The Yorkshire connection

My 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins, née Gibson, married her second husband, my 5 x great grandfather Joseph Holdsworth, on 20 May 1763, at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey. After their marriage, Joseph and Elizabeth lived in the village of South Weald, near Brentwood in Essex, where their children Elizabeth (1764), John (1765), Henry (1766), Sarah (1767), Joseph (1770), William (1771, my 4 x great grandfather) and Godfrey (1773), were born and baptised.

St Peter's church, South Weald (via geograph)

What do we know about Joseph Holdsworth? From the parish register of St Peter’s, South Weald, we know that he was buried there on 7 June 1795 and that he was 60 years old at the time of his death, meaning that he was born in about 1735. (So he was about 28 years old when he married Elizabeth, who was about 30.) Thanks to research by my fellow family historians and distant relatives, Ron Roe and Adrian Holdsworth, we also know that Joseph was a member of the leet jury and vestry committee in South Weald, that he took and later discharged an apprentice by the name of John Smith, and that he was at different times a tenant of land owned by one Thomas Moss (a miller), and by a Miss Taylor.

But where did Joseph come from? Our information about the earlier generations of the Holdsworth family derives from research conducted in the late nineteenth century, firstly by Joseph Cook, who was married to Lydia Holdsworth, a descendant of Joseph and Elizabeth’s son Godfrey, and then by James Joseph Holdsworth, a descendant of their son Joseph. Both were trying to prove a family claim to an estate in Yorkshire, and they drew on the memories of surviving Holdsworths to trace the family’s origins in that county.

Old map of South Weald, Essex

James Joseph Holdsworth composed the first Holdsworth family tree. At the top of the tree is ‘John or Joseph Holdsworth’, supposedly father to John, Sarah, Joseph, Henry, William and Godfrey (Elizabeth is not mentioned: presumably because she didn’t survive to adulthood). According to a note beside his name, John or Joseph ‘came from Yorkshire and took a farm in Essex near Brentwood, married a Miss Mortimer’. Elsewhere on the tree there is this note: ‘John Mortimer left it to his 6 cousins (5 brothers 1 sister) children of John or Joseph Holdsworth’.

This is puzzling. We know that the father of these children was definitely Joseph and that his wife’s name was Elizabeth. It seems likely that two people, probably a father and son, are being confused here. In fact, Ron and Adrian have found occasional mentions of a John Holdsworth, as well as Joseph, in the South Weald records.  While we can’t yet be sure, it’s feasible that it was a John Holdsworth who married ‘Miss Mortimer’, and that they had a son named Joseph.

Ron Roe has found a family in the Calderdale district of Yorkshire whose details match what we know about the Holdsworths who ended up in South Weald. On 25 November 1725 John Holdsworth, a husbandman, married Mary Mortimer, a spinster from Shelf, at the church of St John the Baptist, Halifax (now Halifax Minster). Their marriage is also mentioned in the Northowram Register, an eighteenth-century record of Nonconformist births, marriages and deaths, which provides the additional information that John Holdsworth lived at Sowood House, and that Mary was the daughter of John Mortimer of Shelf.  Although we can’t be absolutely certain that this is the right family, their Nonconformist affiliation fits with what we know of the later Holdsworth generations.

1843 map showing Northowram and surrounding area, Yorkshire

The village of Shelf is about a mile to the north-east of Northowram, which is itself only two or three miles from Halifax. There are a number of buildings with the name Sowood House in the general area, but the most likely candidate is in the neighbouring village of Coley, which forms a triangle with Northowram and Shelf, being only a few miles from both (see above map).

Standing at the junction of Coley Road and Soaper House Lane, Sowood House is a Grade II listed building, constructed in the mid-seventeenth century. Its official description runs as follows:

Thin coursed hammer-dressed stone, partly rendered, stone slate roof. 4 plan, 2 storeys. Hall and cross-wings with through passage. 4-bay front with doorway with segmental arch and composite jambs. All are double chamfered mullioned windows except 1st bay where they have been altered. The remainder are of 5 lights to ground floor and of 6, 2, 3 and 5 above, each of those in the last bay having lost the outer mullions, but retaining hoodmoulds. Coped gables with kneelers and rainwater spouts. Rear retains original 5-light windows to both floors of left hand wing and similar doorway to through passage. One lateral stack to right hand wing and one other stack to ridge on line of through passage wall and one to gable of main range.

These photographs provide aerial views of the house:

And this is a photograph of Sowood House from ground level (via flickr):

If this turns out to be the home of John Holdsworth, father of Joseph (and thus my 6 x great grandfather), then it would be the second listed building that I’ve found with links to my family history.

According to other family trees at Ancestry, John and Mary Holdsworth had five children, of whom Joseph was the second, but I’ve yet to review this information. There are a number of possible baptisms in the West Yorkshire parish registers that match Joseph’s details, and I’ll write about these another time.

The recent addition of West Yorkshire parish records to the Ancestry site, together with my discovery this week of a source for Yorkshire wills, opens up the possibility of tracing this branch of my family back to the early 18th century and perhaps beyond. Watch this space!

This entry was posted in Collins, Gibson, Holdsworth, Mortimer. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Yorkshire connection

  1. Chris Hewitson says:

    Hi – I”m very interested in the Yorkshire branch of your Holdsworth family as my GGG grandmother was Elizabeth Holdsworth born c 1811 ‘near Halifax’, probably Ovenden, which is very near to Holdsworth House. I keep digging and looking but haven’t as yet been able to ‘plug’ Elizabeth into her family. Your post makes me wonder whether we may be investigating the same family.

    • Martin says:

      Hi Chris – Thanks for your comment. Let’s hope we can find a link between our Holdsworth ancestors. However, there seem to be so many branches of the family living in that area in the 18th and 19th centuries, that it’s really difficult to know which are ‘ours’ and which are unrelated! I haven’t managed to find a link between my Holdsworth ancestors and Holdsworth House yet. Do you have any more information about the place, or about your GGG grandmother Elizabeth?
      Best wishes

  2. Chris Hewitson says:

    Hi – Elizabeth married George Hewitson (b c 1813, Darlington) at Halifax Parish Church on 22nd September 1834 and she died in North Ormesby, Middlesborough in 1885. I know who her children were and something of her husband’s work, but I know nothing of where Elizabeth came from or of her parents.

  3. Lily Holsworth says:

    My family name is “Holsworth”. My 1st Holsworth ancestor known is : Thomas Holsworth, born circa 1735, Norfolk ,U.K. & died in Horsham St.Faiths, Norfolk in 1771. He marrys Elizabeth Larwood , (born May 1738 & died 1787 in Horsham St.Faiths). I have no Holsworth;s beyond Thomas of 1735. If you know when any Holdsworth’s/Holsworth’s that left Yorkshire and drifted down to Norfolk before 1730’s , I would appreciate it! Most of Thomas’s male descendants where brickmasons, brickbuilders in Suffolk & Norfolk area . My family group left (about 10) Earsham , Norfolk in 1884 for Nebraska and onwards 1886 to San Francisco, Calif where they stayed. Thank you, L. H.

  4. Susan Drake says:

    My Great Grandmother Charlotte Mortimer married James Campbell in 1880 in London, she had three children, Charles, Gordon and James, two of which were born in Stirling, Scotland. Then in 1895 she married Joseph Holdsworth in Hull, he was born in Harrogate/Massogate Yorkshire in 1832. From the 1901 census they were living at 64 Bondend, Knaresborough. He was a stone and monumental mason. His 2 stepsons are listed in the census as being stone mason apprentices. Does this fit in with anyone else’s ancestry?

    • Barbara says:

      Joseph Holdsworth, stone mason in Knaresborough was my Gt.Gt.Gt. Grandfather, his 1st marriage was to Elizabeth ? They had 8 children, the eldest John Joseph is Gt. Gt. Grandfather. My father has pointed out the house at Bond End where they lived. I haven’t gone any further back from this side as yet.

      • Martin says:

        Hi Barbara. Thanks for your comment. If you search under ‘Holdsworth’ on this blog, you’ll see I’ve written much more about my Yorkshire Holdsworth ancestors. There are so many Holdsworths in the area that it’s difficult to keep track of them! Mine seem to have been wool traders and farmers in the Bradford / Halifax area – so there probably isn’t a connection to your Joseph – but you never know!
        Best wishes

      • Susan says:

        I have found my great grandmother Charlotte (Mortimore/Campbell) and Joseph Holdsworth in the 1901 and 1911 census living at 64 Bond End but using Google maps it hard to work out which house it is from the house numbers. It may have been demolished as there is an empty section/park next to No. 65 Worlds End.

  5. Dr. John Robert Donaldson says:

    Fantastic research Martin!
    Thank you.
    John Briggs, my great x 6 grandfather married Mary Holdsworth in 1786 Surry County, Virginia.
    From my research, it appears John Briggs, the first Briggs born in America, was born in Giles County, Virginia in 1750. From that point backwards the trail goes cold.
    I am completely ignorant of any family history before 1750, but I assume my ancestors came from England and Scotland. If Mary Holdsworth is related to your family in Yorkshire, then perhaps we too are related.
    As you know, mitochondria are derived only from the maternal line, and if we have a common female ancestor, then genetic testing should prove it.



    • Martin says:

      Dear John
      Thank you for your comment – I’m glad you found the information on the Holdsworths interesting and useful. I believe Holdsworth is a Yorkshire name, so there’s a good chance your ancestor came from there. However, there are so many families with the same name in the county, it’s difficult to say whether your Mary was related to my branch. I haven’t pursued the DNA line of research yet – perhaps I should. Keep in touch, and good luck with your research. Best wishes, Martin.

      • Al Magnin says:

        Dear Martin,
        I just stumbled onto your site and It is fascinating. The Surry County (Virginia) Holdsworths are likely from Yorkshire and have been in Virginia since the first half of the Seventeenth Century. (Yes, we spell “Surry” without the “e”.) Holdsworth is indeed a fairly common Yorkshire surname, but I’m going to play around with it anyway. If I come across anything useful on your probable ancestors, I’ll let you know. Our earliest Surry ancestor is Walter Holdsworth. (The Mary Holdsworth cited by the Doc is my 3rd great grandfather’s sister.) Our research is a bit stymied by our 1861-65 Civil War. Cromwell shattered stained glass in yours, but we burned our Southerners’ county records for spite. Well, what else could we do? We could not find enough stained glass.
        Best regards, Al Magnin

    • Al Magnin says:

      My fourth great grandfather is your Mary Holdsworth’s father. If you do not have it yet, I can give you the probable line with documentation back to the mid-1660’s. I’m in Hopewell and in the book under Hopewell Medical Center. If you prefer to call, tell them you are not a patient and use the title “Doctor” so they will put you through.
      Best regards, Al Magnin

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