The American Brettons
An old family myth related to some Bretton who emigrated to the United States. We did not know who or when - or even whether it was true or not. In 1996, however, we had a phone call from a John Bretton in Hemel Hempstead with whom we had corresponded for some time. He was researching the name throughout the world and we had sent him all the information we possessed on our branch. He was collecting an enormous amount of information and had just heard from two American Brettons (before marriage) Charlene Duncan and Beula Wilson who were trying to trace their ancestors. These ancestors, Joseph Bretton and his son Henry, along with another brother, had emigrated to the States in the 1820’s. All they knew is that they came fom Yorkshire so John Bretton asked us if we would try and find where they originated from as we were “on the doorstep”. Some work on the IGI narrowed it down to two possible families and a few minutes thought showed that it could only be one family from Elland near Halifax. Christine and I spent about four days in the archives and confirmed that it must be that family and quickly identified the Joseph, Henry and a John who were the likely emigrants. We then took the family back a few generations and were astounded to find a mention of Emley, about two miles from Flockton and, as well as tying them into a chart prepared by Rowland Bretton, we then tied them in to our own chart. Our own branch, and Henry Bretton’s branch came from two brothers Thomas Bretton (in our case) and John Bretton (in the case of the American branch) born at Flockton in 1716 and 1712 respectively
We were delighted that an old family story had at last been confirmed and since then we have been in continuous contact with Charlene and Beula, and with Billey Force and Leita Beth Nieshe , sisters, and Brettons, who both live in Washington State. Most of the family live in Kansas but, although they are far flung, they have a Bretton re-union each year in Kansas with between 60 and 120 people attending. We were very disappointed that we were unable to attend in 1997 but managed it in 1998 and had a wonderful time with some great people (over 100 people attended). Ill health stopped us going there again in 2000 but we remain hopeful for 2001.................
The re-union we attended was held in Philipsburg, Kansas, not far from the geographical centre of the United States and, although they were in the middle of a heat wave (July) we thoroughly enjoyed the visit and treasure a plaque they presented to us.
Another of the abiding memories of that trip (and there were plenty) was when we were taken to the Bretton Cemetery, as it is known locally, near Philipsburg. This is where Henry Bretton was buried, a long way from Elland, near Halifax, (Yorkshire) where he was born, and which has been used virtually entirely for the Bretton family ever since. I believe that there are only three graves where people other than Brettons were allowed to be buried within the site. Two were locals who died in a cholera epidemic and the other was a nameless cowboy who died as he was passing through and was buried just within the boundaries of the plot.
The cemetery is miles from any habitation (presumably on Henry Bretton’s land), on top of a small rise in the prarie with endless views in every direction and three quarters of a mile through pastures to get to the cemetery from the nearest dirt road. To be there in the total quiet of that prairie was a magical experience and one I will never forget. We went back again a couple of days later to savour it again.
We have let them all have copies of the family history and are hope to add, to this web site, an article on the Wentworth family, and Governor Benning Wentworth, the first Governor of New Hampshire, to whom the Bretton family is distantly related.
We went on to the Internet in December 1997 to see if we could use it to trace the family, if any, of John Bretton, the brother of Henry who disappeared soon after arriving in America. In spite of contacting dozens of Brettons, Britains and Brittons in the States we have not yet managed to trace anyone.
Even at this late stage we keep on finding other, new, references to the Bretton family
and wonder just how many more there are to discover. We fervently hope that there will be other people who will be able to, and willing to, carry on this family history.
Joseph Bretton, who emigrated to the United States in 1828
A deed in the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield, registered in the year 1813 under the reference GA 131 154.
A Memorial to be registered in the Register's Office at Wakefield, of indentures of a lease and release bearing out respectively the first and second days of July in the year of Our Lord One Thousand, Eight hundred and Thirteen, the lease made between Edward Dickinson, of Marshall Mills, Huddersfield in the County of York on the one part, and Edward Kilner of Elland in the parish of Halifax in the said county of York, Gentleman, of the other part and the release being of four parts and made between the said Edward Dickinson of the first part, Joseph Bretton, aforesaid, Joiner, of the second part, John Walker of Newmillerdam in the parish of Sandal in the said county of York, Millwright, and Mary, his wife, nee Mary Bretton, spinster, of the third part and the said Edward Kilner by his further description of a person nominated by and in trust for the said Joseph Bretton and John Walker and Mary his wife of the fourth part. Of and concerning all that one full undivided moiety of actual half part the whole into two actual parts to be divided of and in all that messuage or dwellinghouse with the several cottages and other outbuildings, yard or fold, and gardensteads lying contiguous thereto. Also all that croft piece or parcel of arable meadow or pasture ground lying near to the said messuage and dwellinghouse containing by estimation near one acre be the same more or less and also one pew or seat situate standing and being on the north side of the side aisle in the parochial chapel in Elland aforesaid and now or now late in the possession of one Mary Ewbank her undertenants or assigns all with said tenements, hereditaments and premises are situate standing lying and being in Elland aforesaid and formerly in the tenure or occupation of the said Mary Ewbank, her undertenants or assigns together with all and every the rights to privileged hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to the same belonging or in any wise appurtaining And also containing all that the said other or remaining full undivided moiety or actual half part the whole into two actual parts to be divided of and in all that the said messuage or dwellinghouse, cottages, outbuildings, croft or parcel of arable meadow or pasture ground and of all and singular other than the premises herein before particularly mentioned and described and of their .................. of their appurtenances the execution of which said indentured of lease and release by the said Edward Dickinson and respectively attested by Joseph Thomson of Halifax aforesaid, gentleman, and Isaac Dickinson of Marshall Mills aforesaid, cornmiller.
Signed and sealed in the presence of Joseph Thomson, sworn.
The mark and seal of Isaac Dickinson
This Mary Walker, nee Mary Bretton is likely to be Joseph Bretton's aunt and who, with her husband possibly helped Joseph with a mortgage.
A deed registered in the Registry of Deeds, Wakefield known as FZ 716 899 in 1814
A memorial of indentures of lease and release bearing dates respectively the First and Second days of April in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fourteen the lease made between John Walker of Newmillerdam in the parish of Sandal in the county of York, millwright, of the one part and Henry Wiglesworth of Elland in the county of York, gentleman of the other part and the release being of three parts and made between the said John Walker of the first part, Joseph Bretton of Elland in the parish of Halifax in the county of York, joiner of the second part, and the said Henry Wiglesworth of the third part of and concerning all that full undivided moiety of equal half part the whole into two equal parts to be divided and all other the part and share of him the said John Walker of and in all that messuage or dwellinghouse, cottages and other outbuildings yard or fold and gardensteads lying contiguous thereto and all that croft piece or parcel of arable meadow or pasture ground lying near to the said messuage or dwellinghouse containing by estimation near one acre to the same more or less and also one pew or seat situate staning and being on the north side of the south aisle in the parochial chapel of Elland aforesaid heretofor in the possession of Mary Ewbank, widow, her undertenants and assigne all with said tenements, hereditaments unto and promised are situate standing lying and being in Elland aforesaid and were late or heretofor in the tenure or occupation of the said Mary Ewbank, her undertenants or assigne and also all and singular the houses outhouses edifices and buildings erections stables woodshops orchards gardens ways paths passages waters watercourses hedges tithes walls rights and liberties privileges advantages hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to the said moiety heraditaments and premises belonging or in any wise appertaining with said indentures and to the execution thereof by the said John Walker is witnessed by James Wiglesworth and Richard Hoyland both of Halifax aforesaid, gentlemen which said indenture of release and to the execution thereof by the said Joseph Bretton is witnessed by the said James Wiglesworth and Richard Hoyland.
Signed and sealed being first duly stamped in the presence of James Wiglesworth, sworn
A deed registered in the Registry of Deeds, Wakefield bearing the number FZ 716 900
A memorial of an Indenture being a mortgage by Demise bearing date the 11th day of May in the year of Our Lord One thousand Eight Hundred and Fourteen between Joseph Bretton of Elland in the parish of Halifax in the county of York, Joiner, of the one part and John Walker of Newmillerdam in the parish of Sandall in the said county of York, Millwright of the other part. Of and concerning all that messuage or dwellinghouse, cottages or outbuildings, yard or fold and gardensteads lying contiguous thereto and also all that croft piece or parcel of arable meadow or pasture ground lying near to the said messuage or dwellinghouse containing by estimation near one acre to the same more or less and also one pew or seat situate standing or being on the north side of the south aisle of the parochial chapel in Elland aforesaid heretofor in the possession of Mary Ewbank widow her undertenants or assigns lying and being in Elland aforesaid and were late or heretofor in the tenancy or occupation of the said Mary Ewbank her undertenants or assigns but are now in the tenure or occupation of the said Joseph Bretton his assigns and undertenants and also all and singular the outhouses ways paths and passages waters water courses, rights liberties privileges advantages hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to the said messuage and premises belonging to or in any wise appertaining which said indenture as to the execution thereof by the said Joseph Bretton is witnessed by James Wiglesworth and Richard Hoyland both of Halifax aforesaid gentlemen.
This is the first mention of property belonging to Joseph Bretton who went to the United States in 1828, and all three deeds above relate to the purchase of that property. Unfortunately in those days it was not felt necessary to register the address in deeds and so we have nothing to tell us where the house was. Because there are a lot of houses in this area which have stood for some hundreds of years and many of which have been renovated to modern day standards we tried to find the address if the house still stands by following through sales by the persons mentioned in the lease as buying from Joseph Bretton. Unfortunately it appears that parts of land were sold separately and so far we have not traced a sale of the “dwellinghouse” that gives an address. Some addresses were given but we cannot trace the “Dog Lane” in Elland that is quoted on a 1850's map of Elland. We will keep on trying. For reasons mentioned later it may not be the first property he owned of some size. He apparently held these properties until 1820/21. His wife, Betty, died in 1819 and maybe he wished to move. He then sold the above property and moved to Shelf near Halifax. The sale of the house etc is in the :-
Registry of Deeds in Wakefield - deed number HF 54 60 1821
A Memorial of Indenture of three parts bearing date the 14th April in the year of Our Lord 1821 and made or mentioned to be made between John Walker of New Miller Dam in the parish of Sandal in the County of York, Millwright of the first part. Joseph Bretton of Elland in the parish of Halifax in the said county of York, Joiner of the second part and John Noble of Elland aforesaid of the third part of and concerning all that messuage or dwellinghouse, Cottages and other buildings, yard or fold and gardensteads lying contiguous thereto and also all that croft, piece or part of arable meadow or pasture ground lying near to the said messuage or dwellinghouse containing by estimation near one acre (be the same more or less). And also one pew or seat situate standing or being on the north side of the south aisle in the parochial chapel of Elland aforesaid, heretofore in the possession of Mary Ewbank, widow, her undertenants or assigns all with the said tenement heraditaments and premises or standing lying and being in Ellland aforesaid and now in the tenure or occupation of the said Joseph Bretton, his assigns or undertenants together with all and singular the heridaments and appurtenances whatsoever to the same premises belonging or in any way appertaining, the execution of which said indentures by the said John Walker, Joseph Bretton is attested by John Edwards the younger of Halifax aforesaid, Attorney-at-Law and Ward Dyson Hitchin his clerk.
Registry of Deeds in Wakefield - deed number HK 480 524 1821
A Memorial of Indentures of Lease and Release bearing dates respectively the 25th and 26th days of May in the year of Our Lord 1821 the lease made between Joseph Bretton of Elland in the parish of Halifax in the county of York of the one part and John Riley of the same place, shopkeeper, of the other part and the release made between the said Joseph Bretton of the first part, John Noble of Elland aforesaid, Freeman, of the second part the said John Riley of the third part and James Hiley of Elland aforesaid, Surgeon,of the fourth part.
Concerning all that messuage or dwellinghouse cottages and other buildings, yard or fold, gardensteads lying contiguous thereto and also all that croft piece or parcel of meadow or pasture ground lying near to the said messuage or dwellinghouse containing by estimation near one acre (be the same more or less) And also one pew or seat situate standing or being on the North side of the South Aisle in the Parochial Chapel of Elland aforesaid heretofore in the possession of Mary Ewbank, widow her undertenants or assigns. All with said tenement heraditaments and premises,are standing,lying, and being in Elland aforesaid and were formerly in the tenancy and occupation of the said joseph Bretton, Jeremiah Ewbank, James Wood, Alice Brooke, Mrs Haigh, and Joseph Grayson their or some of their undertenants and their assigns together with all and singular the rights (members?) and appurtenances whatsoever to the same belonging or in any case appertaining the execution of which said indenture of lease by the said Joseph Bretton is witnessed by James Wigglesworth of Halifax aforesaid, Gentleman, and Robert Parker of the same place, Gentleman, and the execution of the same indenture of release by the said Joseph Bretton, John Noble and John Hiley is witnessed by the said James Wigglesworth and Robert Parker.
Signed and sealed (being first duly stamped) in the presence of James Wigglesworth,sworn
We followed up the question of the right of a pew in the parochial church of Elland, (where his wife, his mother and his daughter are buried in the churchyard) and found that there was a record of ownership of pews taken in 1805, well before the date of purchase of this particular property. The 1805 record shows :-
North side South Aisle Joseph Britton of Elland - pew 39
The Honourable Mr Savile - pew 33
The Honourable Mrs Savile - pews 40 and 41
Earl Mexbro (Mexborough) - 1 sitting in pew 36
There were 43 pews in the South Aisle
36 in the Middle Aisle
50 in the North Aisle
Two things need to be mentioned. The ownership of the pews did not of course have any bearing on who occupied them and went purely on ownership of property. The Saviles (or Savilles) were, like the Earl of Mexborough, land owners in all parts of the country and no doubt owned dozens of pews in the same way. Incidentally the Savilles were very good friends to Blessed John Bretton and to Francis, after John Bretton's execution.
The other question that remains unanswered is which Joseph Bretton had the privilege of this pew number 39. Was it the Joseph Bretton who is mentioned above in all these deeds and who later emigrated to the United States- or was it his father, another Joseph and the one who married Amelia Kaye from Emley ? If the latter - then where was the property that gave him the right to occupy this pew ? Every little piece of information we find seems to beg even more questions !!!
A deed registered in the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield - HN 65 54 dated 22.8.1821
A Memorial of an Indenture bearing date the 22nd day of August in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and Twenty One, and made or mentioned to be made between Joseph Lister of Shelf in the parish of Halifax in the County of York, shopkeeper of the one part and Joseph Bretton of Elland in the parish of Halifax aforesaid, farmer, of the other part. Of and concerning all that messuage, dwellinghouse or tenement with the outbuildings, garden, and appurtenances thereto belonging, situate standing and being in Shelf aforesaid and now in the possession or occupation of the said Joseph Lister. And also all those three several cottages or dwellinghouses with the outbuildings gardens and appurtenances thereto respectively belonging situate standing and being near to the said messuage dwellinghouse or tenement and now in the several possessions or occupations of John Torry, Sarah Bateman and John Asquith together with all and singular the hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to the said premises belonging or in any wise appertaining the execution of which said indenture by the said Joseph Lister is attested by John Edward the younger of Halifax aforesaid, Attorney-at-Law and Charles Barstow his clerk
Signed and sealed in the presence of John Edwards Junior (Sworn)
C. Barstow Joseph Lister (£5)
A deed registered in the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield - IW 344 317 dated 11.5.1827
A Memorial of an Indenture of three parts made the eleventh day of may in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and Twenty Seven between Joseph Bretton of Elland in the parish of Halifax in the Counry of York, farmer, of the first part, Joseph Lister of Shelf in the parish of Halifax aforesaid, shopkeeper, of the second part and David Pitchforth of Elland aforesaid, coalminer of the third part of and concerning all that messuage or dwellinghouse or tenement with the outbuildings gardens and appurtenance thereto belonging situate standing and being in Shelf aforesaid and now and late in the possession or occupation of the said Joseph Lister and also all those three several cottages or dwellinghouses with the outbuildings gardens and appurtenances thereto respectively belonging situate standing and being near to the said messuage or dwellinghouse or tenement and now or late in the several possessions of John Torry, Sarah Bateman and John Asquith, together with all and singular the hereditaments and appurtenances to the said premises belonging or in any wise appertaining the execution of which said indenture by the said Joseph Bretton and Joseph Lister is attested by George Edwards of Halifax aforesaid Attorney-at-Law and John Herbert Mitchell his clerk
Signed and sealed in the presence of Geo. Edwards (sworn) Joseph Lister
Jno. Herbert Mitchell
William Bretton of Maryland
We have to thank the internet for the initial information on William Bretton, which was sparse but immediately spurred our interest. So much so that we contacted Georgetown University Library in Washington DC and quickly received a reply from Heather Bourk which was both comprehensive and fascinating. We are most grateful to her for her help and continuing interest. One of the documents she sent us was an article entitled “William Bretton of Newtown Neck, St. Mary’s County” by Edwin W. Beitzell, published in the Maryland Historical Magazine in March 1955. This is an excellent article and must be recommended to anyone interested in the William Bretton family from the time they arrived in Maryland. However, this particular section of the Bretton family history is mainly devoted to an account of our researches into William Bretton’s English background and is not intended to give more than an outline of his life in Maryland. What information we do give about the American period of his life is taken from the article mentioned above, from other documents sent us by Heather Bourk, from long discussions with Byron K. Marshall, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, a descendant of William Bretton, and from details sent us by Linda Reno, who is an avid St. Mary’s County researcher. It is worthy of note that William Bretton’s deed to his initial land grant is the oldest sealed deed, we understand, in Maryland.
William Bretton arrived in Maryland on 12th January, 1637 together with his wife, Mary, son William aged 4, his wife’s parents Thomas Nabbs and his wife, and three servants, John Mansell, Richard Harris and James Jelfe. He became Clerk of the Lower House of the Assembly, Clerk of the Council, and Clerk of the Provincial Court. He was also “Lord of the Manor” of Little Bretton, planter, burgess, lawyer, judge, coroner, and a leading Roman Catholic layman. Edwin Beitzell feels that, from the records, it appears reasonable to assume that William Bretton was well known to the Calvert family (Lord Baltimore) and was persuaded to come out to the province to assume the Clerkships of the Council, the Assembly and the Provincial Court. He also feels that Bretton must have been a man of some means since he transported a number of people, was well educated and was referred to as “Gentleman”. The fact that he came out to Maryland to take up these posts is, to us, borne out by the fact that he attended his first General Assembly less than two weeks after his arrival and was invited to take up the Clerkships by the Governor. There is no further mention of his son William and it would appear, therefore that he died sometime after his arrival. On the death of his wife he married again and there was one daughter born of this second marriage. It is from her that his descendants in the USA originate.
It made sense to start our detailed check in this immediate area, initially merely on the basis of the Bretton estate in Maryland being called “Liitle Bretton”, a local name. We have spent so much time, over the last 42 years, searching for baptisms, marriages and burials in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries that we know records of this era vary between being non existent or completely unreadable. The problem is always multiplied dramatically if you happen to be searching for a staunch Roman Catholic, as William Bretton appeared to be, after the period of the reformation. It was especially true of well educated Catholics (especially recusants) that they either did not baptise their children or that it was done in secret by Catholic priests and that no formal records were ever available. However, the records were searched for a William Bretton baptised before or around 1610 : a marriage between William Bretton and Mary Nabbs around 1630/1633 : the baptism of a William Bretton, son of the above William and Mary : a Thomas Nabbs father of Mary : a John Mansell : a Richard Harris : a James Jelfe and a George Bretton(arrived in Maryland 1657). No trace of most of these happenings, on or around those dates has been found, in either the Yorkshire or other county records. The exceptions are that we have on our family tree, courtesy of Dom Hugh Bowler, the Catholic Historian, a George Bretton (Possibly born around 1609/10), for whom we have never found a marriage or death, a William Bretton at Cathill, virtually in High Hoyland, which was also the site of the original “Little Bretton”, which was a potentially exciting discovery (more of this later) and the burial of another William Bretton, who could have been either the William Bretton mentioned above or a child, son of the William Bretton mentioned above. If it was the latter and the death took place around the time when the next child was due then quite often the next son was called after the child who had just died
We also searched for records of the Calvert family, being aware that the 1st Lord Baltimore came from North Yorkshire at Bolton Castle and Kiplin. Various IGI records of the family were found but the information was apparently corrupted by the unfortunate but common practice of someone submitting unattributable information in support of what they desired to be the case. For example they state that George Calvert, son of Leonard Calvert and Alice Crosland was born in 1578, 1579, “about 1580” and then that he was the son of Leonard Calvert and Anne Brent and was born in 1580) However in Foster’s “Visitation of Yorkshire in 1612” carried out by Richard St. George Norroy King of Arms is the following pedigree
Leonard Calvert of Danby Wiske m. Alice(Grace) Crosland of Crosland (near Almondbury)
(1)Cecil (heir) (2)Leonard 3)George (4)Francis Ann
The information we have on William Bretton states that it was generally supposed that he was known to the Calverts and that he had gone to Maryland to take up the posts of Clerk of various Courts. . We were wanting to refine our search areas for William’s origins in England so that the search of land records was shortened and we considered how and where William Bretton may have been associated with the Calverts. Unfortunately there are several possibilities :-
1. In one document relating to Lord Baltimore it stated that after Lord Baltimore became a Roman Catholic the four Calvert brothers were educated at Douai in France (Where
Blessed John Bretton’s sons went to train as priests both before and after his execution on 1st April, 1598.)(Matthew was at Douai from 1584 to 1604 and Richard from 1599 to 1613) It is also thought that his nephew, another John Bretton also went there to train for the priesthood. If the Calvert sons were at Douai then the families could have been aquainted through this because the presence of the English priests must, in the circumstances, have made them each seek out the others.. We then sought to check Douai records to see if we could discover when Sir George Calvert’s sons were there. Unfortunately we found that all the original Douai records for the appropriate period were destroyed during the French Revolution. Ushaw College, which has later Douai deeds, was not able to help for the period in question.
2. Leonard Calvert married Alicia/Grace Crosland of Crosland. This is only a few miles from Bretton where Blessed John Bretton, the Catholic Martyr lived before his execution in 1598. As the two families were of the same social standing it would be impossible that John Bretton, and his martyrdom, was not known to the Croslands. Equally one of the Crosland daughters married a son of the Baron Beaumont of Whitley family . As we mention elsewhere in the family history the Beaumonts were originally Brettons who adopted the Beaumont name when they moved from Bretton to Beaumont near Whitley in the 1200’s.
3. The other thing that might reinforce this theory was our first reason for a local search. It was common practice for early settlers to name their new homes/towns etc after the places they had left. William Bretton named his new estate in Maryland “Little Bretton” and there was a part of Bretton/West Bretton called “Little Bretton”. It is mentioned in our family history as part of a conveyance of land from Richard Wentworth to John Bretton in 1476 (which in itself is significant if the Bretton family still owned land at “Little Bretton in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s) and, by an amazing coincidence we found a second mention of it the day after we started searching for William Bretton, in a Pedigree of a minor Yorkshire family. In this case it was a member of the “West” family, Lewis West, who arranged the sale of the Bretton estate by Captain John Bretton in 1642. He was described as “Clerk” which was commonly used for Lawyers and it said that the family lived at Little Bretton. If William had lived there and named his new estate after his home area then there is no doubt that he was part of our family. We then found that, according to Johnston, Little Bretton was at High Hoyland, on the edge of the (later) Bretton Hall Estate and that, in Johnston’s time, consisted of 2 houses. Having found that the West’s lived in one house there and that Lewis West, a lawyer with links to the Brettons lived there in the early/mid 1600’s, it is easy to take the next step and wonder whether the “other” house was at some time occupied by William Bretton.
4. We had a branch of the Bretton family living near the Calverts at Danby Wiske and Kiplin in the 1500/1600’s so he may have known them there.
5. The worst scenario from a search point of view is that if William Bretton was a lawyer, he had been trained, and lived, in London and known the 1st Lord Baltimore there. Lord Baltimore only became a Catholic late in his career in London, in 1624 in fact, but there was sufficient time for him to have met William Bretton, as a Catholic, between that time and 1632 when he died, and for William Bretton to get to know Sir George’s sons.
As we say above we decided to concentrate of the “coincidence” of William Bretton naming his estate in Maryland “Little Bretton” and search in this area. We pre-supposed that William might have been trained as a lawyer in England and sought to check any possible training with the Law Society or any attendance at the main English Universities, Oxford and Cambridge, both of which appeared to start in the 1200’s.
However, in discussing our plan with a leading Archivist, he felt that either search would be non-productive. He wondered whether William, from what we had told him about his career in Maryland, would have hidden his light under a bushell and concealed his Catholicism. In that case he pointed out it was highly unlikely that he would have been accepted for either Oxford or Cambridge, and even less likely that he would have been considered for training as a lawyer, the antipathy towards Catholics was so strong in the “Establishment”. He also suggested that a man with a good education (even apart from Oxford or Cambridge) would have had no difficulty, and need no training, to be appointed Clerk to such a body, as had happened to William Bretton. We had the same principles confirmed with other experts but nevertheless checked with both Oxford and Cambridge. Neither of them had any record of a William Bretton at the appropriate period. Our search with the Law Society, after an un-acceptable delay brought forth the information that their records started well after the time when William Bretton could have been receiving training.. We have since found confirmation that members of the military and civil establishments had to swear loyalty to the Crown and abjure the Roman Catholic Church which precluded most staunch Catholics from following these professions. Even if William Bretton had “conformed” (on the surface) he still might have found it difficult to make such an oath.
We searched every local archive for any sale of an estate in Yorkshire by a Bretton or Nabbs without success (apart from the sale of the Bretton estate and sundry small pieces of land, but not involving any “William Bretton”). Enquiries at other potential sources of land records were again unsuccessful. We then commissioned a search by a genealogist of every possible Yorkshire Archaeological index, searching for an estate record, purchase or sale by a William Bretton or by a Thomas Nabbs (Knabbs). We found nothing, but this did not surprise us considering the amount of time we had spent over the last 42 years searching the records for the 1500’s and 1600’s and how little information is available to the researcher for those periods.
A check on the records of Ancient Manuscripts was equally
A preliminary check on Recusants for this area did not show him named. It did however show some Brettons, Beaumonts and Crosslands.
We attempted to check all lists of recusants for the whole country but rapidly found that this was going to be difficult. We started at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research at York University who are the leading repository for old manuscripts and have a huge collection of the Catholic Records Society publications. We knew that Father Hugh Aveling had published a roll of Yorkshire recusants and were extremely disappointed to see that he had only named the members of the aristocracy who were registered as recusants and some of “the Gentry” although he gave numbers of other recusants for each parish. He showed Blessed John Bretton as a recusant until his death and Frances as a continued recusant after that date. He never mentioned his martyrdom, nor that of all the other Yorkshire Martyrs who were not “in the upper classes” and only mentioned Saint Margaret Clitheroe as “Mrs Margaret Clitheroe” of York. It gave an impression that the rest didn’t matter. Equally an article about the famous Gascoine family only mentioned their recusancy although the article made clear that all the other recusants in their home parish were named in the original rolls. A gentleman from the Catholic Records Society said that the “rif-raf” were not generally mentioned by name in the returns and then hurriedly said that he used the term in a jocular fashion.
We then tried the Catholic History Society, again without success.
Two full days by the two of us at the Borthwick found no concrete evidence of William Bretton. We did however find a mention of “Little Bretton” which was very helpful. Little Bretton was explained as being the former “North Bretton” (of which we had never seen a mention) and it explained it as being in (near to) High Hoyland. To explain - the village of Bretton is on a rise with the land dropping to the two lakes through all the Bretton Park estate. Across the lakes the ground rises up what is called “Long Side” to a road which leads from Bentley Springs to High Hoyland. From High Hoyland and Cawthorne the road eventually splits - one road to Hoyland Swaine and the other to Silkstone. Silkstone Parish Church was at one time the church of the Wentworth family from Bretton Hall and there are two elaborate tombs of Sir Thomas Wentworth and Sir George Wentworth. The reference we saw stated that at one time (no date) there were only two houses at “Little Bretton”. It is set out below :-
From Professor Hunter’s ”South Yorkshire” (under “High Hoyland”) published in the 1820’s
“Little Bretton is described by Johnston of consisting but of two houses in his time. It seems to be the place called North Bretton in early deeds. Of the Wests, a visitation family, who resided here, an account has already been given”
We certainly know that the Wests lived there in what would have been a large house befitting their status, but as we said earlier - William Bretton......?
However we searched part of the Bishops Transcripts for Silkstone and Sandal Magna Parish Churches, and compared them with the search we had done of these records many many years ago.Under Silkstone found the following entry :-
“Anne, daughter of William Bretton of Hoyland Swaine baptised 6th August, 1630/31” This we felt to be an extremely important entry, showing as it did that there was a William Bretton producing children at the appropriate time and living close to the area that was known as “Little Bretton”. But would a staunch Roman Catholic, especially a close relation of Blessed John Bretton, have conformed so soon after his martyrdom ? The answer could be that he did conform but chaffed under the yoke and welcomed the chance to start afresh in America with freedom of religion.
There were a few doubtful (to us) entries that may, or may not have referred to Brettons, and on our last visit to the Borthwick we were only able to search the Silkstone parish transcripts up to the above date but so many of the transcripts are virtually unreadable that we had to go back and check them again with an appropriate magnifier. We did - but with no success so far as William Bretton was concerned.
The difficulties we faced, and have faced over the last 40+ years, for this period of history can be summed up with a few additional details. We said that Hugh Bowler provided our 1500/part 1600 family tree with some additions from ourselves during the latter part of the 1600’s. If we were to take a conservative estimate of Bretton births from the time of Adam fitz Swain and estimate that each generation had one male child followed by the the succeeding generation having two male children etc etc it would mean roughly that by the time of Blessed John’s grandchildren there would have been around 512 branches/male members of the Bretton family bearing that name in the early 1600’s (and that figure was reached by reducing the estimated numbers by four times). The most branches we have on our tree around that time is 4, containing 9 male Brettons. So there are huge gaps which we could not start to fill and the following excerpts from two of the local parish records are of no help. We are unable to place these people on our tree at all. We feel that as these people are recorded within three or four miles of here there is no doubt at all that they are family members :-
Matthew Bretton buried 1627
Thomas, son of Thomas Britton baptised 29th September, 1633
Bartholomew, son of Bryun Bretton buried 7th April, 1635
Bryan Bretton buried 2nd May 1635
Thomas, son of Elizabeth Bretton, buried 21st March, 1640
---------? Brettoner and James Rhodes married 26th November, 1672/3
Thomas Bretton buried 14th March 1691
Mr Bretton (very helpful) and Elizabeth Dawson married 30th March 1695
Martha, daughter of Thomas Bretton
Robert, son of Richard Bretton baptised 27th August, 1710
Elizabeth daughter of William Bretton baptised 26th April, 1711
Ann B(retton) baptised 27th March 1712
William son of William Bretton baptised 18th May 1712
Silkstone Parish church
John Britton baptised 8th September 1605
Plus, no doubt many many others where records are now non-existent.
We also visited Barnsley Archives to look at the Hoyland Swaine parish records for the late 1500’s and the early 1600’s. If the William Bretton who baptised a daughter Anne (above) is the correct one then he would have been married and had a son, William, baptised at either Sandal, Hoyland Swaine, or Silkstone if, at the time of the marriage/birth he had conformed and was attending
a Protestant Service, as we say above. A glance through the Recusant Records will show that the Commission suspected that many of the marriages/baptisms were not officially registered and tracing these people is virtually an impossible task.
A day at the British Library at Boston Spa threw no more light on the subject. Checks on pedigrees of Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire had no success.Checks on all the other English counties were also non-productive.
HOWEVER, a further discovery of Christine’s is extremely interesting. She was checking through a “History of All Saints Church, Silkstone” when she was struck by the description of a memorial in the church. This reads (We used bold for the important word ) :-
“Not far from here are placed
the sacred ashes of William Wood of Nabbs, Gent,
who was a faithful subject of the King,
an orthodox son of the Anglican Church,
dear to his relatives, Boni omnib Febitus,
he departed this life on the 21st July, 1682, aged 71 years”
With that in mind she examined a large scale ordnance map of the Silkstone area (fortunate that we are so close) and, near Silkstone, found “Knabbs Hall farm” clearly marked. The coincidences are mounting up to such an extent that they are not looking “coincidental” after all. It was very common from the 1100’s for Anglo Saxon aristocracy to change their names to reflect the new Norman culture and the most important land owners in each village adopted the name of that village, as my own ancestors did “----de Bretton” for example. Clearly there was a Knabbs or Nabbs around Silkstone from which Thomas and Mary Nabbs could have been descended just as William Bretton appears to be descended fom the Brettons of West Bretton.
We spent another day going through the Bishop’s Transcripts for Silkstone Parish Church, High Hoyland Parish Church and Hoyland Swaine Parish Church without finding the marriage of William Bretton or the birth of William Bretton who was four years old when they arrived in Maryland. This means very little because probably 70% to 80% of the records for the late 1500’s and up to 1637 were completely unreadable, even with a good magnifying glass, they were in such poor condition. We found a transcript of the Silkstone Parish Registers (as opposed to the Bishop’s Transcripts of those registers) but were mortified to find that the person who had done the transcription in the 1920’s noted that the records for 1601 to 1655 were missing !
We did, however, decipher the burial of a “William Bretton of Hoylandswaine” in 1634 - no month and no age. We were reminded of a very common practice that when one child died young the next child of the same sex was given the same name as the dead child. The “William” aged “4” who went out to Maryland could have been born shortly after this death and given the same name.
On Sunday 5th May we rode over to Silkstone and noticed, for the first time, the name of a road which we have travelled regularly, “Knabbs Road”. On Knabbs Road, as marked on the ordnance survey map we came across Knabbs Hall Farm. On the map the farm was named in Olde English script which means it has some historic interest and we were not disappointed. It was a very old building with an intricate shield and a date that read either 1614, 1624 or 1674. Which of these was not clear without stopping and staring and, as we were going to ask a favour of unknown occupants we did not wish to do that. It was clearly an ancient building that was now a working farm and not the gentrified 1500/1600’s building that you would get if it had been purchased by English Heritage or the National Trust and “restored”. We spoke to the owner about the history of the building and the whereabouts of any old deeds. He wasn’t able to help us and suggested that we speak to his father who may know more than he did. He gave us the telephone number and suggested we phone him the following day - which we did. In fact his wife answered and had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the deeds (or even the age of the house). We later spoke to the churchwarden of Silkstone Church who knew these people and said that they are purely farmers and do not welcome visitors. He told us that the outbuildings are older than the main house and are thought to date from the late 1500’s.
We have (later) found , courtesy of Mr John Goodchild, a leading archivist with a unique knowledge of West Yorkshire history, a book, “The History of Silkstone” by Rev. Prince, published in 1922 in which he says about “Nabbs” (as he describes it) :-
“Nabbs is a very interesting old house, and well worth a visit from the antiquary. It is situate near Silkstone Station, and the property of Mr P. Johnson, of Green House, Penistone : his two sons reside there farming the estate. Mr Percival Johnson tells me this is the third residence built on the same site. The oldest date now discernible is over the stable door viz. 1644 and on the barn adjoining, R.S. 1653. This is the same Robert Swift who held charters, tithes and leases from Queen Elizabeth and James I . Over the malting house the initials of William and Elizabeth Wood appear “W.W.E. 1658 On the front of the house there are some lead pipes of beautiful shape and workmanship and on the left of the porch in raised figures ‘E.W. & W.W. 1662’ ; on the right ‘E.W. & W.W. 1666’ and over the porch W.W. 1666. This Mr Wood was an old resident and worked Wortley Forge These Swifts, Woods and Butterworths were the ancestors of the present owner. The interior of the house is noted for its fine oak pannelling. There was until recently a magnificent refrectory table there, but it was sold by the present owner. We are told that in Cromwell’s time it possessed a private chapel, and during repairs in 1840 several old documents and several coins of the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles were discovered. (!!!!!)
There is also a priest’s hiding-place under the stairs, and in it a box of old deeds was found, but too mildewed and crumbling to be deciphered : (loud groans from SB and CB) and like many of those early houses which needed secret hiding-places in the troublous times it was possible to ascend from an opening near the floor of the house, cross the roof, and descend another such opening at the other end of the house, and escape.
There is a large royal crest over the door implying that royalty once slept there. Mr Johnson has shown me over 170 old deeds connected with this property, some with the Great Seal attached temp. Elizabeth. (Off we go again - there are no prizes for guessing our next line of search - SB & CB)”
Mr Goodchild was also able to produce a book of Yorkshire place names which included Nabbs Hall and indicated that the first known recorded mention of the Hall was in 1558 when it was mentioned in a will.
It would appear to us to be a strong possibility that the Thomas Nabbs who went to Maryland with his daughter, his wife, and with William Bretton is from this area and, indeed, may have lived in an earlier house on that site.
We shall continue the search for the sale of an estate but centred in the Silkstone area and seeking a sale by both a Bretton and a Nabbs (concentrating on “Knabbs (Nabbs) Hall” or “Knabbs Hall farm”). The addition of the word “Farm” to “Knabbs Hall” is probably a modern alteration which is not uncommon.
We started an intensive search to see whether we could find if (and where) the 170 deeds had been deposited. We eventually tracked them down to Sheffield Archives and went down there to look at them. The original deeds, on vellum, were there from the mid 1500’s until the present day and there was a detailed index available. On looking through the index our hopes were dashed immediately. Some of the earlier deeds referred to houses and land that were well before the date the present Knabbs Hall was built and started in the mid 1500’s. They contained no entries referring to anyone called Nabbs or Knabbs so evidently the family had not inhabited these houses.
Nevertheless we went through the deeds up to the 1630’s to see if there was any mention of a Thomas Nabbs (or any Nabbs), William Bretton or Mansell, Harris or Jelfe (the servants) as witnesses to any deeds. No such mentions were found so if the family lived in this area they were like the Brettons and were not important enough to occupy the (possible) “family” seat and were not called upon to witness deeds relating to that house. This search could be likened to a ride on a see-saw. Our hopes keep on being raised and then dashed, but the discovery of the deeds opened up another possible channel and no doubt there will be others waiting to be found.
A comprehensive search of the graveyards of both Silkstone and Hoyland Swaine parish Churches failed to find any mention of either family - but it was very much a forlorn hope and we did not expect to find any graves from the early 1600’s. In the event we only found one that MAY have been in the 1690’s. The Churchwarden confirmed that all the very early graves had been covered over, as churches are allowed to do after 100 years and that no early memorials remained. It was worth the check because , from the descriptions from Maryland of both William Bretton and Thomas Nabbs as “Gentlemen” their families would probably have warranted a memorial of some kind A further search of Penistone graveyard was similarly without any trace of the names Knabbs, Nabbs or Bretton. There were graves there for people from HoylandSwaine so we checked the Penistone parish records without success. As we always do, we shall check these again when the time is available.
We are still considering doing the same with Bishops transcripts for Silkstone but, in that case, asking for just the bare bones of a search ie., looking for just the surnames Bretton and Nabbs (of any spelling) to avoid directing anyone too specifically. Unfortunately we have spent half a day checking in four places for the most complete Silkstone records as we were very doubtful about the records we had searched ourselves. Allowing for a very small population area we felt that there were not a lot of records (and most of them unreadable as we said before). What we now find is that the Parish Records are missing the period 1598 to 1651 and the Bishop’s Transcripts, which we had searched were worse than we thought. In many cases it was impossible to ascertain which year we were searching because most of the entries were unreadable. They only exist from 1558 to the early 1590’s (in extremely poor condition) and then, for the period that we need, in only the following years :-
1629,1630, 1631,1632,1634, 1635,1636 1637 (plus 1638/9/40).
So with 20 years missing there is an enormous problem, especially as 1633 is one of the missing years and that may be the year of William Bretton Jnr’s birth.
At last we have received a reply from our “tame lawyer” about a search of the Law Society Records. Unfortunately, he tells us, they only start in 1729.
Calvert Family Records
The Kipling Hall records of the Calvert family (the Lords Baltimore) are held in the Archives of North Riding County Council in Northallerton and we went up there on Wednesday 15th May to search those for any mention of William Bretton and any indication of how he was known to the Calverts and so asked to go to Maryland to take up his role with the two Assemblies.
We (Christine and I) spent all day searching the archives of Kiplin Hall and Danby Wiske records , the two homes of the Calvert family, to see if we could find any reference, in any shape or form, about William Bretton, Thomas Nabbs and the servants they took with them to Maryland. The records are extremely well indexed (the best we have ever seen) which made it a one day job instead of several days. We examined every deed and checked the names of “Clerks” and witnesses, we checked the Tithe Rolls etc etc etc and we checked every possible spelling. We found not a single mention of any of them and we went up to about 1700 to see if there were any others of the family names mentioned. We had been to Northallerton before several times over the last thirty years and we were aware of a number of Brettons, of different spellings. Two of our known ancestors lived up there in the 1500’s. We found one Thomas Brittan as a witness to a Calvert deed but he lived at Kings Lynn in Norfolk and the deed related to one of the Calvert’s southern properties.
We also checked many of the transcribed parish records covering all the area for which records exist up to 1700’s to find any of the names we required. We found Brettons of course but no Knabbs or Nabbs. We are no wiser than we were before - we proved nothing - neither did we dis-prove anything. We did , however, find a marriage settlement which, amongst other things relinquished to the use of one of the Calverts, and his wife to be, “Maryland” (a minor matter of 12,303 square miles - or 7,873,920 acres).
This search was no different to any other search we have conducted over the last 40+ years. It left us with more queries than we started with. The following deed is the one mentioned above (which left us speechless with awe - we are very familiar with marriage deeds, but not one that includes a complete State of the United States of America) and two other deeds that appear to relate to the purchase of Danby Wiske and Kiplin Hall, the two estates that we have always associated with the Calvert family. YET, these two deeds appear to suggest that the two estates were only purchased in the 1619/1620 period when they seemed to record their purchase from Lord Wharton. If this is so then where did Leonard Calvert (the father of the first Lord Baltimore) live before that ? Did he in fact live in Danby Wiske and rent the property from Lord Wharton (and then later see his son, the 1st Lord Baltimore purchase it when he was Secretary of State) ? Certainly he was stated to be at Danby Wiske in 1612 at the time of the visitation by Norroy King of Arms.
Miscellaneous information from the Calvert (Lords Baltimore) Archives
Kiplin Hall, North Yorkshire.
in the possession of the North Riding County Council Archives
Marriage Settlement (Release only)
1. Right Honourable Charles, Lord Baltimore, & Hon. Benedict Calvert (Lord Baltimore’s son and heir.)
2. Right Honourable Edward Henry, Earl of Litchfield & Right Hon. Lady Charlotte Lee (the Earl of Litchfield’s eldest daughter)
3. Most Noble, George, Duke of Northumberland: Rt. Honourable Robert, Earl of Lindsey, Lord Great Chamberlain of England: Hon Roger North of the Middle Temple Esq.: Sir Henry Lawson of Brough Bt. : and Edward Somerset of Pauntley Court, Gloucestershire Esq.
In consideration of the marriage of Benedict Calvert to Charlotte Lee.
All Calvert property in Kiplin, Moulton and Catterick : the Lordship, manor & town of Cloghamon, co Wexford ( 1700 acres) : the town land of Baheny Park, co. Wexford (1070 acres) : town land of Carracodle, Mucke & Owlet (1315 acres) : town land of Coolemelagh (1186 acres) : town land of Balenrankah (598 acres) : and all other Calvert lands in Counties Wexford and Wicklow & all the Country, Province and Islands in America commonly called Maryland with all incomes, rights, royalties or duties payable to the Calverts as owners/governors of Maryland.
To Lawson & Somerset to the use of Baltimore till marriage. After marriage to use of Northumberland, Lindsey and North for 99 years.
Usual clauses. 30/31 December 1698
Maryland comprises 12,303 square miles (7,873,920 acres).
Licence of Alienation
Philip, Lord Wharton : Sir Thomas Wharton
to Sir George Calvert
The free chapel of Kiplin ; Kiplin Grange ; 8 messuages ; 4 cottages ; 1 water mill ; 8 gardens ; 8 orchards ; 140 acres of land ; 160 acres of meadow ; 360 acres of pasture ; 10 acres of wood ; 40 acres of furze and heath ; 40 acres of moor ; right of warren at Kiplin and Catterick & fishing in Kiplin
1 September, 1619
Conveyance ( Bargain and Sale) £2,500
Phillip, Lord Wharton and Sir Thomas Wharton
to Rt. Hon. Sir George Calvert, Principal Secretary of State
Mansion and manor house and capital messuage, hamlet, town and grange of Kiplin, demesne etc., water corn mill, free chapel with Chapel Garth (2 acres), St Margaret Lea, belonging to the free chapel (tenant Michael Johnson),all messuages, tenements and hereditaments etc. in Kiplin hamlet and grange, all other messuages, lands tenements etc of Philip, Lord Wharton and Sir Thomas Wharton in the parish of Catterick and all charters of muniments re above property
16 January, 1619/20
Stitched to this deed is a Power of Attorney (to receive seisin)
Sir George Calvert and Leonard Calvert esq (father)
to receive from Christopher Smithson of Moulton, gent., & Nicholas Smithson of Richmond gent., (Attorneys) full possession and seisin of above property
17 February 1619/20
George Bretton has been on the periphery of our searches and we have not particularly bothered about him as he only went out to Maryland in 1657 and figures only on the sidelines to the main enquiry. Apart from one or two mentions he seemed to disappear and no marriage or children are attributed to him. As we have said several times the records for the 1500’s and 1600’s are very sparse and we were indebted to the Catholic Historian, Dom Hugh Bowler, for our family tree around those times. Dom Hugh had a George Bretton mentioned on that tree - and at the relevant time period). This George was the son of Mark Bretton and the grandson of Blessed John Bretton, the Catholic martyr. No date of baptism is quoted but the eldest brother of George (Richard) was baptised in 1607 and only one other sibling is mentioned on the tree, a sister, Jane who is said to have married in 1627.
There is no other comment about George Bretton on Hugh Bowler’s tree, no marriage or children are quoted. There are several large gaps, and loose ends in the tree around that period so is this George the one who appeared in Maryland in 1657. At that time he would have been somewhere in his late 40’s , which is not too late to decide to seek a new life. More important - was there another brother - William springing from one of the many loose ends?
As we say above we had a George Bretton on our family tree at the appropriate period, courtesy of Dom Hugh Bowler, the Catholic Historian. George was the grandson of the Martyr, Blessed John Bretton but apart from a note of his name and family there was nothing more known about him. No mentions of his marriage or children were recorded and no details of his death are known. This, in itself, means nothing. Records in the early 1600’s are sparse or non existant BUT it is a very uncommon name in the 1600’s and, in fact, is the only “George” we can identify in all our family history.
Our main source of information about William Bretton of Maryland, and of George Bretton during his life in Maryland, is provided by the American historian Edwin. W. Beitzell and from an article of his about William Bretton published in the Maryland Historical Magazine Volume 50 No 1 in 1955. Of George Bretton he says :-
“ George Bretton, undoubtably a relative (of William Bretton) was transported in 1657 by Philip Calvert and probably made his home at Newtown since he and William Bretton jointly witnessed the will of John Lloyd on July 27, 1658” Elizabeth Burke confirmed this supposition
If we are to accept that they were relatives, and facts support this theory, then it is yet another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that points to William Bretton of Maryland being a family member.
Later - Little Bretton
We had found two references to Little Bretton and, as we said earlier, to make the best use of our time, had instigated a professional search of the records of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, for any references to all the names and places mentioned in the Maryland history of William Bretton. We were very disappointed therefore when we went along to Bretton Hall, former Hall of a branch of the Wentworths and talked to Leonard Bartle, the Custodian of the Bretton Estate Archives. He immediately pointed out that he held, in the archives, the originals of “The Bretton Deeds”, but that The Yorkshire Archaeological Society had copies of these deeds and he immediately showed us an index of these deeds in “Yorkshire Deeds” where several mentions of “Little Bretton” were made and which had not been picked up in the professional search. We are indebted to Leonard, a former colleague of mine, for this information, mainly in the 1400’s but he also found another mention of Little Bretton in 1620 which confirms the information (that the “West” family lived there in the 1640’s) giving us two 17th century references to Little Bretton.
These are the references referred to (also called in some deeds “Netherbretton”) :-
Yorkshire Deeds Volume 6 Page 16
52. Deed between some of the Wentworths regarding land in the vill of Westbretton and the vills and hamlets of Littelbretton, Sandall and Woolley. St Thomas the Apostle, 8 HenryVI, (December 21, 1429)
54. St Dunstan the Bishop, 8 Henry VI ( 19th May 1430) quitclaim by Richard Flynthill to Maud, Countess of Cambridge of land in various vills and hamlets including Lytulbretton
55.11 Henry VI 30 April, 1433 Quitclaim by Christopher Dronsfeld to the Wentworths including land at Nederbretton
56. Wednesday after the Invention of the Cross, II Henry VI, (6 May, 1433) Quitclaim by Christopher Dronsfeld to Richard Wentworth esq ........... All rights etc etc to land and tenements etc with rents etc with appurtenances in the vills and hamlets of ......including Lytulbretton. There is a note by Farrer with this deed stating “ Little Bretton and Nether Bretton, in the previous deed, appear to be identical”
57. June 1, 12 Henry VI (1434) Indenture between Richard Wentworth and Christopher Dronsfeld by which the former granted that id he and his wife Cecily, John Cowell and William Lynderyck should hold forever a chief messuage with apputenances in West Bretton, and four messuages, six cottages, 300 acres of land 100 acres of meadow,200 acres of pasture, 300 acres of moor, and 10 acres of woods in the vills and hamlets of West Bretton, Netherbretton etc etc.
58. Deed no. 58, October 3rd 1441, also includes Littelbretton.
59. Deed number 59 mentions Netherebretton, in 1443
61. Deed number 61, dated Thursday after the Assumption, 25 Henry VI, (August 17, 1447) is a quitclaim by Philip Wentworth etc etc, to Richard Wentworth of Everton, William Fitzwilliam, Nicholas Fitzwilliam etc etc, in the lands ( same as 58 except Littelbretton
62. Eve of the Decolation of St John the Baptist, 25 Henry Vim (28 Aug. 1447) quitclaim which includes Lytylbretton
64 Quitclaim on April 10 , 28 Henry VI, (1450) Quitclaim by Cecily, lat wife of Richard Wentworth of Everton, to lands etc including Litelbretton. Also mentioned in deed 65 as Litelbretton and again in 1450
When Leonard Bartle wrote to us on 16 January, 2003 he mentioned that since our last visit to Bretton Hall he had found a reference to Robert Burdet living at Little Bretton in 1620. If you recall “Burdett” was the name adopted as a nom de plume by one of the Brettons whilst training for the priesthood at Douai in France at around the same time. It is also the name of the Knight who owed a considerable amount of money to one of the Wentworths at the time of his (the Wentworth’s) death.
Several months of concentrated, intensive searching has not produced any conclusive proof about William Bretton. We cannot pretend however that the search has covered all (or maybe even most) of the documents that are available throughout the country which might have thrown some light on his life prior to arriving in Maryland. All we are left with is supposition but there are strong clues (indications might be a better word) that William Bretton of Maryland was part of the family descended from the original Brettons of West Bretton and that we could place him and his wife’s family within this locality. To sum up these “clues” :-
The original area settled by the English on the east coast of the United States is full of English place names, given to the new settlements by people who, though anxious to leave England to start a new life, still had sufficient affection (or home sickness) for their former towns or villages to name their new towns or villages after them. The fact that William Bretton of Maryland named his new estate “Little Bretton”, and that there was a place called “Little Bretton” here in this immediate area, mentioned in the 1400’s, when the Bretton family bought land there, and again in the 1600’s, would appear to us to be highly significant. It must be a further coincidence that the only person we are certain lived there was a Lawyer who was involved in the sale of the Bretton estate some 20/30 years afterwards.
William Bretton of Hoylandswaine
Parish records, incomplete as they are, show that there was a “William Bretton” baptising a daughter “Ann” in 1630/31 in Silkstone parish church. Clearly therefore he and his wife were at child bearing ages. The historians, Johnston and Professor Hunter place Little Bretton as being in or near High Hoyland. With the very high incidence of childhood deaths, the then disappearance of Ann Bretton (we have no trace of her at all on our family records) is not exceptional. Whether the William Bretton of Maryland would have conformed by attending services of the “new” religion is debatable.
Knabbs or Nabbs
Like “Bretton” , “Knabbs or Nabbs” is an un-common name, and finding places named “Nabbs” and “Knabbes Hall” within three or four miles of High Hoyland and two miles from Hoylandswaine is remarkable.
We have a solitary reference to a George Bretton on our family tree where we had no further reference to any marriage, children or death. If this is the George Bretton who went to Maryland in 1657 he would have probably been in his late 40’s at that time. The fact that there is no record of any marriage or children attributed to him in Maryland could bear out that he was not in his youth.
How could “our” William Bretton have known the Calverts.
Blessed John Bretton was Beatified as one of the 40 English Martyrs and was referred to by the authorities in the late 1500’s as being “notorious” (amongst other things). Whilst, as we said earlier the Brettons were moving, socially and economically, in opposite directions to the Beaumonts and Crosslands, they were, at this time, still relatively of the same social standing and by all accounts the martydom of Blessed John was well known throughout the area and especially within the very widespread recusant Catholic population. The Crosslands lived within maybe 6 or seven miles of West Bretton and the Beaumonts within about five miles. The Brettons and the Beaumonts were branches of the same Bretton ancestors in the distant past and the Beaumonts and the Crosslands inter-married. They were all three, Brettons, Beaumonts and Crosslands shown on recusant rolls in the area for a long time, and the mother of the 1st Lord Baltimore was one of the Crossland family from this area.
If the Calvert sons were in fact educated at Douai in France, as we are told, then there were two of Blessed John Bretton’s sons, a nephew and a grandson, also there training for the priesthood and spanning more 30 years - more than covering the possible period of the Calverts education. The relationships between the families, the fact that Blessed John would be well known to the Calverts now they had turned Catholics, and their common links with this locality, would surely have meant there was some lengthy contact between them. This contact could well have led to knowledge of, or contact with William Bretton.
We have discussed all the above with a number of Archivists we know, particularly in relationship to the two different types of proof required by criminal law and civil law, so far as we know in both Britain and the United States. Criminal law requires evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” whilst civil law has a lesser requirement of “on the balance of probabilities”. Genealogy has, by necessity, been founded “on the balance of probabilities” and on these grounds we are prepared to accept that William Bretton of Maryland was most likely a member of the Bretton family originating from West Bretton whose history is set out in full on our website - www.bretton.org and our hard copy. The Archivists mentioned above have concurred with this assumption.
We have no axe to grind at all in this search. We started out to try to find, if we could, where William Bretton from Maryland originated and searched nationwide within the limits of available information. He is not a direct ancestor of ours and his placement on our family records does not add anything to our direct line which already goes back well before William’s time. Having lived and worked in the States, having a great affection for the country and it’s people, having pride in our existing, and proven, family in the States, it would be nice to “claim” William, if for nothing else but his part in the early establishment of the USA that exists today, but that, in itself would not even begin to tempt us to change our guiding principles of the last 40+ years, and make our wishes the father to our claims.
If any reader wants further evidence of this I would refer to some comprehensive notes in our published history relating to a Richard Bretton who was imprisoned for his Catholic faith and soon afterwards died, probably because of his privations. He was included on the basis of a statement by Anstruther, a famous Catholic historian who referred to him as “probably an uncle or close relative of John Bretton the martyr”. In researching William Bretton I had discussions with Caroline Dalton, the Archivist of New College, Oxford University. She was extremely helpful, and, in those discussions she found that this Richard Bretton was on their records for the early 1500’s but coming from London. As we had no known relatives in the London area at that time we now putting an appropriate note in the family history “dis-claiming” him - if that is the correct word :)
About William Bretton of Maryland you must make up your own mind
Hunters “South Yorkshire” (under High Hoyland)
“Little Bretton is described by Johnston as consisting but of two houses in his time. It seems to be the place called North Bretton in early deeds.
Of the Wests, a visitation family, who resided here, an account has already been given.”
This description is particularly important in the context of William Bretton of Maryland who named his new estate there as “Little Bretton”. The “Wests” included Lewis West who was a lawyer and handled the sale of the Bretton Estate in the mid 1600's. Could possibly the Brettons have lived there at the same time. Certainly a Bretton was involved in a deed of trust or “use” there from the Wentworths in the late 1400's and it is highly possible that they still retained some connection with it in the 1600's. William Bretton went out to Maryland as Clerk to the two most important Assemblies in early Maryland history and was later described as lawyer, judge and coroner.
We still continue to search and found the following entry in the Silkstone Parish Records.
1670 April 7th Francis Nabbs baptised
Silkstone is, of course, the parish containing Nabbs Hall and is the parish church of Hoylandswain where we think “our” William Bretton lived. So we did have “Nabbs” still living here some years after William Bretton and the Nabbs family arrived in Maryland.
We also found references of the closeness of the 1st Lord Calvert and the powerful Wentworth family, into a branch of which John Bretton had married, in the following two books :-
“The Yorkshire Gentry - from the Reformation to the Civil War” by J. T. Cliffe
“..... From a collection of documents which has survived amongst the State Papers for the year 1623. In a letter to Sir Edward Conway, his fellow Secretary of State written on 4th July 1623 Sir George Calvert expressed the hope that his cousin Sir Thomas Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse would not be forgotten when the deputy lieutenants of Yorkshire were chosen.”
“Wentworth's choice of Deputies (Deputy Lieutenants - when Wentworth was Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire) is interesting in that the majority (22 out of 31) were relatives or close friends of his. They included his nephew Sir William Savile of Thornhill.......”
The name Savile keeps cropping up regularly throughout the Bretton history. The Brettons and Saviles (or Savilles) were related by marriage, held adjoining lands and apparently were great friends. The Saviles were of tremendous help to Frances Bretton after John Bretton's martyrdom and the above relationship between Savile/Wentworth and Wentworth/Calvert (see below) appears to confirm even more our theory that William Bretton's appointment to the Clerkships in Maryland sprang from his probable descent from the Bretton family in West Bretton, the marriage of John Bretton to Frances Wentworth, and to all the complicated friendships where favours were freely given as a result of the martydom of Blessed John Bretton.
“Stafford 1593 - 1641” by C. V. Wedgewood
Pages 34/35/36 discuss Sir Thomas Wentworth again in 1617 and talks about Sir John Saville, a true friend of Blessed John Bretton, and another friend of the Bretton family, Sir Gervase Clifton. This section talks about the real Sir Thomas Wentworth as seen by the people who were his close friends and able to penetrate his armour of pride and reserve. It lists amongst those people “Sir George Calvert, one of the Secretaries of State, an active, practical man, busied with colonial schemes and teased with religious doubts” He gave to these men, as Calvert said “ a friendship beyond the fashion of courts”, to them alone he was unaffected and unreserved, frank almost to indescretion.
So time and time again we come across references which add to, and confirm, the original thoughts we had that there could well have been a knowledge and sympathy for the relatives of Blessed John Bretton and his family who suffered so grieviously at the hands of the authorities but who, by his marriage into the Wentworth family could still attract sympathy, and possibly even active (but low key) help from the powerful Wentworth family. With the religious conversion of the Calverts, and the possibility of helping a “Bretton” and, at the same time, of providing a sympathetic Clerk of their Courts etc in Maryland......................
Will dated July 27 1658
"To Thomas Eare (Eyre ?), Captain John Price and Robert Jeans Wife Margaret execx and residuary legatee of estate. Real and personal In the event of death of Margaret, intestate, all afsd. Estate to Philip Calvert and Thomas Eare in trust for the English College and Secular priests at Doway, Flanders except a gift of personalty to sister-in-law Margery Molins Test. George Briton, Will Harper, William Bretton (Liber S., folio 219,MD Historical Society, Baltimore, Md)" This again is continuing some fascinating coincidences. Three Brettons studied and taught at Douai in France (quoted above as Doway in Flanders) one before and two after the martyrdom of Blessed John Bretton. All the Calvert boys (later to include the Lords Baltimore) are reputed to have studied there about possibly the same time as the Brettons were teaching there, and now here is a will leaving an estate in Maryland to Douai, via Philip Calvert, and witnessed by two Brettons who appear to be related, in spite of continuing mis-spellings of the name. We now feel, increasingly, that William Bretton was a family member of the Brettons of West Bretton. (lived at Little Bretton ? - if only we could find that final piece of conclusive evidence !!).
Society of Jesus
In our continuing search for information on William Bretton of Maryland I contacted the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, who bought the land at Newtown Neck which belonged to William Bretton. I hoped that maybe there was some information in their archives which might shed a little more light on William’s life in Maryland and, who knows, about his antecedents. Their Archivist, Rev. John LaMartina S.J replied immediately with a most helpful letter and some excellent additional details that add to our knowledge of this long sought after man.
To me the most exciting information was contained in an extract that Rev. LaMartina sent me on pages 76/77/78 of Woodstock Letters Vol 13 which I set out below in order.
“.....Only four years after the Dove and Ark had entered the Potomac, that is to say in 1637, William Bretton, his wife and child arrived in St. Mary’s County Md. Bretton was one of those old Catholic gentlemen of England who preferred freedom and exile in the wilds of the New World to persecution and bondage in their native land. “Mr Bretton” says The Day Star of American Freedom “soon afterwards held a large tract upon Bretton’s Bay ; and many years lived in Newtown Hundred ; was a soldier in St Inigoe’s Fort, at a very critical period, in the Administration of Governor Calvert ; and the Registrar of the Provincial Court under Governor Green, with the power, during the lieutenant general’s absence, to sign writs under the Governor’s name ; kept some of the most important records of the province, till the arrival of Mr. Hatton in 1649 ; and was clerk in the Protestant Assembly in 1650. In the legislature of 1648 he held four voices ; three of them certainly from Newtown ; probably the fourth also. And, from his familiarity with the records, as well as his general knowledge of business, we cannot but presume that he was one of the most influential members of the Roman Catholic Assembly in 1649. He is also worthy of remembrance in consideration of the fact that he founded one of the first Roman Catholic chapels of the province - a chapel which was erected and sustained by the pious members of his own church in Newtown and in St. Clement’s hundred ; which also bore the name of the patron saint of Maryland”............
The Day-Star continues:-
“A mystery clouds the latter part of Bretton’s life. About 1651 he married Mrs Temperance Jay. Misfortune seems soon after to have attended him ; and his “son” (my bold) and “daughter” received ‘alms’ at a moment of deep distress. Nor can any will be found ; or his posterity traced but there was no doubt whatever that he was one of the Roman Catholic Assemblymen of 1649. He held a tract bounded by St. William’s Creek ; the most striking part of his cattle mark (a fluer-de-lis) was a favourite device with the members of his church at that period ; his name is not amongst the signers of the Protestant Declaration ; and the very phraseology, in his gift of the church lot has the unmistakable marks of his sympathy with the faith of the Roman church and (independently of other evidence) is sufficient to satisfy a reasonable mind”
This mention of “a son” opens questions which we thought, from records available (or lack of records), were concluded. That is to say - we gathered that William Bretton junior had died at an early age. Not apparently so. When the Brettons arrived in Maryland in January 1637 William was said to be four years old. Now, we learn, William was still alive in the 1650’s. The record says that misfortune struck William Bretton senior (after his marriage to Temperance Jay “about 1651” - but it does not say how soon after 1651 so we are left to guess - with nothing so far to help us. What was the disaster? Is it likely that he would have entered into a new marriage with a threat hanging over him ? Or did he enter into a new marriage because of a looming threat ?
However we do know that William Jnr was alive after 1651, at which time he would have been 18 years old. If the disaster happened later then he would have been older still. That is of potential child bearing age and I have never felt that lack of records is proof that someone didn’t exist, or didn’t grow up. In a country still largely unexplored and expanding rapidly there is no earthly reason why William Jnr should not have upped sticks and moved elsewhere. If that did happen, and children were born to him elsewhere, the only way to trace those children would be through DNA - and that would depend on someone tracing their American ancestry back to the mid 1600’s, without any further ancestry links. I can see no way at all apart from DNA to trace any possible descendents from William Bretton jnr so, as I say, it would mean some American Brettons (Brittons etc ?) managing to trace their ancestry back to around the mid/late 1600’s - and then a DNA test. Even that might link a family to my “Bretton’s” without being able to conclusively prove they were also decended from William Bretton Snr.
Yet another thread left dangling at the moment.
Whatever, William Bretton’s fortunes took at least a temporary upturn when on 2 December, 1668 he sold his Newtown Estate, via Henry Warren SJ, to the Society of Jesus, who own it to this day. The sale was for, according to the records, 40,000 pounds of tobacco. At the then recorded price of tobacco, $44 per thousand lbs, it realised a total of around $1760. (I have no records giving present day prices for the value of the dollar so far back, but if this transaction has been in £ sterling, £1760 in 1668 would presently be worth around £ 207,000. An ample sum to keep him and his wife in luxury). The burning question is why he didn’t sell at least some of this land when misfortune struck sometime in the 1650’s but instead allowed his son and daughter to receive alms.
This did not necessarily include all his land either. He is given as the heir to his father in law - Thomas Nabbs - who had his own land grants when he transported himself and his wife to Maryland in 1637 Additionally, and this information was new to us and included in the fascinating correspondence from Rev. John LaMartina S.J., apparently William Bretton Snr also transported a “servant mayd” called Mary Feild, out to Maryland in 1647 and for so doing was awarded a further 100 acres. According to the records this grant “is on Brettons Bay and is called Bretton’s Outlett”
Whether or not William Bretton retained these two further plots of land is currently unknown. But Mary Feild opens up another avenue - or it did until a few minutes thought made it virtually useless. Could we trace a Mary Feild a common spelling in these parts. The answer is that I wouldn’t put any money on it.
(i) Records in the early 1600’s, certainly in the area where we think William Bretton originated, are either non existant, or where they do exist, are unreadable.
(ii) Having found some records of a Mary Feild (which we have) how do we decide which might be the correct Mary Feild ? How old would she have likely been ? Girls certainly went into service at a very early age - probably before the age of ten. Would someone so young have been transported to Maryland - or might she have been much older ? If so how old ? 15, 20, 25 ?
(iii) And how do we ascertain her age. It was only baptisms that were recorded, and not births, and they bear , potentially, no relationship to the date of birth. We have even found records during the last 46 years of searching where 13 children of one family were baptised on the same day - the oldest being 21 !!!
So how would we pick one Mary Feild out of even two ? And how would we prove it ? We can’t, and further investigation is not worth while. I have asked Susan Doris, an American Bretton, to see if she could find the passenger list for Mary Feild to see if she went out there on her own and if there is a record of her age. It is unlikely that any of her family went with her otherwise William Bretton would probably have had to transport them as well - and he certainly made no recorded claim for anyone.
William Bretton of Maryland October 2009
We continued our search for William Bretton of Maryland and decided that we would make one more attempt to search the records of the Yorkshire Archeological Society in Leeds. We went there on 29 October 2009 and spoke to one of the archivists. We took with us some basic information about William Bretton, taken from the family history, as a reminder.
One tiny example of that information was a comment that we had on our family tree, courtesy of Hugh Bowler, a reference to a William Bretton at Cathill. We told her that we had been totally unable to find Cathill anywhere and she found an old book which said that Cathill was a farmstead within the boundary of Hoylandswaine, and about a mile from Penistone. The rest of the morning, trying to find any reference to a land sale for William Bretton and a Nabbs/Knabbs, was fruitless. It was suggested that they had records, un-indexed- of copyholder land if we wanted to search them. I said that the two families arrived in Maryland in early 1637 so any likely sale would have been in 1636, more likely later in that year as they would have no purpose in staying here after the land was sold. For some reason that was never followed up so that is still to do.
When we arrived home we searched a large scale ordnance survey map and were delighted to find Cathill as the book described. HOWEVER, when we tried to turn up the original reference to Cathill and William Bretton, courtesy of Hugh Bowler, we are completely unable to do so. We cannot possibly have imagined it because we were completely unaware that there even was a place called “Cathill”.
Just to on the safe side we then reviewed our searches of local parish records when we were looking for William Bretton. Immediately we found the search we had done of the Silkstone parish records where the two following entries were shown :-
Ann, daughter of William Bretton of Hoylandswaine baptised 5 August 1630 AND
Anne, ye daughter of William Bretton of Hoylandswaine was baptised 30th June 1631
Clearly no mention of Cathill here, but more evidence apparently of the common practice of naming the next child of the same sex after the one who recently died. The first “Ann” must have died in the meantime before the birth of “Anne”. If this is indeed the same William Bretton as emigrated to Maryland then this second “Anne” had also died and a William born before they sailed in 1636.
We then combed all our records and found, again, what we sadly already knew. We have sheets and sheets of information about a myriad of Brettons all taken from every record we could find. At the time we knew the exact source of each entry BUT we never headed each sheet with the details of the record from which that information came. Going back over many many years we used, at one particular time, sheets of lined paper from one pad and one of those sheets, matching all the other sheets (so apparently from the same time period of the other notes) had the name of Mary Field. This was the name of the servant transported in his early Maryland years by William Bretton. We cannot remember accessing these notes from well before we heard of William Bretton and we are completely stumped by this written entry. It is the only entry of a name other than a Bretton (or variation thereon) that we know about and we have to confess that it’s appearance puzzles us completely
The entries for Mary Field are as follows :-
Mary Field daughter of Thomas Feild b. 30.1.1620 at Crofton
Mary Field daughter of Thomas Field & Elizabeth b. 16.7.1637 at Crofton