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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)



EDWARD FAWCETT. The Fawcett ancestors take us back to the little village of Muker in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. It is built on a hillside above the meeting place of the River Swale and the Straw Beck. ‘Swale’ means a ‘swirling, rushing river’. It is said to be the fastest-flowing river in England, and has many ‘forces’, or waterfalls.

The cottages are of stone with slate roofs.


The registers go back to 1638, shortly before the Civil War, but the early ones are badly faded, with many entries now illegible.

It is here that we find the marriage of Edward Fawcett and Margret Metcalfe in 1640, two years before war broke out between King Charles I and Parliament.

This is too early for us to find Edward’s parents. William Fawcett, who was raising a family here at the same time, may be his brother.


MARGRET METCALFE. There are far more Metcalfe entries in the 17th century register for Muker than there are Fawcetts, suggesting that this family was long-established in the village, while the Fawcetts were more recent arrivals.

In the 1881 census, Metcalfe was the 2nd most popular name in Muker and Fawcett the 5th.

As with Edward, we estimate that Margret was born around 1610-20. We cannot hazard a guess as to which of the many Metcalfes were closely related to her.

Towards the end of their lives, Margaret and Edward were the defendants in a law suit concerning property in Dent.[2] Dentdale is south of Swaledale, beyond Wensleydale. The Metalfes are thought to have originated here. It may be that Margaret came from Dentdale, or had forebears who owned land there.

 Marriage. St Mary the Virgin, Muker.
1640 Aug 22  Edward Fawcet and Margaret Metcalfe.

Muker was a chapelry within the parish of Grinton. There had been a chapel of ease in Muker for centuries, but in 1580 the church of St Mary the Virgin was built. In Victorian times, this was almost completely replaced, so few traces of the earlier church remain.

It was to this earlier church that the couple brought their children to be baptised.

Baptisms. St Mary the Virgin, Muker.
1641 May 2  George. Abode: Winter?
1652 Sep 5  Mary
1654 Nov 5  James

The year after George’s birth the Civil War broke out. Yorkshire was predominantly for Parliament. Its economy depended chiefly on sheep farming and woollens. King Charles’s foreign wars had devastated the overseas wool trade.

The long gap between George and Mary’s births may be because Edward was away fighting in this war, but more likely there were other baptisms in that period which are now illegible. Or it may be one of those churches whose registers were disrupted in the Civil War.

There is a burial for Magrete Facett on 3 Aug 1644, but, as we shall see presently, this is not Edward’s wife because both Edward and Margaret were still alive in 1681.

By now, the Civil War was over, King Charles had been executed, and Oliver Cromwell ruled the country as a republic. Both Edward and Margaret lived long enough to see the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II.

There is a burial in Muker the following year.

Burial. St Mary the Virgin, Muker.
1661 Jan 28  Edward Fawcett

 And that would seem to be the end of the story, but for the Fawcett Clock.

The initials E.F.M stand for Edward and Margaret Fawcett for whom the clock was made by John Ogden in 1681.[3]

We have found no other marriage of Edward Fawcett to Margaret, nor later baptisms for children of Edward Fawcett. The 1661 burial must be an older Edward, perhaps the father of Margaret’s husband.

John Ogden had recently settled in Askrigg in Wensleydale, 5 miles from Muker. He was the first of a noted series of Askrigg clockmakers. He was a Quaker, who came to the parish from Halifax in 1680, at the age of 20. Indeed, this clock may the piece that marks his transition from apprentice to journeyman.

The Askrigg clocks were simple, catering to the rural trade. The earliest, like the Fawcett Clock, have only one hand.

The four corners of the dial-plate each contain a line of verse. They read: 

Behold this hand,
Observe ye motions trip,
Man’s precious hours
Away like this do slip.

This was a favourite inscription of Ogden.

It is thought to be the first long-case clock in NE England.

Ogden was a skilled metal-worker. He is said to have made the clasp for his friend George Fox’s diary and the hinges for the door of Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House in the parish, which opened in 1701. He made his own dials and hands, and did the engraving, as well as creating the moving mechanism. He only needed the village carpenter to make the case.

We are told that the intention was that the Fawcett Clock should never leave Wensleydale, though it eventually did. We know that Edward and Margaret’s son James moved from Muker in Swaledale to Askrigg in Wensleydale. It looks as though his whole family did.

We have not found burials for Edward and Margaret there, but the Askrigg burial register does not start until 1701.

John Ogden trained five apprentices in Askrigg. The last of these was Mark Metcalfe, born in 1693. He was two generations younger than Margaret Metcalfe, but evidently from the same family.

The fortified manor-house of Nappa Hall in Askrigg came into the possession of the Metcalfe family in the late 14th century. It declined with the fortunes of the Metcalfes in the 17th century.

Edward and Margaret’s grandson John Fawcett also married a Metcalfe.

We do not have an occupation for Edward, but their commissioning of such a clock at this early date, and Margaret’s lineage, suggest that they were considerably above the status of an agricultural labourer.

In 1689 Edward Fawcett and Margaret Fawcett his wife were defendants in a dispute with Matthew Bucke over property in Dent, Yorkshire.[4] Dentdale is the next dale south of Wensleydale. The Metcalfes are thought to have moved from there to Wensleydale.

The Askrigg burial register does not begin until 1701, shortly before the reign of Queen Anne. Both Edward and Margaret appear to have died before then.


[1] The Yorkshire Dales. Copyright Christine Johnstone and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
[2] National Archives: C 10/523/13. Bucke v. Fawcett
[3] https://thedales.org.uk/the-clockmakers-of-askrigg-wensleydale/
[4] National Archives: C 10/523/13. Bucke v. Fawcett




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