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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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 WILLIAM HEELIS. We have traced Jack’s ancestry back to Edward Heelis, the son of William Heelis, yeoman farmer of Skibeden, and Ann Slater, born around 1699.

Gillian Waters, who has done a great deal of research into this family, believes that William is the son of John Heelis and Ann Moorehouse, baptised in Skipton in 1652.[1] But this would make him 42 at the time of his marriage, unusually late. It is far more likely that he is the son of Richard Heelis of Draughton and his wife Ann, baptised in Skipton in 1666. This William would have been 28 when he married, a much more typical age.

Baptism. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1666 Oct 28  William son of Richard Heelis of Draughton

Draughton (pronounced Drafton) is a village 3 miles east of Skipton..

An earlier William had been born in 1659, but both he and his mother died soon after the birth.

William was the seventh of nine children, three of whom died soon after birth. He was the younger of two surviving sons.

He had a step-sister and brother from his father’s first marriage and three full sisters.


ANN SLATER. We have found no obvious baptism for Ann. There is a possibility in Bingley. Hanna daughter of Johannes (John) Slater was baptised there on 13 Jun 1677.  An earlier daughter of Johannes is recorded as Anna. But Bingley is 12 miles from Skipton, so this is no more than a possibility. This Ann/Hanna would have been 17 at her marriage.

The fact that Ann was married in Skipton suggests that she was living there then.


Boyd’s Marriage Index gives the marriage in 1694 of William Heelis to Ann Slater in Skipton.

Baptisms. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1695 May 19   William son of Will: Heelis of Skibden
1698 Jun 18   Alice

Eliss Heelis daughter of William was buried on 28 Sep 1698, aged three months.

We do not have Edward’s baptism, but we know there was a son of this name from William’s will. He was older than John, and was probably born around 1700.

1702 Nov 10   John
1706 Oct 2   Anne

William and Ann’s eldest son William was buried on 1719 Jul 15, aged 24. His second son Edward became his principal heir.

William made his will in 1723. This probably means that he was in failing health. It was at this time that his son Edward and his young family moved from Skipton town to Skibeden. Edward took over Skibeden Farm.

High Skibeden Farm from a distance [2]

William Heely (Yeoman) of Skipton was buried at Holy Trinity, Skipton, on 26 June 1726.

He was 60.

The will of William Heelis of Skibeden, Skipton, was dated 10 June 1723 and proved on 28 Jul 1726.[3]

His sole executrix was his wife Ann. William left her land, tenements, messuage (house), barn and appurtenances in Eastby, a township in the parish of Skipton south of Skibeden. After her death it was to pass to Edward for the remainder of the covenant upon it. He was to pay William’s younger son John £50 and his daughter Ann £67 from this property. Ann was to receive her share when she reached the age of 21. If she died before then, Edward and John would share her inheritance. The remainder of William’s estate, including Skibeden Farm, went to Edward. He was to give his mother a cow every year from this.

The will was witnessed by Mary Moorhouse, William Smith, William Preston, Josiah Coram (?) and Roger Wilton. William Heelis signs his name either side of a red wax seal in a firm hand.

Gillian Waters adds further information about the Heelis lands.

“It is highly likely that the toft which this William Heelis held was one of the two recorded in Skibden in 1612. I would contend that this was a “Close House”. As a Free Tenant William Heelis was a leaseholder of the land rather than a copyholder, and whilst he still paid rent to the monks of Bolton Priory, his position as a leaseholder was protected in law. He also held lands at ‘Kyrkhill’ in Eastby, as a copyholder. These may be identified with ‘Embsay kirk’ a small hamlet lying between Embsay and Eastby today. For these lands William paid an annual rent of six shillings and eight pence. In the fifteenth century leases of lands were fairy new, the ancient right of copyhold being the usual customary way of holding land.”

Copyhold was a form of land tenure dating from the Middle Ages. The tenant had a duty of service to the lord of the manor in return for occupying the land. This was later commuted to rent.

Waters continues: “It is possible that there are references to Heelis’s in Skibeden in the sixteenth century. In 1522, a ‘Richard Elys’ of Skibeden’s goods were valued as being worth thirty shillings a year. If this ‘Elys’ were a misspelling of ‘Heles’, it could be said that the Heelis family definitely owned lands in Skibeden by 1633.”

We are fortunate enough to have the inventory of Willam’s goods made on 19 July 1726.

It shows that Skibeden Farm had four rooms, including a garret.

In the “House”, presumably the main living room, were  range, a pair of tongs, a backstone, a spit, a pair of racks, a dresser and pewter case, various brass and pewter, a table and “one other little”, one flock (?), 4 chairs, a glass case with 2 delf (Delft ?) dishes and 6 plates.

In the chamber (apparently on the ground floor): one bed and bedding, one table, 5 chairs, one chest of drawers, 4 pictures in frames.

In the chamber over the House, one bed and bedding, 3 chests and 3 chairs, one long seat.

In the garret: one bed and bedding.

Including William’s purse and apparel, the total value was £29.5.70.

The inventory was made by William Preston, Thos: Moorhouse and John Heelis.


Ann Heelis widow was buried in Skipton on 23 Nov 1757. She was living in the town of Skipton at the time. This could be William’s widow if she was younger than him. If we are right about the Bingley baptism, she would have been 80.


[1] http://www.bgwaters.co.uk/harrison8.htm
[2] Trevor Littlewood. Creative Commons Licence. https://s3.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/05/82/07/5820759_0d6dd095_1024x1024.jpg
[3] Will of William Heelis 1726 Skibeden, Skipton (Craven), Borthwick Institute, borthwick-institute@york.ac.uk




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