Archive for the ‘Family History’ Category

In an earlier article I told of Simeon Grisdale Senior and finished with his death in Crouch End, Islington in 1825, just weeks after he had been released from debtors’ prison. Here I want to tell of his son Simeon, ‘a most systematic rogue’, of his continual movements, changes of occupation, his repeated bigamy and his spells in jail. There are still some mysteries about his life and the fate of some of his children, plus I don’t even know exactly where and when he died, but I hope it’s still an interesting tale. He was a rogue indeed but I can’t help warming to him.

Broughton, Hants

Broughton, Hants

As mentioned in my earler article titled Simeon Grisdale – bankruptcy and debtors’ prison,  Simeon Grisdale Junior was born in Houghton in Hampshire in 1805. His father, Simeon Senior, was the village baker and chandler and the younger Simeon grew up in rural Hampshire with his younger sister Mary. Whether Simeon Senior’s wife Ruth and his two grown or almost grown children accompanied him to London isn’t known. Maybe they stayed in Hampshire. In any case the next we hear of young Simeon is in June 1830 when he married Ann Jearam in the next door Hampshire village of Broughton. Three children followed: Mary in 1834, William in 1836 (both born in Broughton) and then Simeon in 1839. Baby Simeon died the next year in Over Wallop, Hampshire. But the children were not christened in either of  the Church of England churches in Houghton or Broughton, where the family were living. Instead they were baptized in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the ancient city of Salisbury, Simeon being said to be a labourer. The theme of Wesleyan Methodism will reappear later.

By 1841 the family had moved to Waight’s Terrace in Southampton and Simeon was a brewer. Perhaps the family stayed in Southampton during the 1840s, but in 1850 Simeon’s long career of bigamy starts. On 25 December 1850, while still married to Ann (she died in Clerkenwell, London in 1867), Simeon married Mary Ann Scott in Chelmsford in Essex, a long way from Hampshire. The circumstances leading to this marriage are, I’m afraid, lost forever, as indeed is Mary Ann Scott’s subsequent fate. I can find no trace of any of the family in the 1851 census, which is strange. Whatever the case, Simeon’s bigamous marriage to Mary Ann didn’t last long. Maybe she discovered he was already married? Maybe, though most unlikely, he went back to his family for a while.

But we do know what Simeon was up to in 1851. The Oxford Journal on 6 September 1851 contained the following report:

IMPOSTER –

On Monday last a man, named Simeon Grisdale, was sentenced to three months imprisonment and hard labour, as a rogue and vagabond, under the following circumstances, detailed in evidence by Mr. Parsons, a grocer, of this town, to whom great praise is due for his promptness in bringing to justice a most systematic rogue. In August last the accused called called upon Mr. Parsons and passed himself off as a local preacher attached to the Wesleyan Methodist persuasion, who was deputed to collect contributions in aid of a fund for building a chapel at a place called Stanford, to which pretended object it appeared, by a collecting book which he presented, a great number of parties in various places had subscribed. Mr. Parsons contributed a sum, but having found out subsequently such particulars as left no doubt that he had been imposed on, he procured a search warrant, and with a constable proceed to Oxford, where he heard the man was, and forthwith apprehended him, when he directly confessed his guilt. At a house where he was living portions of books were found, by which it appeared that he had visited most towns in Berks, Oxon etc, and had drawn upon the public to the tune of £40 or £50, and to such purposes he had changed the locality of the pretended chapel from place to placer as circumstances rendered it necessary. The accused had no defense to make.

Meadvale in 1955

Meadvale in 1955

Having most likely been released from prison in December 1851, Simeon, as we will see, arrived in Harefield in Middlesex to ‘open a school’. There he met Mary Ann Clarke, the daughter of Harefield carpenter Thomas Clarke and his wife Ann. In July of that year he married Mary Ann at the registrar’s office in Uxbridge in Middlesex. You have to say he got around.  He stayed with this Mary Ann a bit longer. They had four children together: Margaret in 1855 in Hounslow, Middlesex, Benomi (?) in 1857 in Heston (a suburb of Hounslow), Ruth in 1859 in Speldhurst (Tunbridge Wells) in Kent and Simeon in 1859 in Meadvale in Redhill in Surrey. Son Simeon died aged only six weeks. We can imply that during all these years Simeon was trying his hand at running private schools, though continually moving from place to place.

Certainly when he moved to Meadvale in Redhill in Surrey in 1858 or 1859 he and his wife did become schoolmaster and mistress! They are listed as such in the 1861 census. A far cry maybe from labouring, brewing, obtaining money under false pretenses and God knows what else.

Meadvale was known in the 19th century as Meads Hole. The name means meadowland hollow. Here not only dwellings but also pottery businesses scattered over the common land — some kilns remain. The major hamlet had two butchers, a baker, a draper, a tailor and a grocer’s shop. The first school was held in the village hall with a fee of one penny a week for each child. At the beginning of the 19th century, there was a tanner’s yard adjoining Earlswood Common which was pasture, not park, at the southern entrance to Meadvale.

Perhaps their school was ‘in the village hall’?

Things seemed to be going well for Simeon. But no, he had obviously not repented of his ways – bigamy and collecting money for fictitious Methodist chapels. In September 1862 various newspapers all over the country reported his activities,. This one is from the Kentish Chronicle on 6 September 1862:

A SCHOOLMASTER COMMITTED FOR BIGAMY –

Samuel Russell, alias Simeon Grisdale, a schoolmaster and a Wesleyan local preacher, was brought up Monday last before the Tunbridge bench of magistrates charged with marrying a female named Fanny Kingwood in April last, his former wife being then alive. Fanny Kingwood stated that in Apri, 1862, she was living at Reigate Heath, and the prisoner was living at Redhill, about three miles distant. She became acquainted with him by his coming to see her master for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions. She understood he was a single man, and went by the name of Samuel Russell. After several months’ courtship he induced her, on 5th April, to go to London with him, and the ceremony of marriage was gone through at York Street Chapel, Walworth. Ann Clarke, the wife of Thomas Clarke, carpenter of Harefield, Middlesex, said she had known the prisoner for ten years. He went to Harfield and opened a school, and shortly afterwards became acquainted with her daughter, Mary Ann Clarke, to whom he was married at the registrar’s office at Uxbridge, nearly ten years ago. He was married in the name of Simneon Grisdale. Her daughter was still alive. The prisoner, on being cautioned in the usual way, said, “All that I have to say is, I am truly sorry for it.” He was committed for trial at the ensuing assizes at Maidstone.

As we will see it’s doubtful  that Simeon was ‘truly sorry’.  In any case  on 29 November 1862 Simeon was tried at Maidstone Court in Kent for bigamy and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Maidstone Prison

Maidstone Prison

Before I continue with Simeon, what became of his (legal) wife Ann and their children? Sometime in the 1850s they had moved to London. In 1861 wife Ann Grisdale (nee Jearam) was a Seamstress living at 36 Chapel Street in Clerkenwell. So too was her recently widowed young ‘Dress Maker’ daughter Mary Midson (nee Grisdale). Son William was nearby working as a ‘Pot Man’ i.e. a glass washer at the British Queen pub off Canonbury Square in Islington.

St Laurence, Upton, Slough

St Laurence, Upton, Slough

Returning to bigamist Simeon Grisdale. If he completed his full four year sentence (probably in Maidstone Prison) he would have been free at the end of 1866. His first and legal wife Ann died in London in the first quarter of 1867. Did Simeon know? Did he care? We don’t know. We might also conclude that his marriage to Fanny Kingwood had been annulled on his conviction for bigamy. Whether he was still married to Mary Ann Clarke is not known.

Yet on the 9 February 1867 Simeon married again in the Buckinghamshire village of Upton near Slough, this time his wife was widow Maria Compton (nee Stevens). Given the timing it’s quite likely this marriage was bigamous too. It does seem Simeon was a bit of a charmer and ladies’ man! He settled down with Maria and several stepchildren in Upton and he now became a greengrocer (and possibly a draper too). One son was born in 1868, who Simeon again called Simeon – third time lucky. This Simeon, who will be the subject of  a subsequent article, survived, but Simeon’s marriage to Maria Compton didn’t.

By 1871 the family had moved to Acton in Middlesex (now part of London), but they weren’t living together. Simeon is listed in the 1871 census as a greengrocer living at 5 Windmill Terrace on Turnpike Road with his young son Simeon. His wife Maria was living at 4 prospect Terrace on Park Road, working as a laundress, with three of her Compton children plus son Simeon Grisdale – he was recorded twice, both with his father and mother!

But Simeon couldn’t do without a wife. Oh no, he had to marry again, and again bigamously. On 30 November 1873 he married Margaret Mary Downie in Christ Church, in the south London area of Southwark.

And here  the ‘most systematic rogue’ Simeon Grisdale simply disappears. I can find no trace of his death. In 1881 the wife Maria was still in London but said she was a widow, so I guess Simeon died sometime in the 1870s after a full life indeed: from labourer to brewer to schoolmaster, to prisoner to greengrocer; with six wives and multiple bigamies behind him!

Later I will tell of Simeon Grisdale the third, who became a soldier, went to Ireland then to the North West Frontier in India and, well into his forties, fought in the First World War.

bigamy

‘From Silverdale and Kent Sand side
Where soil is sold with cockle shells
For Cartmel eke and Conneyside
And fellows fierce from Furneys fells.’ – From a Tudor Ballad

 The story I want to tell here is a story of poor nineteenth-century cockle fishermen in the Cartmel peninsula, which was then in northern Lancashire but is now part of Cumbria. It is a story of a man called Isaac Armistead Grisdale, who was born in Allithwaite in Cartmel in 1808 and died in the same place in 1881. But before I begin with cockling let us go back a generation.

Isaac was the first child of Thomas Grisdale (1784-1864) and his wife Mary Armistead, who were married in Cartmel on 30 September 1807. The Armistead family came from nearby Heversham and Mary’s father was called Isaac, hence the name which keeps reappearing in this family. Mary’s sister Margaret married Thomas’s brother Joseph in Cartmel in 1816.

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

Isaac’s father Thomas was originally a carpenter or ‘sawyer’ who sometime after his marriage in 1807 took his wife and two children away from Cartmel all the way to the cotton weaving town of Bolton in Lancashire, where the couple had two more children: John in 1819 and William Armistead Grisdale in 1821. Whether they knew it or not they would have been surrounded in Bolton by various Grisdale relatives working in the cotton industry.

But our Grisdale family here eventually moved back to Cartmel and Thomas quit carpentry and tried his hand at what was the main occupation in the area: cockle fishing, and, at times, being a fishmonger. Fishing is what he was doing in 1840 when his son Isaac married Mary Atkinson. It seems that Isaac must have worked with his father in this hard and perilous job of cockle fishing on the sands of Morecambe Bay. He continued to do so for the next thirty years, being variously described as a ‘fisherman’, ‘fishmonger’ and ‘pauper fisherman’, before turning to gardening in his old age, before his death in 1881.

So these are some of the basic facts. I will return to the family later. But let’s look at what cockle fishing entailed on the Cartmel peninsula, something from which both Thomas and his son Isaac tried to make a living, but, at least some of the time, Isaac had to take ‘outdoor’ relief from the parish – hence his designation as ‘pauper fisherman’ in 1851 when he was forty-three.

Cartmel Peninsula

Cartmel Peninsula

The Cartmel peninsular is not a very big place; all the primary villages are within a couple of miles of each other and all near the sands and sea of Morecambe Bay. At one time or another members of this Grisdale family lived in all of them: Cartmel, Cark, Allithwaite and Flookburgh.

Cartmel Parish is that highly picturesque and interesting district extending from the lower reach of Windermere to the great bay of Morecambe, and projecting southward between the estuaries of the Kent and Leven, being bounded on the other sides by Westmorland. Its surface is exceedingly diversified, alternately rising into barren and rocky hills and sinking into warm and fertile valleys, whose sides are clothed with native wood. On the margin of the western sands, a peat-like incrustation has been formed, but it is rapidly disappearing under the skilful operations of the cultivator. The parish, which comprises an area of about 25,137 statute acres, is about twelve miles in length, and averages from four to five in breadth, and is divided into five chapelries and seven townships, viz.: Lower Allithwaite, Upper Allithwaite, Broughton, Cartmel-Fell, Lower Holker, Upper Holker, and Staveley, which contained, collectively, in 1841, a population of 4,924 souls. The sands between the Lancaster shore and Hesk bank, in this parish, are about ten miles in breadth, and have always been considered as dangerous in the approach from Lancaster to Furness, but in company with the guides who are stationed on them, few accidents occur. Levens sands, on the west side of the peninsula, are about three miles in breadth, and are fordable at low water, but the flowing tide from Morecambe covers the whole sandy plain twice a day, many feet deep in the liquid element.

The History, Topography and Directory of Westmorland, 1851.

Flookburgh was historically the main cockling town, if town we can really call it. It is often stated that Flookburgh derives its name from a local flat fish, known as the Fluke, but many local people say that Flookburgh wasn’t named after the Fluke but the Fluke was named after the village. Another more persuasive suggestion it that actually the name comes from the tenth century Hiberno-Norse settlers of the area and that it means Flugga’s burgh or settlement.

Flookburgh

Flookburgh

Flookburgh – about seven miles east of Ulverston – was, at one time, a market town of some importance, largely because it was situated on the major cross-bay route which connected Lancaster with Furness. Having been granted a charter by Edward I, later confirmed by Henry IV, and again by Charles II in 1665, Flookburgh was able to hold a market and two annual fairs.

Cartmel Priory in 1726

Cartmel Priory in 1726

Certainly ‘fishing’ for cockles and mussels, and other fish, in the sands and shallow tidal waters of the surrounding bays must have gone on since people had first lived there. Recently one of the last true local cockle fisherman, Jack Manning, told of ‘some ancient fish traps exposed when the River Leven changed course in 2000, taking approximately 20ft depth of sand and salt marsh and exposing a rock scar where ancient fish traps were discovered. These remained visible for the next couple of years. The timbers were well preserved and a sample was sent for analysis, the result showing a date of 1350-1411 so it would seem likely that they had been placed by monks from either Cartmel Priory or Furness Abbey’.

At one time the land south of the village would have been sand and, at exceptionally high tides, the sea washed over the streets. Today the sea is one mile away along a straight road over reclaimed land which leads the campus of the Lakeland Caravan Park.

cockling

The BBC visited the peninsula a few years ago and wrote: ‘The process of catching cockles entails rocking a plank of wood (called a jumbo) on the sand to generate a sucking action. The jumbo was unique to the Flookburgh area at one time, but is now more widely used in manual cockle catching. The cockles then emerge from the sand at which point they are either picked out by hand or raked with a garden rake and put into bags. A full bag of cockles will weigh 25 kilos. There may be roughly up to 2000 cockles in a bag…’

The report continues:

Cockles usually bury themselves no more than half an inch below the sand, so they become exposed as the tide recedes. But they have more to them than meets the eye – they will bury themselves deeper in the sand during heavy rain or frosty weather to protect themselves from the elements…and they may even delve deeper during a hot spell in search of a cooler place. You can often spot where there may be cockles lurking by the odd open shell where a bird has feasted or numerous depressions in the sand indicating where they are buried.

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

Until quite recently the cockle fishermen used horses and carts, although until the estuary silted up boats would also come from further afield.

So this was how and where Thomas Grisdale and his son Isaac Armistead Grisdale made their meagre livelihood in the nineteenth century, living in the village of Allithwaite. I guess not much had changed by 1904 when the Westmorland Gazette reported:

The public road between Allithwaite and Flookburgh is still much frequented by drunken and disorderly men and other objectionable animals.  The magistrates at Cartmel on Tuesday did nothing else but inquire into cases of this kind.  Allithwaite is especially to be pitied, for its Saturday nights seem to be made hideous by inebriate men and its Sundays by stray pigs.  The police and the magistrates are struggling bravely to abate both nuisances.  Calm and sweet peace will presently visit the village.

Did it?

Allithwaite and sands

Allithwaite and sands

The History, Topography and Directory of Westmorland, published in 1851, precisely when Thomas and Isaac were living in Allithwaite, has a more pedestrian description of the village:

ALLITHWAITE (LOWER) township comprises also a village of its own name, two miles S.S.E. of Cartmel, and the hamlets of Cartlane, two miles E.S.E., and Kent Bank, two and a half miles E.S.E. of the same town, with several dispersed dwellings, bearing different names…

Near Kent Bank, resides the “Carter,” as the guide who conducts travellers over the sands of this part of Morecambe Bay, has long been designated, owing to his name being Carter. His ancestors held the same necessary office during many generations. The original yearly salary was £10, but it has been long advanced to £20, and his stipend in greatly augmented by the gratuities received from the numerous travellers, whom he conducts safely over dangerous sands and shifting channels. The guides were formerly paid by the Prior of Cartmel, but are now paid from the revenues of the Queen, as Duchess of Lancaster. The traveller, when crossing these sands on a hot summer day, is strongly reminded of an Arabian march; the tracks, or roads, are defined by branches of furze stuck in, called “brogs,” and by poles at the edges of the channels.

Under the influence of clear, cloudy, or tempestuous weather, the surrounding scenery assumes an almost endless change of effect, which, combined with the refreshing sea breeze, the easiness of motion, the loquaciousness and jocularity of the guide, renders the journey extremely agreeable, especially in fine weather. “The track is from Holker Hall to Plumpton Hall, keeping Chapel Island a little to the left; and the mind of the visitor in filled with a mixture of awe and gratitude, when, in a short time after he has traversed this estuary almost dry-shod, he beholds the waters advancing into the bay, and bearing stately vessels towards the harbour of Ulverston, over the very path which he has so recently trodden.” At Kent Bank is a large and commodious inn.

Given Lancastrian coastal weather (I know I was born there), it is probably pushing it a bit far to say that ‘the traveller, when crossing these sands on a hot summer day, is strongly reminded of an Arabian march’!

I hope this has given you some idea of how these Grisdales lived in the nineteenth century. It was a hard life and didn’t provide much income even at the best of times. Even with the knowledge of the tides and sands, locals would often still drown when the tide came in fast. In fact Thomas’s brother Joseph was ‘found drowned’ in 1861.

Returning to the family itself: when had it arrived in Cartmel and what became of it. I will be brief.

stmarys

Sawyer and later fisherman Thomas Grisdale (1784-1864) was the son of a weaver of Cartmel also called Thomas (1737-1807), who had married another Grisdale, Deborah Grisdale, in St Mary’s church in the county town of Lancaster in 1766. The couple had at least eight children, most of whom died young. When Thomas senior died in Headless Cross (near Flookburgh) in 1807 he gave his age as seventy. Although for some reason I can’t find his birth anywhere in or around 1737, I think Thomas senior can be no other than a son of the only Grisdale family living in Cartmel in the mid-eighteenth century: that of John Grisdale and his Heversham-born wife Elizabeth Holme. When ‘widow’ and ‘pauper’ Elizabeth Grisdale (nee Holme) died in 1792, she too was living at Headless Cross, where her putative son Thomas senior died some years later. John had died in Holme in Allithwaite in 1770.

And where had John, the first Grisdale in Cartmel, come from? After their marriage in Heversham in 1825, John and Elizabeth had lived in nearby Crosthwaite and Lyth and had several children there. But they moved to Cartmel sometime prior to 1740 when their first Cartmel child, Elizabeth, was born in ‘Mineside’ in Cartmel (wherever that is). Several more children were born in Holme in Allithwaite.

I’ll return at a later date to John’s origins. It’s most likely they were in Matterdale, and there seems only one possibility.

Finally, what of cockle fisherman Isaac Armistead Grisdale’s descendants? This is also for a future date. But suffice it to say here that this was a very poor family indeed and many children died young. But Isaac Armistead had a son and grandson of the exact same name, Isaac Armistead Grisdale,and his great grandson, David Atkinson Grisdale (1877-1914) emigrated from Yorkshire to Humboldt, Saskatchewan in Canada in 1910, where many of his descendants still live. That’s a story I might tell at a later date.

Isaac Armistead Grisdale's grandson of the same name

Isaac Armistead Grisdale’s grandson of the same name

Cartmel

 

In the late 1830s and early 1840s three young brothers attended school together in what would become, but wasn’t yet, the Canadian city of Winnipeg. They were pupils at the Red River Academy, the first school established in the Red River Settlement, an area of Manitoba where Lord Selkirk had established English and Scottish farmers. These settlers in the Red River area weren’t however the first people there. The indigenous peoples, mostly of the Cree and Ojibway tribes, had been there for a long time. There were also the Métis, people of mixed race – French/Indian or British/Indian – who mostly worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the fur trade. It was for the children of these people that the Red River Academy was started.

On land granted by Selkirk to his settlers for religious and educational purposes the Reverend John West of the Church of England founded in 1820 the church of St. John. This was located about two miles below the Forks on the west bank of the Red. The mission gave rise to the Red River Academy, later St. John’s College. It was established for the training of a native ministry and for the education of the sons of Hudson’s Bay Company employees.

Red River Academy

Red River Academy

The three brothers were called Thomas, John and William Bunn. They were the only children of the Métis, or ‘half-breed’, couple Dr John Bunn and Catherine Thomas, who at the time lived in the small Red River Settlement of St. Paul, known as Middlechurch. Catherine’s father was Welsh but her mother Sarah was a Cree Indian. Dr John Bunn’s father was English, but his mother Sarah McNab was a Scottish/Indian Métis.

All the boys’ family were or had been employees in one capacity or another of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Dr John Bunn was the first native-born doctor to practice medicine in the Red River Settlement.   His English-born father Thomas was employed as a writer by the Hudson’s Bay Company at the company’s York Factory (trading post) in Manitoba.

Young John was well cared for by his father and by his Scottish grandfather, John McNab, a surgeon and the chief factor at York Factory. Thanks to their generous assistance, he attended a good school in Edinburgh and then began to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. ‘In 1819, when he had only two years’ medical training, not enough to graduate, he was persuaded by McNab to accept a position as surgeon at Moose Factory. Upon reaching Moose Factory in September of that year, Bunn had grave misgivings about the wisdom of his grandfather’s decision in sending a not yet fully qualified doctor into the wilderness of Rupert’s Land. Uneasy as he was about his future, during the next five years Bunn gained considerable experience by serving the HBC as a surgeon at several posts as well as on the company’s ship, the Eddystone.’

York Factory 1812

York Factory 1812

John’s entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography continues:

With no real taste for a nomadic existence, Bunn in 1824 left the HBC service and moved to the Red River Settlement to begin a private medical practice. Here, in the vicinity of Middlechurch, he lived with his father who had retired two years earlier. Here too, on 23 July 1829, he married Catherine Thomas, the daughter of his father’s close friend Thomas Thomas, a former governor of the Northern Department. Because of his family connections and his professional status, Bunn was able to move easily in the influential circles of Red River society. A witty, good-natured, and vigorous man, with a dark complexion and a handsome bearing, Bunn the doctor was as popular with the HBC establishment as he was with the half-caste population of the settlement.

Feeling the need to upgrade his qualifications, Bunn again attended the University of Edinburgh during the 1831–32 academic session, and returned to Red River in 1832 not with a degree but as a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh. He was happy to come home to his wife Catherine who had cheered him with her affectionate letters while he was abroad. A little over a year after his return, on 3 Jan. 1834, came her death, and he never remarried. He and his three small boys… continued to live comfortably in his father’s household which was ably managed by his halfbreed stepmother Phoebe Sinclair Bunn.

Dr John Bunn

Dr John Bunn

With the lack of European women it was fairly common, in fact usual, for English and Scottish employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the remote west of British North America to take  native Indian wives, marriages often entered into via a native ritual and thus not recognised by the Church of England. The same was true, and for a much longer period, of the French fur trappers, voyageurs and traders.

There is much more to tell about this fascinating man, but our concern here is with his sons. When the three boys were pupils at the Red River Academy the headmaster was John Macallum who came to Red River in 1833 as a schoolteacher, working at £100 per annum at the academy. In 1836, having married one of his mixed-blood students, he became headmaster in 1838 and having initially leased the buildings from the HBC, which owned the property, he eventually purchased the school for £350 in 1841.

Under Macallum’s guidance it (the school) maintained a high level of excellence. During his tenure courses were offered in Greek, Latin, geography, Bible study, history, algebra, writing, and elocution.

It was later said that Macallum’s school ‘prepared a goodly number of postmasters, clerks and future chief traders and chief factors’ for the HBC and that he was a ‘conscientious and faithful worker”, but who ‘perhaps over-estimated the use of the rod’.

John Macallum

John Macallum

He was in fact ‘a strict disciplinarian, with a strong sense of morality’.  Despite his own marriage to a mixed blood girl, if Indian or mixed-blood mothers were not formally married he refused to allow them to visit their children at the school. One contemporary commented on this policy as being ‘fearfully cruel for the poor unfortunate mothers did not know that there was any distinction’. Macallum was also ‘an exponent of corporal punishment, he employed a rod more than three feet long’.

Such was the school life of the three Bunn brothers. Their mother would likely have not been allowed to visit them if she had lived; unfortunately she had died in 1834 when the boys were still very young.

The third and youngest brother, William, died in 1847, aged just fourteen. Thomas was the oldest son; he was born in St Paul in 1830 and was to go on to great things. Second son John, who was born in 1832, never achieved any fame, but it was one of his daughters who would marry into the family of the Bolton-born future Bishop of Qu’Appelle John Grisdale.

Thomas Bunn (third from left back row) with Louis Riel (meddle second row)

Thomas Bunn (third from left back row) with Louis Riel (middle second row)

Having left school Thomas Bunn first remained in St. Paul where he married Métis Isabella Clouston in 1854. Three children followed until Isabella’s untimely death only three years later. He then moved to the nearby St. Andrews where he married Rachel Harriot in 1859. Eventually he moved further up the Red River to St. Clements near Selkirk. He became a member of the Church of England and a freemason. ‘He was able, therefore, to have some influence in the Indian community and to enter English society in Red River. In January 1868 Bunn was appointed a member of the Council of Assiniboia and held this office until the council ceased to function in September 1870. On 17 Dec. 1869 he succeeded W. R. Smith as executive officer of the council with a salary of £100 per year.’

Here a little history is called for. It explains Thomas Bunn’s involvement in the ‘Red River Rebellion’, better said the Red River Resistance:

In 1869 Louis Riel had begun to organize resistance to the transfer of the North-West to the dominion of Canada without prearranged terms. Bunn was elected a representative from St Clements to the council of English and French parishes convened on 16 Nov. 1869 to draw up terms for entry. He hoped for a united front to negotiate these terms of union with Canada. Most English settlers, however, were disposed to think that Canada would be just, and if it were not, that Great Britain would ensure a fair settlement. Many English were willing to support Riel’s policy of union through negotiation, not so much because they thought negotiation was necessary, but because they hoped thus to preserve peace in the Red River Settlement. Bunn tried indeed to pursue an intermediate position, and the strains were sometimes great. By accepting Riel’s policy, Bunn, in a sense, made himself Riel’s English half-breed lieutenant, despite the fact that there was no bond between the men.

On 19 and 20 Jan. 1870, a mass open-air meeting was held to hear Donald Alexander Smith, commissioner of the Canadian government. Bunn was chairman of the discussion. It was decided that a convention should be held to prepare terms for negotiations with Canada, and that delegates should be elected. Bunn was one of those appointed to a committee to arrange the elections. He himself became a delegate from St Clements. From 27 January to 3 February, the convention prepared a second list of rights and approved the formation of a provisional government. Riel made Bunn secretary of state in the provisional government.

On 24 August the military forces of the crown under Colonel Garnet Joseph Wolseley reached Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and the provisional government was swept from power. Bunn survived its fall and may have been present at a meeting of the Council of Assiniboia which Wolseley revived in an attempt to settle the situation. Indeed, Bunn continued as usual in Red River society and set out to establish himself in the new order. As a man of some education and a fluent speaker with a judicious cast of mind, he decided to go into law. He was called to the bar of the new province of Manitoba in 1871, and was clerk to the First General Quarterly Court held in the new province on 16 May 1871. St Clements returned him as its first member to the provincial Legislative Assembly on 30 Dec. 1870. Thus Bunn’s career decidedly bridged the way from the old order to the new. His early death in 1875 cut short his passage into it.

During all this time that Thomas Bunn was becoming a prominent local politician and being involved in events that shaped the history of Canada, his brother John was pursuing a much more humdrum career as a ‘clerk’ with the Hudson’s Bay Company – exactly the sort of role that the Red River Academy had been founded to prepare such Métis children of the company’s employees for.

St Paul's Anglican Church

St Paul’s Anglican Church

But John didn’t enter the service of the HBC until 1867 when he was 35. What he did before that is unknown. All we know was that he married Jemima Clouston in St Paul in 1859 in his home settlement of St. Paul. Jemima was the sister of Isabella, John’s brother Thomas’ wife. Eight children were to follow, the first few born in St. Paul, the reminder at the various HBC trading posts John was posted to. Between 1867 and 1878, John was a HBC clerk in three factories or trading posts in the remote and wild west of the country: Lac Ste. Anne, Fort Victory and Bow Fort. In 1878 he retired back in the Red River Settlement and ‘died after a brief illness that year’. His wife Jemima was to live until 1888.

It is with his daughter Annie Bunn that we are concerned with here. Annie was born in 1866 in St. Paul in the Red River Settlement but, as we have seen, she spent most of her childhood living with her family in various remote HBC factories. In her 1885 ’Declaration concerning her claim to participate in any grant to Half Breeds living in the North West Territories’, she stated, ‘I lived with my parents in the north West Territories from 1867 to 1877’. I will return to this declaration later.

Following her father’s death, Annie continued to live in St Paul’s with her mother and siblings. In 1891 we find her living with her sister Isabell and brother William in the growing city of Winnipeg. It was probably in Winnipeg that Annie met her future husband Joseph Grisdale.

Bishop John Grisdale circa 1900

Bishop John Grisdale circa 1900

Here we have to leave the Métis world of the Red River Settlement and go back a little to the grim world of the Lancashire cotton mills in England. I have previously written three pieces about a Bolton cotton bleacher called John Grisdale who was first a missionary in India before coming to Manitoba in 1873, and who eventually was to become the Anglican Bishop of Qu’Appelle. (See here, here and here). During one of his many trips back to England in 1882/3 John discussed Canada with his brother Joseph, who was at that time a ‘railway clerk’ in Bolton. When John returned to Canada in 1883 his brother Joseph came with him. At first Joseph lived with his brother John in Winnipeg. In 1883 John was a canon of St. John’s Cathedral in Winnipeg and a Professor of Theology at St. John’s College (the successor to the Red River Academy). But in 1894 he had been appointed dean of Rupert’s Land. In 1891 we find Joseph living with his brother and his family in comfortable circumstances in Winnipeg. No doubt with his brother’s help Joseph was now a ‘Bank Manager’.

And so it was that in some way at some time bank manager Joseph Grisdale met and fell in love with Annie Bunn. They married in Winnipeg in 1893. We can only wonder if Dean Grisdale officiated at their wedding.

Private Percy John Grisdale (1896-1916)

Private Percy John Grisdale (1896-1916)

Initially the family stayed in Winnipeg and had two children there: Percy John Grisdale in 1896 and Eveleigh Grisdale in 1899. In the 1901 census Joseph and his family are still in Winnipeg and Joseph is said to be an ‘accountant’. But sometime prior to 1904 the family moved north up the Red River to Selkirk where two more children were born: twins Edwin and Roland in 1904. The family continued to live in Selkirk until sometime after 1911, Joseph still being a bank manager. But they soon moved on, to Calgary in Alberta. In the 1916 census we find the family living in Calgary with Joseph listed as a ‘bookkeeper’. Son Percy is listed too, but he is said to have been overseas. You can read his story here. Eventually, sometime after 1921, Joseph took his family to Vancouver, where he died in 1950. I don’t know where and when Annie Bunn Grisdale died.

“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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It was now broad daylight and the situation in Suvla Bay was verging on chaos.”  (Captain Cecil Aspinall-Oglander)

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
(Rudyard Kipling)

I guess everyone is aware of the horrendous debacle and needless loss of life that was the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Here I’d like to tell the story, as best I can, of the trip that one young Keswick man called Norman Atkinson Grisdale made to Gallipoli, never to return.

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
(A. E. Housman)

Norman Grisdale was born in Grasmere in Westmorland in 1895, the second child of Joseph Grisdale and Jane Atkinson. Joseph had been working in Grasmere as a shepherd and later gardener, but in 1899 his young wife Jane suddenly died, leaving four year-old Norman and his older brother Joseph without a mother. Joseph soon took the family back to Keswick, where this part of the Grisdale clan had been living and working, mostly as pencil makers, since the 1770s. Before that of course the family had been in Matterdale. Joseph married Eleanor Mumberson in Keswick in early 1901 and a baby daughter christened Mabel soon arrived. Norman went to school in Keswick, but in his early teens he started work as an apprentice with Mr Postlethwaite, a grocer in the Brigham part of Keswick.

norman grisdaleJust after the Great War started Norman and his brother Joseph, like so many other Cumberland Grisdales, joined the Border Regiment. Norman’s battalion was the newly-formed 6th (Service) Battalion. Just before the Keswick brothers left for war they posed with their parents and sister for a photograph. See here.

In what follows I would like to credit Richard Overton whose work on the 6th Battalion at Gallipoli I have rather extensively quoted.

In early 1915 things were going badly for the French and British in France and Belgium while the Russians were doing even worse on the Eastern Front. If Russia collapsed many German divisions would be freed to fight in the West. ‘A Gallipoli expedition remained the only feasible method of directly assisting Russia by means of opening up the Dardanelles.’ A first British division reached Gallipoli in June, but General Sir Ian Hamilton asked for more. ‘At successive meetings of the War Council on 6th and 17th June Kitchener was authorised to offer Hamilton, firstly, the three remaining divisions of the New Army not yet detailed for use on the Western Front, namely the 10th, 11th and 13th and, secondly, urged by Churchill, two Territorial divisions, the 53rd and 54th. To speed up the transportation of these divisions three of the biggest passenger liners were chartered, this despite the scale of the loss that would result if they were sunk by submarines.’

Norman Grisdale’s 6th Battalion of the Border Regiment were part of the 11th Division, so rather than heading for France they were set for Turkey. One of the passenger liners chartered was the Empress of Britain. ‘Thus it came about that 33 Brigade of 11 Div, with 6th Borders in it, sailed from Liverpool on the Empress of Britain escorted by two destroyers on 1st July and reached the base in Alexandria on the 12th. Here it was necessary to carry out reorganisation of stores and equipment – involving much physical work for soldiers unused to the heat.’ The Empress of Britain reached Mudros harbour on the Greek island of Lemnos on 18 July 1915.

EMPRESS_OF_BRITAIN_442

Here is a poem written by Lt. Nowell Oxland of the 6th Border Regiment while aboard the Empress of Britain (with Norman) bound for Egypt and Greece, and ultimately Gallipoli.

Outward Bound

There’s a waterfall I’m leaving
Running down the rocks in foam,
There’s a pool for which I’m grieving
Near the water-ouzel’s home,
And it’s there that I’d be lying
With the heather close at hand,
And the Curlew’s faintly crying
‘Mid the wastes of Cumberland.

While the midnight watch is winging
Thoughts of other days arise.
I can hear the river singing
Like the Saints in Paradise;
I can see the water winking
Like the merry eyes of Pan,
And the slow half-pounders sinking
By the bridges’ granite span.

Ah! To win them back and clamber
Braced anew with winds I love,
From the rivers’ stainless amber
To the morning mist above,
See through clouds-rifts rent asunder
Like a painted scroll unfurled,
Ridge and hollow rolling under
To the fringes of the world.

Now the weary guard are sleeping,
Now the great propellers churn,
Now the harbour lights are creeping
Into emptiness astern,
While the sentry wakes and watches
Plunging triangles of light
Where the water leaps and catches
At our escort in the night.

Great their happiness who seeing
Still with unbenighted eyes
Kin of theirs who gave them being,
Sun and earth that made them wise,
Die and feel their embers quicken
Year by year in summer time,
When the cotton grasses thicken
On the hills they used to climb.

Shall we also be as they be,
Mingled with our mother clay,
Or return no more it may be?
Who has knowledge, who shall say?
Yet we hope that from the bosom
Of our shaggy father Pan,
When the earth breaks into blossom
Richer from the dust of man,

Though the high Gods smith and slay us,
Though we come not whence we go,
As the host of Menelaus
Came there many years ago;
Yet the self-same wind shall bear us
From the same departing place
Out across the Gulf of Saros
And the peaks of Samothrace;

We shall pass in summer weather,
We shall come at eventide,
When the fells stand up together
And all quiet things abide;
Mixed with cloud and wind and river,
Sun-distilled in dew and rain,
One with Cumberland for ever
We shall go not forth again.

The plan was, as it evolved, to enable a breakout from Anzac, ‘where the Australians and New Zealanders had been hanging on since April encircled and overlooked by the Turks’. ‘With this force substantially increased a breakout might be achieved but the beachhead at Anzac was so cramped that there was a strict limit to the number of additional troops that could be brought in, particularly as they would have to be landed secretly and hidden out of sight. Hence it was decided to make a landing at Suvla simultaneously with the breakout so that the operation could be launched on a broad front and the Turks could be attacked from outside as well as from within the circle.’

Mudros Harbour 1915

Mudros Harbour 1915

On the island of Mudros Grisdale’s 33 Brigade ‘was singled out from the other two brigades of 11 Div to proceed to Helles and relieve the Royal Naval Division in the line for ten days from 20th July’ where the 6th Borders  did ‘good work done in improving trenches’.

On 2 August the Battalion rejoined the Division on the island of Imbros, their jumping off point for the Suvla landing, which was scheduled for the night of 6/7 August. (Sooner would have been better but this was the first night for a month to offer suitable conditions, when the attacking troops could approach the coast in the dark but have the advantage of moonlight after getting ashore.) The night attack would be made by 11 Div and would be followed up at dawn by 10 Div who would be leaving from the island of Mitylene.

The few days spent on Imbros by 6th Borders in hot and dusty camps proved to be very trying and debilitating. Dysentery was rife, reducing the strength of the Battalion for the forthcoming landing, and many of those who stuck it out were weakened by diarrhoea. The men were kept hard at it until the last minute but even as late as the day of departure, 6th August, junior officers were in ignorance of the plans and their part in them beyond the landing itself, so insistent were Hamilton and his staff at GHQ on secrecy. For the same reason, maps were issued too late to be studied properly. It was not until midday of the 6 August that the men were told the landing was to take place that night. Secrecy was important but Hamilton and his staff at GHQ seem to have overdone it.

Soon after 3 pm the troops fell in on their battalion parade grounds and an hour later the Division began to embark, some (including 6th Borders) on to destroyers with lighters in tow, some straight on to lighters. These were motor lighters specially designed for landing troops. Capable of carrying 500 men they had armoured sides, drew only seven feet of water, and had a ramp to allow quick, dry exit under enemy fire.

As part of the 33rd Brigade the 6th Border Regiment were set to land at Suvla bay an action that was to turn into chaos. Here is a full report by Richard Overton of the landing at Suvla Bay in which Norman Grisdale and his battalion took part:

The fleet set off from Kephalos Bay, Imbros for Suvla an hour after sunset which was 7.15. Apparently confident and in good heart – trusting in its commanders. This trust, as the Official History show only too clearly, was sadly misplaced. The trouble started at the top with the appointment of a wildly unsuitable person to command IX Corps in Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stopford. Hamilton had asked for a General who had proved himself on the Western Front, perhaps Byng or Rawlinson, but Kitchener ruled this out. Instead by an argument which had everything to do with seniority and nothing to do with fitness for the post, he settled on General Stopford who was 61 years old, in semi-retirement, and had never commanded large bodies of troops in the field. This combination of disqualifications was evident at the time of the appointment but what was not evident was that he was a weak man who would be dominated by his chief of staff, Brigadier General Reid VC. The latter had a fixation about the importance of artillery in offensive operations, a sound principle on the Western Front against an organised system of trenches but one which did not apply at Suvla where the Turks were few and their trenches negligible. Want of adequate artillery support would become a regular excuse for inaction.

One rung lower down, Major General Frederick Hammersley commanding 11 Div would also prove to be inadequate, at age 57 having lost the resilience of youth. In the letter to Kitchener leading to the superseding of these two officers (when it was too late) Hamilton compared the combination of new troops and old generals to putting new wine into old bottles with results that turned out equally unfortunate.

The voyage from Imbros took less than two hours and the leading battalions of 32 and 33 Brigades were safely on shore at B beach by 10 pm. The troops on the destroyers had to wait for the return of the lighters to the ship and this applied to 6th Borders who landed about midnight with 6th Lincolns. These two battalions were initially in divisional reserve. The landing had achieved complete strategic surprise. The local Turkish forces only amounted to three battalions and their nearest reserves were known to be 30 marching miles away at Bulair.

British troops at Suvla Bay August 1915

British troops at Suvla Bay August 1915

Turkish posts had been located at the two horns of the bay at Lala Baba and Ghazi Baba, also at Hill 10 midway between the two. A battalion of 32 Brigade dealt with the former (though at considerable cost) and the latter was soon knocked out as well, but there was difficulty and delay in dealing with Hill 10, the specific responsibility of 34 Brigade whose landing had gone disastrously wrong. Unlike the other two brigades, 34 Brigade had landed within the bay itself, the lighters struck hidden reefs and could not be got to land, and the troops had to wade ashore through deepish water. Furthermore, by a navigational error, the destroyers had anchored south of the Cut and about 1,000 yards south of their intended station. The battalion charged with the task of dealing with Hill 10 was misled by the wrong landing place and could not even locate the hill.

This was a severe setback no doubt. Yet the best part of two brigades (32 and 33) were standing by at or near Lala Baba, and had either brigade commander taken the initiative an attack on Hill 10 could have been mounted from this direction. The failure to do so may be attributed partly to lack of impetus from above – Stopford had not come ashore and so did not even know what was going on – and partly to poor briefing due to excessive secrecy.

As it was, by dawn the only success achieved was the capture of the two horns of the bay, and the situation was verging on chaos. The beach was under persistent rifle fire and two or three Turkish guns were dividing their attention between the troops ashore and the numerous vessels in the bay. The confusion was if anything increased by the arrival at daybreak from Mitylene of the two brigades of 10 Div.

Sulva Bay August 1915

Sulva Bay August 1915

Hill 10 was finally taken about 8 am, its hundred defenders retiring eastwards, and with the bay safe at last it should have been possible to move against objectives further inland, initially Chocolate Hills. But lack of leadership at the top was again evident. By mid-morning a stream of contradictory orders and reports was being passed between Hammersley and his brigade commanders as he strove to organise the attack on Chocolate Hills. Stopford, nursing an injured knee, was still ineffectually on board the sloop Jonquil, IX Corps HQ to date.

When eventually Chocolate Hills were assaulted that evening 6th Borders was in on the action. They and 6th Lincolns were brought out of reserve at Lala Baba to lead a general attack. To save time as daylight was already fading they wisely ignored orders to skirt the Salt Lake and marched boldly across it and assaulted the west end of the hill, Lincolns leading and Borders in close support, while two Irish battalions from 10 Div attacked the east end. At last Chocolate Hills were captured, not before daybreak on the 7th as intended, but after nightfall.

The Battalion got off relatively lightly in the matter of casualties with two officers wounded, four other ranks killed, three missing and 51 wounded. Next morning it was ordered back into divisional reserve at Lala Baba.

Norman Atkinson Grisdale was one of the 6th’s battalion’s 51 wounded, probably on the assault on Chocolate Hills as the light was fading on 7th August. Norman would have been taken down to the beach for evacuation. While waiting there he wrote back to his parents at 13 Wordsworth St, Keswick, saying that, as the local newspaper, the Carlisle Journal, reported on 31 August:

Pte Norman Grisdale of the 6th Border, who left the employment of Mr Postlethwaite, Grocer, Keswick to enlist soon after the war started, has written to say he is wounded in the shoulder, but does not think his condition is at all dangerous. He was wounded on the 7th at the Dardanelles and is expected to proceed to a Cairo Hospital.

Wounded being evacuated at Suvla Bay

 

Norman was indeed evacuated to a hospital in Cairo, but whether from an infection of his shoulder wound or from other causes he died there on 16th August 1915, before his letter had reached his parents and the Carlisle Journal. Norman’s brother Joseph also served with the Border Regiment in France but survived the war and went on to marry. Norman is buried in the Cairo War Cemetery at Al Qahirah, Plt: D.33.

norman grisdale grave

Grave of Norman Atkinson Grisdale in Cairo

 

The Landing at Suvla Bay

You may talk of Balaclava,
Or of Trafalgar Bay,
But what of the 11th Division,
Who landed at Suvla Bay?

They were part of Kitchener’s Army,
Some had left children and wives,
But they fought for England’s freedom,
And fought for their very lives.

It was on the 6th of August,
We made that terrible dash,
And the Turks along the hillside,
Our boats they tried to smash.

The order came, “Fix bayonets!”
And out of the boats we got,
Every man there was a hero,
As he faced the Turkish shot.

Funnels of the ships got smashed,
Whilst the sea in some parts was red,
But we fought our way through the ocean,
To the beach that was covered with dead.

Creeping, at last, up the hillside,
Whilst shot and shell fell all around,
We made one last desperate effort,
And charged o’er the Turkish ground.

The Turks at last gave it up,
When our bayonets began to play,
For they turned their backs to the British,
And retired from Suvla Bay.

There were the Lincolns, Dorsets, and Staffords.
Notts and Derbys too,
The Border Regiment was there,
The rough and ready crew.

Then we had the Manchesters,
With the Lancashire Fusiliers by their side,
The lads who come from Lancashire,
Who fill your hearts with pride.

The Yorks, East Yorks, and West Yorks,
The Yorks and Lancs as well,
Who fought for good old Yorkshire,
Were amongst the lads who fell.

The fighting fifth were fighting,
The Northumberland lads you know,
Whilst the good old Duke of Wellington’s,
Were keeping back the foe.

And far away o’er the hillside,
Beneath the bloody clay,
Are some of the 8th Battalion,
Who tried to win the day.

So remember the 11th Division,
Who were all volunteers you know,
But they fought and died like heroes,
Going to face the Turkish foe.

—Anonymous

cairo use

In 1911 the following report appeared in Washington State’s Tacoma Times:

 Girl of 15 Disowned By Rich Uncle When She Elopes. SEATTLE, June 22.

Early this morning, as the steam schooner Redfield, bound out of Seattle for Nome, passed the three-mile limit that marked the vessel’s entrance Into the domain of the ‘high seas, there occurred a strange wedding.

Fifteen-year-old Grace Grisdale became the bride of C. G. Pike, 35, first engineer of the boat. The knot was .tied by Captain McKenna, master of the vessel.

James Grisdale, the girl’s grand uncle and nearest relative, followed them to the pier and caused the girl to be detained by the police. A superior court judge heard the story, however, and ordered the girl turned over to the expectant bridegroom. The grand uncle is a pioneer of the Puget Sound country and is worth $100,000.

He disowned the girl when she decided to go to Alaska with Pike.

I won’t here go too much into Grace’s ancestors, suffice it to say that both she and her grand uncle James were descended from the early Canadian settler Wilfred Grisdale, who had arrived in North Monaghan in 1816/17 (see here).

Seattle Harbor

Seattle Harbor

Grace was born in 1895 in Bay City, Michigan to ‘Contractor’ Robert Grisdale and his wife Jessie E. Defoe. She was christened Dolores Grisdale but obviously she was known as Grace. Grace was the couple’s fourth and last child. For a reason we do not know shortly after Grace was born Robert and Jessie divorced and Jessie disappears from view. Several surviving children were sent to live with various relatives. But Grace was sent to Saint Vincent’s Orphanage in Detroit. But at some point we know she went to live with her rich great uncle James in Washington. He had made his money in just a few years by operating logging camps and who was at the time living in Eagle Harbour, Kitsap.

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

And so aged fifteen (actually 16) she had wanted to elope with ‘35’ year-old Calvin Greene Pike, for that was his full name. Having ‘tied the knot’ on board the F. S. Redfield, Calvin and Grace were on their way to Alaska. But then in August 1911:

The 469 ton 160 foot wooden gas screw F S Redfield stranded and was lost near Cape Prince of Wales at 10:00 p.m. Saturday August 19, 1911.  The vessel departed Unalaska July 19, 1911 bound for Cape Prince of Wales.  There were 23 crewmen and 350 tons of general merchandise aboard.  She had about a third of a deckload of freight.  The following are excerpts from the wreck report filed by James McKenna, master of the F S Redfield:

“3 mi. east Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska”  “South gale, rainy, dark, cloudy”  “South gale and current setting in to shore, could not head to sea”  “Stranded”  “Anchors let go; dragged until she struck”  “One day after vessel went aground, the mate went ashore and telephoned for the Revenue Cutter Bear at Nome, who arrived 48 hours later and rendered all possible assistance by helping lighter cargo and carry crew to Nome”  “Total loss”

The F S Redfield, valued at $25,000 was a total loss.  The cargo, which was worth $10,000 was damaged $5,000 on the report.  The F S Redfield had insurance of $12,500 on the vessel and $3,500 on the cargo.  There was no loss of life.

It seems that Grace was still on board when the ship was lost because another report reads:

The vessel stranded and lost when anchors dragged in gale; it was transporting supplies to Government schools in Alaska. Cutter Bear came to the rescue and carried crew and cargo to Nome. Grace Grisdale, 15, who had stowed away on the trip, ended up marrying First Engineer, C.G. Pike, with the ceremony conducted by Captain McKenna.

Now Calvin seems to have been both a trickster and womaniser, and there’s nothing much wrong with either. In the 1910 Census he is found in Seattle listed as a steamship captain aged 36 and born in Kansas of parents from North Carolina. The age fits more or less with the newspaper report and it must be what he told people. But there are two lies. First, he was born in Staley, North Carolina not Kansas, and his parents were Solomon Franklin Pike and Martha Staley, so he was 30 not 36. Having been brought up in Chatham, North Carolina it’s true that in 1900 he had gone to live with his uncle Lawson Pike and his family in Kansas, but Kansas-born he was not. More interestingly, in 1910 Calvin, although living alone, was said to be married, and this just months before his elopement with young Grace Grisdale.

Calvin and Grace seem to have had one son: John Calvin Pike, born in 1913. In the future John Calvin would give his birthplace at either Oklahoma or Missouri, following in the path of his father in this regard. In 1914 Calvin and his wife Grace are listed in a Seattle directory and he was said to be an ‘engineer’, on a steamship no doubt. In 1918 Calvin is still listed as an engineer in Seattle but no wife is mentioned. It seems however that sometime after 1914 he had left young Grace Grisdale because in December 1916 he married (for a third time) Lena E. Baettner in Seattle.

His lying about his age continued. When Calvin was drafted on 12 September 1918 in Seattle he gave his address as 117 Clay, his occupation as a Bridge Foreman and his employer as Monson Construction. He even gave the name of his father as Solomon F. Pike. But he continued to add 6 years to his age, giving his date of birth as 29 March 1874, when it was in fact 29 March 1880. Later when he registered for service in WW2 in Edmonds, Washington in 1942, he’d given up this lie and gave his correct date of birth. He said he was ‘self employed’.

His relationship with Lena Baettner didn’t last long either, because by 1920 he had moved on to his fourth ‘wife’ Myrtle Beatrice McPherson. Actually he might not have married Myrtle as he was probably still married to Lena, but Calvin and Myrtle had and lost their first child called Tupper McPherson Pike in 1920. Tupper died in Cle Elum near Lake Kittitas which is far away from Seattle. It looks like Calvin and Myrtle had had to flee. His parents brought him back to Edmonds to be buried.

Calvin and Myrtle's Grave in Edmond's Memorial Cemetery

Calvin and Myrtle’s Grave in Edmond’s Memorial Cemetery

Three more children were to follow: Calla B. Pike (1926), Solomon A. Pike (1927) and Martha R. Pike (1930), the births it seems being nowhere recorded. In 1930 the family were living in Currie, Snohomish, Calvin first being a concrete contractor and then a building labourer. But even now although Calvin gives his age and place of birth correctly it seems his dissembling hadn’t finished. In the 1930 census the place of birth of 17 year-old John Pike’s mother (Grace Grisdale) was given as California! I wonder what Calvin had told his son about his mother?

Calvin’s wife Myrtle died on 29 December, 1848 in Edmonds, Snohomish.

But Calvin Pike’s serial womanising was not over yet. Here was man in his sixties who had had at least four ‘wives’ and had slipped down from being a ship’s captain, through being a ‘bridge foreman’ to working as a building labourer; a man who was continually lying and trying to evade the authorities. You’d have thought he had had enough! But good on him, no! In Omak, Douglas County, Washington State, on the 14th May 1949, just a few months after Myrtle’s death, when Calvin was 69, he married again. This time his wife was a married mother of 49 called Ida Ellen Kopsala. There must have been something of urgency because on the day they married Calvin had to apply to the court to waive the usual three day waiting period before a wedding licence could be issued, which the court duly did. Why the rush?

But Calvin’s exploits were nearly over. He died on the 10th of  June 1950 in Everett, Snohomish in Washington State. Ida died in 1958.

But let’s go back. What happened to Grace Grisdale who had eloped with Calvin aged 15 (16) aboard his steamer in 1911? Not too long after she split with Calvin Pike, Grace married Richard Edward Cantwell in Tacoma, Washington on 7 September 1920. She gave her name as Dolores Grace Grisdale (not Pike). But something must have happened because in the 1920 US census we find her married but living alone in Tacoma: as ‘Grace Cantwell’. She was a hotel ‘servant’. Richard, it seems, was back in Charleston, South Carolina living with his mother! What was going on? The answer is that Richard was an Epileptic. We find him in the South Carolina State Hospital in Columbia in 1930 and he died there in 1941 of ‘epilepsy’, which the records say had it’s ‘onset’ in 1918! Poor Richard and poor Grace.

And what of Grace? What happened to her? Well I’m still investigating that.

The tiny Cumbrian hamlet of Grisdale (now called Mungrisdale) lies just north of the old Roman road from Penrith to Keswick. It is without any doubt the place from which the Grisdales of Matterdale took their name. I have previously discussed when and how the family name probably came into existence in an article called When did the Grisdales become Grisdales?, as well as in other articles on this blog. As I mentioned there it is conceivable, though by no means capable of being proved, that a certain Simon de Grisdale, who we find in Halton in Lancashire in 1332, was the first person from Grisdale who had moved away and took the name of his home place with him when he did. What I’d like to do here is to focus on the years around 1332 and try to say something of what life was like in Grisdale at this time.

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Grisdale/Mungrisdale today

Why 1332? I have chosen this date because in that year there was taken a tax assessment in Cumberland and elsewhere which survives. These assessments are known as Lay Subsidy Rolls (Lay meaning that the tax concerned was being levied on lay people not clerics). Here we find a list of the inhabitants of all the settlements in Cumberland who were due to pay the tax, based on the value of their ‘goods’. Grisedale (spelt here with an E) appears, as indeed does Matterdale. The list of Grisdale inhabitants runs as follows:

William Skraghird, Peter son of Hugh, William Slegh, William Riotis,  Robert son of John, Robert son of Gilbert, William son of Robert, Adam son of Peter…

Then there seven other people whose names have been ripped out but whose goods and tax assessment are given. The subsidy was ‘one-fifteenth’ and in total the value of the goods of the people of Grisdale was £ 36 33s 6d, giving a total tax due of £2 8s 11d. The sum due from the residents of Matterdale was similar: £2 11s 9d.

Grisdale in 1576

Grisdale in 1576

So there were fifteen men in Grisdale who were taxed. To get an idea of the total population we might multiple this by say four or five to take account of wives, children and other dependents and then add in a few un-free serfs and very poor cottagers. So maybe there were somewhere in the region of 70 to 85 people living in Grisdale in 1332. This number might have been reduced after the Black Death struck England in 1348, a plague that did affect Cumberland but not as severely as it did the south and midlands of the country.

You will have noticed that of the eight people named only three had surnames, William Skraghird, William Slegh and William Riotis, the others were still referred to by naming their father, for example Robert son of John. Note too that all the Christian names are basically French: William, Robert, John, Richard etc.

Was one of these fifteen named or unnamed people the early fourteenth-century progenitor of the Grisdales? One can’t say more than it’s quite possible.

Whatever the case, who were these people of Grisdale? What language did they speak? What was their origin? Who were their rulers?

Let’s start with the question of language. Originally Cumbria had been a Brythonic (i.e. British) speaking area before the Northumbrian English started to make inroads in the seventh century. The ‘English’ hadn’t made much of an impression in the more rugged and barren hilly areas, which would include Grisdale, and the British themselves remained in place for hundreds of years although they too preferred the more fertile valley or coastal areas to the inhospitable mountains.

Norse Fleet

Norse Fleet

The ethnic and linguistic mix changed radically in the early tenth century when Hiberno-Norse (i.e. Scandinavians from Ireland) started to settle in numbers in north-western England and particularly in Cumbria. They spoke an Old Norse language which had acquired some Irish words from their years in Dublin and other Irish ‘longphorts’. If you have a glance of a Lakeland map today you will immediately see the importance of this settlement, there are Norse place names everywhere. If you were to include field names and topographical names it would take a large volume just to list them (there are several such volumes).

Grisdale was and is one of these Norse place names. It means valley of the pigs (or perhaps valley of the wild boars). There are several Grisdales or Grisedales in Cumberland and even one just across the modern county border in Yorkshire.

It is clear that some of these tenth-century Norse settlers came to Grisdale (i.e. Mungrisdale) and named the place as such, either because they kept their pigs there or because there were wild pigs there when they arrived. I tend to the former explanation. When the first Scandinavians walked into the valley they were to call Grisdale they might have found one or two Cumbric-speaking British living in rude hovels or, equally as likely, they might have found the place completely empty. There were certainly British living in nearby Threlkeld when the Vikings arrived.

saints1

St Kentigern/Mungo

The valley would certainly have been much more wooded than it was to become.

The dedication of the later Chapel in Grisdsale is to St. Kentigern a sixth-century British monk (and incidentally the first Bishop of Glasgow), who was often called St. Mungo – hence the more recent name of the hamlet and valley: Mungrisdale. Whether Kentigern/Mungo had ever actually preached in ‘Grisdale’ in the sixth century is not known. His cult became popular in the twelfth century and it is quite possible, even likely, that the dedication of the chapel happened then – though this doesn’t exclude an oral memory of Kentigern in the area.

Whatever the case, it was these Scandinavian settlers from Ireland who gave the place its name, as they did to most of the other places in the locality. As I have said, the settlers spoke Old Norse sprinkled with a few borrowings from Irish Gaelic. They were to keep their language for quite a long time. As the years and even centuries went by they adopted just a few British words, such as the famous method of counting sheep, bowdlerized in more recent times to eeny, meeny, miny, moe, and, more importantly, through their contact with their English-speaking neighbours their language started to morph into the Cumbrian dialect.

There is very little evidence regarding exactly how and when Norse merged with a variety of northern English in Cumbria. What evidence there is suggests that by the early fourteenth century the ‘merger’ of the languages had gone some way, but it was still as much Scandinavian as it was English. The arrival of the Norman-speaking French in Cumbria in 1091 would have had no direct effect on this process. Indirectly of course, as Old English (Anglo-Saxon) morphed into Middle English under the influence of the conquerors’ French, the people of Grisdale would have French words in their vocabulary too, although whether any French-speaking lord would have understood a word they said is highly doubtful. But for sure by the fourteenth century most Cumbrians, whether they were of Norse, British or English descent, would have understood each other, although the dialect could change radically over distances of only a few miles and someone from the south would have been lost, as some still are.

I would like to stress that this mutual comprehensibility didn’t extend the predominantly French-speaking nobility (or not for a long time anyway). As mentioned, the Norman French first arrived in Cumbria in 1091, twenty-five years after the Conquest. See The Normans come to Cumbria. When they did the rugged independence the Norse Cumbrians of Grisdale and elsewhere had enjoyed for nearly two hundred years came to an abrupt end. As elsewhere in England pretty much all of northwest England was divvied up and given to Norman-French henchmen, the majority of local leaders and landowners were stripped of their position and wealth. We might mention names such as Ranulf de Briquessart (le Meschin), Ivo de Taillebois and many more.

warrior_drawingInterestingly though the ‘barony of Greystoke’ (to use the French title), which included Grisdale and Matterdale, seems to be one of the exceptions that proves the rule. Here a powerful local family with Norse roots and Norse names was able to reach an accommodation with the Norman colonizers. This was the family of Forne Sigulfson, who became the first Norman-sanctioned lord of Greystoke. (See my article about Forne here). It was Forne’s son Ivo who started to built the pele tower at Greystoke in about 1129. Note Forne’s totally Norse name and his son’s French name – Forne probably named his son Ivo to honour and ingratiate himself with the powerful local Norman enforcer Ivo Taillebois. This family with Norse ancestry continued to be the lords of Greystoke (and therefore the lords of the people of Grisdale) until 1306 when the title and lands passed to a slightly related family called Grimethorpe, who took Greystoke as their family name.

It would be nice to think that in the two hundred or so years following 1091 the fact that the lords of Greystoke were originally Norse meant that the simple farmers and shepherds of Grisdale escaped some of the horrors inflicted on the people of England by the hated Norman colonizers – but I think this is most likely wishful thinking.

Arnside, a Cumberland Pele Tower

Arnside, a Cumberland Pele Tower

Let’s say something about these local lords. They were pretty rough and ruthless types and despite the fact that they exploited the people of their ‘manors’ and stole any surplus, their lives, diets and dress were still very basic. In Cumbria, as I have said, they were mostly but not exclusively French-speaking Normans or sometimes Flemish. Initially they threw up wooden stockades to keep them safe from attacks by the conquered English. In Cumbria these were soon replaced by stone pele towers which served the same purpose and also provided some protection against later Scottish cattle raiders (reivers) and the occasional marauding Scottish army.

They were small stone buildings with walls from 3 to 10 feet thick, square or oblong in shape. Most were on the outskirts of the Lake District, but a few were within its boundaries. Designed to withstand short sieges, they usually consisted of three storeys – a tunnel-vaulted ground floor which had no windows which was used as a storage area, and which could accommodate animals.

The first floor contained a hall and kitchen, and the top floor was space for living and sleeping. The battlemented roof was normally flat for look-out purposes, and to allow arrows to be fired at raiders, and missiles hurled down on unwanted visitors….

Apart from their primary purpose as a warning system, these towers were also the homes of the lairds and landlords of the area, who dwelt in them with their families and retainers, while their followers lived in simple huts outside the walls. The towers also provide a refuge so that, when cross-border raiding parties arrived, the whole population of a village could take to the tower and wait for the marauders to depart.

As noted, Ivo FitzForne built the first stone fortification at Greystoke in about 1129, the building grew to become a large pele tower and in the 14th century after William de Greystoke obtained a royal licence to castellate it, the castle was further enlarged.

Greystoke Castle in 1780 - the original pele tower can still be seen

Greystoke Castle in 1780 – the original pele tower can still be seen

So in 1332 Greystoke did not yet have a castle, the lords still lived in a large pele tower surrounded by their family, armed knights and servants. In that year William de Greystoke, the 2nd ‘Baron Greystoke’, was still a minor and the barony of Greystoke was in the custody of Sir Hugh d’Audley (whose daughter Alice was William’s mother). What do we know about this William de Greystoke, who on reaching his majority in 1342 was the feudal lord of the people of Grisdale? Besides the normal feudal extractions how else did William’s actions impact the people of Grisdale and other parts of his barony?

The main impact was of course war. An idea of the mentality of people like William de Greystoke can perhaps be gained from the words of another Cumberland medieval lord, Lancelot de Threlkeld:

The principal residence of the Threlkeld family was at Threlkeld in Cumberland; but they had large possessions at Crosby long previous to this time, for in 1304 and 1320 Henry Threlkeld had a grant of free warren in Yanwath, Crosby, Tibbay, &c., and in 1404 occurs the name of William Threlkeld, Knight, of Crosby. Sir Lancelot Threlkeld, Knight, was the son of Sir Lancelot Threlkeld, by Margaret, daughter and heiress of Henry Bromflatt, Lord Vescy, and widow of John de Clifford. He was wont to say he had three noble houses; one at Crosby Ravensworth for pleasure, where he had a park full of deer; one at Yanwath for comfort and warmth, wherein to reside in winter; and one at Threlkeld, well stocked with tenants, to go with him to the wars.

Lancelot’s Threlkeld tenants were his ‘stock… to go with him to the wars’. William de Greystoke also used his ‘stock’ of tenants to go with him to his wars, including without much doubt some from Grisdale and probably therefore some of the family that would become the Grisdales of Matterdale. I’ll have more to say about William de Greystoke at a later date, for now where did he go to fight his wars? After his majority in 1342 he:

Soon became embroiled in English campaigning on the continent: he was probably in Gascony in 1345–6, at the siege of Calais in 1347, and, perhaps, on the expedition of Henry, duke of Lancaster, to Prussia in 1351–2. In 1353 and again in 1354 he participated in unsuccessful Anglo-Scottish negotiations concerning the release of David II, king of Scots (an English prisoner since his capture at Neville’s Cross in 1346). In September 1354 Greystoke was appointed captain of the border town of Berwick: while he was absent campaigning once more in France it fell into Scottish hands in August 1355. As his second wife he had married Joan, the daughter of Sir Henry fitz Henry (Fitzhugh). He died on 10 July 1359 and was buried in Greystoke church.

So William and his knights plus his ‘stock’ of bowman tenants, no doubt including some from Grisdale, was most probably with sixteen year old Edward the Black Prince (the son of King Edward III) when the English army destroyed the French at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. He was also at the Siege of Calais during which the inhabitants suffered greatly and were reduced to eating dogs and rats. He also went to Prussia to help the Teutonic Knights fight the pagan Lithuanians, and was back again in France in 1355/56 where he and his men quite possibly fought in the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 when the Black Prince’s English army destroyed the French chivalry yet again.

The Siege of Calais

The Siege of Calais

 

Edward III and the Black Prince at Crecy, 1346

Edward III and the Black Prince at Crecy, 1346

 

It was for all this war service to the French-speaking English king, Edward III, which led to William being granted the right to crenellate his pele tower in Greystock in 1353 – to transform it into a proper castle.

Often these battles at the start of the Hundred Years War are presented as ‘English’ victories over the French. In the sense that it was the simple English soldiers and bowman who won the victories over the massed flower of French chivalry then this is true. But really it was about one group of French noble thugs fighting another group of the same for control of large parts of France. From the English king on down to more humble nobles such as William de Greystoke, while many of them now had started to understand and even speak English, their primary language was still French. A few years before Robert of Gloucester wrote:

And the Normans could not then speak any speech but their own; and they spoke French as they did at home, and had their children taught the same. So that the high men of this land, that came of their blood, all retain the same speech which they brought from their home. For unless a man know French, people regard him little; but the low men hold to English, and to their own speech still. I ween there be no countries in all the world that do not hold to their own speech, except England only. But undoubtedly it is well to know both; for the more a man knows, the more worth he is.

In 1362, Edward III became the first king to address Parliament in English and the Statute of Pleading was adopted, which made English the language of the courts, though this statute was still written in French! French was still the mother tongue of Henry IV (1399-1413), but he was the first to take the oath in English. That most “English” of Kings Henry V (1413–1422) was the first to write in English but he still preferred to use French. It is interesting to note that it was not until the days of Henry VII in the late fifteenth century that an English king married a woman born in England (Elizabeth of York), as well as the fact that Law French was not banished from the common law courts until as late as 1731.

Winter in Mungrisdale

Winter in Mungrisdale

I haven’t said much about the ordinary everyday life of the people of Grisdale in the fourteenth century. When they weren’t suffering at the hands of Scottish reivers and armies, being dragged to France to fight in the Greystokes’ wars or dying of the plague, they farmed a few small strips of land in the valley, tended the sheep on the moors, cut turf to keep them warm, kept a few pigs, worked on their lord’s home farm and tried to get enough money together to pay periodic taxes and regular rents. It was a hard life that wouldn’t change for centuries.

And so dear members of the extended Grisdale family, I hope this gives just a small inkling of where and from whom you come. If you have the name Grisdale/Grisedale your family name line will take you back to Grisdale in Cumbria in the early fourteenth century and, most likely, to the Scandinavians who arrived in Cumbria in the tenth century. Of course you’ll have dozens, even hundreds, of other genealogical and genetic ancestral lines as well, and in that sense you’re a mongrel like everyone else. But unlike other family names (such as mine) the great thing about Grisdale genealogy is that I have yet to find any proven case of someone bearing the name where it can be demonstrated that their family originates anywhere other than Matterdale and thus without much doubt ultimately from Grisdale (Mungrisdale).

Forget our thousand years of brutal kings and queens, our French lords, even (if you wish) the Scandinavian origins of your name. The Grisdale family is, with many others, about as English as you’ll get. That you most likely descend from a few tenth-century Vikings who became farmers and shepherds in remote Cumbrian Grisdale and your ancestors somehow survived centuries-long exploitation and repression to produce you (and even me) is, I think, something to rejoice in.

Rainbow_Over_Mungrisdale

Rainbow over Mungrisdale

‘The details are unfit for publication.’ Lancaster Gazette, 1858.

The Furness peninsula on the west side of Morecambe Bay is now a mostly quiet rural spot to the south of the Cumbrian Lakes. But throughout much of its history, when it was in Lancashire, it was full of industry; principally iron ore mining and iron furnaces (called ‘bloomeries’). This story concerns one nineteenth-century iron miner called Christopher Grisdale and how what he did affected a family who worked in one of the furnaces.

The area we are concerned with encompasses Dalton-in-Furness and Ulverston. It is flat country with views of the higher Lakelands to the north and northeast and across the bay to the Cartmel peninsula to the east. Iron mining started here in the early middle ages, but the mines were small, the iron extracted by hand with little machinery and the ore carted away by pack horses.

A horse gin working a mine shaft

A horse gin working a mine shaft

Things started to change in the later 1700s when demand for iron soared to supply the Royal Navy and the nascent industrial towns. New mines were opened and older mines were enlarged, particularly in the Lindal and Marton area between Dalton and Ulverston.

A number of mining techniques were employed in the Lindal and Marton area. Mostly a system of shafts and levels was used. A vertical shaft would be sunk, and the ore would be removed from a horizontal level to its outer limits. Material would be lifted out by a horse gin or steam engine. Sometimes the ground above would be allowed to collapse into the excavated level. The shaft would be extended downwards, and the process would be repeated at a lower level, and so on. This process was known as top slicing, and resulted in large surface depressions above the mine workings, many of which can still be seen.

Cornish miners were brought in and the mines soon moved from using ‘horse gins’ to bring up the ore to using steam-powered winding engines called whimseys. New furnaces were built, two of which were at Newland just east of Ulverston and, in 1747, at Orgrave Mill near Holmes Green between Dalton and Ulverston. The Newland furnace was one of eight charcoal furnaces in Cumbria, ‘it became the home of the Harrison Ainslie company, an important entrepreneurial business which eventually owned all of the iron furnaces in what became known as the Furness area. Newland was the industrial heart of the region’.

‘It produced 28 tonnes of iron per week, and to do that it required 56 tonnes of charcoal each week, which meant a huge volume of timber. Seven or eight men worked there, tough, unrelenting hard graft until the last production run finished in 1893.’

Newland Furnace and Foundry, Ulverston

Newland Furnace and Foundry, Ulverston

Iron miners generally worked as small companies; gangs of men managed by a mine captain, paid monthly as a unit, and the money shared amongst themselves as they saw fit. Miners were easily identifiable by their greasy red appearance, with face, hands and clothes stained red by the iron oxide. Mining was dangerous, and miners were often injured or killed by rockfalls, railway accidents, falling off wet ladders, etc. Nevertheless, or possibly as a result, they tended to be strongly religious, and the area had several Methodist and Baptist chapels, as well as the church.

Ulverston Iron Ore Miners

Ulverston Iron Ore Miners

But not all the ore was smelted locally. Most had to be transported elsewhere. A port was lacking (Barrow-in-Furness hadn’t yet been developed as such), so in 1794-5 a canal was cut, one and a quarter miles in length, connecting Ulverston with Morecambe Bay. It was ‘said to be the shortest, straightest, and deepest in England, and is navigable for vessels of 300 tons burthen, which can be moored in safety in the capacious basin constructed for the purpose’.

After the completion of the canal Ulverston had a considerable coasting trade, exporting iron and copper ore and coppice wood, hoops, slates and gunpowder; but since the opening of the docks at Barrow the port is quite deserted and its shipyards silent. “In 1774,” Mr. West tells us, “there were seventy ships belonging to this place. Coals were then imported, and sold at £1 5s. 6d. per caldron.”

The streets of Ulverston ‘were often ankle deep in red mud, as iron-ore carts passed through regularly en route to the Canal and the iron furnace at Newland – ladies complained they could not get to Church without getting their petticoats filthy’.

mapChristopher Grisdale was born in Dalton in 1828, the illegitimate and only son of Elizabeth (‘Betty’) Grisdale. Betty too had been born in Dalton in 1807, one of two children of Dalton-born Christopher Grisdale and his Yorkshire wife Ruth Hatterton. To link in with a known Grisdale family, Christopher Senior, who was born in 1776, was one of several illegitimate children of an Agnes Grisdale, and it’s nigh on certain that this Agnes was born in 1730 in Heversham, Westmorland to John Grisdale and his first wife Elizabeth Holme. John was later to move to Cartmel (in about 1739) and was thus the first Grisdale to inhabit this coastal area. I wrote about this family in a story called ‘Grisdale Cockle Fishermen of the Cartmel Peninsula’.

The Christopher Grisdale we are concerned with (the one born in 1828) was working on a farm near Dalton owned by Thomas Huddleston in 1851. I can find no mention of him before this so I don’t know where and how he was raised or what became of his mother Betty. Thomas Huddleston was related to George Huddleston, one of the principal shareholders in the Ulverston Mining Company and, as we shall see, a powerful local JP and magistrate.

Sometime after 1851 Christopher stopped working on a farm and started working as a miner in one of the local iron mines – most likely in the Lindal/Marton area between Ulverston and Dalton. In 1n 1856 he married Charlotte Jolley in St Mary’s church in Ulverston; a child soon followed though I have yet to determine her/his name.

Let’s here make mention of another local family – the Fells. Christopher Fell had worked in the Orgrave Mill iron foundry near Dalton, but by 1858 he worked in a foundry in Ulverston, probably at Newland. One of his many children was Margaret who was aged just seven on the 13th of June 1858 when she had the misfortune to meet iron miner Christopher Grisdale in Ulverston. Here are the facts of what happened. On 19 June 1858 the Westmorland Gazette reported:

Villainous Assault – At the Magistrates’ Office, Ulverston, on Wednesday, before G Huddleston, Esq., Christopher Grisdale, of Ulverston, labourer, was charged with assaulting Margaret Fell, daughter of Christopher Fell, a child of seven years of age, with intent, on Sunday last. The offense being clearly proved, he was committed to take his trial at the ensuing sessions.

The Lancaster Gazette reported on the same day that Grisdale had ‘carnally to know’ Margaret, i.e. attempted to rape her. On 3 July the same paper reported the trial:

Criminal Assault – Christopher Grisdale, 30, miner, was indicted for attempting at Ulverston, on the 13th June, 1858, carnally to know Margaret Fell, a child under 10 years of age, the second count charged him with assault, occasioning bodily harm; and the third count charged him with indecent assault.

Mr. M’Oubrey appeared to prosecute, and Mr. Higgin for the defence.

On an objection made by Mr. Higgin to an omission on the wording of the first count, the count was withdrawn, and the case was taken upon the second and third counts.

Town Bank School, Ulverston

Town Bank School, Ulverston

This was one of the discreditable cases of which we fortunately have but few in this part of the county. The evidence for the prosecution showed that the little girl, Margaret Fell, who was only seven years of age, was playing near the Town Bank school, Ulverston, on the afternoon of Sunday the 13th June, when the prisoner, whom she had not known before, but who is a married man, with a wife and child, came up, and under the promise of giving her a half-penny or a penny she went with him, and partly having hold of his hand, and partly carried by him, was taken into a field near to the house of Mr. Gregson Fell, and there committed the gross assault with which he was charged; and then set her on the road home by another road. On arriving home she complained to her mother of injury. Supt. Cooper was informed of the circumstance, and under his directions the little girl was examined by Mr. Seatle, surgeon, who found her injured by violence. The details are unfit for publication.

Mr. Higgin addressed the jury in defence of the prisoner. The chairman summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the first count, and the court sentenced the prisoner to be imprisoned in the House of Correction, with hard labour, for 15 months.

Prisoners arriving at Lancaster Castle Prison

Prisoners arriving at Lancaster Castle Prison

So Christopher Grisdale had violently tried to rape little Margaret Fell – “The details are unfit for publication”. What I find rather amazing is that Grisdale received a sentence of only 15 months in prison for his crime – the ‘House of Correction’ probably being Lancaster Castle. This is only a few years since people were hanged or transported to Australia for petty theft or poaching; crimes against property, however small, were nearly always punished more severally than crimes against other common people.

We might normally expect to find Christopher Grisdale somewhere in the records again after his release, but I can find him nowhere, or his wife and child. Had he died in jail? If so we might expect to find his death recorded. Had he died or emigrated? Lots of questions, no answers.

Perhaps there was a sort of justice because although she had no doubt been traumatized, Margaret Fell survived, and went on to marry William Wilkinson in 1875; she had three children and died in Bradford in Yorkshire in 1938 aged 87.

 

SoulbyLabourers60_8086b

 

 

 

‘A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.’ Proverbs 26:3

In the spring of 1838 a twenty-eight year old girl called Deborah Grisdale died in the Lancaster Lunatic Asylum. Without consulting the asylum’s records I can’t say why she was there or how she died, but I can say something about such asylums and, at the end, I’ll tell where she came from.

Inside Bedlam

Inside Bedlam

‘For as long as the Church controlled the insane, they endured dreadful torments. They were imprisoned, chained to a wall (or if they were lucky to a bed), flogged, starved, insulted, tortured, immersed in iced water and otherwise brutalised. It also seems safe to assume that sexual abuse would have been commonplace in view of twentieth century disclosures about monasteries, seminaries, church schools, orphanages and state mental asylums. Throughout Christendom the insane were kept in insanitary conditions in mad-houses and exposed to public ridicule. The most famous place in England for such people was the hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem (“Bedlam”), where visitors were charged a fee to see the inmates, and were allowed to provoke them and laugh at them. A few inmates came to their senses, some died of old age, some died of neglect, starvation, exposure or torture, and many died of “putrid fever” or other infectious diseases that flourished in such conditions.’

Bedlam

Bedlam

The state of these asylums was memorably described by local magistrate Godfrey Higgins, who investigated York asylum in 1814. He found ‘evidence of wrongdoing on a massive scale: maltreatment of the patients extending to rape and murder; forging of records to hide deaths among the inmates; an extraordinarily widespread use of chains and other forms of mechanical restraint; massive embezzlement of funds; and conditions of utter filth and neglect.’ On one visit he forced his way through a hidden door to expose a tiny room crammed with thirteen elderly ladies, practically naked and covered in their own excrement. Higgins ‘became very sick and could no longer remain in the room.  I vomited.’

 

In a Victorian lunatic asylum

In a Victorian lunatic asylum

In Lancashire prior to the 1800s the ‘mentally ill’ were imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. In the early 19th Century, pressure from various quarters (particularly from the Quakers) was growing to build county asylums that would provide suitable accommodation and more humane treatment for those suffering from mental disorder. In 1809, one year after the County Asylums Act of 1808, a decision was made to build a new asylum in Lancaster. Designed by architect Thomas Standen, it opened in 1816 as the ‘County Lunatic Asylum for the County Palatine of Lancaster’ – it was here that Deborah Grisdale was sent.

‘The mentally ill inmates, who were classed as ‘lunatics’, were transferred from Lancaster Castle to the Asylum in the outskirts of Lancaster. Despite an attempt to move away from previous mistreatment, inadequate treatment still occurred in the first few years of the Asylum’s existence… During the renovation of the original section of the asylums into housing in the early twenty-first century, there were reports of shackles and padded rooms being found in the cellars of the remains. It is clear that chaining was still seen as a form of treatment of the mentally ill for years after the creation of Asylums.’

Lancaster Moor Asylum

The 1816 Lancaster Asylum

The important thing to keep in mind is that both in the old ‘madhouses’ and the later ‘asylums’, such as in Lancaster, one didn’t have to be mad to be sent there. They were long used as dumping grounds for any people who magistrates found in any way problematic. The list below from a later nineteenth-century asylum shows the lunacy of many of the reasons for which people were sent to a lunatic asylum. It will make you laugh and weep.

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Women in particular could find themselves labelled insane and locked up in madhouses for a range of conditions – from postnatal depression to alcoholism or senile dementia, and even for social transgressions such as infidelity (‘moral insanity’).

Emma Riches

Emma Riches

In the 1850s, Emma Riches, a 27-year-old mother of four, was admitted to the Bethlem asylum (the original Bedlam). ‘Her newest baby was four weeks old when Emma was admitted… with ‘puerperal insanity’, or what we would now call postnatal depression… She had suffered from the illness after the births of each of the children, and been admitted to the same hospital before.’

Emma’s notes record: ‘She never speaks nor appears to notice anything… She cares for nothing, will not eat unless she is forced to do so, nor dress nor undress herself.’

‘There is no clear indication of how Emma was treated by doctors, beyond a remark that the drugs they tried were ineffectual. Nurses are likely to have attempted to persuade her to sew or help out in the kitchens. Uneducated, Emma could not have read books to pass the time or provide an escape from the tedium of her asylum – where she would have been without all of her four children. A second photograph shows her restored to health, wearing her own smart clothes again and about to be discharged back to her family. After almost a year in hospital, her postnatal depression had passed.’

Without going to Preston to look at the asylum’s records, I don’t know why Deborah Grisdale was sent there. In 1835, when she was twenty-four, she had given birth to an illegitimate baby boy in her home village of Allithwaite on the Cartmel peninsula, she called him Jehoshaphat after the fourth king of Judah.

Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.

Should we read anything into this choice of name?

Was Deborah committed for postnatal depression of even ‘moral insanity’? Or was she truly mad? As I said I don’t yet know. All I know is she died in the asylum aged ’28’ in 1838.

Deborah Grisdale was born in 1811 in Allithwaite on the Cartmel peninsula in Lancashire (now in Cumbria). She was the second child and only daughter of cockle fishernan Thomas Grisdale and his wife Mary Armistead, She was named after Thomas’s own mother Deborah Grisdale (nee Grisdale). I wrote about the family in a story called ‘Grisdale Cockle Fishermen of the Cartmel Peninsula’. Of Deborah’s three siblings only one lived long enough to have a family and leave descendants: the first Isaac Armistead Grisdale.

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

Morecambe Bay Cocklers

And what of Deborah’s illegitimate son Jehoshaphat? After his birth in 1835 we next find him in 1841 living with his grandparennts in Allithwaite and then in 1851 working as a farm servant in nearby Seathwaite in Egton cum Newland.. Then he seems to disappear. Did he change his name? Did he join the army? Who knows.

The extended Asylum

The extended Asylum

In the 1830s Vauxhall Gardens had been one of London’s ‘pleasure gardens’ since the mid seventeenth century. It ‘drew all manner of men and supported enormous crowds, with its paths being noted for romantic assignations. Tightrope walkers, hot air balloon ascents, concerts and fireworks provided amusement.’ Our story here concerns one such balloon flight and one parachute descent and how a young Thomas Grisdale became involved.

A satirical illustration by Cruikshank entitled 'Vauxhall Fete' celebrating the achievements of Wellington.

A satirical illustration by Cruikshank entitled ‘Vauxhall Fete’ celebrating the achievements of Wellington.

In the late 1700s James Boswell wrote:

Vauxhall Gardens is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious show, — gay exhibition, musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear; — for all of which only a shilling is paid; and, though last, not least, good eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale.

Later, in 1836, Charles Dickens wrote in Sketches by Boz:

vauxgdn

Vauxhall Gardens

We paid our shilling at the gate, and then we saw for the first time, that the entrance, if there had been any magic about it at all, was now decidedly disenchanted, being, in fact, nothing more nor less than a combination of very roughly-painted boards and sawdust. We glanced at the orchestra and supper-room as we hurried past—we just recognised them, and that was all. We bent our steps to the firework-ground; there, at least, we should not be disappointed. We reached it, and stood rooted to the spot with mortification and astonishment. That the Moorish tower—that wooden shed with a door in the centre, and daubs of crimson and yellow all round, like a gigantic watch-case! That the place where night after night we had beheld the undaunted Mr. Blackmore make his terrific ascent, surrounded by flames of fire, and peals of artillery, and where the white garments of Madame Somebody (we forget even her name now), who nobly devoted her life to the manufacture of fireworks, had so often been seen fluttering in the wind, as she called up a red, blue, or party-coloured light to illumine her temple!

And then:

the balloons went up, and the aerial travellers stood up, and the crowd outside roared with delight, and the two gentlemen who had never ascended before tried to wave their flags as if they were not nervous, but held on very fast all the while; and the balloons were wafted gently away…

A printed sketch by

First balloon flight from Vauxhall Gardens by Charles Green in 1836

Always wanting the latest attraction and spectacle the Gardens featured the first balloon ascent from there in 1836. The proprietors asked the famous English balloonist Charles Green to build a new balloon for them; it was first called the Royal Vauxhall and then the Nassau. Green made a first successful flight from Vauxhall Gardens on 9 September 1836 ‘in company with eight persons…  remaining in the air about one hour and a half’. On the 21 September ‘he made a second ascent, accompanied by eleven persons, and descended at Beckenham in Kent’. Further flights followed, including on 7 November, when with two others he crossed the channel and ‘descended the next day, at 7 a.m., at Weilburg in Nassau, Germany, having travelled altogether about five hundred miles in eighteen hours’. A feat that was much celebrated.

NassauBalloon-featured-image

Charles Green’s balloon on the way to Germany in 1836

While successful balloon flights were becoming more common, parachute descents were still rare and highly dangerous. The first parachute jump had been made in France in 1785. In England André-Jacques Garnerin made the first parachute jump in 1802 which a professional watercolour artist called Robert Cocking had witnessed. He was inspired to develop a better design which wouldn’t sway from side to side during the descent as Garnerin’s umbrella-shaped parachute had done.

cocking use

Cocking’s parachute

His design was based on the theory that an inverted cone-shaped parachute would be more stable. After many years perfecting his design which ‘engrossed very nearly all his attention’, he was ready and persuaded balloonist Charles Green first to let him accompany him on his first balloon flight from Vauxhall Gardens in 1836, and then, in July 1837, to stage a balloon flight with Cocking’s parachute attached underneath, from where he would release when sufficient height had been gained. The event was to be the main attraction of a Grand Day Fete at Vauxhall Gardens on 24 July 1837.

And so at 7.35 on that morning with thousands watched the sixty-one year-old Cocking ‘ascended hanging below the balloon, which was piloted by Green and Spencer’.

As the great balloon rises, his plan is to get up to at least 8000 feet before releasing himself. However, the weight of his apparatus slows the balloon’s ascent. The balloonists, Spencer and Green, jettison much of their ballast in a bid to rise higher. The balloon drifts over South London where it vanishes into a bank of clouds making it unsafe to drop any more ballast for fear of what’s below. Finally, over Greenwich and only a mile up, the balloonists advise Cocking they can get no higher. From his basket, Cocking yells, “Well, now I think I shall leave you. Good night, Spencer. Good night, Green.” With that, he severs the tether.

Mr. Green and Mr. Spencer, who were in the ‘car’ of the balloon, had… a narrow escape.

nassau

The Nassau lifts off with Cocking’s parachute in 1837

At the moment the parachute was disengaged they crouched down in the car, and Mr. Green clung to the valve-line, to permit the escape of the gas. The balloon shot upwards, plunging and rolling, and the gas pouring both the upper and lower valves, but chiefly from the latter, as the great resistance of the air checked its egress from the former. Mr. Green and Mr. Spencer applied their mouths to tubes communicating with an air bag with which they had had the foresight to provide themselves; otherwise they would certainly have been suffocated by the gas. Notwithstanding his precaution, however, the gas almost totally deprived them of sight for four or five minutes. When they came to themselves they found they were at a height of about four miles, and descending rapidly. They effected, however, a safe descent near Maidstone.

‘A large crowd had gathered to witness the event, but it was immediately obvious that Cocking was in trouble. He had neglected to include the weight of the parachute itself in his calculations and as a result the descent was far too quick. Though rapid, the descent continued evenly for a few seconds, but then the entire apparatus turned inside out and plunged downwards with increasing speed. The parachute broke up before it hit the ground and at about 200 to 300 feet (60 to 90 m) off the ground the basket detached from the remains of the canopy. Cocking was killed instantly in the crash; his body was found in a field in Lee.’

Actually Cocking wasn’t instantly killed:

The balloon, freed of the weight, shot up like a skyrocket. Sadly, Cocking goes the other direction at much the same pace. In Norwood, a man described the chute’s descent as like a stone through a vacuum. With a tremendous crash, Cocking’s basket and chute slam into the ground at a farm near Lee. A shepherd is first to reach him. Cocking has been spilled from the basket, his head badly cut, his wig tossed some distance away. A few groans are the only brief sign of life. Carried by cart to the Tiger’s Head Inn, Cocking soon died of his injuries.

cocking grisdale

Cocking’s ascent and descent

Well that’s the story of Robert Cocking’s death, the first death by parachuting. The accident was of course widely reported in the press with many witness accounts and the testimony given at the inquest at the Tiger’s Head Inn in Lee.

‘In 1815 cavalry and foot regiments passed through Lee Green on their way to the Battle of Waterloo.’ Was Levi Grisdale with them?

In the early 19th century bare knuckle boxing matches took place at the Old Tiger’s Head. Horse racing and (human) foot racing take place in the 1840s but the police put a stop to these events, probably under pressure from local citizens.

As stated earlier, the first to reach Cocking, who was still alive, was John Chamberlain, a shepherd in the employ of Mr Richard Norman. the proprietor of Burnt Ash Farm (a place that has now disappeared under the suburban sprawl of south London). Chamberlain told the inquest how he had seen the ‘machine’ part from the balloon and it made a sound ‘like thunder’ which frightened his sheep. The ‘machine’ fell to the ground and turned over and was ‘broken to pieces’. He ran to the crash and the man (Cocking) was in the basket ‘up to his chest’ with his head lying on the ground’. The sight ‘quite turned him’. Others then arrived followed by his master Mr. Norman. He then heard a groan from Cocking.

One of the others who soon joined Chamberlain was Thomas Grisdale, Mr Norman’s footman.

Thomas Grisdale, footman to Mr Norman, of Burnt Ash Park, saw the parachute part from the balloon; it appeared to turn over and over; there was a great crackling; it appeared all to come down together; it was all closed up, not expanded; witness assisted: in taking the deceased out of the basket to do which they had to unfasten some ropes which were about him; he was laid on the grass; he breathed and appeared to live for two minutes or so; no ropes were attached to the deceased, but they had to remove the ropes attached to the basket, to get him out.

fitzalan

Fitzalan Chapel in Arundel where Thomas Grisdale was baptized

For anybody who is interested in who Mr Norman’s footman Thomas Grisdale was, well he was the son of the Joseph Grisdale I wrote about recently in a story called Joseph Grisdale, the Duke of Norfolk and the ‘Majesty of the people’. Joseph was the long-time favourite servant of the 11th Duke of Norfolk, Charles Howard. He was also the nephew of the famous and heroic Hussar Levi Grisdale who I have written much about.

Thomas was born in Arundel in 1808 and like his father went into ‘service’, although Mr Norman of Burnt Ash Farm was nowhere near in the same league as the Duke of Norfolk. He married Ockley-born Charlotte Charman in London in January 1830. Ockley in Surrey was a place where Thomas’s father owned a house. A daughter called Eleanor was born in June, but she died the next year. And then Thomas seems to disappear. Maybe he died soon after witnessing Mr Cocking’s tragic death? I just don’t know.

In 1841 Charlotte was a servant of aristocrat Christopher Thomas Tower at the stately Weald Hall in Brentwood in Essex and she died at her parents’ home of ‘Linacre’ in Cranleigh in Surrey in 1847, aged just thirty-seven.

Weald_Hall

Weald Hall, Brentwood

 

‘I wish him, however, great pleasure and success in cutting off the Frenchmen’s ears.’

Benjamin was born in 1769 at Knotts in Watermillock. He was the sixth child of another Benjamin and his Westmorland-born wife Sarah Tinkler. In 1774, when Benjamin was only five, his father fell of a ladder and was killed, he was only thirty-nine but left behind a widow and eight children. I’ll tell more about this family another time. It seems that the family stayed on in Watermillock and at least some of the children went to school there. Sarah probably died in 1788 ‘a poor widow’.

View over Ullswater from Knotts Watermillock

View over Ullswater from Knotts Watermillock

What we do know is that probably sometime around the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, (in that year France declared war on Britain), Benjamin joined the army and became a Dragoon. His older brother Matthew (born 1766) did the same. Thomas Rumney, a Watermillock-born man working in a London counting house, wrote to his brother Anthony in January 1797:

You seem in Cumberland to ride rusty under Mr. Pitt’s whip, but if you will not lead you must be driven. You astonish me by telling me that my old schoolfellow Matt Grisdale has entered into the King’s service in a military capacity of low rank. I wish him, however, great pleasure and success in cutting off the Frenchmen’s ears.

And yes this Thomas Rumney is of the same family as the recent US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Matthew Grisdale is never heard of again; it’s likely he died fighting the French, but hopefully he did cut off a few Frenchmen’s ears before his own death.

British Dragoons

British Dragoons

What Benjamin did during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars isn’t known, but as he later was a ‘Chelsea Pensioner’ he must have served for fully twenty-one years.

The next we hear of Benjamin is on 19 December 1812 when he married Morland girl Mary Mounsey, either in Lowther church or Thrimby church, Westmorland, very near where his mother had been born. The couple had three daughters: Frances 1815, Ann 1819 and Mary 1821, all baptized in Lowther/Thrimby. The family later lived near Lowther at ‘Shap Beck Gate’ in Thrimby; whether they were already there when the children were born I don’t know.

By 1841 we find Benjamin living at Shap Beck Gate with his wife and daughter Frances; he was said to be an army pensioner. The two younger daughters had already moved away. I’ll tell of them in a minute. As we will see despite Benjamin’s small pension the family was very poor. On 24 June 1846 various newspapers reported an ‘awful and terrific thunder storm’, and then:

On the moor near Shap Beck-gate, in Westmorland, the wife and daughter of Benjamin Grisdale, a labourer, were gathering tufts of wool from the fences on Knipe Scar, when the daughter, a fine young women, was struck by the electric fluid and killed on the spot by the side of her heart-broken mother, who most fortunately escaped destruction but was slightly injured.

Shap Beck and Thrimby 1839

Shap Beck and Thrimby 1839

An inquest was held, reported by the newspapers on 27 June 1846:

On Saturday last… at the house of Mary Grisdale of Shap Beck-Gate on the body of Frances Grisdale aged 31 who was killed on the previous Thursday, during an awful thunderstorm that passed over that part, by the electric fluid. Mary Grisdale the mother of the deceased deposed as follows:

About 4 o’clock in the afternoon I and my daughter were engaged in gathering wool from the fences on Mr. Powley’s farm at Thrimby Grange. A storm of thunder, accompanied by rain, set in, and we became alarmed and were hastening home. When coming through Coat Bank there was a very heavy clap of thunder, and more lightning than I think I ever saw before. The lighting struck me on the left arm, and I thought it was broken. I was then 4 or 5 yards before my daughter. I looked around and not seeing her I walked back a few yards, and found her lying on the ground on her left side. I raised her up but she was quite dead. I remained with her about a quarter of an hour when I got assistance from the Grange.

She had on a bed gown, which was open in front. Her petticoat, stays and shift were very much burnt, and also her cap and bonnet. The flesh is not torn, but she is gravely discoloured. Deceased was thirty-one years of age. Verdict – “Accidental Death”.

The Carlisle Journal added gratuitously that the ‘deceased was a person of rather weak intellect’.

Knipe Scar

Knipe Scar

Benjamin died the next year. His wife Mary was still living at Shap Beck Gate in Thrimby in 1851, still next door to William Powley’s farm at Thrimby Grange. She died sometime in the 1850s.

And what happened to the other two daughters? It seems that Mary (born 1821) went back to Watermillock and had two illegitimate children there; Benjamin in 1850 and Julia in 1860. But she was obviously very poor and was in and out of Penrith Workhouse, where we find her with Benjamin in 1851 and with Benjamin and Julia in 1861. I don’t know what happened to this young Benjamin. Julia was a servant in Yorkshire in 1871 and then I lose track of her.

'Young' Benjamin Grisdale's company on the North West Frontier in 1917

‘Young’ Benjamin Grisdale’s company on the North West Frontier in 1917

Daughter Ann (born 1819) was still living ‘next door’ to her parents in Thrimby in 1841, working as a farm servant on Joseph Richardson’s farm (neighbouring William Powley at Thrimby Grange). She too had two illegitimate children: Sarah born in 1847 in Barton and William born in 1854 in Penrith. In 1861 the three are living at Netherend in Penrith; Ann is a Charwomen, thirteen year-old Sarah is already a domestic servant and William at school. Again I don’t know what became of Sarah, but William continued to live with his mother Ann in Penrith and started work first as an errand boy and then by 1881 as a railway labourer; he was still with his mother in 1891. But it seems that William had married a pauper called Mary Rowlands in 1877 and they had a child called Benjamin Grisdale in Penrith in 1883. This Benjamin joined the Border Regiment in 1914 and spent the First World War on the North West frontier between Afghanistan and present Pakistan. I intend to write about him in the future.

On 12 December 1814 a British fleet was anchored off Cat Island in the Mississippi Sound. It was there to prepare for an attack on New Orleans. One of the ships was the 38-gun frigate HMS Cydnus commanded by Captain Frederick Langford, a long-time colleague of Admiral Lord Nelson. Second in command was a twenty-one year-old Lieutenant Charles Grisdale.  Charles was about to take part in the final acts of the ‘War of 1812’.

In 1812 the United States had opportunistically and rather sneakily declared war on Britain, believing that with Britain fully stretched fighting Napoleon’s French they could use the distraction to grab Canada. Yet even with Britain fighting on two fronts on either side of the Atlantic the war had gone badly for the Americans until the Battle of Plattsburg in September 1814. Even then the British went on to capture Washington until driven out by an unprecedented storm. After a bombardment of Fort McHenry – which inspired the words of the Star Spangled Banner – the British left Baltimore intent on an invasion of Louisiana. And so the British fleet left Jamaica and assembled off Cat Island.

Fort McHenry 1814

Fort McHenry 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

American gunboat Alligator

American gunboat Alligator

The task was to secure a safe place to land the British army on the Gulf Coast. They choose Lake Borgne just east of New Orleans. But this bay was too shallow for warships to enter and it was defended by five American gunboats and two other US ships called the Alligator and the Sea Horse. These would have to be taken before any landing could be made. And so it was that late on December 12 forty-five small boats and barges filled with 1,200 sailors and marines, including Lieutenant Grisdale, started to row from the fleet towards the entrance to Lake Borgne. Arriving on the 13th they anchored overnight and with the next dawn they started their attack. Under the command of Captain Nicholas Lockyer the British soon stormed the American ship Alligator and captured it. Lockyer then ordered the boat flotilla to anchor just beyond the range of the American long guns. His men had rowed 36 miles and now received a much needed rest and breakfast.

At 10.30 they weighed anchor and made straight at the line of American gunboats. The Americans opened fire but their targets were small and little damage was done. The British returned fire with the small canons they carried and grappled and stormed the gunships with musket and bayonets.

By the early afternoon of 14 December it was all over, all the American gunships had been taken. The Americans had lost 6 men with 35 wounded, while British casualties were higher: 17 dead and 77 wounded, many mortally. So ended the ‘Battle of Lake Borgne’, in which Charles Grisdale had taken part.

Battle of Lake Borgne

Battle of Lake Borgne

The British were now free to land, which they did at Pea Island under General John Keane. HMS Cydnus, with Charles Grisdale still second-in-command, helped with the landing.

I won’t here retell the story of the subsequent Battle of New Orleans, which culminated on the 8th January 1815. It was a victory for the Americans under General Andrew Jackson, caused both by British mistakes and the heroic defence of the city by the Americans. In fact the battle had taken place after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed in December officially ending the War, but news of this had yet to reach America.

General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans

General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans

We know from reports that Charles Grisdale was with his ship during the Battle of New Orleans, but not what he did. But after the battle while again anchored off Cat Island one final event took place on board the Cydnus that Charles would have witnessed: the court-martial of Captain Henry William Percy. Captain Percy had led a force to try to capture Fort Bowyer in September but had failed. During the action his ship, HMS Hermes, had grounded and Percy had fired it to prevent it falling into the hands of the enemy. For this he was being court-martialled; but was after much acrimony he was exonerated. Whether this event had something to do with what followed I don’t know.

HMS Cydnus then sailed for Jamaica where Captain Langford and his second-in-command Lieutenant Grisdale parted company. Langford died a few days later in Jamaica and Grisdale set off for home.

Mail Packet Princess MaryThe Royal Cornwall Gazette reported on Saturday 18 February 1815:

During the homeward passage of the Princess Mary Packet, which arrived at Falmouth, from Jamaica, on Monday last, she experienced the most dreadful weather. We lament to state that during its continuance Lieutenant Grisdale, of the Navy, was struck by lightning which caused his death instantaneously. This Gentleman had been Second Lieutenant of the H.M.S Cyndus, 38 Capt. Langford; but in consequence of some disagreement with his Commanding Officer, he had quitted that ship and was on his return to England when he met his untimely fate. We understand that Lieut. Grisdale, was a meritorious young man, and highly respected by his brother Officers for his many estimable qualities.

Charles Grisdale was just twenty-one. I wrote about his family in an article called ‘The extinction of a line’.

A Leda-class frigate like the HMS Cydnus - HMS Pomone

A Leda-class frigate like the HMS Cydnus – HMS Pomone

It was probably a typically cold Lakeland day on the 26th January 1842 when young Eleanor Grisdale arrived at Watermillock church for her wedding. Accompanied by her father Benjamin, who farmed at nearby Hurrock Wood, she possibly took a look over Ullswater and considered what her life as the wife of John Holme, the ‘King of Mardale’, would bring.

Horrock Wood Farm

Horrock/Hurrock Wood Farm

The first amusing part of this tale is the wedding announcement in various local newspapers:

At Watermillock on Wednesday, the 26th inst., by the Rev Thomas Lowry, John Holme, Esq, of Chapel Hill, Mardale, Westmorland, the original residence of the ancient family of Holme, whose great ancestor, a native of Stockholm, came to England with William the Conqueror, to Eleanor, only child of Mr. Grisdale of Hurrock Wood, near Ullswater.

Of course nobody called Holme from Stockholm in Sweden ever came over with William the Bastard in 1066, in fact Stockholm didn’t even exist in 1066. Holm/Holme is indeed a Scandinavian toponym meaning ‘a low, flat tract of land beside a river or stream’ or ‘a small island, especially one in a river or lake’. When the Hiberno-Norse settled the Lake District in the tenth century they named numerous places Holm from which many local families derive their name.

It has always amazed me why some people even want to trace their family back to William the Bastard’s Norman-French – thugs who brought centuries-long death and repression to the people of England. But the Holme (sometimes Holmes) family of Mardale obviously loved telling this tale. In William Ford’s 1839 Description of Scenery in the Lake District, he writes of Chapel Hill:

Chapelhill. – Mardale Chapel of Ease, in a picturesque and fertile situation, surrounded by lofty fells, stands here; and Chapelhill is the property and residence of the Holmes’, whose ancestor came into this country with the Conqueror.

Mardale

Mardale

But it gets better. Let me share with you the story of the ‘Kings of Mardale’ given on a website called Mardale Green:

Hidden away in the far North Eastern corner of Westmoreland is the secluded valley of Mardale, a rugged and remote place with mountains on every side, it once offered the perfect hiding place for a family on the run.

One such band was, Hugh Parker Holme and his family (sic), originally a native of Stockholm Sweden, and a knight of the realm who once made his living from war. He entered early Britain within the armies of William the 1st, and for his troubles he was rewarded with a large estate in Yorkshire.

The year was 1209, and Hugh was thought to be involved within the Canterbury Conspiracy, a plot of their day to oust the then King John of England, this incurred the displeasure of John, who had them driven out of their homes, now fearing for their lives, they all headed north, making for safety in Scotland, which was neutral at the time.

King+John

King John

Their march was long and weary, crossing rivers mountain and dale, avoiding all the major routes they managed to remain hidden from view, Hugh sensed they were nearing their goal, but with their last few supplies running desperately low, and night time approaching, they stopped to rest and gather their strength, for the mountains ahead would test them in the days ahead, whilst sitting in a circle with their backs towards each other, looking up they saw the last few streams of daylight breaking through gaps in the blackening skies, suddenly one of Hugh’s sons noticed a light flickering far below them in the distance.

As he spoke, the heavens opened, the light now was fading fast, so they decided to take shelter in a tiny cave they found earlier that evening, little did they know it, but this place was to serve them well in the days ahead, unknown to them they were high upon Rough Crag, in the most inaccessible part of Riggindale (The cave survives to this day and is marked upon modern maps as Hugh’s Cave), with the Scottish border a  short distance away, they closed their eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep.

As daylight broke, the rain and hail still pounded the ridge, so they waited until the worst of the weather abated, by now  what little supplies they had were gone, and leaving his family behind for the first time since they set out, Hugh went down into the valley alone, to seek new supplies and to check if any news of the plot had reached this place, Hugh would make the trip from cave to green many times and as luck would have it, they heard news of King John’s demise, with him safely in the ground changed everything, so making for neutrality and safety in Scotland was now not so important, they decided to stay a while longer.

The days turned into weeks and the months past so fast, that any fears they had, ebbed slowly away, by now they had left the safety of the cave and ventured down into the valley, where a kind old man, who was getting on in years and needing the care of others, took them in, when the old man passed away, Hugh bought his lands and set too at building his own home, high upon the Rigg, Hugh’s young family added a much needed boost toward village life, the locals were very forthcoming and welcomed them with open arms.

In the years to come, Hugh gained the peoples trust, mainly by the doing of good; they valued his thoughts and eventually involved him within their politics, so much so, that they eventually awarded him with the title, The King of Mardale.

In the centuries that followed, every 1st male of the family line, were dubbed the King, the last male passed away in 1885 with Hugh Parker Holme, his memorial can still be seen in the new church yard, just up the road from the old church in Shap village, the very last line of the family ended with one Mary Elizabeth Holme who died in 1915 at the ripe old age of 90.

It’s all tosh but a great story nonetheless.

The last King of Mardale was indeed Hugh Parker Holme; he was the son of John Holme of Chapel Hill by his second wife Mary Howe, whose mother was a Parker; but the thirteenth century Hugh fleeing from King John is pure imagination.

In 1896, J. Paul Rylands wrote an article called Monumental Inscriptions and other inscriptions in the Church of Mardale wrote:

Most of the inscriptions printed below commemorate members of the Holme family, one of those ancient Lake District yeomen stocks, locally called “statesmen,” which are fast disappearing. The head of this family, for several, if not many, generations, has been known in the neighbourhood by the soubriquet of “the King of Mardale,” and curious legends were told by the dalesmen of the great antiquity of this race. There can be very little doubt that the Holmes have been settled on a small estate in Mardale for a very long period, and that the name of their older house, ‘Chapel Hill,’ near to the church, was its designation in 1670 is clear from an entry in the Shap parish registers. The present house, called ‘Chapel Hill,’ is on a different site.

No printed account of the Holmes of Mardale is extant, their name dues not occur in the Visitation of Westmorland made by Sir Richard St. George, Norroy, in l6l5, and their true origin appears to be unknown…

There are several places called Holme in this county and in Cumberland and Yorkshire, which may have given surnames to distinct families.

But what of Eleanor Grisdale who had married John Holme, the King of Mardale, in 1842? A daughter soon followed: Ann Maria Holme, who was to later marry a wealthy local agricultural merchant called James Cooper Bowstead. But Eleanor sadly died a few months after giving birth. The Carlisle Journal reported her death on 29 July 1843:

At Chapel Hill, Mardale, Westmorland, on the 22nd inst., Eleanor, the youthful wife of John Holme, Esq, in the 22nd year of her age, – universally esteemed and deeply lamented.

The village of Mardale and the original Chapel Hill now no longer exist because in the 1930s a large reservoir, Haweswater, was built to supply Manchester with water and the valley was flooded.

In 1835 the last service was held in Mardale Church.

Last service at Mardale 1935

Last service at Mardale 1935

The last farewell service at Holy Trinity will long be remembered, years hence old men and women, now but larle en’s will tell their children and grandchildren, how on the 18th of August 1935 they were part of the congregation that sad day.

The church held around 75 people, the lord mayor, Alderman Woolam, and the Lady Mayoress with a few others including  Mrs Cormack who played the harmonium, secured the remaining seats.

The 61st Bishop of Carlisle, the right rev Herbert Williams pronounced the final blessing within its walls, it is said that over a thousand people gathered upon the hillside beside listening to the service via loud hailers fastened to the church tower, by a local radio expert from Penrith, many there having Mardalian connections or just a love of old places, the general atmosphere was reverential, for there was something very moving about the service, all be it a simple one.

Some of the throng seemed to think that the locals were unduly hasty at holding the farewell service now, for the rising waters would not flow over the site next week or next month, for the final position for the dam footing had not yet been thought upon.

The psalms sung, were, I will lift up mine eyes into the hills and hymns included, O God Our Help in Ages Past, the Church’s One Foundation and Bright Vision That Delighted, a line which summed up the marvellous beauty of  the valley.

The saddest man amongst the crowd that day was former and last vicar or the parish, Rev Frederick H. J. Barham, who never actually received an official invitation to the service, came out of retirement and travelled north to be present, he donned his clerical garb, he did not go into the church, for the memories of the underhand treatment he received from the hands of the MCWW was too painful a memory to bare, instead he wandered amongst the crowd in his clerical garb talking to them, many of which had been in his old flock for more than twenty five years.

The voices of the great congregation rose high into the hills that day, if only those voices had been heard afar, then this most beautiful place might still be there for all to enjoy.

At the close of the service, the Bishop of Carlisle offered prayers for all the living descendants of the Holme family who had always known and loved this larle church.

King of Mardale

There was a King Across the Water,

And a King down by the sea,

And a King upon an island,

Who King shall always be,

But the King of the fells

Lives only in memory,

 

Now Mardale valley is a lake

An Avalon with no Hand Above the Water,

No sword, no Lady Fairies Daughter,

Reaching from the reservoir

Just a lonely old church tower,

Monument to the last King’s power

In an earlier article I told of Simeon Grisdale Senior and finished with his death in Crouch End, Islington in 1825, just weeks after he had been released from debtors’ prison. Here I want to tell of his son Simeon, ‘a most systematic rogue’, of his continual movements, changes of occupation, his repeated bigamy and his spells in jail. There are still some mysteries about his life and the fate of some of his children, plus I don’t even know exactly where and when he died, but I hope it’s still an interesting tale. He was a rogue indeed but I can’t help warming to him.

Broughton, Hants

Broughton, Hants

As mentioned in my earler article titled Simeon Grisdale – bankruptcy and debtors’ prison,  Simeon Grisdale Junior was born in Houghton in Hampshire in 1805. His father, Simeon Senior, was the village baker and chandler and the younger Simeon grew up in rural Hampshire with his younger sister Mary. Whether Simeon Senior’s wife Ruth and his two grown or almost grown children accompanied him to London isn’t known. Maybe they stayed in Hampshire. In any case the next we hear of young Simeon is in June 1830 when he married Ann Jearam in the next door Hampshire village of Broughton. Three children followed: Mary in 1834, William in 1836 (both born in Broughton) and then Simeon in 1839. Baby Simeon died the next year in Over Wallop, Hampshire. But the children were not christened in either of  the Church of England churches in Houghton or Broughton, where the family were living. Instead they were baptized in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the ancient city of Salisbury, Simeon being said to be a labourer. The theme of Wesleyan Methodism will reappear later.

By 1841 the family had moved to Waight’s Terrace in Southampton and Simeon was a brewer. Perhaps the family stayed in Southampton during the 1840s, but in 1850 Simeon’s long career of bigamy starts. On 25 December 1850, while still married to Ann (she died in Clerkenwell, London in 1867), Simeon married Mary Ann Scott in Chelmsford in Essex, a long way from Hampshire. The circumstances leading to this marriage are, I’m afraid, lost forever, as indeed is Mary Ann Scott’s subsequent fate. I can find no trace of any of the family in the 1851 census, which is strange. Whatever the case, Simeon’s bigamous marriage to Mary Ann didn’t last long. Maybe she discovered he was already married? Maybe, though most unlikely, he went back to his family for a while.

But we do know what Simeon was up to in 1851. The Oxford Journal on 6 September 1851 contained the following report:

IMPOSTER –

On Monday last a man, named Simeon Grisdale, was sentenced to three months imprisonment and hard labour, as a rogue and vagabond, under the following circumstances, detailed in evidence by Mr. Parsons, a grocer, of this town, to whom great praise is due for his promptness in bringing to justice a most systematic rogue. In August last the accused called called upon Mr. Parsons and passed himself off as a local preacher attached to the Wesleyan Methodist persuasion, who was deputed to collect contributions in aid of a fund for building a chapel at a place called Stanford, to which pretended object it appeared, by a collecting book which he presented, a great number of parties in various places had subscribed. Mr. Parsons contributed a sum, but having found out subsequently such particulars as left no doubt that he had been imposed on, he procured a search warrant, and with a constable proceed to Oxford, where he heard the man was, and forthwith apprehended him, when he directly confessed his guilt. At a house where he was living portions of books were found, by which it appeared that he had visited most towns in Berks, Oxon etc, and had drawn upon the public to the tune of £40 or £50, and to such purposes he had changed the locality of the pretended chapel from place to placer as circumstances rendered it necessary. The accused had no defense to make.

Meadvale in 1955

Meadvale in 1955

Having most likely been released from prison in December 1851, Simeon, as we will see, arrived in Harefield in Middlesex to ‘open a school’. There he met Mary Ann Clarke, the daughter of Harefield carpenter Thomas Clarke and his wife Ann. In July of that year he married Mary Ann at the registrar’s office in Uxbridge in Middlesex. You have to say he got around.  He stayed with this Mary Ann a bit longer. They had four children together: Margaret in 1855 in Hounslow, Middlesex, Benomi (?) in 1857 in Heston (a suburb of Hounslow), Ruth in 1859 in Speldhurst (Tunbridge Wells) in Kent and Simeon in 1859 in Meadvale in Redhill in Surrey. Son Simeon died aged only six weeks. We can imply that during all these years Simeon was trying his hand at running private schools, though continually moving from place to place.

Certainly when he moved to Meadvale in Redhill in Surrey in 1858 or 1859 he and his wife did become schoolmaster and mistress! They are listed as such in the 1861 census. A far cry maybe from labouring, brewing, obtaining money under false pretenses and God knows what else.

Meadvale was known in the 19th century as Meads Hole. The name means meadowland hollow. Here not only dwellings but also pottery businesses scattered over the common land — some kilns remain. The major hamlet had two butchers, a baker, a draper, a tailor and a grocer’s shop. The first school was held in the village hall with a fee of one penny a week for each child. At the beginning of the 19th century, there was a tanner’s yard adjoining Earlswood Common which was pasture, not park, at the southern entrance to Meadvale.

Perhaps their school was ‘in the village hall’?

Things seemed to be going well for Simeon. But no, he had obviously not repented of his ways – bigamy and collecting money for fictitious Methodist chapels. In September 1862 various newspapers all over the country reported his activities,. This one is from the Kentish Chronicle on 6 September 1862:

A SCHOOLMASTER COMMITTED FOR BIGAMY –

Samuel Russell, alias Simeon Grisdale, a schoolmaster and a Wesleyan local preacher, was brought up Monday last before the Tunbridge bench of magistrates charged with marrying a female named Fanny Kingwood in April last, his former wife being then alive. Fanny Kingwood stated that in Apri, 1862, she was living at Reigate Heath, and the prisoner was living at Redhill, about three miles distant. She became acquainted with him by his coming to see her master for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions. She understood he was a single man, and went by the name of Samuel Russell. After several months’ courtship he induced her, on 5th April, to go to London with him, and the ceremony of marriage was gone through at York Street Chapel, Walworth. Ann Clarke, the wife of Thomas Clarke, carpenter of Harefield, Middlesex, said she had known the prisoner for ten years. He went to Harfield and opened a school, and shortly afterwards became acquainted with her daughter, Mary Ann Clarke, to whom he was married at the registrar’s office at Uxbridge, nearly ten years ago. He was married in the name of Simneon Grisdale. Her daughter was still alive. The prisoner, on being cautioned in the usual way, said, “All that I have to say is, I am truly sorry for it.” He was committed for trial at the ensuing assizes at Maidstone.

As we will see it’s doubtful  that Simeon was ‘truly sorry’.  In any case  on 29 November 1862 Simeon was tried at Maidstone Court in Kent for bigamy and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Maidstone Prison

Maidstone Prison

Before I continue with Simeon, what became of his (legal) wife Ann and their children? Sometime in the 1850s they had moved to London. In 1861 wife Ann Grisdale (nee Jearam) was a Seamstress living at 36 Chapel Street in Clerkenwell. So too was her recently widowed young ‘Dress Maker’ daughter Mary Midson (nee Grisdale). Son William was nearby working as a ‘Pot Man’ i.e. a glass washer at the British Queen pub off Canonbury Square in Islington.

St Laurence, Upton, Slough

St Laurence, Upton, Slough

Returning to bigamist Simeon Grisdale. If he completed his full four year sentence (probably in Maidstone Prison) he would have been free at the end of 1866. His first and legal wife Ann died in London in the first quarter of 1867. Did Simeon know? Did he care? We don’t know. We might also conclude that his marriage to Fanny Kingwood had been annulled on his conviction for bigamy. Whether he was still married to Mary Ann Clarke is not known.

Yet on the 9 February 1867 Simeon married again in the Buckinghamshire village of Upton near Slough, this time his wife was widow Maria Compton (nee Stevens). Given the timing it’s quite likely this marriage was bigamous too. It does seem Simeon was a bit of a charmer and ladies’ man! He settled down with Maria and several stepchildren in Upton and he now became a greengrocer (and possibly a draper too). One son was born in 1868, who Simeon again called Simeon – third time lucky. This Simeon, who will be the subject of  a subsequent article, survived, but Simeon’s marriage to Maria Compton didn’t.

By 1871 the family had moved to Acton in Middlesex (now part of London), but they weren’t living together. Simeon is listed in the 1871 census as a greengrocer living at 5 Windmill Terrace on Turnpike Road with his young son Simeon. His wife Maria was living at 4 prospect Terrace on Park Road, working as a laundress, with three of her Compton children plus son Simeon Grisdale – he was recorded twice, both with his father and mother!

But Simeon couldn’t do without a wife. Oh no, he had to marry again, and again bigamously. On 30 November 1873 he married Margaret Mary Downie in Christ Church, in the south London area of Southwark.

And here  the ‘most systematic rogue’ Simeon Grisdale simply disappears. I can find no trace of his death. In 1881 the wife Maria was still in London but said she was a widow, so I guess Simeon died sometime in the 1870s after a full life indeed: from labourer to brewer to schoolmaster, to prisoner to greengrocer; with six wives and multiple bigamies behind him!

Later I will tell of Simeon Grisdale the third, who became a soldier, went to Ireland then to the North West Frontier in India and, well into his forties, fought in the First World War.

bigamy

In my own Grisdale family line we find the usual array of professions: yeoman farmer, blacksmith and carpenter for example. But it has always intrigued me that my third great grandfather, William Grisdale, was a Dancing Master in and around Penrith for about sixty years. Luckily William’s teaching, his Balls and his dancing school were repeatedly reported in the Cumbrian press and thus we can get just a flavour of his life and the legacy he left.

We know that William was a Dancing Master because he is listed as such in the censuses of 1841, 1851 and 1861. He was by that time already quite old, having been born in Matterdale in 1785, the sixth and last child of Dockray blacksmith Wilfred Grisdale (1711-1795) and his second wife Ruth Slee (1759-1838). But even when he married Mary Charters in Penrith in 1815 when he was thirty he was already said to be a dancing master. As we will see he’d started this vocation even before that.

The English Dancing Master

The English Dancing Master

What was a ‘Dancing Master’?  Well as we might expect he/she was a teacher of dance. Wikipedia tells us something of the tradition:

The Dancing Master (first edition: The English Dancing Master) is a dancing manual containing the music and instructions for English Country Dance. It was published in several editions by John Playford and his successors from 1651 until c1728. The first edition contained 105 dances with single line melodies; subsequent editions introduced new songs and dances, while dropping others, and the work eventually encompassed three volumes. Dances from The Dancing Master were re-published in arrangements by Cecil Sharp in the early 20th century, and in these reconstructed forms remain popular among dancers today.

Another recent writer says:

For those of you not familiar with Playford’s The English Dancing Master (1651), it was the first collection of popular dance tunes published in the British Isles. It was published in London and sold to the English country dancing market… It was a big hit, and it remained in print through various editions until 1728. It’s not exactly traditional music. It was popular music intended for an urban audience.

The various editions were updated with the hits of the day—songs from popular plays and special music used by professional dancers. However, quite a lot of the material can be found in traditional circulation… English country dancing is first mentioned in the Elizabethan period. Some of the tunes were probably at least 100 years old when they were published. Many of the older tunes existed as songs rather than strictly dance tunes. Nowadays there are two styles of what is called “English country dancing” One is based on Playford tunes. Apparently the tunes are usually played in a style based on late 19th century classical music….

But the type of dancing William taught was more like this:

The other kind of English country dancing is the kind of dancing they do out in the country in England. This is true folk dancing, done to folk tunes played in folk style. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Playford, which has been upper-class stuff since the 17th century. John Playford (1623-1686) was a successful London music publisher. A royalist, he kept a low profile during the Commonwealth and came into political favour with the return of Charles II. He catered to the taste of the emerging bourgeois class which preferred country dancing to the more formal galliards and other formal dances popular with the nobility before the Civil War. His business was carried on by his son Henry. The actual title of the work was: The English Dancing Master, or, Plaine and easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with the Tune to each Dance.

From where had William acquired his love of dancing? How had he started to teach? To be honest I have no idea. None of his ancestors and, with one exception, none of his descendants or relatives had anything to do with dancing. William had moved from Matterdale to Penrith sometime prior to his marriage in 1815. The couple had at least nine children. Perhaps William at first followed his father’s profession as a blacksmith or maybe he worked as a carpenter as did many of his family? If he did he didn’t stay at it long before starting to teach dancing which was obviously the love of his life.

As I mentioned, there are dozens of newspaper reports telling of  William Grisdale the Dancing Master, they span several decades. Basically what William did was move from town to town teaching young people to dance. paid for by their parents, and then a Ball would be staged to show off the results. All the reports tell of the great success of these balls and how they were a great credit to Mr. Grisdale, who as he gets older is sometimes refers to as Professor Grisdale or, more often, ‘the patriarchal dancing master’. Here are just a few of my favourites:

Carlisle Journal 13 June 1851

BALL – The merry little village of Wreay was, on thursday evening week, the scene of much gaiety and pleasure. Mr. Wm. Grisdale upon whose head seventy years have shone, has been endeavouring for some time past to fashion the young limbs of  “fair maidens and buxom lads” of the village and surrounding neighbourhood to the graceful evolutions of the mazy dance, and his labours, which have been followed by most decided success, were brought to a close with a ball on the above evening. Rarely, if ever, has so gay and numerous an assemblage of plump, rosy-checked lasses and lish, hardy, light-hearted youths, been gathered together under the hospitable roof of  “old Sally” . The”kings and queens” discharged their duties with true dignity; and the “hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,” in which cross-the-buckle, the double-shuffle and the “cut,”  were all rendered in first rate primitive style, reflect much credit upon both Mr. Grisdale and his pupils. The “bow dance,” however, was the great attraction of the evening, and in finery and gracefulness would succumb to few of our more posturing dances. The young ones having finished their spree, the older folk, inspired by the fire of early days, took possession of the floor, and kept up the pleasure of the ball until the grey mists of morning warned them to depart, which they did with hearts filled with joy.

Wreay, Cumberland

Wreay, Cumberland

Two years later on 16 December 1853 the same newspaper reported:

Dancing School Ball – Mr William Grisdale the patriarchal dancing master, held his ball at the house of Mr Thomas Furness, of Loangwathby… Mr Grisdale is upwards of 74 years of age (sic); yet, though his head is silverd o’ver by time he appears as “lish” and active as ever. He has taught dancing for upwards of half a century, and has always kept within a twenty mile circuit of Penrith, so that at the present time there are few middle aged women in the district who were not his pupils in early life . He has taught three generations. He taught the grandmothers of some of the young misses who were recently his pupils in Longwathby.

And then on 14 April 1854:

Old William Grisdale the patriarchal dancing master, has now a dancing school in Penrith Town head. He is teaching the fourth generation, having taught the great grandfathers and great grandmothers of some of his present pupils.

Naval cadets dancing a hornpipe

Naval cadets dancing a hornpipe

William was still a dancing master in 1861, aged 76, and might have continued somewhat longer. So it seems that William had brought ‘joy’ to four generations of his Cumbrian dancing pupils over a period of about sixty years. He had his fair share of tragedy too – two of his daughter died quite young – but he led a life doing what he wanted to do. Sometime in the 1860s William had to stop his teaching, possibly due too ill health, and the sad fact is that he had to enter Penrith’s workhouse where he died on 30 May 1866, his death only getting two lines in the Carlisle Journal that had followed him for decades. His wife Mary died two years later.

Just a few words on William’s family.  In the early nineteenth century his older brother Wilfred (b 1782) had moved to Carlisle and from there he emigrated with his family to Canada, just after William’s marriage, there to found a veritable Grisdale dynasty in Canada and the United States.

Another brother Gideon (b 1777) moved to London and became a jeweller; his daughter Elizabeth ‘Minnie’ Grisdale first became a ballet dancer at the Drury Lane Theatre in London before marrying a famous painter, moved to Boston and then returned as a widow to hawk fish in Falmouth! Perhaps Minnie had been influenced by her dancing uncle William?

Wilfred Grisdale, William's son

Wilfred Grisdale, William’s son

There is much to tell of William’s children. I’ll only highlight a couple of them. Their son Wilfred (1815-1893) was a carpenter. The family story is that Wilfred loved horses. The picture I have included here might suggest that. He married twice and had eleven children, one being my great grandmother Agnes Grisdale. Another son, also called William, emigrated to Australia in 1853 with his wife and child and there had many adventures.

It’s not much of a story I know, but I just love to think of William teaching country dancing to the good youngsters of Cumberland and Westmorland in the nineteenth century. Perhaps he even knew Levi Grisdale, the landlord of the local tavern called the General Lefebvre. Levi was much more famous, but he and William were related, both being descended from Joseph Grisdale and Agnes Dockray of Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale. I guess we’ll never know.

The United States declared war on Britain in 1812 when all Britain’s attention was focussed on, and resources stretched, fighting Napoleon’s French, who had subjugated much of Europe. Many factors were involved but essentially it was an attempt by the Americans to grab more or all of British North America (Canada) while Britain was occupied elsewhere. So Britain had to fight a war on two fronts, on either side of the Atlantic. It’s a long and fascinating story, at one point the British captured Washington D.C. and burnt the White House; the Americans were only saved by a huge storm which forced the British to withdraw. The war dragged on the two and a half years before being formally ended by the Treaty of Ghent on 24 December 1814, although fighting continued into early 1815.

Throughout all this time the Royal Navy was actively involved, blockading the American coast, fighting American ships and landing troops on the coasts. One young Royal navy Lieutenant involved in all of this was a certain Charles Grisdale. Charles was most likely involved when a fleet of some 30 warships sailed out of Negril Bay, Jamaica on 26 November, 1814. ‘The fleet under command of Admiral Cochrane moved into the Gulf of Mexico ready to attack New Orleans. Cochrane’s fleet was transporting 14,450 British troops who had recently been fighting in the Napoleonic wars in France and Spain.’

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of New Orleans. January 1815

Perhaps Charles Grisdale was injured at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, whatever the case shortly thereafter Charles was back in Jamaica where he boarded the ‘postal packet’ Princess Mary bound for Falmouth in England.

But shortly after leaving Jamaica the ship ‘experienced the most dreadful weather’, in fact a ‘hurricane’, during which it ‘was struck by lightning… by which Lieutenant Charles Grisdale, of the Royal Navy, was killed, and several of the crew seriously injured’.

Princess Mary

Princess Mary

The newspapers reported the ‘instantaneous’ death after the Princess Mary arrived in England and mentioned Charles’ father, the Reverend Benjamin Grisdale of Withington in Gloucestershire. When Benjamin and his family heard of Charles death in their Rectory in Withington they must have been devastated. Whether Charles was buried at sea or brought back to England I don’t know, I presume the former.

Charles was only twenty-two and Benjamin’s first born child. He was named after Benjamin’s close friend General Charles Cornwallis, the commander of the British forces which had surrendered to George Washington’s Americans at Yorktown in 1781. Benjamin had been a long-time chaplain in the British Army and served throughout the American War of Independence; he was with Cornwallis at Yorktown. I wrote about him in a story called Rev Benjamin Grisdale and the siege of Yorktown 1781.

But in 1815 Benjamin still had three other living sons: Edmund (1799), Henry (1800) and William (1807), another son had died in infancy. He and his wife Elizabeth Unwin also had two daughters, all born in Withington Rectory. But before his death in 1828 aged eighty-four, Benjamin would have another tragedy. His next oldest living son, Edmund, had joined the Indian Army been made an Ensign then a Lieutenant and was shipped with his regiment to Bombay in 1819. But on 4 December 1820 Edmund died at Surat. We don’t know the circumstances of his death – I suspect he died of something like malaria rather than in battle.

Bombay 1820

Bombay 1820

Before I tell of the fate of Benjamin’s other children after his death I would like to say a little about his family and particularly that of his younger brother Browne Grisdale.

Both boys were the sons of Matterdale-born Benjamin Grisdale and his wife Anne Browne. They were born in Threlkeld, the next-door parish to Matterdale – Benjamin in 1744 and Browne in 1750. I don’t yet know which Grammar School they attended; it might have been St. Bees or Barton, or possibly Carlisle where Browne was later headmaster. But no doubt with the help of their uncle, Joseph Browne, who was both the provost of Queen’s College and the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, they both went to study to be priests at Queen’s College in Oxford.

Joseph Browne was elected Fellow 1 April 1731, and became a successful tutor; took the degree of D.D. 9 July 1743, and was presented by the college with the living of Bramshot, Hampshire, in 1746. In that year, he was appointed Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy and held that office until his death. He was instituted prebendary of Hereford Cathedral on 9 June of the same year (he was later called into residence), and on 13 February 1752 was collated to the chancellorship of the cathedral.

On 3 December 1756, Browne was elected Provost of Queen’s College. From 1759 to 1765 he held the office of Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. He had a severe stroke of palsy 25 March 1765, and died on 17 June 1767.

In 1776, while his older brother Benjamin was still in America with the army, Browne by now a priest and schoolmaster in Carlisle, married Ann Dockray in St. Cuthbert’s church in Carlisle. Five children followed, one after the other: Joseph Browne 1777, named after the Rev Joseph Browne, Mary Ann 1778, Elizabeth 1779, John 1780 and Caroline 1782.

Carlisle Cathedral - where Browne Grisdale was Chancellor

Carlisle Cathedral – where Browne Grisdale was Chancellor

Of course this family had sprung from yeoman farming stock in Matterdale, but Browne and his brother had both gone to Oxford and entered the priesthood and so other courses were expected of their children. Both of Browne’s sons, Joseph and John, were pupils at Carlisle Grammar School where their father was first a teacher and then headmaster. Browne himself later became the Chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle and a powerful local Justice of the Peace.

Son Joseph entered the army and became a Lieutenant in the 17th Regiment of Foot, which was posted to the island of Minorca in 1800 as part of the long struggle with Napoleon. And there he died in early 1801, aged just twenty-three. In April 1801 an announcement appeared in The Monthly Magazine which, under ‘Deaths Abroad’, reported:

At Minorca, J. B. Grisdale, esq, lieutenant in the 17th regiment of foot, much lamented by his brother officers.

I wrote of Joseph in a story called Death in Minorca.

Browne’s younger son John on leaving Carlisle Grammar School (where he was a bit of a star) had gone to Christ’s College, Cambridge and won the second highest prize in mathematics. John had first entered Trinity College in 1799 but switched the following year to Christ’s. His decision to move to Christ’s was probably connected with Dr William Paley. Paley had graduated from Christ’s in 1763 as “senior wrangler”, became a tutor at Christ’s and since 1782 had been Archdeacon of Carlisle Cathedral and a colleague and friend of John’s father Browne Grisdale.

I told John’s story in an article called Alas how false our hopes! – the short life of John Grisdale.

Christ's College, Cambridge

Christ’s College, Cambridge

Not to repeat the story here, but John became at lawyer in Lincoln’s Inn in London but died suddenly ‘in his office’ there in 1812, aged just thirty-two. His father Browne, the Chancellor of Carlisle, died two years later

Withington Rectory where Benjamin Grisdale lived

Withington Rectory where Benjamin Grisdale lived

Down in Gloucestershire, Browne’s brother Benjamin, the Rector of Withington, would have heard of his nephews’ deaths with sadness. But then as we have seen he was soon to experience the deaths of two of his own sons: Royal Navy officer Charles returning from Jamaica in 1815 and army officer Edmund in Bombay in 1820.

What became of Benjamin’s other sons – Henry and William?

Henry followed a career path I don’t yet know, but on 27 June 1829 the Oxford Journal reported that ’an inquest was held at Withington, Gloucestershire, by Joseph Mountain, gent. coroner, on the 10th..  (for) Mr. Henry Grisdale, who, in a fit of temporary insanity, destroyed himself with a razor’

When I get a copye of the inquest report we will know more of Henry and his suicide.

After attending Rugby School youngest son William had followed his father and uncle and studied at Queen’s College, Oxford. He became a curate at Cubberley in Gloucestershire where his brother-in-law William Hicks was Rector. (William Hicks had married Mary Grisdale in 1833.) But in August 1841 William died in Cubberley Rectory aged just thirty-four – I don’t know the circumstances.

Cubberley Church

Cubberley Church

So the upshot of all this tragedy and death is that not one of the six sons of the ‘successful’ cleric brothers, Benjamin and Browne Grisdale, had survived long enough to have families of their own! There are no descendants bearing the Grisdale name.

On another occasion I might tell something of the daughters. Brown’s daughter Mary Anne married the Reverend Walter Fletcher who became Browne Grisdale’s successor as Chancellor of Carlisle. Benjamin’s daughter Mary married the Rev William Hicks of Cubberley as already mentioned.

When I came across a story printed in the London Standard on 29 December 1845 concerning a collision of two steamers off the west coast of India I was intrigued. One of the ships, the Parsee, which was carrying a very large load of opium and treasure, was commanded by Captain Grisdale. So which Captain Grisdale was this? I will tell you later, but first the short story.

The sources for this story are the report in the London Standard plus various other reports in the Indian press. I would like to acknowledge the collation of these reports by marine salvager Pascal Kainic who I will quote:

A steamer like the Parsee

A steamer like the Parsee

‘The “Parsee” was a little steamer employed in the East India country trade, owned by Messrs. Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy, Sons & Co. and commanded by captain Griesdale. She was totally lost by a collision  with the “Sir James Rivett Carnac”, captain P. Duverger, a vessel employed in the same service, but fortunately without loss of life.

The “Carnac” was on her way from Bombay to Tankaria Bunder and the “Parsee” was returning by the same route, with a cargo of 525 opium chests, valued at three lakhs of rupees, as well as a large number of native passengers on board; she had taken 45 when she touched at Surat. The collision took place in about 20° north of latitude, and 12 miles from the shore, about 11 o’clock at night, on 29th of October, in about 17 fathoms of water.

The night was fearfully dark and excepting the watch, all hands were asleep. It would appear that as both vessels had lights hung out, each was aware of the presence of the other, but unfortunately by mistake or ignorance , both altered their course in the same direction, and in consequence  the “Carnac” ran into the “Parsee”  on the starboard side, just abaft the foremast, cutting her side completely through.

The foremast of the “Parsee” was carried away by the bowsprit of the “Carnac” and immediately fell on the deck among the passengers, but providentially without hurting anyone. It was at once perceived that the fate of the “Parsee” was sealed, and her passengers and crew took advantage of the contact of the vessels to rush on board the “Carnac” for safety.

No time was lost in saving the whole of the passengers  and crew, consisting of 70 souls; and just as the last man stepped out of her, the little steamer sank.

The injury done to the steamer “Carnac” is trifling, her bowsprit was split and the bows injured.

She is undergoing the necessary repairs to enable her starting this day, 20th November, in prosecution of her voyage. This is the first collision in the Indian Seas.’

The London Standard also reported that £31,500 of coins was also lost.

Chines Opium Den

Chines Opium Den

The British East India Company had wanted to find a way to pay for what they bought in China other than using silver. It hit upon the idea of taking opium grown in India to use to pay the Chinese. Large sections of the Chinese became opium addicts and Britain and France fought various Opium Wars with the Chinese to keep the trade open. The East India Company declared a monopoly on the trade in India which was pretty solid in Bengal and Calcutta but in the west their control was much less and various local Parsi merchants got in on the act. Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy, the owner of the two steamers which collided, was one of these Parsis,  hence the name Parsee, the ship commanded by Captain Grisdale. The other ship was named after a former Governor of Bombay Sir James Rivett Carnac.

The whole history of this opium trade is fascinating but I’ll leave it here.

So who was Captain Grisdale who had lost his ship and his opium? Was he perhaps Whitehaven-born Captain Joseph Grisdale who became a China Tea Clipper captain and died in Shanghai in 1859? Well I think not because Joseph only got his Master’s certificate in 1851.

That leaves only one possibility: Captain Grisdale was the Workington-born mariner Edward Grisdale who had been part of the crew of the convict ship Numa taking convicts to Sydney. He married one of the female convicts in Parramatta Female Factory in 1835. He then became a steamer Captain operating out of Tasmania before disappearing from the records. I wrote a story called Edward Grisdale’s convict wedding at Parramatta and one about his father called Ferrying Troops and emigrants – Captain Edward Grisdale of Workington.

So it was Workington-born Edward who was part of the India to China opium trade. Didn’t the family get around!

Workington Harbour

Workington Harbour

“Oh Lord, I’m killed, he has stabbed me.”

On 26 February 1836 a twenty-two year old Cumberland lead miner called John Greenwell stepped ashore in the Australian penal colony of Sydney from the convict ship Susan. The voyage had taken 114 days and there had been a serious outbreak of scurvy which had taken the lives of several convicts. John knew he would never return to England as he was a convicted murderer. At his trial for murder in Appleby in Westmorland John was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, but at the last minute this was commuted to transportation to Australia for life. And who had John killed? The answer is that he had repeatedly stabbed Thomas Grisdale of Patterdale, the son of local Hartsop Hall farmer Robert Grisdale, and Thomas had died of his wounds within the hour.

Before I tell the full story of Thomas Grisdale’s murder let us say something of the circumstances. John Greenwell was a lead miner in the Greenside ‘silver-lead’ mine in Patterdale. He had been born in 1814 in another lead mining village – Alston in Cumberland – but the Greenside mine was flourishing and miners like John came from all over to work there. The miners lived in appalling conditions in the mine ‘lodging shops’.

Greenside Lead Mine in Patterdale

Greenside Lead Mine in Patterdale

Before there was a smelting mill at Greenside ‘the metal, after being washed, was put into bag holding about 1 cwt. each. The whole was carted to Penrith, where it was met by a string of horses and carts and conveyed to Alston, where it was smelted, and eventually from there put on the market’. The miners only got paid twice a year; they had to go to the Angel Inn in Penrith ‘where the agent (Mr. Errington) attended to pay the men’.

The miners, some accompanied by their wives, used to walk into Penrith. Others came by boat to Pooley, there being no ‘ Raven ‘ or ‘ Lady of the Lake ‘ in those days; whilst others came in carts — conveyances, or light carts as they were called, being very scarce in the country at that time.

From there they would head back to Patterdale to settle their bills in the mine’s ‘shop’ and of course to spend a lot in the local inns.

Mr. Cant’s shop on Patterdale miners’ pay day used to be like a fair, almost all the miners being supplied with provisions by him throughout the six months, their ‘better halves’ putting in an appearance on pay days to straighten up their shop bill.

It was after one of these pay days that John Greenwell and some of his mining friends were drinking in the White Lion Inn in Patterdale ‘Township’.

Patterdale Township circa 1900. The White Lion is on the left

Patterdale Township circa 1900. The White Lion is on the left

The later Rector of Patterdale, the Rev W. P. Morris, wrote in The Records of Patterdale in 1903:

These pay visits continued until the year 1835, when a serious misfortune took place at Patterdale amongst some of the miners. It was always surmised that there was a little jealousy amongst the natives, and a parishioner was stabbed to death. The sad affair took place on a Sunday night (March 8th, 1835), when two miners, one named Joseph Bainbridge and the other Greenwell, both natives of Alston, had been down into what is termed the ‘Township’ (in the White Lion Inn), and whilst there had got into a quarrel with some of the residents. After dark they started for the mines, and whilst traversing one of the lanes leading out of Patterdale, they went into the dyke to cut themselves each a thick stick to provide weapons of defence should their assailants trouble them again. While in the hedge someone approached, and Greenwell, thinking it was one of their opponents, rushed out at him and stabbed him in the abdomen with the clasp-knife he was using. He turned out not to be a miner at all, but a young parishioner returning to his home. The two miners were tried at Appleby Spring Assizes in the year 1836 (actually 1835). Bainbridge was acquitted and Greenwell was sentenced to death, but was reprieved and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Greenwell was a quiet young man about 20 years of age, of light build, and bore an excellent character. Bainbridge was a powerful fellow, a kind-hearted chap, but rather rough in his manner, and somewhat quarrelsome when he had any drink. After his release he went into Durham to work in the coal pits, and I have heard my brother John, who lived at Hartlepool, say that he was one of the best coal hewers in the county. After the affair the officials thought it prudent and more safe to pay the men at the mines and not bring them into Penrith, hence the abandonment of Patterdale pay days at Penrith.

The White Lion Inn (left) in about 1900

The White Lion Inn (left) in about 1900

But is this what really happened? It was not. There are many reports describing the trial and the testimony of the witnesses called. Here is just one published in 1836 in The Annual Register… of the year 1835. It gives the full story.

13 March – Murder – Appleby – John Greenwell was indicted for the willful murder of Thomas Grisdale at Patterdale on the 8th March. George Greenhill disposed that on the Sunday preceding he and the deceased went to the White Lion public-house in Patterdale. There were many persons in the house, and among them a young man named Bainbridge and the prisoner Greenwell. There was a great deal of noise, but the deceased was very quiet and took no part in it. Greenwell quarrelled with a man named Rothey, and they had a little fight or scuffle for about five minutes. They both went down on the floor. The deceased lifted them up, and seemed desirous to part them. After they had got up, Bainbridge and the prisoner Greenwell said they would fight any two men in the dale. The deceased said very good-naturedly, that if it was day-light he would take both of them, and he would then in the house, if anybody would see fair play. After this Bainbridge and Greenwell became so troublesome, that the landlord put them out. In the course of a little time the latter returned, and was again thrust out, but in these matters the deceased did not interfere. In the mean time the witness and two lads went out of the house with the deceased. Soon after, they saw Bainbridge call Greenwell to the end of the house, and they procured each a stick, about a yard long, and a little thicker than a walking stick. They came running towards these three, who ran out of their way for some distance, when the deceased, having not retreated awhile, said, “I have not melt (meddled) with them, why should I run away?” and stopped. The witness ran on about twenty yards further, and then stopped also. On turning his head, he saw the prisoner Greenwell run up to the deceased, and make a push at his belly, and then at his breast near the neck. The deceased seized the prisoner by the collar and pushed him away, and then put one hand to his belly, and the other to his breast, saying, “Oh Lord, I’m killed, he has stabbed me.” Witness and his companions then ran up to him, and the prisoner ran away. They soon after found the prisoner lying besides the wood, and told him to get up and go before them to the King’s Arms public-house in Patterdale. Being afraid of him, they told him to throw away what he had, and he threw a pipe from his pocket. They followed him, and he was taken into custody. The next morning a knife was found at the place where the prisoner had lain down, which was bloody. It appeared in subsequent evidence that the knife belonged to Bainbridge, but had been borrowed by the prisoner just before the commission of the fatal deed. A surgeon was sent for to the deceased, who was taken to the White Lion, where he died in three quarters of an hour. John Chapman and Thomas Chapman, two witnesses who were with Greenhill, corroborated his testimony, which also confirmed as to several points by other witnesses, without varying the general features of the case. The surgeon stated that either of the wounds was sufficient to cause death, and he could not state which was in fact the cause of the death as distinct from the other. In summing up the evidence the learned Judge defined the distinction between murder and manslaughter upon provocation, and put before them all the circumstances in the case which had any tendency to justify the more merciful conclusion; but after a short retirement the jury found the prisoner Guilty of wilful murder. Sentence of death was then pronounced upon the prisoner, and the execution ordered to take place the following Monday.

Obviously the Judge was somewhat sympathetic toward Greenwell and before the coming Monday he was reprieved and sentenced to life in penal servitude in Australia.

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

Thomas’s Hartsop Hall ‘respectable’ farming family was devastated, their son was only twenty-seven. He was, reported the Kendal Mercury, ‘… sober in his habits… extensively known and greatly esteemed’. They buried him in Patterdale Churchyard, ‘close to where the old church stood’, on March 12th, 1835, erecting a tombstone which reads:

To the memory of Thomas, son of Robert and Elizabeth Grisdale of Hartsop Hall, who was brutally murdered by an unprovoked assassin on the evening of Sunday, March 8th, 1835, aged 27 years.

It continues:

 By man’s worst crime he fell and not his own, Belov’d he lived and dying left a name, With which his parents mark this votive stone, The grief is theirs, th’ assassin bears the shame. Better to sleep tho’ in an early grave, Than like the murder’r Cain exist a banished slave.

Patterdale Church in1805

Patterdale Church in1805

For more about the family see The Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop and From Matterdale to Alberta – the story of the English past of one Canadian Grisdale family and Robert Grisdale’s Escape. And what of John Greenwell, the ‘murder’r Cain’, who would lead his life like a ‘banished slave’? After his reprieve from death, John would have first spent some time in prison in Westmorland before being sent to a hellish Prison Hulk anchored at Woolwich outside London (see here for a Grisdale-related story of Prison Hulks). The surgeon of the convict ship Susan, Thomas Galloway, kept a Medical Journal from 12 September 1835 to 26 February 1836. He tells us ‘of the three hundred convicts embarked, 200 were taken on board at Woolwich and 100 at Sheerness’, before departing from Portsmouth for Australia on 16 October 1835 –  it arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney) on 7 February 1836 with 294 male prisoners aboard.

Early convict ship like the Susan

Early convict ship like the Susan

Galloway tells both of the scurvy and that: ‘There were several men who had very recently been in Hospital for various illnesses and who concealed this at the time of the surgeon’s examination because of their desire to proceed to New South Wales. Also several old and very infirm men who had to be kept entirely on the Hospital Provision. Ophthalmia was not confined to the prisoners and several of the seamen were also affected as well as Officers of the Guard.’ As well as the 294 male convicts:

A detachment of the 28th Regiment arrived by the prison ship Susan. They were Landed at the dock yard in Sydney on Friday afternoon 12th February and marched to the barracks. The band did not meet them as was usual on such occasions. Some of the 28th who arrived on the Susan included Captain George Symons, Private James Flanagan, Private John Mooney, Private Henry Gunter, Private William Gollett, Private Walter Williams. Other convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included the Charles Kerr, Westmoreland,  Marquis of Huntley,  Norfolk, Backwell, England, John Barry, Waterloo, Moffatt, Strathfieldsaye, Portsea and Lady McNaughten.

But the convicts would have had a different welcome. First an ‘indent’ was taken so that if they escaped they could be identified. John Greenwell is described as 22, 5ft 7.5 inches, of ‘ruddy’ complexion, brown hair, with eyes ‘hazel and inflamed’. He had : ‘Hairy mole right ear, mole under left ear, ears pierced for rings, mole above right elbow, three scars back little finger right hand, and three on thumb, scar cap of left knee.’ Pretty much like all Australians then! I know only a little about what happened to John, suffice it to say that in 1848 after twelve years of penal servitude he was granted a ‘conditional pardon’ by the governor of New South Wales Sir Charles Fitz Roy. He was free to stay and work at his trade in Australia but could never return to Britain. As a miner did he go off to the new gold ‘diggings’, we don’t know. And here I will end except for one thing. The two old photographs of the White Lion Inn in Patterdale where Thomas Grisdale was murdered were taken by Patterdale photographer Joseph Lowe around 1900. They are the oldest photographs of Patterdale and Joseph’s wife was Jessie Grisdale, the great granddaughter of Robert Grisdale of Hartsop Hall, murdered Thomas’s father! See Death and photographs in Patterdale.

John Greenwell's Conditional Pardon NSW 1848

John Greenwell’s Conditional Pardon NSW 1848

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

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

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

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

Nineteenth-century Workhouse 'inmates'

Nineteenth-century Workhouse ‘inmates’

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

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

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

Cordwainers as the Grisdales might have looked in Penrith

Cordwainers as the Grisdales might have looked in Penrith

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

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

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

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

Cordwainers/shoemakers

Cordwainers/shoemakers

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

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

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

Ulcatrow in Matterdale/Watermillock

Ulcatrow in Matterdale/Watermillock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dockray Matterdale with Dowthwaite Head in the distance

Dockray Matterdale with Dowthwaite Head in the distance

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

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

Page 1 of Kendal 'shoemaker' William Grisdale's marriage bond 1762

Page 1 of Kendal ‘shoemaker’ William Grisdale’s marriage bond 1762

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

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

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

Llanbeblig Church, Caernavon

Llanbeblig Church, Caernavon

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

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

Sixteen 626 Squadron crews at RAF Wickenby in January 1944

Sixteen 626 Squadron crews at RAF Wickenby in January 1944

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

Eric Grisdale and his crew at RAF Wickenby

Eric Grisdale and his crew at RAF Wickenby

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

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

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

Lancasters being attacked by German night fighters

Lancasters being attacked by German night fighters

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

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

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

23 May 44, Baled out near Eindhoven.

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

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

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

Till 7 Jul 33, Camp near Eindhoven.

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

Crossed into Belgium.

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

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

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

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

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

Dutch Resistance group in 1944

Dutch Resistance group in 1944

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

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

In 1946 Eric married Enid Jones in Caernarvon, he died in 1991.

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

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

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

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

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

Survivors of such raids told how:

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

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

The results of incendiary bombing

The results of incendiary bombing

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

My brief sweet life is over,

My eyes no longer see,

No Christmas trees,

No summer walks

No pretty girls for me,

I’ve got the chop, I’ve had it

My nightly Ops are done,

Yet in another hundred years

I’ll still be twenty one.

R.W Gilbert

And:

“Darky” Call by Pip Beck

Through the static

Loud in my earphone

I heard your cry for aid

Your scared boy’s voice conveyed

Your fear and danger;

Ether-borne, my voice

Went out to you

As lost and in the dark you flew

We tried so hard to help you,

In your crippled plane –

I called again

But you did not hear

You had crashed in flame

At the runway’s end

With none to tend

You in your dying …

from “A WAAF in Bomber Command”

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Wythburn Valley by Joe Hush

Wythburn Valley by Joe Hush

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

Thirlmere

Thirlmere

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

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

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

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

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

W.W. (William Wordsworth).

M.H. (Mary Hutchinson).

D.W. (Dorothy Wordsworth).

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

J.W. (John Wordsworth).

S.H. (Sarah Hutchinson).

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

The Rock of Names

The Rock of Names

Wythburn church

Wythburn church

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

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

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

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

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

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

wyhtburn wiborn 1760

Wythburn (Wiborn) in 1760

wythburn 1800

‘Withburn’ in 1800

 

wythburn sheepfold

Wythburn sheepfold

 

one wythburn farm

One unsubmerged Wythburn farm

 

 

This is the story of four Penrith Grisdale sisters born in the 1850s and early 1860s. Their lives turned out to be very different but they always kept in close touch to the end even when thousands of miles apart. The girls were Ann, Agnes, Emma and Hannah. Agnes Grisdale was my great grandmother.

First we need to say a little about the girls’ parents. Their father was a Penrith carpenter called Wilfred – what else! Born in 1815 in Penrith, Wilfred was the first of nine children of William Grisdale and his wife Mary Charters. Strangely enough in this rural town, William, helped by his wife, was a ‘Dancing Master’. I wrote a little about them before (see here).

Wilfrid_Grisdale1

Wilfred Grisdale, the sisters’ father and my 2x great grandfather

William’s was a family that spread all over the world from its origins in Matterdale: William’s brother Wilfred emigrated with his family to Canada in 1816/7 (see here); his son William emigrated to the goldfield town of Mansfield in Australia and had many adventures there (see here and here); while his London-born niece (his brother Gideon’s only child) first became a ballet dancer in Drury Lane, then married a famous painter called John William Gear, emigrated with him to Boston where he committed suicide, and ended up hawking fish in Falmouth in Cornwall (see here). There are others I could discuss.

Coming back to Wilfred, the girls’ father, he grew up with his brothers and sisters in Penrith, no doubt seeing his parents go off each day to teach dancing. But he obviously didn’t have such a bent and having done an apprenticeship he followed the more usual family route and became a joiner/carpenter.

The family lived in Rawcliffe Lane. In 1837 Wilfred married Penrith girl Hannah Robinson in St. Andrew’s church, where hundreds of the family had been and would be baptized, married and buried. Over the next ten years Wilfred and Hannah had seven children: William, Joseph, Thomas, Mary Ann, Wilfred, Elizabeth and Sarah. No doubt worn out by all this child-bearing Hannah died in 1853 at the age of thirty five.

Wilfrid Grisdale2

Wilfred Grisdale again in his Penrith garden

Wilfred was left with all these children. What was he to do? Men in those days, and perhaps still today, couldn’t do without a wife and a mother for their children. If Wilfred couldn’t get another wife soon the options were the orphanage and the workhouse. So in 1855 only two years after his wife’s death he married the widowed Elizabeth Nicholson (nee Hayton), who brought with her two Nicholson children. So now there were nine children. But not content with this Wilfred and Elizabeth soon produced four more daughters, the subject of this story: Ann 1856, Agnes 1858, Emma 1860 and Hannah 1863.

As the girl’s were growing and some of their older half-siblings started to leave, the family was living in Rawcliffe Lane, the same street as Wilfred’s parents.

Wilfred Grisdale spent his last years as the caretaker of Penrith’s Liberal Club in Devonshire Street. He loved horses and gardening and died in Penrith in 1893 aged seventy-seven.

That’s enough factual genealogical background. Let me consider the later lives of the four sisters, in the order of their birth.

Ann Grisdale 1856 – 1937

Nathan, Ann & Douglas

Nathan and Ann (Grisdale) Thomlinson with son Dougie

Oldest sister Ann Grisdale married Westmorland farmer turned ‘Mineral water Carter’ and travelling salesman Nathan Thomlinson in Penrith in 1893. The family stayed in Penrith, living first at in Benson Row before moving sometime during the First World War to 146 Graham Street where they died: Ann in 1937 and Nathan in 1941.

They had two children but one died young. Wilfred Douglas Thomlinson (yes Wilfred again!) was born in 1895. He joined the Border Regiment in 1913 before the outbreak of war and served throughout the war in the Machine Gun Corps, mostly in India but also in North Africa. He became a Sergeant and was demobilized in 1919.

Wilfred Douglas has some family still living not far from Penrith.

Agnes Grisdale 1858 – 1925

Agnes Grisdale

Agnes Grisdale

Agnes was my great grandmother. Somehow and somewhere she met the Shropshire-born railway ‘fireman’ and later engine driver Frederick Lewis who lived in Southport in Lancashire. Although trains certainly came to Penrith, I think Agnes had for some reason moved to Southport sometime prior to 1885 but after 1881 when she was still with her parents working as a general domestic servant. The reason is that when Agnes married Frederick on 30 April 1885 in Southport’s St. Andrew’s church, they both said they resided in Southport. Their first child William was born in December; as I say again later: do the maths yourself. Over the next seventeen years nine more Southport children were born, making ten in total: Edith 18887, Wilfred 1889, Percy 1890, Winifred 1892, Agnes 1894, Herbert 1896, Gertrude 1898, Reginald 1900 and Edith 1902.

Throughout this time Frederick was a railway engine driver.

Notice all the ‘Grisdale’ names: Wilfred, Agnes and William, although William Lewis was Frederick’s father.

Briefly said, William Lewis 1885 joined the Royal Navy as a gunner, was commissioned in the First World War, and served for thirty years. He lived near the Chatham naval dockyards in Kent; one of William’s sons was a RAF pilot and was killed in Algeria in 1944 (see here). Son Wilfred became a carpenter like his father but found it difficult to find work so he emigrated to Massachusetts in 1911 and was soon followed by three of his sisters: Agnes, Edith and Gertrude, but only Wilfred and Agnes stayed. Percy Lewis followed his father by becoming a Southport-based engine driver all his life; he was my grandfather.

Frederick Lewis died in Southport 1913 aged fifty-two. Agnes (Grisdale) Lewis died in the same place in 1925 aged sixty-seven.

fred lewis family

Frederick Lewis (top middle) with siblings in Southport in 1882

Obviously I never knew Agnes or Frederick, but I did know several of their children. My ‘American’ grand aunt Agnes Lewis (Agnes Grisdale’s daughter), who was said to be very like her mother, was one of the jolliest people I have ever met.  My ‘American’ grand uncle Wilfred was dearly beloved by his Massachusetts family, not a thing that is said about my Royal Navy grand uncle William.

Agnes Grisdale’s descendants today live in the United States, England, France and even Hong Kong.

Emma 1860 – 1930

Plumpton1 (7)

Stone Mason William Lowthian with parents and son in Plumpton

Now let’s turn to the third sister Emma, born in Penrith in 1860. After living with her parents, sisters and various half siblings, she became a domestic servant in the town. In 1887 she married the Plumpton Stone Mason William Nicholson Lowthian in Penrith – William was seven years her junior.  They had four sons in Plumpton: Joseph William Simpson Lowthian 1887, Herbert Stanley Lowthian 1889, Tom Simpson Lowthian 1896 and Wilfred Edward Lowthian 1902. The family lived in first in a cottage Brockley Moor and then for most of their lives in England at ‘Hill Top’, both in Plumpton Wall.

By 1903 Emma’s eldest son Joseph W. S. had started work in Carlisle as a railway clerk with the London & North-western railway. He was still there in 1911. It was probably through his work with the railway that Joseph had the idea of emigrating to Canada. It might even have been that he had a job offer from the Canadian Pacific Railway, for whom he was to work until his retirement.

1911 was a busy year: on 2 April he was still single and working as a railway clerk in Carlisle, he must then have immediately married local Carlisle girl Phoebe Hodgson Couling before departing a few days later from Liverpool on the steamship Tunisian which arrived in Halifax Nova Scotia on the 14 April. Joseph said he was a clerk and would be that too in Canada, giving his destination as Winnipeg. Whether he ever went to Winnipeg I don’t know because in 1911 he came to Revelstoke, B.C., where he went to work for the Canadian Pacific railway. Phoebe, by now pregnant, arrived in Quebec on the ship Laurentic on 15 July 1911 and took the train to Revelstoke. There their first daughter Amy Elizabeth was born in November – you can do the maths yourself. Another daughter Phoebe was born in 1917, but mother Phoebe died giving birth, aged just thirty-one.

Plumpton2 (5)

Emma (Grisdale) Lowthian with her four sons outside their house in Plumpton before they started the move to Canada and the US

But going back to Cumberland, Emma’s husband, the Stone Mason William Lowthian, had died in 1912 aged forty-five. Two years later Emma’s third son Tom Simpson followed his brother to Canada and settled in Field, British Columbia, where he too became an ‘agent’ on the railway. Tom was drafted into the Canadian army, went to fight in France but returned safely at the end of 1918. Back in England in 1915 his younger brother Herbert Stanley, by now living in Penrith, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was killed in Flanders in 1917.

Portland

Portland, Oregon in the 1920s

All this left Emma and her youngest son Wilfred Edwin the only members of the family still in England. This changed in 1922 when they both arrived in Canada on the S/S Montrose, their passages having been paid by Joseph in ‘Vancouver’. Emma said she was coming ‘to keep house for son (who is a widower)’. Actually Joseph had already moved from Vancouver to Seattle in Oregon in 1918, where he was working in the Canadian Pacific’s traffic department as a ticket agent; he moved again to Portland in 1924 and ‘was retired on pension June 30, 1952’. He died in 1953 having been married briefly again in 1924 to an interesting Washington D.C. woman called Maude Sedalia Proctor (worthy of a separate story). He somewhere also had a daughter called Mary.

Brother Tom Simpson moved from Vancouver to Seattle after his marriage in 1924 and had two sons there. Brother Wilfred (Fred) moved to Washington State, married and had one son also called Wilfred.

Emma (Grisdale) Lowthian died in Portland in 1930 aged 70; many of her descendents still live in Oregon, Washington and elsewhere in the United States.

Hannah Grisdale 1863 – 1947

grisdale family garden

The four Grisdale sisters together

Unfortunately we don’t know much about the youngest sister Hannah; all I have are a few pictures. She never married and after a life in domestic service in Cumberland and Cheshire died in 1947 in Carlisle aged eighty-four. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t worn out by having children that she lived so long?

I know this has been a bit of a wiz through countless lives, each one of which probably merits a story of its own. To finish I’d like to mention two things. First, I said that the sisters always kept in touch. I know this is true from communications with various descendants of the sisters. Letters were sent backwards and forwards from Oregon. The Thomlinsons and the Lewis’s visiting each other. When Agnes Grisdale died in 1925 flowers and greeting came from the Oregon family. I have lots of other examples.

In my own grandfather’s diary I find several mentions of him going to visit his cousin ‘Dougie’ Thomlinson (i.e. the ex-soldier Wilfred Douglas Thomlinson). But by now all the personal links are gone. When we discover a relative linked to us by the four sisters we are surprised, and I hope delighted too. Such is the way of the world.

wilfred-grisdales-house-in-deerfield

Wilfred Grisdale’s house in Deerfield, Michigan. His father, grandfather and great grandfather were all called Wilfred!

Second, I want to mention the name Wilfred. In my Grisdale lineage it is almost the defining family feature, like say Robert is in other lines. It all goes back to the Dockray, Matterdale Blacksmith Wilfred Grisdale (1711 – 1795). Very late in life Wilfred had a number of children with his second wife Ruth Slee. From them are sprung the literally hundreds of Wilfred Grisdales, or people with Wilfred as a middle name, who were and are found throughout the world. This is true in Canada and the United States as well as in Britain. It was even once true in Australia. See here for just one example.

Not only was there my 2x great grandfather, the Wilfred Grisdale I began with, but my ‘American’ grand uncle was called Wilfred Lewis too.

Now this Blacksmith Wilfred was not the first of that name in Matterdale, he was the second. The first was a Wilfred Grisdale born in 1675 in Hollas (The Hollows). He went on to make a fortune in London as a brewer before returning to Cumberland as a lord of the manor. Even after his death his money paid to build Wordsworth House in Cockermouth where the Lakeland poet William Wordsworth was born and raised (see here).

percy in us

My grandfather Percy Lewis with two of his brother Wilfred’s grandchildren in Massachusetts the 1950s

One probably rather cold day in October 1911 a large Grisdale family were walking the last few miles from the railway station in Okotoks near Calgary in Alberta to meet father Robert who had been working on a cousin’s ranch since the spring. The family consisted of Nancy, Robert’s wife, and his eight children. News of the family’s arrival in Canada from England hadn’t yet reached Robert and when two of his sons, Robert (Bob) and Thomas (Tom), ran ahead of the others and rounded a corner of a large barn, father Robert was surprised to say the least. His grandson Bill said that his father Tom ‘would never forget the look on his father’s face’.

Okotoks Railway Station

Okotoks Railway Station in 1909

I’ll return at the end to say just a little about the family’s life in Canada, where a veritable clan of descendents still live. But here I’d mostly like to say something about the family before it took the big decision to emigrate and why it had done so. I’ll tell something too of the family’s deeper history.

Robert, who was so surprised by his family’s arrival, was born in 1867 in Benson Hall in Scalthwaiterigg in Westmorland in England, the first of four children of a young but up-and-coming farmer called Richard Grisdale and his wife Agnes Martindale. He was baptized Robert Edward – Robert after so many of his ancestors and Edward after his maternal grandfather Edward Martindale. The imposing Benson Hall, where Robert was born, was the farming home of the Martindales. Today it is a listed building.  I’m afraid I don’t yet have a photograph so here’s how it’s described in the Listed Buildings Report, you can skip this bit if you want:

Possible pele tower at Benson Hall. The present building of C17 and C18 date appears to contain an earlier tower within the existing building. Farmhouse. Probably C16 with C18 and C19 extensions.

Stone rubble with slate roofs. West facade of 3 storeys and 3 bays, 2nd and 3rd bays are C18. Windows have flat arches and are sashed with vertical glazing barns and horns; 1st bay of ground floor has small light. Possible loop to 2nd floor. Entrance to 2nd bay has C20 door. Gable-end stacks.

North return has sashed windows and attic windows. South return has blocked entrance and 2 windows, the 1st former entrance, under dripcourse, to ground floor. East elevation has projection to north end under catslide roof and with canted angle. Round-headed stair window has small-paned fixed glazing with top intersecting glazing bars. Large single-storey gabled C19 extension.

Interior has thick wall, the original east wall to 1st bay, with entrance passage through, which has draw bar holes to former external entrance. Oval holes in floors above passage have iron grilles in timber frames and rectangular hole in attic floor, probably for hoisting purposes. Spiral stair opens off passage. Vaulted chamber to ground floor. Stair has open string; upper flight has 2 turned balusters to the tread, and balustrading to 2nd floor. 6-fielded-panel doors with H-L hinges and drop handles.

Room to 1st floor has entrance to spiral stair and closet with opening to small chamber in floor, possibly priest hide, cased beams, dado rail and cornice, fireplace has eared architrave, lattice frieze and dentilled cornice; similar room has later partition. Attic, not inspected, has moulded beams with run out stops, probably C16, and access down ladder to chamber in north-east angle, said to be cock pit but possible priest hide or storage space.

Shortly after Robert’s birth, his father Richard somehow managed to get the tenancy of a 700 acre farm called Barrowfield in not too distant Underbarrow, just west of Kendal. More children were born there: Jane 1869, Thomas 1871 and John 1873.

Barrowfield Farm

Barrowfield Farm

Richard was still in his twenties as his family grew and things looked promising. After all although all his ancestors had been farmers none had had a farm as large as 700 acres. But tragedy was soon to strike. In 1876 Richard Grisdale died aged just twenty-nine. The cause of Richard’s death I have yet to ascertain. So Agnes was left with four young children and certainly couldn’t stay at Barrowfield Farm any longer. I am sure Richard’s premature death profoundly altered the whole subsequent history of the family, to which I will return.

Boredale Head farm

Boredale Head farm

Let’s go back a bit, even a lot, because of course these Grisdales, like almost if not all others, hailed from Matterdale and more specifically from Dowthwaite Head farm (see here). In a previous article I told of how an earlier Robert Grisdale (born in 1705 in Dockray, Matterdale) had moved from Matterdale, married Johnby girl Esther Gatesgarth, and in about 1738 taken the tenancy of Boredale Head farm in Martindale in Westmorland, which lies on the other side of Ullswater from Matterdale (see here). I also told of how some of his sons moved to farm and run an inn in nearby Patterdale and Hartsop in the 1770s. One of these sons was Thomas Grisdale (1746-1813). I’m sorry there are and will be so many Roberts and Thomases!

Probably in 1774 Thomas took over Caudale Beck farm on the shores of the small lake called Brothers Water near Hartsop. After his death there in 1813 one of his nephews took the farm. But two of Thomas’s sons, Robert (1782-1861) and George (1789-1864), who were both born at Caudale Beck farm, went to farm at the next-door but more imposing Hartsop Hall, probably in about 1809. George eventually moved on to farm elsewhere in Patterdale, but Robert kept the tenancy of Hartsop Hall until his death in 1861, being helped in the early years by his large family.

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Hartsop-born Robert had married Elizabeth Jackson in Martindale in 1807; their children were: Thomas 1808, John 1809, Elizabeth 1811, Robert 1815, Jane 1817 and Mary 1820, all except Thomas born in Hartsop. Thomas the first child was born in Martindale at the former Grisdale farm called Boredale Head (or Dale Head for short). It seems clear to me that what happened is that sometime in his youth Robert went back to work on Boredale Head farm where Elizabeth Jackson’s parents John and Elizabeth Jackson were now the tenants; we find the Jackson family there in 1787 in the Constable’s census of Westmorland, including young Elizabeth herself. There Robert met Elizabeth and they married and had their first child in Martindale in 1808 before moving back to Hartsop. We don’t know a great deal about the life of Robert Grisdale Senior of Hartsop Hall, just two things might be of interest. In 1903, the Rev W. P. Morris, the Rector of Patterdale wrote in The Records of Patterdale:

Robert Grisdale, the then farmer (of Hartsop Hall), was one night riding home on horseback from Cockermouth when he was accosted by two of them (a gang of robbers) when coming through Dockray. He at once perceived what their intentions were, but he showed them his pistol and galloped home in safety. It was not considered safe for any person to be out when darkness had set in. The gang consisted of four men, who went about wearing masks and carrying rifles and pistols.

On another occasion:

There is a right of way through the house. It was into this house that the notorious gang of burglars attempted to enter with the intention of murdering the whole family. These desperadoes were the terror not only of the neighbourhood of Patterdale, but also in and about Penrith.

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

I gave a fuller version of this story in an article called Robert Grisdale’s Escape (see here). Another aspect of his life that is I think worth mentioning is that while he was the farmer at Hartsop Hall the Patterdale Hunt kept its fox-hounds there. The Rev. W. P. Morris also wrote:

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were two packs of foxhounds in the neighbourhood — one at Patterdale, and the other at Matterdale. The masters of both packs were very proud of their respective charges, and great jealousy existed between the huntsmen. There was, therefore, great rivalry between the two villages. It is said of a gentleman now dead that on one occasion he saw the hounds coming in full cry in the direction of his own house, with reynard before them. He enquired whose hounds they were. “Patterdale,” was the reply. “Then I join you,” and good sport they had.

Years ago the Patterdale hounds had their abode at Hartsop, and they were afterwards removed to near Patterdale Hall, where they remained until about thirty years ago. In or about the year 1871 the two packs became one, and were placed together in the kennels at Grassthwaite How.

The last master of the hounds before amalgamation was John Gelderd, and his predecessors were John Grisdale and John Walton…

Given that the pack ‘had their abode’ at Hartsop Hall, I guess Robert Grisdale Senior was one of the huntsmen. Note that John Grisdale (his son) was one of the last masters of the Patterdale hounds before amalgamation with Matterdale in 1871.

Staying with the fox hunting stories, as I said the fourth child of Robert of Hartsop Hall was also confusingly called Robert; he was born in 1815, probably in the Hall. He grew to maturity when the Patterdale fox-hounds were based there. It seems he achieved some renown as a huntsman because in about 1880, long after he had moved to farm at Yoad Pott farm in Selside (which I will tell about), the Patterdale fox hunt came to Selside to cheer him up. A poem was written to ‘celebrate’ this rural event. It was republished in the Horse and Hound in 1940 and I thank a Canadian Grisdale for sending it to me:

 Tis of Selside famed fox chase I’m going to relate

In the year 1880 that well known date

When to cheer Robert Grisdale of fox hunting fame

To Yoadpot, the fox hounds from Patterdale came

Joe Bowman the huntsman, that glorious morn

Aroused the gay start with his shrill bugle horn

Far famed was our huntsman, far-famed was his pack

Nor beauty nor music nor speech did they lack

You’ll always find him just the same

At Grasmere sports you’ll hear his name

His Mardale Hunts will live in fame

Away my lads away.

So Robert Grisdale, born and brought up at Hartsop Hall, was far-famed as a huntsman and ‘far-famed was his pack’, ‘at Grasmere sports you’ll hear his name, his Mardale Hunts will live in fame’. How did the famed huntsman Robert Grisdale move away from the environs of Ullswater, where the family had been from at least the late 1400s, to ‘faraway’ Selside just north of the Westmorland county town of Kendal? (I mean faraway by English not Canadian standards.)

Lake District Fox Hunting

Lake District Fox Hunting

In 1846, aged thirty, Robert had married Jane Ward in Selside chapel. Jane’s father, Richard Ward, was at the time of Jane’s marriage a farmer at Forest Hall farm in Fawcett Forest, Westmorland, i.e. in Selside. Maybe with Richard Ward’s help Robert Grisdale as able to get the tenancy of Yoad Pot farm, where the Patterdale fox hounds visited him in 1880. Perhaps Robert and Jane’s marriage was a bit of a shotgun affair? They were married on 11 June 1846 and their first child Richard, named after Jane’s father, was born a few weeks later on 19 July 1846 at the Ward family farm, Forest Hall. Nine more children followed over the next twenty-four years.

Map showing Yoad Pot, a few miles NNE of Kendal (at the top)

Map showing Yoad Pot, a few miles NNE of Kendal (at the top)

I’m trying to stay with the direct ancestry of Canadian emigrant (or immigrant if you’re Canadian) Robert Edward Grisdale, because this Richard Grisdale was Robert Edward’s father. If I considered brothers and sisters of all these Grisdales we’d soon be all over the place and all over the world!

Richard Grisdale and Agnes Martindale

Richard Grisdale and Agnes Martindale

Richard and his many siblings grew up at Yoad Pott farm (now spelt Yoad Pot); but in 1867, aged 21, he married Agnes Martindale in Kendal parish church. Agnes’s father, as I mentioned at the start, was the yeoman tenant farmer of Benson Hall and this is where Richard and Agnes’s first son Robert Edward was born in 1867. Now we come full circle to where we began. It’s not a thing I usually do but I’ll repeat what I said earlier.

Shortly after Robert’s birth his father Richard somehow managed to get the tenancy of a 700 acre farm called Barrowfield in not too distant Underbarrow, just west of Kendal. More children were born there: Jane 1869, Thomas 1871 and John 1873. Richard was still in his twenties as his family grew and things looked promising. After all although all his ancestors had been farmers none had had a farm as large as 700 acres. But tragedy was soon to strike. In 1876 Richard Grisdale died aged just twenty-nine. The cause of Richard’s death I have yet to ascertain. So Agnes was left with four young children and certainly couldn’t stay at Barrowfield Farm any longer.

What was widow Agnes to do? She sent her eldest child, our Robert Edward, to live back to Benson Hall where he was born in Benson Hall with her brother Robert Sinkinson Martindale and his wife Agnes and their family. Here we find him in 1881. Agnes herself moved from Yoad Pott to the nearby resort town of Bowness-on-Windermere with her children Jane and Jane and opened a ‘lodging house’ in Craig Walk – what we might perhaps call today a ‘bed and breakfast’ or even a hotel. Son Thomas, who was born in 1871, went elsewhere, but he stayed in the area because he was still working as a ‘servant’ in Scalthwaiterigg in 1891.

But widow Agnes Grisdale (nee Martindale), Robert Grisdale’s mother, soon remarried. In 1882 she married carpenter William Abel Jeffrey in Windermere. William was nine years her junior. They continued to live in Craig Walk in Bowness with Jane and John Grisdale and had three children together before Agnes’s death in 1897.

The next we hear of Canadian immigrant Robert Edward is in May 1891 when he married Nancy Bewley in Skelsmergh  church near Scalthwaiterigg. Between 1892 and 1909 eight children were born in Bowness to Robert and Nancy, all of whom survived and made it to Canada. They were: Jennie 1892, Annie 1894, Agnes 1897, Robert Edward 1899, Thomas Bewley 1901, John/Jack 1904, Nancy 1906 and Jessie 1909. The Bewley family originally came from Beck Grains near Uldale in Cumberland (where Nancy was born), but by the later 1800s had moved slightly south to Low House Head on Dunmail Raise near Wythburn.

Robert Edward Grisdale as a Carter/Carrier in Westmorland

At the time of his marriage to Nancy Bewley in 1891 Robert was still working as ‘farm servant’ on his uncle Robert Martindale’s farm at Benson Hall in Scalthwaiterigg. We can probably therefore surmise that since the age of 8 when his father died Robert had been brought up with his uncle’s family. He no doubt met Nancy Bewley nearby because the Bewley family had recently moved to the area. But the young couple soon moved to Bowness-on-Windermere to live in Craig Walk, the same street where Robert’s remarried mother Agnes was living with William Jeffrey and Robert’s siblings and two (soon to be three) new half-sisters.

But very soon after Robert struck out on his own. He became a self-employed ‘carter and carrier’, a profession he would continue until his move to Canada in 1911. In 1901 the family were living in Craig Walk in Bowness but sometime thereafter they moved to 2 North Terrace in the same town where we find them on  2 April 1911, Robert being called a ‘general carrier’.

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2 North Terrace, Bowness

But only a few weeks after the 1911 UK census had been taken on 10 May ‘Horseman’ Robert Grisdale was on board the British-built Canadian Pacific Railroad steamship Monmouth in Avonmouth (Bristol) bound for Montreal. How had this come about? The family story is that Robert had found it well-nigh impossible to support a family including a wife and eight children as a self-employed ‘carrier’. Bill Grisdale, one of Robert’s Canadian grandsons told a Canadian newspaper:

They were starving; my grandfather couldn’t look after the wife and kids. He had a livery stable, but the word is in the family that they just couldn’t live.

 

 

George Hoadley

George Hoadley

By 1911 Robert was forty-three years old and he needed to find another way to support his family. What seems to have happened is that he was offered a chance by a Wetheral-born cousin called George Hoadley who had emigrated to Canada in 1890 and was now an established rancher outside Okotoks in Alberta. His ranch was called Wetheral, named after his place of birth in Cumberland, and he would go on to be a successful Alberta politician (see here).

The family story goes that Robert sold his carting business and George Hoadley paid for his passage to Canada in return for accompanying some horses to be brought from England to George’s ranch in Alberta – hence Robert description as ‘Horseman’ in the manifest of the steamship Monmouth. Remember Robert, like so many of his ancestors, was in some way a ‘horseman’.

So Robert went to Canada without his family and after he arrived in Montreal in late May 1911 he no doubt guided the horses by train to cousin George Hoadley’s ranch near Okotoks, where he started to work. But how to get his family to join him? Again the family story is that his brother John (who by now was living in York working as a ‘Ladies Tailor Costumer (sic) & Fur Dealer’) agreed to lend the money for the passage of his brother’s family to Canada.

r e grisdale family

The family in about 1910 before their emigration to Canada

And thus it was that in October 1911 Nancy Grisdale and her eight children made the trip from Bowness in Westmorland to the great imperial port of Liverpool and on the 6th of October boarded the steamship Corsican bound for Montreal, where they all safely arrived on 12 October after a journey of only six days. They gave their destination as Okotoks in Alberta.

Steamship Corsican in 1911

Steamship Corsican in 1911

We’re on the final straight here. I won’t be presumptuous enough to tell the story of this Grisdale family in Canada. In 2011, the 100th anniversary of the family’s arrival, many of Robert and Nancy’s descendants gathered in Okotoks to celebrate. They wrote and published a book called Just Another Milefrom The Lake District to Okotoks and Beyond, telling many family stories. Referring to Nancy and the children’s arrival in Canada the books says:

From Montreal they travelled by train to Calgary Alberta arriving Oct. 16, 1911.  Robert had not yet received the letter telling him of their arrival date so when they go off the train in Calgary, he was not there to meet them.  It was later learned that Senator Patrick Burns had noticed Nancy and her brood of eight children.  He then treated them all to hot chocolate and saw them off on the correct train to Okotoks.  Again arriving in Okotoks Robert was not there to meet them.  Upon making enquiries as to where they could find him Nancy was told to follow the track as he could be found just another mile west.  The entire family with all their baggage walked up the track to the Hoadley Ranch.  Robert (Bob) Jr. would recall years later telling the story of how he and his brother Tom ran ahead of the rest to a big barn and as they ran around the corner of the barn they ran right into their father.  They said they would never forget the look on their father’s face.

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The second Grisdale house in Okotoks

Hence the name of the book “Just Another Mile….”. A report in the Calgary Herald tells of how ‘the family suffered that first winter on the unforgiving prairies, with “hardly enough woollens to go around,” but how, like so many other tenacious pioneers back then, they stuck it out and established themselves as pillars of the community’. Robert’s grandson Ted (Edward), born in Okotoks in 1932, said that the family lived at the farm (George Hoadley’s) for a short period before eventually moving to Okotoks where Robert and Nancy lived and worked for the rest of their lives. He added:

He (Robert) did an awful lot, he had a shop where he made windows and doors and he did a lot of finishing stuff. He worked in the lumber yard for a time in Okotoks and had several different jobs.

And then:

When I was growing up, I couldn’t stand on a street corner in Okotoks without bumping into another Grisdale.

And here I will leave the family; anyone interested in finding out more about the family’s Canadian history can visit the family’s website: http://grisdale2011.wordpress.com/. I am grateful to the family for their help and many of the pictures.

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The family in Alberta circa 1920

 

The Monmouth on which Robert Grisdale 'Horseman' travelled to Canada

The Monmouth on which Robert Grisdale ‘Horseman’ travelled to Canada

Another view of Barrowfield Farm where Robert Edward spent his early tears

Another view of Barrowfield Farm where Robert Edward spent his early tears

Lying just south of Ullswater is the village of Patterdale, and just south of that you reach Hartsop, before climbing the long hill to Kirkstone Pass. Throughout the nineteenth century there was a large Grisdale yeoman farming family in Patterdale and Hartsop, whose descendants have spread all over the world. I have long wanted to say something about the family but didn’t know how to start. So I’ll start once again with William Wordsworth.

Written in March while resting on the bridge at the foot of Brothers Water

The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green fields sleep in the sun;
The oldest and the youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow has retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the hill;
The plowboy is whooping—anon—anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

William Wordsworth, 1802

Brothers Water

Brothers Water

William and Dorothy Wordsworth visited Hartsop in April 1802.  Their experiences of visiting in spring are recorded in the poem above, ‘Written in March while resting on the bridge at the foot of Brothers Water’. As one critic commented, William obviously decided that March rather than April was more appropriate for the theme of spring! Dorothy Wordsworth described the people at work around Hartsop, ploughing, harrowing and sowing and spreading manure on the fields using pitchforks.   She also made reference to the ‘hundreds of cattle in the vale’. They then walked on past Hartsop Hall where William composed another poem to describe the crags looking up from Dovedale:

Unimaginable sight!

Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf,

Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,

Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,

Molten together, and composing thus,

Each lost in each, that marvellous array.

Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge

Fantastic pomp of structure without name,

In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped.

Right in the midst. An object like a throne

Three years later, in November 1805, Dorothy Wordsworth once again walked over the Kirkstone Pass and down into Hartsop.  ‘She remarked on the beauty of the fields below Brothers Water.  “First seen like a lake, tinged by the reflection of yellow clouds.  I mistook them for the water; but soon we saw the lake itself gleaming with a steely brightness; then as we descended appeared the brown oaks, and the birches of lovely yellow and, when we came still nearer to the valley, the cottages and the lovely old Hall of Hartsop with its long roof and elegant chimneys”’

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

As William and Dorothy looked around Brothers Water they would have seen only two farms lying just south of the lake: Hartsop Hall (which they walked past) and Caudale Beck Farm; this is likely where they saw ‘the oldest and the youngest’ at work. Both these farms belonged to members of the Grisdale family throughout much of the nineteenth century. When Wordsworth composed his poem the yeoman farmer at Caudale Beck Farm was without any doubt Thomas Grisdale (1746-1813) who arrived there probably in about 1774 when he married. It was his family no doubt that Wordsworth referred to as ‘the oldest and the youngest’ at work.

Thomas’s son Robert (1782-1861) would later become the farmer at the more imposing Hartsop Hall. His other sons John and George would also become yeoman farmers in an around Hartsop.

The Wordsworths were of course Romantics. A slightly different, and rather condescending, view of the hamlet of Hartsop itself, which lies at the northern end of Brothers’ Water, was given by the intrepid traveller Celia Fiennes when she passed through Hartsop in 1698. She described the farming tenements:

Here I came to villages of sad little huts made up of drye walls, only stones piled together and the roofs of some slatt; there seemed to be little or noe tunnells for their chimneys and have no morter or plaister within or without; for the most part I tooke them at first sight for a sort of houses or barns to fodder cattle in, not thinking them to be dwelling houses, they being scattering houses here one there another, in some places there be 20 or 30 together; it must needs be very cold dwellings but it shews the lazyness of the people; indeed here and there was a house plaster’d’, but there is sad entertainment – that sort of clap bread and butter and cheese and a cup of beer all one can have…

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Caudale Beck farmhouse

About a century later in 1790 Joseph Budworth described Hartsop as he descended from Kirkstone Pass:

We see at the bottom of the road part of Bridder Water (Brothers Water), which looks as if embayed in mountains, with trees and copse woods on its margin, giving it the appearance of a fish pond in a large garden…  On entering the vale of Hartsop, we have a full command of Bridder Water, this small dale though not clothed with good grass, is prettily wooded, and is beneath a semi-circular mountain with misshapen interstices, forked like lightning, but which are effects of conveyers of torrents; hanging proudly over the valley, as if to deter any inhabitants from fixing there and I did but observe one house.

I will come back to the Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop later, but first let’s go back a little, back one generation.

Robert Grisdale was born in Dockray in Matterdale in 1705, the seventh child of farmer Thomas Grisdale and his wife Mary Brownrigg, who had farmed both at Crookwath and Old Mills. Before that Thomas’s father, another Robert, had also farmed at Crookwath and his father, yet another Robert, came of course from the cradle of the Matterdale Grisdales, Dowthwaite Head.

Having no doubt worked on the family farm as a young man, Robert married Esther Gatesgarth from Johnby in St Andrew’s Church in Greystoke in 1735. Whether Robert had already moved from Matterdale when he married we don’t know, but by 1738 the family had moved and were the tenants of Boredale Head Farm (sometimes called Dale Head) in the remote valley of Boredale – midway between Martindale and Patterdale, to the east of Lake Ullswater.

Boredale Head farm

Boredale Head farm

Robert and Esther weren’t the first Grisdales to move from the west of Ullswater, where we find Matterdale, to the lake’s eastern parishes of Patterdale and Martindale, and they wouldn’t be the last. But they were the family who were to stay longest in the area and are the ancestors of many Grisdales today in the UK, North America and Australia.

As they farmed the rocky soil in Boredale, Robert and Esther had four children: Robert 1738, John 1741, Elizabeth 1744 and Thomas 1746, all born at Boredale Head Farm and all christened in Martindale’s tiny chapel.

The number of descendants of these four children is truly enormous and they spread not only all over England (such as to Lancashire and Liverpool) but also around the world: to Canada and Australia and elsewhere. Here I will focus on just a few who first remained in Martindale but then moved to farm in Patterdale and Hartsop.

Boredale

Boredale

The first son Robert (born in Boredale Head in 1738) married Elizabeth (Betty) Park in Grasmere in 1774. He became an Innkeeper in Hartsop (he and his family were already there in 1787 and he  most probably came in the 1770s) and died in Hartsop in 1817. One of his sons was called John Grisdale (1774-1854). He married Dorothy Harrison in Patterdale in 1805 and at some point took over the tenancy of Caudale Beck farm on the shore of Brothers Water in Hartsop. But when John died his son, also called John (born in about 1811), seems to have disappeared or died and thus couldn’t follow his father as the farmer at Caudale Beck.

Actually this John (1774) wasn’t the first of the family to farm at Caudale Beck in Hartsop. His uncle Thomas Grisdale (born in 1746 to Robert Grisdale and Esther Gatesgarth) was already the ‘yeoman’ farmer there in 1787 and had probably taken the tenancy in 1774 when he married local Patterdale girl Jane Atkinson. Eight Grisdale children were born at Caudale Beck Farm between 1775 and 1793, but not all survived. Thomas died at Caudale Beck in 1813. His son John (born 1775) married Dorothy Jackson in Patterdale in 1807 and went on to farm at Beckstones farm near Patterdale until his death in 1851. Thomas’s other son Robert, who was born at Caudale Beck in 1782 and had initially gone back to farm in Martindale but sometime in the 1810s he became the tenant farmer at the more imposing Hartsop Hall,  literally just across the field from Caudale Beck and adjoining the road as it starts its long climb to Kirkstone Pass. I wrote a little about this Robert Grisdale and one of his adventures here.

I know this array of John, Thomas and Robert Grisdales is bewildering, and I haven’t even mentioned the Georges, or the women! If anyone would like better explanations of the people involved and their relationships they can contact me or look at my Ancestry tree. I will probably write more about some individuals in the future.

Basically what we see here is various members of the family of Robert Grisdale and his wife Esther Gatesgarth first living and working on the family farm at Boredale Head in Martindale and then moving to in the 1770s to Patterdale and Hartsop, to farm at Caudale Beck, Beckstones and Hartsop Hall. Some of the family are still in the area.

Painting of Beckstones Farm, Patterdale

Painting of Beckstones Farm, Patterdale

When the Wordsworths made their visits to Hartsop and observed the scene around Brothers Water the ploughboy whooping and ‘the oldest and the youngest at work’ on the shore of the lake were most likely the family of Thomas Grisdale of Caudale Beck farm.

Of course the Wordsworths were ‘Romantics’ and life in Hartsop was hard for the farmers and others. When James Clarke visited Hartsop in around 1787 he concentrated on the decline of the community at Glenridding north of Hartsop after the arrival of the lead miners. He writes:

It is unlikely that Hartsop witnessed the same influx of miners given the lack of miners’ cottages in the village.  Miners working in Hartsop appear to have walked from Patterdale each day.

A Hartsop cottage

A Hartsop cottage

One of this Grisdale family ended up a miner in the mines Clarke saw; I might tell his story another time.

One writer wrote this:

While the sight of tenants going about their work may have appeared romantic to visitors and poets, it is clear that farming was difficult in Hartsop.   It is clear that there was little good arable land.  A survey of Hartsop and the southern part of Patterdale made in 1839 recorded the existence of some 300 acres of arable land, although how much of this was regularly under the plough is not known.  A further 920 aces were classed as meadow by the survey made in 1839, although much of this is likely to have been of poor quality.  An earlier account of the meadow land belonging to Hartsop Hall Farm in 1823 (when Robert Grisdale was the farmer) described it as being of little worth, adding that the ‘the chief part of it wants draining, and the sheep pastures too dry and rocky’.

MAP

Until the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 the people of Matterdale didn’t have their own place of worship. If they wanted to or were obliged to go to church they had to trek all the way to the parish church in Greystoke, which, as we shall see, was not always easy.

‘The church of Matterdale is situated almost 1,000 feet above sea level, amid an amphitheatre of glorious hills, between the hamlets of Dockray and Matterdale End, in the ancient parish of Greystoke.’ Rev J. Whitelock, 1900.

In Matterdale church’s safe there was once a document written in 1699 which tells us of the first chapelry in Matterdale. It is a deed for the priest’s wages and includes the names of various citizens who pledge to contribute to these wages. This list includes numerous Grisdales; I will return to them on another occasion.  The deed starts as follows:

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…

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church

So the people of Matterdale were allowed to build their first chapel in 1566 or shortly thereafter. Nothing of the original structure remains. The problem was that whereas they were granted the right to hold holy services they did not have the full parochial rights to perform baptisms, marriages and burials. For those the people still had to trek to Greystoke.

By 1580 the people had made various other suits to the Bishop of Carlisle, by now Bishop John Meye, asking for these parochial rights. Bishop Meye eventually answered their appeal on 30 October 1580, I have added paragraph breaks for ease of reading:

To all Christian people to whom these presents shall come, John by the providence of God Bishop of Carlisle sendeth greeting in our Lord everlasting.

Know ye that at the reasonable suit of the whole inhabitants of the Chapelry of Matterdale, complaining that by reason that their parish Church of Graystock is so far distant from them, and from the annoyances of snow or other foul weather in the winter season in that fellish part, they be often very sore troubled with carrying the dead corpses dying within the said Chapelry and the infants there born unto burial and christening to their said parish church of Graystock, sometimes the weather being so foul and stormy that they be driven to let their dead bodies remain unburied longer time than is convenient, or else to abide that annoyance and danger in carrying them to burial as is not reasonable, and therefore have divers times made humble suit for remedy of their sad inconvenience and griefs;

matt winter

Matterdale

We the said Bishop, with the consent of Mr. Edward Hansbie bachelor of divinity and parson of the said church of Graystock, have given and granted unto all the inhabitants wch now be, or wch from henceforth shall be of the Chapelry aforesaid, full authority to cause to be baptised and christened in the chapel of Matterdale all and singular the infants which shall at any time hereafter be born within the said Chapelry, and all women who within the same shall bring forth any child, to go to the said chapel, and to have prayers said for her deliverance set forth by public authority, which commonly hath been called the purification of women; and that it may also be lawful unto the said inhabitants from time to time hereafter to cause their marriages to be celebrated within the same chapel; both the said persons which shall be married or the one of them being an inhabitant and dweller within the same chapelry; and such persons as shall from time to time happen to die or depart this world within the said Chapelry, to bury them within the same Chapel or Churchyard of the same: giving and granting unto the said Chapel the right to receive infants to baptism, women to be purified, persons to be married in the said Chapel, and all manner of persons dying within the said Chapelry, to whom the laws of this realm do not deny Christian burial, to be buried in the said Chapel or Churchyard;

Beseeching the Almighty, that as we do not doubt but that he hath already sanctified and hallowed the said Chapel and Churchyard through the prayers of the faithful made therein and the preaching of his most blessed word; so it may please him to grant unto all those which shall be baptised within the said Chapel, that they may receive remission of sins, perfect regeneration, and be made heirs of the kingdom of heaven; and to sanctify the marriage of all such as shall be married in the same Chapel; and to such as shall be buried in the said Chapel or Churchyard to grant resurrection unto life everlasting.

Greystoke Church

Greystoke Church

These in no wise to prejudice or hinder the right of the parish church of Graystock aforesaid, nor the estate of the said Mr. Hansbie now parson of the same, or his successors parsons there, in any the tithes, rights, obligations, duties, commodities, or emoluments, due unto the said parish Church or to the said Edward Hansbie his successors parsons of the same out of the said Chapelry, or the inhabitants of the same, or any of them from time to time there dwelling; the right interest and estate of which Church and the said Edward Hansbie and his successors parsons there, we do reserve and save by these presents.

Provided always that the inhabitants of the said Chapelry shall at their own proper costs and charges (as hath been before used) find and maintain a good and able priest to be resident within the said Chapelry, to minister divine service, and holy sacraments, as shall be allowed by the said Bishop and our successors; and shall provide unto him such convenient dwelling and habitation within the same Chapelry, and give him such wages for his relief and maintenance, to the worthyness of his estate and calling, as shall be thought meet and convenient unto us the said Bishop and our successors bishops of Carlisle; and shall also elect, with the consent of the minister there from time to time, an honest person to be the parish clerk of the same Chapel, and shall give to him convenient wages for keeping the said Church and things belonging to the same in good order, and doing other duties which pertain to the office of a clerk; and shall yearly elect and chuse by the consent of the said minister, the churchwardens and some sidesmen, to do the duties which unto their office doth belong; and shall repair, maintain and uphold the said Chapel and walls of the yard thereof, with all needful and convenient reparations whatsoever and shall from time to time see and provide that the said Chapel and Churchyard be used with that seemly and reverend manner as becometh the house and place dedicated to the service of God; and finally, shall from time to time, and at all times hereafter receive and obey all such injunctions, general and particular, which shall from thenceforth be given by us the said Bishop and our successors, for the service of God and good order to be maintained within the said Chapel and Chapelry.

Under which conditions we do dedicate the said Chapel and Churchyard to the use aforesaid and none otherwise.

In witness whereof we have to these presents put the seal of our bishoprick.

Given the 30th day of October in the year of our Lord God a thousand five hundred and eighty, and in the 23nd year of the reign of our most gracious sovereign Lady Elizabeth by the grace of God Queen of England France and Ireland, defender of the faith &c. and of our consecration the fourth.

matt snow 2

Snow in Matterdale

I particularly like the part which explains why the people of Matterdale wanted their own parish church and not just a simple chapel. It was because Greystoke was ‘so far distant from them, and from the annoyances of snow or other foul weather in the winter season in that fellish part, they be often very sore troubled with carrying the dead corpses dying within the said Chapelry and the infants there born unto burial and christening to their said parish church of Graystock, sometimes the weather being so foul and stormy that they be driven to let their dead bodies remain unburied longer time than is convenient, or else to abide that annoyance and danger in carrying them to burial as is not reasonable… ’

We don’t know the names of the very first Matterdale parish clerks who the people of the valley had promised to pay. One of the incumbents in the first half of the seventeenth century was an ‘old John Griesdall of Hollas, clerk’ who died in 1682. Two of this John’s nephews also became curates: John in Troutbeck in Westmorland (see here) and Thomas in Matterdale itself.

As the Rev J. Whiteside wrote in ‘Matterdale Church and School’ in 1900, which is the main source for this article: ‘One of the incumbents in the year 1703 had to make his humble apology to the rector of Greystoke.’ In the Greystoke register we find this entry:

1703 Memorand:— May 22nd Anno Dicto, came Mr. Thomas Grisedall Curate of Matterdale upon the account of publishing ye Bands of Marriage between Isaac Brownrigge and Bridgett Sutton both of Matterdale in the Chappell of Matterdale aforesayd and thereupon marrying them ye sayd Isaac and Bridget at ye sayd Chappell for which irregularity the sayd Mr. Grisedall both made his submission and gave his promise under his hand never to doe ye like againe.

Teste Thomas Grisedal. Matt: Soulby, John Hodgson.

Whiteside rightly asks: ‘Wherein did the irregularity consist?’ To which he answers:

Bishop Best about 1570… had granted a petition of the inhabitants  to cause their marriages from time to time hereafter to be celebrated within the same Chapel ” of Matterdale. It may be that, though the bishop gave permission, it had not been acted on, and the legality of Mr. Grisedal’s action had escaped notice. The registers show that Matt : Soulby was the curate, and John Hodgson the parish clerk of Greystoke.

This seems a very strange answer to me as the curates of Matterdale had been performing marriages in Matterdale church for over a hundred years.

In any case Thomas Grisdale, who had first been made a priest in 1666, remained curate of Matterdale until 1718 when he died. He had married widow Elizabeth Grisdale (nee Noble) in Greystoke Church in 1675; this Elizabeth is my own 6th great grandmother.

Rose Castle, the residence of the Bishops of Carlisle

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

 

 

The Grisdale diaspora from Matterdale went on for centuries. We know of lots of cases in the seventeenth century and the pace hotted up in the following two hundred years. Yet it is also clear that quite a few family members left the valley in the 1500s. The only problem is that it’s almost impossible to precisely follow most of them. But there is one interesting exception; it concerns two (and possibly three) Grisdale brothers who left Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale in the later 1500s to become farmers in faraway Essex. This is what I know of them.

The church in Horndon on the Hill, Essex

The church in Horndon on the Hill, Essex

In late 1604 a legal memorandum was written concerning the recent death and wishes of a husbandsman called Edward Grisdale who lived in the small Essex village of Horndon on the Hill. Shortly thereafter in the same place a John Grisdale made his will, which was written in Latin. Horndon is about twenty miles northeast of London and a very long way from Matterdale in Cumberland, yet it seems pretty clear that Edward and John were brothers and did indeed come from Matterdale and in particular from Dowthwaite Head, the ‘cradle’ of the family.

The 1604 memorandum is dated 11 November ‘in the second year of the reign of Kinge James’, that is in the reign of King James 1 of England (and sixth of Scotland), the successor of Queen Elizabeth. Edward said he was ‘in his bed’ but ‘of good and perfect memory’. He revokes all previous wills and makes his wife Elizabeth his executor. He was then asked if he didn’t want his brother Christopher to also be an executor 9note I’ve changed the spelling of Christopher to the modern one):

And being demanded if he wanted not his brother Christopher to be joynte executor with her, he said not in the presence of the saide Christopher. And then being moved by the said Elizabeth to have the saide Christopher to be joint executor with her, he answered he would not, but willed her to choose some other if she would. And being demanded what he would give his brother Christopher, he said in the presence of the saide Christopher, that he hath had his portion, I will give him no more. And said that he did owe him four score pounds and (?) forty shillings which the saide Christopher should have paid him for this last Michaelmas…

There was obviously a bit of tension between the two brothers: Edward and Christopher. The memorandum says more about the debt owed by Christopher to Edward and when it should have been paid. Edward was asked if he would forgive the debt of his brother ‘considering that he was greatly in his debt otherwise’, but Edward refused saying that Christopher must pay it all.  Then he was asked what he would give Christopher’s children. Edward said that they should get twenty pounds each which they should receive when they reached the age of fifteen. But he didn’t quite trust Christopher because although his bequest to Christopher’s children was to be held by their father until they reached fifteen he added that if Christopher didn’t handle it properly it should rather be held by his wife for ‘the best advantage of the saide children’. The rest of his estate Edward gave to his wife Elizabeth who had the duty to pay various debts of Edward himself.

Now as well as the fact that Edward’s name is explicitly and clearly spelt as Grisdale, we also know that he had a brother called Christopher who was present in Essex when Edward made his wishes known.

Shortly after Edward’s death John Grisdale also made his Latin will in Horndon. He first mentions the names of two knights: Sir John Bennett and Sir John Gibson, both of whom were lawyers and later judges of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. That John’s will (and Edward’s) was presented in this court tells of a certain level of wealth and standing.

John Grisdale's Will, 1605

John Grisdale’s Will, 1605

John appoints two people as his executors: his wife Elizabeth Grisdale and his brother Christopher Grisdale. So it is clear that John and Edward were brothers; they both lived in Horndon in Essex and they both had a brother called Christopher. So here we have three brothers, two of whom definitely lived in Essex as most likely the third did too.

In John’s 1605 will we also find the added information that he was born in the reign of Queen Mary. Now Queen Mary was of course the only daughter of Henry the Eighth and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Known rightly to history as Bloody Mary, she was the queen of England from 1553 to 1558, before being replaced by her half-sister Elizabeth.

There is probably a lot more in John’s will that as yet I am unable to decipher, but here the interest is from where these Grisdale brothers came, and when.

The name Grisdale itself clearly points to a Cumberland origin. But we can say more. The brothers’ names certainly indicate that they came from Matterdale and indeed from Dowthwaite Head Farm.

In the 1500s we find repeated mentions in the records of at least one Christopher Grisdale as well as Edwards and Johns.

In 1560 Thomas son of Christopher Grisdale of ‘Matterdale’ was baptized in Greystoke Church (Matterdale Church had yet to be founded). In 1564 the wife of a Christopher Grisdale ‘of the Head of Dowthwaite of Matterdale’ was buried. In 1565 Janet ‘wife of Xopher Grisdale of Dowthwaite’ wrote her will mentioning sons John and Thomas. In 1568 this Janet Grisdale ‘wife of Xopher Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head;’ was buried.  In 1571 a Christopher Grisdale and Agnes Greenhow ‘both of Matterdale’ were married in Greystoke. In 1575 Elizabeth ‘daughter of Xopher Grysdell of Dowthwaite Head’ was buried. Finally in 1597 Christopher Grisdale a son of Edward Grisdale of Dowthwaite Head died and left a will.

Bloody Queen Mary

Bloody Queen Mary

Now we could be dealing with one Christopher here or two. I tend to think that all these mentions concern one person. If so then he was probably born in the 1520s or early 1530s (to have had a son Thomas in 1560 and probably others earlier). This might mean that Christopher ‘senior’ was the father of the three Essex brothers Edward, John and Christopher. John’s mother would no doubt have been Christopher senior’s first unnamed wife who died in Dowthwaite Head in 1564; remember John said he was born in Queen Mary’s reign, i.e. between 1553 and 1558. Janet, Christopher’s supposed second wife, died the next year in 1565, and the ‘sons’ John and Thomas she mentions in her will must, I think, have been her stepsons: the John we have mentioned and the Thomas born in 1560. I would guess that Edward who died in Essex in 1604 was also the son of Christopher and his first wife and was therefore born sometime in the 1550s or 1560s.

There is more suggestive name evidence. In 1561 the wife of ‘Edward Grisdale junior of Matterdale’ was buried in Greystoke as were two of his children in 1563 and 1569. Edward was said to be of Dowthwaite Head. If there was an Edward junior there must have been an Edward senior, possibly still alive at the time (i.e. in 1561). Now we know that the Christopher senior who died in 1597 was the son of an Edward Grisdale, and this Christopher was probably born in the 1520s or early 1530s  Thus it is quite possible that Edward junior was the brother of Christopher Grisdale senior (the putative father all the three Essex brothers: Christopher, Edward and John.

Dowthwaitehead Farm

Dowthwaitehead Farm

If we place Edward junior’s birth in Dowthwaite Head in about the 1520 or early 1530s; and if his father was also called Edward (as seems reasonable) then he (Edward senior) would have been born in the late 1400s or very early 1500s, which would likely make him either the brother or even the son of the John Grisdale I sometimes refer to as ‘the first Matterdale Grisdale’ (see here).

I could go on about other possible relationships between the early Grisdales of Dowthwaite Head, including more on John, Richard and Robert Grisdales (Grysdells). But let’s return to the name Christopher. It’s a name that not only appears in the sixteenth century but also in the seventeenth. There is a ‘deed of administration’ dated 1616 for the death of a Christopher Grisdale in Matterdale, although I have yet to obtain a copy. I think this is most likely the ‘Essex’ brother so mistrusted by his brother Edward. Later, after the Matterdale parish records start in 1634, we find one or two other Christopher Grisdales, but I will leave them for another time.

Given the gaps in the records it is not possible to determine all the exact relationships, nevertheless it is more than likely that these later Matterdale Christopher Grisdales were either directly descended from, or at least very closely related to, the Christopher Grisdale who was having children in Dowthwaite in the 1560s and to the Essex Christopher whom I believe returned from Essex to Matterdale, had he in fact ever left.

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church

Matterdale Church was founded in 1581 after the request of the people of the valley to the Bishop of Carlisle saying that the snow and other bad weather often prevented them getting to Greystoke.

In fact they had had to trek miles to Greystoke Church, which is where we find nearly all the early mentions of the Grisdales of Matterdale. After Matterdale Church was built the people of the valley would usually go there for the baptisms of their children or to be buried. The problem is that the early clerks of Matterdale (who included at least one Grisdale) either didn’t record these events or the records have been lost. The earliest extant Matterdale parish records only start in 1634, so we are left with a huge lacuna. This is a shame as if we had these records we could join up so many dots.

The earliest mention of a Grisdale of Matterdale in the Greystoke parish register is for the burial of the ‘wife of Edward Grysdell junior of Matterdale’ in 1561 which I mentioned previously. Before that either baptisms were not recorded or the Dowthwaite Head Grisdales (and others) had been deterred by the distance and the weather from making the trip. (Remember too it was only around this time that the churches and clergymen of the recently ‘protestant’ Church of England were compelled to keep records.) It was during this period (in the 1550s to 1560s) that the three Essex Grisdale brothers, Edward, John and Christopher, were most likely born, and hence the lack of records for their births.

Greystoke Church

Greystoke Church

It is interesting to conjecture why and how the three brothers (or at least two) had moved from Matterdale to Essex. I don’t think they just ventured there ‘on spec’. More likely there was a connection between the Barony of Greystoke (in which the Grisdale were free tenants) and Horndon in Essex. Maybe one day I’ll discover this link.

When might the brothers have moved? If they were born in the 1550s it is most likely that they already established adults when they did so. So perhaps the move took place in the late 1570s or 1580s, if not later.

In 1581 the Cumberland militia was again called out to guard against the repeated incursions of the Scots. They mustered at Penrith. Here we find nine Matterdale Grisdale ‘bowmen’ of military age: John, William, Christopher, Robert, Edward, Richard and three named Thomas.

Notice an Edward, a John and a Christopher. This Christopher might have been the older Christopher (the putative father of the Essex brothers), but I think he would have been too old to have been much use against the Scots. Much more likely this Christopher (and possibly the Edward and John too) was the one we find in Essex about twenty years later.

Returning to Essex, if seems that Edward and John didn’t have children but their brother Christopher did. I think we see the descendants of some of these children in the seventeenth century Matterdale records. But besides the genealogical interest it is also interesting to find at least one example of where some of the very early Grisdales of Matterdale went.

 

The vast majority of American immigrants didn’t find the land of their dreams. For most life as an immigrant was hard and sometimes brutal. But at least there was always the prospect that things would get better, at least for their children and grandchildren. One family for which the American Dream did seem to come true was that of Charles Grisdale, a son of Lake District butcher turned farmer John Bird Grisdale. Charles did well for himself and his sons did even better. This is a part of their story.

Temple Sowerby

Temple Sowerby

Charles was born in 1878 in the Westmorland village of Kirkby Thore. He was the illegitimate child of farmer’s daughter Margaret Anne Metcalfe and a butcher called John Bird Grisdale from the nearby village of Temple Sowerby. He was registered under the name Charles Metcalfe – his parents married three years later and two sisters then arrived. Shortly after Charles’s birth his father, John Bird, started to cattle farm, probably with the help of his father-in-law James Metcalfe who had been a farmer himself. The family farm was called Spittal Farm in Kirkby Thore and still remains a dairy farm to this day. In 2005 the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald announced:

The Cumbria Grassland Society held the awards night for its annual silage competition at the Stoneybeck Inn, Penrith, where Andrew Addison, Spittal Farm, Kirkby Thore, learned that he had taken first place.

This is where Charles grew up. I will tell more of the earlier family history towards the end of this article, for now I want to concentrate on Charles and his move to the United States.

s/s Umbria

s/s Umbria

As far as I know it was Charles’s carpenter uncle George who first went to America in the early 1880s (his brother Thomas went separately too). George had settled in Chicago and married Indiana-born Jemima Atchison there in 1886. But George came back on at least one occasion to visit his family in England. On a visit in 1895, leaving his wife in Chicago, he obviously waxed lyrical about the prospects for the family across the Atlantic. One of the family who listened was nephew Charles, because when George returned to the States on the ship Umbria from Liverpool to New York in late March 1895, sixteen year-old Charles went with him, both giving their destination as Chicago.

The 1890s were an extraordinary decade for Chicago, perhaps the only period in the city’s history when its status as a “world city” would be disputed by few. The World’s Columbian Exposition was held in 1893. “Prairie-school” architects like Frank Lloyd Wright began to acquire a measure of fame. Novels like Sister Carrie were inspired by the city’s peculiar mixture of wealth and squalor–and by its astonishing growth. It is often said that Chicago grew more quickly in the second half of the 19th century than any large city in the modern history of the Western world. In the 1890s alone its population increased by 600,000. In 1900, with 1.7 million people, Chicago was, by some measures, (briefly) the fifth or sixth largest city in the world.

minn

Minneapolis in the 1920s

Charles probably spent the next few years in Chicago with his uncle, but soon for reasons I don’t know he moved to Minneapolis in Minnesota and he married there in 1903. His wife was Illinois-born Francis Ruth Orvis. Their first son John Thomas Grisdale – to be known as Jack – was born in Minneapolis in 1904, followed in 1908 by Richard Orvis Grisdale. In 1905 Charles was working as a ‘Cashier’ in a packing company, as he was in 1910. As the years passed and the two boys were growing, Charles progressed to be a ‘bookkeeper’ and then an accountant in ‘Mobile Oils’ in 1920. He then worked for La Pray & Graning before joining the Minneapolis City Comptroller’s office as an accountant, where he stayed till his retirement. The family moved continually and I won’t trace all their moves here. Suffice it to say they lived, as far as I can tell, in nice ‘middle class’ residential areas. Charles registered for the Army draft in late 1918 but probably didn’t see any service; he died in Minneapolis in 1962.

Central High School, Minneapolis

Central High School, Minneapolis

I’ll now leave Charles and pass on to his sons: John Thomas and Richard Orvis. It seems they were both bright boys and were sent to school at the prestigious Central High School in Saint Paul. John graduated in 1922 and was admitted to the University of Minnesota to study architecture. He lived at home while studying but also worked as a ‘draftsman’, probably to help pay for his studies but also no doubt for the experience. After graduating in 1926/7 with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture, John went to take a M. Arch at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, from where he graduated in 1928.

John’s younger brother Richard Orvis seems to have been an early star. The Central High School yearbooks are positively gushing with their praise. His list of honours and achievements goes on and on and when he graduated in 1926 his long entry ends with the words: ‘He is a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.’ Crikey, that’s something of a burden to live up to! He studied first at the University of Minnesota then won a scholarship to go to Harvard where he studied Chemistry ‘with strong quantum theory interests’ as he later said. On graduation in 1930, Richard was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to undertake further study at the University of Oxford. I guess he did.

The first transistor from Bell LabsLater Richard worked at Bell Labs on the development of the first electrical transistors and later at General Electric as an engineer. There is much more to tell about Richard, but for the moment I will just finish by saying that he married Margaret Griswold in New York in 1932 and they had a son called Michael L Grisdale in 1940. Michael has only recently died. During his career Richard travelled a lot. When he visited London he stayed in the salubrious Savoy Hotel and the equally up-market RAC Club. He died in 1982 in Short Hills, New Jersey.

Let us return to John Thomas Grisdale, the architect. Having finished his studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1928, John spent the next ten years working at his trade with the architectural firm of Mellor and Meigs in Philadelphia and then with Paul P. Cret until 1943.

But John obviously travelled too, because years later one of his colleagues from the Central High School in Minneapolis wrote an article in which he tells that while on a ‘sojourn’ in the ‘wilds of India’ in 1932 he meet a group of lion hunters which including John Grisdale.

In 1945 John entered into partnership with his University of Pennsylvania classmate J. Roy Carroll under the name Carroll & Grisdale. They were joined in 1946 by Pennsylvania alumnus W. L. van Alen  and the firm of Carroll, Grisdale and Van Alen was born; it continued to operate successfully until 1973.

lib 5

Carroll, Grisdale & Van Alen’s Library Company of Philadelphia building, 1965

Now it wasn’t John’s fault that when he studied architecture and started to practice at a time when the so-called ‘International style’ was in vogue. Taking its inspiration from European architects such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, in the United States the style was popularized by Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnston.

The stark, unornamented appearance of the International style met with contemporaneous criticism and is still criticized today by many. Especially in larger and more public buildings, the style is commonly subject to disparagement as ugly, inhuman, sterile, and elitist. Such criticism gained momentum in the latter half of the 20th Century, from academics such as Hugo Kükelhaus to best-selling American author Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House, and contributed to the rise of such counter-movements as postmodernism.

The International style has left us many blots on the landscape, not just in the United States but everywhere in the world. Below I show just four examples of Carroll, Grisdale & Van Alen’s work; you can judge the aesthetics and functionality of these buildings for yourself. The firm’s full archive is kept by the University of Pennsylvania.

Youth Study Center, Philadelphia, 1953

youth 3

State Office Building, Philadelphia

state office

  Doylestown Court House, 1962

court house 1

Franklin Building, University of Pennsylvania

frank 3

In my view somewhat better than these designs was John T. Grisdale’s own house in Delaware, which he designed himself.

John Grisdale's house in Delaware, 1949

John Grisdale’s house in Delaware, 1949

John married Catherine Hanford and they had one son called Hanford Gillespie Grisdale in 1943. John Thomas ‘Jack’ Grisdale died in Radnor, Wayne County, Delaware in 1985 aged eighty and is buried in St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.

For those of you interested in the earlier history of this Grisdale family perhaps a few words are in order. As I mentioned, Charles Grisdale’s grandfather George was born in Penrith, Cumberland in 1826, the son of poor agricultural labourer Thomas Grisdale and his first wife Elizabeth Charters. By the time he was fourteen George had been sent to work in a lead mine, though which Cumberland lead mine this was I have yet to ascertain. George’s parents died at a quite young age and George, having surreptitiously married Margaret Warwick at Greta Green in 1846, somehow ended up in the Cumbrian village of Temple Sowerby working as a tanner.  As we have seen the couple’s fourth child, John Bird Grisdale, became a butcher in Temple Sowerby before becoming a dairy farmer in Kirkby Thore. It was all about cows – tanner, butcher and dairy farmer.

If you are interested in Thomas’s own route back to Matterdale I invite you to contact me.

Lead Miners

Lead Miners

By way of a genealogical aside, Thomas Grisdale’s first wife, Elizabeth Charters, whom he married in Penrith in 1821, was the younger sister of Mary Charters who married my own 3rd great grandfather, the Penrith ‘Dancing Master’ William Grisdale, in 1815 (see here).

So here we have a story of the progress of one Grisdale family from child labour in a Cumberland lead mine to a Rhodes scholarship and architectural success in just three generations!

Finally a word on how paths may cross. In Minneapolis in the early decades of the twentieth century (and later too), Charles and his family were not by any means the only Grisdales in the city; there were quite a few more. Of course they were all related and all found their roots in Matterdale, but had they ever met did they know of their relationship? Let me mention just one such relative: Charles Gideon Grisdale. This Charles Gideon was the great grandson of Wilfred Grisdale who had arrived in Canada as early as 1816/7 (see here) and who, just by way of example, was the Chief Engineer at the Liquid Carbolic Company in Minneapolis around 1920. This Wilfred Grisdale was the brother of my own 3rd great grandfather, the Penrith Dancing Master William Grisdale, who, as already mentioned, had married Mary Charters who was the sister of Elizabeth Charters who married Thomas Grisdale, the great grandfather of immigrant Charles Grisdale and 2nd great grandfather of architect John Thomas and chemical engineer Richard Orvis. I hope you’re keeping up? It’s a small world.

John Bird Grisdale was a butcher before turning to farming

John Bird Grisdale was a butcher before turning to farming

 

In the eighteenth century Old Testament names became popular in England. One family in which this was true was that of farmer Solomon Grisdale and his wife Mary Grisdale (they were ‘cousins’). After their marriage in Matterdale Church in 1763 they had twelve children, including sons with the Biblical names Joseph, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Benjamin. I have written much about Levi (see here and here), something of daughter Jane (see here) and a little about Solomon’s grandson Solomon who took the stage-name Walter and became a famous actor (see here). I’d now like to turn our attention to son Simeon and his son and grandson, both called Simeon too. It is a story of bankruptcy, bigamy and battles. In order not to make the story excessively long I will split it into three parts. This first part concerns the little we know about Solomon’s son Simeon, who I will call Simeon 1 when necessary to avoid confusion.

Solomon Grisdale was born in Matterdale in 1739, the son of farmer Jonathan Grisdale and Mary Jackson, and the grandson of Joseph Grisdale and Agnes Dockray (my own 5th great grandparents). Like his father and grandfather Solomon was a farmer. Where exactly in Matterdale he first farmed isn’t known, but after his marriage in 1763 (at the latest by 1776) the family were farming at ‘Hill’. Now this is a farm lying between Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell. It lies geographically in Matterdale but is administratively in the parish of Watermillock. The family probably moved for a short time to nearby Patterdale, because it was here in 1780 that son Simeon was born and baptized. Shortly thereafter they moved to Greystoke parish where the rest of the children were born, including the later to be famous Levi in 1783.

patterdale-birds-eye

Patterdale where Simeon was born

But the family was too big to be supported from a small Cumberland farm and thus most of Solomon and Mary’s children had to move away and find their own way in life. Levi went to London and joined the army; Thomas went to Kent (after a time in the army I think); sister Jane to Arundel in Sussex; while Joseph went to London.

All Saints Church in Houghton

All Saints Church in Houghton

Sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century Simeon somehow found his way to bucolic Hampshire. He married local girl Ruth Russell in the church of All Saints in the Hampshire village of Houghton in July 1805. It’s clear that Ruth was already pregnant when she married Simeon because their son, also christened Simeon, was born in Houghton in November of the same year, to be followed three years later by a daughter Mary, also born in Houghton.

Nothing more is heard of the family for some time. However we do know what Simeon did: he became a ‘Baker and Chandler Shopkeeper’ in the village. The Victoria County History described the village thus in 1908:

The parish of Houghton, lying south-west of Stock-bridge and north-west of King’s Somborne, is detached from the other parishes of Buddlesgate Hundred. It comprises 33 acres of land covered by water and 2,639 acres of land, which rises generally from south-east to north-west from the low-lying country near the River Test, which flows along the east of the parish to the downland, which stretches away north to Houghton Down, behind which rises Danebury Hill in Nether Wallop parish…

The main village street, curving west for a few yards at the north end of the village, turns sharply north and runs uphill past Houghton Lodge, the residence of Colonel E. St. John Daubney, which lies back from the road on the east, on to North Houghton.

We can perhaps visualize Simeon and Ruth baking bread in the early hours of each day and working in their shop while the two children were at school or playing in the nearby fields.

In Fleet Prison

In Fleet Prison

And so life went on. But probably by the early 1820s, when his children were reaching adulthood, Simeon’s business in Houghton was not going well and it was either closed or sold. We can imply from later events that Simeon had debts although he wasn’t declared bankrupt. Around this time, either with or without his family, Simeon moved to ‘London’ or better said to the still rural area of Holloway/Hornsey/Crouch End in the parish of Islington. He became an ‘Ostler’, which is someone who looks after horses in an inn, usually a coaching-inn. He lived in Duval’s Lane near Crouch End, to which I will return. But it seems that Simeon couldn’t pay off his creditors and was thrown into debtor’s prison – most probably into the notorious Fleet Prison.

How long Simeon was in prison I don’t know, but in 1825 he petitioned the ‘Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors and Office of the Commissioners of Bankrupts and successors’ to be released. This Court had been established by the Insolvent Debtors (England) Act in 1813, during the reign of King George III. ‘It was enacted in response to the demands on the prison system imposed by the numbers of those being incarcerated for debt, and some concern for their plight. The Act created a new Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors that remained in existence until 1861, under the jurisdiction of a newly appointed Commissioner. Those imprisoned for debt could apply to the court to be released – unless they were in trade or guilty of fraudulent or other dishonest behaviour – by reaching an agreement with their creditors that ensured a fair distribution of their present and future assets.’

Simeon’s petition was to be heard on 11 April 1825 at ‘Nine o’clock of the Forenoon’ at the Court which resided in Portugal Street in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields. Simeon was said to be ‘formally of Houghton, Hampshire. Baker and Chandler Shopkeeper, and later of Holloway, Middlesex. Ostler’.

A wonderful description of this Court which would decide Simeon’s fate was written by Charles Dickens in Pickwick Papers in 1837. I think it worth quoting in full:

In a lofty room, ill-lighted and worse ventilated, situated in Portugal Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, there sit nearly the whole year round, one, two, three, or four gentlemen in wigs, as the case may be, with little writing-desks before them, constructed after the fashion of those used by the judges of the land, barring the French polish. There is a box of barristers on their right hand; there is an enclosure of insolvent debtors on their left; and there is an inclined plane of most especially dirty faces in their front. These gentlemen are the Commissioners of the Insolvent Court, and the place in which they sit, is the Insolvent Court itself.

It is, and has been, time out of mind, the remarkable fate of this court to be, somehow or other, held and understood, by the general consent of all the destitute shabby-genteel people in London, as their common resort, and place of daily refuge. It is always full. The steams of beer and spirits perpetually ascend to the ceiling, and, being condensed by the heat, roll down the walls like rain; there are more old suits of clothes in it at one time, than will be offered for sale in all Houndsditch in a twelvemonth; more unwashed skins and grizzly beards than all the pumps and shaving-shops between Tyburn and Whitechapel could render decent, between sunrise and sunset.

Lincoln's Inn Fields in the 1800s

Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the 1800s

It must not be supposed that any of these people have the least shadow of business in, or the remotest connection with, the place they so indefatigably attend. If they had, it would be no matter of surprise, and the singularity of the thing would cease. Some of them sleep during the greater part of the sitting; others carry small portable dinners wrapped in pocket-handkerchiefs or  sticking out of their worn-out pockets, and munch and listen with equal relish; but no one among them was ever known to have the slightest personal interest in any case that was ever brought forward. Whatever they do, there they sit from the first moment to the last. When it is heavy, rainy weather, they all come in, wet through; and at such times the vapours of the court are like those of a fungus-pit.

A casual visitor might suppose this place to be a temple dedicated to the Genius of Seediness. There is not a messenger or process-server attached to it, who wears a coat that was made for him; not a tolerably fresh, or wholesome-looking man in the whole establishment, except a little white-headed apple-faced tipstaff, and even he, like an ill-conditioned cherry preserved in brandy, seems to have artificially dried and withered up into a state of preservation to which he can lay no natural claim. The very barristers’ wigs are ill-powdered, and their curls lack crispness.

pickwickBut the attorneys, who sit at a large bare table below the commissioners, are, after all, the greatest curiosities. The professional establishment of the more opulent of these gentlemen, consists of a blue bag and a boy; generally a youth of the Jewish persuasion. They have no fixed offices, their legal business being transacted in the parlours of public-houses, or the yards of prisons, whither they repair in crowds, and canvass for customers after the manner of omnibus cads. They are of a greasy and mildewed appearance; and if they can be said to have any vices at all, perhaps drinking and cheating are the most conspicuous among them. Their residences are usually on the outskirts of ‘the Rules,’ chiefly lying within a circle of one mile from the obelisk in St. George’s Fields. Their looks are not prepossessing, and their manners are peculiar.

Mr. Solomon Pell, one of this learned body, was a fat, flabby, pale man, in a surtout which looked green one minute, and brown the next, with a velvet collar of the same chameleon tints. His forehead was narrow, his face wide, his head large, and his nose all on one side, as if Nature, indignant with the propensities she observed in him in his birth, had given it an angry tweak which it had never recovered. Being short-necked and asthmatic, however, he respired principally through this feature; so, perhaps, what it wanted in ornament, it made up in usefulness.

‘I’m sure to bring him through it,’ said Mr. Pell.

‘Are you, though?’ replied the person to whom the assurance was pledged.

‘Certain sure,’ replied Pell; ‘but if he’d gone to any irregular practitioner, mind you, I wouldn’t have answered for the consequences.’

‘Ah!’ said the other, with open mouth.

‘No, that I wouldn’t,’ said Mr. Pell; and he pursed up his lips, frowned, and shook his head mysteriously.

Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers, 1837

We can imply that Simeon was released from prison by the court on April 11 but he no doubt still had debts to pay. It’s possible that Simeon had become so weak from his time in debtors’ prison or he may have caught an illness there, whatever the case only a couple of weeks after his release Simeon died and was buried in Islington on 7 June 1825, aged just forty-four. At the time of his death Simeon was said to reside at Duval’s Lane in Islington. Now here I could leave the story and you can if you wish, but I think it interesting to explore Duval’s Road a bit more and suggest where exactly Simeon had worked as an Ostler before being thrown into prison for debt.

Duval’s Lane (which is now Hornsey Road) was named after a French-born ‘gentleman highwayman’ called Claude Du Val (1643-1670). ‘In a map of the suburbs of London in 1823, “Duval’s Lane” is shown as running from Lower Holloway towards Crouch End, with scarcely a house on either side. A small and crooked road, marked Hem Lane, with “Duval’s House” at the corner, leads also through fields towards “Hornsey Wood House,” and so into the Green Lanes—all being open country. The now populous district of Crouch End appears here as a small group of private residences. Between the “Wood House” and Crouch End is Stroud Green, around which are five or six rustic cottages. On the other side of the “Wood House” is the “Sluice House,” where privileged persons and customers of “mine host” went to fish in the New River and to sup upon eels, for which that place was famous, as stated above. Upper Holloway itself figures in this map as a very small collection of houses belonging apparently to private residents.’

Claude Duvall was born in Domfront, Orne, Normandy in 1643 to a noble family stripped of title and land. His origin and parentage are in dispute. He did however have a brother Daniel Du Val. At the age of 14 he was sent to Paris where he worked as a domestic servant. He later became a stable boy for a group of English royalists and moved to England in the time of the English Restoration as a footman of the Duke of Richmond (possibly a relation) and rented a house in Wokingham.

The legend goes that before long Du Val became a successful highwayman who robbed the passing stagecoaches in the roads to London, especially Holloway between Highgate and Islington. However, unlike most other brigands, he distinguished himself with rather gentlemanly behaviour and fashionable clothes. However, there is no valid historical source for this assertion. He reputedly never used violence. One of his victims was Squire Roper, Master of the Royal Buckhounds, whom he relieved of 50 guineas and tied to a tree. There are many tales about Du Val. One particularly famous one — placed in more than one location and later published by William Pope — claims that he took only a part of his potential loot from a gentleman when his wife agreed to dance the “courante” with him in the wayside, a scene immortalised by William Powell Frith in his 1860 painting Claude Du Val.

Frith's painting of Duval

Frith’s painting of Duval

If his intention was to deter pursuit by his non-threatening behaviour, he did not totally succeed. After the authorities promised a large reward, he fled to France for some time but returned a few months later. Shortly afterwards, he is said to have been arrested in the Hole-in-the-Wall tavern in London’s Chandos Street, Covent Garden. However, there is no record of this in valid historical sources. His ‘life’, as described here, is a typical example of entertaining stories invented for various reasons over centuries transmuting into so-called historical fact. (The ‘story’ of Dick Turpin is another example where the accepted story is very different from the actual historical record.)

On 17 January 1670, judge Sir William Morton found him guilty of six robberies (others remained unproven) and sentenced him to death. Despite many attempts to intercede, the king did not pardon him and he was executed on 21 January at Tyburn. When his body was cut down and exhibited in Tangier Tavern… it drew a large crowd. It is traditionally thought Du Val was buried under the centre aisle of the church of St Paul’s, Covent Garden; the parish register notes the burial of a “Peter Du Val” in January 1670.

A memorial at the church reads:

Here lies DuVall: Reder, if male thou art,

Look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.

Much havoc has he made of both; for all

Men he made to stand, and women he made to fall

The second Conqueror of the Norman race,

Knights to his arm did yield, and ladies to his face.

Old Tyburn’s glory; England’s illustrious Thief,

Du Vall, the ladies’ joy; Du Vall, the ladies’ grief.

An Ostler

An Ostler

Good stuff, but returning to Simeon, can we be a little more precise as to where he might have worked as an Ostler? I think we can. Ostlers, as I have said, looked after the horses in inns, usually in coaching-inns. In 1817 in Picturesque rides and walks,: With excursions by water, thirty miles round the British metropolis; illustrated in a series of engravings, coloured after … country within the compass of that circle ‘, J Hassell wrote:

The Hornsey coaches, of course, pass through Crouch End, where there is a respectable house of accommodation, the King’s Arms. From thence you take the first turning to the left that leads up Duval’s Lane, a pleasant and well-inhabited spot, to the metropolis, by the high road through Islington.

It is quite possible (but by no means certain) that Simeon Grisdale was an Ostler at the King’s Arms in Crouch End. The inn’s successor (now called the King’s Head) still exists and was in fact my ‘local’ for many years when I lived just off ‘’Duval’s Lane’!

Finally, Holloway and Hornsey were frequented by another well-known highwayman: Dick Turpin. Walter Thornby wrote in Old and New London in the 1870s:

Hornsey Road, which in Camden’s time was a “sloughy lane” to Whetstone, by way of Crouch End, seventy years ago [in 1802] had only three houses, and no side paths, and was impassable for carriages.

It was formerly called Devil’s, or Du Val’s, Lane, and further back still Tollington Lane. There formerly stood on the east side of this road, near the junction with the Seven Sisters’ Road, an old wooden moated house, called “The Devil’s House,” but really the site of old Tollington House.

Dick Turpin jumping Hornsey Gate

Dick Turpin jumping Hornsey Gate

Tradition fixed this lonely place as the retreat of Duval, the famous French highwayman in the reign of Charles II. After he was hung in 1669, he lay in state at a low tavern in St. Giles’s, and was buried in the middle aisle of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, by torchlight.

The tradition is evidently erroneous, as the Devil’s House in Devil’s Lane is mentioned in a survey of Highbury taken in 1611 (James I.) Duval may, however, have affected the neighbourhood, as near a great northern road.

The moat used to be crossed by a bridge, and the house in 1767 was a public-house, where Londoners went to fish, and enjoy hot loaves, and milk fresh from the cow. In 1737, after Turpin had shot one of his pursuers near a cave which he haunted in Epping Forest, he seems to have taken to stopping coaches and chaises at Holloway, and in the back lanes round Islington.

A gentleman telling him audaciously he had reigned long, Dick replied gaily, “Tis, no matter for that, I’m not afraid of being taken by you; so don’t stand hesitating, but stump up the cole.” Nevertheless, the gallows came at last to Dick.

And here I will leave the story of the first Simeon Grisdale. Whether his family had come with him to London or not his children were soon back in Hampshire. I will take up their story in part 2.

Holloway/Hornsey Area in 1819

Holloway/Hornsey Area in 1819

 

 

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Trying to uncover all our ancestral lines is a labour of love taking many years, even decades, particularly if you really wish to gain a full understanding of your ancestors’ lives and share them with others having the same family interests. It is this fuller understanding of the social and economic history that our family lived through that enthralls Stephen Lewis and has helped him to make some touching discoveries…

For some people filling in the pieces of our family tree jigsaw-puzzle is enough in itself. Yet most of us soon start to become enthralled by the social and economic history of our family, even if we previously had no interest in ‘history’ as we might have been taught it at school. What was life like for one of our ancestors, or his/her family, at a particular time and in a particular place? Why did one of our ancestors emigrate? Why did so many children die young? We literally want to put some flesh on our forebears. We want in some small way to bring some of them back to life, perhaps for the first time in centuries.

How can we do this? And, importantly, how can we communicate and share what we discover? What I‘d like to do is simply offer a few suggestions derived from my own efforts in researching and communicating the social history of parts of my own family. Some of the results can be found on my family history blog grisdalefamily.wordpress.com.

First we need to make choices, but don’t agonise too much about where to start. If you’re most fascinated by those of your ancestors bearing your own name then start there. On the other hand if you’re more interested in certain places where some of your ancestors lived then research that. Or perhaps start with just one person that you’d most like to bring back to life.

How much flesh we can put on the lives of particular ancestors or families will of course vary. If they were rich or famous, if they emigrated, joined the church or accomplished heroic deeds then the records of their lives will likely be more extensive. However, even if some or most of your ancestors left little trace of their lives, besides a few events and dates, you can still tell an interesting story.

Our ancestors’ landscape

A good starting point is to research geography. Physically what was the environment in which your ancestors lived? Was it a remote mountain community where people tended sheep? Was it a maritime port heaving with merchants, sailors and fishermen? Or perhaps it was an industrial town full of ‘dark satanic mills’? Try to find out what the physical environment was and how it changed and evolved, and why. Try to be precise. Where exactly was Dowthwaite Head Farm in Cumberland? What did it look like? What surrounded it? What was a particular Lancashire cotton mill really like? How had the surrounding environment changed? Understanding the places goes a long way to understanding the lives of our ancestors.

 Making a living

Geography links to my second suggestion. Research what your ancestors did to make a living. The records might reveal that someone was a ‘waller’, a ‘chalker’ or a ‘cotton bleacher’. What did these occupations really involve day to day – in terms of travel, health, income and the precariousness of existence? Mariners by definition travelled far and wide, as did wallers (though more locally), whereas ‘yeoman’ farmers usually stayed put. You might have no personal records of your ‘waller’ ancestor but you can still start to reconstruct their life from what is known of the lives of others with the same job.

Class & cash

The next thing to consider is the important fact of class. All societies at all times have been stratified. The rich and powerful try to hold on to their privileges and extend them wherever they can. The poor try to survive. The ‘middling-sort’ tries to move up or arrest a decline of their family. A family’s class and economic position and its dealings with other classes in the vicinity can tell us much about their likely lives, their hopes and their decisions. Were your ancestors forced to quit the land because of the centuries-long rapacious land enclosures in England, or the brutal highland clearances in Scotland? Who exactly was doing the enclosing or clearing and why? What were the consequences for your ancestors? Once you understand this you can often make sense of why, to use an example from my own family, a family moved from rural Cumberland to the Bolton cotton mills, emigrated to Canada or joined the military. People tend to make such big moves only when they have to. What pushed them to it?

 Making your research relevant

All of these things: geography, work, class and economics play out at the local level. But it’s also interesting to try to place these events in a wider national or international context. One of my own family members became an Army officer and died in Minorca in 1801. What in heaven’s name was the British Army doing in Minorca? My research turned up a very interesting story covering the time of Britain’s four-year ownership of the island. Another family member started life as a cotton bleacher in Bolton in Lancashire, became a missionary in India and ended up a bishop in the Canadian prairies. Researching this opened up the fascinating history not only of Britain and its empire but also the history of the Canadian West.

Such research will take you down paths you might otherwise never have ventured. The social, political and economic histories you discover will start to have a real relevance because they involved and affected specific people you know and care about. You don’t need vast libraries and certainly not historical training to do any of this; you can find a great deal of what you need on the internet. When I started to research and write stories about my own family, not only did it open up vast areas of social and political history I had never thought about before, but it also elicited many unexpected, illuminating and often touching responses from all over the world. I am sure it will do the same for you.

 

 

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“All you that in the condemned hole do lie, prepare you for tomorrow you shall die, the Lord above have mercy on your souls.” – Jailor every midnight at Newgate Prison

In August 1809 London pawnbroker John Annis was on board the convict ship Ann in Portsmouth harbour. He was probably extremely fearful about his imminent transportation to Australia. The convict ship was due to depart in only a few days and John had been sentenced at the Old Bailey in February to seven years transportation ‘beyond the seas’ for his felony of fraud. But just before the ship departed John’s fate changed. He had clearly been trying to get a pardon for his crime, and while this was being investigated the courts ordered him to be removed from the Ann and imprisoned him on the nearby prison hulk Captivity. This is John’s story, a story of impending doom to riches.

John was born in 1786 in Beaumont, Essex. His father was James Lash Annis, a well-to-do Essex gentleman farmer in Beaumont. The family had deep roots in Essex, as farmers and, before that, mariners. John’s father died while he was young but the family managed to procure him an apprenticeship as a pawnbroker in London in 1807 (or 1804) with a master pawnbroker called John Lucock. John was admitted to the freedom of the City of London. But then in November 1808 a London merchant called Thomas Pugh wanted to ship some goods to Antigua in the Caribbean on board a ship of the Muscovy Company.

The captain of the ship was a certain William Grisdale (see here). William suggested to Pugh that he use John Annis as his shipping broker. It seems young John was tempted to commit a bit of fraud. To cut a long story short, John severely undervalued the value of the shipment to the customs collectors in the London docks and then collected an inflated amount of custom’s taxes he should have paid, and said he had paid, from his client. But the customs’ inspectors checked the shipment and saw its real worth and John was arrested and imprisoned in the hell-hole of London’s Newgate Prison before being convicted of the felony at the Old Bailey and sentenced to seven years transportation. For the authorities the real crime was defrauding the taxman and not so much swindling his client. The transcript of his trial is reproduced at the end.

Inside Newgate Prison

Inside Newgate Prison

After his conviction John would have been returned to Newgate. We could say a lot about the squalor and horrors of Newgate, but it will suffice to use just a few words, those of Charles Dickens who visited the prison a little later:

A little farther on, a squalid-looking woman in a slovenly, thick- bordered cap, with her arms muffled in a large red shawl, the fringed ends of which straggled nearly to the bottom of a dirty white apron, was communicating some instructions to HER visitor – her daughter evidently. The girl was thinly clad, and shaking with the cold. Some ordinary word of recognition passed between her and her mother when she appeared at the grating, but neither hope, condolence, regret, nor affection was expressed on either side. The mother whispered her instructions, and the girl received them with her pinched-up, half-starved features twisted into an expression of careful cunning. It was some scheme for the woman’s defence that she was disclosing, perhaps; and a sullen smile came over the girl’s face for an instant, as if she were pleased: not so much at the probability of her mother’s liberation, as at the chance of her ‘getting off’ in spite of her prosecutors. The dialogue was soon concluded; and with the same careless indifference with which they had approached each other, the mother turned towards the inner end of the yard, and the girl to the gate at which she had entered.

The girl belonged to a class – unhappily but too extensive – the very existence of which should make men’s hearts bleed. Barely past her childhood, it required but a glance to discover that she was one of those children, born and bred in neglect and vice, who have never known what childhood is: who have never been taught to love and court a parent’s smile, or to dread a parent’s frown. The thousand nameless endearments of childhood, its gaiety and its innocence, are alike unknown to them. They have entered at once upon the stern realities and miseries of life, and to their better nature it is almost hopeless to appeal in after-times, by any of the references which will awaken, if it be only for a moment, some good feeling in ordinary bosoms, however corrupt they may have become. Talk to THEM of parental solicitude, the happy days of childhood, and the merry games of infancy! Tell them of hunger and the streets, beggary and stripes, the gin-shop, the station-house, and the pawnbroker’s, and they will understand you.

Note how the poor children Dickens saw would have been familiar with London’s pawnbrokers – John Annis was one.

The National Maritime Museum says that one of these two hulks was the Retribution

The National Maritime Museum says that one of these two hulks was the Retribution

John stayed in Newgate for the next five months before being transferred to the prison hulk Retribution, an old Spanish vessel, at Woolwich on the 22 July. The National Maritime Museum says that ‘during the first 20 years of their establishment (from about 1776) the hulks received around 8000 convicts. Almost one in four of these died on board. Hulk fever, a form of typhus that flourished in dirty crowded conditions, was rife, as was pulmonary tuberculosis’. In 1810 the notorious convict James Hardy Vaux was also a prisoner on the Retribution, he later wrote:

Every morning, at seven o’clock, all the convicts capable of work, or, in fact, all who are capable of getting into the boats, are taken ashore to the Warren, in which the royal arsenal and other public buildings are situated, and are there employed at various kinds of labour, some of them very fatiguing; and while so employed, each gang of sixteen, or twenty men, is watched and directed by a fellow called a guard. These guards are most commonly of the lowest class of human beings; wretches devoid of all feeling; ignorant in the extreme, brutal by nature, and rendered tyrannical and cruel by the consciousness of the power they possess; no others, but such as I have described, would hold the situation, their wages being not more than a day-labourer would earn in London. They invariably carry a large and ponderous stick, with which, without the smallest provocation, they will fell an unfortunate convict to the ground, and frequently repeat their blows long after the poor sufferer is insensible.

After a short time on the Retribution John was moved to Portsmouth to be ready for his transportation to Australia. He was first placed in the prison hulk Laurel. The Laurel was the Dutch ship Sirene, captured at the Battle of Saldanha Bay in South Africa in 1796. It was renamed HMS Daphne before being made a prison ship at Portsmouth in 1798.

A few days or a couple of weeks later John was moved again, this time to the convict ship Ann, ready for the long voyage to penal servitude in Australia. It is here that I started this story. John had obviously been trying to gain a pardon. It’s likely that he had enlisted his family and friends to help.

There were occasions in the course of the legal process when defendants might wish to petition the court about the conduct of their trial. Most importantly, convicted criminals often petitioned for a pardon or to have their punishment reduced, particularly if they had been sentenced to death, and often their friends, relatives, and neighbours sent petitions in support of their case. This was an important exercise, and frequently successful: around 60% of those sentenced to death in the eighteenth century, rising to over 90% in the 1830s, were pardoned. Petitions for pardons and to remit sentences were typically addressed to the monarch in the eighteenth century, and later to ministers. Officials then asked for a report on the case before it was discussed by ministers. During the nineteenth century the developing bureaucracy within the Home Office played an ever-increasing role in these discussions and decision-making. These different processes through time generated some valuable records.

A prison hulk in Portsmouth Harbour

A prison hulk in Portsmouth Harbour

I don’t know if John Annis petitioned the courts or the king, but whatever the case his pleas bore fruit. On 22 August 1809, just six days before the convict ship Ann departed for its long voyage to New South Wales, John was ‘received’ on board the Portsmouth prison hulk Captivity. In 1807 the prison reformer and Justice of the Peace James Neild had visited both the Laurel and the Captivity in Portsmouth.

‘Neild reported that conditions on the three hulks he visited at Portsmouth (Captivity, Laurel and the hospital-ship Sagesse) were better than many. The fit and healthy prisoners from the Captivity and Laurel were employed in the dock yards and if they worked well, received the dock-yard allowance of one biscuit, one pint of small beer and a half-penny worth of tobacco each day. Those unable to work, and the convalescents, spun oakum and cut wood, which was sold in parcels to the ships of war.’ He said that ‘the Laurel had a complement of 196 convicts at the time of his inspection, of which 94 slept on the lower deck. The upper deck was divided into 3 wards: “19 convicts in the fore ward, 26 in the middle and 57 in the aft ward, where the best behaved were placed”. He noted that contrary to the usual practice, he found every porthole on the Captivity and the Laurel open to provide good ventilation. Despite these markedly better conditions, deaths on board the hulks at Portsmouth were still common; about one death every month on the Captivity and one every second month on the Laurel.’

NSW Convict Chain Gang

NSW Convict Chain Gang

While the convict ship Ann was wending its way to Australia, where it arrived in Sydney (Port Jackson) on 27 February 1810, John Annis was still being held on the hulk Captivity waiting to hear if his efforts to secure a pardon would be met with success. They were and on 23 December the records tell us that he was granted a ‘conditional pardon’ and he was released.

It is interesting to note that when the Ann arrived in Sydney John’s name was still included in the passenger list but it was noted he had been ‘discharged’ in Portsmouth, which shows how near he had come to suffering the unhappy fate of so many others he would have known.

John’s ‘conditional pardon’ tells us two things. First, that his conviction hadn’t been reversed, he was still a convicted felon. Second, ‘conditional’ means, as the word implies, that conditions were put on his release. Often this meant that the pardoned prisoner had to agree to serve in the army or navy for some years. Whether this was what John had to do we don’t know.

No doubt relieved that he had been pardoned, John returned to his life as a pawnbroker in London. He probably swore to himself that after his lucky escape he wouldn’t be so stupid again and would stay on the right side of the law. As far as we know he did. The next thing we hear of John is four years later. On 19 December 1813 John married Mary Ann Parsons in St. Botolph in London’s Aldgate. In 1815 the couple had their only (or only surviving) child, a girl they christened Mary Ann after her mother. Twenty years later when Mary Ann was still legally a minor she married (with her father’s consent) another London pawnbroker called Robert Attenborough, their union produced many children who all became wealthy and successful on the back of both John Annis’s work and that of his fellow pawnbroker Robert Attenborough.

London Pawnbroker

London Pawnbroker

Returning to John, in the decades following his escape from transportation John would find himself on many occasions back in the Old Bailey, but now not as a criminal but as a juror or as a witness in several trials involving people being tried for stealing from him or trying to fence/sell stolen goods through his pawnbroking business.

I would just like to highlight the last of these trials which took place in 1846. It involved a recent German immigrant to London called Philip Wetzel who ‘was indicted for stealing 1 painting and frame, value £l, the goods of John Annis; and that he had been before convicted of felony’. This previous conviction ‘for burglariously breaking and entering’ had happened in April 1844 and Philip had been sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, so his next act of stealing from John Annis can’t have come much after his release. Philip had only arrived in London with his wife (about whom we know nothing) in March 1843, he was probably stealing to feed his family. In the trial of 1846 we are told that ‘the prisoner being a foreigner had the evidence communicated to him by an interpreter.’ The Old Bailey transcript is short enough to quote in full:

BENJAMIN HAZELDINE . I am in the service of Mr. John Annis, a pawnbroker—he lost an oil painting on Wednesday, the 17th of Dec.—this is it—the prisoner had been in the shop five minutes before we missed it.

JOHN LINSCOTT. I am a pawnbroker, and live at No. 105, High-street, Whitechapel. On the 17th of Dec. this painting was pawned by the prisoner for 10s.—he called again two days afterwards, and offered to sell the duplicate—he was then given into custody. Prisoner. It is the truth, I went to sell the ticket and was put in charge.

BENJAMIN HAZELDINE re-examined. This is the painting—it is the property of Mr. John Annis—it was lost from his shop in the Minories, about a quarter past nine o’clock in the morning, and was pawned at Mr. Linscott’s between three and four that afternoon. Prisoner’s Defence. A person gave it me; I do not know him by name; if I should see the man I should know him; he was a countryman, he wanted me to pawn it, and he would give me 1s.; being a poor man I went to pawn it; he gave me a sixpence and left me the ticket; I was in the gentleman’s shop and left two gentlemen and one woman in the shop.

BENJAMIN HAZELDINE re-examined. He offered to pawn a clarionet—there was no other person in the part of the shop where he was—there were other persons, but there is a partition across the shop which parted them.

PATRICK MANNING (police-constable H 160.) I produce a certificate of the prisoner’s former conviction, which I got at this Court—(Read—Convicted on 8th of April. 1844, of burglary, and confined eighteen months)—the prisoner is the man.

GUILTY. Aged 33. — Transported for Ten Years.

Before Edward Bullock, Esq.

Prisoners' Barracks in Hobart, Tasmania

Prisoners’ Barracks in Hobart, Tasmania

So just like John nearly forty years previously, poor German immigrant Philip Wetzel had been sentenced to transportation to Australia. But unlike John, Philip never got a pardon. His trial and sentencing had taken place on 5 January, but by 4 March (no doubt after shorts stays in Newgate prison and on a prison hulk) Philip was on his way from Portsmouth via Rio de Janeiro to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on the convict ship Lady Palmyra to serve out his sentence.

What happened to Philip when he arrived in Hobart in August is a mystery. He is listed among the convicts arriving, but although his name is there, there is no physical description of him, as there was for all the other convicts. Nor is there any record of his ‘indentures’ or ‘conduct’ as there is for all the other convicts on board the Lady Palmyra. Had he died? Had he escaped? I don’t know, but whatever the case his lot was not that of John Annis whose goods he had stolen.

What might John Annis have thought when he heard of Philip’s transportation, a fate he himself had so narrowly avoided? Who knows?

For most of his life John carried on his pawnbroking business at 121 Minories, on Sparrow’s Corner in the City of London, near the Tower of London, an area now covered with office blocks but at the time full of warehouses serving the docks. His business had thrived because not only did he own his house/business premises in the Minories but also owned at least one more house at 11 Greek Street in Soho, where in the 1850s and 1860s his tenant was his pawnbroker son-in-law Robert Attenborough. Shortly before his death in 1866 John had moved from the City of London to the more upmarket and salubrious area of St. John’s Wood, where he died an ‘Esquire’ at 15 Blenheim Road, leaving an estate of ‘under £20,000’ – a fortune in those days.

I don’t have John’s will but I guess most of his wealth was left to his daughter Mary Ann Attenborough. The evidence seems to indicate that although John might have helped helped his son-in-law Robert Attenborough start in the pawnbroking business Robert already had enough connections to the pawnbroking world: his uncle Richard was already a London pawnbroker and two of his brothers became so too; they weren’t the only ones, pawnbroking runs through this whole Attenborough family.

Haydon Hill House

Haydon Hill House

In 1841, after his wedding and the birth of his first children, Robert had for a while returned to his native Northamptonshire to work as a ‘labourer’ on his father’s farm. But Robert and his family were soon back in London carrying on his pawnbroking and silversmithing business, first In Charlotte Street and then, as John Annis’s tenant, in Greek Street. They became rich and moved to a grand house at 56 Avenue Road on Regent’s Park, where they had governesses, footmen, cooks, parlour-maids and housemaids a plenty. When Robert Attenborough died in 1892 he left the sum of £74,255! His son Robert Percy had followed his father into the pawnbroking business and eventually lived in splendour at Haydon Hill House near Watford in Hertfordshire. Another son Walter Annis was a barrister and a third son, Stanley James, a solicitor.

All of Robert Attenborough’s and Mary Ann Annis’s children did well; they and their descendants became wealthy members of Britain’s commercial, legal and military elite. I wonder whether they knew (or know) that if John Annis had not been reprieved at the last moment and had been transported to Australia it all would never had happened? And as this is a Grisdale family blog, what if Captain William Grisdale had not recommended John Annis to act as Thomas Pugh’s shipping broker in 1808 – what then?

The transcript of John Annis’s Old Bailey trial on 18 February 1809.

Old Bailey in 1809

Old Bailey in 1809

JOHN ANNIS was indicted for a misdemeanor . The case was stated by Mr. Knapp.

THOMAS PUGH. I live on the Pavement, Moorfields, in the city of London.

Q. In the month of November last had you occasion to export any articles to Antigua in the West Indies – A. Yes; on board the Russia Company, captain Grisdale; I employed the defendant as my shipping broker , in consequence of the captain’s recommendation; this was about the 5th of November.

Q. Where did you give Annis instructions to enter your goods – A. At Lloyd’s coffee house.

Q. As shipping broker it would be his duty to make the entry of the goods – A. I understood so.

Q. Did you give him, at the time he made the entry, a list of the goods that he was to enter – A. Yes.

Q. Was that list that you so gave to the defendant copied from that I give to you – A. It was, with the exception of one article of forty pounds. (The paper read.)

COURT. How much do it make in all – A. Four hundred and forty pounds sixteen shillings.

Q. One article, 5 T H, the sum was not put down in the paper that you gave him – A. No, it was not. I said to him there were several articles in that trunk, he must put down what was necessary.

Q. Did he, from your dictation, put down the articles in that trunk – A. He did; I told him what value to put upon that trunk; forty pounds. Q. Therefore then it became a complete copy of this – A. Yes, it did.

Q. After you had given him these instructions did you yourself take the goods to the West India docks – A. I did; he said he would meet me there if he could. On Tuesday the 5th of November I took the goods; I did not find him there; I left the goods there.

Q. How soon after did you see him – A. I think, to the best of my recollection, I did not see him till Saturday the 12th, he came to me at my house in Moorfields, he came into the shop; he said he brought his little bill and put it down on the counter.

Q. Is that the bill which he brought to you – A. Yes, that is it. (The bill read.) “London, November 9th, 1808, Mr. Pugh to John Annis , nine shillings and six pence convoy duty on three hundred and thirty four pound; thirteen pounds eight shillings commission on three hundred and ninety four pounds sixteen shillings; and two pounds, making a total of fifteen pounds sixteen shillings and six pence; settled, John Annis .”

Q. At the time that he produced this to you did you make any observation of convoy duty three hundred and thirty four pounds sixteen shillings, and commission three hundred and ninety four pounds sixteen shillings – A. Yes, I did; he said the commission was always paid upon the whole sum, though the duty was not; the linen and cotton went free.

Q. Upon his stating this to you did you give him any money – A. Yes; I paid him the amount; I paid him eleven pounds in notes, four guineas and a half in gold, half a crown, and six pence; I believe I asked him where the paper was that I had given him to enter the goods by; he said he had mislaid it; I asked him if the business was done, and how it came to be so long before it was done, and whether they were put on board; he said no, they were not, but that they should be done, that he would go down to the docks that morning and get them on board.

COURT. Did he say the entry was made – A. He had charged the entry; he told me that the goods were not put on board, but he would take care and put them on board that morning; this was Saturday the 12th of November; I told him I wanted to see him again, and where I should see him; he said he would meet me at Lloyd’s that day at four o’clock; I met him that day at Lloyd’s, I asked him if the business was done; he said no, some part of them was opened; I said for God’s sake, for what reason; he told me to be quiet and easy and all would be well about them, that he should see me again on Monday, he would give me a better account of them. Mr. Gurney. Did anything then pass about the entry – A. No, nothing at all. On Monday the 14th of November we met again at Lloyd’s, I asked him if they were then put on board the ship: he said no, they were not, but that all but the linen were stopped and opened; I said it was very odd they should be opened, for what reason: he said be still and quiet, and if nothing was said to them it should all be right again; I told him I could not think of any reason why they should be stopped; he told me if I would be quiet he would put all to rights again.

Q. How soon did you meet him again – A. I saw him again at the custom house; I went down to the custom house and enquired about the goods; that was on Wednesday the 16th I saw him again.

Q. Did you find that your goods had been stopped – A. I found that they had been seized by the officer. Q. Was it stated in the prisoner’s presence on what ground they had been seized – A. No, I believe not.

MR. MILLER. Q. You are a collector of customs for the port of London; of the customs outward for the port of London – A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember the defendant, Annis, coming to make any entry of goods on the 11th of November last – A. No, I cannot; I have some hundreds come to me on a day.

Q. Look at this paper – A. This is my hand writing.

Q. You saw that signed – A. I dare say I did; I believe it to be signed in my presence.

Q. This is a declaration of the value of the goods for the purpose of exportation, for what purpose is that entry made – A. For the several duties; one in the middle is the convoy duty upon that entry; I cannot speak to that. Mr. Const. That is your hand writing, that is all you prove – A. Yes.

Q. When the defendant made an entry of this before you, he put the value of the goods, you put the charge from the value of the goods – A. Yes; the exporter makes it out and I sign it; that is my hand writing.

MRS. FAVEY. Q. Have you had any opportunity of knowing the defendant, Annis’s, hand writing – look at that and see whether you believe that to be his hand writing – A. I did not see him write it; I believe it to be his hand writing.

Q. Look at that and tell me also whether you believe that to be his hand writing – A. I believe that to be his hand writing.

Q. Now look at that, that is another paper, do you believe that to be his hand writing – A. I cannot say as to that; I do not think that to be his hand writing. (The receipt read.) “Russia Company, William Grisdale, Antigua, British bottom; John Annis; Irish linen, one hundred and twenty five pounds; two hundred weight of wrought iron, wearing apparel in packages, total value sixty nine pounds ten shillings; I, John Annis, do declare that I enter the said goods, value sixty nine pounds ten shillings; witness my hand, John Annis; signed in the presence of J. Miller.”

JOSHUA STURTING CROSSLEY. Q. I believe you are one of the searchers of the customs for the port of London – A. I am.

Q. Is this the copy of the entry of these goods for Mr. Pugh, that was entered, shipped on board the Russia Company – A. It is. (The entry read.) Total value sixty nine pounds ten shillings; signed John Annis.

JOHN DODSON. Q. Did you receive the convoy duty on these goods – A. I did. Q. That is at the rate of four per cent – A. It is.

Q. What is the sum received – A. Two pounds sixteen shillings as the duty upon the value of sixty nine pounds ten shillings. Q. You received the money of whom – A. That I cannot tell. I signed the receipt at the time.

Q. Did you receive any other money upon these goods than that two pounds sixteen shillings – A. Not upon the account of these goods. Mr. Alley. What is the date of that – A. The 8th of November, 1808. The cotton went duty free. Mr. Const. What did this case contain – A. Wearing apparel and leather, sixty nine pounds ten shillings.

Q. Is there anything upon the face of that of three hundred and sixty four pounds eight shillings – A. Not at all. Mr. Gurney. Does that paper contain the marks of all the packages to be shipped on board – is there not the mark of every article – A. There is.

Q. The person that exports he declares the value so declared – A. He does, he pays upon the warrant; I have only received for the value of sixty nine pounds ten shillings and no more.

Q. to Crossley. You told me before you were one of the searchers – A. I am.

Q. Did you search the goods that are contained in that declaration – A. I did.

Q. Marked in the described there – A. Justly so.

Q. Did you observe the sum in which they were entered – A. I did, sixty nine pounds ten shillings.

Q. In consequence of the smallness of that value did you open the goods – A. I did, and I found them to be of large value.

Q. What did you find the real value of these goods entered sixty nine pounds ten shillings – A. Perhaps three or four hundred pounds, or more; vastly exceeding the entry; I thereupon seized them.

Q. After you had so seized them did Mr. Annis come to you – A. He did, and his excuse was that in the hurry of business he had committed the error.

Q. You knew he was a person acting as a shipping broker – A. I never saw him before this transaction. Mrs. Favey. I believe you shipped some goods on board the Russia Company, and employed Annis to ship them as broker – A. Yes.

Q. I want to know whether the articles A. F. a trunk of ironmongery and sadlery were your property – A. That was my property; he entered it as ironmongery; they was shoes.

Q. Upon forty nine pounds ten shillings the duty would be two pounds would it – A. Yes.

Transported for Seven Years.

London jury, before Mr. Justice Heath.

 

West Ham United is perhaps the most London of London’s football clubs. So how was it that the chairman of the club at the time of its move to Upton Park in 1904 was a Liverpudlian called Joseph Grisdale? And what did Joseph have in common with the club’s nickname of ‘The Hammers’?

Founded on Iron

Founded on Iron

Success in families ebbs and flows. Some improve their educational and financial position. Some, through ill luck or indolence, slip down the ladder. This is the story of one man who was on the up: Joseph Grisdale. Through hard work, and quite probably with a bit of luck as well, Joseph rose from his comparatively simple origins in Liverpool’s docklands to become Chairman of West Ham Football Club in London’s East End, before being able to retire in comfort to bucolic Hampshire.

Joseph was born in Liverpool’s docklands in 1857. He was the son of mariner Matthew Grisdale and his wife Sarah Tickle. Matthew was the grandson of another Matthew, a Lake District man who had made a fortune as a corn merchant in the late eighteenth century in the then thriving Cumberland port of Whitehaven. Matthew Senior’s son Thomas became a pawnbroker, first in Dublin and later in Liverpool. He died in Liverpool 1856.

Liverpool Docks

Liverpool Docks

Because of the family’s many maritime connections in both Whitehaven and Liverpool, Matthew Junior (i.e. Thomas’s son and Joseph’s father) became a mariner (Thomas’s first Dublin-born son Joseph became a China Tea Clipper Captain and died in Shanghai in 1859). When Matthew married Sarah in 1856, he is listed as a ‘mariner’ and when Joseph was born the next year he gave his occupation as a ‘ship’s steward’. By 1861 Matthew had, at least temporarily, left the sea and was working on land as a ‘labourer’ and living in Plumb Street Court. Ten years later, in 1871, he was an ‘engine driver’. Matthew probably alternated periods at sea with periods on land, because at the time of the births of some of his later children his occupation was once again given as ‘mariner’. It would be nice to know a little more about Matthew’s life, as when his son Joseph married in early 1878 Matthew was said to be a ‘Gentleman’, and when he died later in the same year he left the tidy sum of ‘under’ £3,000 in his will.

Thames Ironworks Foundry

Thames Ironworks Foundry

Let us return to the subject of this article, namely Matthew’s son Joseph. Somehow and somewhere both Joseph and (later) his younger brother Lowther were apprenticed as coppersmiths in the shipbuilding industry – probably in Liverpool. Joseph married mariner’s daughter Annie McKenzie in Everton in January 1871 when he was already a coppersmith. His younger brother Lowther would marry Annie’s sister Mary Elizabeth McKenzie in 1888 in London. Sometime after his father’s death, Joseph moved from Liverpool to West Ham in London’s East End. Somehow he had got work as a coppersmith in the massive Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding and Engineering Company. Maybe someone from the yard had come to Liverpool looking for skilled men or perhaps Joseph had heard of the opportunities another way.

Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding

Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding

Whatever the case, by 1881 Joseph was living with his wife Annie, daughter Frances and his mother-in-law Catherine McKenzie and her daughter Mary (Lowther’s future wife) at 14 Lennox Street in London’s grim but vibrant East End. Joseph and Annie were to have seven more children in London before Annie died in 1901; Joseph married again the next year. The family had moved to nearby Newman Street by 1891, then by 1901 to Barking Road – all places near Joseph’s workplace. By 1891 Joseph’s brother Lowther and his new family had joined Joseph in London and the two brothers and two sisters lived and worked together.

The Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company had been founded in 1837 and by the later 1800s ‘it was the largest shipbuilder on the Thames, its premises described by the Mechanics Magazine in 1861 as “Leviathan Workshops”’

HMS Sans Pareil - Ready for Launch

HMS Sans Pareil – Ready for Launch

During its existence, from its start in 1837 until competition from northern English shipyards forced its eventual closure in 1912, the yard built 144 warships and numerous other vessels. We can perhaps envisage the type of work Joseph had to do as a coppersmith if we think about all the copper pieces, boilers and pipes used in ships and ships’ engines at that time. Among the many ships Joseph undoubtedly helped to build was the HMS Sans Pareil, a 10,470 ton battleship launched in 1887.

Arnold Hills

Arnold Hills

From the later 1800s the yard’s ‘workforce was very much under the control of the managing director, Arnold Hills. His approach to industrial relations was that of the enlightened patriarch. He did not always agree with his employees, however, and his support for the firm’s right to employ non-union men was deeply unpopular’. There were strikes and Hills was ‘hissed’ by his own workmen as he entered the yard. He decided that better labour relations were needed and ‘in 1892 he put forward a ‘Good Fellowship scheme’ of bonuses on top of standard wage rates. Two years later a working day of eight hours rather than nine was introduced.’ This was at a time when 10 or even 12 hour days were the norm.

As well as promoting shorter working hours and profit-sharing, Hills encouraged his workers to become involved in the company sports and social activities. He spent a lot of time and money on the formation of works clubs of every kind. These included a temperance league, cycling club, cricket club and brass band.

And so we come to football. In 1895, at the instigation of Hills and foreman and referee Dave Taylor, a works’ football team was formed. The Thames Ironworks Gazette announced: ‘Mr. Taylor, who is working in the shipbuilding department, has undertaken to get up a football club for next winter and I learn that quoits and bowls will also be added to the attractions.’

Syd King, one of the first players and later a long-serving manager of West Ham, wrote about the formation of the club:

In the summer of 1895, when the clanging of “hammers” was heard on the banks of Father Thames and the great warships were rearing their heads above the Victoria Dock Road, a few enthusiasts, with the love of football within them, were talking about the grand old game and the formation of a club for the workers of the Thames Iron Works Limited. There were platers and riveters in the Limited who had chased the big ball in the north country. There were men among them who had learned to give the subtle pass and to urge the leather goal wards. No thought of professionalism, I may say, was ever contemplated by the founders. They meant to run their club on amateur lines and their first principal was to choose their team from men in the works.

Thames Ironworks Team 1895

Thames Ironworks Team 1895

‘The team played on a strictly amateur basis for 1895 at least, with a team featuring a number of works employees including Thomas Freeman (ships fireman), Walter Parks (clerk), Tom Mundy, Walter Tranter and James Lindsay (all boilermakers), William Chapman, George Sage, and William Chamberlain and apprentice riveter Charlie Dove.’

The team initially played in full dark blue kits, as inspired by Mr. Hills, who had been an Oxford University “Blue”, but changed the following season by adopting the sky blue shirts and white shorts combination worn through 1897 to 1899. In 1899 they acquired their now traditional home kit combination of claret shirts and sky blue sleeves in a wager involving Aston Villa players, who were League Champions at the time.

In 1900 Thames Ironworks F.C. was disbanded and was re-launched as West Ham United F.C.

Because of the original “works team” roots and links (still represented upon the club badge), they are still known to this day as ‘the Irons’ or ‘the Hammers’ amongst fans and the media.

Joseph Grisdale - Chairman

Joseph Grisdale – Chairman

Joseph Grisdale was probably too old to have played in the works’ team, even if he might have been one of those who Syd King said ‘had chased the big ball in the north country’. But he was no doubt involved in some way because in 1901, when the team was still playing matches at the Memorial Ground in Plaistow, Joseph was made a Director of the club. When West Ham United moved to Upton Park in 1904, Joseph became Chairman of the club, a position he would hold until 1909.

As mentioned, West Ham United F.C. got its name The Hammers due to its origins in shipbuilding. Many of the early players were ‘metal-bashers’, as was Joseph the coppersmith.

Perhaps Joseph was better rewarded for his chairmanship of West Ham than he was for his work in the shipbuilding yard? Whatever the case, he obviously did make a little money as by 1911 he was able to move the family to the slightly leafier London suburb of Woodford Green where he became a self employed ship repairer and an ‘employer’. Perhaps he had been laid off before the demise of the Thames Ironworks yard?

Sarisbury, Hampshire

Sarisbury, Hampshire

It could be that Joseph continued to work as a coppersmith and a ship repairer during the First World War (there was certainly a demand for his skills), but what we know for certain is that sometime before 1921 he had been able to retire with his family to the pretty rural location of Holly Nook in Sarisbury in bucolic Hampshire. Certainly and literally a breath of fresh air! He died there in June 1921 leaving £7,490 in his will.

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.

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.

In the early nineteenth-century Hartsop Hall in Patterdale was owned by the Earl of Lonsdale but farmed by yeoman Robert Grisdale, whose family had made the short trip from Dockray in Matterdale to the Patterdale area about a hundred years before. The hall ‘is a very old building’ and ‘was once the seat of a distinguished family, whose arms at one time were to be seen above the doorway’. In 1903, the Rev W. P. Morris, the Rector of Patterdale, wrote: ‘The Lancasters of Sockbridge, one of whom was Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, held the lands round about Hartsop in the early part of the seventeenth-century. Sir John Lowther acquired the property by marriage, and his descendant, the present Earl of Lonsdale, is now lord of the manor of Hartsop.’ Morris continues:

There is a right of way through the house. It was into this house that the notorious gang of burglars attempted to enter with the intention of murdering the whole family. These desperadoes were the terror not only of the neighbourhood of Patterdale, but also in and about Penrith.

Hartsop Hall, Patterdale

Hartsop Hall, Patterdale

No more information is given regarding the gang’s ‘intention of murdering the whole family’, but Morris adds: ‘Robert Grisdale, the then farmer, was one night riding home on horseback from Cockermouth when he was accosted by two of them when coming through Dockray. He at once perceived what their intentions were, but he showed them his pistol and galloped home in safety. It was not considered safe for any person to be out when darkness had set in. The gang consisted of four men, who went about wearing masks and carrying rifles and pistols.’

Morris briefly tells of how the gang was caught, but there is a much fuller and more colourful account given in 1894 by William Furness in his History of Penrith from the Earliest Record to the Present Time. I will quote it in full:

‘A notorious gang of highwaymen and burglars infested the neighbourhood in the early years of the century, and were the terror of the country people, especially those of the villages west and south of Penrith. The names were John Woof, (Woof was taught to thieve by his mother, who put him through a staircase window, at Melkinthorpe, to rob a poor old woman of a few shilling she had saved.) Melkinthorpe; William Armstrong, Eamont Bridge; John Little alias Sowerby, Clifton Dykes; and William Tweddle, Penrith. Woof was a small farmer, Armstrong a labourer, Sowerby a swill maker, and Tweedle a labourer. For eighteen months prior to their arrest scarcely a Tuesday passed but some person, returning from Penrith market, was robbed, and in some instances left bleeding and senseless on the highway, for these scoundrels were not deterred from employing any ruffianly violence to secure their object. They went so far, in one case at least, as to dig a grave beforehand for their intended victim. This was done in Bessy Ghyll Wood, near Thrimby, for a farmer, who was attending Shap fair, and was expected to have a good sum of money with him, as a result of his sales. They had stretched a wire across the road just high enough to drag a rider from his horse, and lay waiting for their victim. Not appearing about the time that they had calculated he should, they went off in search of him. In the meantime, the farmer had providentially remembered that he had a call to make at Little Strickland, and therefore turned off the main road at Shap Beck Gate, to gain his home and make his call on the way. He had barely made his call when he found the attentions of several men were being paid him. Guessing who these individuals were, he put spurs to his steed to widen the distance between himself and his pursuers, that he might have time to open the gates that lay between him and Sheriff Park farm house. The fold gate was gained, but his pursuers were almost upon him, when a lucky idea entered his head and was instantly acted upon. He called for help, which was at one replied to, and his pursuers stopped short; he opened the gate, roused the household, and was safe. Little did these desperadoes think that the farmer both called for help and replied to the call – but in a changed voice.

Burglaries also were of common occurrence, and were carried out by masked men armed with swords and pistols.

Dockray - where Robert's family came from and where he met the robbers

Dockray – where Robert’s family came from and where he met the robbers

Under these circumstances it was considered unsafe for any man, known to have money upon him, to be out after nightfall. The occupants of houses in lonely and secluded places feared to retire to rest, unless they had a good staff of servants and plenty of defensive weapons. Least the burglars should surprise them in the night. No wonder then that the whole district was terror stricken, and that the country people hurried home form market before darkness and robbers overtook them. A relative of the writer, living at Gowbarrow Hall, had been to the Market, at Penrith, and was returning, on horseback, in the evening, when he was accosted by four men, near to Tynefield, who demanded his “money or his life”. Finding one man at this horses bridle, one on each side of him, and one on the look-out, he quietly handed up his pocket book, and was allowed to proceed, after being asked if he knew them, and made a promise that he would not follow them nor prosecute them at the imminent peril of being shot. Thinking they might be disappointed with the contents of the book, as he had only part of his cash in it, and that they might pursue and murder him in the road home, he turned in at the Bee Hive Inn, Eamont Bridge, and ordered stabling for his horse for the night, and a bed for himself, and comfortably placed himself in a cosy seat in the chimney corner. He had not been long there when amongst those who dropped in he recognised one of his assailants, who not recognising the person in the corner seat, forthwith began to tell of the latest robbery by the brutal gang of masked robbers. This ruse was adopted by the whole four, at their various resorts, to throw off suspicion from themselves, and to get to know what the public opinion of the robbers was. A price was put upon the robbers, and advertisements proclaimed the reward for their apprehension, but to no effect.

The alarm in Penrith was so great that the inhabitants voluntarily revived the “Watch and Ward” to guard the town, as in the days of border warfare. A list of names was published of householders who were willing to act, and everyone on the list served in turn, except a few gentlemen and few women householders, who obtained substitutes at 2s.6d. per night. The watchers were four each night and their rendezvous was the Ship marketing room. Each watchman, while on duty, was supplied with a rattle, and armed with a bludgeon.

Old Penrith

Old Penrith

The detection and apprehension of the gang was due Mt T Robinson, of Kings Meaburn, who had been robbed by them and beaten on the highway, but recognised one of the gang as William Tweddle, who was immediately arrested, at Penrith, and lodged in the House of Correction. This member of the gang, fearing the consequences to his own neck, turned King’s evidence and disclosed the whole proceedings of the gang. This led to the immediate arrest of Woof and Armstrong, (As Armstrong was being taken to the House of Correction, he was seen by an acquaintance named Mary Bowerbank, who accosted him thus: “I’se sorry to see thee theer, Will.” He replied: “I’ll sune clear mesel, Mary, me lass.” This incident shows how little he was suspected by neighbours and acquaintances.) But Sowerby, hearing of Tweddle’s apprehension and confession, escaped to Newcastle, where he was subsequently arrested, passing himself off as John Smith. Sowerby, Woof, and Armstrong were committed to the Assizes at Carlisle held in August 1820.

The charges against these men were numerous, but the only one they were tried upon for “burglarously breaking and entering the house of John Wilson, of Soulby, in the parish of Dacre, about ten o’clock on the night of 22ndDecember, 1819, and taking therefrom five notes of the value of £1. Or one guinea each, and four webs of cloth, the property of the said John Wilson.” Mr Rain, who acted for the prosecution, having briefly stated the case to the jury, proceeded to call witnesses. The first was Margaret Wilson, who stated that she was “wife of John Wilson; lived at Soulby, a lone house about a quarter of the mile from all others. A man came to the house on the night of 22ndDecember, and asked his way to Mark’s; others came after, and made a noise’ this was about ten o’clock. She asked what they wanted, and they said the £100 which her husband had got form the bank at Penrith, the day before. She said it was not there; they said it was, and would have it, and if she did not immediately open the door they would blow her brains out. She begged of them not to be so rough; said her daughter would give them what money they had out of the window; they replied they would not have it that way, and if they did not open the door it would be worse for them, as they knew how to get in. Witness’s husband went down, thinking it would be better, as they could make no resistance. She then opened the door. When four men rushed in; three had on smock-frocks, the fourth had on a coloured overcoat; two had pistols, two swords, and they all wore masks, but could not say what kind they were. They then asked for money, and her daughter gave them her husband’s pocket book, which contained five notes. They asked for the £100; she said her husband had left it at Penrith. They asked for the keys, and got them, and her daughter Mary went upstairs with two of them, and the other drove the family up. Her daughter did not see any of them, as she was ill in bed, but the servant saw them. Two of them searched the drawers and took 20s. in silver; they then went into another room where a chest was standing locked. They ordered her to open it, or they would break it open. They then took out three webs of linen cloth, three of tow, and one of line; then they proceeded to the servant’s room, searched her box, and took out what silver there was – 7s, or 8s. They asked her what she had been doing thirty years, to have no more than that. They took her umbrella, and went downstairs, and asked for four bottles of rum. She said she had none, and then asked if she had no liquor; she said, perhaps a little gin, and went into the parlour to get it, when two men followed her. When she took out the gin, the two reached over and took two bottles of wine and another took the gin. They then went in to the kitchen and asked for ale; she went to bring a bottle, when one of them followed her, and took another. They then demanded bread and cheese, and got it. Previous to their departure, one of them presented a sword to her breast, and drew it across her neck, as an obligation of an oath that they had got all there was in the house, and said if she would give them more money they would give back the webs; but she again said they had got all that came from Penrith. One of them asked her daughter if she knew them; to which she replied, she did not know whether she had seen them before; and he added, ‘No! and I hope you never will again.’ One of them said, on going away: ‘Go night, Mrs Wilson; we know you well enough.’ They ordered the family no to leave the house till morning. She found that two of the doors were fastened also. They made endeavours to get out, but could not, and it was eight o’clock in the morning when they were let out by a servant man.”

William Tweddle was then called, and corroborated Mrs Wilson’s evidence as to the robbery, He further said he “had known Armstrong since they were boys, Little about two years, and Woof since a boy, but the last two or three years in particular. Remembered going to Wilson’s. Armstrong proposed it, as it was likely house to get money. Woof had no mask, but the rest had black ones. Woof had nothing to disguise his face with his coat. After leaving the Wilson’s they went to Little’s house, at Clifton Dykes, where, with the assistance of Little’s wife, the booty was equally divided. He gave the information after being apprehended for stopping Thomas Robinson, of King’s Meaburn.”

James Anderson, constable, Penrith, stated that “in consequence of the information he got from Tweedle, he went to the house where Woof got his meat, and in a box, which the mistress of the house said was his, he found some pieces of cloth, one of which was marked with the words ‘John Wilson: 47 yards.’”

Several other witnesses gave corroborative evidence, after which the judge summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The judge, in sentencing them to death, held out no hope of mercy.

Carlisle English Gate and Old Gaol

Carlisle English Gate and Old Gaol

They occupied one cell, between the condemnation and execution, and their behaviour during these days was of a shocking character. The execution – the last at the old gaol – took place on Saturday September 2nd, 1820, at the south angle of the gaol. Even at the gallows they behaved unseemly, and one of them spat in the face of the executioner. (The librarian at the Free Library, Mr John Stuart, witnesses their execution, and distinctly remembers it, though he was but a lad at the time, and witnessed the scene from his father’s shoulder.)

Tweedle was transported to Van Diemen’s Land, and eventually joined a gang of desperados, and is said to have come to a violent end. (The story of Tweedle runs thus: Having got clear away into the bush he joined a gang of freebooters. Some time afterwards, in their leisure time, the gang were recounting their deeds which expatriated them from the old country, and Tweedle was called upon for his story. After recounting his exploits which his comrades, he told of their capture and the execution of three of this gang, whilst he escaped hanging, and was transported, because he turned King’s evidence. “Traitor,” cried the whole gang, and the captain said “since he had escaped his just deserts at home, and they could not tolerate a traitor amongst them, he must suffer the traitor’s doom.” Then the gang seized him and hanged him on the nearest tree.)

Bound For Van Diemen's Land

Bound For Van Diemen’s Land

Armstrong’s sister witnessed the execution, and afterwards begged the body of her brother, which she placed in a cart she had provided for the purpose, and brought it to Barton to bury. The malefactor’s body was exhibited, by the sister, at the public houses between Carlisle and Penrith, to anyone who would pay a penny for the sight, which hundreds did. It is said that when the body was buried in Barton Churchyard, a gap was made in the wall to let the procession into the churchyard, as it could not be permitted to enter by the gate. This act speaks of the superstition of the age.’

From its early days in Dowthwaite Head around 1500, the Grisdale family inexorably grew and spread out. Even in the sixteenth century members of the family had started to work and farm throughout the valley of Matterdale, and even further afield. They moved for instance to Hollas (Hollows), as well as to Matterdale End, Dockray, Crookwath, Mills, Ulcatrow and to nearby parishes such as Keswick and Threlkeld (to name just two). Some even ventured to London. In the eighteenth century they started to move to Penrith, Kendal, Carlisle, Patterdale and elsewhere, as well as to Lancashire and Yorkshire. And so it went on. By the nineteenth century the family started to emigrate overseas: to Canada, the United States, Australia, India and even South Africa. Many of the articles on this blog have been concerned with such families.

Dowthwaite Head Farm

Dowthwaite Head Farm

One of the upshots of this century-long process of birth and emigration has been that the number of people carrying the Grisdale name in Matterdale itself has fluctuated enormously. I hope to be able to provide some estimates of numbers in the future. But what is abundantly clear is that starting with maybe just 5 to 10 Grisdales in Dowthwaite Head in the early years of the sixteenth century, the family grew rapidly. During the seventeenth century and much of the eighteenth, the Grisdales were, it seems, everywhere. They were one of the most numerous and influential families in the valley. They were mostly yeomen farmers, but the family also produced innumerable clergymen (some famous, most not), some entrepreneurs who became rich, while, naturally, many joined the army.

Yet by the time we reach the late eighteenth century the exodus from Matterdale had really heated up; spurred it should be said by the on-going land grab called the ‘enclosures’. My own Grisdale family left Matterdale in around 1810-1815 and settled  in nearby Penrith. As the decades passed, more and more Grisdale families gradually left, until in 1891 there was only one person called Grisdale still living in Matterdale. He bore the common family name Solomon. Of course it wasn’t that there  weren’t many other people still in Matterdale who were descended from the hundreds of Grisdales who had lived in the valley for the last 500 years, there were. But in 1891 the 23 year old Solomon Grisdale was the last to carry the name.

Solomon was born in 1868 and christened on 22 September in Matterdale church. He was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Grisdale (born 1842), who was herself the illegitimate daughter of Ann (born 1818). Ann was the first of nine children of the well-to-do Dockray yeoman farmer Solomon Grisdale and his wife Elizabeth Wilson. I won’t here tell the story of these two illegitimate births except to say that historically, while such births outside wedlock were not unheard off, they were in this family very rare. This family were descended from Joseph Grisdale (1687-1750) and Jane Martin (1687-1769), who were also yeoman farmers in Dockray, and from whom so many of the people I have discussed in this blog are also descended. Of course before that the family can be traced back to Dowthwaite Head.

At first Solomon’s mother Elizabeth had continued to live with her new son on the farm of her grandmother Elizabeth, with other members of the family. Solomon Senior had died in 1866. In 1878, when Solomon was ten, his mother married a Yorkshire road contractor called John Raine, and in 1881 the family were living just outside Dockray at High Row. They were still there ten years later and the 23 year-old Solomon was a labourer working building roads with his stepfather. By now, as I have said, Solomon was the only Grisdale in Matterdale.

In 1896 Solomon married Harriot Nicholson in the Church of All Saints in next door Watermillock. He was a ‘main road foreman’ or ‘contractor’ in his own right. The couple lived in Dockray and two children followed: Thomas in 1897 and Laura in 1905 (there may have been others who died young).

And here, finally, we do come to the last of the Matterdale Grisdales, for Thomas and Laura were the very last.

Matterdale Old School

Matterdale Old School

It is interesting to consider that both Thomas and Laura were christened in Matterdale church, a place with so many connections with the Grisdale family going back to the 1580s. Thomas would also have attended the old Matterdale School, founded in 1722 by the Rev. Dr. Robert Grisdale.

What became of them? Well their stories are very different.

Solomon decided that there were probably better opportunities for road building in the Cumberland town of Cockermouth than there were in rural Matterdale. He took his family there soon after 1905. A third child called Percy was born there in 1908, followed in 1919 by a daughter Edna. The family lived at ‘2 The Laurels’ until their death many years later. Would Solomon have known that just around corner the rather grand Cockermouth house now called Wordsworth House, where the poet William Wordsworth was born, had been bought with Grisdale money? I guess not.

Some of the 5th Battlion the Border Regiment in France

Some of the 5th Battlion the Border Regiment in France

Once Thomas was old enough he started to work with his father building roads. By 1915, when he was only 18, he had progressed to be an ‘Assistant Surveyor’. But Thomas had the misfortune to be born when he was. He was just coming to adulthood when the Great War broke out. Like countless millions of others throughout Europe, Thomas Grisdale volunteered to join the army. He enlisted in Cockermouth in the 5th Battalion of the Border Regiment on the 22nd November 1915. He had just turned eighteen. After some months training he was shipped from  Southampton to France on 6 May 1916. I won’t tell of Thomas’s military life here. Suffice it to say that he fought in many of the important battles of the Great War over the course of the next two years. After being wounded in September 1916 he spent some time recovering back in England, but he was soon back in the trenches in March 1917. After fighting at Paschendale, in March 1918 Thomas’s regiment found itself ‘based at Roisel, working on road and tramway construction and building large dug outs at Templeux’. This was unfortunate because this was where and  when the German army had planned a huge attack, now called the Kaiser’s Battle, which started on the 21st of March

On March 21, 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40 am on March 21. The bombardment hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours…

Although the British had learned the approximate time and location of the offensive, the weight of the attack and of the preliminary bombardment was an unpleasant surprise. The Germans were also fortunate in that the morning of the attack was foggy, allowing the storm troopers leading the attack to penetrate deep into the British positions undetected.

By the end of the first day, the British had lost nearly 20,000 dead and 35,000 wounded, and the Germans had broken through at several points on the front of the British Fifth Army. After two days Fifth Army was in full retreat. As they fell back, many of the isolated “redoubts” were left to be surrounded and overwhelmed by the following German infantry. The right wing of Third Army became separated from the retreating Fifth Army, and also retreated to avoid being outflanked.

One of the 20,000 British dead on this one day was Thomas Grisdale. There is much more to tell, another time I hope. Thomas was buried at the Pozieres Memorial Cemetery in France. Back home in England he is remembered on the Cockermouth War Memorial and on the gravestone of his parents Solomon and Harriot.

Thomas’s younger sister Laura Grisdale never married and stayed in Cockermouth for the rest of her life. She died in Cockermouth in 2006, aged 101! She was for sure truly the last Matterdale Grisdale.

Cockermouth gravestone of the last Matterdale Grisdales

Cockermouth gravestone of the last Matterdale Grisdales

Counting your ancestors

Posted: November 30, 2013 in Family History, Genealogy, History

This is the text of an article publish in Family Tree magazine in March 2013. A more extended version can be found here.

Tackling a numerical problem – just how many ancestors have we got and how on earth could we count them? Here Stephen Lewis explains how to make sense of a seeming paradox…

Almost everyone with an interest in family history and genealogy will at one time or another ask themselves how many ancestors they have. As we research our roots further and further back, the numbers seem to explode, and it starts to become incredibly difficult to keep track. What determines the number of your ancestors? What factors are at play?

An explosion of ancestors

On the surface the question of how many ancestors you have might seem simple to answer. After all you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents do you not? Don’t you just need to do a simple mathematical calculation to work out the number of your direct ancestors who were living and breeding so many generations ago? The numbers surely just double in each generation: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and so on, forming a pyramid.

Using 1947 as a reasonable starting date and 30 years as the average inter-generational length, ten generations ago – which takes us back to the time of the English Civil War and to the early days of British settlement in North America – it seems we should all have had 1,024 eighth great-grandparents. You might also be interested in working out how many direct ancestors you might have had in total between a certain date in the past and now. You can just add up the numbers for each generation. Going back 10 generations (starting from your parents) the total is 2,046 direct ancestors.

But, as many will have noticed, there is a problem with this. If we calculate the numbers 30 generations ago, at about the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, we would seem to have needed about 1.1 billion direct and distinct ancestors alive at that time, and in only one generation. Obviously this is impossible, as the total world population in the 11th century is estimated to have only been about 250 to 300 million.

So the number of our ancestors can’t keep on doubling as we go further and further back. Sooner or later the number of your ancestors must have stopped exploding and must have started to shrink, and shrink fast. What causes this so-called ‘Pedigree Collapse’ and what determines when it happens? Both questions are answered by understanding the nature and extent of cousin marriage, or inbreeding if you like; levels of migration and outbreeding influence this.

Cousin marriage

In some societies cousin marriage is either illegal or socially taboo. In England, even though Henry VIII abolished  restrictions on marrying ‘cousins’ so he could marry Catherine Howard (Anne Boleyn’s cousin), for centuries there have been both ecclesiastical and  other controls on marriage between family members. Today in the West, close cousin marriage is rare, although recently an Australian research scientist, Dr Alan Bittles, concluded that ‘slightly more than 10per cent of marriages worldwide are between people who are second cousins or closer’. In the past, not only was some degree of cousin marriage likely, it must have been extremely common. Without it we couldn’t even attempt to make sense of the development of human numbers over the centuries and millennia.

The first effect of cousin marriage is to reduce the rate of growth of the actual number of your ancestors, as compared to the theoretical maximum. If your parents were first cousins this means they shared one set of ‘duplicate’ grandparents and thus rather than them having the maximum of eight grandparents between them, they would have had only six. This is a 25per cent reduction in their grandparental ancestry, a reduction that goes back forever. Similarly, a marriage of second cousins would reduce numbers by one-eighth, or 12.5per cent, in each generation.

The problem is that no matter how high the historic level of individual first and second cousin marriage – and it wasn’t very high – although it will reduce the rate at which the number of your ancestors increases, it will never put the process into reverse. For example, using the completely unrealistic assumption that every single one of your ancestors married a second cousin, which would reduce the supposed number of your ancestors at the time of the Norman Conquest by a staggering 96per cent from the theoretical maximum of about 1.1 billion, it would still mean that your distinct direct ancestors (in one generation) alive at the time numbered about 4.4 million, still more than the estimated total British population. And this is without taking account of the fraction of the population accounted for by one generation and the percentage of people alive at the time who had no descendants or whose descendant line died out.

Multiple relationships

It’s relatively easy to show that as the practice of individual cousin marriage increases your ancestor pyramid will narrow. Yet the total number will still keep on growing. It will never go into reverse. However such a reversal must have happened – both in total and for every single one of us. Simply put, the reason for the reversal is that when your ancestors married or bred with a cousin (of whatever degree) they very often also had more than one family relationship with their mate – sometimes many more.

Let’s use a very simple hypothetical example to elucidate this. Imagine again that your parents were first cousins, so they shared a common pair of grandparents. But they could also be second cousins as well, in which case they would also share a common pair of great-grandparents. The first cousin relationship would reduce the number of your ancestors in, for example, the fourth generation from 16 to 12. The addition of the second cousin relationship between them would reduce this number still further – from 12 to 10. As we go back in time, such multiple relationships between spouses proliferate. They might be second cousins twice over and third cousins or fourth cousins many times over. Such multiple relationships have an additive effect on the reduction in the number of your ancestors. The further you go back into your history the more likely you will find that this has been the case – in fact it is absolutely inevitable.

This is all mathematically, biologically and historically certain. With enough multiple relationships, with enough breeding between males and females who are related in multiple ways, the cumulative effect of removing duplicate ancestors will at some point eventually outweigh the doubling effect and the number of your discrete ancestors will start to shrink.

Try a thought experiment. Imagine a Mr and Mrs Crusoe washed up on a desert island. Any children they have will need to breed with each other – heaven forbid with their parents! Their children will all be first cousins. As the generations go by, all the couple’s descendants will become related to each other in multiple ways. If you are a descendant of the Crusoe family today and calculate the number of your ancestors, it will first quickly grow but eventually it will shrink back to just two – Mr and Mrs Crusoe.

Such an expansion and contraction in ancestor numbers is a phenomenon well known to breeders of pedigree dogs and horses. The shorter life span of these animals, plus the fact that breeders must keep detailed records, often enables them to clearly plot such pedigree collapses. Indeed these collapses often happen more than once. The main problem with applying this analogy to humans is that animal breeders are consciously trying to breed ‘pedigree’ animals; they are artificially and deliberately restricting the opportunities for dogs or horses to breed outside a very restricted group. Just as, in a similar way, the inhabitants of our hypothetical Crusoe Island have also been restricted in their breeding – by geographic separation.

Migration and outbreeding

So it is because humans historically have bred with people with whom they have multiple relationships that pedigree collapse happens. For any person or any country, when exactly the reversal in numbers happened is thus in the first instance determined by the level of inbreeding – how quickly the number of duplicate ancestors outweighs generational doubling. In England this reversal happened in the High Middle Ages, probably in the 1200s; for individuals or in other countries the timing can be different. But humans generally try to avoid incest or inbreeding. The extent that they can do so will mostly be determined by another factor: the available breeding pool. The people with whom our ancestors could breed was not limited to all those living in their village or even in their country. People moved; they migrated. Every time one of your ancestors moved into or out of one of their ‘ancestral’ areas, whether a few miles or hundreds or thousands of miles, they brought or took with them an untold number of ancestors of their own. These ancestors have become your own. If people hadn’t moved at all we would all be able to trace our lineage to one ‘Adam and Eve’ founder couple in the not too distant past, just like in the Robinson Crusoe example. The more your ancestors moved the further back in time your own pedigree collapse will be pushed.

What’s the answer?

So how many direct ancestors do you have? The answer, I’m afraid, is that you will never be able to calculate precise numbers. Reliable records just don’t go far back enough. The number might be more than you imagined, as the seemingly relentless doubling goes on. Yet we know that sooner or later their number will start to decline. It might be, though it is extremely unlikely in the time frames we have been considering, that your ancestry goes back to only one locale at a certain point in history or even to one ‘founder’ couple. But remember this: it has been shown that the human race went through at least one population bottleneck during its history. At certain times it appears that humankind almost went extinct. Scientists have suggested that around 70,000 years ago the total world population dwindled to only a few thousand Africans – the so-called Toba catastrophe. They are the ancestors of all of us.

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This article appeared in the September issue of Family tree magazine (see end)

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Genealogy is a fascinating thing. Trying to uncover all our ancestral lines can be a labour of love taking many years, even decades. It’s an endeavour that might never end and certainly we’ll likely never be able to solve all those little mysteries nor be able to be completely certain about each link in our family tree. The advent of the internet has helped a lot. Not only can we now quickly discover things online that previously would have necessitated repeated visits to local and national archives, but the internet can also link us with others with the same family interests – people with whom we can share research and information.

For some filling in the pieces of our family tree jigsaw-puzzle is enough in itself. Yet most of us soon start to become enthralled by the social and economic history of our family, even if we previously had no interest in ‘history’ as we might have been taught it at school. What was life like for one of our ancestors, or his/her family, at a particular time and in a particular place? Why did one of our ancestors emigrate? Why did so many children die young? We literally want to put some flesh on our forebears. We want in some small way to bring some of them back to life, perhaps for the first time in centuries.

How can we do this? How can we move from genealogy to family and social history? And, importantly, how can we communicate and share what we discover? As my old boss used to tell me: ‘There are many ways to skin a cat.’ What I‘d like to do is simply offer a few suggestions derived from my own efforts in researching and communicating the social history of parts of my own family. Some of the results can be found on my family history blog https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/.

First we need to make choices. We can only tell our family story in bite-size chunks. It’s simply not possible to tell the full story all in one go. All we’d end up with is a litany of births, marriages, children and deaths, i.e. a repetition of our ‘tree’. Or we’d spend a life-time trying to write the definitive book. Don’t agonize about these choices too much; go with your feelings. If you’re most fascinated by those of your ancestors bearing your own name then start there. On the other hand if you’re more interested in certain places where some of your ancestors lived then research that. Or perhaps start with just one person you’d most like to bring back to life.

How much flesh we can put on the lives of particular ancestors or families will of course vary. If they were rich or famous, if they emigrated, joined the church or accomplished heroic deeds then the records of their lives will likely be more extensive. But even if some or most of your ancestors left little trace of their lives, besides a few events and dates, you can still tell an interesting story.

A good starting point is to research geography. Physically what was the environment in which your ancestors lived? Was it a remote mountain community where people tended sheep? Was it a maritime port heaving with merchants, sailors and fishermen? Or perhaps it was an industrial town full of ‘dark satanic mills’? Try to find out what the physical environment was and how it changed and evolved, and why. Try to be precise. Where exactly was Douthwaite Head Farm in Cumberland? What did it look like? What surrounded it? What was a particular Lancashire cotton mill really like? How had the surrounding environment changed? Understanding the places goes a long way to understanding the lives of our ancestors.

Geography links to my second suggestion. Research what your ancestors did to make a living. The records might reveal that someone was a ‘Waller’, a ‘Chalker’ or a ‘Cotton Bleacher’. What did these occupations really involve day to day – in terms of travel, health, income and the precariousness of existence? Mariners by definition travelled far and wide, as did Wallers (though more locally), whereas ‘Yeoman’ farmers usually stayed put. You might have no personal records of your ‘Waller’ ancestor but you can still start to reconstruct their life from what is known of the lives of others with the same job.

The next thing to consider is the important fact of class. All societies at all times have been stratified. The rich and powerful try to hold on to their privileges and extend them wherever they can. The poor try to survive. The ‘middling-sort’ tries to move up or arrest a decline of their family. A family’s class and economic position and its dealings with other classes in the vicinity can tell us much about their likely lives, their hopes and their decisions. Were your ancestors forced to quit the land because of the centuries-long rapacious land enclosures in England, or the brutal highland clearances in Scotland? Who exactly was doing the enclosing or clearing and why? What were the consequences for your ancestors? Once you understand this you can often make sense of why, to use an example from my own family, a family moved from rural Cumberland to the Bolton cotton mills, emigrated to Canada or joined the military. People tend to make such big moves only when they have to. What pushed them to it?

All of these things: geography, work, class and economics play out at the local level. But it’s also interesting to try to place these events in a wider national or international context. One of my own family members became an army officer and died in Minorca in 1801. What in heaven’s name was the British army doing in Minorca? It turns out to be a very interesting story. Another joined thousands of other British people in the Australian gold rush in the 1850s. What was that all about? Yet another family member started life as a cotton bleacher in Bolton in Lancashire, became a missionary in India and ended up a bishop in the Canadian prairies. Researching this opened up the fascinating history not only of Britain and its empire but also the history of the Canadian West.

Such research will take you down paths you might otherwise never have ventured. The social, political and economic histories you discover will start to have a real relevance because they involved and affected specific people you know and care about. You don’t need vast libraries and certainly not historical training to do any of this; you can find most of what you need on the internet.

Let’s turn to communicating our family stories. Pure genealogical facts are only likely to be of interest to others with the same family interests. But, at least in my experience, if you research, write and communicate family and social history stories, these will find a much wider audience. Others will have ancestors who fought at Waterloo, became Australian gold-diggers or ended up in the mills. Writing and communicating your stories will also pretty invariably elicit responses from remote relatives all over the world, people who are often able to add to your knowledge of your own family.

What is the best way to communicate such stories? Again the internet comes to our aid. My suggestion is create a family history blog. My own choice was to use wordpress.com because it’s easy to create and use, but there are others. If you want your stories to resonate with a wider audience then craft them, don’t just write little snippets however fascinating they are for you. Weave together a narrative from what you know about the subject of your story and what you have discovered about geography, occupations and economic and political forces. If you have letters, military records or emigration/immigration information use these too. Pictures and quotes will help as well. Don’t get too hung up with having to ‘prove’ every statement you make. I wouldn’t want to recommend the old journalistic adage: ‘Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story’, but you are writing a story not defending a Ph.D. thesis. The English language is replete with ways to express the conditional, the uncertain and the conjectural. Finally, while some genealogical facts will no doubt need to be included, don’t clutter up your stories with too many of these at any one time. If you do you’ll soon lose the interest of many readers and, after all, you can always write another story!

When I started to research and write stories about my own family, not only did it open up vast areas of social and political history I had never thought about before, but it also elicited many unexpected, illuminating and often touching responses from all over the world. I am sure it will do the same for you.

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When John Augustus Pollock Grisdale was baptized in 1878 in St John the Baptist Church in Halton Gill, Arncliffe in the Yorkshire Dales, his father, the Reverend John Grisdale, who was the incumbent of the church, obviously had great plans for his third child and first son. He named his son John after himself and Pollock after his own mother’s maiden name. Augustus seems simply to signify his great expectations, although it might have come from another family member. Little would the Rev. Grisdale have imagined what his son would accomplish. He didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps into the church or go into any of the supposedly respectable professions in England. No, at the age of just 16 or 17 John Augustus Pollock Grisdale took ship alone for America, there to carve out a successful and very American career. When John died in 1948 in Canton in Lincoln County, South Dakota he was simply called ‘Gus’ Grisdale. This is his story and that of his brother Reg.

Halton Gill Church, Arncliffe

Halton Gill Church, Arncliffe

The Rev. John Grisdale was born in 1830 in Dacre, Cumberland. His father was a relatively well-to-do yeoman farmer called Joseph Grisdale. His mother Esther Pollock was the daughter of a similar family. As we might expect this Grisdale family also originated in the next door parish of Matterdale. John had three sisters but he was the only son. He grew up on the family’s farm but obviously he was a bright boy because even when he was 21 and still living in Dacre with his parents he was listed as a ‘scholar’. Where he was studying I do not know. It seems he didn’t go to university but nonetheless was eventually able to take holy orders. By 1863 he was probably already a ‘clerk’ when he married Annie Hardcastle in  Knaresborough in Yorkshire. He was curate of Saint Wilfrid’s Church in Burnsall where his two daughters Catherine Josepha and Henrietta Elizabeth were born in 1864 and 1866. He then became the curate of Saint John the Baptist Halton Gill in Arncliffe in September 1866. This is where John Augustus was born in 1868, to be followed by brother Reginald Dacre in 1870 and another sister Esther Sarah Annette in 1873.

Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, York

Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, York

The Rev. John Grisdale clearly hoped for great things from his first son because he sent him to be a pupil at the prestigious Archbishop Holgate Grammar School in the City of York.

Archbishop Holgate’s School was founded by one of the leading statesmen of the reign of King Henry VIII.  Robert Holgate held absolute political power in the North, running the King’s Council in the North from the King’s Manor, raising armies to subdue the Scots, and operating with the authority of the King himself.  In 1545, Henry VIII made him Archbishop of York, thereby complementing Holgate’s political authority with the authority of one of the two leading roles in the Church of England, and cementing his position of absolute supremacy (second only to the King himself) in matters spiritual and temporal north of the Trent.  Very soon after he was enthroned as Archbishop of York, Holgate founded a number of schools.  Holgate took a close personal interest in the organisation of each school; his own signature lies at the bottom of each of the twenty-four pages of each of the three surviving copies of our school’s Foundation Deed.  Holgate fell from grace politically, but remained Archbishop of York, a role he fulfilled vigorously until 1554.

At what age John Augustus entered the school is unknown, but in 1881, aged 12, he was a student there under the 73 year-old headmaster Robert Daniel, who as might be expected was also a clergyman. Unfortunately only a few weeks before the census was taken in 1881 the Rev. John Grisdale died in Penrith in Cumberland, probably while visiting his Cumbrian relatives.  I don’t know what John Grisdale died of or the circumstances, but his death was probably unexpected as he was just 51 and left no will. It seems that his wife Annie and the other children had moved to Bedford either immediately before or after his death. But for now I won’t follow them, although two of them will reappear later on in our story.

Suddenly John Augustus Pollock Grisdale had lost his father. This might have meant that he couldn’t continue at his prestigious York school. Later when he was in the United States John would say that he had completed four years of ‘high school’, which in an English context probably means he left school at around 15, but it might have been earlier. Whatever the case, John decided not to stay with his family in England and in either 1884 or 1885 he emigrated to America. He would have been only 16 or 17! I can’t find any record of his passage and thus it is possible that he stowed away on a ship bound for North America. Given his age at the time this guess doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

Railway Depot in McIntire. Iowa in 1892

Railway Depot in McIntire. Iowa in 1892

The next time we catch sight of John is in 1895 when he was living in McIntire, Iowa. He must have arrived in McIntire pretty soon after his landfall in America because in an early history of the town we read that among the ‘men influential in the early days of McIntire was … J A Grisdale’. What the young man had done to justify this accolade would be fascinating to know. John stayed in McIntire for some years because in 1899, when he was 31 and had been in the United States for about 14 years, he married a local girl called Lillian.

La Crosse, Iowa in 1910

La Crosse, Iowa in 1910

But whatever John had so far achieved in McIntire, he and his new wife Lillian soon set off for pastures new. They moved to La Crosse in Wisconsin. Here it seems he started to work for the company of W. W. Cargill:

Cargill was founded in 1865 by William W. Cargill when he bought a grain flat house in Conover, Iowa.  A year later William was joined by his brother, Sam, forming W.W. Cargill and Brother. Together, they built grain flat houses and opened a lumberyard. In 1875, Cargill moved to La Crosse. Wisconsin, and brother, James, joined the family business. The city of La Crosse was strategically located at the junction of the Milwaukee Road railroad and the Southern Minnesota Division.

Sam Cargill left La Crosse in 1887 and moved to Minneapolis to manage the office there, which was identified as an important emerging grain center. Three years later, the Minneapolis operation incorporated under Cargill Elevator Co., years after that the La Crosse operation was incorporated under W.W. Cargill Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

W W Cargill

W W Cargill

And:

Starting at the close of the American Civil War in 1865 with one grain storage warehouse in Conover, Iowa, Will Cargill followed the expansion of the railroad system throughout the newly settled prairie to gather and process grain. Soon, his two brothers, Sam and James, joined his business venture and established the company’s headquarters in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

As grain and the railroads moved west, Cargill followed with new country elevators, as well as major terminals in the Minnesota towns of Minneapolis, Buffalo and Duluth. Besides the growing number of elevators, the Cargills were involved in insurance, flour milling, coal, farming, real estate, lumber, and a railroad. The success of the business required reliable financing, innovation in moving and storing grain, and a solid business reputation.

In 1900 John Grisdale was working for the Cargill company in La Crosse as a ‘travelling salesman’. In 1901 he was a ‘travelling auditor’. In 1905 he was ‘travelling’. An ‘auditor’ probably meant checking and accounting for the grain collected by Cargill’s grain elevators throughout the Prairie states.

John was clearly a coming man in the small but growing Wisconsin town of La Crosse. Other businesses were also being established. One such was the La Crosse Wool and Fur Company established in 1903:

La Crosse Wool and Fur Company – M. Rosestein, Manager, 100 – 102 S. Front St.

Mention could not be made of the growth and prominence of La Crosse, without giving particular mention to the above mentioned firm, which was organised one year ago, and deals extensively in wool and raw furs. The officers of the firm are R. S. Hype, President, C. G. Bennett, Vice President and Fred Goddard, Secretary, but the management of the concern devolves upon Mr. M. Rosestein, who has twenty years experience in this kind of work and is thoroughly able to handle its affairs. Eight employees and two travelling buyers are necessary and two million pounds of wool and $100,000 to $200,000 worth of fur is handled by this enormous concern in one year.  They export fur and ship wool to all the eastern markets. Mr. Rosestein is one of the stockholders of this company, and the pronounced success of the enterprise is largely due to his remarkable energy and ability in managing its affairs.

La Crosse Wisconsin, the Gateway City (Spicer & Buschman 1904)

Actually the company’s President and main shareholder was W W Cargill himself. Gus Grisdale in some way either came to the notice of Mr. Rosestein or was assigned by W W Cargill to become company’s Secretary (1906), no doubt taking over from Fred Goddard.

By 1909 he was back in the grain industry, being appointed Vice President of the La Crosse Grain Company.

Farming in Spring Valley today

Farming in Spring Valley today

By 1910 John, or Gus as I will now usually refer to him, had been in the United States 25 years. Having arrived in Iowa as a teenager he was now at the age of 42 a successful business manager. Gus and his wife Lillian had had a daughter in 1902, they called her Grace. But in 1910 the family moved again, this time to Spring Valley in Fillmore County Minnesota. Gus became the ‘manager’ of a grain company there. The History of Fillmore County, Minnesota, by Franklin Curtiss-Wedge and H. C. Cooper (Chicago 1912) gives us an idea of the town at that time:

Spring Valley, a city of nearly 2,000 inhabitants, is located in the western part of Fillmore county, on the southern Minnesota division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, and also on the Chicago & Great Western Road. Since the city was founded its growth has been slow, but substantial, and with unfaltering progress along the line of permanent development, until today it has a commercial, social and artistic standing excelled by none of its neighbors, and equalled by few of them. And the important factors of this development are the unexcelled advantages of location, natural resources, pure water, good health and the productiveness of the farms tributary to Spring Valley. With its two lines of transportation and easy accessibility to market, this city has long held the record as the banner stock shipping point in southern Minnesota, it being no unusual sight to see a solid train load of hogs shipped from this city to the Chicago market at one time, while eggs and poultry are shipped East by the carload. The Spring Valley Creamery, one of the largest and best co-operative creameries in this famous dairy section, has long held its supremacy, while the Spring Valley Flour Mills are known far and wide from the excellence of their product. A line of elevators operated by independent buyers and also by the large grain companies, keeps the grain and cereal market at the top notch, while the Farmers’ Co-operative Buyers and Shippers’ Association, a strong organization of farmers, is a potent factor in giving the farmer the largest possible returns for the products of the soil, the dairy, the flocks and herds. Two substantial banking houses, with deposits aggregating nearly a million dollars and each with a surplus which equals their capital stock, makes this city a financial center for a large territory. Three fine school houses, with all the modern and up to date methods, including an agricultural school, affords the best of instruction for the youth of city and country. A fine public library, with thousands of volumes, adds its potent influence to the intellectual uplift of the community, while seven churches minister to the moral welfare of large congregations…. The business men of Spring Valley who have their hands on the pulse of commercial life are a wide awake, progressive and liberal body. Yet with their progression and liberality is blended a conservatism which insures success.

Sometime over the course of the next few years Lillian and daughter Grace moved back to Lillian’s home town of McIntire, Iowa. She was working as a bookkeeper, but during 1914 had been unemployed for 10 months. Lillian is still listed as married but whether she was still living with Gus we don’t know. There is evidence he might have stayed in Minnesota. What we do know is that around this time Gus started to buy plots of land in Ward County, North Dakota. He kept buying land from 1913 until 1924, always under his full name of John A P Grisdale and always giving his address as McIntire, Iowa. Yet at some time Gus and Lillian divorced. By 1930 at the latest Lillian and her now married daughter Grace (who had married John Eugene Shannon) were living together in Detroit.

What had happened to Gus? Mentions of him owning farm land in North Dakota continue until 1933 but it seems that he certainly tried other things as well as managing grain companies or farming because in 1920 he was an independent ‘oil operator’ in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was working on his own account and was being helped by his younger brother Reginald Dacre Grisdale.

Melville in 1909

Melville in 1909

After the death of the Rev. John Grisdale in 1881, the rest of Gus’s family had moved together back to Yorkshire. Widow Annie had enough money to live on her own means. Reginald Dacre, or Reg as he was known, was two years younger than Gus, but he too seems to have had a good education because until 1907, when he was 47 and still unmarried, he had worked in Yorkshire for years both as a surveyor and civil engineer. But in 1907 Reg too decided to emigrate. He boarded the steamer S. S. Empress of Ireland in Liverpool and arrived in the port of Quebec on the 7th of June. He gave his occupation as ‘surveyor’ and his destination as Quebec. In seems however that he soon headed west to Melville in Saskatchewan, a town only founded in 1907. In a booklet published by the town in 1910 titled Melville, the West’s wonder town we read:

Where today stands a prosperous and progressive town of 2,000 people there was in October 1907 not even a settler’s shack or a turned furrow. It was a in that month that J. W. Redgwick built the pioneer store… A year after the first nail had been driven Melville had a population of 1,500.

Perhaps Reg was able to make use of his surveying and engineering skills in this booming agricultural town? He took a trip back to England in 1911 to visit his family and returned in April on the S.S. Mauretania. Arriving in New York he gave his occupation as ‘engineer’ and both his last residence and final destination as Melville.

Athabasca Landing 1912

Athabasca Landing 1912

Reg moved on, this time to even remoter Athabasca Landing in northern Alberta. It seems he married because in 1914 his unmarried eldest sister Catherine Josepha Grisdale came to Canada to be his housekeeper. When she arrived in Quebec she said she was going to be the housekeeper of her ‘married brother’, having previously been a church worker.

If Aladdin came to Athabasca, he would throw his lamp away as unnecessary and get to work for himself and thus increase his self respect. There is no town which offers so many opportunities to the man who is willing to work as this good old town of Athabasca…In the lobbies of Athabasca hotels you will see trappers and hunters fresh from the wilderness, oil men from California and Pennsylvania, merchants from the north, west, east and south here to purchase stock from the wholesale houses…freighters, chauffers…and to add color to this, the uniforms of the fine looking officers and men of the famous North West Mounted Police.

And so while the First World War raged in Europe, Reg and his wife were living in Athabasca, looked after by Reg’s sister Catherine. It seems that now Reg was working as a farmer. What happened to Reg’s wife I don’t know but his sister died in 1919 aged just 54.

Texas Oil Donkey

Texas Oil Donkey

Having probably been in contact with his brother Gus, Reg now decided to join him in the United States. In September 1920 he crossed the US border giving his occupation as a farmer and his last residence as Athabasca, Alberta. He said his destination was Rochester, Minnesota. This is very near to Spring Valley and thus it might be that he was joining his brother there. It’s possible that John (Gus) might have already started business as an independent oil operator in Wichita Falls, Texas because in the 1920 Wichita Falls town directory he is listed there and his recently arrived brother Reginald D. Grisdale is working with him as a ‘clerk’. The brothers clearly felt they could make some real money in the rough and tumble of the Texas oil business. Whether they did or not I don’t know – I guess not. But sometime before 1925 the brothers had moved again, for a final time. They settled in Canton, Lincoln County in South Dakota. Reg returned to England once more, leaving from Montreal in November 1925, a ‘US Citizen’ and ‘Merchant’, and returning in May 1927 via Quebec bound for Canton, South Dakota, his last US residence. Actually Reg was never naturalised as a US Citizen, unlike his brother.

The next year, 1928, Reg was undoubtedly at the wedding of his 60 year-old divorced brother Gus. Gus married 28 year-old divorcee Ruby Adams on the 26th of October in Parker, Turner County, South Dakota, but both bride and groom gave their residence as Canton. Although by now 60, Gus lopped ten years off his age saying he was 50.

Canton South Dakota in the 1940s

Canton South Dakota in the 1940s

In 1930 we find that John (Gus) was an independent farmer in Canton, South Dakota living with his young wife Ruby and his stepdaughter Nila. His brother Reg was living with them working as a ‘laborer’ on John’s farm. John still owned various plots of land in North Dakota which brought in some extra money. By now not only was Gus still knocking ten years off his age but so was his brother Reg.

Unfortunately young Ruby died in 1933, aged just 33. She was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Canton.

The brothers were still in Canton in 1940 living in adjacent houses and both owning farms. No longer lying about their ages, Gus was now a ‘car dealer’ and he brother Reg a farmer.

Grisdale family grave in Canton SD

Grisdale family grave in Canton SD

And this is the last we hear of these two Yorkshire brothers until their deaths. Reg died in May 1941 and Gus in 1948, aged 80. They were both buried alongside Gus’s wife Ruby in Forest Hill Cemetery. Under a large headstone that simply reads ‘Grisdale’ there are three separate stones which say only: ‘Ruby 1933’, ‘Reg 1941’ and ‘Gus 1948’. It’s a far cry from John Augustus Pollock Grisdale and Reginald Dacre Grisdale, but very American indeed.

In 1911 the following report appeared in Washington State’s Tacoma Times:

 Girl of 15 Disowned By Rich Uncle When She Elopes. SEATTLE, June 22.

Early this morning, as the steam schooner Redfield, bound out of Seattle for Nome, passed the three-mile limit that marked the vessel’s entrance Into the domain of the ‘high seas, there occurred a strange wedding.

Fifteen-year-old Grace Grisdale became the bride of C. G. Pike, 35, first engineer of the boat. The knot was .tied by Captain McKenna, master of the vessel.

James Grisdale, the girl’s grand uncle and nearest relative, followed them to the pier and caused the girl to be detained by the police. A superior court judge heard the story, however, and ordered the girl turned over to the expectant bridegroom. The grand uncle is a pioneer of the Puget Sound country and is worth $100,000.

He disowned the girl when she decided to go to Alaska with Pike.

I won’t here go too much into Grace’s ancestors, suffice it to say that both she and her grand uncle James were descended from the early Canadian settler Wilfred Grisdale, who had arrived in North Monaghan in 1816/17 (see here).

Seattle Harbor

Seattle Harbor

Grace was born in 1895 in Bay City, Michigan to ‘Contractor’ Robert Grisdale and his wife Jessie E. Defoe. She was christened Dolores Grisdale but obviously she was known as Grace. Grace was the couple’s fourth and last child. For a reason we do not know shortly after Grace was born Robert and Jessie divorced and Jessie disappears from view. Several surviving children were sent to live with various relatives. But Grace was sent to Saint Vincent’s Orphanage in Detroit. But at some point we know she went to live with her rich great uncle James in Washington. He had made his money in just a few years by operating logging camps and who was at the time living in Eagle Harbour, Kitsap.

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

And so aged fifteen (actually 16) she had wanted to elope with ‘35’ year-old Calvin Greene Pike, for that was his full name. Having ‘tied the knot’ on board the F. S. Redfield, Calvin and Grace were on their way to Alaska. But then in August 1911:

The 469 ton 160 foot wooden gas screw F S Redfield stranded and was lost near Cape Prince of Wales at 10:00 p.m. Saturday August 19, 1911.  The vessel departed Unalaska July 19, 1911 bound for Cape Prince of Wales.  There were 23 crewmen and 350 tons of general merchandise aboard.  She had about a third of a deckload of freight.  The following are excerpts from the wreck report filed by James McKenna, master of the F S Redfield:

“3 mi. east Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska”  “South gale, rainy, dark, cloudy”  “South gale and current setting in to shore, could not head to sea”  “Stranded”  “Anchors let go; dragged until she struck”  “One day after vessel went aground, the mate went ashore and telephoned for the Revenue Cutter Bear at Nome, who arrived 48 hours later and rendered all possible assistance by helping lighter cargo and carry crew to Nome”  “Total loss”

The F S Redfield, valued at $25,000 was a total loss.  The cargo, which was worth $10,000 was damaged $5,000 on the report.  The F S Redfield had insurance of $12,500 on the vessel and $3,500 on the cargo.  There was no loss of life.

It seems that Grace was still on board when the ship was lost because another report reads:

The vessel stranded and lost when anchors dragged in gale; it was transporting supplies to Government schools in Alaska. Cutter Bear came to the rescue and carried crew and cargo to Nome. Grace Grisdale, 15, who had stowed away on the trip, ended up marrying First Engineer, C.G. Pike, with the ceremony conducted by Captain McKenna.

Now Calvin seems to have been both a trickster and womaniser, and there’s nothing much wrong with either. In the 1910 Census he is found in Seattle listed as a steamship captain aged 36 and born in Kansas of parents from North Carolina. The age fits more or less with the newspaper report and it must be what he told people. But there are two lies. First, he was born in Staley, North Carolina not Kansas, and his parents were Solomon Franklin Pike and Martha Staley, so he was 30 not 36. Having been brought up in Chatham, North Carolina it’s true that in 1900 he had gone to live with his uncle Lawson Pike and his family in Kansas, but Kansas-born he was not. More interestingly, in 1910 Calvin, although living alone, was said to be married, and this just months before his elopement with young Grace Grisdale.

Calvin and Grace seem to have had one son: John Calvin Pike, born in 1913. In the future John Calvin would give his birthplace at either Oklahoma or Missouri, following in the path of his father in this regard. In 1914 Calvin and his wife Grace are listed in a Seattle directory and he was said to be an ‘engineer’, on a steamship no doubt. In 1918 Calvin is still listed as an engineer in Seattle but no wife is mentioned. It seems however that sometime after 1914 he had left young Grace Grisdale because in December 1916 he married (for a third time) Lena E. Baettner in Seattle.

His lying about his age continued. When Calvin was drafted on 12 September 1918 in Seattle he gave his address as 117 Clay, his occupation as a Bridge Foreman and his employer as Monson Construction. He even gave the name of his father as Solomon F. Pike. But he continued to add 6 years to his age, giving his date of birth as 29 March 1874, when it was in fact 29 March 1880. Later when he registered for service in WW2 in Edmonds, Washington in 1942, he’d given up this lie and gave his correct date of birth. He said he was ‘self employed’.

His relationship with Lena Baettner didn’t last long either, because by 1920 he had moved on to his fourth ‘wife’ Myrtle Beatrice McPherson. Actually he might not have married Myrtle as he was probably still married to Lena, but Calvin and Myrtle had and lost their first child called Tupper McPherson Pike in 1920. Tupper died in Cle Elum near Lake Kittitas which is far away from Seattle. It looks like Calvin and Myrtle had had to flee. His parents brought him back to Edmonds to be buried.

Calvin and Myrtle's Grave in Edmond's Memorial Cemetery

Calvin and Myrtle’s Grave in Edmond’s Memorial Cemetery

Three more children were to follow: Calla B. Pike (1926), Solomon A. Pike (1927) and Martha R. Pike (1930), the births it seems being nowhere recorded. In 1930 the family were living in Currie, Snohomish, Calvin first being a concrete contractor and then a building labourer. But even now although Calvin gives his age and place of birth correctly it seems his dissembling hadn’t finished. In the 1930 census the place of birth of 17 year-old John Pike’s mother (Grace Grisdale) was given as California! I wonder what Calvin had told his son about his mother?

Calvin’s wife Myrtle died on 29 December, 1848 in Edmonds, Snohomish.

But Calvin Pike’s serial womanising was not over yet. Here was man in his sixties who had had at least four ‘wives’ and had slipped down from being a ship’s captain, through being a ‘bridge foreman’ to working as a building labourer; a man who was continually lying and trying to evade the authorities. You’d have thought he had had enough! But good on him, no! In Omak, Douglas County, Washington State, on the 14th May 1949, just a few months after Myrtle’s death, when Calvin was 69, he married again. This time his wife was a married mother of 49 called Ida Ellen Kopsala. There must have been something of urgency because on the day they married Calvin had to apply to the court to waive the usual three day waiting period before a wedding licence could be issued, which the court duly did. Why the rush?

But Calvin’s exploits were nearly over. He died on the 10th of  June 1950 in Everett, Snohomish in Washington State. Ida died in 1958.

But let’s go back. What happened to Grace Grisdale who had eloped with Calvin aged 15 (16) aboard his steamer in 1911? Not too long after she split with Calvin Pike, Grace married Richard Edward Cantwell in Tacoma, Washington on 7 September 1920. She gave her name as Dolores Grace Grisdale (not Pike). But something must have happened because in the 1920 US census we find her married but living alone in Tacoma: as ‘Grace Cantwell’. She was a hotel ‘servant’. Richard, it seems, was back in Charleston, South Carolina living with his mother! What was going on? The answer is that Richard was an Epileptic. We find him in the South Carolina State Hospital in Columbia in 1930 and he died there in 1941 of ‘epilepsy’, which the records say had it’s ‘onset’ in 1918! Poor Richard and poor Grace.

And what of Grace? What happened to her? Well I’m still investigating that.

‘Killed by Friendly Fire’ is a dreadful modern American euphemism to avoid saying explicitly that a soldier has been killed (unintentionally of course) by his own side. Despite this appalling new name, it is certainly not a new phenomenon. This is the story of one North Carolina man called Jesse Grisdale who was the victim of ‘friendly fire’ at Ypres in Belgium in late August 1918, only a few days after his regiment became a ‘combat’ unit.

The United States entered the First World War late. It wasn’t until mid 1918, only months before the end, that American units first started to go into action in the fields of Flanders.  The British, French, Germans and others had by this time already been slaughtering each other for four years in this most meaningless and avoidable war.

Highland Park No 3 Cotton Mill Workers

Highland Park No 3 Cotton Mill Workers

Jesse D. Grisdale was a young North Carolina man. Jesse was born in July 1891, the sixth and last child of English-born cotton weaver James Grisdale and his wife Annie Cannon. I previously wrote about how James Grisdale had followed his two uncles to America, working first in the Pennsylvania mills before moving his family to North Carolina to do the same thing. In 1907, aged just 16, Jesse was a Machine Operator in Salisbury, North Carolina. By 1910 he was working with his older brother, George Washington Grisdale, in the huge cotton mill in McAdenville in Gaston County, as his father had before. He was a ‘twister’. By 1913, he had moved to Charlotte and was working in Highland Park Mill Number 3, where he was to remain until he joined the army.

The Highland Park #3 Mill in the… North Charlotte industrial district was the largest textile factory in the county when it opened about 1904, one of the state’s first mills designed for electric operation. It soon become one of the South’s best-known mills, for its architect was Charlottean Stuart Warren Cramer. Cramer, credited with designing and/or equipping “nearly one-third of the new cotton mills in the South” between 1895 and 1915, used this factory as a showcase of his techniques. Over seventy pages of his influential book Useful Information for Cotton Manufacturers Volume 3 (1906) are devoted to drawings and photographs of the mill and its machinery layouts. Twenty-four of those pages focus on the architecture of the main building itself, including facade elevations, structural drawings, specifications for contractors, and even detailed drawings of cast-iron column capitals and wooden windows and doors.

Highland Park No3 Mill, Charlotte, North Carolina

Highland Park No3 Mill, Charlotte, North Carolina

When work began in February, 1903, the Charlotte Observer announced that it was to be ‘a state-of-the-art factory, and by far the city’s largest’: ‘$600,000 PLANT TO BE BUILT THE FIRST ELECTRIC-DRIVEN MILL. Work will begin Monday on the new cotton mill that is to be erected by the Highland Park Manufacturing Company…. The plant will occupy 102,125 square feet. R.A. Brown, of Concord, has the contract for the brick work of the mill, and the wood work will be done by A.K. Lostin of Gastonia. It is expected that the mill will be completed and running by next January. … C.W. Johnston … informed an Observer reporter yesterday that his company had decided to build a power plant on Sugar Creek, 1,000 feet from the new mill and about one mile from the Gingham Mill (Highland Park #1 …. The power plant will have 2,000 horse power and will generate electricity to run both the Gingham Mill and the new mill; and the two mills will be the first electric driven plants in North Carolina….. The new mill, which will be called the Highland Park Manufacturing Company plant #3, will consist of two buildings. One will be one story high and 450 feet long by 125 feet wide; the other will be two stories high and will also be 425 feet long and 125 feet wide. The mill will employ over 800 operatives and will have 30,000 spindles and 1,000 looms. The Gingham Mill, which is considered a large plant, has only 500 operatives…. The No. 3 mill will make a specialty of ginghams, and will give the Highland Park Company a total of 27,000 spindles on ginghams alone.’

105th Engineers at Camp Sevier

105th Engineers at Camp Sevier

The United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. In September Jesse joined the newly formed 105th Regiment of Engineers, the engineer troops of the 30th Division, called ‘Old Hickory’. The Regiment spent eight months training at Camp Sevier, South Carolina. ‘While carrying out the Engineering training programme, the Regiment was at the same time given thorough training in Infantry Drill. It had the reputation while at Camp Sevier of being one of the best drilled units of the 30th Division.’ So wrote First Lieutenant Harry S. Tucker, an officer in the Regiment.

SS Melita

SS Melita

On 18 May, 1918, the Regiment left Camp Sevier on four trains. Jesse was in F Company which boarded the third train and arrived at Camp Mills in New Jersey on the 20th of May. A large part of the regiment then went to Montreal to find a ship, but F Company boarded the Canadian Pacific Steamship Melita at Hoboken on May 27th. They sailed for Liverpool, where they arrived on June 8th, and immediately ‘entrained for Dover’ and then crossed the English Channel to reach Calais, establishing their initial camp 20 miles east of Calais in the Licques area. Throughout June and July, 1918, the Regiment continued their training – this time often under British instructors – first at Licques then at Terdeghem. They were not yet a ‘Combat Regiment’ but as well as training ‘the entire regiment was employed in constructing trenches and barbed wire entanglements on the Winnezeele Trench System’. On July 10th the Regiment moved to Proven in Belgium and continued to work on the trenches and defences to the rear of Ypres. On the 17th August the 30th Division, including the 105th Engineers, became a