.

Vikings come to Cumbria

Vikings come to Cumbria

Before I go further, maybe we should pause a little and consider a couple of linguistic matters. First, regarding the thousands of Norse place names in Cumbria; names that gave many families their name. As elsewhere, Matterdale is full of them: Dowthwaite, Crookwath, Thornythwaite, Lowthwaite and even Matterdale itself, to name but a few. The Norse-Irish Vikings first settled in Cumbria in the tenth century. The whole area had been peopled by Cumbric speaking Britons for centuries. Around the fringes of the mountains there were also English villages, founded by Northumbrian immigrants/conquerors. The Norse-Irish carved out space for themselves and gave them Norse names. Matterdale itself contains the Norse dalr, meaning valley. While ‘Matter’ could derive from a Norse person’s name, although there are more poetic explanations. Grisdale also. Thwaite is Old Norse for a clearing made in the forest, and so Dowthwaite was a clearing either made by a person (dubh?) or near a place like the River Dove in Yorkshire – from whence the present-day Douthtwaite we find there. One could go on.

The question is often: When were these places first established? When were the thwaites cut out of the forest or from the thorns? One should beware implying that all these names go back to the tenth or even the eleventh century. These Norse settlers continued to speak a form of their Scandinavian language well into the twelfth century. And even as the language slowly morphed in Cumbrian English they still kept many Norse words. For example, a thwaite remained the word for a clearing for centuries and is still used as such today.

With this let’s return to Dowthwaite Head, the cradle of the Matterdale Grisdales. Dowthwaite valley runs southwest from the tiny Matterdale village of Dockray, up to its ‘Head’ under the bleak hill of Great Dodd. The question of who (or what) was the original Dow or Dubh can’t be answered. The answer is lost forever in the mists of time. But when was the forest cleared? When was the thwaite cut? It could have been at any time between the tenth and the fifteenth century, by which time the name was firmly established.

Dowthwaite from Dowthwaite Head

Dowthwaite from Dowthwaite Head

I understand that the present farmer living at Dowthwaitehead Farm believes the place was named after a ‘mine manager’ who once lived there. I would certainly like to discuss this with him, but it must be openly said that there is absolutely no written evidence for this view. None. There was a little mining in and around Dowthwaite, but there are no written records of it. If this putative ‘manager’, Mr Dowthwaite, existed at all, which I doubt for now, he would have had to have been there prior to about 1500. He would also have probably had to have lived there for a fair old time for the valley, the farm, and for the surrounding Dowthwaite Crag and Dowthwaite Moss, in fact for the whole area, to have been named after him. It’s interesting to note that during the whole of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and beyond, there is not a single person called Dowthwaite anywhere in Matterdale, which is interesting given the proliferation of the family name Dowthwaite/Douthwaite in Cumberland and Westmorland.

Places can of course be named after people and not just the other way round. We see it all the time: From old Bir-ming-ham (the settlement of ‘Bir’s’ people), to the more modern Thompson’s Farm. But if a pre-1500 Mr Dowthwaite gave the valley his name (whether he was a mine manager or not), this just begs the question of where the Dowthwaite was he came from. There is only one other Douthwaite (with a U) that I know of: Douthwaite Dale near Whitby in Yorkshire. I don’t find the idea of a very early Mr Douthwaite/Dowthwaite trekking from near the coast of northeast England, across the barren Pennines, all the way to Matterdale, very convincing at all. I prefer to believe that Dowthwaite was so called because it was a forest clearing, a thwaite, cut from the wood or thorns of Matterdale. Whenever that occurred and whoever did the cutting.

Dacre Coat of Arms

Dacre Coat of Arms

There is another fact that we can throw into the pot. It may or may not be relevant. In 1418, an Inquisition Post-Mortem was taken of the barony of Greystoke on the death of Baron Ranulph de Dacre. His lands were surveyed and the rents payable by each one listed. Nearby Watermillock is listed as providing £4, 6s 9d per annum from its ‘tenants’. But Matterdale has no tenants mentioned and is termed a ‘forest’ yielding £10 per annum. A forest here does not mean it was wooded, though some of it still may have been. Rather it means it was a private hunting ground belonging to the barony, which yielded £10 in forest dues. Such hunting ‘forests’ were tightly regulated. Any encroachments, whether by poachers or by farmers, were severely punished in the Forest Court. So Matterdale was in all likelihood either not settled at all in the early fifteenth century, or not settled very much. It certainly didn’t have ‘customary’ free tenants paying rents. My guess is that the thwaite of Dowthwaite had been cut from the forest at an earlier date but that there probably was no one living there by 1418, but this cannot be proved.

As one or two of the ‘natives’ in New York used to say when I was a student there thirty years ago: ‘Enough already!’

Does this all mean that yeoman farmer John Grisdale was the first Grisdale to settle at Dowthwaite Head? And was he the first sheep farmer there? We don’t know and we probably never will. He may have been. What is known is that for the next two or three hundred years the Grisdale family were often the only family living at Dowthwaite Head, although marriages did later bring in other names, such as the Atkinsons. To me this all smacks of a ‘founder event’ as they say in human population genetics.

Let me finish by considering numbers for a minute. As I have mentioned, John Grisdale was the only ‘yeoman’ free tenant living at Dowthwaite Head in 1524. He was also the earliest person bearing the Grisdale name I can find anywhere in Matterdale. He was probably married with children, and it’s not out of the question that there might have been one or two of his other relatives living with him – though if you look at the size of the place I wouldn’t imagine too many. If John was the first Matterdale Grisdale (for which there is no proof at all), then does this gel with the way the family multiplied in the decades to come?

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church records didn’t start until 1634, even though the church itself had been founded in 1580. There is a yawning gap in our knowledge between these two dates. Prior to the foundation of the church, the people of the valley had had to trudge in all weathers to Greystoke Church for baptisms, marriages and burials. They wrote at the time to the Bishop of Carlisle saying that the snow often prevented them getting to Greystoke – so they asked for a church to be authorized in Matterdale itself. I’ll tell the interesting story of Matterdale Church another time. Here we’re concerned with the sixteenth-century Grisdales. Despite the fact that the earliest ‘clerks’ of Matterdale Church failed to keep records of baptisms, marriages and deaths taking place there until the 1630s, there are in fact still a number of other sources and records from the sixteenth century.

The first of these is Greystoke Church’s Parish register. Between 1560 and 1597, we find sixteen Matterdale Grisdales mentioned, mostly their burials. All of them from Dowthwaite Head or simply from Matterdale. To this record we can add three others. First there are some sixteenth-century Grisdale wills. I have nine between 1565 and 1600. They are difficult to read but most of them say that they are the wills of people living at Dowthwaite Head. Next there are a couple of mentions in 1569 and 1571 of two Grisdales working as peat carriers: John Grysdel and Edward Gristal . They were bringing peat from the peat bogs at Flasco, near Penrith, to the German-run copper smelters at Keswick. Finally, in 1581, the Cumberland militia was called out yet again in the face of the never-ending threat from Scottish raids. At the Penrith Muster nine Matterdale ‘bowmen’ of military age turned out: John, William, Christopher, Robert, Edward, Richard and three named Thomas.

I won’t attempt here to describe or differentiate all these families nor relate them to their seventeenth-century descendants. What I’d like to highlight is this: By the latter part of the sixteenth century there were at the most a single handful of separate, though related, Grisdale families living at Dowthwaite Head and, by now, elsewhere in Matterdale. The situation wasn’t much different immediately after the records of Matterdale Church began. This was all about two or three generations after John Grisdale was found in 1524 at Dowthwaite Head. This would have been plenty of time to see such a growth in numbers.

So maybe John Grisdale, who was probably born in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, was the first to bear the name in Matterdale? Or maybe he wasn’t! It’s just a thought.

The Grisdale family came from the hills of Matterdale in Cumberland. This means that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries most of them were tenant farmers or were involved in rural trades, such as blacksmithing, either in Matterdale itself or in the neighbouring parishes of Watermillock, Threlkeld, Barton, Martindale and Patterdale. Of course some joined the clergy and others either emigrated or went into the army. Yet there were a surprising number who at one point or another made the journey to the nearby Cumbrian ports of Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport to follow a life at sea. Some of them, or their descendents, subsequently moved on to from there to Liverpool and London.

Whitehaven harbour in the nineteenth century

Whitehaven harbour in the nineteenth century

For example, when the American War of Independence started the port of Whitehaven set up a defence fund in early 1778. Local citizens gave quite generously. The contributors included two Grisdales: a certain John Grisdale of Queen Street, who gave £1. 1s , and another, listed mysteriously as ‘Grisdale of Quay’, who gave  2s. The Scottish-born and Whitehaven-trained American privateer John Paul Jones did in fact make a raid on the port on 23 April 1778, which wasn’t of much import really but has become part of American historical naval folklore. Then there was a poignant notice in a Whitehaven newspaper on 27 December 1777 which read,

Whitehaven, this morning: Workington mariner John Grisdale was found drowned in the harbour; “ he has left a wife, and several children.”

Also in Workington a mariner called Edward Grisdale married Mary Robinson in 1791. He was still there in 1811, as a Captain, living in Town-end. He was the owner of a ship named Mary – probably after his wife. It’s likely that his son, also called Edward and a mariner himself, went to Australia in 1834 and married a convict in Parramatta with whom he had shared the voyage to Sydney on the convict ship Numa. And finally in 1809 we find a Captain William Grisdale in London. He was the master of a Muscovy Company ship which was set to sail for Antigua. Now all of these sea-faring Grisdales found their roots in Matterdale. But their stories are for another time.

My little tale here concerns a Whitehaven mariner called Matthew Grisdale, who disappeared for some years in Victoria in Australia, only to return to Cumberland – where he died shortly thereafter.

Roper Street, Whitehaven

Roper Street, Whitehaven

The story starts with his grandfather, also called Matthew Grisdale, who was born in Martindale, Westmorland in 1852 and who, when young, had moved to Whitehaven and became a successful and ultimately wealthy ‘corn factor’. When he died in 1838 he divided his considerable fortune, somewhat unevenly it seems, between his surviving children. His first child was called John Grisdale (1785 -1852). In his will his father Matthew left him, from his estate of over £10,000, his ‘ house and shop warehouse and premises’ in Whitehaven plus £600 cash and £400 stock. John became a ‘Grocer’. This probably meant he ran some sort of wholesale grocery – think at least the equivalent of Robert Onedin in the TV series The Onedin Line. He carried on his business in a shop at 35 Roper Street, Whitehaven. On 9 October 1815 John married Hannah Watson in Whitehaven. The Watson family was itself a sea-going family. John and Hannah Grisdale had five children; Matthew was the second to be born. He was baptized in Whitehaven’s Holy Trinity Church on 5 April 1820. For reasons we don’t know, but probably influenced by the many family connections to the sea in Whitehaven, Matthew first went to sea as an apprentice in 1935 aged just 15. This means he was on track to become a Mate and maybe even a Captain. Matthew’s seaman’s records tell us that he got his 2nd mate’s ticket in April 1845 when he was 25 – he had a ‘scar on his forehead’. What ships he served on in his early years is unknown,  but given his subsequent career it is likely that at least some of the time he was aboard ships built and owned by the Whitehaven and Liverpool shipping line and ship builders of Thomas and John Brocklebank.

The Brocklebank Line Flag

The Brocklebank Line Flag

In the relatively short period that the government insisted upon each merchant seaman’s every voyage being recorded (the seamen hated the system because it just helped the government to know who it could impress into the Royal Navy) we find that Matthew made several voyages to and from Liverpool between 1845 and 1848 – always listed as being born in Whitehaven.

The last maritime record we have of him was in 1854. After arriving back in Liverpool, he was signed on as a Mate aboard the 338 ton Brocklebank-owned barque Patriot King – which had been built by the Brocklebank shipyard in Bransty, Whitehaven in 1832. And then Matthew disappears from our records. But not quite! In late 1857 in the Melbourne Argus the same notice appeared twice:

If Matthew Grisdale of Whitehaven in the County of Cumberland, England, who sailed from England to Melbourne in July, 1854, will communicate with Mr Clayton, solicitor, Melbourne, or with Messrs Brookbank and Helder, solicitors, Whitehaven, he will hear something to his advantage. Whitehaven 11 March 1857.

Clipper Marco Polo

Clipper Marco Polo

So it seems that Matthew had either jumped ship in Melbourne to join the Victoria gold rush, which thousands of other mariners did at the time, often leaving dozens of ships without any crew. Or (less likely) he had only signed on for the outward voyage, to work his passage to Australia and departed legally. The natural conjecture would be that he had sailed to Australia on the Patriot King, to which he had been signed in 1854. But had he? The Patriot King made many voyages but as far as I can see they were all to India, China, Batavia (Java) and even to South America for the Guano trade. I don’t think the Patriot King ever went to Australia? So maybe Matthew went on another ship. We are told by the Melbourne newspaper notices that he had left ‘England’ for Melbourne in July 1854. Looking at the shipping records it is possible he made his voyage on one of James’ Baines’ Black Ball Line ships regularly plying Liverpool to Melbourne ‘gold rush’ runs. Maybe on the famous Marco Polo commanded by Captain Wild:

The Marco Polo sailed from the Mersey on the 22nd July and reached the equator after 35 days, which included 10 days becalmed in the Bay of Biscay. The only good weather she encountered was on the run from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Otway, taking 26 days.

There were two or three deaths on the passage, one was a cabin passenger, William Gore Tipper. On the 1st October he was thrown overboard when the ship lurched. It was dark at the time and the ship was travelling at 11 knots, there was no chance of rescue.

Or possibly on the equally famous Star of the East which left Liverpool on the 4 July 1854 and arrived in Melbourne on 23 September 1854.

The newspaper notices in Melbourne in late 1857 were dated 11 March 1857 in Whitehaven and the Whitehaven contact was the firm of solicitors Brookbank and Helder, who dealt with all of the Grisdale family’s legal matters; as well as those of most of the major sea-faring families in the town. We have no idea whether Matthew saw these newspaper notices or not. He was most likely somewhere in the Victoria gold diggings at the time, trying to make his fortune. But it’s a pretty good conjecture that the ‘something to his advantage’ was that he had been left something significant in the will of his unmarried brother William, who had died in Whitehaven in January/February 1857. The dates fit.

The Orwell

The Orwell

Whatever the case, sooner or later Matthew either saw the notices or he decided that he wasn’t going to be one of the lucky few who would strike it rich at the diggings. In 1860 he paid ‘aged 40’ for his own passage home to England on the ship Orwell, which departed from Melbourne for London in July.  The ship made it safely back with Matthew aboard. No doubt when he made it home to Whitehaven he got his inheritance from his brother. Was he able to continue with his maritime career? Did he want to or have to? We don’t know. All we know is that less than four years after his arrival back in England Matthew Grisdale died aged just 43 in Cumberland. The index of his will says the following:

29 February 1864 – Letters of Administration of the Personal Estate and effects of Matthew Grisdale late of Whitehaven… Mariner in the Merchant Service a Bachelor deceased 13 February 1864 at North Mosses in the Parish of Arlecdon… (Effects under £800)

Alecdon is just a couple of miles inland from Whitehaven and many sea-farers retired there. There are also a number of family connections with the village – Matthew’s mother Hannah was even born there.

Maybe Matthew had became ill in Australia? Maybe he died so young for other reasons. Who can say? It’s just one short life, but a full and interesting one I think.


See also:

Some of the Grisdales I write about have left no known descendants. Others have hundreds, even thousands. One of this latter group is Wilfred Grisdale (b. 1782 in Matterdale). He was an early pioneer settler in Canada. His numerous family were to spread throughout Ontario, into neighbouring Michigan and beyond. I wrote about Wilfred’s family’s arrival in Canada in 1816/7 in an earlier article, as I did about some of his descendants who moved to Thorold/Welland County in Ontario. Here I will tell of those who moved to Michigan. It might take several articles to do the subject justice. Here I’ll stick to the bare facts.

Jenny Hill, Matterdale. Where Wilfred Grisdale the Canadian settler was born and raised

Jenny Hill, Matterdale. Where Wilfred Grisdale the Canadian settler was born and raised

We can begin with Wilfred’s third child, who was also called Wilfred. He was born in Carlisle in Cumberland in 1807 and baptized at Saint Mary’s Church on 30 June. He arrived in Canada with his family aged about nine or ten. With his siblings Wilfred spent the rest of his childhood in North Monaghan in the now County of Peterborough in Ontario.  In about 1829 he married the Irish-born Catholic Mary Maloney and the couple started to farm in Douro , only a few miles southwest on the other side of the emerging town of Peterborough. One significance of Wilfred marrying Mary Maloney was that, as was and is usual, he would have had to promise to bring up their children as Catholics. This the couple did and hence many of their descendants are Catholic to this day. The Grisdales had been Anglicans since the Protestant Reformation in England in the early sixteenth century. At least nine children followed over the next fourteen years: James (1830), Margaret (1834), Wilfred (1836), Edward 91839), John (1840), Catharine (1841), twins Ann and Mary (1843) and Ruth 1844.

In 1861 we find the family still in Douro. Twenty-three year old Wilfred (or Wilford as he is often now called in an Americanisation of his name) has become head of the family; father Wilfred having died in about 1844. He is farming 100 acres of wheat, peas, oats, potatoes and turnips. With him are his mother Mary, his brother John and his sister Ann. Sister Ruth is living nearby. Mary’s children James, Edward, and Mary had in the meantime died and daughter Catherine was living elsewhere. The farm was estimated to be worth $1,700.

Early Ontario Settlers

Early Ontario Settlers

The Douro farming community was predominantly Irish and Roman Catholic. The Grisdales’ neighbours included dozens of mother Mary’s Maloney family and many families with whom the Grisdales would soon marry, such as the Griegs, Tobins, Torpeys, O’Briens and McCues. The family in fact soon started to marry. In about 1864/5 Wilfred married Eliza Tobin, Ann married John Torpey, Ruth married John Grieg and soon John married Ellen O’Brien. Catherine would marry London-born James William Couchman and move to Saginaw, Michigan.

For reasons that I for one do not know, the family decided to sell up in Canada and in 1877 moved to Deerfield Township in Isabella County in Michigan. The move involved siblings Wilfred, John and Ann (Torpey), their mother Mary, plus Wilfred wife’s mother, and all their many Canadian-born children. Sister Ruth had earlier moved with her husband John Grieg and their family to nearby Midland County, Michigan, while sister Margaret (Prendergast) would also move with her family to Union Township.

So in total all of Wilfred Grisdale and Mary Maloney’s children had made the move to Michigan.

It might have been that they had heard about the opportunities to claim new ‘homesteading’ plots from Wilfred the Immigrant’s other son James (1812-1884). James with his wife Jane Green and their children had already moved to the Bay City area of Michigan in about 1869 from Welland County in Ontario (where other members of the family had moved to too).

Deerfield Township 1879

Deerfield Township 1879

With the money made from selling their Canadian farm Wilfred and his brother John bought plots of virgin land in the new Deerfield Township in Isabella County. We can see where they were from an 1879 plot plan of Deerfield (Click on the image and you can enlarge it. Wilfred’s (Wilford’s) plot is on the right two-thirds of the way up. John’s smaller plot is a little to the southwest). Unfortunately John was to die on 3 August 1880, aged only 40. He left behind a wife and several children who soon moved back to Peterborough County in Ontario.

Wilfred built a house there; a picture of which is shown below.

So it is this Wilfred Grisdale and his wife Eliza Tobin who are the ancestors of the Grisdales of Deerfield/Isabella County/Mount Pleasant. Wilfred, son of Wilfred, son of Canadian settler Wilfred Grisdale. And, just to confuse you more, the Canadian settler Wilfred’s father was also called Wilfred! He was an eighteenth-century Blacksmith in Matterdale. Wilfred like his father and grandfather was a farmer. He and his wife Eliza had twelve children of whom nine were still alive in 1900 and 1910: Jane (1865-1944), John (1865 – ), Wilfred Joseph (1870-1949), Mary (1872- ), Martin Joseph (1880-1955), Catherine (1882- ), Francis Joseph (1887-1952), Stephen (1889-1911) and Arthur Joseph (1894-1957).

Wilfred Grisdale's house in Deerfield

Wilfred Grisdale’s house in Deerfield

Wilfred died of chronic hepatitis in January 1900 and is buried in the Mount Pleasant Catholic Cemetery. His wife, Eliza Tobin died in 1916.

Here I’ll leave things for now. I might write later about the experiences of some of these early Michigan immigrants.

Towards the end of 1921 gold miner Fred Grisdale was dying of pulmonary tuberculosis in hospital in the mining community of Kingman in Mohave County, Arizona. He told people he was from Oregon and gave the names of some friends there and in Los Angeles, but he refused to name his parents or even mention his wife and child. What was Fred’s story?

Fred died on Christmas Eve 1921. His death certificate gives his age, 43, and his Oregon place of birth, but regarding the names of his father and mother it says that he ‘refused to tell’ and ‘information refused’. Six days later the Mohave County Miner (Kingman, Arizona) announced:

Fred Grisdale a miner aged about 43 years died at the county hospital in Kingman last Saturday after an illness covering a long period. Death was due to tuberculosis. Deceased gave the names of friends in Oregon and Los Angeles but so far nothing has been heard from them and it is probable that burial will take place here.

So Fred was buried in Section 17, Lot 2, Grave 31 of Kingman’s Mountain View Cemetery.

We know that exposure to silica dust increases the risk of pulmonary tuberculosis, particularly among gold miners who drill through hard rock. And Fred was a gold miner. Where had he come from? Who were his family? And why did he refuse to name them?

Baker City, circa 1900

Baker City, circa 1900

Frederick Grisdale was born on 8 November 1878 in Oregon, probably in the town of Roseburg in Douglas County. He was the fifth child and second son of Thomas Grisdale and Elmira Clements. Thomas had arrived in the United States in 1850, aged 11, with his brother Joseph and parents Doctor Grisdale and Mary Greene. They came from the cotton mill town of Bolton in Lancashire, England. I wrote about the family previously; how they had first moved to the cotton mills of Pennsylvania and how, later, Thomas set off on a long journey across the breadth of the continent, via Montana, Iowa and Missouri, marrying and having children on the way. By 1873 the new family had reached Salem in Oregon and then moved to Roseburg, where Fred was probably born, and from there to their final destination in the gold-boom town of Baker City, Oregon. In 1880 Thomas was a brick layer in Baker City and the children were in the local school.

As Baker City grew in population—300 in 1870, 1,200 in 1880, 2,600 in 1890, 6,600 in 1900–all the downtown frame buildings were replaced by buildings constructed of brick and native tuff stone quarried at Pleasant Valley. The most impressive brick building still standing on Main Street is the elegant Geiser Grand Hotel, which the Warshauer brothers, Jake and Harry, constructed in 1889. It went by the name Hotel Warshauer until purchased by the Geiser family about 1900.

Thomas Grisdale probably worked helping to construct some of these buildings. One local historian writes, ‘Baker City was a bawdy place in the late 19th century. One block of Main Street boasted five saloons and several brothels, yet more refined tastes also had a place in the “Queen City of the Mines.” An opera house lent the Oregon hinterlands a little taste of Europe, and the ornate Geiser Grand Hotel was considered the finest between Salt Lake City and Seattle.’

The growth of the town was all due to the discovery of gold. ‘The area had been a mere way station for pioneers on the Oregon Trail, but the region’s fate changed in 1861, when the discovery of gold in nearby Griffin Gulch sparked decades of frenzied mining in the Blue Mountains. Towns sprang up, among them Baker City, named for Edward Dickinson Baker, the U.S. senator from Oregon who died fighting in the Civil War. By the beginning of the 20th century, Baker City was home to 6,700 people… ‘

Placer Mine, Baker City, Oregon

Placer Mine, Baker City, Oregon

To start with the Baker City mines were so-called ‘placer’ mines. ‘Placer mining is frequently used for precious metal deposits (particularly gold) and gemstones, both of which are often found in alluvial deposits—deposits of sand and gravel in modern or ancient stream beds, or occasionally glacial deposits. The metal or gemstones, having been moved by stream flow from an original source such as a vein, is typically only a minuscule portion of the total deposit. Since gems and heavy metals like gold are considerably more dense than sand, they tend to accumulate at the base of placer deposits.’

In Baker City, the placer operations involved running water and gravel through sluice boxes to sift out the heavy gold flakes and maybe also a few valuable nuggets. By 1900 both Fred Grisdale and his older brother Thomas Edward were working as placer miners near Baker City.

We don’t know if Fred and his brother spent any money they made in the taverns, dancing houses and brothels of Baker City, though it might be a good guess. But something must have happened to estrange Fred from his family. Whether it was his marriage in 1904 to Wisconsin-born Laura Hamblin, or something else, remains a mystery. Whatever the case, Frederick moved from Oregon sometime in the first decade of the twentieth century, either before or after his marriage. One historian of the family wrote that Fred had, ‘left home at an early age and was never heard from again’. He had simply disappeared from his family’s lives.

A Missoula Mine

A Missoula Mine

But we can follow him. By 1910 he was living in the Montana gold-mining town of Missoula with his wife Laura and Montana-born daughter Evelyn. Here we find the first clear signs of his refusal to say anything of his parents. In the Federal census, while his wife Laura gave the places of birth of her parents (New York and Canada), Fred refused to say. The entries read, ‘unknown’.  Freddy was still a miner, though by now working underground. Like Baker City, Missoula was a gold and silver boom town. The town was founded in 1860 and named Hellgate Trading Post while still part of Washington Territory. By 1866, the settlement had moved five miles upstream and renamed Missoula Mills before being shortened to Missoula. In 1910 one downtown part was still called Hellgate Township and this is where the family lived.

Tonopah Extension Mine, 1912

Tonopah Extension Mine, 1912

But being a miner was a precarious business and miners were constantly moving in search of work. Sometime over the course of the next few years the family moved again, this time to Tonopah in Nye County, Nevada. In 1918, Fred was working for the Tonopah Extension Mining Company and living in East Pine Street. A History of Nye County gives a little flavour of how miners were hired in Tonopah:

In the era when miners worked for a day’s pay, a person obtained a job by “rustling” at the collar of the shaft. That is, he put in an appearance at the shaft, making it known that he was looking for a job. The old-time mine foreman did the hiring, not the manager or superintendent, although they might recommend someone to the foreman. The person who was hiring seldom used an employment agency, preferring to look at the man he might hire. The foreman wanted to see how healthy the prospective miner looked and whether he seemed capable. If the foreman did not personally know the miner, and if the man did not come well recommended from someone whom the foreman respected, he would take the man into his office and quiz him. He might not even ask about mines, but he could tell by the way the man talked whether or not he knew anything about mining. Mines had varying hiring times, but a lot of miners rustled at noon when the foreman came out of the shaft for lunch, though some miners tried to catch the foreman as he went down into the mine in the morning. Sometimes an unemployed miner would learn about a job from relatives or perhaps a friendly person in a bar might say, “Christ, there’s a bunch of guys quit last night. You’d better get out there tomorrow morning.” One thing that would finish a miner in search of a job faster than anything was for him to follow an ambulance up to the mine. People in town knew when there was an accident; they would hear three blasts on the bell or whistle and the ambulance would head for the shaft. Though foremen were sometimes gruff, had rough exteriors, and might not be able to give a man a job, some were known to give their lunch to a hungry man.

Spokane, Washington, circa 1920

Spokane, Washington, circa 1920

Fred was drafted into the US Army on 12 September 1918 in Tonopah. He gives his occupation, employer, date of birth and his wife’s name and address, but no mention of his parents of place of birth. Whether Fred actually had to serve I don’t know. It’s possible he was sent to Los Angeles, (as his brother was to be), and there met the ‘friends’ referred to in the newspaper notice I started with. But in any case, the First World War was over and with it the demand for many of the war materials mined in Spokane was drying up. The family had to move again, this time to the mining town of Spokane in Washington State.

In the 1920 trade directory for Spokane, Fred is listed as a miner living in College Avenue and his wife is given as Laura. But this information was probably already out of date, because in the 1920 census his wife Laura and 11 year-old daughter are living without Fred in Douglas Crescent, Spokane, and Laura is said to be ‘divorced’! There is no trace of Fred anywhere. Had Fred left Laura? Had she thrown him out? Was Fred already ill? Who knows.

Kingman Arizona

Kingman Arizona

So Fred, divorced from his wife, estranged from his family, set off one last time to seek work in the mines. This time he found himself in Kingman in Mohave County, Arizona. Kingman was founded in 1882, when Arizona was only a ‘Territory’. There were gold, turquoise and other mines. Being at an elevation of around 3,300 feet, it’s not quite as hot as one might imagine. But Fred was probably already ill and if he worked in the Kingman mines it can’t have been for long.

And here it is that I end this sad tale. Poor Fred would never mention his parents to his last breath. He didn’t even mention his former wife and his only daughter. When his ‘friends’ in Oregon and Los Angeles were contacted there was no reply. Did his daughter ever know what happened to her father? It seems his family back in Oregon did not.

Mountain View Cemetery, Kingman, Arizona

Mountain View Cemetery, Kingman, Arizona

So if you’re ever passing Kingman, Arizona, pop into the Mountain View Cemetery and think about lonely Freddy, the grandson of an enterprising Bolton cotton weaver, a descendant of the Matterdale Grisdales; a man for whom life didn’t seem to go quite right.

In an earlier article I wrote about a Solomon Grisdale who became Curate of the tiny and poor Durham country parish of Kirk Merrington. I told the story of his ‘Cow’. At that time I still didn’t know from which Grisdale family he came. I now do. Also a correspondent has helped with more details of his life. So this is a slightly longer and more detailed story of Curate Solomon Grisdale’s life.

Solomon Grisdale was born in Patterdale, Westmorland in 1764. He was christened as ‘son of Solomon Grisdale’ on 26 May 1764. Solomon senior was the son of Joseph Grisdale and Jane Martin of Dockray in Matterdale; he married Ann Bewsher at Barton (the principle church for Patterdale) in 1747. They lived initially in Patterdale and had the following children christened there: Joseph 1749 (christened in Barton Church), Ann 1749, Elizabeth 1754, John 1756, Jane 1759, Agnes 1762 and then Solomon in 1764. They subsequently moved to Swinside in Matterdale. Solomon senior died there in 1799 aged 82. In his Will he referred to his surviving children, Ann, the wife of Daniel Thwaites , Joseph, Jane, the wife of Thomas Graves, Agnes and Solomon, who he refers to as a ‘clerk’.

Rose Castle, Palace of the Bishops of Carlisle

Rose Castle, Palace of the Bishops of Carlisle

Although Solomon seems to have been in for a troubled life, things started out quite well. His ‘patron’ was his educated relative, the Rev. Dr. Browne Grisdale, who would become the Chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle. But in 1787 Browne was the Rector of Bowness, and Solomon was ordained Deacon and made Browne’s Assistant Curate on 22 July. The ordination took place in Rose Castle, the salubrious palace of the Bishops of Carlisle. A year later in the same place Solomon was appointed ‘priest’ and curate of Burgh by Sands. He was described as a ‘lit’, which is: ‘The common abbreviation for ‘literate’ or ‘literatus’. Its use indicates that a clergyman did not possess a degree, but that he was judged by the bishop to possess sufficient learning to qualify for ordination.’ Solomon was still curate of Burgh in 1790. Sometime over the next few years he moved to Durham. Why had he changed Dioceses?

Kirk Merrington Church, County Durham

Kirk Merrington Church, County Durham

Solomon married a Mary Earl in Lamesley in County Durham on 16 June 1803. The couple had at least four children: Mary (1803), Joseph (1805), Jonathan (1807) and Ann (1809), all in Merrington, Durham. He was consecrated curate of Kirk Merrington in 1814, having probably already been schoolmaster. Referring to the marriage in Lamesley, my correspondent says, ‘Lamesley does not appear to have any connection to the families at this point. At this time, Solomon was already curate at Merrington so one may wonder why the marriage was not held in his parish. When we consider the date – 16 June 1803 and the date of daughter Mary’s birth – 20 Dec 1803, we may have an answer. Solomon had previously been curate of Rothbury in Northumberland and when I looked at the parish records to check the dates, I came across his predecessor’s burial. Jonathan Earl buried Jan 1801 aged 45. I believe he was Mary’s half brother…  This could be how Solomon and Mary met. Perhaps Mary was housekeeper for Jonathan and stayed on.’

And then there is the story of Solomon’s cow:

Solomon Grisdale, Curate of Merrington, who was very poor, and had a numerous family, lost his only cow. Mr. Surtees determined to raise a subscription for another cow; and waited on the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry (the late Earl Cornwallis), then Dean of Durham, and owner of the Great Tithes of Merrington, to ask what he would give? “Give,” said his Lordship, “why a cow to be sure. Go, Mr. Surtees, to Woodifield, my steward, and tell him to give you as much money as will buy the best cow you can find.” Mr. Surtees, who had not expected above a five-pound note, at most, exclaimed, “My Lord, I hope you’’ ride to Heaven upon the back of that cow!” Awhile afterwards he was saluted in the College, by the late Lord Barrington, with – “Surtees, what is the absurd speech that I hear you have been making to the Dean?” “I see nothing absurd in it,” was the reply: “when the Dean rides to Heaven on the back of that cow, many of you Prebendaries will be glad to lay hold of her tail.”

I hope he got the new cow!

Robert Surtees (1779 – 1834) was a historian and antiquary who wrote The History and Antiquities of the county Palatine of Durham (1816). His memoirs were later published in 1852, from which I derive this tale.

Bishop James Cornwallis

One interesting little connection is that Bishop James Cornwallis, who offered to buy Grisdale a replacement cow, was the brother of the Earl Charles Cornwallis who had been the commander of the British forces at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, and who was accompanied there by his friend the Rev Benjamin Grisdale, a distant relative of our poor Solomon, and the brother of the Rev. Dr. Browne Grisdale I mentioned before.

Just before Solomon’s death in 1818, Merrington was visited by representatives of the Select Committee for the Education of the Poor, where they found “five schools in which 104 children are educated”. One of the schoolmasters (and the curate) was Solomon and he told the visitors that “a considerable part of the poorer class are without the means of education and are desirous of possessing them”.

There is quite a story regarding his death. I thank a correspondent for providing this information. The History of the Urban District of Spennymoor by James J Dodd (1897) stated:

Solomon Grisedale appears to have been pursued by his unfortunate destiny right up to the end of his days. He finished by committing suicide, and the stains of his blood can still be discerned on the floor of the old vicarage at Merrington.

It does look as if the Church ‘closed ranks’ and attempted some type of cover up. I’ll leave that for another time.

Solomon it seems was a ‘very poor’ but good man, although obviously troubled. But he can’t have been that poor because his son Joseph fared somewhat better; he was able to study at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (which doesn’t come cheap), and became both a clergyman (curate of Wattlefield) and headmaster of King Edward’s Free Grammar School in Wymondham, Norfolk. He died aged 88 in 1893.

A truly staggering number of the Matterdale Grisdale clan became priests. Some had the benefit of an Oxford education (mostly at Queen’s College), and went on to great things. Others did not, but they were no less worthy. I have written about some of these ‘Priestly Grisdales’ already. Here I’d like to start to look at some others. I’ll start with John Grisdale, who between 1694 and 1722 was the curate, or ‘parson’, of Troutbeck Chapel in Westmorland, as well as the schoolmaster of the village school.

John Grisdale (an e was latter added to the name) was born in 1654 in Hollas in Matterdale. He was the son of Michael Grisdale (abt. 1615 – 1694) and his first wife Dorothy. Hollas is now the farm called ‘The Hollows’, near Matterdale Church.  The Hollas Grisdales were to have many connections with the Church. John’s uncle, also called John (1609 – 1682), was himself a ‘clerk’; quite possibly one of the early curates of Matterdale. Our John’s older brother Thomas (1643 – 1718) was himself a long-serving curate of Matterdale, while his younger half-brother Richard (b. 1667) was very likely also the curate of Crook Chapel near Kendal.

John married sometime prior to 1685 and his son Michael Grisedale, named after his father, was baptized in ‘Kendal’ on 23 March 1685. The baptism record shows John being ‘of Kentmere’

Kentmere Church

Kentmere Church

‘Johannes Grassdale’ was licensed in 1682 as curate of Kentmere Chapel in Westmorland. In 1691 he ‘exhibited’ there. Each clergyman was obliged to ‘exhibit’ his ordination, institution and induction papers once in each Archdeacon’s incumbency. A number of exhibits were usually taken at each spring Visitation. ‘Exhibit Books record the dates and places of the clergyman’s admittance as deacon and priest, and details about his institution to his current benefice.’ Some clergymen, particularly curates, will appear more than once, since their licences were regularly renewed.

John was still curate of Kentmere in 1701, but it was noted that, “Johannes Grisedale was also schoolmaster at Troutbeck; he had exhibited in 1691 for Kentmere but was described as ‘really serving without licence at Troutbeck.’” John had become the curate of Troutbeck and the village schoolmaster in 1694. He would remain curate until 1722, when he probably died.

In George Henry Joyce’s Some Records of Troutbeck (1924) we read:

1694-95. Mr. Grisedale came to be Minister at Troutbeck this year at a Salary of £10. The said John Grisedale agrees to perform all things belonging to the office of a Minister and diligently to keep and teach a School, as well for Petty, as for Gramar Scholars. The Articles of Agreement by John Grisedale and 43 other names have been duly subscribed to, and are well approved by Wm. Wilson, Rector of Windermere.

Joyce, who was Troutbeck’s schoolmaster for over forty years, adds, ‘The Schoolmaster was required to teach English, latin, greek, and the first four rules of arithmetic. He had to sign a Bond in the sum of Ten Pounds of lawful English money to do his duty, or else not to be admitted to his office’.

Town Head, Troutbeck

Town Head, Troutbeck

Before telling a little more of Troutbeck Chapel and School, what more do we know of John’s life on Troutbeck? Except that he was married with at least one son I know little, but we do know where he lived. In A Westmorland Village (1904), S. H. Scott wrote that after having visited the important Browne family house on the main road in Town Head, the northern most hamlet of Troutbeck, we can proceed:

Up the lane, round a sharp corner, we come to a house very much overgrown with creepers and roses. In the eighteenth century it was the house of Parson Grisedale, parish priest of Troutbeck, and its interior, for it has been very little altered since that time, gives a good idea of the simple surroundings of a Westmorland parson at that time. The ‘house’ has a floor of the familiar blue flags; the ceiling is low, and of course there are the oak beams and joists.

There is an oak cabinet, dated 1705, which bears the initials of John Grisedale and his wife, and a ‘locker’ in the wall by the chimney corner has the same initials and the date 1703.

The small house next Parson Grisedale’s old house was also in the possession of the Grisedale family at one time.

Troutbeck Church

Troutbeck Church

There was a chapel at Troutbeck since well before 1558. The church we see today is the result of a major rebuilding in 1736. The structures that John Grisedale had seen and served were knocked down to their foundation. The rebuilding followed a visitation from the Archdeacon of Richmond (Troutbeck was in the Archdeaconry of Richmond in the Diocese of Chester), which said the following: ‘We present the Chapel of Troutbeck the covering thereof not being in sufficient repair, the walls not being well plastered, and the windows shattered and broken.’

A plan of the former church was made in 1707, in John’s time there; it shows the design and positioning of all the windows and doors. There was also a steeple which in 1735 was ‘too unstable that it was likely to fall’. The bell was removed as a precaution.

The school where John taught was built in 1637. In the agreement to build the school it was stipulated that it should have ‘walles made to be in length eight yards within the walles, four yards and three quarters breadth within the house and four yards and a half in the side walls and to make sufficient chimney in the end of the aforesaid house from the ground of strand, and a flue’.

An article in the Troutbeck Parish Magazine of 1984 tells us:

Troutbeck School had an ancient foundation in 1637. By a piece of good fortune, exact details of the building specifications and names of the builders still exist. £5 a year was allocated to pay a master to instruct in ”English, Latin, Greek writing, Arithmetick and good disciplining” for which the parents paid sixpence a Quarter, although poor children were taught free. During the reign of Charles II, all the teaching became free, making Troutbeck one of the first free schools in the country. In 1760 a stable was built at the school for the use of those who came to church on horseback. The school was rebuilt in 1853, and then at a cost of £258, raised by public subscription and a sale of work, in 1885 it was approximately its present size.

George Joyce collected entries from Troutbeck school’s note book. Here are some I like:

One day the door was suddenly burst open, a rough head was protruded into the room, and a 72 loud voice was heard to say, “Which of you lile divvils left my yett oppen?” The irate farmer’s sheep had evidently strayed thro’ the open gate.

One Shrove Tuesday the children barred the door against the master and demanded a half holiday. This was a breach of discipline, but as there was no other harm done they got their holiday according to custom.

Many children absent—Sheepshearing—only 3 boys attended.

Snow falling heavily all day, consequently the geography lesson was omitted.

An hour lost through scholars being permitted to go hunting.

A liberal amount of cane has been dealt out this week to check a greater amount of talking than usual.

Such was the life of curate and schoolmaster John Grisedale.

Troutbeck Village

Troutbeck Village