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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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ABRAHAM LEIGH. Abraham Leigh of Hapton began his family in 1691, giving him a probable birth date around 1665. This makes it very likely that he is Abraham son of Abraham Lee/Leigh of Hapton. He was baptised at St Leonard, Padiham, on 7 Feb 1663/4.

Hapton was a township to the south of Padiham. It did not have its own church until 1914. The Leighs had to travel to St Leonard’s in Padiham for compulsory attendance at church services.

Abraham was the eldest of five sons. His father was either an attorney or the steward of an estate. We know only that his mother’s name was Alice.

He became a farmer.


ISABEL. As with Abraham’s mother, we do not have a marriage, so we do not know her maiden name, and we learn her forename only at her burial.


There were at least ten children. We may question whether the first of the eleven listed, Alice, is of the same family. The spelling of the name is different, and the abode is not given as Hapton. On the other hand, Abraham’s mother’s name was Alice, so we should expect him to name a daughter after her. The different spelling may be due to another person keeping the register.

Baptisms. St Leonard, Padiham.
1691 Apr 12  Alice Lee – daughter of Abr. Lee
1694 Apr 15  Robert Leigh – son of Abraham Leigh.     Abode: Hapton
1696 Apr 17   Abrah Leigh – son of Abr. Leigh.     Abode: Hapton
1697/8 Mar 13  Susan Leigh – daughter of Abr. Leigh.     Abode: Hapton
1699/70 Feb 2  George Leigh – son of Abra. Leigh. Abode: Hapton
1701/2 Jan 8  Mary Leigh – daughter of Abraham Leigh.  Abode: Hapton
1703/4 Feb 27  Elizab. Leigh – daughter of Abraham Leigh. Abode: Hapton
1705 Dec 30  Edward Leigh – son of Abraham Leigh. Abode: Hapton
1707/8 Jan 12  John Leygh – son of Abraham Leygh.  Abode: Hapton.
John was buried on 23 Jan.
1709 Jul 17  Anne Leigh – daughter of Abraham Leigh. Abode: Hapton
1711 Jul 6  Isabell Leigh – daughter of Abraham Leigh. Abode: Hapton

Abraham was a yeoman, farming over a hundred acres. He rented land from the wealthy Townley family, who built Townley Hall in Burnley. Back in the 14th century, John de Legh of Hapton married Cicely Townley and adopted her surname. Their descendants were the 18th-century Townleys. Abraham may well be descended from another branch of the de Legh family

The Townleys were Catholics. In early 18th century, Roman Catholics were under suspicion of seeking to overthrow the Protestant rule in England. There were conspiracies to place James Stuart on the throne. An Act was passed in 1715 ” to oblige Papists to register their Names and real Estates”, making them liable for excessive taxation.

Whereas the Papists within this Kingdom, notwithstanding the tender Regard that hath been shewn them for many years last past, by omitting to put in Execution the many penal Laws which (on occasion of the many just Provocations they have given, and horrid Designs they have framed, for the Destruction of this Kingdom and the Extirpation of the Protestant Religion) have been made against them; and notwithstanding they have enjoyed, and do still enjoy the Protection and Benefit of the Government, as well as the rest of his Majesty’s Subjects, have not only, all or the greatest Part of them, been concerned in stirring up and supporting the late unnatural Rebellion, for the dethroning and murdering his most sacred Majesty; for destroying our present happy Establishment; for settling a Popish Pretender upon the Throne of this Kingdom; for the Destruction of the Protestant Religion and the cruel murdering and massacring its Professors; by which they brought a vast Expence upon this Nation … it is highly reasonable that they should contribute a large Share to all such extraordinary Expences as are or shall be brought upon this Kingdom by their Treachery and Instigation

Among these estates registered were:

In Hapton

Two farms 54 ac. let by Charles Towneley to Abraham Leigh, 1 Mar 1705/6 for 21 years at £23..10s rent, 2 days ploughing, 2 days mowing, 6 days working at hay, 6 days reaping corn and keeping a hound or spaniel, or 8 fat hens. In the tenure of Abraham Leigh, Ann Brooke and George Welsh. 

Two parts of the Bayliffwick of Blackburnshire let to Abraham Leigh from year to year at £2..10s, but subject to rent in for 7s..2d.

Abraham not only had to pay rent in money, but provide service to his landlord’s estate and keep animals or poultry for him.

It was customary for the lease to be made out for the lives of three people, who would inherit the lease in succession if the first named tenant died.

Both Richard and Charles Towneley were noted Jacobites, both plotting and fighting to return the deposed James II to the throne.

Hapton had the second largest deer park in Lancashire. Hapton Tower was built by John Towneley in 1510 and served as a lodge for hunting in the park. In the early 18th century some of the park was divided into separate tenements and leased to farmers.

Map showing Hapton Tower [2]

It may have been one of these new farms that Abraham rented.

He may well have had other farmland elsewhere.

The soil in Hapton is poor, so there was very little arable farming. It is probable that Abraham was keeping sheep on these upland pastures.


Abraham and Isabel died within a short time of each other.

Burial. St Leonard, Padiham
1743 Apr 15  Isabel wife of Abraham Lee of Hapton.
1744 Mar 30  Abraham Lee of Hapton

Abraham would have been 80.


[1] The Registers of Estates of Lancashire Papists 1717-1788.Vol I 1717. Ed, R Sharpe France. Record Society for Lancashire and Cheshire.
[2] https://www.burnleyexpress.net/images-a.jpimedia.uk/imagefetch/http://www.burnleyexpress.net/webimage/Prestige.Item.1.89398229!image/image.jpg?crop=982:736,smart&width=990




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