Archive for June, 2015

“Later that night, the Joads come across the Weedpatch camp, a decent, government-sponsored facility where migrants govern themselves, thus avoiding the abuse of corrupt police officers – “The Grapes of Wrath” – John Steinbeck

Today near Bakersfield in Kern County, California there is a large Grisedale cattle ranching family at the Granite Station Ranch. The E in the family name was added after the family first arrived in America in 1908. Back in Westmorland, England, from where they came, they were just Grisdales. Before I tell the story of the family’s trek from a wet sheep farm in the Lake District hills to the sun of California let me start with a very strange coincidence.

On 5th June 1917 two young Grisdale men registered to join the US Army in Bakersfield in Kern County, volunteering for service in the First World War. One was 28 year-old Frank Joseph Grisdale and the other was a 24 year-old called Robert Thornber Grisedale (whose younger brother Francis Thomas had registered just four days before). Although it is unlikely that they met that day, they may have later in or around Bakersfield where they both lived for the rest of their lives. If they did ever meet they might have wondered if they were related given the unusual nature of their name, unusual at least in California at that time. Of course they were related, but they would have to go back to the seventeenth century in Matterdale before their families would have known each other and back to 1600 or earlier to Dowthwaite Head Farm in Matterdale before their two ancestral lines joined.

Kern County Map 1916

Kern County Map 1916

Frank Joseph’s family had first come to Canada from Cumberland in 1816/17. The instigator of the move was Wilfred Grisdale, who I have written about before (see here). Part of his family subsequently moved to Deerfield in Isabella County in Michigan in 1877 (see here) where Wilfred’s great grandson Frank Joseph was born in 1888. Sometime prior to 1910 Frank had been drawn out West, probably hearing of the opportunities in the recently booming oil industry in Kern County. Until his death in 1952 in Bakersfield Frank worked as an oil well digger in Kern County, principally in the Kern River Oil Field. I will tell his story at a later date.

Kern River Oil Field

Kern River Oil Field

Robert Thornber Gris(e)dale was the first son Thomas William Grisdale, a moderately well-to-do sheep farmer in Longsleddale, north of Kendal in Westmorland. Thomas William was born on his father’s Yoad Pot farm in Selside, Westmorland in 1859. In 1892 he married Agnes Thornber, the daughter of Kendal accountant and real estate agent Francis John Thornber and taken on his own farm called Well Foot in Longsleddale. Robert Thornber was born there the next year – being named after his farmer grandfather Robert Grisdale and his mother’s maiden name – followed in 1895 by Francis Thomas, named after his mother’s father, Francis Thornber, and his own father Thomas.

Well Foot Farm, Longsleddale, Westmorland

Well Foot Farm, Longsleddale, Westmorland

I told something of the earlier history of the family in a story about a Robert Edward Grisdale, the son of Thomas William’s brother Richard, who emigrated to Canada (see here). I also wrote about the family a little further back in Matterdale and then in nearby Martindale, Patterdale and Hartsop (see here). There are other related stories on this site, including a murderous one here.

Returning to Thomas William, although he was a successful tenant farmer he couldn’t buy his farm and ‘every time he made any money the landlord would increse the rent’. ‘So after this happened three times they (the family) left for the US where they could buy and own the and they farmed.’ On 6 May 1908 the family boarded the passenger ship RMS Etruria in Liverpool bound for New York, where they arrived nine days later. They gave their ultimate destination as ‘Kern City’ California. Being ‘sponsored’ immigrants they didn’t have to go through Ellis Island.They most likely went to join Agnes Thornber’s younger brother and sister, James Henry Thornber and Elizabeth Thornber, who had emigrated to Montana in 1892. In fact another brother called John Peters Thornber had made the move first, in 1890, ending up in Madison, Iowa.

RMS Etruria at Liverpool

RMS Etruria at Liverpool

Regarding James Thornber, ‘The History of Kern County’ published in 1914 tells his story best:

JAMES H. THORNBER.— The Thornber family descends from Anglo- Saxon ancestry and for generations has been represented in Westmoreland in the north of England, where Francis Joseph and Elizabeth (Peters) Thornber passed their entire lives, the former being engaged as an accountant. The parental family comprised six sons and six daughters and the eighth in order of birth, James H., was born in the village of Kendal, July 3, 1875. Two sons and two daughters are still living and all of them have come to America, the older son, John P., being a resident of Bartlesville, Okla., while the two daughters. Mrs. Agnes Grisdale and Mrs. Elizabeth Marriott, make their home in Kern county, Cal., the headquarters also of the fourth member of the family, James H. The last-named attended the Kendal grammar school in Westmoreland, and later was a student in the Friends’ school at the same place. After he was graduated at the age of fifteen years he was employed in the village until 1892, when he crossed the ocean to the United States and proceeded west to Montana. Securing employment on a ranch near Chinook he soon learned the business of operating a stock farm on the plains. Later he became interested in operating the Black Coulee coal mine, besides which he also engaged in general contracting.

Montana cattle

Montana cattle

Upon selling some of his interests in Montana in October (actually May) of 1908 Mr. Thornber came to Bakersfield. Shortly afterward he purchased one hundred and twenty acres of land in the Weed Patch. The task of transforming the raw acreage into a productive farm was one of great difficulty, but the land was rich and fertile and ultimately produced fruit and alfalfa in paying quantities. Since 1909 he has made his home in East Bakersfield, where he owns a residence at No. 1601 Pacific street. Besides having a real-estate and insurance office at No. 919 Baker Street, he is engaged in the building of cottages and bungalows and these interests, together with the supervision of his Montana ranch, which he still owns, keep him busily occupied.

Ever since he came to this city Mr. Thornber has been connected with the Chesbro Methodist Episcopal Church of East Bakersfield, where at this writing he officiates as president of the board of trustees and president of the adult bible class. With the cooperation of the pastor of this church he organized a Sunday-school at Toltec No. 2 and since then he not only has acted as superintendent, but in addition he has given exceptionally faithful and efficient service in the capacity of local preacher.

Being deeply interested in the religious life of the oil fields, he gives freely of his time, ability and means to promote the cause of Christianity in that particular portion to which he has been called. While living in Montana he was married at Chinook, September 23, 1900, to Miss Alice Greenough, a native of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and a daughter of the late John K. and Minnie (Currier) Greenough, the former born in Concord, N. H., of Mayflower stock, and the latter a descendant of Scotch forbears. In 1886 the family removed to Chanute, Kans., where Mrs. Thornber was reared and educated, remaining there until 1899. In that year the family located in Chinook, Mont., where the marriage of the young people occurred. Interested in social functions and active in church work, Mrs. Thornber’s deepest affections, however, are centered upon her four children, Chester Harve, Grace Elizabeth, Agnes Myrtle and Alice Celia. Fraternally Mr. Thornber belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America and Bakersfield Lodge No. 224, F. & A. M., also with his wife is identified with Bakersfield Chapter No. 25, Order of the Eastern Star.

Actually James Thornber came to Kern County in May 1908, not October, the same month that the Grisdales were on their way to New York. Obviously the move had been planned in advance. In fact Elizabeth Thornber, having married farmer Edward Allen Marriott in Chinook, Montana in 1899, moved to Bakersfield in Kern County before 1907, so maybe it was her who first attracted her brother and sister and their families to come to California. It is interesting to note that James Thornber having tried his hand at cattle ranching in Montana, and having bought a farm outside Bakersfield, soon abandoned farming and became what his obituary in 1959 called a ‘pioneer realtor’, just like his real estate agent and accountant father back in Kendal in Westmorland.

Jut before leaving England Thomas William Grisdale had sent a lot of money to a local Bakersfield bank for later use to buy land. But when he arrived he found that the bank had misspelt his name as Grisedale and thus Thomas decided it was easier to continue with the misspelling ‘on the account – and everywhere else – rather than to have the bank change the name on an account that was already open’.

Weedpatch, Kern County in the Dust Bowl era

Weedpatch, Kern County in the Dust Bowl era

It seems highly likely that when Thomas William Grisdale (or Grisedale as he now was) and his family arrived in Kern County it was they who took on the difficult ‘task of transforming the raw acreage (of James Thornber’s farm in Weedpatch) into a productive farm’ and who ‘ultimately produced fruit and alfalfa in paying quantities’. In the 1910 census Thomas William and his family are living in precisely the Weed Patch area and Thomas was said to be a farmer on a ‘general farm’. Weed Patch, just southeast of Bakersfield, was to have a sad history in the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s and even featured in John Steinbeck’s novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. I’m not sure how long Thomas William continued to farm at Weed Patch; in 1917 when both his sons enlisted in the army his first son Robert Thornber Grisedale was working as a ‘farmer’ on Roland Hill’s cattle station in nearby Tehachapi, while his younger son Francis Thomas was a farmhand working for his father. As both brothers registered for the army in the Vineland precinct of Kern County, which is right next to Weedpatch, and gave their address as East Bakersfield, I presume their father was still farming there. This seems confirmed by the many entries for ‘T W Greisdale’ in the Bakersfield City directory as living on Route 4 well into the 1920s, this road led through Weedpatch – unfortunately I can’t find him in the 1920 census. I’m not certain whether all this is actually as it was. The family say that once Robert Thornber Grisedale went to introduce himself to his Thornber relative in Bakersfield ‘but found him not at all interesting in associating’.

Sadly  while serving in the  US Army (L Company, 364th Infantry, 91st Division) in France, Francis Thomas was killed on 4 October 1918, the very day that the German government sent a message to US President Wilson to negotiate terms on the basis of a recent speech of his and the earlier declared ‘Fouteen Poimts’; Francis was sitting under a tree when hit by a shell. Initially buried  in France, his body was returned to Bakersfield in 1921. I don’t think Robert ever joined the army as later on he said he was not a veteran.

Robert Thornber and Eva (Weller) Grisedale

Robert Thornber and Eva (Weller) Grisedale

Before 1930 Thomas William and Agnes Grisdale had retired to Bakersfield and were living at 118 Douglas Street in Highland Park. Agnes died the same year aged 68 and Thomas the next, aged 72.

Turning now to the only surviving son, Robert Thornber Grisedale; in 1920 he was still in Tehachapi but by now was working in the local oil industry as a ‘Wagon Driver’ for a ‘Wholesale Gas and Oil Station’ having married Michigan girl Eva May Weller the previous year. The couple had a child, Francis Robert, in 1921 but he died the next year. The next child, Grant Edward Grisedale, was born in Bakersfield in 1925 but grew up ‘on his parent’s cattle ranch’. Two more children followed: Frank Weller in 1929 and Mona Jean in 1930. I presume Robert bought his cattle ranch, called the Granite Station Ranch, between 1925 and 1930 when the family were already living there and where their descendants still breed cattle. Perhaps one day one of the family will tell me? The ranch is north east of Bakersfield on Granite Road near Glenville. Westmorland-born Robert Thornber Grisdale died aged 92 in 1986. His son Grant Edward Grisedale, who returned to the ranch in 1958 and eventually took over its management, died in 2010 aged 85. I won’t presume to tell anything more of the family’s recent history – that’s for them.

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Many of the Matterdale Grisdales became priests. I’ve written about a few already, notably the Rev. Dr. Robert Grisdale, the founder of Matterdale school; John Grisdale, who was curate of Troutbeck in Westmorland; Solomon Grisdale who died in  mysterious circumstances; and Benjamin Grisdale who was with his friend General Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown, when the Americans finally won their independence. There are many more. At the upper end of the scale was the Rev. Dr. Browne Grisdale, who became the chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle. Then there was another Solomon who was curate of Steeple Morden in Cambridgeshire for many years, also Richard Grisdale the curate of Crook in Westmorland, and even Joseph Grisdale, the son of the first Solomon already mentioned, who became the schoolmaster and vicar of Wymondham in Norfolk. This is not an exhaustive list. But what about closer to home in Matterdale itself?

Here I’d like to tell just a little about the life of the curates of Matterdale church, particularly in the seventeenth century following the very unfortunate ‘restoration’ of King Charles the Second. At this time and later the curate of Matterdale Church was Thomas Grisdale. He was the incumbent for fifty-two years, from 1666 until his death in 1718.  What was the life of these curates like? What type of men were they? How and by whom were they paid?

The unfortunate restoration of King Charles in 1660

The unfortunate restoration of King Charles in 1660

Perhaps it might be good to start with the words of one of England’s greatest historians, Thomas Macaulay. Referring to the seventeenth century, Macauley wrote:

The Anglican priesthood was divided into two sections, which in acquirements, in manners, and in social position, differed widely from each other. One section, trained for cities and courts, comprised men familiar with all ancient and modern learning . . . men of address, politeness, and knowledge of the world; men with whom Halifax loved to discuss the interests of empires, and from whom Dryden was not ashamed to own that he had learned to write. The other section . . . was dispersed over the country, and consisted chiefly of persons not at all wealthier, and not much more refined, than small farmers or upper servants. . .  The clergy [in these rural districts] were regarded as a plebeian class. … A waiting woman was generally considered as the most suitable helpmate for a parson. . . . Not one living in fifty enabled the incumbent to bring up a family comfortably. … It was a white day on which he was admitted into the kitchen of a great house, and regaled by the servants with cold meat and ale. His children were brought up like the children of the neighbouring peasantry. His boys followed the plough, and his girls went out to service.

Thomas Macaulay

Thomas Macaulay

Among the priestly Grisdales we might include in the first section the Rev. Dr. Robert Grisdale, the vicar of rich St. Martins in the Field in London; the Rev. Dr. Browne Grisdale, the chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle and even his brother Benjamin Grisdale, a very well connected army chaplain. But all the rest squarely fall into Macaulay’s second segment, certainly including Thomas Grisdale the long-serving curate of Matterdale. They were to be sure ‘not much more refined, than small farmers or upper servants’.

Of course there was a lot of blatant class snobbery coming from the landed gentry when they ever mentioned lowly curates like Thomas Grisdale. One story I like was told by W. J. Conybeare in his excellent The Church in the Mountains published in the Edinburgh Review in 1853. Conybeare was concerned with Wales, Cumberland and Westmorland, all poor ‘mountainous’ areas. He says that a ‘gentleman who resides in Westmoreland’ had written:

As a rule the clergy here are of a low order, and rarely associate with the gentry. In our own village, for instance, where the clergyman is not by any means a bad specimen, no servant is kept at his house, and several of his sons have been brought up to handicraft trades. We are very good friends, but he could not visit at my house. . . . His sister was waiting-maid to a friend of ours.

Conybeare adds wryly:

As an illustration of these statements, it may be worthwhile to mention that the writer of these pages, some years ago, when in a boat on one of the Cumberland lakes, observed upon the road which ran along the shore, a man and woman ride by on the same horse, the man in front, the woman behind. “There goes our priest and his wife,” said the boatman. On landing, soon after, the worthy couple were seen making hay together in a small field which the clergyman farmed.

Good on them!

Matterdale

Matterdale

Conybeare mentions another friend he had consulted ‘who was well acquainted with the diocese of Carlisle who estimated ‘the proportion of the hill-clergy in Westmoreland and Cumberland, who are “more or less intoxicated at one time or another, at parties, fairs, or markets “as one-sixth of the whole number.’ Another informant wrote that ‘several of the clergy’ in his neighbourhood were ‘notorious drunkards’.

‘The social position held by the clergy may be inferred from the above statements’, says Conybeare, adding that their status was in fact ‘precisely the same with that assigned to their predecessors by Mr. Macaulay’.

Conybeare goes to great length to explain the social, economic and political causes of this situation as well as to show how the prevailing view was unfair. I will quote just a little of this fine work:

We have said that Mr. Macaulay’s account of the rural Clergy of the reign of Charles II. would apply almost verbatim to the Mountain Clergy of the present century (ed. the nineteenth). We may add that this condition of things originates in the same cause which he assigns for it; namely, the inadequacy of the parochial endowments. But here we must guard against misconception.

Let it not for a moment be supposed that we consider poverty a degradation to the preacher of the Gospel. God forbid that wealth should be necessary to the ministry of a religion which made the poor of this world rich in faith — a religion whose apostles were Galilean fishermen. A clergy may be very ill-endowed, and yet, by a judicious system of organisation and discipline, and by a proper provision for its education, it may command not only the love of the poor, but the respect of the rich. The efficiency of the Scotch establishment during the last century and a half is a decisive proof of this.

But if we have a clergy taken from the poorer classes of society, and left in indigence, without education, without superintendence, without organisation, and without discipline, then it will inevitably become despised and despicable.  Not that a priesthood of vulgar paupers is in reality more contemptible than a hierarchy of well-bred Sybarites; for, in the sight of God, Leo X. was perhaps more despicable than Tetzel; but that the cultivated Epicurean will be able to veil his faults under a more decent disguise.

The careless and undevout members of an uneducated peasant clergy will retain the low tastes and coarse vices of the class from which they sprang; and the zealous (who at the best must be a minority) will disgust their more intelligent parishioners by an illiterate fanaticism. These may be followed by the ignorant, but will be ridiculed by the educated; those will be deservedly despised by rich and poor alike.

When men who are appointed by the State to be the religious guides and examples of the people thus forfeit both the respect of the wise and the esteem of the good, the object of their mission is defeated.

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church

I have no idea what type of curate or man Thomas Grisdale was; he was, as I have said, the curate of mountainous Matterdale for fifty-two years, throughout Charles II’s reign and beyond. I do hope he occasionally got on a horse with his wife Elizabeth Grisdale (nee Noble), my own 6th great grandmother, and made a little hay. He may have liked the odd beer or two too.

But although Thomas was in all likelihood looked down on by the local gentry, it seems he was well regarded by his parishioners. Not only was he their curate for fifty-two years but somewhat after his death we find testimony to the fact that the people of Matterdale could and always had chosen their curates and were very happy with them.  The testimony in question was written by the ‘inhabitants’ of Matterdale between 1735 and 1747 to Bishop Fleming of Carlisle:

To the Right Reverend Father in God George Lord Bishop of Carlisle the Petition of the Inhabitants of the Chappelrie of Matterdale humbly showeth  That the Chappel of Matterdale is now Vacant that when the Revd Mr. Woof left us before he resigned the place some of the Inhabitants of our Chappelry waited on our Rector the Reverend Mr. Law at his house at Graystock and acquainted him that Mr. William Todhunter of Dacre would be very acceptable to us and hoped he would give him his nomination.

Greystoke Rectory

Greystoke Rectory

He told us he had given his Consent to the Rev. Mr. Rumney’s son Leonard as soon as Mr. Woof had resigned the place.  We drew a writing and with one consent subscribed it to certifie him we were agreed to Recomend to his approbation Mr. William Todhunter and requested of him to give his nomination as his Predecessor had always done to the Person we requested and we told him we believ’d we had a Right and that it was our Duty so to do, He Replied if we had any Right he did not want nor would he have it and that your Lordship was the Properest Judge and to you my Lord, we would refer it.

Wherefore my Lord we Begg you would give us leave to lay our case before you as Briefly as we can and that Mr. Grisdale was the Person we requested his nomination which is the antientest we believe that is at Rose Castle will testefie and Mr. Clerk that succeeded him was the Person the Inhabitants requested and Mr. Taylor that succeeded him was the Person we requested his Father yet Living can testefie and Mr. Walker that succeeded him is at this time Mr. Atkinson’s Curate at Kirkby Thore and will testefie he was the man we requested and Mr. Atkinson that succeeded him was the man we chose and his Lordship your Lordship’s predecessor put him in when our Chappel had been long vacant and Mr. Woof was the man the Major part of the Inhabitants subscribed with If the Revd Mr. Law can say this is not the very truth we’ll say no more and with submission, the reason why we should have something to say we think is because we endowed the Chappel with the salrie  my Lord our Ancestours raised forty pounds (a great sum for so poor a Chappelry when money was so scarce) and lent it at two shillings i’th pound and when the Interest of Money lowered that it would not make four pounds a year and when it was in danger of being lost we withdrew the money and agreed to pay two shillings sixpence out of every eight shillings rent Tenement which makes about four pounds ten shillings and which with our little Glebe and surplice dues is the salary at this day and some or other is and has been all ways willing to accept of it and we hope we may say we have not one man that had any Blemish in his life and conversation and that the service of Almighty God has been performed with as much Decencie and as good Order as in any Chappel in your Lordship’s Diocess, so we desire your Lordship would be pleased to take the matter into Consideration and do sincerely assure you my Lord that your Judgment and determination shall be final and for ever put an end to our onnhappy janglings and we shall still continue to pray.

Rose Castle, the residence of the Bishops's of Carlisle

Rose Castle, the residence of the Bishops of Carlisle

The issue involved here was quite simple: the inhabitants of the chapelry of Matterdale had always chosen their own priest, because, as they say, they paid for him. ‘Mr. Grisdale’, i.e. Thomas Grisdale, ‘was the person we requested, his nomination is the antcientes (ancientest) we believe that is at Rose Castle (the residence of the Bishop’s of Carlisle) will testifie.’ They also chose or requested all Thomas Grisdale’s successors until Mr. Woof and say how this can be proved. Their curates had never been imposed on them against their will – until now.

Now the Revd Mr. Law, the rector of Greystoke, Matterdale’s mother church, was going to impose his own choice: Leonard Rumney, the son of a local vicar who was no doubt a friend of Mr. Law. Regarding the parishioners’ right to choose their own curate the Revd Law had replied that even if they had this right ‘he did not want nor would he have it’. He didn’t give a damn; he’d have his own man.

Actually neither Leonard Rumney nor William Todhunter was appointed.

Greystoke Church

Greystoke Church

Returning to the reason the parishioners had this right, they rightly said because their ancestors had endowed the Chappel with forty pounds to pay the curate’s salary, even though this was a ‘great sum for so poor a Chappelry when money was so scarce’. When this endowment had proved insufficient they had changed to paying yearly ‘two shillings sixpence out of every eight shillings rent Tenement which makes about four pounds ten shillings’ – there being thirty-six tenements of this value in Matterdale as we shall see.

Regarding the character and performance of the curates the people of Matterdale had chosen from Mr. Grisdale onwards, the Revd. J. Whitseside had this to say in his excellent 1901 article Matterdale Church and School:

We have been accustomed in late years to some severe strictures on the morals and manners of the old dale priests from critics who too hastily assumed that what was true of a few might be asserted of many. It is, therefore, refreshing to have the testimony of the people of Matterdale — “We have not had one man that had any blemish in his life and conversation.” The whole document is most honourable to the dalesmen, testifying both to their sturdy native independence and their willingness to submit to constituted authority in the Church.

I wrote about the origins of Matterdale church in a recent article (see here). What is abundantly clear is that from the very start in about 1566 when the first ‘chapelry of ease’ was allowed in Matterdale and certainly from 1580 when the chapel got full parochial rights i.e. the right to perform weddings, baptisms and burials, the inhabitants of the valley had always had to pay not only for the curate but for the church building as well.

A document that was in the church safe in Matterdale dated 1699 reads as below. Please do note that all the YEs and YTs for ‘the’ and ‘that’ do not mean people actually talked like this. The Y was just a letter signifying the sound TH; contrary to general opinion nobody ever said ‘Ye Olde Tavern’ or the like.

Whereas about ye eight year of Queen Elizabeth (1566) the Inhabitants of Matterdale did petition for having a church att ye said Matterdale which was granted in Bishop Best his time (1561-1570) with a pviso that they should maintain a Currate att it which ye said Inhabitants did pmise and Ingage to doe.

And in order thereto did make up about fforty pounds Church stock amongst them that ye use thereof might goe to ye Currate which was then Lent forth att two shillings the pound or more. But in ye time of King James the First (1603- 1625) when money came to a Lower use the said Inhabitants were forced to take ye said Church stock into their own hands And pay to ye Currate two shillings which hath so continued ever since.

Now we considering that often part of ye said Church stock is lost and we have it to make up again And often times we have much cost and trouble with sueing for yt which is in dainger to be lost And also when a Tenant dyes ye widow and younger children hath it to pay to ye heir forth of ye deceased man’s goodds And therefore we having ye said Church stock in our own hands doe agree and Covenant to lay it upon our own Lands so that every Tenement of eight shillings Rent shall yearly pay to ye Currate two shillings sixpence of Current English money as a known due forth of ye land accordingly, and to ye first Covenent.

And so every one yt hath more or less rent after yt rate and to continue from ansestor to heirs accordingly as is hereafter subscribed …. doe hereby bind ourselves our heires executors successors on our land as wittnesse our hands and sealls In ye eleavent year of ye Reigne of King William ye third over England &c. and in ye year of our Lord God 1699.

This document includes the signatures of thirty-six inhabitants and how much each is paying towards the upkeep of the curate Thomas Grisdale. It is interesting to note that seven of these thirty-six are other members of the Matterdale Grisdale clan.

James  the first, another disastrous king

James the first, another disastrous king

So since King James’ time, the initial forty pound endowment had been replaced by the two shillings and sixpence paid by each of the thirty six eligible tenement holders. And it seems that this was usually done. The Rev. J. Whiteside quotes the former president of the Cumberland and Westmorland antiquarian and archaeological society as saying: ‘The origin of these chapelries requires to be made known: their salaries are charges on the land, but the deeds creating the charges are at this date rarely forthcoming, and in some places the land owners, who are liable to them, are beginning to repudiate the payment on the ground that they are voluntary payments, were abolished with church-rates or other frivolous and shabby pretence.’ ‘‘A repudiation, says Whiteside, ‘which has not taken root in Matterdale’.

In summary, since 1566 or slightly thereafter, the inhabitants of Matterdale had not only paid the ‘priest wage’ as it was known but also chosen him themselves, subject to the approval of both the Rector of Greystoke and the Bishop of Carlisle – that is until the Revd Mr. Law came along.

In the seventeenth century the average rural priest-wage was very low indeed, generally between five and ten pounds per annum. As we have seen, at best Thomas Grisdale’s wage would have been four pounds ten shillings. How did he and his predecessors and followers survive? Here we have to look at what is called the parish ‘Glebe Terrier’ or just ‘Terrier’.

A seventeenth century Glebe Terrier

A seventeenth century Glebe Terrier

A glebe terrier is a term specific to the Church of England. It is a document, usually a written survey or inventory, which gives details of glebe, lands and property in the parish owned by the Church of England and held by a clergyman as part of the endowment of his benefice, and which provided the means by which the incumbent (rector, vicar or perpetual curate) could support himself and his church. Typically, glebe would comprise the vicarage or rectory, fields and the church building itself, its contents and its graveyard… “Terrier” is derived from the Latin terra, “earth”.

The glebe terrier would be drawn up at the time of each visitation, an official visit usually by the archdeacon. The Archdeacon would visit each parish annually, and the bishop visited outlying parts of his diocese every few years to maintain ecclesiastical authority and conduct confirmations.

Each church was entitled to a house and glebe. The glebe lands were either cultivated by the clergyman himself, or by tenants to whom he leased the land. In those cases where the parsonage was not well-endowed with glebe, the clergyman’s main source of income would come from the tithes.

In 1704, when Thomas Grisdale was still curate, such a Terrier was made of Matterdale by the Rector of Greystoke, the summary reads:

Imprimis. One dwelling house with a byer and a barn (sixteen yards in length) to be built at the charges of the hamlet, when they fall; the repair onely at the Charge of the Curate. Item, One Close by estimation two Acres: Item, the Chapple yard ; by estimation half an acre. The curate has right of common (and liberty to get peats and turff) both within the liberties of Weathermealock and Matterdale. Every tenement (whereof there are 36 in number) pays 2s 6d except one cottage called Park Gate which pays 2s onely. Total 4I 9s 6d. For every marriage is 1s 6d whereof !s is due to the rector of Graystock and 6d to the Curate.

Notice the thirty-six tenements in Matterdale (of a certain standing and value), the farmer of each one except one having to still pay the 2s 6d each year, thus giving the total of 4l 9s 6d. In addition we see that the curate might earn a bit more from marriages (though twice as much went to the rector) and had rights of common including getting peat and turf to burn in his ‘dwelling house with a byer and a barn’.

A latter Terrier in 1776 gives slightly more details:

A perfect Terrier of all the Houses Lands Tenements and augmentations and yearly profits belonging to the Curacy of Matterdale in the parish of Graystock in the County of Cumberland and Diocese of Carlisle.

1.  A Thatch house Three lengths of Timber containing a Barn & a Byer with about two acres and a half of arable and meadow ground. Valued at about Two pound ten a year. This lays in Matterdale.

2. Two shillings and sixpence a Tenement which comes to Four pounds Ten shillings.

3. One fourth of an estate lying and being at Burton-in- Lonsdale in the parish of Thornton and County of York let at yearly rent of Ten pound. N.B. No Houses.

4. Brunt Sike Estate in the Hamlet of Howgill in the parish of Sedbecg and County of York containing a dwelling House Bam adjoining a Stable and Loft ov’ it with Twenty four acres of arable and Meadow Ground known by the names of Holme Little Close Hills — Gate House Close High Broom & Thoresgill Let at the yearly rent of fourteen pounds.

5. One half of Hause-foot Estate in the parish of Orton County of Westmorland with a Fine House with one half of the Barn Byer and Stables £7 l0s a year.

Given under our Hands this 4. day of June 1776.

William Wright Curate. Solomon Grisedale Chapelwarden.

Of course these other rents didn’t go to the curates of Matterdale.

Finally we should mention one other way the curate and his family could survive. The Rev. Whiteside tells us that the Matterdale curates were also entitled to ‘Whittlegate’. What is Whittlegate? In Bygone Cumberland and Westmorland, Daniel Scott wrote this in 1899:

bygone cumberlandThe old customs peculiar to Cumberland and Westmorland of “Whittlegate” and “Chapel Wage” have long since passed out of the list of obligations imposed, although the rector of Brougham might still, if he wished, claim whittlegate at Hornby Hall every Sunday. The parsons of the indifferently educated class already alluded to had to be content with correspondingly small stipends, which were eked out by the granting of a certain number of meals in the course of twelve months at each farm or other house above the rank of cottage, with, in some parishes, a suit of clothes, a couple of pairs of shoes, and a pair of clogs. Clarke gives the following explanation of the origin of the term: —

“Whittlegate meant two or three weeks’ victuals at each house, according to the ability of the inhabitants, which was settled among themselves; so that the minister could go his course as regularly as the sun, and complete it annually. Few houses having more knives than one or two, the pastor was often obliged to buy his own knife or ‘whittle.’ Sometimes it was bought for him by the chapel wardens. He marched from house to house with his ‘whittle,’ seeking ‘fresh fields and pastures new,’ and as master of the herd, he had the elbow chair at the table head, which was often made of part of a hollow ash tree — a kind of seat then common.

The reader at Wythburn had for his salary three pounds yearly, a hempen sark or shirt, a whittlegate, and a goosegate, or right to depasture a flock of geese on Helvellyn. A story is still (1789) told in Wythburn of a minister who had but two sermons which he preached in turn. The walls of the chapel were at that time unplastered, and the sermons were usually placed in a hole in the wall behind the pulpit. One Sunday, before the service began, some mischievous person pushed the sermons so far into the hole that they could not be got out with the hand. When the time came for the sermon, the priest tried in vain to get them out. He then turned to the congregation, and told them what had happened. He could touch them, he said, with his forefinger, but could not get his thumb in to grasp them; ‘ But, however,’ said he, ‘ I can read you a chapter out of Job that’s worth both of them put together!'”

So this I hope might give just a flavour of the life of the Matterdale curates in the seventeenth century and beyond.

From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and from battle and murder, and from sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us.’  English Liturgy, 1547

The plague, along with starvation and repression, has been the perennial lot of the English people, as indeed of so many others. Cumberland was no exception. Here plagues have struck from time to time from at least the thirteenth century. A hundred years after the above English Liturgy was written the plague came once again to Cumberland and wiped out dozens if not hundreds of families. One of these was a Grisdale family in the small Cumberland market and industrial town of Keswick.

St. Kentigern's, Crosthwaite, Keswick

St. Kentigern’s, Crosthwaite, Keswick

On the 5th of February 1620, Thomas Grisdale married Alice Birkett of Seathwaite in St. Kentigern’s Church in Keswick. With one (perhaps relevant) exception this is the first mention of a member of the Grisdale family in Keswick. Over the next twenty-five years with two wives Thomas had nine children, some died young but many survived. What had brought Thomas to Keswick? And where had he come from? As to the reason that Thomas came to Keswick, there is I believe only one explanation. The only reason for someone to come to the town of Keswick at this time was to work in the German-run copper smelter situated at Brigham in Keswick. In an earlier article I showed how German miners had been brought over by Queen Elizabeth, and how the industry had developed (see here). Once the mines and the smelters were fully up and running in 1569, we find a certain John Grysdall mentioned twice. In the August 1569 accounts – the Germans did accounts seven times a year- John is listed as a ‘peat carrier’. He received payment for delivering 3 hundred (loads) of peat from ‘Flasco’ (present-day Flaska near Troutbeck in the north of Matterdale parish) to the copper smelter at Keswick. He did the same again later in the year. And in 1571 an Edward Gristal (Grisdale) of Threlkeld was also paid as a peat carrier for deliveries from Flasco.

In the middle of 1567 the Company began keeping its own carts and horses, for building and for carriage of special articles close to Keswick; but this did not supersede the use of English packhorses for charcoal, peat, ore, and a little later for stone-coal.

An eighteenth-century Copper Smelter

An eighteenth-century Copper Smelter

While one can imagine why charcoal was needed for the smelting of ore, what was the peat for? Chemistry, Society, and Environment: A New History of the British Chemical Industry (ed. Colin A. Russell et al, Royal Society, 2000) explains:

Copper ore was mined and smelted at Brigham, near Keswick in Cumberland, under the auspices of the Company of Mines royal… The sulphide ores used at Keswick were subjected to preliminary roasting to burn off excess sulphur, and then treated with nine horseloads of peat and five horseloads of ‘stone coals’ (a horseload was equivalent to 109 litres). Limestone was added as a flux and after smelting a matte or “green stock” was run off. Subsequently, about eight days’ recovery of matte was roasted with six peat fires, each hotter than the last, to produce “copper stone” or “black copper”. This was smelted once a month to give “rough copper”, and involved three separate smelting with lead ore to extract the silver from the copper matte. This process of making copper at Keswick took eighteen weeks and five days.

I believe Thomas either worked in the Brigham copper smelter or worked for the German miners in another way. As to my second question: Where had Thomas come from? There can really be no doubt. Thomas married in 1620 and thus was most probably born in the 1590s. At this time, and for a while thereafter, there are no Grisdales recorded anywhere else but Matterdale, and the majority of those lived in Dowthwaite Head. We have already seen that there were two Grisdales lugging peat to Keswick shortly after the Germans started copper mining and smelting, thus Thomas too descended from the Matterdale Grisdales – even if (as might just be the case) he was related to Edward Grisdale, the 1571 peat carrier of Threlkeld.

Dowthwaite Head Farm

Dowthwaite Head Farm

In the vast majority of cases the sixteenth-century Grisdales are listed as living in Dowthwaite Head. Clearly this was where the family had originally settled (see here). Around the time that John and Edward Grysdall were lugging peat on their packhorses from Flasco to the smelters at Keswick, we find Robert, two Christophers, Edward, Thomas, Richard and two John Grisdales, all with two exceptions living at Dowthwaite Head. Finally, in 1581 the Cumberland militia was called out yet again in the face of the never-ending threat of Scottish raids. At the Penrith Muster on that year nine Matterdale ‘bowmen’ of military age turned out: John, William, Christopher, Robert, Edward, Richard and three named Thomas. I think it highly likely that our Thomas Grisdale of Keswick was either a son (or possibly a grandson) of one of these nine Matterdale bowmen. We left Thomas marrying Alice Birkett in early 1620. Six children followed, all baptized in Keswick church: Susanna 1621 (died the same year), Jayne 1625 (died the next year), Alice 1628, Edward 1631, Robert 1632 and Ann 1638.It seems that then Thomas’s wife Alice died, because on 24 July 1638 Thomas married again, this time to Ann Hayton of Abbeyholme. Four more children were born to Thomas and Ann: Joyce 1639, Edward 1641, Thomas 1643 and Jayne 1645. From this we can imply that as well as Susanna and Jayne (from Thomas earlier marriage to Alice) who had died as babies, son Edward (1631) had in the meantime died as well. This just left six children: Alice, Robert, Ann, Thomas and Joyce and Jane. I mentioned that Thomas’s wedding in 1620 was the first mention of a Grisdale in Keswick, except for one. On 14 January, 1620 just three months before Thomas married Alice, there is a record of a Jenet Grisdale being baptized in Keswick church, the daughter of ‘Thomas Grisdale of Keswick’ and his wife Jennett. It is of course possible that Jenet’s mother Jennett died in child birth and, if we are dealing with the same Thomas, he very quickly remarried Alice. As we will see it is sure that daughter Jenet survived.

A Plague Victim

A Plague Victim

And so the years passed and Thomas’s children started to grow. But then in 1646, only a year after Thomas and Ann’s last child Ann was born, disaster struck. The plague came to Keswick. I’d like to follow Dr. Henry Barnes, who in September 1889 gave a talk to the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society called Visitations of the Plague in Cumberland and Westmorland. Barnes asked: ‘At the outset it may be asked, What was the plague? What kind of disease was it?’ He continued:

It may be sufficient to remark that among the various nationalities of antiquity and in the middle ages the word plague was used in its collective sense, and included the most various diseases that occurred in epidemic form, ran an acute course, and showed a heavy mortality. Some of these visitations have no doubt been visitations of the true oriental plague, a disease characterized by inflammatory boils and tumours of the glands, such as break out in no other febrile disease. On other occasions it may have been the sweating sickness…. It is probable also that smallpox and typhus formed some of the epidemics and were included under the head of plague.

Back to Keswick. Andrew B. Appleby in his Famine in Tudor & Stuart England (1977) tells us:

Plague ravaged Carlisle in 1645, spread to Keswick in 1646, Cockermouth in 1647, and St. Bees in 1650. This seems to have been the same epidemic, although it took four years to cross Cumberland.

Keswick, Cumberland

Keswick, Cumberland

Regarding Keswick, which is in the parish of Crosthwaite, Appleby continues:

The number of burials increased dramatically in May (1646) and continued high through September – the usual plague season. Of the 93 persons dying between May 14, the beginning of the epidemic, and July 28, 80 came from Keswick, 11 from “Estenbec” (nearby in Crosthwaite), and the homes of two others were not shown.

He says:

The striking characteristic of all the dead who can be geographically placed in no more than two communities indicates that the disease did not spread into the rural parts of the parish. Most of the parish was spared in 1646, in contrast to 1597 and 1623.

When I first looked at the early Crosthwaite parish registers I was appalled to find dozens of deaths and burials within a few short months in 1646. The registers also show what Appleby states, namely that the plague started to bite on May 14. One of the Keswick families it struck was the Grisdales. Here are the Crosthwaite burial entries for just a few days in May:

May 17 – Alice Grisdale of Keswick May 17 – Robert Grisdale of Keswick May 19 – Thomas Grisdale of Keswick May 20 – Joyce Grisdale of Keswick May 20 – Jenet Grisdale of Keswick May 29 – Thomas Grisdale of Keswick

The Plague in seventeenth-century England

The Plague in seventeenth-century England

This means that  at least three and possibly four of the seven remaining children of Thomas Grisdale died in the plague in just a few days. Also one of the two Thomas Grisdales who died was obviously Thomas himself. The Grisdale family of Keswick had been completely wiped out. It’s most probable that the Alice who died was Thomas’s 18 year-old daughter, which would imply that mother Alice either survived or had died in childbirth in 1645. (See comment below for more information of the survivors) Unfortunately as most of them died there is no testament of any sort to the destruction of this poor family, with of course the exception of the parish records. In place of such a testament I’d like to quote a Rector called Robert Lenthall whose family died of plague in 1647 in the village of Great Hampden. Below is what he wrote. I’ve left the spelling unchanged and not replaced the ‘YE’s and ‘YT’s by THE and THAT. Contrary to popular belief people never said YE (as in ‘Ye Old Pub’), the Y was just a letter signifying the sound TH.

My daughter Sarah Lenthall was buied ye eleventh day of August Ann: Supra (1647) she came from London to Whickham (High Wycombe) & on ye Saturday only to see us and so to returne ye morrow in ye afternoon to Whickham againe, but then fell sick & on Wednesday morning following being ye 11th of Aug. About an houre before Sun rise dyed of ye sickness & so on ye Evening we buried her in ye Meade called Kitchen-meade by ye hedgeside as you go downe into it on yor left hand, a little below ye pond at ye entrance into ye meade: She was aged 14 yeares eleven months & seaventeene days – had she lived to Bartholomew day she had been 15 yeares of age. Susanna Lenthall my wife dep’ted this life Thursday evening about eight a clock ye 26 of August, she died of ye sickness comfortably & in peace & was buried ye 27 by hir daughter Sara. John Gardiner a childe yt lived in my house died of ye sicknes & was buried August ye 29th. Adrian Lenthall my sonne a hopeful young man & neere one & twenty years dep’ted this life of ye sickness, Thursday morning a little before day breake & was buried at ye head of his sister Sara’a grave ye same day, being ye 2nd of Septe’b. My cosen John Pickering a lad of about 13 yeares of age, dying of ye sickness, was buried the 25 of Septeb 1647. Robert Lenthall, Rector

J. F. D. Shrewsbury recounted this story in his A History of the Bubonic Plague in the British Isles. He added:

It is more than 300 years since this simple yet moving lament was written in the bitterness of his grief and loneliness by a man bereft by bubonic plague of wife, children, and kinsman within the space of one month. Because they were the victims of that dreaded disease he dared not bury them in consecrated ground and erect a monument over their resting place; but he has given his loved ones a more lasting memorial, one that will endure as long as the printed word is read and long after the costliest gravestone has crumbled to dust.

Indeed. What happened to the Keswick copper smelting works where Thomas might have worked?  I’ll let the great Lakeland historian Collingwood explain in his own inimitable words:

In 1604, James I granted a charter confirmatory to the Company, including the names of Emanuel and Daniel, sons of the late Daniel Hechstetter. The Keswick mines survived them both, though Joseph, son of Emanuel, lived to see the wreck of the Smelthouses, which he managed in his turn, at the Civil Wars. It is usually said that this was perpetrated in 1651 by Cromwell’s army on the march from Edinburgh to Worcester. But General Lambert’s troops took Penrith in June, 1648, and Colonel Ashton’s forces came in September of that year to raise the siege of Cockermouth Castle. There were several opportunities, without casting the usual blame on Cromwell, for Parliament men to attack the headquarters of a royal monopoly. How far it deserved attack is quite another matter.

Keswick today

Keswick today