Archive for January, 2014

Thomas Grisdale was born in 1639, the son of Symund Grisdale and his first wife Jane. The family lived and farmed in Borrowscale in Matterdale. In 1664 Thomas married Dorothy Rakestreye in Matterdale church. Many people all over the world think that Thomas and Dorothy are their distant ancestors. They are, I’m afraid to say, most likely wrong. As I will show, father Symund together with Thomas and Dorothy and their children moved away from Matterdale never to return. While I have known this for some years, until now I have never been able to find out what happened to Thomas’s many children. Here I can just partly do so. In addition, I’ll show who actually were the Matterdale ancestors of those who have Thomas and Dorothy in their family trees.

Norman Cragg Farm, Hutton Roof, Cumberland

Norman Crag Farm, Hutton Roof, Cumberland

Thomas Grisdale married twenty-three year-old Watermillock-born Dorothy Rakestreye on 25 April 1664 in Matterdale church. Several children soon followed: Ann 1665, Thomas 1667, Jane 1669, Margaret 1673-1673, Solomon 1674, Dorothy 1677, Jonathan 1690, Charles 1682 and Joseph 1685, The parish records give the place of birth of all these children as Borrowscale (with various spellings). But sometime soon after the baptism of Joseph in November 1685 the family moved away. In fact they moved north to live, and probably farm, in Norman Crag in Hutton Roof in the parish of Greystoke. In Norman Crag Thomas and Dorothy had another child who they baptized Samuel in Greystoke church in 1688.

Father Symund Grisdale, said to be “now of Ormand Crag late of Matterdale being about 86 years of age”, was buried in Greystoke on 24 December 1692. A few days later on the 9th of January 1693 (92 in the old calendar), Thomas and Dorothy’s daughter Dorothy was also buried there, she being “the daughter of Thomas Grisedale of Ormand Cragg in Hutton Roof”. Finally on 23 June 1696, Thomas’s wife Dorothy (nee Rakestreye) – “the wife of Thomas Grisedall of Normand Cragg” – was also buried in Greystoke. And that’s the last we hear of the family. Thomas seems to have still been alive in 1696, as were most of his children. Where did they go to next? Before I offer some thoughts on this mystery, let me return to the question of who were the actual ancestors of certain Matterdale Grisdale lines if they weren’t Thomas and Dorothy.

In the case of daughter Dorothy (born 1677), she clearly died at the age of 15 in 1693 in Hutton Roof. This definitively excludes her from being the Dorothy who married Lancelot Dawson in Matterdale in 1712. We know in fact that this Dorothy died in Matterdale in January 1775 said to have been “aged 85”, implying a birth in about 1692 – I would suggest in Watermillock.

Turning to Dorothy and Thomas’s other children. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of them ever returned to Matterdale. Those people who see Thomas and Dorothy Grisdale as being their ancestors do so, I believe, because they see son Joseph born in 1685 as being the only Joseph who could have married Jane Martin in Matterdale in November 1709. One person makes such a conjecture and others simply copy it. But there is another Joseph Grisdale who I believe is the person who married Jane Martin and from this couple countless Grisdale families descend, including many of those about whom I have written stories here. The Joseph who married Jane Martin was in all likelihood born the son of another Thomas Grisdale in Ulcatrow in 1687. Now the farm at Ulcatrow is geographically in Matterdale itself but lies within the parish of Watermillock, and that is where Joseph’s baptism took place and was recorded.

But again, what therefore became of Thomas and Dorothy Grisdale’s children, and for that matter Thomas himself? After years of finding no traces, I believe that I have found one pretty conclusively and another one quite probably.

Son Solomon (born in 1674 at Borrowscale) resurfaces in, of all places, Dublin in Ireland. In 1701 we find a Solomon Grisdale working as a mathematics teacher in Fishamble Street in Dublin.

John Whalley was a notorious quack and astrologer, who flourished in Dublin in the latter part of the 17th century. ‘He learned the trade of shoemaking; but found the compiling of prophetic almanacks, compounding quack medicines, and practising necromancy more profitable employments.’ In the English edition of Ptolemy’s astrological treatise, the Quadripartitum, Whalley recommended Solomon Grisdale and Jonathan Hill “masters of the mathematical school next door to the post office in Fishamble Street, Dublin”.

In A history of the City of Dublin by J. T. Gilbert published in 1854-59, we can also read: “Next to the Post office was a mathematical school kept in 1701 by Solomon Grisdale and Jonathan Hill.”

There can be little or no doubt that this Solomon Grisdale teaching mathematics in Dublin in 1701 was the son of Thomas and Dorothy Grisdale of Matterdale and, later, of Hutton Roof. Simply and literally there is no other Solomon it could be. How and when Solomon moved to Dublin, where and how he had gained a mathematical education, and whether he moved to Dublin alone or with some of his family remain mysteries.

Next we find three baptisms in Church of Ireland (COI, i.e. Protestant) churchs in Dublin: Mary  Grisdell baptized in 1696 in St. Michan’s COI church in 1696, the daughter of Thomas and Mary; then Hannah Greisdel, baptized in St. Mary’s (COI) in 1698, daughter of Thomas and Mary; then John Grasdell, also baptized in St. Mary’s in 1701, son of Thomas and Mary. Could this Thomas be the son of Thomas and Dorothy?

Then we find various interesting entries in the registers of the protestant church of St. Peter and St. Kevin in Dublin starting with the burial in December 1735 of an Ann Grisdell. But then we also see burials for various Grizells, Grissialls and Grisells with addresses all close to the church and indeed close to Fishamble Street: Mr Grisell from Lazy Hill (now Townsend Street) in 1713, Mrs Grisell of Brides Street in 1710, a child of Mr Grisell of Kevin Street in 1700, Cathren Grissial in 1745, John Grizell in 1733 and Thomas Grisell in 1734.

There are even more people called Grisell/Grizell in Dublin at this time (and it is interesting to note not later and not earlier): Joseph Grisell was buried in St Audeon’s (COI) in 1704, Ann Grizell was baptized in St Mark’s COI in 1736, the daughter of Alexander and Brackney. Ann Maria Grizell of Lazer’s Hill (the same place as Lazy Hill) was also baptized in St. Mark’s in 1738, the daughter of William and Mary. This William and Mary Grizell of Lazer’s Hill had three more children baptized in Dublin: William Grizell in 1742 at St. Mark’s, Ann in 1746 in Fleet Street church and Catherine in 1748 in St. Mark’s.

Could these various people called Grizell/Grisell be related to Dublin Solomon and Thomas Grisdale or even Ann Grisdell who died in 1735? It’s an avenue I think worth exploring.

It’s an ongoing research.

It is perhaps not a well known fact that between one-half and two-thirds of white immigrants to the American colonies between the 1630s and the American Revolution had come under indentures. Indentured servitude was a form of debt bondage, established in the early years of the American colonies and elsewhere, including in the Caribbean. It was in many ways a form of voluntary or involuntary slavery. The belief that most early American immigrants were akin to the Pilgrim Fathers is a myth. One Cumberland man who sold himself into such bondage to the planters of Jamaica was Joseph Grisdell.

A half million Europeans went as indentured servants to the Caribbean before 1840.

Most were young men, with dreams of owning their land or striking it rich quick would essentially sell years of their labor in exchange for passage to the islands. However, forceful indenture also provided part of the servants: contemporaries report that youngsters were sometimes tricked into servitude in order to be exploited in the colonies. The landowners on the islands would pay for a servant’s passage and then provide them with food, clothes, shelter and instruction during the agreed upon term. The servant would then be required to work in the landowner’s (master) field for a term of bondage (usually four to seven years). During this term of bondage the servant had a status similar to a son of the master. For example they were not allowed to marry without the master’s permission. They could own personal property. They could also complain to a local magistrate about mistreatment that exceeded community norms. However, his contract could be sold or given away by his master. After the servant’s term was complete he became independent and was paid “freedom dues”. These payments could take the form of land which would give the servant the opportunity to become an independent farmer or a free laborer. As free men with little money they became a political force that stood in opposition to the rich planters.

White Indentured Servants in America

White Indentured Servants in America

But indentured servants were exploited as cheap labour and could be severely maltreated. ‘The seventeenth-century French buccaneer Alexander Exquemelin reported malnourishment and deadly beatings by the servants’ masters and generally harsher treatment and labour than that of their slaves on the island of Hispaniola. The reason being that working the servants excessively spared the masters’ slaves, which were held as perpetual property as opposed to the temporary services of servants.’

The Caribbean landowners’ reputation as cruel masters became a deterrence to the potential indentured servant. In the 17th century, the islands became known as death traps, as between 33 to 50 percent of indentured servants died before they were freed, many from yellow fever, malaria and other diseases.

But this reputation didn’t deter Joseph Grisdell. On 16 October 1736 Joseph signed a four year indenture bond with the London ‘chapman’ William Burge to serve in Jamaica, no doubt on a sugar or tobacco plantation. It must be said he must have been desperate.

Joseph gave his age as 19, his occupation as ‘sawyer’, and his place of residence as Blackhill in Cumberland. He said that his mother lived in Dublin.

The fact that Joseph gave his origin as Cumberland strongly suggests that his name was in fact Grisdale. Grisdell was not an unusual spelling of the name, particularly when people moved away. As far as I can tell the ‘Blackhill’ in Cumberland most likely refers to a small village two miles south of Carlisle, variously called Blackhill, Blackhell, Blackhall or Blackwell, the name deriving from the black heathy district, being part of the Inglewood forest.

Under the terms of these Agreements, the “Master” would provide the “Servant” with his passage to Jamaica, clothes, food and drink, washing, lodging, and a small annual salary, and the “Servant” would agree to serve in Jamaica for a certain number of years, in Joseph’s case four. One such agreement made in 1739 by Patrick Burke of Dublin reads as follows:

London, the 30th Day of June
One Thousand, Seven Hundred and 1739

Be it remember’d that Patrick Burke of Dublin in the Kingdom of Ireland Bookkeeper his Father and Mother being dead, did by Indenture bearing like Date herewith, agree to serve Joseph Whilton of London Chapman, or his assigns four years in Jamaica In the Employment of a Bookkeeper at 30 li [i.e. £30] per annum Current Money of Jamaica and did declare himself to be then of the Age of Eighteen Years, a single Person, no Apprentice, nor Covenant or Contracted Servant to any other Person or Persons. And the said Master did thereby Covenant at his own Cost, to send his said Servant to the said Plantation; and at the like Costs to find him all necessary [crossed out – Clothes] Meat, Drink, Washing, and Lodging as other Servants in such Cases are usually provided for, and allowed, excepted provided he understands the business of a Bookkeeper.

Patrick Burke
Allow’d the 28th of July 1739
before me Micajah Perry, Mayor
[then Lord Mayor of London]

indentured servant advertisement

indentured servant advertisement

Now a ‘chapman’ like Joseph Whilton in Patrick Burke’s case or William Burge in Joseph Grisdell’s case was a buyer or merchant. They entered into indentures with multiple poor English and Irish people, shipped them to America or the Caribbean and there sold them on to the planters. When the ship arrived, the captain would often advertise in a newspaper that indentured servants were for sale. One example of such an advert in America read:

Just imported, on board the Snow Sally, Captain Stephen Jones, Master, from England, A number of healthy, stout English and Welsh Servants and Redemptioners, and a few Palatines [Germans], amongst whom are the following tradesmen, viz. Blacksmiths, watch-makers, coppersmiths, taylors, shoemakers, ship-carpenters and caulkers, weavers, cabinet-makers, ship-joiners, nailers, engravers, copperplate printers, plasterers, bricklayers, sawyers and painters. Also schoolmasters, clerks and book-keepers, farmers and labourers, and some lively smart boys, fit for various other employments, whose times are to be disposed of. Enquire of the Captain on board the vessel, off Walnut-street wharff, or of MEASE and CALDWELL.

This was the fate awaiting Joseph when he arrived in Jamaica. Whether Joseph died in Jamaica or ever returned home is unknown. But what Grisdale family of Cumberland did he come from and what was the Dublin connection? There was a Dublin connection with the Matterdale Grisdales at this time, a subject to which I will return.

Patrick Burke's Jamaican Indenture, 1739

Patrick Burke’s Jamaican Indenture, 1739

“A mighty meeting there was and is to this day, near Sedbergh, which I gathered in the name of Jesus.”

George Fox, in his journal

In England the seventeenth century has often been called the Century of Dissent. Many poor and oppressed people, and even some not so poor and oppressed, started to reject the authority and brutality of the church and crown. Some Puritans left for Holland and from there made their way to America – the Pilgrim Fathers. But many dissenters remained. Eventually this discontent led to the English Revolution and the execution of King Charles the First, and the advent of the Levellers and Diggers. But this was also the background to the rise of the Society of Friends, the Quakers. If any one man can be called the founder of the Quakers it was George Fox, who one day in 1652 arrived in Brigflatts near Sedbergh in Cumbria.

While travelling through the northern Dales making contact with and preaching to fellow Friends and Seekers, George Fox had arrived at Pendle Hill in Lancashire:

As we travelled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle-Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top.

This George did ‘with difficulty’ because the hill was ‘very steep and high’.

From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in which places he had a great people to be gathered.

George Fox Preaching in a Tavern circa 1650

George Fox Preaching in a Tavern circa 1650

In a local inn that night Fox wrote a ‘paper to the priests and professors’ declaring ‘the day of the Lord…’. It was after this, he later wrote, ‘that the Lord opened unto me, and let me see a great people in white raiment by a river side, coming to the Lord, and the place I saw them in was about Wensleydale and Sedbergh’. So that is where George now headed.

Having preached in Wensleydale, Fox wrote that he ‘went also through Grisdale, and several others of those Dales, in which some were convinced’. From here he was directed to find Richard Robinson, one of the leaders of the group who lived at Brigflatts near Sedbergh: ‘He passed through a village of flax-weavers whose settlements lay in the low flatts that bordered the rushing river Rawthey a mile or two outside of Sedbergh Town.’ Fox wrote:

So when I came to Richard Robinson’s I declared the Everlasting Truth to him, and yet a dark jealousy rose up in him after I had gone to bed, that I might be somebody that was come to rob his house, and he locked all his doors fast. And the next day I went to a separate meeting at Justice Benson’s where the people generally was convinced, and this was the place that I had seen a people coming forth in white raiment; and a mighty meeting there was and is to this day near Sedbergh which I gathered in the name of Jesus.

‘This identifies Brigflatts as the place in the vision – the riverside refers to the Rawthey which flows past the end of Brigflatts Lane and the reference to “people in white raiment” could be a reference to the large community of Flax Weavers, living in the lane at the time, who were making white linen.’

Later that week Fox goes on to preach in the churchyard of Sedbergh church and then on to the great open-air meeting on Firbank Fell which is now usually identified as the start of the Quaker movement. The crag upon which Fox preached is now known as Fox’s Pulpit and is a popular destination for those tracing the origins of the Society.

Many Quakers see the meeting and sermon on Firbank Fell as the real start of the future success of the movement. At ‘Fox’s Pulpit’ there is still an inscription that reads:


Brigflatts Friends Meeting House

Brigflatts Friends Meeting House

‘A permanent Meeting was settled by Fox at Brigflatts later in 1652 and has continued uninterrupted until this day. The Meeting House was built 23 years later and in 1677 Fox returned here with his wife Margaret and her daughter. He records that about 500 were present at that Meeting and “a very good Meeting it was”’.

Among the large crowd of Seekers and Friends on that day at Firbank in 1652, it is most likely that there were one or more members of the Sedbergh ‘Grysdale’ family who I discussed in an earlier article (see here).

That article was concerned with where this Grisdale family might have originated, but whatever the truth, they were well established in Sedbergh by the time George Fox preached at Firbank. Margaret, the wife of John Grysdale, died in 1818 at Firbank, and thus it seems likely that John was actually one of the Flax weavers living in and around Brigflatts, one of the people in ‘white raiment’.

John’s putative sons Richard and Edward Grysdale were having children in the 1610s and 1620s in Sedbergh and were quite possibly still alive in 1652, as without doubt were their children. Both Edward and Richard had only one son each, both were called John. We know that one of these Johns stayed in Sedbergh and was a Quaker. There are two references in Quaker records to his death in 1696. He was said to be of Settlebeck (in Sedbergh) and was buried in the cemetery of the Brigflatts Friends Meeting house which had been built in 1674.

Although the Conventicle Act of 1670 – which forbade non-conformist meetings – was still in force, in 1674 the Friends of this area decided to build a Meeting House and purchased a piece of ground at Brigflatts from John Dawson for ten shillings (50p). The building is very much in the style of local farmhouses of that period, practical, simple and undecorated. It was built without an architect by and for the people who would use it. Materials were provided by Friends who had them, labour provided by everyone else. Unusually for the time the building was roofed with some 40 tons of local flags – thatch being the more usual material for buildings of this size at the time. Perhaps the builders were making a statement about the permanency of their creation. Originally the building had just an earth floor and was heated by an open fire at the west end of the building. An open loft existed at the first floor level at the west end reached by a ladder.

Inside of Brigflatts Meeting House

Inside of Brigflatts Meeting House

The meeting house is still in use today.

Brigflatts, near Sedbergh, Cumbria, is one of the most famous Quaker meeting houses, known and loved by Friends all over the world. Far beyond the boundaries of the Society, it is acknowledged for all the simplicity of its lime-washed stone walls and interior woodwork — panelling, columns and balustrading — as one of England’s vernacular gems. For many, the peace and tranquillity of the Meeting House at Brigflatts leave a lasting impression. Three-and-a-quarter centuries after George Fox first visited the hamlet of Brigflatts; it is still the home of a Friends’ Meeting. It receives more than 2,000 visitors a year from all over the world, many coming to explore the “1652 Country”, the birthplace of Quakerism. Visiting groups and individuals regularly join local Friends in worship on Sunday mornings.

Brigflatts Cemetery

Brigflatts Cemetery

So good Quaker John Grysdale of Sedbergh had made his dissent against social and religious oppression and persecution. Was he perhaps involved in 1660 ‘when five hundred Friends, many from the Sedbergh district, were imprisoned for such offenses as non-attendance of church and non-payment of church dues’? ‘Some died in prison, while others had their belongings confiscated.’ It’s a pity that by the time John died in 1696 the good work of the English Revolution had been undone and the hateful kings were back. The Quakers of course went on to achieve many wonderful things in England and America, particularly in William Penn’s Pennsylvania.

This is the end of this little story. I hope one day to know more about the Grysdale Quakers of Sedbergh. However, for those interested, in A Book of Quaker Saints, Lucy Violet Hodgkin tells us a little more about these ‘People in White Raiment’ as later Quaker hagiography viewed them:

These flax-weavers of Brigflatts were a company of ‘Seekers,’ unsatisfied souls who had strayed away like lost sheep from all the sects and Churches, and were longing for a spiritual Shepherd to come and find them again and bring them home to the fold.

George Fox was a weaver’s son himself. Directly he heard it, the whirr of the looms beside the rushing Rawthey must have been a homelike sound in his ears. But more than that, his spirit was immediately at home among the little colony of weavers of snowy linen; for he recognised at once that these were the riverside people ‘in white raiment,’ whom he had seen in his vision, and to whom he had been sent.

Not only the flax-weavers, but also some of the ‘considerable people’ of the neighbourhood accepted the message of the wandering preacher, who came to them over the dales that memorable Whitsuntide. The master of the house where the meeting was held, Colonel Gervase Benson himself, and his good wife Dorothy also, were ‘convinced of Truth,’ and faithfully did they adhere thereafter to their new faith, through fair weather and foul. In later years, men noted that this same Colonel Benson, following his teacher’s love of simplicity, and hatred of high-sounding titles, generally styled himself merely a ‘husbandman,’ notwithstanding ‘the height and glory of the world that he had a great share of,’ seeing that ‘he had been a Colonel, a Justice of the Peace, Mayor of Kendal, and Commissary in the Archdeaconry of Richmond before the late domestic wars. Yet, as an humble servant of Christ, he downed those things.’ His wife, Mistress Dorothy, also, was to prove herself a faithful friend to her teacher in after years, when his turn, and her turn too, came to suffer for ‘Truth’s sake…..’

But in these opening summer days of 1652, no shadows fell on the sunrise of enthusiasm and of hope, as, in the good Justice’s house beside the rushing Rawthey, the gathering of the ‘great people’ began.

This was the Truth that had grown dusty and neglected in England in this seventeenth century. The ‘still, small Voice’ had been drowned in the clash of arms and in the almost worse clamour of a thousand different sects. Now that, after his own long search in loneliness and darkness, George Fox had at length found the Voice speaking to him unmistakably in the depths of his own heart, the whole object of his life was to persuade others to listen also to ‘the true Teacher that is within,’ and to convince them that He was always waiting to speak not only in their hearts, but also through their lives. ‘My message unto them from the Lord was,’ he says, ‘that they should all come together again and wait to feel the Lord’s power and spirit in themselves, to gather them together to Christ, that they might be taught of Him who says “Learn of Me.”‘

This was the Truth—an actual, living Truth—that not only the flax-weavers of Brigflatts, but many other companies of ‘Seekers’ scattered through the dales of Yorkshire and Westmorland, as well as in many other places, had been longing to hear proclaimed. ‘Thirsty Souls that hunger’ was one of the names by which they called themselves. It was to these thirsty, hungering Souls that George Fox had been led at the very moment when he was burning to share with others the vision of the ‘wide horizons of the future’ that had been unfolded to him on the top of old Pendle Hill.

No wonder that the Seekers welcomed him and flocked round him, drinking in his words as if their thirsty souls could never have enough. No wonder that he welcomed them with equal gladness, rejoicing not only in their joy, but yet more in that he saw his vision’s fulfilment beginning. Here in these secluded villages he had been led unmistakably to the ‘Great People,’ whom he had seen afar off, waiting to be gathered.

Within a fortnight from that assembly on Whit-Sunday at Justice Benson’s house George Fox was no longer a solitary, wandering teacher, trying to convince scattered people here and there of the Truths he had discovered. Within a fortnight—a wonderful fortnight truly—he had become the leader of a mighty movement that gathered adherents and grew of itself, spreading with an irresistible impulse until, only a few years later, one Englishman out of every ninety was a member of the SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.

George Fox - Quaker Founder

George Fox – Quaker Founder

When I started writing these family history stories I stated that the vast majority of people with the name Grisdale or Grisedale, wherever they might be in the world, could find their roots in Matterdale, indeed probably in Dowthwaite Head. However I also said that a few people might trace their origins to the other ‘Grisedale’ in the far west of the Yorkshire Dales, near the border with Cumberland. But is this true? Did any Grisdale/Grisdale family ever really originate in this Grisedale? I think perhaps not.

Grisedale Yorkshire

Grisedale Yorkshire

As I have discussed previously, Grisdale is a place name and it is beyond doubt the case that the Matterdale Grisdales had originally moved to Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale from a Grisdale in Cumberland, probably in the fifteenth century if not earlier. This Grisdale was most likely (Mun)grisdale rather than the Grisdale/Grisedale running down to Ullswater (see here). The third place in Cumberland of the same name is Grisedale Pike near Keswick, but this never was a settlement.

And then there is the Yorkshire Grisedale, often spelt historically without the E. It’s a tiny side valley of the small Garsdale and is situated a couple of miles from the town of Sedbergh – which is now in Cumbria but was historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Grisedale really is a miniscule place. In 1975 a Yorkshire Television producer called Barry Cockcroft made a documentary about Grisedale which caused quite a stir. It was called The Dale that Died. ‘The film focused on a 61-year-old former miner, Joe Gibson, who had begun a new life as a sheep farmer in Grisedale. This remote Yorkshire valley had once been the home to 14 families. But when the film-makers arrived Joe, with the help of his wife and son, was the only farmer still living and working in the dale.’ The Yorkshire Post more recently wrote:

Theirs (the people of Grisedale) was a hard life. From this depiction it was easy to see why Grisedale should have “died” with people moving out and leaving houses to become derelict..

Today, entering Grisedale from Garsdale is like stumbling upon a secret, semi-wild place. However, it’s clearly not dead. Some buildings are derelict but many have obvious signs of life. Closer inspection reveals that although not exactly thriving, the story of its death was greatly exaggerated.

Grisedale is a cul-de-sac dale off the Hawes to Sedburgh road bordered by Wild Boar Fell. It’s not the sort of place you pass through on the way to somewhere else. You have to have a reason for going there and that, it seems, is part of its attraction for those who have come to call it home.

But this is all pretty recent history. The question here is whether the valley ever gave its name to people who had moved from there, and that means going back much further. Given that in earlier times people bearing the name of a place, village or town usually got the name because their family had at some remote time come from there, it is perhaps unsurprising to find that there was never anyone called Grisedale/Grisdale who lived in the valley itself.

Sedbergh Church

Sedbergh Church

In the early 1600s, records suggest that there were maybe only a couple of families living in Grisedale. They would go to the church in Sedbergh for baptisms, marriages and burials. The Sedbergh parish registers start in the sixteenth century. In 1618 for example we find Anthony Dawson of ‘Grysdale’ marrying Isabell Bethom. In Sedbergh around the same time we find two Grisdale families, those of Richard and Edward Grysdale. The family name was usually spelt as Grysdale, but we also find Grisdale, Grisedall and Grysedale. At that time most of these rural families were illiterate and the parish priest wrote what he heard. Remember that Shakespeare would even spell the same word three different ways on the same page!

Richard Grysdale married Isabell Makereth in June 1611, but Isabell soon died. With a second wife called Alice Harrison, Richard had twins Agnes and John, who were baptized on 8 July 1616. But Alice herself died following childbirth and was buried a few days after her children were baptized. The family lived in ‘the Mosse’ in Sedbergh, which is most probably present-day The Moss House.

Edward Grysdale and his wife Agnes, who also lived in Sedbergh, had a son John in 1620 and a daughter Margaret in 1623.

Finally there was also a John Grysdale, whose wife Margaret died at Firbank, Sedbergh in 1618.

Two issues arise. First, it seems that the two sons called John eventually moved away from Sedbergh as there is no more mention of them in the records. Second, where had these Grisdales come from? Given the absence of any Grysdales in Sedbergh prior to 1611, it’s pretty clear they come from elsewhere, but, I would suggest, not from nearby Grisedale.

Sedbergh town and church

Sedbergh town and church

It is important here to remark that surnames deriving from places or trades or any other source had almost everywhere stabilized by the fifteenth century. By the time we get to the early 1600s, when we find Grysdales in Sedbergh, anyone who had moved from Grisedale to Sedbergh in recent years would already have had a family name that had become fixed decades, or more likely centuries, before – John (the) Tanner, William (the) Forrester or Richard Stafford. The ancestors of anybody who carried the name Grisdale because they had moved away from ‘Grisedale’ in Yorkshire would have had to have made the move way back in the remote past before names became fixed.

With only two exceptions there is nobody in any historical record called Grisdale (or variants) outside Cumberland in the 1500s, indeed no one outside Matterdale (or nearby locations such as Threlkeld). On the other hand there are a couple of dozen different types of records of sixteenth-century Grisdales in Matterdale, usually found to be living in Dowthwaite Head.

Given all this, it is my conjecture that although the two Sedbergh-born John Grysdales may have married and had children elsewhere, there is no evidence whatsoever that any Grisdale family got their name from this Yorkshire Grisedale.

Dowthwaite Head Farm

Dowthwaite Head Farm

Now it is quite possible, I would say even probable, that the Sedbergh Grysdales had in fact originated in Matterdale. This can’t be proved so what follows in conjecture. It’s reasonable to assume that Richard and Edward Grisdale of Sedbergh were related, even perhaps brothers. They both named their only sons John, so it could be that their father was a John, maybe the John whose wife Margaret had been buried in Sedbergh in 1618. Note also that Richard Grysdale had named his only daughter Margaret in 1623! Edward, Richard and John were three of the most common names of the Grisdales of Matterdale in the 1500s and into the 1600s and beyond. Among the nine Matterdale militia bowmen who were mustered in Penrith in 1581 there was a John, an Edward and a Richard. A Richard Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head married Janet Grysdell (also of Dowthwaite Head) in 1579. They had a son called John in 1583. The wife of Edward Grysdell ‘junior’ died in 1561 and an Edward Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head had two children in the 1560s. Robert Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head who died in 1584 had a daughter called Margaret, as well as sons called Edward, John and Christopher. Christopher Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head who died in 1597 was said to be the son of Edward Grysdell in his will. And finally there was a John Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head who died in 1579, and Robert Grysdell mentions his son John in his will of 1584.

So maybe the Richard, Edward and John Grysdale of Sedbergh came from Dowthwaite Head?

I’ll return to the possible fate of the Sedbergh Grisdales another time. All we know for now is that is that Richard’s daughter Agnes died in 1650 in Settlebeck in Sedbergh itself, while Edward’s daughter Margaret married Thomas Harrison in 1662 in Sedbergh and his wife Agnes died in Sedbergh in 1669. Where Richard and Edward and their sons John went remains to be discovered.

Along the Cumberland coast there are several towns that were important ports and mining centres from the seventeenth century onwards: Whitehaven, Maryport, Workington and Harrington. They are all within a few miles of each other. These towns and harbours were literally owned and developed by two powerful families. In the case of Whitehaven, the Lowthers, later Earls of Lonsdale. In the case of Workington and Harrington, the Curwens. Both families developed deep coal mines that ran out for miles under the sea. The ports were initially developed to transport their coal to Ireland but later developed and traded throughout the world. Our concern here is with a Grisdale family living in Harrington in the first half of the 1700s. 

Workington Hall - Seat of the Curwens

Workington Hall – Seat of the Curwens

To understand what this family might have been doing in Harrington at this time and what might have brought them there, we need to understand slightly more about the town, actually the village, itself.  ‘The manor was held of the fee of Workington by the Harrington (or ‘Haverington’) family in the 13th and 14th centuries.  It descended by marriage to Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk, executed 1554.  In 1556/7 the Crown granted Harrington to Henry Curwen of Workington; thereafter it descended with Workington.’ Coal mining in West Cumbria dates back to the 13th Century when the monks from St Bees Abbey supervised the opening of coal mines at Arrowthwaite. By 1688 there was at least one coal mine in Harrington Park ‘valued at £100 per year’ and also a salt pan at Lowca. It wasn’t until 1760 that Henry Curwen built a quay at Harrington on the south side of the River Wyre. Coal and limestone were soon being exported to Ireland from Harrington, and the increase in this trade led to the development of a local shipbuilding industry.

 At that time (1760) there were no houses in the area and no ships were recorded as belonging to Harrington. But by 1794 there were around 60 ships. The main cargoes were coal being shipped to Ireland from Curwen’s mines nearby, as well as lime from Distington to Scotland.

Harrington Harbour

Harrington Harbour

The Grisdales of Harrington were established there before the quay was built and thus, in all likelihood, they worked either in the early Curwen coal mines or possibly in the salt pan.

Henry ‘Grisedell’ was born in the nearby inland town of Wigton in 1668, the son of Alexander Grisedell and Katherine Yoward. Over the years the family name was recorded using all conceivable variants: Grisdale, Grisdell, Grisedell, Grizdale, Griesdale and Grizedale. I’ll use the more usual Grisdale. It appears that Henry married Ann Harrison in Skelton, Cumberland in 1688, but then, sometime before 1710, Henry moved to Harrington. His daughter Jane was baptized there in that year, followed by John in 1712,  Henry in 1713, Abraham in 1715, Sarah in 1722 and Isaac in  1723. All these children were baptized in St Mary’s Anglican parish church in Harrington, although names such as Abraham and Isaac might hint that there were non-conformist tendencies.

What became of these children? Abraham seems to disappear. Did he become a seamen and die somewhere unrecorded, or did he become a miner? I don’t know.

It seems that Isaac (baptized in 1723 but possibly born before) married Ellenor Sen in 1740, down the coast in Gosforth, Cumberland and had a child called Sarah in 1742 in St Bees.

Jane(1711) had an illegitimate son called Anthony in Arlecdon (Whitehaven) in 1745.

John (1712) married, because he had a son called Henry in nearby St Bees in 1740 and another named Anthony in 1744. This Henry married Elizabeth Hope in Whitehaven in 1761, although a daughter called Sarah had been born the year before, also in Whitehaven. More children followed: John 1767, Elizabeth 1772, Jane 1774, Henry 1777 and William 1779, all born and baptized in Whitehaven. I might return to the fate of these children at a later date. Did William become a Captain in the Muscovy Company or was that someone else? (see here).

Cumberland in 1720

Cumberland in 1720

On 10 June 1814, Arthur Wellesley, the Marquis of Wellington, had only just arrived in Bordeaux from St. Jean de Luz in the southwest of France. It seemed that the long war against Napoleon was over. In April an allied army had entered Paris and the strutting French emperor had abdicated. The French army had surrendered to the British after the Battle of Toulouse. Napoleon had been sent into exile on the Isle of Elba. Wellington was keen to get home and quit his army life; he had other things he wanted to do. But the evacuation of the British army in France was not yet complete. Wellington was busying himself with ordering his remaining forces to come to Bordeaux; from there to take ship to England. He was just waiting for sufficient transport ships to arrive.

Back in England ships were getting ready to sail to Bordeaux to pick up the troops. On 10 June an announcement appeared in the Liverpool newspapers which read as follows:

June 10 1814 for Bordeaux to sail in all this week the brig ‘NELSON’ Edward GRISDALE Master.

Captain Edward Grisdale was just one of the dozens of merchant masters and ship owners who had agreed (for a price) to go to Bordeaux to bring back the army. But of course he wanted to take some paying cargo onboard for the outward voyage to make the trip more profitable.

Quite a number of the ‘Matterdale’ Grisdales had served in the British army and navy throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the most famous being Levi Grisdale (see here). Levi had fought at the Battle of Toulouse in April, but, being a member of an elite cavalry regiment, the 10th Hussars, he, together with the rest of the cavalry, was to embark for home from the channel ports rather than from more distant Bordeaux.

In 1814 Captain Grisdale was forty-nine years old. He had been a mariner operating out of the Cumberland ports, as well as from Liverpool, since he was a young man. Edward was born in the bustling port of Workington in 1765. His father John, like his grandfather Edward too, had also been a Workington mariner. But sadly in 1777, when Edward was just twelve, his father drowned. On 27 December 1777 a Whitehaven newspaper reported:

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

Workington Harbour

Workington Harbour

Edward was one of at least four children. He had three sisters: Bella, Mary and Ann. As the only son Edward would have needed to start work as soon as possible to help support his widowed mother and sisters. Following his father and grandfather to sea was the logical course. Workington was quite a thriving town; its growth having been spurred by the discovery and mining of coal. Jollie’s Guide said the following about Workington in 1811:

WORKINGTON stands near the mouth of the Derwent, and is a considerable market-town and sea-port, containing about 6000 inhabitants. Many of the streets are narrow and irregular; but some are elegant and neat; and, upon the whole, this town is more agreeable than most ports of equal size in the kingdom. Though it seems to have been anciently the chief haven in Cumberland, yet it appears, that in 1566, only one vessel belonging thereto was of so great a burden as ten tons: and, on a survey taken of the maritime strength of the county about 20 years after that period, when England commanded the seas, all the vessels which Cumberland could put to sea amounted only to 10 in number, and their mariners to 198.

Workington has increased rapidly of late years, and many handsome buildings have been erected. The coal trade to Ireland is its chief support: a few vessels are, however, employed in the Baltic trade. The imports are timber, bar-iron, and flax. The river is navigable for ships of 400 tons burden; and the harbour is commodious, and extremely safe from all winds. There are now about 160 vessels belonging to this port; upon an average, of about 130 tons each. – The principal manufactories are of sail-cloth and cordage. The public buildings are modern; the church is a handsome structure, with a tower, or steeple, in the Gothic style. Here is a small but neat assembly-room, and a playhouse. – A new square, consisting of about 20 neat houses, was a few years ago built in the upper town, where the corn-market is held. – The butchers’ shambles are commodious. – The quays have been much widened and lengthened within the last 30 years. Not far from the town, a spacious workhouse, for the reception and support of the poor, was erected a few years ago, which cost the inhabitants £1600, and is calculated to contain 150 persons. – A considerable salmon fishery on this river belongs to Lord Lonsdale.

The collieries in the vicinity of Workington, which are numerous and valuable, belong to Mr. Curwen, who ships from thence about 150 waggons per day (Sundays excepted), each waggon containing three English tons of coals. Several steam-engines are employed in these coal-works, and between 500 and 600 men.

Messrs. Fenton and Murray, of Leeds, are erecting a steam-engine at Isabella pit, Chapel Bank, of 160 horse power, which exceeds in power any engine ever erected. The depth of the shaft is 150 fathoms, which is deeper than any of the shafts at Newcastle.

The manor house of the family of Curwen stands upon a fine eminence on the banks of the Derwent. It is an elegant quadrangular building, surrounded with excellent lands, in a fine state of cultivation. The house commands a prospect of the town, the river, and its northern banks, and the western ocean for a considerable tract. Mary, Queen of Scots, took refuge at this house, when she landed at Workington after her flight from Dundrannon, in Galloway, – and was hospitably entertained by Sir Henry Curwen, till the pleasure of Elizabeth was known; when she was removed, first to Cockermouth and then to Carlisle castle. The chamber in which she slept at Workington Hall is still called the Queen’s chamber.

Edward would certainly have been involved in the ‘Irish coal trade’, but he was obviously a man of some ambition and talent because not only did he eventually become a captain but he also was to own at least one ship himself, called the Mary after his wife Mary Robinson.

Workington St Michaels church

Workington St Michaels church

Edward married Mary Robinson in St. Michael’s Church in Workington on 26 October 1791. He was said to be a mariner. In 1811 we find Captain Edward Grisdale living in Town Head in Workington and it was said he was the Captain and owner of the 150 ton schooner Mary. Edward and Mary had several children: Sarah 1792, John 1796-1796 Mary Ann 1798, Edward 1802, Dorothy 1805-1811, Grace 1807 and Jane 1815. John died in infancy; Dorothy when she was just six. Edward, his only surviving son, was also later to become a Workington mariner, married a convict in Australia, and later became a ship’s captain himself, before disappearing from the records (see here).

Our Captain Grisdale had command of several ships during his long sea-faring career, such as the Mary (his own ship), the Nelson and the Frances Watson. There were probably others. After he’d brought back the soldiers from Bordeaux in 1814 we find him making trips to Canada and the United states, carrying both cargo and emigrants.

In 1825 Edward took command of the Maryport brig Francis Watson for its first voyage to New Orleans. The Cumberland Pacquet, Tuesday, 8th February 1825:

On Saturday was launched from the building yard of Messrs. K. Wood and Son, Maryport, a very fine copper-bottomed brig called the Francis Watson, burthen per register, 333 tons, and built for Messrs. Wood and Watson, of Liverpool.

‘At 333 tons, the Francis Watson was very large for a brig, but the newspaper report is consistent with the shipping registers, at least until 1830, when she was listed as a ship. The first voyage of the Francis Watson was from Maryport, departed Monday, 28th February 1825 for New Orleans.’ With, we know, Captain Grisdale in command.

Grisdale probably stayed with the Frances Watson for several transatlantic journeys, but later he was succeeded by another Cumberland captain called Sampson Bragg. Just to give a feel for what life could be like on board such ships, I quote the following report from 1829:

On the 30th June 1829 the master of the Francis Watson, Sampson Bragge, was arrested at London, accused of the murder of his steward, Lewis Sinclair. Evidence was taken from the crew, describing the ill-treatment of the steward on the voyage, which had started at Liverpool, then proceeded to Batavia, then Singapore and finally London. The steward had become drunk at Batavia and had been removed from his post to do the duties of a seaman. He was not up to the task, and the ill-treatment started subsequently. It included starvation, denial of water, beatings from the captain, mate and the “black fellows”, being hauled over the ship’s side, being forced to eat a lump of chalk and being smoked out of a hiding hole. The ill-treatment lasted two months until the victim became deranged, then eventually died, off the Scilly Isles on the 13th June. Bragge and the mate were committed to Newgate to await trial at the High Court. At that trial the evidence was repeated, but the jury found that the death of Lewis could not be ascribed to any particular act of violence, and the prisoners were acquitted. A similar sorry tale of ill-treatment can be found in the story of the Valiant two years earlier, the perpetrator being Captain Joseph Bragg, of Whitehaven.

Not long after the Francis Watson, with Bragg still as captain, ‘was driven on shore and wrecked, after landing her cargo, in Algoa Bay, during a gale, on the 13th January 1830’.

Death of John Franklin

Death of John Franklin

In the summer of 1826, we find Captain Grisdale in Quebec in command of the brig Nelson. He arrived in July from Liverpool and departed to Liverpool in September. While he was in Quebec the local newspapers were reporting the latest news of arctic explorer Captain John Franklin:

Arctic Land Expedition.— Despatches have been received from Captain Franklin, of the Arctic land expedition, dated Winter-quarters, Fort Franklin, on the great Bear Lake, September 6. During the summer, three expeditions, under Captain Franklin, Lieutenant Bach, and Dr. Richardson, were made, preparatory to the great objects to be undertaken next year. The expedition under Captain Franklin went to the mouth of the Mackenzie river, which he found to discharge itself into an open sea; there is one island near its mouth, called by Captain Franklin Garry’s Island.— From the summit of this island the Captain saw the sea to the northward all clear of ice or islands; to the westward he saw the coast to a great distance, his view terminating at very lofty mountains, which he calculates were in longitude 188 deg. west. The expedition would proceed early in the spring on its ulterior objects. The officers and men were all well and in spirits at the favourable circumstances which had hitherto attended their proceedings.

King's Wharf Quebec 1827

King’s Wharf Quebec 1827

The next year Grisdale was back in America, once again in New Orleans, this time as captain of the James Grant. He arrived from Liverpool on 10 December 1827. On arrival he made the following declaration:


I, E. Grisdale, Master or Commander of the ship James Grant, do solemnly, sincerely and truly swear, that the within list, signed by me and now delivered to the Collector of this District, contains the names of all the Passengers, taken on board the said James Grant at the Port of Liverpool or at any time since, and that all matters therein set forth are, according to the best of my knowledge and belief, just and true. I do further swear that none of the said Passengers have died on the voyage. Sworn before me, this 10 day of Decr. 1827. (signed) B. Chew, Collector, E. Grisdale.

List of all passengers taken on board the James Grant whereof Ed Grisdale is Master, at the Port of Liverpool and bound for New-Orleans.

Columns represent: name, age, sex, occupation, country to which they belong, country of which they intend to become inhabitants.

1 R. Ferriday      25  male    merchant   England   Alabama
2  Edw. Flynn       40  male    farmer     Ireland   Alabama
3  Pat. O’Bryan     35  male    farmer     Ireland   N. Orleans
4  Jno. McRea       28  male    farmer     Ireland   Tennessee
5 Ml. Eagan        30  male    farmer     Ireland   Tennessee
6  O. Flynn         10  male    boy        Ireland   Tennessee
7  Dan. Flynn        8  male    boy        Ireland   Tennessee
8  Mary Flynn       30  female             Ireland   Tennessee

(Signed)  E. Grisdale

New Orleans Mardi Gras

New Orleans Mardi Gras

This wasn’t, as we have seen, Grisdale’s first visit to New Orleans, but it is perhaps interesting to note that New Orleans had only recently became part of the United States after the American government had ‘purchased’ Louisiana from the defeated French. The people of New Orleans were now free to dance and play music again. Only a few months before Edward Grisdale arrived on the Frances Watson, the first Mardi Gras had taken place:

February 27, 1827: The first Mardi Gras celebrations were held in New Orleans.

The first Mardi Gras celebrations were held in New Orleans. Inspired by similar celebrations in Paris, group of masked students paraded through the street on this day, marking the first Mardi Gras celebrations. Early French settlers had had similar celebrations, but they had been banned throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Once Louisiana became part of the US, the ban was lifted and Mardi Gras celebrations began to take place annually.

We find a few others mentions of Captain Grisdale in the records, but soon after his 1827 New Orleans voyage Edward Grisdale probably either took his retirement, or perhaps died. Perhaps he saw off his son Edward on the convict ship Numa in 1834. Son Edward was, I believe, a mate on the Numa (he was certainly part of the ship’s crew).

Captain Grisdale left no descendants with the Grisdale name as far as I can see. His daughter Grace (1807) went on to marry Workington registrar Henry Hayton and had a number of children. She lived with her unmarried older sister Sarah, who was a schoolmistress.

Workington Harbour

Workington Harbour

And that is about all I know about Captain Edward Grisdale. When had his family first come to Workington? As I mentioned both his father John (born in 1741 in Workington) and his grandfather Edward had been Workington mariners. But where had grandfather Edward come from? I don’t yet know for sure. He certainly had not been born in Workington nor in the other Cumberland ports of Whitehaven or Maryport. I tend to think he was related to seventeenth century Edward Grisdale Senior and Edward Grisdale Junior, both of Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale. This is based on some circumstantial evidence regarding family naming patterns, dates and by a process of exclusion, but I can’t yet definitively prove the link.

By the mid-1740s Arthur Griesdale, in partnership with his brother Francis and his cousin Robert, had established himself as a prosperous lace and linen merchant in the Holborn and Ludgate Hill areas of London. The family had a large warehouse, and Arthur built himself an out of town house in Wanstead in Essex. Arthur wanted to establish his bona fides as a Gentleman, albeit one who had made his money in ‘trade’, anathema to the indolent aristocracy of Georgian England. He approached the College of Arms and, helped no doubt by a large fee; he got the College to grant him a coat of arms and a crest.

Ludgate Hill

Ludgate Hill

Arthur was born in Barnsley in Yorkshire in 1704; his father being a ‘Gentleman’ also called Arthur. In 1721, his father, by now living in Sheffield, paid £40 to get a seven year apprenticeship for 17 year-old Arthur with ‘Master Baker’ Thomas Price in London. As was usual, the indenture had him promise to follow the rules of the Baker’s Guild, including the stipulation not to fornicate during his apprenticeship! Maybe he followed this rule, though given his later proclivities I think it doubtful.

Perhaps Arthur finished his apprenticeship as a baker, perhaps he didn’t. We don’t know. What we do know is that probably not too long afterwards he started working with his Yorkshire-born brother Francis and cousin Robert in the drapery or haberdashery trade. Perhaps this was the trade in which Arthur and Francis’s father had made his money in Barnsley and Sheffield? Certainly both these places were early centres of linen weaving. Although the three young men were born in Yorkshire, there is no doubt that despite the unusual spelling of their name they were descended from the Grisdales of Cumberland, and in all likelihood from the Matterdale Grisdales (though perhaps by a tortuous route). In a book published in 1749 by the Somerset Herald, John Warburton, regarding ‘the Nobility, Principal Merchants and Other Eminent Families’ of London and Middlesex, we find Arthur’s coat of arms described:

Griesdale. Merchant. Ermin on a Bend engrailed Azure, between a Dolphin in Chief and an Anchor, twisted with a Rope in Base, three Crosses florry or.

The Herald then goes on to say:

These arms are the Right of Arthur Griesdale, of London, Merchant, descended of an ancient Family of that Name in Cumberland, as may be seen in Coll. Amor. Lib 1X. Mag. Regist.

We also know that Arthur’s crest was: ‘A dexter hand fesseways couped and frilled, holding a sword in pale ppr.’

St. Andrew's Holborn

St. Andrew’s Holborn

One day I’ll try to visit the College of Arms and look at the Cumberland genealogy Arthur presented, but his Cumberland ancestry is clear. At this time, particularly when people moved, the spelling of family names was very fluid, often being determined by priests at baptism. While Arthur was named Griesdale at his baptism, his brother Francis was called Grisdaile and his cousin Robert’s father Robert was said to be Grissdall. Later also (but still in the 1700s) members of the family were often called Grisdell, Grisdaile and Grisdale.

Having established himself as a ‘laceman’ and linen merchant, Arthur married Sarah Maryat and 6 July 1742 in St. Andrews Church in Holborn. He was said to be a resident of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook (near the Bank of England in the City of London). In the same year we also find Arthur’s brother Francis in partnership with Benjamin Baddiley in St. Andrew’s, Holborn. I believe this is where the brothers had started their business.

Over the coming years we find repeated references to Arthur, Francis and Robert as ‘lacemen’ and linen merchants in and around Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill and Farringdon. On 26 December 1758 ‘a fire broke out in the warehouse of Mr Garsed, a haberdasher, on Ludgate Hill, which entirely consumed the same, and damaged Mr Grisdale’s…’

St. Bride's Church in Fleet Street

St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street

In 1743 Arthur and Sarah had a child called Arthur, but he died. The next year another son, also called Arthur, followed. He survived. In 1745 a Henry Griesdale was born, but he too died the next year. In 1747 a son Robert was born and died. All Arthur’s children were baptized (and buried) in St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street.

In September 1755, Arthur was able to afford to send his one surviving son, Arthur, to Eton College, where he was to remain for three years. But I believe that possibly before this Arthur’s wife Sarah had died. Why? Let me now tell the story I want to tell. Arthur was a successful self-made man with gentlemanly pretensions (and why not), but he was also a man. In March 1753 the House of Lords sat and considered the case of ‘Nuthall’s Divorce Bill’:

The order of the day being read, for the second reading of the bill, intituled, “an act to dissolve the marriage of Thomas Nuthall  Gentleman with Lucy Scott his now wife; and to enable him to marry again; and for other purposes therein mentioned;” and for hearing counsel for and against the same.

Counsel were accordingly called in. A Mr Williams appeared as counsel for the Bill, but no counsel appeared on behalf of Mrs Nuthall. It was established by Samuel Holland that notice of the proceeding had been given to Mrs Nuttall. Holland stated ‘that on the 26th of February last, he served Mrs. Nuthall with the order of this House, at Palgrave in Suffolk; and at the same time delivered her a copy of the bill: And that she said, “She would not make any opposition to the bill.”’ He later testified that he knew ‘Mr. Nuthall and his wife; and that they cohabited together many years; but never had any child, as he has ever heard’.

Next, a Richard Williams ‘produced a copy of an entry in the register book of marriages belonging to the parish of Saint Peter of Mancroft in the City of Norwich, which he examined with the said register book; and also a certificate, signed by Charles Clarke Minister, that he examined it with the said register book, and that the same is a true copy…. The said entry and certificate were read; whereby it appeared, that the said Thomas Nuthall  intermarried with Lucy Scott, the 12th of October 1736′.

And it is here we first hear about Arthur Griesdale.

A servant called Jane Hill was called ‘in order to prove the Criminal Conversation between Arthur Griesdale and Mrs. Nuthall’. Hill testified that ‘she went to live as a servant to Mrs Nuthall in the year 1753, and continued in her service about three months, till the 12th of June in that year; and then; by Mrs. Nuthall’s recommendation, went to live in Mr Griesdale’s service, and continued in his service till May 1754, and then went away for about three months; and in August following lived a month at his house’. She then gave ‘an account of many indecent familiarities between Mr. Griesdale and Mrs. Nuthall’. She told how in September 1753 she had come and stayed at Griesdale’s house in Wanstead in Essex, ‘while Mr. Nuthall was gone into Norfolk’.

She used to put Mrs. Nuthall to bed; and Mrs. Nuthall has sent her to Mr. Griesdale, to tell him she was in bed; and that Mr. Griesdale has gone up to her bed-chamber, and been alone with her when she was in bed; and that she has often seen Mr. Griesdale either sitting upon the bed, or lying upon it in his night gown and slippers, when Mrs. Nuthall has been in bed; and seen his hand round her neck, and upon her breasts

She elaborated more regarding the ‘indecent familiarities between them’ at Griesdale’s house when Nuthall had ‘gone out of town, which he frequently did’. Another servant called Margaret Betton then testified ‘to the same point’. Margaret also told of the ‘indecent Familiarities between Mr. Griesdale and her Mistress, when Mr. Griesdale has come and stayed at Mr. Nuthall’s house at Layton Stone… when Mr. Nuthall has been gone from home to Enfield Chace (sic) about business, as he often did’.

On a Sunday in August 1754, she (Margaret Betton) went with her mistress to Mr. Griesdale’s House at Wanstead, where they stayed all night; and, wanting to speak with her mistress in the evening, she went up to the room which was called her bed room, which had two doors to it; she found the door she went to fastened, but heard persons in the room; and, upon her mistress opening the door, as she was going into the room, she saw Mr. Griesdale go out of the other door, with his breeches unbuttoned, and holding them up with his hands; and that evening she told Miss Spackman and Jane Hill what she had seen.

Here we are at a time when the British involvement in the War of the Austrian Succession was just over and the Seven Years War was about to begin, a war that secured North America for the British. And what do we find? Just normal life and a bit of a bedroom farce with doors opening and closing! I wonder if Arthur’s young son heard any of this? The proceeding of the Lords continued with more witnesses and statements, confirming the ‘indecent familiarities’ as well as the fact that Mr and Mrs Nuthall were now living apart.

About June 1755, Mr. Nuthall removed his goods from his house at Layton Stone, and left Mrs. Nuthall; and that she took a lodging for a few weeks in Saint Paul’s Church Yard, and then went into the country, where she has lived ever since; and that Mr. Nuthall has not cohabited with her, or had access to her, since the 1st of August 1755…

Mr Nuthall got his divorce.

Arthur continued with his business and moved it to 8 Huggins’ Lane in Wood Street (Little Britain) in the City of London. He even went bankrupt in 1774 while in partnership with George Jackson, but he was obviously able to pay off his creditors because he was still a ‘linen draper’ in Little Britain when he died in 1786 aged eighty-two.

Walton Canonry Salisbury

Walton Canonry Salisbury

Unfortunately Arthur’s Eton educated son Arthur had died in 1767 aged just 22, and so Arthur left much of his not inconsiderable fortune to friends, servants and to the family of his younger brother Francis. Francis too had made some decent money in the lace and linen trade. He had married into a prosperous family called Scott from Hampshire. His wife was Frances Cox, whom he married in St. Andrew’s in Holborn in 1740. But unlike his brother Francis with the money he had made, and no doubt with the money of his wife, he decided to leave his business in London sometime before 1750 and retire to the quiet life in Salisbury in Wiltshire, taking with him his London-born daughter Mary, who would marry into the very interesting and wealthy Swiss Agassiz family (see here). Another son called Harry (Henry Thomas) was born in Salisbury in 1750 and lived till 1838. In The Music and Theatre of Handel’s World – The Family Papers of James Harris, we can read:

Griesdale, Frances. The wife of Peter (sic) Griesdale of Salisbury, her maiden name was Cox and she came from Quarley, Hants. In the 1760s the Griesdales lived at Walton Canonry in the Close as tenants of Dr William Dodwell; there are frequent references to them in the Harris correspondence and also in Marsh’s journal, where ‘Mr Grisdell’ is described in July 1776 as ‘an elderly get’n & great musical amateur, tho’ no performer’ and their purchase of ‘a new grand piano of Stoddart’s’ is noted February 1779. Signatures: Fran Griesdale and Fran Griesdale.

Francis died in Salisbury in 1789. I’ll return to Arthur Griesdale’s roots at a later time, although the fact that his coat of arms bears a dolphin, an anchor and a sword might indicate that some of his ancestors were seafarers in Cumberland.. There are quite a few such Grisdales.