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Jack Priestley’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Jack’s as (1)

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RICHARD HAMSON. Richard was the second child of William Hamson of Radcliffe. He was born in 1620, towards the end of the reign of the first Stuart king, James I.

Baptism. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1620 Oct 8  Richard son of William Hamson.

The register does not tell us his mother’s name.

He appears to be the middle one of three children, but with early registers it is possible that some entries are lost or illegible.

It is likely that his father was a weaver, but we have no confirmation of this. Weaving was one of the main cottage industries of this small market town.  Richard himself became a woollen weaver.


In 1641, with tensions between the king and Parliament growing, every man over 18 was required to take a Protestation  ath, affirming their loyalty to the king. There are five Hampson men on the Radcliffe return: Rich: Hampson (twice), Adam Hampson, Gro: Hampson, Thos: Hampson.

Richard was old enough to sign, but his father had died shortly before. The others are his brothers or cousins.

The parish registers at this time spell the surname Hamson. This is the earliest example we have found of the Hampson spelling.


Richard was 22 when the Civil War broke out.

Radcliffe, like the larger town of Bolton to the west, sided with Parliament, while Bury, just north of Radcliffe, was Royalist.

Across the country, the wool trade was generally in favour of Parliament. Charles II had imposed taxes to pay for his wars, and those wars disrupted the lucrative export trade of English woollen goods. Those whose livelihood suffered backed Parliament in desiring to control the king’s expenditure and to make the seas safe for British shipping.

We have no direct information about what part, if any, Richard played in the war, but as a young unmarried man, he may well have been enlisted to fight.

The lord of the manor of Radcliffe was Ralph Assheton, who was also lord of the adjacent manor of Middleton, where he had his seat.

Assheton was a devout Puritan. He joined the Parliamentarian army and rose to become Major-General, commander-in-chief of all Parliament’s forces in Lancashire.

It was customary for the gentry to enrol their tenants as soldiers. In June 1642 Assheton prevented the King’s Commisioners from seizing the Parliamentarian stronghold of Manchester. He sent 150 of his Middleton tenants in complete arms to defend the town, “where they behaved very steadily”. [1] It is highly likely that he sent some of his Radcliffe tenants too. The young bachelor Richard Hamson would have been a prime candidate.

If this is true, then he would have been among the troops who defeated the Royalist Lord Derby at Whalley in April 1643 and drove the Royalists out of Wigan in the same month. They went on to capture Liverpool, Hornby and Thurland, but were surprised and overpowered by Lord Byron near Middlewich in December of that year. A few days later, he and his men took part in the relief of Nantwich, where he was particularly praised by General Fairfax. He took part in the siege of Lathom House, home of the Earl of Derby, in 1644. He and his men were highly praised by Cromwell for their gallantry in the Battle of Preston in 1648. Later that year, they relieved Cockermouth and took Appleby. At the end of the war, his troops were disbanded, but mutinied at Clitheroe in March 1649.

Meanwhile, Oliver Cromwell is said to have laid siege to Radcliffe Tower, with cannons parked on the high ground of Sailor Brow.

In 1644, the war came perilously close to Radcliffe with the Battle of Bolton on 28 May. Like Radcliffe, Bolton, 6 miles west, was strongly Parliamentarian. So fervent were its Calvinist sympathies that it was known as “the Geneva of the North”. Calvinism was a form of Protestantism, founded on the revelation of God through the Bible, with particular emphasis on predestination.

Prince Rupert, Charles I’s nephew, led his Royalist troops to storm the town. Reports said that 1,600 of its inhabitants and defenders were slaughtered, during and after the fighting. The attack took place at night and in heavy rain, when it would have been difficult to distinguish between combatants and unarmed citizens, but killings and rapes went on into the daylight, even after the town surrendered. . Estimates for the death toll range from 200 to 2000. Either figure makes it the worst massacre of the war.

Ralph Assheton’s troops had been engaged in the defence of Bolton in 1642, but at the time of the massacre they were elsewhere, besieging Lathom House.

Battle of Bolton [2]


Assheton was patron of Radcliffe parish church. Around 1644 he appointed a noted Puritan, Reverend Thomas Pyke BA, as rector. Pyke was a leading Presbyterian and  known as ‘a godly preaching minister, well qualified in life and conversation’.[3] The Hamsons would have sat under his pulpit every Sunday.

Sir Ralph Assheton opposed the execution of Charles I. He died soon after, in 1650, at the start of the Commonwealth period. The monumental brass in the Church of St Leonard in Middleton is the only brass in the UK showing a Civil War officer in full armour.




There is a marriage in Radcliffe in 1651 for  “…ard Hamson”. Since the baptisms for Richard’s children begin in 1652, we can be confident that this is Richard. If did, indeed, serve in the Civil War under Assheton, then this is the right time for him to have returned to Radcliffe and to have set about starting a family. Thirty-one is a little older than usual for a man to marry, but military service would explain this.

Marriage. St Mary, Radcliffe
1651 Jul 23   …ard Hamson and Mary Morton


MARY MORTON. We have not found Mary’s baptism. There are no Mortons in the Radcliffe register before this, so we assume she came from elsewhere. We have found no concentrations of Morton surnames in nearby parishes. She probably came from one whose registers do not go back that far.


We know of five children from this marriage, four sons and one daughter.

Baptisms. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1652 Jun 27  Richard
1657 born Jun 20  John, son of Richard Hamson, Wollin Webster.
1659 born Apr 2, bapt 14  William
1662 Jun 22  John
1665 Dec 6  Jaine

We have not found a burial for the first John, but it is likely that he died in infancy. At his baptism we have the only record of Richard’s occupation.

Their three oldest children were born in the Commonwealth period, following the execution of Charles I. But people became tired of the strictly imposed Puritan morality under Cromwell. They were, for instance, forbidden to celebrate Christmas. When Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, he was succeeded by his son Richard. It began to look as though the country had replaced one hereditary monarchy with another in all but name. There was little opposition when Charles I’s son, Charles II, was recalled from exile to take the throne in 1660.

With the Restoration of the Monarchy, the Puritan rector Thomas Pyke fell out of favour. He was expelled from his rectory in 1662, but continued to minister to Nonconformist congregations in the neighbourhood until his death in 1672. His replacement, the Episcopalian Charles Beswick, was  suspended by the bishop in 1671 because, though ‘a scholar and no mean poet,’ he was ‘a dissipated and immoral man’.[5]


Towards the end of Richard’s life we have another example of the link between the Asshetons and the Hampsons.

There is a lease between:

Sir Raphe Assheton of Middleton Bart. and  Richard Hampson of Radcliffe Clothmaker.
Lease of a tenement in Radcliffe called Dickenson’s Tenement in holding of Richard Dickenson of Aynesworth, Gent,with 16 named closes containing 40 customary acres.
With common of pasture & turbary on Cockey & Radcliffe moors.
For 3 lives.
Entry fine £100
Rent £4 per annum + boons
17 Sept 1689.[6]

 This could be Richard or his son.

It shows that some weavers were also farming on quite a considerable scale.


Mary and Richard lived on into the reign of William III and Mary, replaced the Catholic-leaning James II. The Hamsons died within a few months of each other.

Burials. St Mary, Radcliffe.
1695 May 21  Mary Hampson, wife of Richard Hampson, Senr
1695 Sep 28  Richard Hampson, Senr.

Richard had reached the good age of 75.


[1] Dean, John. Historical Middleton. Link4life.org/images/pdfs/local-history-books/historical-middleton/chapter-xiii-general-assheton-pages109-117.pdf
[2] Earlofmanchesters.wordpress.com
[3] The Parish of Radcliffe/British History Online. www.british-history.ac.uk>vch>lancs>vol15.
[4] Mysterious Britain and Ireland.
[5] The Parish of Radcliffe/British History Online.
[6] Greater Manchester County Record Office. E4/3/15/40





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