Home of Haworth.............

The earliest Midgley reference to Haworth dates back to a John Myggley in 1546 and William Midgley in 15811. A Joseph appears in a title deed for 1688 11 See Midgley names of Haworth
The Midgley's were part time lords of the manor of Haworth from the 1500's, their names are to be found mentioned on the charity boards at the rear of Haworth church1.
For example Joseph Midgley and children, Nathan, Helen (Ellen) and Thomas4.

                  Sacred to the memory of4

    Joseph Midgley Esq.
   of Oldfield^ in the Parish of Keighley
   Late Lord of the Manor of Haworth
   who died November 16th 1765 
   aged 46 years.

Also of Mary Relict of the late Joseph Midgley Esq.who died December 11th 1795 aged 73 years

Also of  Nathan Midgley
Son of the above who died August 15th 1835 aged 69 years.

Also of Ellen their daughter who died December 13th 1839 aged 84 years

Also of Thomas Midgley Gent. of  Deanfield* Son of the above named Joseph Midgley Esq.who died January 25th 1845 aged 81 years.

^ Earlier in ~ 1638 William Midgley of Oldfield is recorded as being married. His son Nathan was married about 1670, son William married ~ 1674 and daughter Mary married ~ 1672. Nathan Midgley Of Oldfield and Mary Heaton had four daughters, Annie (m ~1693), Mary (m ~1695), Alice (m ~1697) and Martha (m ~1701).[Parish Records]

* Earlier Sarah Midgley b~ 1664 married Peter Heaton of Deanfields, Keighley. [Parish Records]



Plaque at the back of Haworth Parish Church showing that David Midgley was lord of the manor of Haworth at this time. The text reads as follows:

To the memory of the benefactors to the poor of Haworth Parish

Abraham Kilching of the parish of aforesaid left 10 shillings per annum forever to be divided yearly among the said poor.

David Midgley* LORD of the manor of Haworth left a FARM forever to clothe yearly 10 poor children in blue belonging to the said parish.

Mr. RICHARD POLLARD of Stanbury in the parish of Haworth left 2 pounds 10 shillings per annum forever to be divided on Christmas Day amongst the poor of the townships or hamlets of Haworth & Stanbury.

* This was 'Top Withens' (see below)

David Midgley's Charity: David's will was dated 5th March 1723 in which he left a messuage and 30 acres at Withens in Haworth to clothe ten poor children under the age of seven years. The Withens property rented for thirty pounds p.a. at this time.

                      The well known plaque at the back of Haworth Parish Church showing the death dates of the Bronte family.

Indenture of a release by 1.William Midgley and Judith his wife,1721  2. Nathan Midgley of Oldfield.11

William Midgley of Oldfield's Will dated 1728 bequeathing the manor of Haworth to his son Joseph 11


                                                     Haworth Church about 1879                                                Haworth Parsonage about 1879


Haworth the village made famous by the Brontes (Prunty) gives testimony to the land ownership which would have been inherited by various branches of the family.
Within Haworth church  on a marble plaque high up on one wall it is recorded that the Lord of  Oldfield manor was Joseph Midgley with children Nathan  Ellen and Thomas.
Did Emily Bronte base parts of her Wuthering Heights on this family? I think so. 
Both characters Joseph and Ellen appear in the book although old Joseph is given the part of Heathcliffe's servant! Ellen midgley would have been 65 years of age when Emily arrived in Haworth and  died about 6 years before Emily wrote her novel so theoretically Emily knew Ellen, the  daughter of the lord of Haworth from 1820 - 1839. Thomas, Ellen's brother died aged 81 in the year Emily began writing 'Wuthering Heights'. The Bronte family would undoubtedly have known the Midgley family at least through the church if not through other social avenues..







Joseph II Midgley Lord of the manor of Haworth.





Mary (wife)





Nathan (son)





Ellen (dtr)





Thomas Gent. of  Deanfield















Patrick Bronte





Maria (wife)





Patrick (son)



















*Emily arrived in Haworth with her father in 1820 and wrote Wuthering Heights between 1845 and 1846.


                                                                   Gedcom file for early Midgley of Haworth

                           The Genealogy of Wuthering Heights:
Relationships of Heathcliffe et. al.
         No wonder the novel is so complex! How would you like a family tree like this?

The only brother to the Bronte sisters was Patrick Branwell Bronte more commonly known as Branwell [after his mother's surname] to distinguish him from his father also Patrick. He composed a poem whilst lodging at Brearley Hall, parish of Midgley  where he was lodging in 1841.13

Also we have:
Mr. Lockwood the tenant of "Thrushcross Grange".
Ellen Dean.
Mrs. Nelly Dean -The housekeeper at "Thrushcross Grange".
Zillah- The houseservant at Heathcliffe's "Wuthering Heights" Farm.
Joseph- Heathcliffe's servant.
The imaginary "Wuthering Heights" is really "Top Withens", Haworth, once a residence of  David Midgley. 

David Midgley's Will 1723 to his cousin Joseph - In 1723 David Midgley of West-nest-head in Haworth was lord of the manor of Haworth, when he desiesed the manor to his cousin Joseph Midgley son of William Midgley of Oldfield nr. Keighley.14

Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte's only novel, exhibited a rebel spirit like its creator. The novel was a passionate and powerful study of the doomed love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliffe on the windswept moors of life, both were forces of nature, but tragically, there was no salvation.  


                     Watch for Sladen Beck valley at 0.19, the castellated  'Wuthering Heights' house depicted is a very romanticised version of the reality.

A memorial from the grounds of Haworth Church have been recorded9 a summary of which is:

Joseph Midgley Esq. of Oldfield, Lord of the manor of Haworth* died 22nd February 1809 aged 50 years, daughter Mary  who married William Rushworth of Mouldgreave [Mouldgrave] died 16th October 1848 aged 88 years.                     * Also lord of the manor of Oldfield.

Earlier references from Midgleyana indicate that William Midgley Gent.of Stanbury and his son, Joseph, purchased the manor of Haworth and Harden in 1671 from Nicholas Sladen*  for 80 pounds. Nicholas Sladen was  of Inner Temple, London, Esq. William had two sons, Joseph and William (of Oldfield near Keighley). In 1690, Joseph settled the manor of  Haworth and Harden upon himself for life and the remainders to his brothers, Thomas and William and the survivor. * John James [History of Bradford, 1841 and 1866] gives his name as  Nicholas 'Bladen'. Esq.of the Inner Temple, London.

Manor records of Stanbury show the same William Midgley snr. as "a resident of the manor of Stanbury outlier, 'the Oldfield' " in 1682.10 

Joseph's son David of West Nest Head, Haworth bequeathed the manor in 1724 to William Midgley jnnior's (of Oldfield in the manor of Stanbury) son, Joseph (will dated 5th March 1724). This Joseph is the Joseph  [b~1759, d. 1809] mentioned in the charity board shown above5

Top Withens in the parish of Haworth was owned by David Midgley  David Midgley devised a messuage of thirty acres of land at Withens* to trustees to the intent that they should yearly on Martinmas Day clothe ten poor children under the age of seven years out of the rents of the property which at that time were thirteen pounds. This Midgley charity was still running in 19689. Top Withens is the site of Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights'.


Top Withens ,once the residence of David Midgley, the inspiration for Wuthering Heights .
Top Withens today, once the residence of David Midgley of Haworth in the 1700's
Top Withens home of the ficrtitious Heathcliffe
 Top Withens "Wuthering Heights"as it may have  appeared  when it was the residence of the fictitious  Heathcliffe.

                                                                                                Another view of Top Withens

Top Withens about 1926
    Top Withens about 1926 when it was still occupied.
Top Withens from the Air today
                        Top Withens from the air today

Plaque at Top Withens

                                                                                                              Cathy's theme from the film Wuthering Heights 1939

Edmund de Laci was granted  a manor at Stanbury near Haworth. This strategically connected the castles of Pontefract and Clitheroe in the honour of Pontefract. [with a feudal road running from Pontefract through Bradford Dale, Haworth and over the Pennines through Colne Edge to Clitheroe Castle another seat of the De Laci family.] See photograph of Stanbury road looking west above Stanbury
The manor or Stanbury was given a charter in 1234-1235, and with five other manors was granted to Edmund De Laci in November 1249.  David Midgley's house, Top Withens is situated within the boundaries of the manor of Stanbury.10
Inscriptions have been recorded from gravestones at various sites in Haworth9. The one above is more fully described by Fothergill9 as follows:

"In memory of Mary, wife of Joseph? Rushworth of Mouldgreave and daughter of Joseph Midgley esq. of Oldfield, Lord of the Manor of Haworth, who died February 22nd 1809 aged 50 years. Also William? Rushworth of Mouldgreave, husband of the above Mary who died October 16th 1848 aged 88 years".

Another inscription was found at West Lane Methodist Chapel  for a Nathan Midgley who died 18th February 1856 aged 60.
The manor of Haworth was sold to the trustees of Benjamin Ferrand in 1811 for four thousand one hundred pounds. John James states that Joseph Midgley a descendant of the last named Joseph devised the manor of Haworth to Edward Ferrand Esq.15 
When the old Haworth church was demolished the "Lord's Pew", which occupied a prominent and imposing enclosure and which belonged to the Midgley family, was presented to Mary Rushworth of Mouldgreave House, Oxenhope who was apparently the closest known descendant of the branch of the family. Other members of the family moved to London, one becoming a famous barrister. The manor was ultimately bought by the Keighley Corporation.9.
The Court Rolls for the manor of Haworth  are to be found in the Keighley Library, they are prefaced with a Midgley family history by Clifford Whone (1946)1.

By the time of the  1851 census for Haworth  the following Midgley's are recorded as residents:

Living on the Main Street of Haworth: 
Nancy Midgley, head, widow, housekeeper, born Haworth. 
Joseph Midgley, unmarried, 37 years of age Wool Comber, born Haworth. 
James Midgley, unmarried, 24 years of age, Wool Comber, born Haworth.

Frank Feather, a former resident of nearby Oxenhope states that many of his forebears were baptised/married and buried at Haworth Church, some of them by Patrick Bronte.

The Late Smith Midgley, a former Lord Mayor of Bradford [died 1999] was an avid historian and writer for the Dalesman and Pennine Magazine. He had made an extensive study of his family name. Smith Midgley drew up his pedigree which dated from 1739 with some earlier information. There had been an earlier Smith T. Midgley who appears as the mayor of Halifax for the years 1877-1879 and 1893-1894.
The name Smith Midgley appears regularly in records for the area. This popular name was probably derived from a combination of two surnames. In  the Keighley Parish Church register we have:
Agnes Smith married William Midgley on the 31st December 1656
James Smith married Juliet Midgley on the 9th May 1667.

Mrs. Smith Midgley has kindly provided a copy of the pedigree drawn up by Smith. Their daughter Judith was at one time the "Queen" of the annual Keighley Gala and was by all accounts a real beauty2.
The basic pedigree is as follows:
John Midgley b. Oct. 1739 married Ann Holmes of Harwood Hill & Slack. They had five children:
1. Mary b.1760
2. Nathan b. 1762, d. 1788
3. Joseph b. 1766, d. 22nd Nov.1847 married Priscilla Bailey, Barcroft. They had 9 children:
    i) John bap. 20th July 1789.
   ii) Nathan b. 27th May 1792 wool comber, died 1st Jan.1873 married Betty of Bocking
       b.1793, d. 8th Mar.1856.  They had 9 children:
           a) John bap.1815, d.1882, married Alice.
           b) Thomas bap.1817, d.1891, married Sarah.
           c) Joseph b.1819 d.1899, woolcomber, married Betty Mitchell, b.1823, d.1882.
               They had at least seven children. [for details see zipped pedigree  file] one of whom
               was Smith Midgley, b.1807, d.1916, married Emma Moore b.1860, d.1937. They
               had 7 children
           d) Jesse b. 1821.
           e) Barwick b.1833, d. 1908, Ingrow, married Martha_____b.1835, d. 1902 Ingrow.
           f) Abraham [1842 census] married Martha, Four children.
           g) Ann b.1830.
           h) Nathan b.1834, d.1857.
           i) Sarah, married William Mitchell.

   iii) Sally b.1795
   iv) Joseph b.1798 [census 1861]
   v) Mary bap.1802
  vi) Thomas bap. 804
  vii) William bap.1806, d. 1855 Ingrow.
 viii) John bap. 1809, d. 1836, Ingrow, married Martha.
  ix)  Ann bap.1812, d. 1823, Ingrow.

4. Sally b.1768
5. Holmes b.1776, d.1850.

Children of Smith Midgley [b.1807] and Emma Moore:
1. Arthur
2. Edith b. 1885 married Arthur Pickles, three children
3. Marion married J.H. Binns, one child.
4. Annie married Jack Peacock, two children.
5. Frank b. 1893 married Janet Williams, three children including Smith Midgley d. 1999.
6. Hilda married W. Waterhouse, one child.
7. Percy married Nellie Wright, three children.

In Haworth Rhymes and Writings, Smith Midgley, who was a well known character in the village, took "a light hearted look in verse and prose [written in the local West Yorkshire dialect] at the residents and visitors who flocked to Haworth".
Midgleyana has been cited as an early reference to the origins of the Midgley families, compiled by John Franklin Midgley in South Africa, printed by Mills and Litho Pty. Ltd. in Cape Town, 19683. There is a similar coat of arms to the one shown on the previous page, but a different motto which was patented in South Africa. in 19603.
Whether this Smith Midgley was in some way related to the Gunsmith, Smith Midgley is not yet known.
Donald Midgley Hunt has connexions to the Smith Midgley of Haworth line and has commonality with Joseph Midgley who was a brother to Holmes Midgley.

Midgleys' of  Harden
"Low Cliff House" was built by another local branch of the family. Across the door is the inscription " H.M.  R.M 1692 or 1592 (obscured). David Midgley of Low Cliff married Martha Jenings of Streamhead, Thornton and received from his father-in-law a farm at Thornton and 100 spade guineas.
One of the family, John Midgley who lived at Ryecroft died in 1516. Above the barn at the picturesque farm of Ryecroft is an inscription J.M. 1743.

Midgleys' of Wilsden
Here an allotment of sixty days work on wasteland originally given to John Midgley as tenant of the Poors Estate, it was conveyed in a deed of 2nd June 1702 from Richard Midgley, yeoman of Bradford and his heir to among others, John Midgley, Gentleman of Horton, Bradford6.

Midgleys' of Cullingworth8
John Midgley born 25th Dec. 1778 married firstly Rebecca Driver, May 1800, died 26th Feb. 1805
              Mary b. 29 May 1801
              Martha b. 18 Dec 1802
              Elizabeth b. 23 Sept. 1804, d. 20 Jan 1805
Married secondly to Martha Driver (sister to rebecca0 Dec. 1805. Martha died 1819 aged 32.
             Susanna b. 14 Feb. 1806
            William b. 21 Dec. 1807, d. 31 May 1833.
             John b. 29 April 1811, d. 27 May 1816.
             James b. 24 Feb. 1814 d. 28 May 1816
             Rebecca b. 22 Oct. 1816.
John (b. 1778) died  on the 18th April 1838 after a fall from his gig at Idle near Bradford.
Many of these dates underlie a tragic tale of early deaths and misadventure, indicating the harshness of  life during these times. 

Haworth churchyard and vicarage 2011


I am indebted to John Midgley in England, Mrs. Smith Midgley and Hilary Burrell in Howarth, David Midgley in Tasmania, Frank Feather in Canada, Tom Lee in Michigan, Janet Ogden in Yorkshire and  the book Midgleyana by John Franklin Midgley for much of the information here.

  1. John Midgley of Sandwich, email contact.
      John born at Keighley also has other information such as a list of baptisms and burials for the Midgley's of Ryecroft 1588-1807.Also a family tree from 1588 to 1807, a pedigree of the
      Midgley's of Thornton and Clayton from 1601 and some names and dates for Midgley's of Cullingworth from 1778.
  2. Frank Feather, born at Oxenhope near Haworth, now living in Toronto, Canada..
  3. David Midgley of Tasmania.
  4. Charity board to rear of  Haworth Parish Church.
  5. Midgley, John Franklin. Midgleyana. Mills Litho P/L, Capetown, 1968.
  6. Ibid. p 49.
  7. Ibid. p 69
  8. Obtained from Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society by John Midgley of Sandwich.
      The Society has compiled much on the Midgleys' of the area around Bradford.
  9. Fothergill, Joyce [recorder], Haworth Parish Church Gravestones
10. Information sourced from Smith Midgley and the manor of Stanbury records by Tom Lee.
11. Janet Ogden

12.  Horsfall Turner, J. (Joseph Horsfall). Haworth: Past and Present: a History of Haworth, Stanbury & Oxenhope (1879)
13. Barker. Juliet. The Brontes. 2010; 1841 census.

14. James, John. History and Topography of Bradford. (1841), p. 348.

15. Ibid. pp. 348-349.

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Copyright © Tim Midgley 2000, revised 9th January 2024...