Midgley name and origins revealed.             Midgley of Rochdale

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Rochdale Origins

Richard Midgley was born abt. 1530 and probably educated at St. John's College, Cambridge. Richard was "collated" by Archbishop Parker in 1561 as vicar of Rochdale in Lancashire. He was the second son of Richard Midgley of Erringden, who in his will dated July 1555, desired to be buried in the parish churchyard of Halifax "amonge the bodis of other faythfull people of God". The chapel or church of Old St. Mary's at Luddenden did not obtain burial rights until 1620.

Longbottom, a local antiquarian at the turn of the 1800's gives this description of his gravestone:
"In the ancient Halifax churchyard of St. John the Baptist is a flat stone about 6ft by 2 ft 8 ins which is an inscription wholly in capital letters 21/2 ins high:

              MIDGLEY OF
              IN MIDGLEY
            HARK HARK I
          HEARE A TRVMP
             DEAD OVT OF
             THE GROUND
                                                                                                        * compare this to John Milton's "Awake, arise or be forever fallen!"

The Halifax parish church has over 40,000 people buried in and around, and in Longbottom's time it was agreed to cover the old stones, so that the churchyard is like aMidgley of Rochdale lawn now. A record was kept of the stones.
Richard is also mentioned in the History of Rochdale:p. 12:
"The alternate Protestant and Roman Catholic reigns which followed that of Henry VIII meant much suffering for the clergy . Cranmer himself was burnt at the stake in 1556 . In 1559 his friend Matthew Parker was made the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Elizabeth's long reign restored the Protestant religion but discouraged both the recusant Roman Catholics and the " Advanced Protestants " or Puritans. In such circumstances it is not surprising that of the 16th century Rochdale vicars who were inducted after Gilbert Haydock between 1554 and 1606, three were deprived of the living and one, Richard Midgeley, resigned in 1595 after 34 years as the vicar, probably because of his Puritanical views and his refusal to wear the surplice : a contemporary writer described him as : " discreet, sober, and very peaceable, the only first planter of sound religion in this corner of our country in her majesty's time . . and had at his monthly communions above 800 communicants . . . "
At about the time of, or a little earlier than his induction, the church was partly rebuilt and the present clerestory added St. Chad's registers began in 1582, with 137 christenings (including one entry of twins), 81 burials and 42 weddings in the first complete year from January to December. [Richard] Midgeley was a strong supporter of the Grammar School :
probably at some time after 1594 he married Grace Ashton, sister-in-law of the first head-master.

The custom of perambulating the boundaries of the Parish does not seem to have been observed before the 17th century-partly, perhaps, because of its size : Camden had remarked that the Lancashire parishes " farre exceed the greatest parishes elsewhere " : [Richard] Midgeley appears to have objected on religious grounds to making such a procession .......
According to Raines, in about 1583 Vicar Midgeley reproved a visitor to the town for " playing at Bowls on a Saturday . . . amongst Papists and vain gentlemen,"- the Puritans considered that Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, was the Lord's Day. A report of about 1590, signed by Midgeley, amongst others of the Lancashire clergy, shows that " Wackes, Ales, Greenes, Maigames, Rushbearinges, Bearebaites, Doveales, Bonfiers . . . Gaming, Pipinge and Daunsing " etc., were general at this time. Doves and fishponds were not merely ornamental but helped to eke out the family larder . There were various " ales " : almost any excuse would prove " an excuse for the glass," though, of course, pewter pint-pots would be most commonly used . Rushes were strewn on floors and were annually renewed on the
Patron Saint's Day of each church, with much merry-making.

Rochdale Parish Church anou 1828
                         About 1828, from History of Rochdale

Among Vicar Richard Midgley's appointments was that of one of the moderators of the Religious Exercise of the Diocese, of chaplain to the earl of Derby, and he was included in the Great Commission for Causes Ecclesiastical at York. Shortly after, in 1589, he became embroiled in a disagreement with the church over his semi-nonconformist attitude. He was summoned before the Chancellor of Chester, along with the churchwardens, for having neither surplice nor cope in the church and for leaving the churchyard unfenced. In 1589 he was presented for not making a perambulation of his parish. Nevertheless his living was increased that year to 6 pounds 13 s 4d by Archbishop Whitgift. In 1595 he resigned and was succeeded by his son Rev. Joseph Midgley. Joseph's daughter Jane married William Bentley on 2nd June 1602/3.8

Joseph was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was a remarkable man with a mind of great activity and power."He proved a stern Puritan, somewhat more of a Presbyterian than a non-conformist, no doubt strengthened by influences at Cambridge, showing little respect for diocesan episcopacy, paying little heed to his Ecclesiastical superiors and desiring some further reformation". The oldest remaining registers are in Joseph's neat and practised handwriting. Thereafter he was one of Queen Elizabeth's four licenced preachers in the diocese being subsequently appointed by Bishop Vaughan, one of King James's preachers in Lancahire with a stipend of 50 pounds per annum. He appears to have been a "laborious [sic] preacher and very successful in his ministry being instrumental in the conversion of thousands of souls" He was buried at Rochdale, aged about 80, and died intestate4.
He proved an even greater rebel than his father against church practice and teachings, staying only a few years before being deprived of his living in 1606, but adding considerably to the development of the Rochdale Grammar School founded by his father. From the beginning of Joseph's ministry, no surplices were used in his church, and in due course, the scruples of  the vicar of Rochdale were brought to the notice of the Hampton Court Conference, 1604. Whitgift had been informed that the cross was not used in baptism, that the vicar had dealt out sacramental bread in a common basket, and that a worse churchman could not have been mentioned. These charges were repeated again against Joseph in 1605 with the additional points that the order of communion was not observed, that it was celebrated sitting, that the vicar did not catechise, did not have parish perambulation and had eaten flesh in Lent!  It is not surprising therefore that the following year, 1605, Joseph Midgley was deprived of his living by Archbishop Bancroft for ecclesiastical insubordination, adhering to the Presbyterian platform and discipline, and wishing to impose these on the Anglican Church.

 "Rich in nothing but good work, having only his example and blessing to bequeath to his family"

After this deprivation, he practised as a physician, and was even prosecuted for refusing to kneel at sacrament. On the death of his father, the Rev. Joseph moved from Rochdale to the vicinity of  Halifax in 1609. His will was proved at York on October 1637, providing 'inter alios' for his son Jonathan, who had been 'at the University' and was made sole executor; for his son Samuel who became a Freeman of London; and for his daughter Ruth, who had married Isaac Waterhouse, half-brother of Nathaniel Waterhouse the princely benefactor of Halifax.  Incidentally, the name Jonathan was not bestowed outside Puritan circles and even then was rare and unusual, providing further proof of the Rev. Joseph's unequivocal stand. Jonathan's son Joseph was a clergyman [1655-1704] and likewise the latter's son Robert [1683-1761]. The convictions of these 'rebel' Midgley parsons, who regarded reformation of the Church under Elizabeth I as incomplete, were symptomatic of the growing dissatisfaction. A long succession of Halifax vicars desired to remove all traces of the old religion from their church, to abolish everything that reminded them of the Roman Catholic Church. The general discontent crystallised in the exodus of the Pilgrim Fathers to North America.

Note: Whitgift had been appointed Archbishop in 1583 to check extremist protestant doctrines. Whitgift became the secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Another Recusant of the Catholic persuasion was William Midgleyvicar of Foston:- 

Visitation 1567-1568
Mr. Gabriel St. Quintin of Harpham in the East Riding was charged with wilful absence from sermons. His dislike did not apparently extend to all services, and some of the numerous northern clergy presented at this period for failure to preach their quarterly sermons may have been guilty, not merely of slackness, but of actual distaste for the emphasis placed upon preaching by reformed opinion.
William Midgeleye, vicar of Foston,* is presented in 1567 as “a misliker of Christe’s religion nowe established in this realme; he haithe not maide his quarterlie sermons” (R. vi. A. 2, fo. 167). [cited in YAJ, vol. 35, (1943), p. 163.] *Foston is west of Kirkham, East Yorkshire.

The Quakers of Rochdale
Midgley-Cox Coat of Arms. William Midgley born Buersill near Rochdale, Lancashire. Probate dated 1834. There is also a parchment map showing his lands dated around 1810 and many other family documents. He was probably a Quaker and it is surmised that he or his predecessors had the caltrops removed from their heraldic arms. Compare these arms with Midgley of Yorkshire.
See Quaker  Midgleys' of Rochdale. His great grandson wasArthur Midgley born 1852 at Saffron Walden, Essex, died 1919. Presumably Arthur's parents moved to Saffron Walden, his mothers family perhaps residing there.

An Australian Diversion
Arthur Midgley travelled to Australia as a young man probably as an early tourist. His Quaker friend Walter Robson must have given him an introduction to his father-in-law Dr George Cox of Fairy Meadow near Wollongong. Walter Robson had married the eldest Cox daughter (Christina) and had returned with her to England. Arthur Midgley, married Mary Doncaster Cox [b. 1854 d. 1934] in 1876 in Wollongong.. To celebrate the union, he painted the attached family tree.  Download a zip file of these photographs He used a coat of arms which is clearly Midgley on the dexter, but the other side comes from elsewhere. The motto underneath is "VERITAS VINCIT".  The art work is superb, it seems to have elements of Australia in it with traditional aboriginal paint dots and what appears to be at least one residence with a verandah.

                                                                     Summer Hill, N.S.W. Australia. Arthur Midgley and family. 10

What is the significance of the year dates? Are they birth dates?  One building appears to be the Summer Hill residence above. They look to be  in the English style with their dormer windows and high and steeply gabled roofs. The shield is probably impaled with the Cox arms, party per pale. From Yorkshire studies it is known that the original name of the Norfolk agriculturalist "Coke of Holkham" was Cox. One of their daughters married into the Spencer-Stanhopes of Cannon Hall, Cawthorne, Yorkshire. The second name Doncaster would originate from South Yorkshire, possibly Mary's mother's name. De Doncaster became a well known name in the 1300's being applied as a toponymic for persons originating from that town.

 A pedigree of the Midgley's of Rochdale constructed by Martin B. Gillett with additions. [N.B. the link between William b. 1758 and James b. c. 1724 is not yet found. William b. 1758 is shown on the I.G.I. as having a father named William not James]

What are the significance of the symbols/devices which are found in chief in the Midgley-Cox Coat of Arms? There are wheels which are perhaps water wheels or cotton spinning wheels. William Midgley's cotton factory is likely to have been originally powered by water.

Weavers symbol from a Coat of Arms.
                                                                                                         A Fret

One other symbol is a cross-hatching which appears to represent woven fabric found on heraldic arms as early as 1365 and still found today on those of the Textile Institute.7 This device is called a fret and is believed to be a simplification of 'fretty' used in medieval heraldry.9 The medieval fretty was in some cases associated with fishing nets as in the case of Haverington [Harington] of Aldingham, Furness. Jim Palmer thinks the Midgley caltraps could have been removed and relpaced by these symbols, Quakers preferring not to have such war-like devices.

Symbols possibly representing cotton spinning on the Midgley-Cox Arms.
The Coat of Arms of the Textile Institute.

The crosed keys, wards down crest for the Quaker Midgleys' of Rochdale. The crossed keys with wards down [hence the term "warder"] could indicate the occupation of a predecessor. These arms may have descended from the Clayton Midgleys who had this symbol although the latter do not appear to have been Quakers. However there were strong Quaker enclaves in Rochdale.
There was also a Robert Midgley who was a "gail-keeper" at the Halifax prison who is recorded as burying his wife on the 2nd of December 17405 and an 1881 census search produced a 'warder" reference:

 Institution: "Keighley Workhouse" Oakworth Rd
 Census Place: Keighley, York, England
 Source: FHL Film 1342038     PRO Ref RG11    Piece 4347    Folio 87
Page 15
 Marr Age Sex Birthplace
Greenwood MIDGLEY M[married] 56  M [male] [born]Bingley, York, England
 Rel: Master (Head)
 Occ: Workhouse Master
Martha MIDGLEY M 59  F Thornton, Leicester, England
 Rel: Matron
 Occ: Workhouse Matron
Mary Grace MIDGLEY U 22  F Keighley, York, England
 Rel: Daur
John RILEY M 27  M Keighley, York, England
 Rel: Officer
 Occ: Workhouse Porter
Martha RILEY M 28  F Barnoldswick, York, England
 Rel: Officers Wife
Benjamin BINNS M 55  M Haworth, York, England
 Rel: Officer
 Occ: Nurse At Workhouse
Esther BINNS M 56  F Haworth, York, England
 Rel: Officers Wife
 Occ: Nurse At Workhouse

This husband, wife and daughter seem to have had a "family business", possibly 'inherited' from their predecessors. Keighley and Bingley are 3-4 miles  north of Clayton which is near Thornton [Yorks.] one of the early manors of Midgley. The Greenwoods married into the Midgley's and feature in John Franklin Midgley's Midgleyana and may appear in the Midgleyana pedigree viz: Greenwood Midgley is shown as married to a Martha Dilks. John Midgley of Sandwich England is following this line up as he believes they are earlier related to the Midgley's of Haworth manor through John Midgley of Hainworth

Arthur Midgley and his family appear in the 1881 census:

 Dwelling: London Rd
 Census Place: Saffron Walden, Essex, England
 Source: FHL Film 1341439     PRO Ref RG11    Piece 1818    Folio 35
Page 14
 Marr Age Sex Birthplace
Arthur MIDGLEY M 28  M S Walden, Essex, England
 Rel: Head
 Occ: Annuitant
Mary D. MIDGLEY M 23  F Wottongong N S Wales B S
 Rel: Wife
Mary E. MIDGLEY   1  F S Walden, Essex, England
 Rel: Daur (see photographs below)
Irene MIDGLEY   2 m F S Walden, Essex, England
 Rel: Daur
Annie FULLER U 20  F S Walden, Essex, England
 Rel: Serv
 Occ: Gen Serv Domestic
Emily MISON U 18  F W Chelmsford, Essex, England
 Rel: Serv
 Occ: Nursemaid
Agnes MISON U 15  F W Chelmsford, Essex, England
 Rel: Serv
 Occ: Under Nursemaid

There is obviously a transcription error of 'Wottongong' for Woolongong, New South Wales.  At the age of 28 he was an annuitant which may indicate ill health at an early age, hence his return. The Cambridge climate would be better than most, less humidity, he could have had tuberculosis, fairly common and debilitating. He appears to have had nursemaids. He may have been the beneficiary of an inheritance to have two nurse maids and a servant at such an early age. Arthur went on to have four daughters.

A purse which belonged to Mary E. Midgley of Saffron Walden, daughter of Arthur Midgley and Mary Doncaster Cox. It was presented by Mary to Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, at the National Band of Hope Bazaar in July 1890. Apparently several children presented her with purses containing funds (3L. 4s. 6d.) for the Band of Hope. After the event the purses were returned to the children as a keepsake.12 The family were strong Quakers and were also involved in the Temperance movement, hence the Band of Hope attachment. Arthur Midgley and his daughters also had a strong artistic bent, which comes out in the quality of the design and the work.
Mary was also known as ‘Bessie’ probably to avoid confusion with her mother who was also Mary.13

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Return to England
There is a family story that Mary married Arthur on the condition that they would remain in Australia. Mary had already seen her sister whisked off to England never to return. However the family legend relates that Arthur received medical advice from his doctor that he had to return to England for his health. So the pair returned to England and lived in Saffron Walden where they raised a family of four daughters. The family has always suspected that the doctor may have been bribed to recommend Arthur's return to England, after all, who was ever sent from Australia to England "for their health". [However, there are instances of 'gentlemen' not being suited to the climate of N.S.W.]

Further Research by Jim Palmer
Someone may be able to throw light upon the paintings with the Midgley coat of Arms.

The four daughters of Arthur and Mary were Irene, Bessie, Rosalie and Marjorie. Only two of whom ever married one of whom, Marjorie [Jim Palmer's grandmother] had children. 'So I know Arthur's descendants. Perhaps a descendant of one of his siblings (whose monograms appear) may turn up. The dates in the picture [see zip file] are dates-of-birth. I know who most of the monograms refer to.  Re the houses, the one with the verandah was Dr Cox's home at Fairy Meadow. It was demolished only a few years ago to make way for an old people's home. The streets there were named after his descendants. (There may well be a Midgley one.) Dr Cox is said to still haunt the site. Re Doncaster -  I am not sure about a Yorkshire connection. My father's research says that Dr Cox's father, Humphrey Cox married Elizabeth Ward, who died in 1802 aged 40. Humphrey later married Elizabeth Ward, a widow, nee Doncaster. She was (Dr George Cox's mother). I was told by one of Dr Cox's granddaughters that Dr Cox much admired a Dr Doncaster - his uncle and perhaps his school teacher. Her name was Laura Doncaster Edwards. Dr Cox came from North or South Scarle, Linconshire, and is said to have travelled out to Australia as the personal physician to the Duke of Rutland. By the 1860s he was more of an engineer (possibly with a coal mine along the escarpment) and something of a religious fanatic. His wife, Mary, did the doctoring. Back to the houses, I think the others are in England. At least two in Saffron Walden, though I have yet to identify them. I had thought that one might be in Rochdale and I went there looking. The Midgley houses are no longer there, but I did find a local history which tells of the Midgleys and shows their houses. It talks about the James Midgley mentioned on the Web page. Re the symbols [on the coat of arms] I can't make them out either. I do not think that they are ship's wheels, but they may be something to do with spinning or weaving which was how the family made its money.
Arthur was later described as "a gentleman of independent means who pursued no gainful occupation". It was his father, James Howarth Midgley who settled in Saffron Walden. I am not sure what his occupation was. There is that Howarth name. Not from the Midgleys of Howarth, but because his father married a Martha Howarth. The names were retained in further generations when my Aunt was named Mary Howarth Braithwaite, and my mother, Marjorie Joan Midgley Braithwaite'.
Jim says 'I can trace my Midgley ancestry to:

William Midgley* (1758 - 1834)
m (179?)
Alice Butterworth
James Midgley (1786 - 1852)
m (1808)
Martha Howarth (1784 - 1862)
James Howarth Midgley (1822 - 1858)
m (1846)
Elizabeth Gibson (1823 - 1863)
Arthur Midgley (1852 - 1919)
m (1876)
Mary Doncaster Cox (1857 - 1934)'

* Arthur Midgley is identified as the great grandson of  William Midgley the Rochdale mill owner who is also a progenitor of the U.S. Chemist Thomas Midgley jnr.
Download a zipped Gedcom file of Thomas Midgley junior's predecessors here.

[Note: This has now been updated and verified by work done by Martin B. Gillett through Jim Palmer
Click here for a Word Document in a zipped file.-T.M.] 

 Jim states : I thought that there was a Midgley Street. I did a White Pages search on Fairy Meadow [N.S.W.] and found 'Fairy Meadow Fridge & Freezer repairs' - 10 Midgley Street Corrimal. The map shows COXS AV, MIDGLEY ST, ROBSON ST and DONCASTER ST - all names familiar to me. These streets must have been named by the family when Dr Cox's estate was sub-divided. Jim also took a few photographs of Midgley Street, Corrimal one of which is shown here.
For more detailed information contact: Jim Palmer

Catherine Frendo finds that she is related to Arthur Midgley who married Mary Doncaster Cox.
Contact: Catherine Frendo
Contact: Don S. Wilkinson

For the Cox line see here

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Leonard Wildman Midgley
Married Sarah Ann Clegg at Todmorden 9th November 1843. Sarah, who was born in Rochdale 30th July, 1823 produced a sampler embroidered with "age 12 1836". The sampler depicts a large house called 'Summer Castle' which had a vista due east over the River Roch in Rochdale.

The History of Rochdale 1828 states:
 "The environs are pleasant, abounding with fertile vales sheltered by a range of high hills, called Blackstone Edge, and containing many handsome villas, and agreeable walks. From Summer Castle, an ancient mansion, the late residence of Charles Smith, Esq., a celebrated sporting character, an extensive view is obtained of the town, and the surrounding hills and dales."

                                       Sampler of Sarah Midgley nee Clegg, aged 12
      Sampler made by Sarah Midgley, nee Clegg aged twelve in 1823 showing 'Summer Castle'.11
Summercastle, Rochdale 1851
                                Summer Castle, Rochdale from the 1851 Ordnance Survey map

Sarah and her husband Leonard, who is described as a farmer in 1823, immigrated into the U.S.A. on the 8th August 1869, they are the progenitors of the line of Midgley's who include Thomas Midgley junnior the famous American chemist.

The children of Leonard and Sarah are given in the IGI:
Elizabeth MIDGLEY (F).................  B: 20 Aug 1844                                                                         
           Father: Leonard Wildman MIDGLEY          Rochdale, Lancashire, England                                                       
           Mother: Sarah Ann CLEGG

         Ann MIDGLEY (F).......................  B: 17 Mar 1846                                                                         
           Father: Leonard Wildman MIDGLEY          Rochdale, Lancashire, England                                                       
           Mother: Sarah Ann CLEGG                                                                                                      

         John Clegg MIDGLEY (M)................  B: 11 Dec 1847 Ba: 0970091 28           
           Father: Leonard Wildman MIDGLEY          Rochdale, Lancashire, England So: 1553401              
           Mother: Sarah Ann CLEGG  
        James MIDGLEY (M).....................  B: 12 Apr 1850                                                                         
           Father: Leonard Wildman MIDGLEY          Rochdale, Lancashire, England                                                       
           Mother: Sarah Ann CLEGG   

        Leonard MIDGLEY (M)...................  B: 12 Apr 1854 Ba: 0970091 28           
           Father: Leonard Wildman MIDGLEY          Rochdale, Lancashire, England So: 1553401              
           Mother: Sarah Ann CLEGG                                                                                                      

        Emma MIDGLEY (F)......................  B: 4 Jun 1856                                                                          
           Father: Leonard Wildman MIDGLEY          Rochdale, Lancashire, England                                                       
           Mother: Sarah Ann CLEGG 

Contact: Jay Darby Midgley  

Joseph Midgley of the Queen's 1st Life Guards
Joseph was born about 1856 near Rochdale, Lancashire. He is known to have been serving in the 1st Life Guards on the 29th March 1878 at the age of 21-22. He was later promoted to Corporal of Horse serving in Egypt towards the end of 1882. He was discharged from the regiment in 1890. His father is believed to be John Midgley.
Joseph married Catherine Ellen Hawkins (b. abt. 18666 place unknown) on the 24th April 1890 at Ramsgate, Kent. They had at least one daughter, Violet Agnes Midgey born 22nd August 1893 when in residence at 3, Wellington Crescent, Ramsgate, Kent.

Contact: Steve Beardwell
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Data files:
Text file of Midgley of Rochdale I.G.I.
Midgley of Rochdale 1881 census [text file1]
Midgley of Rochdale 1881 census [text file 2]

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  1. Much of the above information supplied by email, from Jim Palmer of Victoria, Australia who holds the rights to this information..
  2. British census for 1881.
  3. Midgley, John Franklin, Midgleyana, Mills Litho P/L, Capetown, 1968.
  4. Whittaker, Dr., History of the Parish of Rochdale, 1828.
  5. Dickenson's Burials
  6. From marriage certificate.
  7. Bedingfield Henry & Jones Peter-Gwynn, Heraldry, Bison Group 1993.
  8. Whittaker, Dr., History of the Parish of Rochdale, 1828,  pp.12-13.
  9. Fox-Davies, A.C., A Complete Guide to Heraldry. 2007,  p.150.

10. Photograph kindly supplied by Michael Claydon. This was found with a bible of Arthur's which passed to his daughter who resided at at Little Larchmount, Saffron Walden and then to the late Robert Parsons.

11. Kindly sent by Jay Midgley, a grandson of the U.S. chemist Thomas Midgley.

12 Kindly sent by Anna 2014.

13. Jim Palmer 2014

Midgley Arms
Midgley of Thornton
Australian Midgley Emigrants


© Copyright Tim Midgley 2001, links revised July 2023.