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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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HENRY MITCHELL. His name is sometimes spelled Mitchell and sometimes Michell.

He is likely to have been born in the 1620s, but we have found no baptism for him in Skipton. There are several in the surrounding area, but it is hard to choose between them.

He could be the illegitimate son of Thomas Driver and Bridget Michell, baptised in Colne, Lancashire, on 18 Jan 1620/1. He named one of his daughters Bridget.

Skipton parish registers date from 1592. There are numerous entries for Mitchell from 1593 onwards. Clearly, there was a long-established family of Mitchells there. Though we have not found Henry’s baptism there, we cannot rule out the possibility that the entry has become illegible.

In adult life, he frequently appears in documents alongside Robert Mitchell. They were very likely brothers. There was a Robert, son of John Mitchell, born in 1626, but he died the following year. More likely is the following.

Baptism. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1627 Dec 24  Robert the sonne of Humfray Mitchill.

Some pages of the early registers are in bad condition. Henry’s baptism may be on one of these.

Alternatively, there is a baptism for a son of Thomas Mitchell in July 1624. The corner of this page has been torn away, so that we cannot read his name.

If he was Humfray Mitchcell’s son, then his father appears to be a shoemaker. But both Henry and Robert show signs of having considerable wealth in their later years.


IZABEL. The early baptismal register does not name the child’s mother, and we have not found the wedding of Henry and Izabel. We learn her name only at her burial.

Henry and Izabel married during the Civil War of the 1640s. The Protestation Return of 1641 would have given us the names of men living in Skipton then, but the Skipton return is missing.

Skipton was the last Royalist stronghold in Yorkshire to hold out against the forces of Parliament, with Skipton Castle coming under siege. The town around it suffered considerable damage.

In 1671, Henry Mitchell supported a petition from a former Royalist soldier applying for a pension because of the wound he received. It is highly likely that Henry was a Royalist too.

We have no evidence of whether he fought in the war, but he was probably in his late teens when it started, and would have been prime recruiting material for the army.

Henry and Izabel appear to have married towards the end of the Civil War. The first record we have of this marriage is the burial of an unbaptised child in 1648.

Burial. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1648 Aug 11  A Childe of Henry Mitchells of Skipton  not bap. Ch.

It is remarkable that an unbaptised child was buried in the church, since they were not usually interred in consecrated ground. Skipton was remarkable for the number of parishioners buried inside its parish church. Doubtless the churchwardens preferred to collect the fee for this, rather than be too scrupulous about canon law.

There follow the baptisms of another eleven children.

Baptisms. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1649 May 2  Henery
1650/1 Jan 17  Mary. Mary was buried on 1 Oct 1654. Ch. 20d.
1651 Dec 19  Leah
1655 Nov 2  Richard
1657 Jun 17  Bridgett
1658 Jun 3  Isabell
1659/60 Feb 3  John
1660 was a tragic year for the Mitchells. Bridgett was buried on 26 Sep, aged 3, Isabell on 28 Sep, aged 2, John on 15 Oct, aged 7 months, and Richard on 21 Nov, aged 5.

Usually, we would associate a high rate of infant mortality with poverty, but the closeness of these dates points to an outbreak of severe infectious illness.

The Mitchells were certainly not poor.

For all the burials of Mitchell children the record ends with “Ch. 20 d”. Henry and Izabell paid this sum to have their children buried beneath the floor of the church, rather than in the graveyard. 20d was about two days’ wages for an agricultural labourer.

In 1657 we have the first record of Henry and Robert Mitchell acting together.

A notebook on the occupancy of Skipton properties tells us:
‘Thos Tomlinson & Ro. Hill sold to Hy &  Ro. Mitchell of Skipton b. or mansion in Skipton 2 bns 1 gth & g.’ [1]
This means that their large dwelling house had two barns, a garth and a garden. A garth was an enclosed yard or garden.

1660, when the four children died, was the year when the monarchy was restored, with Charles II taking the throne his father had lost when he was beheaded in 1649.

The Mitchell baptisms continue:
1660/1 Feb 2  Martha
1662 Nov 28  James
1664 Nov 14  Frances
1666 Aug 20  Christopher

In all of these records the father is given as Henry Mitchell, or Michell, “of Skipton”. This means that the family was living in the town, and not in a rural part of the parish.

In 1670, their eldest child Leah married John Haworth.

Once the monarchy had been restored, soldiers who had been wounded fighting for King Charles I in the Civil War were able to apply for a pension. Henry Mitchell certified at least one such petition.

Civil War Petition for John Thornes of Skipton, W. R. of Yorkshire. July 1671.
These are to certify All whome it may concerne, that the Bearer hereof John Thornes of Skipton in Craven is an honest poore man And one that did faithfully serve his Majesty King Charles the first of ever Blessed memory under the Command of Sir John Mallerye and Major Hughes of Skipton Castle, and ever since hath Continued faithful to his Majestie that now is without any Revolting, And when Briggs kept his Garrison at Keildwicke, he was knoct down at Sneygill in takeing one John Settle a Quartermr to the great danger of his life: which blowe hath caused such a dissinesse in his head that he is almost disabled from following his Calling, Soe that without some speedy Releife be had for him his wife and poore Children they are likely to be starved and come to ruine.

Therefore the bearer hereof humbly desires, that his majesties Justices of the peace, will take the premisses into Consideracion, and admit him pentioner, whereby he may Receive a yearly stipend towards the Releife of him & his poore family &c.

And he as in duty bound shall ever pray &

We whose names are hereunder written doe Certify the Contents of this Certificate to be true.

There follow twelve signatures, beginning with the Vicar of Skipton. Henry Mitchell is the sixth and John Mitchell the seventh.

John Mitchell must be the one who was born in 1617, the son of Humphrey Mitchell and brother to Robert Mitchell. If we are correct about our supposition, he was also Henry’s brother.

The same notebook tells us:
‘The site of 2 to 10 Newmarket Street can be traced back to 1660, when stood on the site “a messuage or burgage in Skipton”. A burgage is a tenure of land in a town on a yearly rent while a messuage is a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use.’

Newmarket Street is a thoroughfare running east from Caroline Square at the foot of the High Street.

‘The Hearth Tax Returns of 1672 list two adjoining houses, the larger one with 12 hearths is occupied by Henry Mitchell and his mother, and the smaller one (adjoining Caroline Square) with six hearths, by Robert Mitchell.’

Twelve hearths means it must have been a very big house indeed.

Sadly, we do not have the name of Henry’s mother, which might have helped us to identify him.

In 1674, the year he died, Henry Mitchell had only one hearth.

Market Cross, High Street, Skipton[2]

The will of his grandson-in-law Stephen Catterson in 1740 refers to ‘the Orchard which I purchased of Mr. Henry Mitchell’. In those days, ‘Mr’ was a title reserved for gentlemen.

Rent books for 75-79 High Street with 26/8 Sheep Street show that Henry Mitchell and Robert Mitchell were here in 1660:
‘This was probably the old Mitchell freehold referred to in the following Deeds:
1721 “One messuage burgage or cottage in Skipton with a barn or garden thereto”
This Deed refers to the life interest of Elizabeth, the mother of Robert Mitchell, a bankrupt.
1723 “A messuage burgage or cottage in Skipton and one barn stable and kiln and a piece of ground called the Cock Pitt”
1723 “messuage tenement or dwghse [dwellinghouse] and one kiln in Skipton late in the possn of Gilbert Johnson…’

‘In May 1678 [after Henry’s death], Robert conveyed the property to Hugh Watkinson and in 1689, Hugh Watkinson sold to John Hall. When John Hall died the house had three living rooms, two parlours and four chambers as well as a bakehouse cellar and outbuildings. Grounds reached as far as the beck and comprised a barn, stables and a cowhouse with garden and orchard.’

When Henry and Izabel died, the sum for burying an adult in the church was higher than that for their children.

Burials. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1674 Dec 30  Henry Mitchell of Skipton. Ch. iiis 4d.
1675 Oct 3  Izabel ye wife of Henry Mitchell of Skipton deceased. Ch. iiis 4d.

We are fortunate to have this first identification of Henry’s wife. In most registers, after Henry’s death she would have been “Izabel Mitchell, widow”, or, as here in the Bishops Transcripts, just “Izabel Mitchell”.

They were probably both in their fifties. Christopher was only 8 when his father died.

A document concerning the marriage of Robert Mitchell’s son calls him ‘Robert Mitchell of Skipton yo.’ [3] This means he was a yeoman.


[1] This, and most of the quotations that follow, come from P.G. Rowley, Notebook 1: High Street, Sheep Street, Properties, owners, tenants, Notebook, Skipton Reference Library. This is a notebook, detailing the people who lived in the High Street and Sheep Street in Skipton.
[2] What Was Here – Skipton High Steet – Heritage. Painting by Skipton born artist Richard Waller, 19th century. The only pictorial representation of the Market Cross which was demolished a few years later to expand the entry into Otley Street.
[3] West Yorkshire Deeds, Vol. 1




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