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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)



THOMAS HARRISON was born in the parish of Skipton in 1638, four years before the start of the Civil War.

Baptism. Holy Trinity, Skipton.

1638 Aug 19  Thomas the sonne of Richard Harrison of Thorleby [1]

His mother was Anne Watson, also from a Thorlby family.

Thomas was the eldest child.

Thorlby is a township to the NW of Skipton, forming part of that large parish. It consisted of a few houses surrounded by farmland, two miles from the town. The York to Lancaster coaching road ran through it.



The right-hand section of this map of 1675 shows the road running from Gargrave through Thorlby and Stirton on its way to Skipton.

No siblings have been found for Thomas until 1654 when he was 16. There is a very strong likelihood that his father was fighting in the Royalist army in the Civil War. Richard Harrison was a tenant of the Clifford family who were staunch Royalists. They took their retainers and tenantry to war with them. As one of the younger tenants Richard would have been prime material for the recruiting officers.

Skipton Castle was a Royalist stronghold until it fell to Cromwell after a three-year siege.

As the only son, Thomas would have had to help his mother on the farm from an early age. The long period without baptisms following the Civil War may mean that his father returned wounded.

A twin brother and sister were born in 1655, during the Commonwealth period, but John lived less than four months. Another brother was born in 1659, also named John.

By now, Thomas had reached adulthood. His father died in 1660. Thomas would have taken over the farm at the age of 22. His mother died in 1776.


Thomas married the widow Susan Croft in 1682 when he was 43. We can only speculate about why he remained a bachelor for so long.


SUSANNA SMYTHSON.  Thomas was Susanna’s second husband. When she married Robert Croft, her name was Smythson. She was of Skipton parish. Smythson/Smithson was a common name in Skipton but we have not found her baptism.

On 31 Dec 1664 Robert Croft married Susanna Smythson in Holy Trinity, Skipton.

We have four baptisms from this marriage.

1665 Oct 2  Elizabeth the daughter of Robert Croft of Surton
1668 May 29 Richard the sonne of Robert Croft of Sturton
1673 Jul 13  Robt ye sonne of Robt Croft of Stirton.
1675/6  Mar 7 Christopher the sonne of Rob: Croft of Stirton

Stirton was a township of Skipton parish just to the east of Thorlby where the Harrisons lived. Like Thorlby, it was a hamlet of a few houses set in farmland.

Robert Croft of Stirton was buried on 25 Nov 1777. The entry is followed by “Ch. 3. 4”. This may mean that a charge of 3s 4d was paid for burial within the church. If so, it would mark Robert Croft out as a farmer of some means, not just a labourer.


Thomas Harrison and Susan Croft were married at Holy Trinity, Skipton on 12 April 1682

Susanna’s youngest child would have been only six.


Susanna bore Thomas only one child, but it was enough to secure the Harrison succession.

1684 Sep 28 Thomas ye sonne of Thomas Harrison of Stirton.

Thomas had evidently moved from his childhood home of Thorlby. The hamlet of Stirton is less than a mile away. If Robert Croft owned his own farm it may be that Susanna or one of her young sons inherited it, or that Thomas took over the tenancy. Stirton township contains the evocatively named None Go Bye farm.

All five children from Susanna’s two marriages seem to have survived infancy. This may be an indication of their economic status.

At their burials, two or three decades later, the couple’s residence is given as Thorlby. One of Susanna’s sons by Robert Croft may have taken over the Stirton farm on reaching adulthood. Thomas returned to Thorlby with Susanna, possibly to his parents’ farm. He may have owned his own farm but was more probably a tenant like his father.

Skipton was a flourishing market town trading in sheep and woollen goods. Its name comes from the Saxon sceap (sheep) and tun (town). No doubt sheep-farming was Thomas’s principal livelihood.

Thomas Harrison was a churchwarden in 1686. This reflects his standing in the community.


Susanna died 24 years after their marriage.

1704/5 Jan 15 Susanna wife of Thomas Harrison of Thorlby.

Thomas lived to see the end of the Stuart dynasty and the accession of the first Hanoverian king George I in 1714.

On 25 Feb 1719/20 we have the burial in Skipton of “Tho: Harrison (an old Farmer) of Thorlby.Thomas would have been 81.

He left his only son Thomas, now 45, to run the farm.


[1] BMDs from Findmypast
[2] http://www.oldmaps.co.uk/image/ogilbydet/88.jpg




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