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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)



ISAAC KIRKHAM married in Leek, Staffordshire, 1760. We should expect a baptism around 1735. The nearest to this is that of Isaac son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Kirkham baptised in Leek in 1727. But this child was buried a few months later.

It may be that Isaac was baptised in the nearby village of Meerbrook, where he brought up his children. The surviving Meerbrook registers begin in 1738. On the other hand, there are no other Kirkham baptisms in Meerbrook until the 1770s.


SARAH BEARDMORE’s baptism has not been found either. There are a number of baptisms for that name in Staffordshire around this time, but none particularly near Leek and Meerbrook.


The couple were married in the market town of Leek. It stands on a rise above the river Churnet. It had a well-established silk industry, occupying 2000 of the population in the 18th century and 1000 in the surrounding countryside. It was then a domestic industry, carried out in people’s homes.

 Marriage. St Edmund, Leek
1760 Oct 18  Isaac Kirkham  of the parish bachelor and Sarah Beardmore of this parish spinster

Isaac signs, but Sarah makes her mark.
Witnesses: Joseph Myott and William Rider
A Richard Myott witnessed his son Isaac’s marriage.

The couple have the baptisms of six children in the Leek registers. Four of these are mirrored by baptisms in the Meerbrook register, also for children of Isaac and Sarah Kirkman, with identical names in the same month of the same year. This is too much of a coincidence for these to be two different couples.

Meerbrook was a chapelry in the parish of Leek and Lowe. A likely explanation for the duplicate entries is that the children were baptised in Meerbrook and the records were then copied into the register of the mother church in Leek. There is a small discrepancys in the day of Elizabeth’s baptism.

Residence in Meerbrook is reinforced by the addresses given in three of the entries. There is a  Lower Water House and a Benthead Farm in Meerbrook. The area of Leekfrith includes the villages of Abbey Green and Meerbrook.

 Baptisms. St Matthew, Meerbrook, and St Edmund the Cnfessor, Leek.
1765 Feb 28   Isaac son of Isaac and Sarah Kirkham. This is recorded in Leek only.
1769 Feb 12   Job son of Isaac and Sarah Kirkham of Lower Waters
1771 Apr 5  Joseph
1773 Aug 16   James. Leek register only
1776 Sep 8 and 7   Elizabeth, of Benthead
1779 Oct 4  John, of Leek-frith

The strongly biblical choice of names is typical of the wider Kirkham family. It suggests that the 17th century Kirkhams were Puritans siding with Parliament against King Charles in the Civil War. There was a strong Presbyterian and Quaker following in Leek.

The inn at Meerbrook, formerly The Horseshoe.

We have concluded that the family were living in Meerbrook, rather than the town of Leek. The most likely reason for the frequent changes of address is that Isaac was an agricultural labourer who moved from farm to farm at the annual hiring fairs.

Sarah’s burial may be that of Sarah Kirkham, buried at St Edmund’s, Leek on 4 Jun 1785. Her age is not given, nor is she said to be Isaac’s wife. Her abode was Upper Hulme. This is a tiny hamlet close to Meerbrook.

There is a particularly detailed entry in the Meerbrook burial register for 2 Dec 1787.

Isaac Kirkham of Lower:waters. Milner, was buried at Leek, having liv’d with his wife Betty more than 64 years.

In 1723 Isaac Kirkham married Elizabeth Tunnicliffe.
A milner is a miller.
This is not Sarah’s husband, but is probably a close relation, perhaps even Isaac’s father.

It is possible that our Isaac Kirkham is the one buried at Leek on 19 May 1816, aged 78 years. A birth date around 1738 would be plausible. His abode is given as Thorncliffe. This is a village 2 miles from Leek.




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