Post Reply
User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 58198
Joined: 23 Jan 2012, 12:01
Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 23 Apr 2012, 07:05


This account was printed as a series of fifteen articles in the Barnoldswick and Earby Times from March to may 2004.

© Stanley Challenger Graham. March 2004.

Stanley Challenger Graham
10 East Hill Street
BB18 6AN


Please feel free to copy this document for any non-profit use.

The Bracewell Story. [2008 revision]

This the state of the research into the Bracewells at March 1st 2004.


I’ve got a story to tell you about Barlick. It goes back 500 years and is a rollercoaster ride of birth, life, love, death, betrayal and ultimate survival. It’s taken me thirty years to get to the stage where I feel I know enough to go public with it but my usual public health warning applies; what I shall tell you is my knowledge now, it may change slightly as I learn more. There will be mistakes and wrong assumptions but essentially, the facts are accurate. There’s another warning with it as well. It deals with matters directly related to people still alive today and some of the details might be uncomfortable. Please forgive me for this, I shan’t go into any more detail than is necessary to glue the facts together.

The big problem with anything like this is where to start. How do I set the scene? This week’s introduction is just this, it lays the foundations and gives enough background to help you understand what was driving these people.

We have to go back quite a long way, 1348 in fact. This was the year the Black Death reached England. Scientists are still debating exactly what the Black Death was and how many variants there were. Being a simple-minded bloke I don’t need that much detail. All we need to know is that it was a virulent infection carried by the Rat Flea and was almost always fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.

Our best estimate of the population of England in 1348 is about five or six million souls. In the years 1348 and 1349 half of these died from the Black Death. That was bad enough but it got worse. It recurred again five times between 1361 and 1413. Children were still being born and in economic and demographic terms the population should have recovered faster than usual because less people were competing for resources. The Black Death ate the increase faster than children could be born and the end result was that in 1450 there were only about two to two and a half million people left alive in England.

Whole villages and estates were abandoned. There wasn’t enough labour to till the fields or keep normal life going, rents were not paid and the customary service a peasant owed to his lord couldn’t be performed. The physical fabric of English society was torn asunder. There were even more dangerous consequences, the peasants saw the priests and the lords dying and this shook whatever faith they had in the power of God and the chain of being. This was the deep tap root from which Dissent, Nonconformity and eventually even the Industrial Revolution sprang.

The landed classes realise immediately that there had to be a change in the way they treated their peasants. The world had been turned upside down, labour was at a premium and held the power of survival. The peasants had to be paid and released from the worst of the ancient duties to supply free labour so many days a year. This didn’t go down well, but the bullet had to be bitten and the extra costs absorbed if the gentry were to survive. If they didn’t, the peasants did the unthinkable, they upped stakes and left for somewhere where conditions were better. It was the start of a wage economy and a mobile workforce..

As is always the way, there was a reaction and the Establishment started to look for ways to curb this insubordination and mobility. A range of Statutes was passed by the land owners who controlled Parliament in an attempt to curb the power of the labourers and craftsmen and rein in wage inflation. Also, ways had to be found to replace the lost revenues to the Crown from impoverished estates and Parliament gradually moved towards extracting money from the lower classes to make up the shortfall.

One problem that had been recognised for many years was the fact that in order to tax people you have to be able to identify them. This process had started with the Normans in the eleventh century and gradually the use of surnames to identify families became common place. Most surnames started as ‘Son of’, some sprang from place of dwelling, location or trade. By the fourteenth century this system was quite well established and a simple form of direct tax was introduced, in times of need everyone named on the tax register paid one shilling. In 1380, Richard II, faced by a shortage of money to finance his court and the French Wars decided that a third Poll Tax in four years would be a good wheeze. This turned out to be a tax too far.

In May 1381 a tax collector turned up at the village of Fobbing in Essex to enquire why the tax hadn’t been paid. The villagers threw him out. In May he returned with a band of soldiers but the good people of Fobbing had been busy, they had organised themselves and were able to call for reinforcements from their neighbours. The soldiers and the tax man were thrown out again. This was the start of the Peasants Revolt. (Incidentally, I’ve always wondered whether this is the origin of the phrase ‘fobbing off’.) The key factor here is that under feudalism the peasants would never have dreamed of opposing their superiors. Something had changed forever.

Right, that’s the historical context. The Black Death signalled the end of the Middle Ages, the death of feudalism, the rise of the yeoman farmer and the beginnings of Nonconformity. This gives us a clue to the mind set of the people in our story, they were independent, believed in the possibility of advancement and acted in their own best interests and nobody else’s. Let’s have a look at surnames based on dwelling in this area. I’ve never come across anyone named Barnoldswick, Salterforth or Earby, but there are plenty of Stocks, Thorntons, Brogdens and Bracewells.

Now then; the Bracewells, there’s a name to conjure with in terms of the history of Barnoldswick. This is what I have been working round to. I’ve decided that I am ready to have a crack at it and that’s the story I want to tell over the next few weeks. Watch this space!

SCG/23 February 2004
1,060 words.


A good alternative title for this weeks episode in the story of the Bracewells would be ‘The Curious Consequences of the Black Death’. Anyone caught up in that terrible epidemic would have been hard put to to see anything good about it at all. But good there was and this week we’ll look at what happened and how it affected the people living in the area.

Notice that I haven’t said ‘living in Barnoldswick’. The centre of power in the triangle bounded by Broughton, Colne and Gisburn, what I suppose we now know as West Craven, was Bracewell. This was the seat of the Tempest family and the population of the whole area was well under 500 people. Modern Bracewell is a very good example of what a village looked like in the late Middle Ages, There was a church, a hall for the Lord and a loose collection of farmsteads each with a cottage or two for labourers. There were no shops pubs or services, everyone was self sufficient in everything. It was only as prosperity increased that service trades like shoemakers and retailers started to appear. Apart from the lord, the most important people were the yeoman farmers who rented land and the miller down behind Yarlside Farm.

Some means of differentiating people was needed and the most important members of the community would take patronyms, they were called ‘son of’. The labourers would almost certainly become ‘of Bracewell’. There weren’t many of them so this was quite sufficient. As time went on this was shortened to o’ Bracewell and then simply Bracewell. This is the origin of the name of the Bracewell family.

Another major difference in 1400 was trade and how it flowed. Two things governed this, ease of carriage and what goods you had in surplus that were available for trade. The limit for anything weighty was about 15 miles, the distance a pack horse could travel in a day. The only heavy thing that travelled further was anything that could move under its own steam, people and animals.

A thousand years before the Romans had done a good job. There was a solid road bed running through the area, what we now know as Brogden and Greenberfield Lane between Ilkley to the east and Ribchester in the west. This was Barlick’s outlet to the Ribble Valley and Preston in the west and the east coast with its sea ports in the east. These were the main routes and because West Craven was always good stock rearing country there was a trade in store cattle.

There was another trade that generated transport. Salt was essential to the economy because it was the only way meat and vegetables could be preserved for the winter months. The Salters tended to make their own network of subsidiary routes because they were selling in small quantities to isolated hamlets. This is how Salter’s Ford got its name, now Salterforth.

As we noted earlier, the Black Death shook society to its foundations. In a feudal system the peasants rely totally on the lord for sustenance and he controls how much they get. The trick was to allow your serfs just sufficient to keep them healthy enough to work and breed but not so much as to encourage independence. All this changed as the workers died off and labour itself became a commodity. Women became far more independent because they too were capable of labour. Many historians now recognise that the period from the Black Death to the mid-eighteenth century saw women starting to assert themselves in society. Have you ever wondered how Joan of Arc could be accepted as the titular leader of an army in 1428? The key factor we have to understand about the medieval mind set is that the Chain of Being ruled society. God was at the top followed by the king and his nobles, everything had its place in the hierarchy and animals and stones were at the bottom.

Nobody questioned this until the peasants at the bottom of the heap saw their priests and lords helpless and dying in the face of the pestilence. How could this be? Why couldn’t their power and position protect them? There could only be one explanation, at some levels, all men were equal. This heretical idea took root in society and independent thought spawned Dissent in religion, revolt against authority and most important of all, the belief that humans could improve their position by their own efforts. From this point forwards, the yeoman farmers never looked back.

There is one more crucial fact we have to take note of. If you can rear stock you can keep sheep and the most important thing about sheep is that you don’t have to kill them every winter. They grow their own overcoats so they can survive in the open and in spring you can harvest it. Wool is the key to the next leap forward.

Another advantage of wool is that you can either simply sell the fleece or you can spin and weave it at home with family labour and, as a modern economist would say, add value. Using simple equipment you could convert the family’s work into hard cash. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth century wool and cloth were the most important products of England and its biggest export. To this day, the Lord Chancellor sits on a Woolsack to remind him of this fact.

Starting in the fifteenth century, the yeoman farmer’s quest for independence led them into looking for ways to make money by trade. The domestic textile industry based on wool gave them the opportunity and they grabbed it with both hands. There was an unexpected consequence from this, (there usually is isn’t there!) Up to this point the age of marriage had been governed by how soon you could take over the family holding. As a general rule, people married late and the birth rate was low. With the rise of the wool textile trade it became possible to gain your independence earlier because you didn’t need land. People married younger, were more fertile and had more children. The population started to rise in the area. With the increase in population came a demand for land and we see the first enclosures of the waste, the common lands, in Barnoldswick in the early sixteenth century.

You’ve been patient but the scene is set, all it needed was just one more trigger…..

SCG/24 February 2004
1,077 words.


We’ve seen how the Bracewells got their family name and how the changes in society after the Black Death modified their view of themselves. By the late fifteenth century they had started to scatter. Bracewell is the only village of that name in England so we are fairly safe in assuming that anyone with that name, or a variant of it, can trace their lineage back to our Bracewell. If you go out into the internet you will find that they are scattered all over the world. For these same reasons anyone in Barlick with the name is certainly from this family line. So, the first bit of bad or good news for Barlickers called Bracewell is that you are all related!! Sorry if that causes any problems.

Now then, back to our history. Don’t start groaning at the back there, this is the last part of the foundation!

I said that we had one more event to take note of and it’s a biggy. When the Normans took over England in the eleventh century they had two powerful tools for controlling the natives. They used the power of the barons in their castles, that was Clitheroe Castle in our case, to effect civil control. The church was the instrument of social and spiritual control. Bishop Odo of Bayeux was William the Conqueror’s brother and fought alongside him during the invasion. Odo’s secret ambition was to become Pope and as a means of enhancing his chances of doing this he encouraged the French monastic orders to set up daughter houses in England. The most successful of these were the Cistercians who started off as a very strict order which didn’t encourage contact with the outside world but who were very active in farming and trade. For this reason they sought out thinly populated but fertile places to found their monasteries.

England was ideal for their purposes and the artificial desolation produced by the Normans when they put down the Northern Barons was a perfect opportunity. This was when Fountains Abbey and the daughter house at Barnoldswick were founded. Barlick proved too tough a nut for them and the monks moved to Kirkstall which was a good thing for the subsequent history of the town as the locals didn’t have to compete with the highly organised Cistercians for trade. I don’t think it’s any accident that the ruins of the great abbeys are in rural locations. The monks had stifled competition until well into the sixteenth century and in most cases the surrounding areas never recovered, the enterprising yeomen had moved on.

By 1500 the Cistercians were the biggest farmers and traders in wool in England. They, and the other monastic orders were enormously wealthy and this attracted the attention of Henry VIII. The public reason for breaking with the Roman church was the fact that he wanted to get rid of yet another wife but the real agenda was to get control of the wealth of the church. By 1540 Henry had seized the monasteries, scattered the monks and was liquidating their assets. He did this seizing their treasure and selling the monastic lands off at fire sale prices. This removed monastic competition and was a massive boost to the wool textile industry as it opened it up to the army of entrepreneurial yeoman farmers and small land owners who were straining at the leash to get a toehold in the trade.

The Barlick yeomen had been quietly trading in the absence of direct competition from the monks. The vacuum left by the Dissolution of the Monasteries gave them even more scope and this is where our story of the Bracewells in Barlick really starts.

From here on please recognise that a lot of people have helped me by sharing their knowledge. Some of the dates I give you will be wrong, there will be grey areas and mistakes. I shall occasionally fly kites which are more the product of gut feelings and experience than solid evidence. The mistakes are all mine and I reserve the right to change things when better evidence emerges, however, at some point the historian has to nail his colours to the mast if only to give other people the chance to cut him to ribbons. Let’s run the flag up!

Two facts will strike anyone looking at the history of Barlick; the importance of the Bracewells and, as they get deeper into the subject, a sense of confusion as they realise that there is a mismatch in the information they are finding. The first and biggest clue is when they realise that there was more than one William operating at the same time. One of the distressing things about the family from the historian’s point of view is that the family favoured two male names, William and Christopher. Whenever I mention a name I shall put the birth date behind it and try to signal the branch of the family. It will still be confusing but at least you’ll stand a chance of following the story.

Most of what follows is male-oriented. I apologise for this but it’s unavoidable. The women changed their name when they married and so it is the male line we have evidence for and that is the course we have to follow. It’s a salutary fact that if the man took the woman’s name on marriage, every pedigree would be completely changed. We have to accept this.

We’ve already nailed the family origin down to the village of Bracewell. The first question we have to ask is why did they move from Bracewell? One reason could be necessity, a better living could be made elsewhere, economic migration in today’s terminology. Another and less well recognised reason could be an advantageous marriage to an only daughter who possessed a house, land or fortune. Whatever, our first Bracewell and the line I am going to follow is William Bracewell, born 1540 in Salterforth (so his family had already moved there). In 1570 he married Grace and they had two children, Richard (?) and Henry (1585). William died in 1595 aged 55 and Grace died in 1597. We don’t know her birth date but one thing which seems to be a given in almost all first marriages at this time is that the man and wife were usually of similar age

Richard Bracewell(?), the eldest son, married Lettice Hartley in 1593 and they had one son, William(1602). Both Richard and Lettice died in 1637 and William drops out of our story. The younger son, Henry (1585) married Helen Hartley in 1613 (sister to Lettice?) and they had five children, William (1614), Christopher(1617), Grace(1621), Henry(1628) and Richard(1629). The information I have shows that Henry(1585) and Helen both died in 1637 in Salterforth, the same year as his brother and his wife Lettice. When you get an anomaly like this you immediately become suspicious that there may be a mistake, on the other hand there could have been an epidemic, we don’t know and so we just have to accept the dates until we find better evidence.

I have no information about Grace, Henry and Richard but William(1614) married an unknown spouse and had four children by her; William (1637), Richard(1639), Alice(1644) and Henry(1646). William(1614) died in 1667 and I have no knowledge of the children beyond this.

Christopher(1617) is our next link, he married Margaret ? in 1640 and they had eight children; Helen(1641), Mary(1643), Henry(1645), Lettice(1648), Christopher(1651), Richard(1653), William(1657) and John(1663). Christopher(1617) died in Salterforth in 1689 aged 72, a good age in those days. I have no information for Margaret.

Helen, Mary, Lettice, Christopher and Richard drop out of my story, Henry had three children by an unknown wife; Elizabeth(1681), Mary(1691) and Christopher(?). Christopher went on to have a son Henry in 1719 but then I lose track of him. John(1663) married Isobel who died in 1744 at Woodend, below Whitemoor. This seems to have been the start of a Bracewell colony up there, they had four children; Richard(1685), William(1687), Isobel(1689),and Margaret in 1693. I’ve never chased this branch but there are mentions of Bracewells at Woodend into the 20th century.

William(1657) son of Christopher(1617) is our man to follow here. He married Ann Acornlee in 1685 and they had five children; William(1693), Susannah(1694), Ann(1694), John(1697) and Margaret(1699). It took them eight years to get the hang of it but five births in six years is impressive. Always remember when you are looking at these lists that there is no mention of stillbirth or miscarriage. The women had more conceptions than children. William died aged 50 in 1707 and I lose track of all his children except William(1693). The significant thing about this William is that he was born in Salterforth but died at Coates aged 74 in 1767. This is where the Bracewell story starts to take off!

You’ve been very patient and there isn’t even a picture this week. Forgive me for all the detail but for anyone who is researching the Bracewells, this is solid gold. We’ve set the scene and chased the line from Bracewell to Coates, we have had the pain, we can now have the gain and get into the story. Thanks for taking the trouble, I promise it will all be worth while.

SCG/24 February 2004
1,554 words.

William Bracewell(1693) married Ann Hudson and they were described as ‘Of Coates’. When I first came across this reference I made the assumption, wrongly as it turned out, that this was Coates Hall. After a lot of digging, here is what I know at present.

The original medieval Coates Hall was rebuilt by William Drake who paid the land tax for it in its present form in 1753/1756. William Bagshawe paid the tax for the second half of 1756 and in 1760/1770 so we are safe in assuming he came into possession late in 1756. John Bagshawe inherited the joint estates of the brothers William and John Bagshawe in 1791. These were Coates hall Estate and two other properties in Castleton, Derbyshire. The Coates Hall estate included tenanted farms at Coates Hall, Greenberfield and Coates Flatt as well as the Hall, Barlick corn mill and Greenberfield Quarry. John Bagshawe had possession of Coates until his death in 1801 and his heirs owned the Corn Mill until 1859.

Langdale's Topographical Dictionary of 1822 notes that ‘The large Hall House built by the Drakes is now converted into cottages.’ So when William and Ann are described as ‘of Coates’ it should not be assumed it was the hall. The most likely candidate is Coates Farm which was originally the Home Farm of the estate. Indeed, if Langdale is correct, there was no such address as ‘Coates Hall’ from before 1822 until whenever it was reconstituted as one dwelling and I don't have a precise date for this. I’m not sure what property the Bracewells owned either, all I know is that later on the family at Coates owned Coates Flatt Farm as well. Of course, I may be wrong here and Coates Flatt might have been their home. This is one of the loose ends which will eventually be tied up but for the time being I have to be content.

William and Ann had ten surviving children that I know of. They were; William(1714), Christopher(1716),Susannah(1719), John(1721), Henry(1724), Thomas(1725), Richard(1729), James(1732), Jane(1732) and Ann(1734).

Richard(1729) married Ann Walker and seems to have lived at Woodend. He died there on the 13th of June 1792. They had six children between 1770 and 1782. John(1782) was born at Woodend but seems to have lived at Lane Bottoms with his wife Mary who was born in 1784 at Heptonstall. Doreen Crowther notes that in the 1851 census John (70) and Mary (67) were both living at Bancrofts, Barnoldswick but there is evidence that they may have lived at Marton before this. White's directory for 1837 notes that a John Bracewell was cotton spinner at the water twist mill at Gillians which is only 200 yards from Bancrofts. My source for the 1851 census doesn't give Bancrofts as residence but Lane Bottom. The reason for this confusion is that Lane Bottom could be regarded as in the district of Gillians and a farm name was often used to designate the immediate area if there were no other obvious markers. Baines for 1822 and 1823 gives a John Bracewell as Millwright of Barnoldswick. The only reason I attach this reference to John (1782) is that there is good evidence he was associated with mills as a spinner. This is very early for a millwright in Barlick. I’ve included this detail because even though John never became one of the mainstream Bracewells in the textile industry, he was in the cotton trade early and this shows which way the wind was blowing. John(1782) and Mary had five children and one of them, John(1817) married Jane Hey in 1840. They had six children and at least one, William(1853) had family in Barlick, he married Betsy Bracewell, very likely a cousin and they can be traced in the town into the twentieth century.

Back to the children of William and Ann of Coates; I know this is getting complicated, just think what it was like teasing it all out! Our man here is Christopher(1716). Born at Coates he married Elizabeth Thornton in 1737 and they had five children. There was only one son, William(1756) and his father Christopher died in 1763 aged 47 when William was seven. His mother must have inherited the estate but William(1756) was the man who took it forward into the nineteenth century and proved to be a considerable business man.

We should pause to catch our breath here. It’s all very well me giving you these long and interesting lists of names but we ought to try to make some deductions as to what was actually going on. Knowing what I know now about William(1756) I think I’m fairly safe in asserting that his father, Christopher(1716) was fairly heavily involved in the wool trade. Domestic spinning and weaving of wool was common in the farming families of the area and had been for a long time but the place where the real money was to be made was in being a clothier. This was a man who traded in wool and cloth, putting wool out to cottagers and farmers to be spun and woven and selling the cloth on, either at Colne or often by direct trade with Lincolnshire. We have plenty of evidence of this trade in the area and for William to have made the money I know he did, he must have had a good start. The most likely way this happened was by his inheritance from his father and it was almost certainly the result of extensive trade as a clothier.

Another significant clue is that Richard(1729) moved from Woodend to Marton and then to Barlick. His son John(1782) was well established enough to be a cotton spinner in his own right. This suggests that the reason his father moved to Barlick was to get in on the growing cotton trade. It’s a general rule at this time that the clothiers who switched to being cotton manufacturers were the ones who founded the dynasties. The men who stayed in wool gradually faded away as the trade died. My guess is that Christopher(1716) saw the opportunity in cotton and made the move to the new staple. By the time he died in 1763 I think he left his wife running a thriving putting out business that operated not only in Barlick but in Earby as well. This is the only explanation I can see for the head start that William(1756) got when he attained his majority and took over the family business.

SCG/February 24, 2004
1,065 words.

I don’t have a will for Christopher (1716) which means I have had to make assumptions about his wealth. When he died in 1763 he left his wife Elizabeth with three daughters, Jane, 18 years old, Nanny, 9 years and Sally aged 2. The only son William was 7 years old and Elizabeth was with child, Margaret was to be born the year after her father died. Normally, this would have been a disaster for the family but the fact that they survived and prospered suggests two things, they had help with the farm and business from relations and Christopher left a healthy legacy.

Under the laws as they stood then, William(1756) would inherit the family fortune on gaining his majority. He was 21 in 1777 and we can assume that by this age he had been working in the family business for at least ten years and would have a fair idea of what he was about. In 1779, two years after inheriting he married Mary Thornber and they had four children, William in 1782, Sarah, 1785. Christopher 1787 and Mary in 1790. We’ll leave these children on one side for the moment and concentrate on William(1756) and his works.

I’m pretty certain that William had a good foundation in the cloth trade from his father’s inheritance and I suspect from his mother’s advice and experience. I say this because, as you will see, he very quickly became a very important manufacturer in both Barlick and Earby. We would do well to notice at this point that he wasn’t the only one, there were other men in Barlick laying the foundations of their own empires. The Slaters up Barnoldswick Lane and the Mitchells in Walmsgate were stirring and would leave their mark but neither of these families extended to Earby like the Bracewells.

From 1777 onwards, William consolidated his connections in Barlick, Earby and the surrounding villages. I suspect that in the beginning most of his trade would be in buying wool, putting it out to cottagers to be spun and woven and dealing in cloth. His marriage to a Thornber betrays connections with Colne. Anyone who has read ‘The Mills of Colne’ by Harrison Ainsworth will recognise the name. Marriages at this time were more to do with property and connections than love and we are allowed to draw inferences from the unions that were made. Mary would be no stranger to the cloth trade when she married William and we are allowed to wonder how she and he met. Was it through trade in Colne at the Cloth Hall and the connections made there?

This was the time when Richard Arkwright was causing a great stir in the textile industry throughout the Midlands and the North of England. He had invented, and was in the process of perfecting, an entirely new integrated process for carding cotton, producing roving and spinning twist strong enough to be used as a warp by machine. This was the time of the birth of the water powered textile industry. Everyone wanted to avail themselves of the new technology but it wasn’t until 1784 when the Arkwright patents were overturned in a series of court cases that the technology became widely available.

This unleashed a frenzy of water powered spinning mill building. If you want to know more about this, go to the library and ask to see Chris Aspin’s book ‘The Water-Spinners’, they have a copy in there. Look at ‘Yorkshire Cotton’, George Ingle’s book as well. They will give you the whole story.

We get a clue here to attitudes amongst the budding manufacturers in Barlick. I’m not sure whether it was natural caution or lack of capital but as far as we know, nobody in Barlick jumped on the Arkwright bandwagon. Three water spinning mills started up towards the end of the 18th century, Parrock, Gillians and Mitchells in Wapping but from their size it is doubtful if they used water frames, they seem to have concentrated on carding and producing sliver or roving for hand spinners and perhaps moved straight on to the next improvement, the throstle, rather than following the Arkwright principle. Slaters didn’t bother with machines of any kind, they had a dandy shop on Barnoldswick Lane where they had 14 improved hand looms in one building and concentrated on weaving. At Hey Farm I found oil soaked boards in the fences with a pattern of holes in which suggested hand driven Spinning Jennies. This would be a sensible and conservative option. Making roving on a water frame and spinning by hand either by spinning wheel or the improved Jenny.

Whatever the truth of this, William (1756) was certainly watching what everyone else was doing and in 1803 as near as I can make out, he built a small water-powered spinning mill on land just below the Corn Mill and used Butts Beck, the best water site in Barlick to power it. At the same time, whatever reliance he had on the wool trade previously, he turned over to cotton as his major staple. His hand spinners were redundant and could change over to being hand loom weavers and William could supply all the twist they needed from his new mill. Funnily enough, and I often think this is par for the course in Barlick, it was a bad time to start a mill up. The Napoleonic Wars were in full swing and European trade was disrupted. The national picture is that this depressed trade but I can’t help wondering if the absence of competition from abroad made it easier to sell the new, lighter cotton cloth.

William made a will in 1819 in which he was disposing of considerable interests and large sums of money. There is absolutely no doubt that at this point he was by the standards of the time, a very wealthy man with extensive interests. Next time we’ll look more closely at these and draw some conclusions.

SCG/25 February 2004
1,008 words

William Bracewell(1756) must have been feeling a bit poorly in 1819 because he brought in his solicitor and made a will. I must say here that from here on in the Bracewell story I am heavily indebted to a lady called Ann Battersby, a descendant of the Bracewells who has shared her research with me. All the wills and other similar documents have come from her.

The first striking thing about this will is that William describes himself as ‘of Coates’ and ‘gentleman’. This means that he had estates and other property. It marks him out as a man of notable wealth. He leaves all his property in Coates including the mill with its stocks to William(1782) his eldest son. Christopher(1787) gets all the stock in the warehouse at Coates and the rest of his personal estate and property which I think included Earby. Christopher was named as the executor with the responsibility of paying out trusts and legacies to other members of the family totalling over £2,000 with any residue going to him. Mary, his wife, gets the house at Coates with all the furniture and an unspecified amount which equals the dower she brought into the marriage along with other monies. He leaves money to his two daughters who had married, Sarah to Thomas Snow of Bradford and Mary to Thomas Grimshaw of Barrowford. Both these daughters would have been given a substantial dowry.

All told, and this has got to be a rough guess, we are looking at an estate of about £10,000 in 1819. This is an enormous sum, worth almost half a million pounds by today’s values. As well as the house at Coates, his sons would have their own households and property which could easily have been the same amount again. William married in 1814 and Christopher before 1812 when his first child was born. By 1830 the total estate would be much bigger, I daren’t even speculate by how much.

We can make another firm assumption, Christopher would not be treated badly and I believe that the remainder of the property which was left to him in Thornton and Earby was considerable, more about this later.

Let’s finish dealing with William(1756). He was slightly premature with the 1819 will, he added a codicil in 1830 shortly before he died. This is basically the same range of bequests but as his son William(1782) died young in 1827 he leaves all that share of the property to John Cockshott of Bracewell to hold in trust for his grandchildren by William’s marriage. In effect they are being made heirs to the Barlick empire. Christopher is master in Thornton and Earby. I don’t know how long the widow, Mary Thornber lived. All that is certain is that she survived her husband and I hope she had a quiet and easy old age.

William’s death in 1830 is a turning point. It is also a high water mark in the fortunes of the family. When he inherited the family wealth in 1777 on attaining his majority he had a clear field, no brothers, no rivalry and complete control of a thriving business. His will is beautifully simple and shows that he understood about territory and rivalry. He made a very clear split in the estate, William got Barlick and Christopher got Earby. In 1830 he made sure that the Barlick estate went in trust to his three male grandsons by William in Barrowford and put a trusted friend in charge of this to make sure that all was well. He could do no more, he had done his duty.

In 1819 we have a clear view of our two protagonists, William(1782) and Christopher(1787). Over the years as I have dug into the Bracewells I believe I have got a feel for their characters. William took after his father, intelligent, acute, a good business man and I suspect a good family man. It was a shame that he died young.

Christopher is a different man altogether. All the evidence I have leads me to think that he had a ruthless streak. I think that it’s very significant that he married three years before his brother who was five years older than him. He couldn’t wait to get away from his father and older brother, he wanted independence and his own empire. We shall see later that these traits followed in the Earby branch and eventually caused a lot of unhappiness.

For the present we shall follow the Barrowford-Barlick axis. William(1782) made a good marriage. His sister Mary’s marriage had obviously opened up new contacts because on the 27th June, 1914 he married Mary Grimshaw of Barrowford. She was ten years younger than him at 22. Mary came from a well-established Barrowford family who were active in the cotton trade and was an ideal match for William. They had six children, Mary in 1815. Grace in 1816. William in 1818. Sarah 1820. Thomas 1822 and Christopher in 1825. The family was living in Barrowford and William went into partnership with his wife’s relations in Higherford Mill, at the same time he seems to have had an interest in the malt kilns in Higherford and his mill and properties in Barlick. All seemed to be going well.

On the 5th of November 1827 William died suddenly in Barrowford aged 45. His sons, who were to inherit the Barnoldswick enterprise were only 12, 8 and 5 years old when Grandfather William died in 1830. William(1818) couldn’t inherit until 1839. Mary was left with a young family and a large enterprise to manage. True, she had the support in Barlick of John Cockshott of Bracewell as trustee but one can’t help wondering how tight his control was of the various enterprises. William’s father died three years later and so there was no help from the grandfather. Mary survived her husband by 46 years dying in 1873 aged 80.

With hindsight, Williams early death was another crucial event. It left a partial vacuum in Barlick in terms of control. At present I know little of John Cockshott and his interests. All we can be certain of is that his attentions would be divided and trustees by the nature of their responsibilities are averse to risk-taking. For ten years he saw his task as being to maintain the inheritance and not to innovate or expand. This hiatus in the force driving the business was to prove very damaging to the grandsons in the long run.

SCG/26 February 2004
1070 words.

Christopher Bracewell(1787) son of William(1756) of Coates married Ann Smith in about 1811. I don’t know the exact date but the first child was born in 1812 and at that time they were living in Thornton. I have no direct evidence of when he moved from Coates to Thornton Hall Farm. I have a vague reference to this being 1813 but nothing solid. We could expect him to move into his own house when he married and Ann Smith was born in Thornton in Craven and so she may have had property there as a dowry.

They had nine children; Mary 1912. William 1813. Christopher 1818. Jane 1820. Henry 1828. Thomas, George Smith and Nancy for whom I have no dates, and finally, Edmund Smith Bracewell about 1825.

Christopher’s major manufacturing interest was in the Earby. This was the connection which had been built up possibly his grandfather and was eventually to be his inheritance from his father in 1830. There is little doubt that he had a free hand from 1813 and not only had the putting out connection using cotton twist from Coates Mill in Barlick but a warehouse and possibly a loomshop on what is now New Road. This building stood on the land on the uphill side of the beck opposite to where Brook Shed now stands. William Windle born in Earby in 1825 stated in an article in the Craven Herald of 30/12/1932 that around 1835 he worked as a power loom weaver in ‘The Old Shed’ built by Christopher Bracewell at Green End. This site was never water-powered and so it looks as though there was an engine in there then. I have a reference to John Peel of Green End in the 1841 census as ‘engineer’ and this is feasible, the first engine in Barlick was 1827. Windle said the shed was visited by the ‘plug drawers’ in the summer of 1842 and as originally built it held 140 looms in a long narrow building, later enlarged to 260 looms. There is vague evidence that much earlier it was a warehouse for twist and cloth for HLW. The shed is mentioned in a news report in the Craven Herald of 30th August 1884 as being stopped for water in the drought of that year and in 1885 is mentioned again in conveyances made by a later Bracewell so we can be sure it ran until at least then.

These details about Green End Shed, later called Old Shed after Victoria Mill was built, are significant in our story because they show that Christopher(1787) built the first steam mill in Earby and so we can be sure he was actively trading and taking advantage of the latest innovations. As his interests in Earby grew he built himself a house at Green End. I have no firm date for this. The 1841 census notes him as living at Green End so I assume it was built before this date. At that time New Road didn’t exist, the dirt road down to the shed was a private road and there is contemporary evidence that Christopher took a dim view of anyone walking down it.

There is an interesting snippet of evidence in an article in the Craven Herald of 29th November 1919 in which John Bailey, a grocer who later entered manufacturing in Earby, said that when he built his shop on Water Street the Bracewell family cut off his water supply because they saw him as a threat to their supremacy. This has echoes later on in this branch of the family, they were very territorial and saw control of water supplies as a commercial weapon.

Time to look at Christopher’s children. Mary Bracewell married Samuel Smallpage. I have no information about this marriage but the Smallpage family were active in industry and manufacturing in Burnley and they crop up again later in the story. Jane Bracewell married Edmund Smith who died in August 1874. Jane died in Southport on the 3rd of March 1908. Henry married Jane ? who was five years younger than him and they had a son, Herbert Bracewell. Henry had a large interest in Airebank Mill at Gargrave which is now Johnson and Johnson’s mill. He died at the Beeches in Gargrave in November 1891. Thomas Bracewell married Sarah ? and they lived in Clitheroe where Thomas was manager at Waterloo Mill which was run by Christopher Bracewell and Brothers. (This was Christopher born 1818). Thomas died at Eshton Terrace, Clitheroe on 20th November 1874. I can say nothing about George Smith and Nancy. Edmund Smith married Jane ? and they had one son Frederick Edmund. Edmund Smith Bracewell died at Gargrave on the 5th of August 1874 and could have been associated with Henry at Airebank Mill.

All the above is important detail but fades into insignificance when we look at William(1813) and Christopher(1818). These are the next links in the story. Let’s take Christopher first. I have to apologise here to some of you because there are some scurrilous details. These are proven facts supported by documentary evidence and are crucial to the story. I shall only tell what is necessary. Bear in mind it all happened a long time ago.

Young Christopher was an active participator in life in many ways. He was the man who conceived and built Victoria Mill in Earby. Walt Fisher once told me that the multi-storey block looked exactly like Wellhouse Mill in Barlick built by his brother William. Perhaps they used the same architect. I haven’t a firm date for the build of the mill but the engine was built by J&D Yates of Blackburn in 1856 and so I am assuming this was the building date. Like his brother William, Christopher favoured combined spinning and weaving and this was a big mill for the period. He was the senior partner in Bracewell Brothers who also had interests in Clitheroe but his main power base was Earby until 1885.

We’ll follow Christopher and his family from here. It gets interesting, if not scandalous. Watch this space…..

SCG/26 February 2004
1017 words.

There was a report in the Craven Herald of 29/08/1930 of ‘…. the death of R W Bracewell aged 77 of Red Lion Street, Earby. He claimed direct descendancy from Christopher Bracewell who came to Earby from Thornton Manor in 1821 to start cotton manufacture with 4 hand looms in premises near Green End where he eventually lived.’

Evidence from newspapers can be quite suspect. The only things you can totally rely on are the hatched, matched and despatched and the advertisements. However some reports are more reliable than others. Robert Whitaker Bracewell was the eldest son of Christopher(1818) by his first marriage to Susannah Elizabeth Whitaker in 1852 who was the daughter of George and Ann Smith of Thornton in Craven. In Christopher’s will of the 20th October 1904 he leaves a quarter of his estate to him.

An intriguing date in the news item is the reference to Christopher(1787) coming to Earby in 1821. I’m certain that by 1821 he already had interests in the town, could this be the date the warehouse at Green End was built? The reference to having hand loom weavers working in these premises also rings true. There is more to learn about this.

Christopher(1818) didn’t marry until he was 34 years old. This is late for a man in his position who would be under pressure from his family to get wed and produce some male heirs. In those days they worked on the ‘heir and spare’ principle, much like our present day royal family. He must have been too busy, whether it was with work or chasing the ladies I don’t know.

One thing is certain, he got into trouble with the Factory Inspectors early in 1850. In Leonard Horner’s report to Parliament for the half year ending in April he said that when he visited Mr Bracewell’s works he was tipped off that under-age workers were hiding in the privies. He took a policeman and found ‘thirteen young children, male and female, packed so close together as they could lie on each other’. Colne magistrates fined Christopher £136, this would be about £4,500 in today’s money.

Susannah and Christopher had one more child, Elizabeth Ann born in 1855. It must have been a difficult birth because Susannah never recovered and died six months later. Luckily there was a 16 year old lass in Thornton called Ann Bradley who was engaged to be nurse to the children. We would do well to learn more about Ann.

In 1839 John Speak a shoemaker and Elizabeth Bradley had an illegitimate daughter who was christened Ann Bradley. She was reared by her grandmother Mary Speak, widow of John Speak, weaver and farm labourer of Thornton in Craven, who made a living by baking bread. Mary must have been a good woman because she reared three grandchildren. According to contemporary accounts Ann had red hair and was a vivacious if wilful girl. She sang in the choir at the chapel. We know from later events that she attracted Christopher’s eye and became a favourite. Was the connection delivering bread at Thornton Hall Farm?

Robert Whitaker Bracewell(1854) married Alice Brewster and spent all his life in Earby. Elizabeth Ann(1855) did well. She married Dyson Mallinson of Hoyle House Almondbury, Huddersfield. This was a wealthy and well-connected family and was to loom large in Christopher’s later financial affairs.

In 1858 Christopher married again to Mary Hopwood. I don’t know her birth date and have very little to go on but I suspect she was from a family in Bracewell with extensive land holdings. They had five children; Edith in 1859. Christopher William 1860. Walter Hopwood 1862. Caroline 1864 and Edgar, date unknown.

I know nothing of Edith. Christopher William migrated to Colorado and had his own tragedy later on, more of this later, he ended his days as a school janitor in America. Walter Hopwood became manager of the Bracewell interests in Victoria mill after 1885 in concert with his half brother Robert Whitaker Bracewell. Barrett's directory for 1887 notes he is Managing Director of the Victoria Spinning and Manufacturing Co and he lives at 'Victoria House'. Caroline, or ‘Carrie’ as she was known in the family married Ashley Stables in Colorado. All I know of Edgar is that he disappears from the family in 1894 in America.

The plot thickens here. As I have said, I have no date of birth for Edgar but from the intervals in the birth dates of his siblings 1866 or 1867 would be a fair guess. The reason why this interests me is that on the 8th of April 1870 Christopher had an illegitimate child, Florence, by Ann Bradley who was nurse to his children. Ann was packed off with the child but can’t have been too far out of reach because on the 15th of June 1875 she had another child, Reginald. Christopher financed her and eventually paid for her to migrate to Australia with the two children.

I think it’s significant that Christopher and Mary had no more children. I don’t see how the relationship with Ann Bradley can have been kept secret and I believe that Mary found out in 1870. What we have to bear in mind here is that we are talking about an age where a married woman had no legal rights. In the eyes of the law she was her husband’s property and had no existence beyond that. It was legal until 1891 for a husband to imprison his wife in order to gain his ‘conjugal rights’. In practical terms, beyond withdrawing marital rights and distancing herself within the family she could do nothing. In point of fact we shall see that she actually did achieve quite a lot but that is our story in the next chapter. Let’s have a recap on where we have got to with Christopher(1818) in Earby.

In Christopher’s grandfather’s day at Coates the source of capital to run a business was family money and partnerships. Some credit would be used but only for trading, stocks of materials and covering cash flow. In Christopher’s case, and his brother William in Barlick, the enterprises had grown to such a size that capital loans from the banks were needed. I know that as early as 1869, George Robinson, the manager of Alcock’s, Birkbeck and Company, Christopher’s bankers in Skipton, was pressing him to reduce his overdraft. No doubt the bank felt exposed after the slump in the textile industry caused by the Cotton Famine of the 1860s. There is no doubt that Christopher’s enterprises were heavily underpinned by loans and mortgages. The management of these was as much part of the business as spinning and weaving cotton.

One last factor needs to be noted. In the early 19th century it made sense to spin and weave in the same mill. By 1880 the industry in our area was beginning to specialize in weaving. Both Christopher and William in Barlick ignored this trend and in this respect there is little doubt they made a mistake and damaged their profitability. In the long run this was to be their Achilles Heel.

SCG/February 26, 2004
1,175 words.


I want to leave Christopher(1818) for the time being and step sideways to have a look at what his elder brother William(1813) was doing. In case you haven’t realised it, this is the famous ‘Billycock’ Bracewell of Barnoldswick. I say ‘famous’ because it’s impossible to look at the history of Barlick without getting the feeling that William was all over the town like a big tent. When someone gets a nickname there is usually a reason. In William’s case I think it was simply a matter of distinguishing him from his cousin William(1818) born in Barrowford and heir to the Bracewell interests in Barlick. I shall try to call him William(1813).

History as a list of people, events and dates is incredibly boring, it only comes to life when you try to get inside the mind of your protagonists and fly a few kites. This can lead to error but without it you will never get the insight that leads to real understanding. That’s right, I’m going to draw some inferences here.

Up to this point there seem to have been two rules that the Bracewells followed inflexibly. The eldest son inherited and the different branches of the family stuck to their own territory. It’s a good clue to William’s character that he broke both these rules. My reading of him is that he set out quite deliberately to prove that he was the master manufacturer, he wanted to show the rest of the family how it ought to be done. His first problem was that he couldn’t do it in Earby while his father was alive, Barlick was closed to him because his grandfather operated there, he had to look elsewhere. I suspect that in the first place, Christopher(1787) was grooming William(1813) to take over in Earby. He sent him to Horton in Bradford to be educated and then encouraged him to go out of Earby and get experience with the Smallpage family. If you think back, his older sister by one year, Mary, married into the Smallpages so we know there was a family link.

By 1830 William(1813) was active in Burnley and building up contacts there. I suspect he was also having a good time. In a letter to Doreen Crowther in 1982, Peter Bracewell of Chichester said that he was always told that William was addicted to wine, women and cock-fighting. At one time a portrait of William(1813) hung in the Kettledrum Inn above Cliviger. He also told Doreen that he knew that his grandfather James was an illegitimate son of William(1813). Stephen Pickles told me much the same thing and said that his father had told him that there were illegitimate children.

In 1830 William(1813), aged 17, heard some news which I suspect made him prick his ears up, his grandfather William at Coates had died and the Barlick estates were held in trust by John Cockshott. By 1835 William(1813) had made his decision and was operating as a manufacturer putting out twist to local weavers and dealing in cloth. He took a shop at 24 Church Street and operated from there in direct competition with his cousins and the trustee. I can’t know for certain but I suspect this was the final straw as far as his father was concerned. From what we know about Christopher(1787) he was an upright man and it’s almost certain that he took a dim view of his eldest son’s lifestyle and business practices. One of these days I might get hold of his will, this will tell the full story but as of now I have no evidence of William(1813) getting any advantage from his father’s estate when he died in 1847, his younger brother Christopher(1818) seems to have inherited. William(1813) had severed his Earby connections and was on his own. All this would have been noted by his grandmother Mary at Coates and the trustee, John Cockshott, but what could they do about it?

What William(1813) lacked at that point was capital and in the absence of support from his family he had only one alternative, he needed a good marriage. In August 1837 he married an heiress from Horton in Craven two years younger than himself called Ellen Metcalfe and went to live with her at Horton House. I think that Ellen also had control of the Hoober estate. Remember that under the law as it stood then, William automatically became owner of both Ellen and her fortune. He had collateral that could be used to raise capital from the bank.

The next few years were devoted to consolidating his position. In 1838 Ellen bore him a son, William Metcalfe Bracewell. They had eight more children; Annie Smith 1842. Mary Jane 1843. Ellen Metcalfe 23rd December 1844. Christopher George 5th October 1846. Nancy Metcalfe 2nd August 1848. Margaret Smith 15th November 1850. Sarah Elizabeth 29th October 1852 and Susannah Emily 12th October 1856.

These must have been heady days for William. By 1846 he had two sons and three daughters and had built his first large steam mill at Butts. In 1854 he built an even bigger mill at Wellhouse. In 1860 he bought Marsland’s Ironworks in Burnley and in 1874 he became proprietor of collieries at Ingleton. In between he had bought the Corn Mill in Barlick, several farms, Ouzledale Mill and was buying land and building houses. He promoted and financed the Barnoldswick Railway and built schools and chapels. He was even the biggest milk retailer. Is it any wonder that he became a legend in the town.

On the surface it is all a wonderful picture of enterprise, success and the fulfilment of ambition. He had a gentleman’s lifestyle, his carriages, his mills and his children. It’s an open and shut case, all the evidence says he was the biggest success story Barlick had ever seen. I’m afraid I am too old a dog to buy the obvious. I was always suspicious of William and his success and over the last three months I have had all my doubts confirmed. What we need to examine is how he achieved this success, how sound was his business and who did he have to trample underfoot to get there.

SCG/27 February 2004
1,021 words.


William Bracewell’s progress in Barlick meant he was, to some, the object of admiration. To others, who had been directly affected by the man, he was feared and even hated. These are strong words and there is no direct documentary evidence. However, there are hints and clues here and there and of course we can always rely on our own judgement. Once we understand how he operated it becomes obvious that he must have had enemies.

I mentioned earlier that one of the favourite weapons of the Earby Bracewells seems to have been control of water. This was important when it was for domestic purposes or driving a water wheel, it became crucial with the advent of steam mills which need large quantities of cool water in order to efficiently condense the exhaust steam from their plant to achieve economy. We shall see how William used water as a weapon.

During the time William(1813) was establishing a toe-hold in Barlick, his cousins, William(1818), Thomas(1822) and Christopher(1825) were approaching the age where they could take over their inheritance from John Cockshott the trustee. We would do well to make an assessment of what there was to inherit by 1835 when William(1818) attained his majority. Apart from land holdings and houses, Coates Mill was operating and before he died in 1830, grandfather William(1756) of Coates had enlarged it. There was a warehouse at Coates which held stocks of cotton twist and cloth and the family were still operating as manufacturers putting out twist to hand loom weavers and selling the cloth they produced. In this respect they seemed to be in a better position than William(1813) in 1835 because they had their own twist mill.

On the face of it, Coates Mill had the best water site in Barlick. Once the Butts Beck had passed the Corn Mill it carried all the eastwards flowing water with sufficient fall to give a working head for the wheel. When William of Coates(1818) took over he started improvements and by about 1840/1845 had supplemented the water wheel with a steam engine, put in a gas plant for lighting and installed looms for power weaving. In this respect he was running level with William(1813) with his new mill at Butts.

However, there was one crucial difference. William(1813) had gained control of the water rights on the Calf Hall Beck as far back as Springs Farm and he constructed a dam at Springs to further improve the management of the water supply to Butts. Even so, he was always short of water, the early engines had inefficient condensers. At some time in the early 1850s William(1813) gained control of the Corn Mill and greatly enlarged the dam. In 1857 he bought the mill outright from the Bagshawe family. In 1854 he built Wellhouse Mill and the big mystery in the town at that time was how he was going to get enough water to run it. I have firm evidence that he put a six inch cast iron pipe in from the Corn Mill Dam to Wellhouse. Further, he piped the waste water from the dams at Wellhouse past Coates Mill and discharged it into the beck at low level so that the Bracewell Brothers of Coates couldn’t use it.

Quite apart from this, he had the ability to further manipulate the flow to Coates Mill by letting the Corn Mill dam run dry during the night and diverting all the flow from the beck into it during the day. The net result was that he could restrict the flow of water to Coates Mill to the point where they were severely hampered.

We don’t know anything about what the Bracewell Brothers of Coates were able to do about this. I think it’s fairly significant that in 1846 they took space in Clough Mill and ran looms there. Any capital improvements they made were at Coates Mill which, with hindsight, was a big mistake. I have a feeling they had underestimated how ruthless their cousin could be. We know little about the Bracewell brothers trading performance, there is no documentary evidence. What we can gather from the events that followed is that they weren’t doing very well. We know this because in 1860 when the Cotton Famine caused by the American Civil War hit the textile trade, the Bracewell Brothers enterprises failed. They withdrew from the cotton trade entirely and William and Thomas took a farm apiece at Calf Hall. The next business enterprise we know they undertook was when they obtained the contract for scavenging the night soil in Barlick. A sad end to a promising inheritance.

I lose track of Christopher Bracewell(1825) completely. I have no evidence that he ever married. William(1818) married Mary Ann of Rawtenstall and as there is no evidence of her in the 1871 census I presume she died during the ten years previous to that. They had seven children; Mary 1846. Grimshaw 1847. Alfred 1849. Sarah 1851. Henrietta 1853. Frederick 1855 and William in 1857.

I know nothing of Mary. Grimshaw married and had a daughter called Henrietta. Alfred, Sarah and Henrietta fall from sight. Frederick died in 1893 in Clayton le Moors. William married Eleanor in 1886 and had a daughter named Florence Mary.

Thomas(1822) married his cousin Elizabeth Grimshaw. They had a son Thomas in 1857. Thomas(1822) died in 1872 and Elizabeth died in Barrowford on the 18th of October 1914.

Meanwhile, William(1813) has set up house in Newfield Edge with three servants, a farm manager and a coachman. He has reboilered Butts mill, improved his plant, extended his ironworks in Burnley and built two large weaving sheds adjoining it. In 1872 his firm built a beam engine for Dalton Mill at Keighley which was reputed to be the largest engine in the world.

On the face of it, game set and match to Billycock. He has taken on his cousins and destroyed their business. He owns or controls half of Barlick and has major interests in mining, engineering and railways. Is there no end to this man’s wealth and talents? The answer is yes, definitely. I promise I shall tell you all and in the process knock a large hole in the Billycock legend. All is not as it seems.

SCG/27 February 2004
1049 words.

Billycock’s wife, Ellen Metcalfe died aged 45 on the 22nd of April 1860 at Horton House. We don’t know the circumstances but having nine children in eighteen years could have had some bearing on this. We are constantly reminded of the hard life women had in an age of large families.

On the fifth of June 1861 William(1813) married Mary Whitaker(1823) from Colne. They had two daughters; Julia Martha 20th September 1862 and Ada Whittaker 20th April 1865.

In 1879 William Bracewell(1813) was beginning to feel his age. His sons William and Christopher aged 41 and 33 respectively were still working for their father for a weekly wage. Pressure in the family was mounting for a change and in September 1879 William(1813) created a partnership, William Bracewell and Sons. He took five tenths of the equity, William Metcalfe had three tenths and Christopher George two tenths. The sons had achieved status in the firm at last and Billycock could take things a bit easier..

Eight months later on the 8th of June 1880 William Metcalfe went home to Calf Hall, and died suddenly aged 42. This was a hammer blow for the old man as this was the favoured son and from all accounts seems to have been a pretty good bloke. Christopher George was a different man altogether. Contemporary accounts describe him as a drunkard, wastrel and womaniser with very little aptitude for business. There was nothing for it, William(1813) had to get back in harness again with an increased workload because there was his dead son’s work as well.

William Metcalfe didn’t make a will. Elizabeth his widow took out Letters of Administration on the estate and became the owner of three tenths of William Bracewell and Sons. There was an accounting and William Metcalfe’s share of the firm was reckoned £19,509 and she was notified to this effect. This valued the whole partnership at £65,000. In a society which had so little regard for women there was no way that William and Christopher George were going to accept her as a working partner. William started paying her £5 a week housekeeping money and the two partners carried on hoping that Elizabeth would do the right thing and leave them to run the business.

By 1882 Elizabeth was getting restless. I don’t think she had much time for her father in law or his son and what she wanted was to take her money out of the firm. I have little doubt that she was being advised by other members of the family to get out while the going was good. In May 1882 she instructed her solicitor to write to William(1813) as senior partner and ask for the money. Her father in law sent for her and in evidence given under oath at Wakefield in June 1888 she described him as being ‘in a great rage’. He asked her whether she had authorised the letter and when she said she had he said he was going to ‘throw the whole thing up and she should take it into her own hands and do as well as she could’.

The bottom line here is that from what I know now, the partnership simply couldn’t afford to pay her out. William(1813) was in trouble and he knew it. As she was leaving the office he called her back and asked her to go with the book-keeper, Mr Eastwood, to Burnley to see Mr Matthew Watson who was an auctioneer. After some discussion over the next few days during which Matthew Watson described Mr Bracewell as being ‘very indignant’, William(1813) gave Elizabeth four promissory notes on his personal estate amounting to what was owed together with a promise to pay 3% interest and told her that this was the best surety she could have. This meant that Elizabeth was guaranteed an income of £650 per annum, a rise of £400. The full amount of interest was never paid and there is little doubt that the subject was boiling up again when on the 13th of March 1885 William(1813) died. From here on in, it was all downhill.

William Bracewell’s will of the 10th of March 1885 is a complicated and revealing document. He had controlled everyone during his life and was evidently going to carry on doing the same from the grave. There are so many trusts and sub-clauses that it is almost impossible to see how it would all work even if the estate was in good shape. As it happened, this was not the case and all his carefully laid plans came to nought.

Christopher George Bracewell(1846) was in effect the sole partner. George Robinson, the manager of what was now the Craven Bank must have made an assessment of the position taking into account his confidence in Christopher’s character and abilities. He acted immediately and seized the assets of the partnership so that the bank could liquidate them and draw back what was owing. What followed was a fire sale that lasted for more than six years. The net effect was that as far as I can see, the partnership shares were almost worthless. The question that occurs is how Elizabeth fared in this dénouement. In June 1888 she took her case to the Chancery Court at Wakefield. In essence she was suing the executors of her father in law’s will for £21,500, the acknowledged estate of her deceased husband plus interest owing.

The executors of the will were Christopher George and two of Elizabeth’s brothers in law, Smith Smith a solicitor and Joseph Henry Threlfall, a wine merchant, both of Colne. There was bad blood between Christopher and both these men, indeed, I get the feeling that they were advising Elizabeth but I have no direct proof.

The nub of the case was whether the money owing to Elizabeth was a charge on the assets of the partnership or whether, by issuing promissory notes on his personal estate, William(1813) had accepted the responsibility himself. In effect he had bought Elizabeth’s share. One significant thing that came out in the hearing was that no proper audit of the partnership had been carried out at either William Metcalfe’s death or his father’s. The figure of £19,500 was a guess, it had no basis in law.

I can’t say with certainty what the decision of the court was. I’m not even sure the case went any further because in effect Mr Justice Kekewich told the parties to go away and do a proper accounting and make a decision between themselves. All I can tell you is that there is a note on Billycock’s will which states that his personal estate was valued at £18,640 gross and nil net with no leaseholds. In effect, this industrial giant had died a bankrupt. It looks as though Elizabeth may have won the day.

SCG/28 February 2004
1,158 words.


The story I am telling is an attempt to untangle the web that was the Bracewell family. It is not the history of the area. However, we can’t avoid the fact that the events we are following had enormous effects. The collapse of the Bracewell interests in Barlick devastated the town. Most workers lived in rented houses and when the Bracewell mills closed many of them voted with their feet. Newspaper reports abound at the time reporting 300 houses empty, the poor state of the town and talking about grass growing in the streets.

One of the crucial mistakes that the Bracewells made both in Barlick and Earby was failing to recognise the advantages of specialisation in weaving. As early as 1850 local manufacturers were realising that the day of spinning in combined mills was ended. Slaters at Clough and the Bracewell Brothers at Coates Mill had both bitten this bullet and taken one other crucial step; they opened their mills up to tenants who came in, operated a few looms and started to build up a stake in the business. This was the start of the Room and Power System. There is no way that William(1813) would ever have contemplated such a step. His whole career in Barlick had been founded on dominating trade and stifling opposition.

You may have noticed that earlier on I said that the sale of assets by the Craven Bank rumbled on for over six years. The main reason for this is that Butts and Wellhouse Mills were virtually unsaleable. They were set out on an old-fashioned principle, the combined spinning and weaving mill and they had outdated engines, shafting and machinery. It is very significant that when the Craven Bank eventually sold Wellhouse Mill to the Calf Hall Shed Company on the 26th of April 1890 for £8,000 they insisted as part of the deal that the old engines and boilers should be replaced by modern plant. The Craven Bank had seen the writing on the wall and as the mill was collateral for a loan to the Calf Hall Company the bank was going to make sure that if it ever had to be repossessed they would have an asset that was easy to sell.

Another consequence of the Bracewell failure was that professional people in Barlick who depended on the general prosperity of the town for their income instigated the formation of the Long Ing Shed Company in 1886 and the Calf Hall Shed Company in 1888 which were both immediately financed locally and filled by manufacturers who had been learning their trade at Coates and Clough mills. This was the start of the modern era of prosperity in Barlick and it was the failure of the Bracewell empire and the removal of the dead hand of Billycock that pulled the cork out of what was to be a champagne bottle.

The death of William(1813) had other consequences inside the family. Under his will, the Horton and Hoober estates had been put in trust to his unmarried daughters by his first marriage to Ellen Metcalfe. In effect, as long as they remained unmarried they had Horton House and the income from the estates which were the property that Ellen had brought into the marriage in 1837. Not surprisingly the Metcalfe daughters moved into Horton House and remained there, unmarried, until they died. Had their father blighted their lives from beyond the grave by setting up this arrangement?

His second wife, Mary Whitaker eventually regained her home at Newfield Edge but only after legal arguments which seem to have finished with the death of Christopher George in 1889. On the subject of Newfield Edge, it’s only recently that I solved a long term puzzle about the house. I kept coming across references to a man called Fawcett being the owner. As I ‘knew’ that Billycock bought it and moved in round about 1845 I assumed that this other named owner was something to do with the liquidation. It was only when I read The History of the Baptist Church in Barnoldswick again recently that I realised that Billycock never owned the house. It was bought in 1837 from the Mitchell’s who built it in 1770 by the Reverend William Fawcett when he came to Barlick as pastor of the church. He lived there until 1845 when he rented it to William(1813). Coincidentally there is a Bracewell connection because Fawcett married a Mary Ann Bracewell. The house was in the Fawcett family’s ownership until 1914 when it was bought by Joseph Slater who had married Billycock’s youngest daughter Ada Whitaker Bracewell(1865) in 1887. Apart from one possible break during the litigation, Ada lived at Newfield Edge from birth until she died on the 8th of May 1959 aged 94.

I have always had an instinctive dislike for Billycock. Everything I learned about his business activities confirmed this. It is only with more detailed knowledge of the family that I have come to a full understanding of how well-based that instinct was. Billycock is always presented as a giant of industry in Barlick and a wonderful example of a self-made man. I can’t deny that he was an able business man who built an enormous empire and provided employment for many people over the years but when the full picture emerges, he was a man of straw.

There is no evidence that he ever owned a house. Horton came to him by his marriage to Ellen and Newfield Edge was rented. His strategic view of business was flawed in that he missed the significance of specialisation in weaving and the benefits of renting room and power. He spread himself too widely, the Ingleton Colliery was an expensive mistake. Above all, he relied too heavily on capital loans from the banks. It didn’t matter how much profit he made, at least 4% was creamed off the top in interest payments. The end result was that he was verging on insolvency when he died.

I can’t help comparing his will with that of his grandfather William(1756) at Coates, made in 1819 and 1830. His grandfather made a simple will disposing of an immense fortune for those days in a way that was fair and offered a chance for future success to his sons. Billycock’s will of 1885 is a botched attempt to dominate in death as he did in life and it failed.

One last thought; just think of the number of people in Barlick in 1888 or so who knew what the real story was and were thinking to themselves ‘It served him right’.

SCG/28 February 2004
1,111 words.


One of the main reasons for writing this series of articles has been to give other local historians as much information as I can about the Bracewell families. I know that the lists of names and dates I have been giving are mainly of interest to other scholars and the family but before we leave Billycock’s family I want to tell you what happened to the children.

Let’s start with Ellen Metcalfe’s children. William Metcalfe(1838) married Elizabeth Forrest(1844), I know nothing about her family but have a note of her death on the 10th of February 1916.(see other information at the end of this doc.) Her eldest son, William was born in 1872 at Calf Hall. He entered the clergy and eventually became vicar of St James’ at Doncaster. Canon Bracewell as he later became, died on the 18th August 1954 aged 82 years. He married Hannah and I know of one child, Mary Forrest Bracewell. Elizabeth Forrest had two more daughters; Edith Metcalfe Bracewell was born in 1876 and Ellen in 1878, I know nothing about them.

Ellen’s second child was Annie Smith Bracewell(1842), she married Smith Smith who was a solicitor in Colne. They had three children; Harold was born in Colne and all I know about him is that he married twice to Edith Hanson and Ellen Threlfall. Then came Mary Jane(1843) who died in Gargrave on the 17th of April 1925. Ellen Metcalfe Bracewell was born on the 23rd of December 1844. She married Joseph Mercer and they had three sons; Edward John and George of whom I know nothing.

Christopher George was born on the 5th of October 1846 and died on the 11th of September 1889 at Bank House in Barlick. He married Jane Smith(1843) and she died at Bank House on the 23rd of October 1895. They had five children; Herbert Smith(1878) who died at Sowerby Grange, Northallerton on the 19th of January 1906 and is buried in Sigston churchyard. George Edwin born 1879. Bertha Elsie was born on the 26th of May 1886. There were two more children: William and Christopher Frank.

Ellen’s sixth child, Nancy Metcalfe was born on the 2nd of August 1848. She married Joseph Henry Threlfall, wine merchant and they lived at Moorlands, Foulridge. Their first child Ellen married Harold Smith. Next was Reginald of whom I know nothing. Then came J Maurice whose address at one time was The Rock, Thornton in Craven. Mabel Threlfall married Edward Carr of Langroyd. Arthur, Margery, Nina and Richard fall from my knowledge.

Ellen’s last two daughters were Margaret Smith Bracewell born 15th of November 1850 and Sarah Elizabeth born on the 29th of October 1852. These were the two daughters who retired to Horton House and as far as I know remained unmarried. In 1891 there is a Lily Bracewell living with them but she may have been a visitor.

After Ellen died in 1860 William(1813) married Mary Whitaker(1823) on the 5th of June 1861. After William’s death Mary lived at Newfield Edge as the tenant of the Fawcett family until her death on the 7th of May 1901. The tenancy was taken over by her daughter Ada and her husband Joseph Slater who lived there with the mother from 1887. They eventually bought the house in 1914. Mary Whitaker had two children: Julia Martha was born on the 20th of September 1862 and died young in 1875. Ada Whitaker was born on the 20th of April 1865 at Newfield Edge, she married Joseph Slater in 1887 and they had two children: Hilda Mary who married William Greenwood of Burley in Wharfedale, they had one child to my knowledge, Cecily Deborah. I have a record from America of a son of Hilda’s, Robert Slater but know nothing of him.

Right, you know as much as I do now. I like the fact that Ada Whitaker survived them all at Newfield Edge. 94 years is a good age!

We need to take one last look at Christopher(1846). Bank House has been demolished now but from what I have seen it was an imposing house which could be seen from all over Barlick. Christopher built it in 1878 using the same architect that his father had employed for the new Wesleyan Chapel. What strikes me is that as it was being built, and bearing in mind that the Bracewell family were financing the new Wesleyan chapel, it must have seemed to be one more evidence of the power and position of the family. The Father and son lived well, rode about their business in carriages and expected and received exaggerated respect from all they met. Seven years later the whole house of cards collapsed and Christopher was plunged into a financial nightmare. What must he have thought as he watched Long Ing Shed being built and Calf Hall being planned as he reflected on where it had all gone wrong?

We must leave Barlick now and step back twenty years to have a look at Christopher(1818) at Green End in Earby. On the face of it, the Bracewell Brothers’ partnership was doing well. They were running the steam driven Old Shed on what is now New Road in tandem with the newly built Victoria Mill in the centre of the town. Victoria was a typical example of the large combined spinning and weaving mill. The partnership had linkages with, and it seems investment in, Bracewell mills in Gargrave, Clitheroe and Burnley. With hindsight there is an eerie resemblance to Billycock’s enterprises in Barlick.

There is little doubt that the Cotton Famine years after 1860 damaged the partnership. We know that the bank was asking for the overdraft to be lowered in 1869 but what the level of debt stood at is closed to us. All I can say is that from my knowledge of the affairs of similar companies at the time it could be fairly high. Prior to 1860 the banks had seen no problem in taking what today would be seen as very high risks with the booming cotton industry. Adding to this my knowledge of what happened later, I would say that Christopher was operating in much the same way as his uncle in Barlick. Could there have been an element of rivalry driving him on as he looked up the hill from his garden at Green End House?

SCG/28 February 2004
1,056 words.

One of the big gaps in our knowledge of the Bracewell family’s business affairs is that we only have tantalising clues as to the linkages between the various enterprises. This means that we have no way of being certain how the fate of one branch influenced another. This applies particularly to William Bracewell and Sons in Barlick and the Bracewell Brothers partnership in Earby.

We know that the Craven Bank took over as liquidators in Barlick in 1885 and we have plenty of evidence that Christopher George was at least managing the mills until June 1888. This was the same month that Elizabeth, widow of William Metcalfe Bracewell started her action in the Chancery Court against the executors of Billycock’s will.

When the Craven Herald reported the death of Christopher George Bracewell in September 1889 the article stated that ‘C G Bracewell had run the mills from the death of his father in 1885 until June 1888 when the firm was closed pending Chancery proceedings.’ My theory is that when Justice Kekewich ordered the protagonists in the case to go away and do a proper audit the bank decided to draw a line under the matter. It may be that until then they had been giving Christopher George a chance to trade his way out of trouble. It’s far easier to audit a business if there is no work in progress and the only accurate way to value property is to sell it. This is exactly what the bank did.

My reason for treading this ground again is that it is quite obvious that pressure was building on the Earby partnership before 1885 almost as though there was a connection with Barlick. Of course this may be a coincidence but it nags away at me.

In 1884 there was a significant event at Victoria Mill. At two o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday the 5th of January Mr Duncan McPhail the spinning master was leaving the mill when he realised there was a fire on the top floor where he had been working. By 10 o’clock that evening two thirds of the three storey mill was completely destroyed. Only the engine house and weaving section remained undamaged. 11,000 mule spindles, 12,000 throstles and all the associated machinery were gone. Much of the centre of the town was supplied with gas from the plant at the mill and on Sunday worship had to be restricted to daylight hours in the chapels lit with gas from the mill. Damage was estimated at £27,000 and the partnership had insurance of £20,000 with the London Assurance and Mutual offices.

On Tuesday the 12th of May 1885 the workers at Victoria Mill and Old Shed got a shock. They were told that all work was stopped until further notice as liquidators had been appointed. The same man that had put the liquidators in at Barlick, George Robinson the manager of the Craven Bank at Skipton, stopped Bracewell Brothers in Earby as well. We are allowed at least a suspicion that there was a connection if only in George’s mind.

Twenty years ago I spent quite a lot of time in the archives in Liverpool which then held the early records of the Craven Bank. One of the most interesting items was the business diary of George Robinson. You can learn a lot about a man by reading his private diary and the impression I gathered was that he was very perceptive. In those days, when a bank manager had complete power, he had to be. He not only understood the finance, he studied the men who were his clients. It is certain that he knew all Christopher George Bracewell’s weaknesses. It is equally certain that he was getting information about Christopher(1818) and the Bracewell Brothers partnership in Earby. This would be the basis on which he acted when he foreclosed.

The interesting thing here of course is what was the information he was getting? I can’t believe that he didn’t know about Christopher’s extra-marital activities. Whilst not directly connected with the business this would have been an indication of flawed character in George’s eyes. It’s time we returned to Ann Bradley, we dismissed her before and simply noted that she went to Australia. We would do well to have more details, she has an important role to play in this story.

In 1870 Christopher got Ann out of town and she went either to the Isle of Wight or Manchester. I favour Manchester because in 1875 she had a second child, Reginald Bracewell who was registered in Liverpool. On the 31st of March 1881 the census records her as living at 71 St Bees Street, Moss Side, Manchester with her two children and a servant Mary Jones 18 years old who was born in Rhyl, North Wales. It seems clear that Christopher was keeping her and his children in modest luxury. In October/November 1881 Ann and her family set sail on the Orient Line ship the SS Cotopaxi for Australia and settled in Victoria only to return in 1882. [The Cotopaxi was built in 1873 and between 1880 and 1882 was on the Orient Line Australia service. Registered tonnage, 4,022.] I have no knowledge of where she lived when she returned but it is no great leap of the imagination to suspect that there was contact between her and Christopher.

We noted earlier that Christopher’s daughter Elizabeth Ann had married a man called Dyson Mallinson. On the 8th of September 1877 there is a conveyance from Christopher(1818) to Dyson Mallinson of what looks like the partnership properties in Earby. I won’t bore you with all the details but the effect of all this was that Mallinson held the property as security for a mortgage which would provide operating capital for the Bracewell Brothers partnership. From 1877 the ownership of the Earby properties was out of Bracewell hands and never returned.

Knowing this, and returning to George Robinson’s concerns about the business, we can see why he was feeling uncomfortable. He must have had some collateral for the partnership’s overdraft but it was certainly not the Earby mills. It also seems quite clear that there is some question as to who benefited from the fire of 1884. There is at least the possibility that Christopher got whatever portion of the claim related to machinery and stock. The figure of £27,000 for the loss looks high when you consider that in November 1890 the Earby properties were sold to John Henry Hanson of Huddersfield for £8,200.

We do not need to fully understand all this for our purposes. All we have to note is that there is plenty of evidence for assuming that in 1885 the Bracewell Brother’s partnership was in deep trouble. Does this remind you of anything?

SCG/February 29, 2004
1,132 words.


In the Spring of 1885 Earby folk, and no doubt George Robinson at the Craven Bank, had another small occurrence to ponder on. Christopher William(1860) Christopher’s eldest son left for a visit to Greeley in Colorado, United States. The Craven Herald 21/02/1885 reports that Bracewell’s mills at Earby are running on short time ‘due to the continuing depression’. This lasted about three weeks, they were back on full time in March.

I think we can see now why George Robinson was moved to step in and foreclose in June 1885. He was getting plenty of signals that all was not well in Earby. He may have known more through his chapel connections as we shall see later.

The Craven Herald 22/08/1885 contains an advertisement by John Hogg stating that he has instructions to sell the contents of Green End Earby. It was a three day sale and included the contents of eight bedrooms, a 400 volume library, three carriages, silver mounted harness and all the household effects. The house was not included in the sale. In the same issue there is a report that Christopher Bracewell, his wife Mary and three of the children, Christopher William, Caroline and Edgar had left on Tuesday the eighteenth of August for Colorado. They traveled in company with James and Margaret McCullough of Burnley. Walter Hopwood Bracewell and Robert W, his eldest son, stayed in Earby to manage the family business in partnership with Christopher’s son in law, Mr. Mallinson. (Victoria Spinning and Manufacturing Co.)

On the 2nd of September 1885 Mary Bracewell, Christopher’s wife, paid Mr. Sharon Atkinson of Greeley $17,160 for 440 acres of land and a house. Sharon Atkinson was born in Padiham on the 14th of June 1839, son of William, a shopkeeper and Charlotte, nee Nuttall. He was a power loom weaver and living at Habergham Eaves where he married Lydia Pickup on 18th of May 1851, she was a stitcher in a print works. There was a branch of the Bracewell family in the same village and I wonder, was this was how the connection was made?

Right, we’ve got a stack of information. What can we make of it? For whatever reason, Christopher(1818) has decided that Earby holds nothing for him, it is time for a move. Ann Battersby, the lady who has helped me so much with my research tells me that the place they went to was a strict Wesleyan community founded by a man called Greeley and run on a cooperative basis with strict teetotalism. Atkinson’s holding was in a small town called Hotchkiss. This Wesleyan connection may have been how Sharon Atkinson ended up there.

Young Willy’s trip out to Greeley in the Spring of 1885 was evidently a fact-finding mission. We can’t know who first got the idea of moving but I have a feeling that Mary, Christopher’s wife, was perhaps fed up of gossip about her husband and Ann Bradley. In a small town like Earby there would be plenty of this about. What really intrigues me is the fact that she made the initial purchase of land and kept that holding until she died. This was not a woman being ruled entirely by her husband.

Christopher later purchased a similar sized adjoining holding and he and Mary were to end their days in Colorado. Despite the tensions in the family there must have been a sense of hope and a new start, especially amongst the children. Willy made a trip back to England in the winter of 1885 to marry Ellen born 1857 in Preston. They were married in 1886 and travelled back to Colorado. Three weeks after she arrived in Colorado on April 20th 1886 she and her husband were travelling back from the town when their horses were frightened by a dog and bolted. Ellen was thrown from the wagon and struck her head, dying the following day. I don’t want to make too much of this but I could understand it if they thought that the fates had followed them to America.

Mary Hopwood died on the 20th of December 1891 of heart failure. Her will dated 8/12/1891 left two thirds of her estate to Christopher William and one third to Edgar Herbert Bracewell, nothing to her husband. Christopher William bought Edgar’s portion of the estate on 14/02/1893. There is a certificate attached to her will signed by Christopher her husband to attest to his agreement to her cutting out everyone from her estate except her own sons.

Ann Bradley came to Greeley after Mary’s death and she and Christopher were married on the 15th of June 1893. They had 11 years together before Christopher died on 26th October 1904. In his will, Christopher left half his estate to Ann and half to his two sons in Earby. His only recognition of Mary’s children was to leave them a dollar each. Ann eventually sold up in Greeley and went to live with her son Reginald in Australia where he had migrated in the 1890s. She died on 5th December 1913 in Perth, Western Australia and is buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery there.

There is more to the Bracewells of course, descendants of the people I have described are living today all over the world but we have to call a halt somewhere. What we have done is trace one branch of the family through 300 years of history. They certainly left their mark and in truth, whilst they may occasionally have strayed from the path of virtue, none of them were wicked and they certainly affected the lives of a lot of local people.

We’ve come a long way from where we started with the Black Death in 1348 but we have been following the same line of history all the way through. If we had enough resources we could perhaps find Bracewells who died in the epidemic. Recognise that the qualities of independence and self-belief that drove our entrepreneurs forward sprang from the end of feudalism which was triggered by the Black Death.

Once again, my thanks to Doreen Crowther, Ann Battersby, July Cheche and all the other people who shared their knowledge with me. I hope you all like this synthesis of all the hard work and digging. Now all we have to do is the same job on the Slaters, Nutters, Bradleys………

1,028 words.

06 January 2008

I got mail this morning containing new information about the Bracewells. If you can help or have anything to add, please post it here. George would be grateful for any help you can give.

Hello Stanley, and Happy New Year,
You may remember I telephoned you a few months back; I’d been poking around Bracewell and Barnoldswick as a first stab at looking into my ancestry and the Bracewells. You kindly sent me links to enough information to keep me going till next Christmas including the Bracewell PAF file which I managed to open up. The potted history you’d written was absolutely fascinating so thank you very much for all that.
 I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, I need a help book I think, but I thought I’d start with me and the stuff I know and work back to link up with yours.
My mother was Elizabeth Smith 1911, only child of Ellen Bracewell 1878 and William Edward Smith. My great grandfather then was William Metcalf Bracewell 1838 who I think you have marrying Elizabeth Forrest but our family scribblings have her (my mum referred to her as grandma and we have some photos) as Elizabeth Hartley.
I have an old newspaper clipping of the funeral of ‘Mrs William Bracewell, widow of the late Mr William Bracewell junior, which took place at Blackburn ….at the age of 71…..Mrs Bracewell was born at Horton-in-Craven being sister to Mr Luke Hartley and Mr Abraham Hartley…..she is survived by 2 daughters and one son (Rev Wm Bracewell…..the internment took place…in the family vault at Bracewell Church.’
As a child I met Canon William Bracewell but I must have only been 4 or 5 at the time. I think he married Hannah Forrest (is that where the Forrest confusion lies?) and had 3 children, Hannah Bracewell who married Dick Kinnear,  Mary Forrest Bracewell who married Sir Ambrose Dundas (I still exchange Christmas cards with Anstice Dundas but never met – they move in wealthier circles!) and William Bracewell, known as Billy. So I think the Bracewell line went another generation but Billy Bracewell had two daughters I believe, Elizabeth who married Dicky Bird and Catherine who married Dolph Zuubier, who I did meet at mums funeral, lives in Doncaster still and we exchange Christmas cards.
I have old postcards passed down via my mum of Bracewell road and church, Bracewell Vicarage, Horton Hall, Post Office Bracewell (which we couldn’t find), Newfield Edge, Long Preston Vicarage (now Eldon Country Hotel) Long Preston Church (inside and out), Hoyle Hill Long Preston. I think Mum had holidays in long Preston as a child but I don’t know why. If you would like copies of these old photos let me know and I’ll send them. If I ever get round to scanning them I’ll email them.
Co-incidentally, chatting to my next door neighbour over Christmas drinks, he was telling about his family history research and it turns out his mother was an Ayrton who he had traced back to John Ayrton born 1759 in Bracewell married Grace Twizell and I think you have his brother William Ayrton 1751 marrying Mary as an ancestor of mine. Small world eh!
Sorry if all this is of little interest to you but I am interested know about the Forrest / Hartley thing, just a mistake or is there a mystery here?
Best Wishes
George Horsfield

SG note. 06 January 2008
I’m trying to make sense of this and will do some digging…..

I’ve found this possible match. Elizabeth isn’t on there of course as she was in Barlick.

1881 census.
Dwelling: Stock. Bracewell, York.
John HARTLEY M 52 M Bracewell. Head, Farm Lab.
Ann HARTLEY M 43 F Horton Gill. Wife
Thomas HARTLEY U 21 M Bracewell. Son. (Ag Lab)
Luke HARTLEY 9 M Stock. Son. Scholar
Percy HARTLEY 4 M Stock. Son.
Emma HARTLEY 2 F Stock. Daughter.

Calf Hall, Barnoldswick.
Elizabeth BRACEWELL W 37 F Bracewell, Head, Annuitant
William BRACEWELL 8 M Blackburn. Son, Scholar
Edith M. BRACEWELL 5 F Barnoldswick. Daur, Scholar
Ellen BRACEWELL 3 F Barnoldswick. Daur, Scholar

Elizabeth’s birthplace is Bracewell and this could be Stock or Horton in Craven (Stock could easily be described as being in Horton as it lies midway between Bracewell and Horton)

I can’t say without a lot of digging where I got the Forrest name from but I suspect that it may have been a mis-transcription on somebody’s part. George’s information looks good to me and without a lot of deeper research I have no documentary evidence like a birth certificate. However, I’m going to alter my PAF file as this looks kosher to me. If anyone can take this any further I’d be grateful but at the moment I have other fish to fry…..

Forget altering the PAF. I started to do it and then realized that the birth date I have for Elizabeth doesn’t match the Hartley family at Stock. Unless I have my arithmetic sadly wrong Ann Hartley was only 6 years old in 1844 when Elizabeth was born and John was 15….. I think I need help here!

SCG/January 6, 2008
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 58198
Joined: 23 Jan 2012, 12:01
Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 02 Dec 2018, 06:29

Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

Post Reply

Return to “Research Topics”