Extracted from Midgleyana by John Franklin Midgley


In the changing social and economic circumstances dating from Tudor and Stuart times members of the Midgley family in the Township spread farther afield.  As they prospered some were able to acquire separate manors and became minor gentry in different parts of the West Riding between Calderdale and Airedale and even beyond.  In at least two instances the opportunity was provided when the lands of religious houses became available after their dissolution in Henry VIII's reign.
Three enterprising individuals Ramsden of Longley, Lacy of Cromwell Bottom and Midgley of Northowram jointly obtained possession of an area including Thornton Township formerly belonging to the Augustinian Priory of Nostell1 or St Oswald and situated nearer to Bradford than Halifax.  Apparently the King's Commissioners were not particularly interested in this rather remote part and the price was nominal.  On the subsequent division Ramsden took the Scholesmoor portion, Lacy the Clayton side and Midgley Headley. Thornton Manor itself was held by Lacy until it was sold to John Midgley in 1618.  He is mentioned as 'gentleman of Headley' and Lord of the manor of Thornton in the Court rules of Old Bradford in 1638, when he also acquired the Scholesmoor lands.  His son John, bred at Bingley under Mr Leake the schoolmaster, was admitted pensioner at St John's College, Cambridge, on 16th April, 1647, aged 21. About the year 1641 a daughter married John eldest son of James Murgatroyd, the owner of East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley, and accounted worth £2,000 per annum.2

When in June 1968 I paid a fleeting visit to Headley high up above a steep approach I was disappointed at the neglected condition of the premises, especially were the outbuildings in a sorry state of repair.  It still bears evidence of the fine mansion, in the Elizabethan style, it was when some generations of Midgleys resided there.  The western wing bears the inscription 'Wm Midgley 1589' and over the porch in the eastern part, which appears to have been added to the other, is 'J. M. 1604'.  It was obviously strongly built for defence in its isolated position.  Among the striking features are a massive gateway flanked by a high wall. The iron-studded entrance door is of solid black oak and the wainscoting and ceilings within are of oak.  The curiously leaded windows are said to be unequalled by anything of the sort to be seen in Bradford district.
The Midgleys occupied Thornton, Headley and Scholesmoor for the best part of a century.  The manor of Thornton was held by Jonas Midgley in 1703. His son William was curate at Sowerby Bridge and died there in 1706. In 1704 Jonas Dobson was the owner and occupant of Upper Headley Hall while William Midgley, the lord of the manor, lived at Lower Headley.  In 1715 the whole Headley Estate together with the Manor of Thornton was sold by Josias Midgley to John Cockcroft, a Bradford attorney who had married Ann Ferrand. In 1746 Cockcroft sold it in two portions, one half with Headley to John Stanhope and the other to the Hortons.  The direct line of the Midgleys of Scholesmoor closed with the death in 1730 of John Midgley, whose wife was Bathsheba. daughter


of John Hollings ol Crossley Hall.  He lies buiied inside Bradford Parish church (cathedral) and a large monument marks the place of sepulture. All the Midgleys  of Headley  were buried inside the church at Thornton.
The manor of Haworth, with lands in lands in Harden  was conveyed by Nicholas Bladen to William Midgley  Gentleman of Stanbury  and his son Joseph in 1671.  The latter's son David bequeathed it in 1724 to his cousin Joseph  son of William Midgley of Oldfield near Keithley  In his will  dated 5. 3.1724 David Midgley  devised after his death a messuage of 30 acres of  land at Withens (Haworth ) to trustees to the inteunt that they should yearly  on Martinmas Day cloth ten poor children under the age of seven years out of the rents of the property at a cost of £13 p. a.  This Midgley charity is still running.  Incidentalily, Top Wiithens  breasting Withens Heights was the original site of  Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" She came to Haworth with her father  the Rev. Patrick Bronte [Prunty - T.M.] in 1820.
The manor of Haworth was sold to the Trustees of Benjamin Ferrand in 1811 for £4,100. There was a Chancery suit respecting the completion of the purchase,  When the old Haworth church was demolished the 'Lord's pew' occupying a prominent and somewhat imposing enclosure, which belonged to the Midgley family. was presented to Mary Rushworth of Mouldgreave House, Oxenhope. who was apparently the closest known descendant of that branch of the family,  Other members of the family appeared to have removed to London, where they obtained some eminence, one of them becoming a famous barrister. The manor was ultimately bought by the Corporation of Keighley early this century.
At Harden the old house 'Low Cliff' was built by a Midgley and across the door are the initials H.M.R.M. and an almost obliterated date1692 -  some say 1592.  One of the family John Midgley  who died in 1746. aged 82. lived at Ryecrott where his initials and the date 1743 may be seen over a barn belonging to the picturesque old farm.  David Midgley of 'Low Cliff' married Martha Jennings  of Streamhead, Thornton  and, it is said  received  by his marriage a farm at Thornton and 100 spade guineas.
At Wilsden an allotment of 60 days work on wasteland originally to John Midgley as tenant of the Poors Estate  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 (Bradford)
Toward the end of the 17th century a Doctor Samuel, Midgley, son William Midgley of Midgley , practised for a long time in Halifax  where he was imprisoned for debt and died in 1695.  To help pay his debts he wrote a History of Halifax but  was too poor to print the book,  After his death it was taken over by another and published by a William Bentley.
Another branch of the family in the person of Edward Midgley settled at West Breary in the parish of Adel, across the Aire just north of  Leeds where  following on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. he purchased an  estate as did his brother Richard of East Breary adjacent, being part of the possessions belonging to the Cistercian Abbey of Kirkstall.
The little Norman Church at Adel (Addie), placed in a graveyard of quite unusual size is one of the most interesting in Yorkshire and one of the most exquisite Norman foundations extant,4  It is almost unrivalled as a small. enriched example (A. D. 1160- 70) of the aisleless nave and chancel plan almost untampered with by later alterations,  it has a magnificent South doorway within a superb shallow porch consisting of beautifully ornamented receding arches in  five orders.  This is surmounted by a gabled pediment in which is a seated figure of Our Lord with the four evangelistic symbols on each side of  Him - St Matthew and St Luke on His right. St John and St Mark to His left. Above is the Paschal Lamb Lamb , the emblem of the Baptist , the dedication Saint of the Church. Unhappily all  this carving  is much decayed.  Inside, the chief object of interest is the beautiful chancel arch supported on three cylindrical stalls with moulded capitals of singular desin, the elaborate structure of the imposts of which has been the subject of much symbolical mysticism. Amongst

-50 -

the stained glass, in the chancel, is the Leper's window adorned with an emblem of the Holy
Trinity. 5
In the graveyard, particularly near the entrance to the Church, are buried several Midgleys.  On Thursday, 27th June, 1968, when I consulted the printed Parish Register, produced by the courtesy of the bachelor minister who resides in the parsonage nearby, I found the following entry on the first page:-
"Suzan, daughter of Samuell Midgley was baptysed the
25th Maye,. Anno Dmi 1606,"
To Robert, Samuel and Jonathan Midgley who resided respectively at Leeds, Alwoodley and Breary, near Bramhope, and their descendants, the following Coat of Arms and Crest were granted by the Kings of Arms on 29h June, 1709, in the reign of Queen Anne, viz.:-
Arms - Sable, two bars gemel Or and on a chief of the second three caltraps of the first.
Crest - on a wreath of the colours an heraldic tyger sejant Or armed and crined sable, holding in his dexter paw a caltrap of the last.
According to Burke's General Armory these Arms are basically common to the following:-
Midgeley (Midgeley and Clayton),
Midgley  (Scholes Moor, Bradford), and
Midgley  (Rochdale).
The Crest of the first mentioned is given as two keys in saltire az. wards down whereas the remaining two have a heraldic tiger sejant, in the one case holding a caltrap between the paws and in the other resting dexter on a caltrap.6  The descriptions are confirmed in Fairbairn's Crests.
John Watson 7 stated that
'The Midgleys, of Midgley, were once a family of some tolerable account who owned much of the land in Midgley, but I can give the reader no better pedigree of them than what he may meet with in Thoresby's Topography, p.21."
Their Arms were: Sable, two bars gemells, Or, on a chief of the second three calthrops of the first, as given by Thoresby; but on the roof of Halifax Church is the following, said to have belonged to Midgley, of Midgley, viz.:
Gules, a fess between six garbs, Or. There are other references to this last mentioned Coat.  These Arms of the church roof are mentioned in "The Heraldry of the Halifax Parish Church", p. 52, No. 27 with the addition of the Crest - an eagle's head, Or; also by Watson, p. 361, No. 20 as belonging to Midgley.  In a bedroom at Ashday Hall, Southowram, among other carved stone shields is one having a fesse between six garbs.  This denotes the marriage of Mary, daughter of William Midgley, Gentleman of Halifax, with Thomas Holdsworth of Ashday. She died on 25th October, 1710.  This is unlikely to be a genuine coat of arms as it is probably unrecorded in H. M. College of Arms, London.
There is a second Midgley Coat of Arms in Halifax Parish Church cut on a blue stone within a raised stone border, painted over, and fixed to the north wall of the Rokeby Chapel, beneath the second window from the west, are the arms in memory of Mary, who died 7th November, 1704, daughter of William Midgley, M. A. Curate of Sowerby, who died 10th May, 1706, and according4 Watson, late of Headley near Thornton, Bradford.  These are crudely carved and appear to be three bars, and in chief three mullets (five-pointed stars), Crest - an heraldic tiger sejant.  There are no colours.  This Coat also appears not to have been recognised.  It is interesting to note, en passant, the Greenwood family Arms.in connection with the marriages of Holmes Midgley and Jo Corlass Jacques respectively to agnates Martha and Rebecca Greenwood, viz
Arms - Sable, a chevron ermine between three saltiers couped argent.
Crest - a tiger sejant, Or.
The choice of a caltrap or chevaltrap as an integral feature of approved Midgley Coats would seem to indicate that they had some experience of its use in the fighting so prevalent in northern parts in earlier times.  The caltrap was a four-spiked iron ball one point of which, when placed on the ground, was always erect.8  It was anciently used in war to wound the horses' feet and disorganise cavalry charges. For instance at the battle of Arbela in 331 B. C. Darius the Persian had caltraps placed on the flanks of his troops, to no avail against Alexander's manoeuvres.  Then at Bannockburn in 1314 the English knights were bogged down by pits and caltraps.  This sort of metal devilthorn which was primarily designed to rip open the horses' hooves. could be equally dangerous to the fighting infantrymen.  In the course of one counter-attack at the siege of Orleans on Friday, 6th May, 1429, the steel spine of a caltrap pierced the foot of Joan of Arc, Jeanne la Pucelle, and she had to be helped off the scene.  After the second battle of St Albans In 1461  during the Wars of the Roses, Andrew Trollope when he was about to be knighted by Queen Margaret, jokingly showed his foot that had stumbled over a calrap.9   It was sometimes even fatal to stub one's toe in its steel shoe against these instruments,. for gangrene could set in and was little understood except by amputation.  Caltrops were among the gadgets for sabotage parachuted to the Resistance in the Apennines during 1944, according to Stuart Hood's 'Pebbles from my Skull'. In the deep white dust of the Chianti roads they were ~laid for the German supply trucks.
The choice of bars-gemel or barrulets (gemelli - twins) is similarly interesting and significant, being derived from the need to strengthen the frames of the first primitive shields.  Likewise the choice of garbs or wheatsheaves in the other apparently unrecognised arms would seem to indicate that their main interest was farming.
As it was the custom among older Cape burgher families each to have its own coat-of-arms, in many cases derived from signs used to seal documents since often many could neither read nor write, and as there are some two dozen such 'wapens' among my wife's various forbears at the Cape,10 I decided to avail myself of the opportunity and the facilities provided by the Heraldry Act No. 18 of 1962 to submit my own design for registration with the Republic's Bureau of Heraldry.
My own Coat of Arms incorporates components of the above approved coats, with suitable modifications as I have not any direct historical title to any one particular grant.  For instance, the chief was not adopted, and the three caltraps sable were increased to six caltraps argent placed 3, 2. 1 between two bars-gemel Or, to represent our three daughters, my wife and self, and our only son respectively.   Moreover, as our Republic is a modern State far removed from the Middle Ages in Europe and its peculiar symbolism, the heraldic tiger sejant. with hooked talon at the nose and mane formed of tufts, was replaced by a demi Bengal tiger, capable incidentally of holding a caltrap in each of its large front paws.
The complete description appears in the Government Gazette of 20th January , 1967. as follows
Name - John Franklin Midgley.
Family Coat of Arms.
Sable, two bars gemel Or between six caltraps Argent, placed 3, 2 and 1.11
Crest  A demi tiger proper holding in each paw a caltrap Argent.
Wreath and Mantling - Or and Sable.

Naam - John Franklin Midgley.
Famil iewapen.
In swart tweelingsbalke van goud vergesel van ses voetangels va silwer, geplaas 3, 2 en 1.

Helmteken 'n Uitkomende tier van natuurlike k]eur wat in elke poot 'n voetangel van silwer vashou.
Wrong en dekklede - Goud en swart

As previously mentioned the Midgley family became fairly widespread in the West Riding, particularly between Calder and Aire eastward of the Pennines to Bradford and beyond.  William Cudworth's book "Round about Bradford" published in 1876 and long out of print, which has een sent to me this fifth day of May, 1970 by Irene Gilbey, ne'e Midgley. of Moot River Natal  has provided the information that follows.  A family of ancient date in Cullingworth, circa 15th century, was named Hollindrake and their property including two messuages near the church subsequently came to the Midgleys who were among the oldest landowners there.  At the beginning of last century the entire buildings in the village numbered thirty-eight and the main street consisted of eight farm houses, four on each side and a few cottages.  These eight farmers who were all christened John, including John Midgley, were mostly of the yeoman class and farmed their own land.  In pursuance of the Enclosure Act a survey of common lands was made in 1816.  The lord of the manor of Cullingworth was then James Fox Esq.  and among the principal farmers was John Midgley, who was also road manager and for twenty to thirty miles around used to survey and contract for the highway.l2
The Manors of Denholme and Thornton above, were earlier held by the Tempest family.  Denholme came to Sir Richard Tempest circa 1500 on his marriage to Rosamund BoIling.  Sir Richard had a command at Flodden Field and later the Denholme estate was swelled by lands of Byland Abbey on the Dissolution of the Monasteries by the King Henry VIII.  He lost his patrimony  in a game of cards and the Saviles acquired ownership.  Before the Midgleys came into possession of the Manor of Thornton mention is made in Barnard's survey taken in 1577 that William Midgley was a juror for the district and jurors were generally persons of some local standing and position. An idea of the value of land there may be gained from the fact that in 1641 one Michael Pearson bought a little estate with messuage from John Midgley. then Lord of the manor, for £180.  Thornton was a thriving healthy village
"Where a man is a man if he's willing to toil
and the youngest may gather the fruits of the soil".
After the Midgleys vacated the manor an Act of Parliament for enclosing the moors and waste lands was obtained in 1770 and in the following year when an enclosure took place among the largest freeholders to whom allotments were made was a Miss Midgley.
When the Lacys of Cromwellbottom relinquished the Manor of Clayton nearer Bradford, it passed to two maiden ladies named Midgley of Scholesmoor for £1,000.  Incidentally during the Stuarts' rule John Midgley in Clayton hamlet was assessed for ship money   In 1798 the manor was bought by Richard Hodgson who devised it to his niece Sarah Jowett.
In chapter 14 reference is made to members of some half-a-dozen branches of the Midgley family from the West Riding who have settled in South Africa. the forbear of the earliest of these being Thomas Midgley who landed in the Eastern district of the old Cape Colony in 1830.  The descendants of Percy Midgley, their forbear who came to Basutoland in 1898, claim descent from John Midgley who once occupied the old Bradford Manor House.  This tradition remains unsupported by any evidence supplied to me and I have had no opportunity to consult the Bradford records in connection with this manor.


1. Nostell Priory had an income of  £606 and was among the sixth wealthiest in Yorkshire.

2. Turner p.124, 237-8, 287. Now the property of the National Trust. The hall was one of the costliest in Airedale. A barn near the hall has a roof timbered with oak almost like the inverted hold of a ship. Speight p.310 Extract from 'The National Trust' 1945, page 57.:-
"But already a breath from Italy is coming up this way, bringing with it some feeling for balance and proportion and sometimes spurring the native craftsman into a bewildered extravagance of fancy. This, which might be described as Italian not quite domiciled, or native baroque, furnishes its most striking examples (the epithet is in places uncomfortasbly right) in houses built to a grander fashion than the resources of the squire could compass. East Riddleston shows the stubborness of the Gothic, neither quite rejecting nor quite admitting the new style".
For further details of the Murgatroyd family see Speight pp.309, 327 and355. James Murgatroyd, who had made his money in the woollen trade, extended his possessions into Airedale and bought East Riddlesden Hall from John Rishworth, who had turned out a spendthrift and died miserably poor at Keighley.
The marriage of his eldest son John and a daughter of Midgley of Headley produced five sons.. John disinherited his eldest son Thomas for marrying Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Savile of Marley, but the foiur youngest sons dying early in life, what was left of the estate came at last to Thomas. See last sentence end od Chapter 4.
For his second son Henry, who married Jane Lacy vide page 23 above. Their issue intermarried with Cockcrofts and Oldfields of Calder Valley. His third son Thomas of Kershaw House, Midgley, married Hannah Rawson of Greenhill, Bingley. His only daughter Mary/Grace married Nicholas Starkie of Huntroyd who was killed early in the Civil War. See also pp.26, 42, 44 & 48 above.
Ryshworth Hall, Bingley, was bought in 1591 by Edward Bynns, member of an old Airedale family. In 1672 it was sold to William Busfeild by Abraham Bynnes esq. J.P., whose pew in Bingley Church had been confirmed by the Archbishop on the 10th December, 1668. As Justice of the Peace for a short period after the Restoration he was a great enemy of the Puritans. He left three sons and three daughters and his estate encumbered with debt. His eldest son was improvident, sold his land and became besotted.

3. We are reputedly related to the Haworth branch.

4. Archdeacons on their visitations would condemn the little Norman Church, perfect in its own way, as "too small and dark".
In the newer churches from the Age of Chaucer light flooded in and England was filled with towering forests of masonry of unrivalled beauty and grandeur.

5. Coincident with the Leper's hospital at Otley. There were hundreds of these hospitals in England in those days but happily for some centuries back the disease has been practically extinct.
That all these manors mentioned in this chapter have long ceased to be held by former Midgley owners may be explained no doubt in some cases to the land tax of 4s in the £1 to pay for the wars of William III and Marlborough. Though less fatal to the whole race of landowners than our modern Income Tax and Death Duties, it nevertheless was a sore burden to many small estates and the small squires were hard pressed.

6. "In peace there's nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the Tiger" - Shakespeare Henry V, Act III, Scene1.

7. Rev. John Watson "The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax in Yorkshire" 1775.

8. Francis Leary "The Golden Longing" p.181, states that the ball had five or six razor sharp projections. One may assume that on occasion the caltrap was employed as a grenade and thrown before an oncoming assault.

9. The Earl of Warwick, The Kingmaker, hasd prepared a 'Maginot line' of bombards, cuverins, falconets and the bombardiers (from Burgundy) had spiked shields which could be cast down in case of retreat. His front was mined with caltraps, nets of cord with upright nails, also moveable lattices with steel barbs protecting the gaps. Margaret decided against a frontal attack!

10. Dr. C. Pama 'Lions and Virgins' and 'Die Wapens van die Ou Afrikaanse Families!

11. The prescence of the bars and caltraps on the shield is meant to be symbolical respectively ofd the strengthening of the earliest shields and of the spiked bosses thereon, the first bull-hide shields were thgus reinforced and studded with metal. The original heraldic tiger (mythical) was replaced because it was felt that it had no special significance in our modern Republic. I am not in a position to state how many Midgley lines were armigerous. There could have been only a few. One original motto was 'Resurgam' - I shall rise again.

12. At Illingworth I met John Fox Midgley, an elderly bachelor with quite a collection of grandfather clocks.

                                     %%%%%%%%END OF MIDGLEYANA  CHAPTER 9%%%%%%%

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Copyright ©  Tim Midgley, 2003. Links revised October 2023. Scanned and corrected from a copy kindly donated by David & Milnethorpe Midgley of Tasmania from an out of print book by John Franklin Midgley 1970.