Posts Tagged ‘Penrith’

‘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.

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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.

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

This is on updated version of an earlier article.

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

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

1576

1576 map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

 

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

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

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

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

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

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

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

Norse Fleet

Norse Fleet

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

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

vikings_arrive

Vikings arrive

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

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

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

Dowthwaite Head Farm

Dowthwaite Head Farm

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

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

Crookwath Barn

Crookwath Barn

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

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

Gowbarrow Hall - A Stateman's Farm

Gowbarrow Hall – A Stateman’s Farm

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

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

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

Greystoke Castle

Greystoke Castle

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sometime in the spring of 1855 Betsey Grisdale decided that she must declare her husband John ‘missing’ in Australia. As she wrote her letter at her home in Lonsdale Terrace in Liverpool she was probably in despair. What had happened to her husband? What was to become of her and her children? Two years before, in February 1853, John, a Liverpool mariner, had boarded the new American-built sailing ship Eagle, bound for Melbourne, where he had arrived in May after an 88 day voyage. Betsey had received news that John had headed to the new ‘gold rush’ diggings in Bendigo, Victoria, and then – nothing.

Sailmaker

Sailmaker

Betsey had already written several letters to John. Perhaps telling him of the birth of their child Joseph in late 1853? Perhaps asking him to come home? She had had no reply. She arranged for an announcement to be placed in Melbourne’s Argus newspaper, which appeared on the 29th of November 1854:

John Grisdale lately sail maker in ship Reliance of Liverpool, lately of Bendigo – letters from wife. Apply to Joseph Pacey, Cambridge Street, opposite Cambridge Place, Collingwood.

The next year John’s brother and sister had also tried to make contact. An announcement in the Argus of the 27th April 1855 read:

If this should meet the eye of John Grisdale, that came out in the ship Eagle, from Liverpool in February 1853, he will hear of his brother and sister by writing to Portland Post Office and he will hear news from home.

Once John had been declared ‘missing’, one final announcement was to appear in the official Victoria Government Gazette on November 27, 1855:

Missing Person. John Grisdale, Victoria Australia. 20 Dec 1855. Sail and ropemaker by trade. Sailed from Liverpool 2.1/2 years ago on the Eagle.

the worshipfull company of coachmakers

the worshipful company of coachmakers

John Grisdale was born in 1815/16 in Cumberland, the son of the later ‘coachmaker’ William Grisdale and his unknown first wife – he was to marry three times. Shortly after John’s birth his mother obviously died. William remarried, his new wife being Emma ‘Amey’ Bell. They married on the 23rd March 1818 in the Cumberland village of Hesket in the Forest. The family lived in Penrith where William and Emma had their first child, called Thomas, in May 1821. Shortly thereafter the family moved to London, no doubt with John in tow. Three London-born children followed: Mark 1822 and twins Ann Bell and Eleanor Greenhow in 1824. Mark was baptized in St. Botolph without Bishopsgate in the City of London, while the twins were christened in   the church of Saint George the Martyr in Southwark. William was in all cases said to be a ‘Coach Maker’. Throughout their time in London the family lived in William Street in Kent Road, and it was there that young daughter Eleanor Greenhow died in early 1826.

Sometime thereafter it seems that William’s wife Amey also died, and William moved from London back up north. This time he managed to find work in his field of coach making in Salford in Lancashire. In Salford William married a third and final time. In October 1833 he married 37 year-old Sarah Payne in Salford.

But let us return to the subject of this story. John had no doubt moved with his father from Penrith to London and returned with him to Salford. It was most likely around the time of William’s third marriage in 1833, when he would have been 16 or 17, when John first went to sea – almost certainly becoming an apprentice seaman in Liverpool. There is no record of John in the 1841 census, implying I think that he was at sea somewhere in the world at the time. His father was at the time still coach making in Salford, living with his wife Sarah. But certainly in 1843, when he was about 26, John was back in Liverpool because on April the 4th of that year he married Betsey (Elizabeth) Bateman in the church of St. John the Baptist in Walton on the Hill in Liverpool. They both gave their address as New Mann Street in Toxteth Park.

Betsey was certainly already pregnant when she married John, because on 25th December 1843 she was delivered of twins Mary and William in Salford, where no doubt she had been living with John’s father William while John was again away at sea. The twins would be baptized back in Liverpool almost a year later, possibly when John was home. Two more children followed: Mark in 1850 and Joseph in 1853, both in Liverpool. John is continually listed as a ‘mariner’.

Embarkation of Emigrant Ship in Liverpool

Embarkation of Emigrant Ship in Liverpool

Which ships John served aboard during his first years at sea we don’t know. But we do know that by the early 1850s he was a ‘sail and rope maker’ on the 805 ton sailing ship Reliance, commanded at this time by Captain Henry B. Fell. This was a ship that was continually plying the ‘Australian Trade’, taking cargo and, more importantly, emigrants to Australia.

The story of one such trip in 1851, on which it is highly likely that John Grisdale was part of the crew, is worth retelling. Captains were always trying to make the fastest passage and often had bets with each other. In 1851 Captain Fell tried ‘the system of great circle sailing on the passage out to this colony’.

The Reliance tried the great circle sailing, and found it advantageous, having been, on July 30th, in lat. 27° 55′ S, and long. 32° 31′ W, and made Kangaroo Island on the 11th September ; doubling the Cape on 14th August, in lat 51°, and the highest latitude being 64° south. She never had to close-reef the topsails, and the thermometer was never lower than 31° at 9 o’clock in the morning.

Onboard an Australian Emigrant Ship

Onboard an Australian Emigrant Ship

But although the Reliance made a quick voyage by taking the Great Circle route, it wasn’t otherwise a very successful trip, at least not for the emigrants. In the South Australian Register in Adelaide on the 15th September 1851 the following report appeared:

THE EMIGRANT SHIP ‘RELIANCE’

The very unusual number of deaths (15) in proportion to the arrivals (313) on board the above-named ship, which arrived on Saturday from Liverpool and Plymouth, calls for some special explanation and comment, the particulars obtained by our reporter present the following sorrowful details:

July 17.  Mary Ann Bull, 24, disease of the heart. July 22. George Hunt, threw himself overboard whilst in a state of insanity.  Aug. 1 Janet Watson, 23, typhoid fever.  Elizabeth Clyne, 23, ditto. Aug. 7 Rosina Mott, 3, ditto. Aug. 10. Edwin Pople, 26, ditto. Aug. 15. Edward Thrower, 35, diarrhoea. Aug. 20. James Clyne, 21, consumption. Aug. 30. Rachael Grossman, infant, mesenteric disease. Elizabeth Reynolds, Montefiore Warren, William Lock, children of tender age, died from inflammation of the lungs. Sept. 2. Martha Reynolds, 18, typhoid fever. Sept.7. Mary Simpson, 30, consumption.    Sept. 10. T. Chapman, infant, inflammation of the lungs.

The cases of typhoid fever, of which it will be seen  that several terminated fatally, are attributed by the survivors to the offensive evaporations or rather the gases emitted by the quantity of patent fuel (350tons) forming so large a portion of the cargo. The unpleasant smell is much complained of, even by those who are in health, and we are told the com-plaint is by no means a new one, similar effects, though not followed by consequences so fatal, having been experienced on board previous arrivals partly laden with patent fuel.  We hope the Government will make the most careful enquiry into this serious matter with a view to put the Commissioners in England on their guard in the chartering of vessels in future, if these sad consequences are attributable to the large quantity of patent fuel on board. Judging from the names of the emigrants, as well as from the circumstance of the final departure from Plymouth, we conclude that emigrants were embarked at both places. This is a very objectionable arrangement, as involving tedious delay for the emigrants first embarked, and very possibly producing serious inconveniences which were felt throughout the subsequent voyage. The births during the passage out of six in number, viz.: – Four girls – Reynolds, Sutton, Pierce, and Pryce and two boys – Mott and Kirran.

But Captain Fell had other concerns. By 1851 the Victoria gold rush was just starting in earnest. In every Australian port ships were at anchor but couldn’t leave because the crews had deserted en masse, to try their luck digging for gold.  Such was the case for Captain Fell and the Reliance. Fell wrote to the Adelaide Times on the 27th November 1851:

THE ‘TIMES’ NEWSPAPER, AND THE SHIP ‘RELIANCE’.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ADELAIDE TIMES.

Sir— I am sorry to notice in your paper of this day that great complaints are made of the detention of the Overland Mail by the Reliance, more particularly as it appears all sorts of rumours are in town as to the cause of the delay, which do no credit to the Captain. I will ask you, with all due deference, if any of the reports are relative to my not having a crew on board? Or whether my having brought out emigrants affords greater facility for keeping a crew ?The Reliance is not the only vessel in Port that has been most fearfully detained by the desertion of seamen. The Satellite now at the North Arm is an instance, and the Constitution, that sailed the other day, was upwards of three months here with few hands on board. I picked up one of my men at Gumeracka last week, and have him now in gaol; and so long as encouragement is given to deserters by secreting them, I see very little chance of vessels visiting this colony getting anything like quick dispatch. I posted two letters for my own mail some three weeks ago, thinking I would have been able to pick up a crew long ere this, but it is much easier said than done. Perhaps some kind friend who makes rumours that do no credit to the Captain will lend a helping hand to get a crew for me.

I am Sir, etc, Henry B. Fell. Reliance. North Arm, 27th Nov., 1851.

If John Grisdale was part of the Reliance’s crew in 1851 then he, it seems, didn’t do a bunk. Eventually Captain Fell did manage to scrape a crew together by paying enormous wages, and the Reliance returned to England. But the next August the Reliance was back in Adelaide. There were the same problems with the crew deserting and with crew wages. We know that John Grisdale was a sail maker on the Reliance and thus he was certainly a member of the crew in 1852.

Ships in the Yarra River, Melbourne in the 1850s

Ships in the Yarra River, Melbourne in the 1850s

John was back in Liverpool in 1853. We know this because it was then that his last child Joseph was conceived and, of course, it was in February 1853 that John boarded the emigrant ship Eagle for Australia, commanded by the famous Captain Boyce. As I have said, the evidence seems to suggest that during one or more trips to Australia on the ship Reliance John conceived the idea of returning to try his luck digging for gold. Hence rather than jumping ship we find him as an ‘unassisted immigrant’ aged 37 among the passenger list of the Eagle, which docked in Melbourne in May 1853. Perhaps he wanted to get rich quick and return home? A few did just this. Or possibly he thought that if things went well he could later bring out his Liverpool family to join him? We’ll never know.

What we do know is that one way or another he managed to tell his family that he had gone to the diggings in Bendigo, Victoria.

It is believed the first major discovery of gold in Victoria was in early August 1851 at Buninyong, near Ballarat. Two months later it was discovered at Bendigo. By mid-1853 around 60,000 diggers and their families were on the Victorian goldfields – nearly 23,000 of these were at Bendigo.

diggers on way to bendigo

diggers on way to bendigo

What was John’s journey like?

Men could generally be noticed trudging along beside the drays. Most of them wore moleskin trousers and gay-coloured shirts. They had heavy boots on their feet. They would pass bullock wagons which were loaded with produce such as flour, sugar and tea, destined for enterprising merchants who expected to make money, not from searching for gold, but by selling supplies to the diggers and their families.

One woman who arrived at the Bendigo diggings at around the same time as John wrote the following:

What a scene presented itself for my wondering gaze. I cannot describe it. … Heaps and heaps of newly upturned earth; deep holes out of which sickly looking men were drawing buckets more of it; while others, up to their waists in water, were washing pans of the sun-dried clay, and so close were the holes to each other, that there was hardly any room for one cart to pass between them, obliging us to make a constantly zig-zag track. How plainly it all seemed to speak of the grovelling nature of men. What, I thought to myself, can man stoop so low as to burrow in the earth in this way to risk health, and stand in the depth of winter, up to the waist in water, and such fleeting gains.

Life was hard in Bendigo. Not only did many of the miners die in accidents and through disease, but violence was also rife, particularly because of tensions between European and Chinese miners.

An angry group of European and American miners met in Bendigo in 1854 and declared that a “general and unanimous rising should take place… for the purpose of driving the Chinese off the goldfield”. Local constables acted quickly to prevent the uprising, by asserting their presence and warning the miners against any further vigilante action. The event was only the beginning of greater anti-Chinese tensions

Bendigo Diggers

Bendigo Diggers

At the exact time that John Grisdale would have arrived at Bendigo, in mid-1853, a petition was signed by over 5000 diggers on the Victorian goldfields who were angry about the mining licence fees imposed by the government and the system by which they were collected. The petition outlined the diggers’ grievances and called for a reduced licence fee, improved law and order, the right to vote and the right to buy land.

The petition was brought to Melbourne and presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe on the 1 August 1853. Most of its demands, including the reduction in the licence fee, were rejected. Eventually the diggers’ dissatisfaction erupted, culminating in the Eureka uprising at Ballarat on 3 December 1854.

So this was the life mariner John Grisdale had found. But what became of him? Had he died at Bendigo? Had he just decided to abandon his family back in Liverpool? We don’t know. Certainly there seems no future mention of him in Australia. I tend to think he died by an accident, disease or violence.

Liverpool Street in mid 1800s

Liverpool Street in mid 1800s

So poor Betsey back in Liverpool and John’s brother and sister never heard from John again. In 1861 and 1871, now said to be a widow, Betsey was still in Liverpool living with her children and older sister and working as a ‘Plain Sawer’, whatever that is.

I won’t follow the lives of John and Betsey’s children here, or that of some of his siblings. Regarding John’s Grisdale ancestors, it took me a long time to pin him down. But now things are clear, or clearish. John’s father William, the coachmaker, was born in 1786 in Watermillock, the son of Mark Grisdale (1760) and his wife Eleanor Greenhow. Mark had two Grisdale parents. His father was John Grisdale, born in 1708 in Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale, who was the son of Edward Grisdale the brother of the famous Rev. Dr. Robert Grisdale, the founder of Matterdale School. Mark’s mother was Jane Grisdale (born 1730 in Dowthwaite Head), the daughter of Jonathan Grisdale and Mary Jackson. Jane was also the aunt of Sergeant Major Levi Grisdale of Peninsular War and Waterloo fame. We can of course go back further.

And that, as far as I can reconstruct it, was the life of Liverpool mariner John Grisdale.

The Bendigo Petition, 1853

The Bendigo Petition, 1853