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According to the Sedbergh parish register of baptisms William Adamthwaite was born 21st September 1806 and baptized 21st May 1809. He was described as the natural son of Jane Mackever.
His only sibling was a sister Jane who lived just a day. She was born and baptized 18th March 1805, then died and was buried on the 19th .
Their father was the Reverend William Adamthwaite of Hallbank (a small hamlet in the administrative area of Frostrow to the east of Sedbergh) born in 1753. Proof of this is the Reverend's will in which he leaves his estate to his son William - clearly described as the son of himself and Jane Mackever (see note at foot of page two).
The Reverend William was previously married to Anne Hoggard of Beverley - he had married her in Howden in 1791 and at the time was clerk of Walkington, but in 1812 signed documents giving up all rights to any of her property. At this date he was described as "of Hallbank".
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
William Mackever presumably spent his childhood with his parents in the Frostrow area. Both of his parents died whilst he was relatively young, however - Jane in July 1823, the Reverend in December 1826. On both occasions they are "of Frostrow". They are both buried in Sedbergh parish churchyard, but there are no headstones.
In June 1827, William married Sarah Greenbank of Dent in the Sedbergh parish church.
Her parents were Richard Greenbank and Elizabeth, nee Capstack. During Sarah's childhood, Richard was a yeoman farmer at High Haycat, a small farmstead on the hillside in Gawthrop in the Dent valley, shown in the photo below. Richard died in 1825 - at the time he was living at Flintergill, a short distance away. Elizabeth was latterly a stocking knitter.
The marriage record describes him now as William Adamthwaite Mackever but notes that he signs himself McEver showing loyalty to his mother. (Spelling of his mother's surname 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. From then until 1839, he and Sarah still lived somewhere in Frostrow. The land tax records show him as the occupier of High Branthwaite between 1829 and 1831.
High Haycat, in Gawthrop
The baptisms of their first 8 children give Frostrow as their abode, and in some of the later censuses some of them specifically name Hallbank as their birthplace. In the registers, William is described as a statesman at first and then a farmer. The term statesman has special significance in this area and means a man who owns his estate, however small. The estate passed down to William was relatively small. In the poll books for 1838 W.M.E Adamthwaite is 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. At around this time, things started to go downhill. There is an advert in a newspaper in 1837 offering Hallbank for sale, and in 1838 it was sold. He appears to live briefly in Dent.
His ninth child Agnes born in 1839 was christened in Dent. William was described as a husbandman of Gawthrop, Dent. In 1841 Sarah’s mother and two uncles lived very close to here so it is possible they were staying with them. It may not have been a happy stay - there is a newspaper article in 1838 which reports that he accused Thomas Greenbank of assault. Briefly, it appears that they had both been drinking; Thomas Greenbank suggested that William couldn't afford to pay for a horse he had bought - there was a lot of swearing and Thomas hit William in the ear. Thomas was fined 1 shilling and costs. Sarah had a brother Thomas - this may well have been him.
In the 1841 census he is back in Sedbergh, living in Weaver's Yard and working as an agricultural labourer.
These two photos of Weavers Yard show the possible properties that William and his family could have lived in (from census and tithe schedule information)
The photo on the left shows the house which corresponds to the dwelling in the tithe schedule where William was living - it is behind the Bell Hotel.
In 1844 there is another mention of him in the newspaper. He had been helping to distribute voting papers and there was a dispute over these that meant he was called as a witness. It seems that he refused to take an oath because he had a similar objection to this that the Quakers had - whose religious opinions he said he had adopted.
There are records of the baptisms of Margaret and Barbara in 1844 and 1846, however these appear in the parish church, not births in the Quaker registers, so any possible association with them was brief. They describe him as a 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.
The map below of the Hallbank area shows 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
Their mother Jane Mackever is a mystery. There are Mackevers in the East Yorkshire area at the time that the Rev Wm lived there and she may be from one of those families, but there are also some in the region that is now Cumbria, so he could have met her after having left his wife Ann and moved back to Sedbergh.
In the land tax records for Sedbergh, Reverend William is listed as a proprietor but not the occupier of property at Hallbank between 1807 and 1825.
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) again in the town but now in King's Yard.
Paula has produced this new chart showing the descendants of William Adamthwaite and Jane Mackever and the places associated with them
- click on the image to open a larger version, you will need to enlarge the image on your monitor to read the detail!
Apparently he now no longer owned property and had to take up work for other people, although 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.