The Pendle Witches

A few years ago my wife and I visited the museum at Lancaster Castle. There was an exhibition area about the notorious trial and execution of the Pendle Witches. They were sent for trial by a wealthy Lancashire magistrate called Roger Nowell. The surname immediately rang bells in my head, as Rebecca Nowell married John Cayley (born in 1716), a clergyman, of the Low Hall Cayleys of Brompton, Yorkshire. I have since confirmed that Rebecca was a direct descendant of Roger.

It was 1612 and during the main English witch-hunting period, which was fully supported by King James I. Fear of witches was used to settle scores, and the odds were stacked against the accused.

All the Pendle witches came from the Pendle Hill area of Lancashsire.

Roger Nowell started investigating complaints by the family of a pedlar called John Law who claimed that John had been injured by witchcraft. Following a hearing on 12 April 1612, Roger committed four women (two of them blind and in their eighties) to Lancaster Gaol to await trial. Two of them – in their eighties and blind – confessed and implicated the others. On 27 April 1612 he and another magistrate committed eight other people, two of them men, to Lancaster Gaol following a gathering they had had on Good Friday (10 April 1612). In the background of all this was a local quarrel, and the theft of a sheep. Just the sort of context that could lead to accusations of witchcraft in small communities, especially where some of those accused were very elderly and probably suffering from some form of dementia.

Their trial took place at Lancaster that summer, along with that of other alleged witches. Most were found guilty and hanged the next day. One died in prison awaiting trial. Only one was found not guilty. They are known as the ‘Pendle witches‘ and this is one of the most infamous witch trials in England in the 17th century.

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Want a North Wales pilgrimage?

If you want a Cayley pilgrimage in Britain, you may well think of Brompton-by-Sawdon, Scarborough and neighbouring places in Yorkshire – or the string of towns and villages in Norfolk where medieval forebears of the Yorkshire Cayleys had land. But there is also Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay in North Wales. Sir George Allanson Cayley, 8th Baronet, had property at Llanerch, Denbighshire and was High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1883 and 1898. His son Sir George Everard Cayley, 9th Baronet, gave land and money for improvements at Rhos-on-Sea in 1900-1902.

There is a batch of street names etc in Rhos-on-Sea with Cayley associations – named after members of the family or places connected with Cayleys. Most obvious is Cayley Promenade, but you will also find Kenelm Road, Allanson Road, Digby Road, Everard Road, Francis Avenue, Brompton Avenue, Brompton Park, Ebbertson Road East, Ebberston Road West, Norton Road, Llanerch Road East, Llanerch Road West and Crossley Road (one of Sir George Everard’s daughters married the Hon. John de Bathe Crossley).

And if you need fortification as you pay Cayley homage, or want to toast the family, why not drop into the pub called the Cayley Flyer on Rhos Promenade?

With thanks to Mike Headon, a local historian and genealogist who has been researching the origin of street names in Colwyn Bay, for emailing me with an enquiry about some street names there – and hence prompting me to write this post.

Sussex and Kent Cayleys

I have started adding more information about Sussex and Kent Cayleys of the 16th to 18th centuries. A number of the family relationships are uncertain, and I have tried to make some moderately intelligent surmises on the basis of what we can find in parish registers. This is work in progress. You can see where I have got to at Sussex and Kent Cayleys of the 16th to 18th centuries.

A Cayley by any other name…

How many ways can Cayley be spelt? As mentioned more than once on this site, in the 19th century some families varied the spelling of their surname between Cayley and Caley. Go back further in time, and the range of spellings multiplies, including for people linked to the Yorkshire baronets, whose surname spelling did not settle down until about 1700 (and even after that one finds some different spellings in official documents).

In the 17th and 18th centuries, among other variants we find Cailey, Caile, Cailey, Cayle, Caly, Calye, Caily, Caylie, Kayley, Kayly, Kaily, Kailey, Kaile, Kayle, Kaley, Kaly and Keyley. It is not uncommon to find different spellings in parish registers and other records for the same person. Sir Arthur Cayley (c.1615-?1698), brother of the first Cayley baronet, is a good example: his name is variously spelt Caley, Cayley, Caly, Cailey, and – if, as I believe, I have correctly identified his burial record – Cayle.

Still further back, in pre-Tudor times, in addition to all those forms we find many further versions of the name, including Cailly, Cailli, Caili, Cailewey, Caylli, Cayllie, Cayli, Calle, Calewe, Kailly, Kailli, Kaylly, Kaylegh – and even, for one set of records from the early 14th century, Kellaways, which ties in with the belief of researchers for the Callaway Family Association that at least some people with the surname Callaway, Kallaway or Kellaway (or variants) descended from the de Cailly family. (John de Cailly inherited lands from the wealthy Giffard family in 1327: he had a Giffard great-grandmother, the lands included estates in Gloucestershire, and some Gloucestershire records refer to him as ‘John of Kellaways.’)

In addition Osbern, one of the sons of the Guillaume de Cailly who probably fought at the Battle of Hastings, renounced his rights to the Cailly estates in Normandy after marrying someone who inherited estates at nearby Préaux and was thereafter known as de Préaux, giving rise to a long line of descendants with the name de Préaux (or variants on that).

This rich mix of names makes for some complex fun for those doing genealogical research.



Flying Machines Have Their Uses

Today we think of Sir George Cayley, 6th baronet, as a pioneer of flight. His family may well have regarded his construction of flying machines as an expensive eccentricity. After his death, the flying machine which flew a few hundred yards (with a startled coachman inside, who is said to have given his notice as soon as he landed) in 1853 was tucked away in a barn on the Brompton estate.

One of his granddaughters, Dora Cayley (a daughter of Sir Digby, the 7th baronet), told a cousin how, in her childhood, she used to sit in the glider when she wanted to hide from her governess. Unwanted flying machines have their uses!

[Source: “The Legards of Anlaby and Ganton”, Col. Sir James Digby Legard KCB, pub. Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co, London 1926]

Glaucoma among Cayleys

One specialist use of genealogy is medical – to get information on family patterns for diseases etc. This is especially important for rare genetically-caused conditions, for which genealogical information can be valuable to researchers and medics. But genes can cause, or make people susceptible to, many more common conditions. Among them is glaucoma, which – it has been known for many years – tends to run in families.

One family is my own, on both my maternal and my paternal side. Among the Cayleys in my family, my paternal grandfather, my father and my brother all had or have glaucoma. Are there other Cayley families in which glaucoma runs?

And are there other medical conditions which are associated with any Cayley families?