The Origins of the Lancasters of Holme in Cliviger, near Burnley in Lancashire

And, Considerations concerning the Lancasters of Askham in Westmorland, in the 1600s

These are genealogical notes collected by Andrew Lancaster, of the Lancaster Surname Project, with enormous assistance from project correspondents David Hall and John Black Lancaster.

As such the following may very well contain errors and omissions. It would be surprising if not! Indeed, the aim is to encourage discussion and further research, so feedback and questions are very welcome, and if you pass information from here on to others, remember to tell them the source so they can also come and complain also! ☺


The Lancasters of Cliviger first appear in records in the early 18th century. One John Lancaster, a woollen weaver who lived at a residence named Height, left a will dated 12 December 1754, which was proved July 1762. His widow, Mary, seems to have died the next year, because there is an admon for Mary Lancaster, a widow of Cliviger, in 1763. John's will mentions sons and executors William and Jonathan, and daughters Alice Balder, Anne Haworth, Mary Foster, Elizabeth Suttlife, and Jennet Lord. Apart from William the other children's baptisms appear in the Burnley registers...

MARY LANCASTER 17 AUG 1707

ALICE LANCASTER 14 JUN 1702

AGNUS LANCASTER 30 SEP 1704

ALICE LANCASTER 31 MAY 1705

ELIZ LANCASTER 12 NOV 1710

JOHN LANCASTER 19 FEB 1716

JONATHAN LANCASTER 2 NOV 1718


Both Jonathan and another son, named William, had children baptised in Holme itself in the 1740s and 1750s.


It should be noted at the start that this area of Lancashire had long been under one enormous parish of Whalley, and that a large proportion of all parish registers are scattered in various chapels which might normally have been separate parishes in any other part of the country. So families do not always appear in only one register even when they were not moving around.


The earliest record I am so far aware of (thanks to John B. Lancaster) is the marriage 31 May 1701 in Burnley between John Lancaster and Mary Utley, both of Cliviger.



Our question regarding the origins of this family.


No less a source the Burkes Peerage claims that this John was the son of George Lancaster and Margaret née Tinkler of Askham in Westmorland, who married there in 1683. This couple appear to be part of a Lancaster family who can in turn be traced via the Lancasters of nearby Sockbridge back to early medieval aristocracy.


There is quite a distance between Askham and Cliviger, and it is not known what sources might have been used to propose this connection. Furthermore, what we can say is that the link between George and Margaret and the main line of Sockbridge which Burkes shows, seems questionable. We shall start with that question.


Two competing accounts of the ancestry of George Lancaster of Askham, who married Francis Tinkler in 1683, and had a son John baptised 4th February 1685/6 in Askham.


We can compare the proposed family tree of Burkes to one proposed by David Hall, taking them back to their common ancestors, Christopher Lancaster of Sockbridge, and his wife Eleanor née Musgrave. This is a generation where the Sockbridge Lancasters no longer possessed the manor of Sockbridge, at least not fully, but rather their cousins the Lowthers did, after one of them married a Lancaster heiress. (The Lancasters were soon to get it back, through another marriage, but by the end of this story the Lowthers had gained it by yet another Lowther-Lancaster marriage!)


Generation 1

The first generation is within the main line which is described in various old documents.

Generation 2.

In 1490/91 William made a legal document concerning his estate (prior to his will). This document mentions William's nephew William Lancaster and a Stephen Lancaster, clerk. These brothers seem to have been educated in Southern England. William Lancaster was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 20 April 1476. Both are frequently referred to as "of Barton" rather than "of Sockbridge" probably simply because the family was not yet back in possession of Sockbridge until during their lifetime. (Sockbridge was in a much large parish named Barton.)


Generation 3.

Generation 4.

Generation 5.

Generation 6.

Generation 7 in the Burkes version. (The Burkes version has one more generation than the David Hall version.)

Generation 7 or 8. The last generation before John Lancaster who may have gone to Cliviger.


In summary, this piece of Burkes Peerage pedigree does not appear to be easy to confirm. There was however a John Lancaster born about the right time to have moved to Cliviger and found the family there. Could that be correct?


Probably the first piece of evidence we have for William Lancaster, the heir of John from whom it seems most of the latter family descend, is his marriage in the Whalley registers for 29th June 1737, to Elizabeth Hitchins. The register shows that he was of Holme in Cliviger by this time already. Whalley was a very big parish, but William's residence was named.


Burke's claim that this William had been born in Askham, corresponding to a baptism there of 1 May 1712. It may even be that the coincidence of a William being a son of a John in about the right time frame, was the evidence used to make the pedigree? In any case, it appears to be incorrect. This 1712 baptism seems to be mentioned in Barton registers, and said to be of a Sockbridge John Lancaster, not one from Askham. Of course the names are common, but the date is exactly as reported: 1 May, and there is no such baptism in Askham registers. As would be expected, the name John Lancaster of Sockbridge appears many times in the Barton registers. For example one had a son named John baptised the year before, 31 May 1710. An older one was buried 22 December 1707. I should mention however that David writes:

The William Lancaster baptised at Barton in 1712, son of John of Sockbridge is one of the few Lancasters baptised at Barton that I have not been able to allocate to a particular branch. I suppose it is possible that the father, John, could have been baptised at Askham in 1686 the son of George Lancaster and Frances Tinkler and moved to Sockbridge.


It is not encouraging that when we compare to the Burnley baptismal registers it is clear that 1712 was many years after John Lancaster of Cliviger had already settled in the place where he would write his will.


In Askham itself there were fewer Lancasters than in Barton. In the period when John the son of George was baptised, there were two Lancaster families having children baptised, those of George and his apparent brother Edward. Both had sons named John, which was apparently the name of their father.


We can trace these two families to some extent to see how likely it is that one of these John's moved to Cliviger. Such a move, it should be kept in mind, was quite possible, but it would normally happen when a son, normally not the main heir, married an heiress with better lands than his own.


First concerning Edward, as David says, "Edward the father died in 1711/12 and by his will his son John had already received a half tenement by a deed and was still alive. So it is unlikely that this John went to Cliviger and had children baptised at Whalley from 1705 onwards."


We can add that a John Lancaster, presumably this son of Edward, started baptizing daughters in Askham in 1719: [Eliza]beth, Ann, Esther, another Esther. A son Edward was baptized and buried in 1726, and a son Joseph was baptised the next year. A John Lancaster of Askham then died, his will proved 24th of May 1737. It mentions daughters Ann, Esther and Elizabeth.


What about the possibility that there was another John who moved to Cliviger? It is not impossible, but in David Hall's words, "...there is another burial of a John Lancaster at Askham in 1752, but I am not sure if this was the John baptised in 1686 or not (son of George) but I cannot think of who else it would be."



The conclusion so far is that we have not found any evidence which makes it impossible that John Lancaster of Cliviger was from Askham in Westmorland. However the evidence does seem to accumulate in the wrong direction. The Burkes account was made many generations later, when descendants of this John became the possessors of Kelmarsh Hall in Northampton. The family would have presumably been as difficult to trace for Burkes as it is for us now, and it is difficult to imagine what records could have been used apart from those checked so far which might show a link to Askham.


It is also worth remarking that so far in the Lancaster DNA project, we have no evidence of Lancasters from Westmorland being in the same male line as Lancasters from Eastern Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Lancasters of Cliviger are in the same male line as other Lancasters in their own area, most notably the large family that lived in Gisburn, and who had certainly been in the area back into Tudor times.


It must be said that it would not be surprising to eventually find that all of these related Lancaster families do share a male line with Westmorland Lancasters. Westmorland was a centre for the Lancaster surname, and many families seem to have intermarried from there into these parts Lancashire and Yorkshire. However the aim of this investigation is to (one day) show that we actually know what the connection is. On these terms, unless we accept Burkes without checking it, we must admit that so far we have failed. Burkes does deserve double checking, because it is sometimes wrong.



One promising area of possible future investigation is looking at who else lived in Cliviger, which was not a heavily populated area. In order to come into this area, the Lancasters may have married or had some other sort of family connection which may show up in the records of other families.


There are some famous old families in the area including the Whitakers, who founded Holme Chapel, the Ormerods, a junior branch of whom apparently lived at Height in the 18th century along with the Lancasters, and the Townleys, who had possessions and dealings over a very wide area, including many places where Lancasters lived such as Askham, Goosnargh and Colne.