Early History

History of the Braithwaite Family of England

Hundreds of years ago the Braithwaite family settled in the Hawkshead area and nearby locations of northern Lancashire, England. These early family members were the progenitors of thousands of Braithwaite descendants who now reside in Western Europe, North America and elsewhere around the world.

The histories of these early Braithwaite families have been described in a number of publications. Below are a few excerpts from four books which describes the Braithwaite clan and kin of Lancashire and beyond.

Generoso Germine Gemmo ["I bud from a gentle stock" or "Generous increase of a bud"], by Lieutenant Colonel Garnett Edward Braithwaite (1904-1982), Kendal, Westmorland, England, 1965, pages 4-5,10-11:

…The modern spelling of the name [of Braithwaite] has evolved from many different and earlier forms--de Braythuayt, and Braqwat who 'held a messuage in Langdall,' in the fourteenth century; Braythwait, Brathwait in the seventeenth century, and others with, or without the terminating 'e.' The reason for these different spellings can readily be understood if it is realized that the name was written--either by clerks who recorded it on some document, or by members of the clan itself--as it was pronounced; and that those who did the writing had very different ideas as to the interpretation of that which they heard spoken in dialect. Even near relations, if they could write, spelt the name differently amongst themselves--fathers differed from sons. The word comes from bra, q. brae--meaning a sloping bank, and Thwaite (Sax.)--land cleared of wood.

The village of Brathay [which is about four miles north of Hawkshead in northern Lancashire] either took its name from the family, or the family got its name from the place. The former is the most likely as the Braithwaites literally swarmed all over the whole of the parish of Hawkshead, and beyond, long before any records were kept.

I quote from this [Hawkshead Parish] Register - 'This the most numerous and characteristic of our surnames, did not probably, however, originate in the parish, but must have sprung from one of the north country villages of the name. The supposition that they took their name from the River Brathay is ridiculous. The most important stock of this name was the family of Ambleside Hall….[who] became large landowners in Westmorland. But the name was so widely spread in Hawkshead, that it would appear that these Squirearchal families were but branches of the Hawkshead stock who had risen to affluence.

A good idea of the geographical distribution of this family…can be got from the 'Calendar of Wills' proved within the Archdeaconry of Richmond from 1457 to 1748[:] …Out of about one hundred and seventy-seven wills of Braithwaites, about one hundred and twenty-four are those…of the ramily residing in Hawkshead Parish[,] thirty-five of Sawrey, nine of Wray, six of Skelwith[, and] four of Brathay[. The] Skelwith, Wray and Brathay groups are...offshoots of the Ambleside stock; but the Sawrey group is probably distinct, or, to speak accurately, were probably branched off at an earlier date.'

The earliest so far discovered recorded…of the name occurs with John de Braythwayt named in a Lay Subsidy Poll of 1332.

Anyone reading the Records of Kendale [Kendal] and the Hawkshead Parish Register could not help but be struck with the enormous number that, in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, went to make up our clan; the vast majority of which were obviously poor people, being either tenants of very small holdings or employed by richer folk. The better off were yeomen famers; others followed various and numerous crafts--tailors, saddlers, sheepshearers, boatmen and even publicans.

Their life must have been one long struggle for existence. They were taxed out of all reason, and fined for trivial offences-offences that can only be described as being peculiar to the countrymen-the money from which went to the monarch of the time. If they failed to find the money then their few goods were restrained, and failing that they went to prison.

…These hardy people, indigenous to their countryside for countless generations, survived their times. Life around Lake Windermere could not have been as dull or as dreary as that endured by town dwellers. It is recorded that in 1442 'John Philipson and Robert Brathwayt have taken the fishery of the water of Wynandermer…for the year next following…. For which they paid to the King 26.8, and to the Duches of Bedford 13.4. I have no doubt that they got their money's worth.

From these very early humble folk only Thomas Braythwayte [born about 1459], of Brathay, appears to have materially bettered his lot. He is known to have had a mill in 1494, and to have owned peat lands, from which he made enough money to enable his branch to move slowly, but surely, round the North of Lake Windermere, leaving behind, in the Parish of Hawkshead, descendants of the original stock. His is the first name to be recorded with issue.

…Our [Braithwaite] family, our line, of today traces back to the original Hawkshead stock…. I do not believe that the Brathay group is an offshoot of the Ambleside branch. Rather to the contrary as Thomas [Braythwayte, born about 1459] of the mill of 1494, who founded the Ambleside stock, was 'of Brathay.' Therefore his branch must have sprung from that place and it only remains to be traced when, and how, the Brathay people broke off from the original Hawkshead stock, and what was their connection with those who lived for generations at Loanthwaite.

Hawkshead: (The Northernmost Parish of Lancashire) Its History, Archaeology, Industries, Folklore, Dialect, etc., by Henry Swainson Cowper, London, England, 1899, pages 199-200.

…We have now to consider a remarkable feature in our community [of Hawkshead]…. This is what we venture to term, in default of a better word, the clan system-the cohabitation of hamlets and areas by many folks owning the same surname and a common origin. …In the Court Rolls of the time of Henry VIII [who was King of England from 1509 to 1547], certain [family] stocks were grouped thickly together. The Braithwaites then lived about Brathay, Sawreys at Sawrey…and Riggs at Hawkshead. We found that out of some four hundred surnames in [The Oldest] Register [Book of Hawkshead] a very small proportion-thirty-three, to be exact-occupied a very important place, being borne by a very large percentage of the body of inhabitants. …Three families alone are mentioned over a thousand times, and one clan (the Braithwaites) is easily first, being mentioned 2,513 times.

Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, 1906, Volume 6, pages 26-28. Note: Information about "Fulling mills" can be found on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulling.

The Brathwaites…were the leading family of Ambleside for possible 200 years…. The Brathwaites may have been descended from the Thomas [Braythwayte of Brathay who was born about 1459 and] who held the fulling [cloth] mill in 1494. Almost certainly they acquired their wealth by trade, united with successful agriculture. Already, in the reign of [Queen] Elizabeth [which went from 1558 to 1603], they were rich enough to extend their possessions beyond the town. A deed at Rydal Hall shows that James Brathwaite [1547-1583], towards the end of that reign, bought from John Benson the freehold property or 'Manor' of Bayesbrowne in Langdale, with a messuage and tenement called Elterwater and another called Dykehowe. Land was also acquired, probably after that time, at Brathay and at Pull Beck, across which Gawen [1583-1653] later built apparently the first stone bridge. With this James [1547-1583] and his brother Thomas [1537-1610], sons of a certain Robert [born about 1511], the illustrious era of the family may have said to have begun. James married a cloth merchant's daughter, Joyce Benson, of Miller Bridge. Her father, Bernard, was one of three Benson partners, described as clothiers, who purchased, along with the freehold of their homesteads, almost half [of] Loughrigg from William Fleming, Esq., of Coniston and Rydal. Thomas's marriage was more ambitious. With Dorothy Bindlosse…he appears to have obtained property in Staveley. …He became seated at Burneside Hall [and] became a knight, and in 1591 applied for license to bear arms. His nephew Thomas [1573-1607], successor to James of Ambleside, did the same in 1602-3.

Records of the [Quaker] Friends' Burial Ground at Colthouse, Near Hawkshead, Lancashire, Comprising The Registers of Burials from 1658, Together with a History of the Ground and Sketches of Some of the Families and Individuals Connected Therewith, by Elizabeth J. Satterthwaite, Ambleside, Lancashire, 1914, pages 10-11, 29,53-54,58-59.

The Braithwaites appear to have been the most numerous clan in the Hawkshead valley between 1568 and 1704; during that period their name is mentioned 2,513 times in the Parish Register [of Hawkshead]. Members of the clan were early convinced of Quakerism. George Braithwaite, of Townend (probably the same who was buried at Colthouse, 1681/2), was the vendor of the first piece of land for the Burial ground.

The Burial Ground [of the Colthouse Quaker Cemetery] is below and to the south of Town End, but only a few yards distant from the Fold gate. It nestles on the eastern side of the Esthwaite valley with the ancient town of Hawkshead half a miile to the west of it…. In 1658 the surrounding people were simple folk, mostly small farmers who with the care of their flocks often united the trade of a tanner. They tanned the skins of their own animals, and with the help of the women spun and wove the wool of their own Herdwick sheep. Hawkshead had much more life and commerce in those days than now. It was the centre of a large pastoral district, and the weekly market was a busy time. The squares and "streets" resounded with the clatter of iron-shod hoofs and clogs upon the cobble stones. Kindly greeting, friendly gossip and no doubt "fratching" were heard in the market place. Great boned statemen and buxom women thronged in for miles around, and livestock, farm produce, and woolen yarn and cloth were offered to would-be purchasers. Few roads were more than rough tracks, and travelling was done on horseback and pillion.

What made the [Quaker Society of] Friends of this time choose Colthouse for their burial place we do not know. There was no Meeting House there, and it would seem that Friends were more numerous at High Wray. But probably Colthouse was considered central for the large district the ground was meant to serve, and one of the best of the high roads (leading to the Ferry and Kendal) passed close to its western boundary. Also there was George Braithwaite at that spot willing to part with the necessary land.

Three hundred and fifty six names are recorded in the Colthouse Registers. …H.S. Cowper in his book "The Oldest Register Book of the Parish of Hawkshead" considers that the years from 1668 to 1672 inclusive were plague years at Hawkshead. The burials in the churchyard in those years were very numerous, and the same was, proportionately, the case at the Colthouse Burial Ground.

In 1679 a curious Act was passed enforcing the burial of all bodies in woolen for the purpose of encouraging the woolen trade, and an affidavit had to be produced for each corpse within eight days after burial.

It is to be regretted that so few ages were recorded in the early Registers, but when studying them one comes to the conclusion that many of those who died were children or very young. …The recorded deaths point…to consumption, to which the women and children might be specially liable through spending much time in poorly ventilated rooms. …The men would be more out in the open air.

ANCESTORS & DESCENDANTS OF THE BRAITHWAITE FAMILY, 1400'S TO 2016 is a book that was published in 2016 and is available from the Braithwaite Family Organization.

Braithwaite Ancestors, Descendants and Relatives

Since 2007, members of the Braithwaite Research Committee (BRC) of the Braithwaite Family Organization of Utah have conducted research into the ancestry and descendants of the Braithwaites of Hawkshead and nearby areas of northern Lancashire. This research work has resulted in the identification and documentation of many related Braithwaite families covering a period of more than 500 years.

Listed below is the direct male ancestry of Rowland Braithwaite (1798-1852) who married Hanna Askew in 1822 in Kendal, Westmorland, England. This list is based on ongoing research, so the individuals and relationships shown herein--especially the early ancestors of Rowland Braithwait of 1642--are subject to change based on future findings and analysis.

Ancestors of Rowland Braithwaite (1798-1852)

Mr. Braythwayte, b.abt.1433, of Brathay, Lancashire, England

Thomas Braythwayte, b.abt.1459, of Brathay, Lancashire, England

Richard Braithwait, b.abt.1487, of Brathay, Lancashire, England

Robert Braithwait, b.abt.1512, of Brathay, Lancashire, England

Robert Braithwait, b.abt.1539, of Hawkshead, Lancashire, England

Thomas Braithwait, chr. 6 Aug.1567, Hawkshead, Lancashire, England

Rowland Braithwait, chr. 6 May, 1590, of Hawkshead, Lancashire, England

Thomas Braithwait, chr. 10 Oct. 1613, of Hawkshead, Lancashire, England

Rowland Braithwait, chr. 17 Jul.1642, Hawkshead, Lancashire, England (Quaker; Will)

Rowland Braithwaite, b.abt.1675, of Hawkshead, Lancashire, England

Rowland Brathwayte, chr. 8 Oct.1710, Grasmere, Westmorland, England

Rowland Braithwaite, chr. 22 Oct. 1733, Selside, Westmorland, England

John Braithwaite, b. 10 Apr.1769, Brigsteer, Westmorland, England

Rowland Braithwaite, b.10 Feb.1798, Brigsteer, Westmorland, England

    Married: Hannah Askew (1804-1875) in 1822 in Kendal, Westmorland

    Hannah Askew was a Mormon Pioneer

Relatives of Rowland Braithwaite (1798-1852)

Owner - Gawen Braithwait, 1583-1653, of Ambleside, Westmorland, England

    1st Cousin 7 Times Removed to Rowland Braithwaite

    Owner of the "Old Corn Mill" at Ambleside, Westmorland, England

Poet - Richard Braithwait, 1588-1673, of Burnside Hall, Westmorland, England

    1st Cousin 7 Times Removed to Rowland Braithwaite

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Brathwait

Reverend - Reginald Braithwaite, 1738-1809, of Hawkshead, Lancashire, England

    3rd Cousin 2 Times Removed to Rowland Braithwaite

    Minister of Hawkshead Church of England church for 48 years; buried inside the church

General - William Garnett Braithwaite, 1870-1937, of Kendal, Westmorland, England

    7th Cousin 2 Times Removed to Rowland Braithwaite

    See: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b45/braithwaite-william-garnett

Family of Rowland Braithwaite and Hannah Askew