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According to the Sedbergh parish register of baptisms William Adamthwaite was born 21st September 1806 and baptized 21st May 1809. It states that he was the natural son of Jane Mackever but his surname Adamthwaite
indicates his father’s name and that he was recognized by him. His only sibling was a sister Jane who sadly only lived a day. She was born and baptized 18th March 1805, then died and was buried on the 19th .
Their father was in fact the Reverend William Adamthwaite of Hallbank (a small hamlet in the administrative area of Frostrow to the east of Sedbergh) born in 1753. This can be deduced from his will (uncertain date) in which he stated that William was the son of himself and Jane Mackever. In this will he listed several buildings and plots of land which he left to William.
See the map below of the Hallbank area showing fields and buildings in 1843 –solid yellow indicates land included in will (yellow lines show areas possibly included) Numbers are as on tithe schedules for 1843
Cottage at Hallbank owned by Rev William Adamthwaite
The enlarged map of buildings at Hallbank below shows the location of the Cottage at Hallbank in plot 69
Little is known of William’s early years but he presumably lived with his parents in one of his father’s properties in the Frostrow area. One piece of evidence suggesting this is a document written in 1812 where the Reverend gives up his right to anything in his wife’s will and in this he is described as being “of HallBank”.(His wife was Ann Hoggard of Beverley who he married in 1791 but has obviously separated from at this stage). Both of his parents die whilst he is relatively young, however, Jane in July 1823, the Reverend in December 1826. The parish
register describes them both as being “of Frostrow” but unfortunately no evidence of their burials has been found.
Shortly after this, in June 1827, William married Sarah Greenbank of Dent. Her parents were Richard and Elizabeth. When Sarah was born Richard was a yeoman farmer of High Haycat, a small farmstead on the hillside in Gawthrop in the Dent valley shown in the photo below. ( Richard died in 1825 and at the time was
described as being from Flintergill—close by)
Interestingly the marriage record describes him now as William Adamthwaite Mackever but notes that he signs himself McEver showing loyalty to his mother. (Spelling appears to be a moot point. I have used whichever is being used in the source –which varies!) Sarah is illiterate.
Evidence from the land tax records for Hallbank show that William inherited his father’s property here at about this date but he did not occupy it. The records from 1829 to 1831 show that he lived at High Branthwaite very close by (see map above).
High Haycat, in Gawthrop
From then until 1839 there is no direct evidence of where he and Sarah lived but several things point to it being a property in this vicinity.
Firstly in the parish register records of the births of their first 8 children (see family tree diagram below) from 1828 to 1837, seven describe him as William Adamthwaite Mackever --statesman of Frostrow and the eighth –farmer of Frostrow. The term statesman has special significance in this area and means a man who owns his estate, however small. As such it has a hint of status. Status does not necessarily mean wealth however. An article by F. Stacey in the Sedbergh and Dent History Society newsletter states “ a study of several wills and inventories has shown that most farmers were far from wealthy—most had small farms, a handful of cattle and small flocks of sheep.
Secondly from the column showing “where born” in later censuses, in both 1871 and 1891 Jane (b 1829) describes this as Hallbank and in 1881, Frostrow. John (b 1835) in 1861 describes it as Frostrow.
Lastly there is a record in the poll books for 1838 of a W.M.E Adamthwaite being able to vote by virtue of his ownership of Hallbank. At this time it would have meant him having a freehold worth at least 40 shillings a year which also indicated that he was relatively well off in terms of those around him.
After this time things started to go downhill. In 1838 he sold the Hallbank property and lived briefly in Dent. His daughter Agnes born in 1839 was christened in Dent. William was described as a husbandman then and his and Sarah’s abode was Gawthrop, Dent. In 1841 Sarah’s mother and two uncles lived very close to here so it is possible they were staying with them. In the 1841 census he lived in Weaver’s yard in Sedbergh working as an agricultural labourer.
These two photos are of the possible properties that William and his family could have lived in in Weavers yard (from census and tithe schedule information)
Dorothy born in 1842 was baptized privately and William was again described as a husbandman. In 1843 in the tithe schedules for Sedbergh he occupied a house (owned by a Matthew Fawcett) in King’s Yard.
Descendants of William Adamthwaite and Jane Mackever - click on the image to open a large image in a new window
The photo left shows the house which corresponds to the dwelling in the tithe schedule where William lives—it is behind the Bell Hotel
The registers of the births of Margaret and Barbara in 1844 and 1846 describe him as labourer then husbandman. In all of these entries he is named William Adamthwaite Mackever. Then when his last son, Richard, was born in 1848, he was described as William Adamthwaite alias McEver—a labourer.
Apparently he now no longer owned property and had to take up work for other people [note that it is quite possible that he was practising a dual economy where he did some labouring but also held a small plot of land, hence his alternation between husbandry and labour]. This may have been because he was a poor farmer or he may have been a victim of circumstance or maybe a combination of both. Certainly bringing up such a large family won’t have helped. EJT Collins in his book The Economy of Upland Britain says that between 1750 and 1850 upland agriculture could only absorb some of the population increase basically because the land was so poor and many were forced to move away. Looking at the land today it is clear that making a living from such a small plot of land nowadays will be challenging.