William Bretton of Maryland

William Bretton of Maryland

We have to thank the internet for the initial information on William Bretton, which was sparse but immediately spurred our interest. So much so that we contacted Georgetown University Library in Washington DC and quickly received a reply from Heather Bourk which was both comprehensive and fascinating. We are most grateful to her for her help and continuing interest. One of the documents she sent us was an article entitled “William Bretton of Newtown Neck, St. Mary’s County” by Edwin W. Beitzell, published in the Maryland Historical Magazine in March 1955. This is an excellent article and must be recommended to anyone interested in the William Bretton family from the time they arrived in Maryland.  However, this particular section of the Bretton family history is mainly devoted to an account of our researches into William Bretton’s English background and is not intended to give more than an outline of his life in Maryland. What information we do give about the American period of his life is taken from the article mentioned above, from other documents sent us by Heather Bourk, from long discussions with Byron K. Marshall, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, a descendant of William Bretton, and from details sent us by Linda Reno, who is an avid St. Mary’s County researcher. It is worthy of note that William Bretton’s deed to his initial land grant is the oldest sealed deed, we understand, in Maryland.

William Bretton arrived in Maryland on 12th January, 1637 together with his wife, Mary, son William aged 4, his wife’s parents Thomas Nabbs and his wife, and three servants, John Mansell, Richard Harris and James Jelfe. He became Clerk of the Lower  House of the Assembly, Clerk of the Council, and Clerk of the Provincial Court. He was also “Lord of the Manor” of Little Bretton, planter, burgess, lawyer, judge, coroner, and a leading Roman Catholic layman. Edwin Beitzell feels that, from the records, it appears reasonable to assume that William Bretton was well known to the Calvert family (Lord Baltimore) and was persuaded to come out to the province to assume the  Clerkships of the Council, the Assembly and the Provincial Court. He also feels that Bretton must have been a man of some means since he transported a number of people, was well educated and was referred to as “Gentleman”. The fact that he came out to Maryland to take up these posts is, to us, borne out by the fact that he attended his first General Assembly less than two weeks after his arrival and was invited to take up the Clerkships by the Governor. There is no further mention of his son William and it would appear, therefore that he died sometime after his arrival. On the death of his wife he married again and there was one daughter born of this second marriage. It is from her that his descendants in the USA originate.

Initial searches

It made sense to start  our detailed check in this immediate area, initially merely on the basis of the Bretton estate in Maryland being called “Liitle Bretton”, a local name. We have spent so much time, over the last 42 years, searching for baptisms, marriages and burials in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries that we know records of this era vary between being non existent or completely unreadable. The problem is always multiplied dramatically if you happen to be searching for a staunch Roman Catholic, as William Bretton appeared to be, after the period of the reformation. It was especially true of well educated Catholics (especially recusants) that they either did not baptise their children or that it was done in secret by Catholic priests and that no formal records were ever available. However,  the records were searched for a William Bretton baptised before or around 1610  : a marriage between William Bretton and Mary Nabbs around 1630/1633 : the baptism of  a William Bretton, son of the above William and Mary : a Thomas Nabbs father of Mary : a John Mansell : a Richard Harris : a James Jelfe and a George Bretton(arrived in Maryland 1657). No trace of most of these happenings, on or around those dates has been found, in either the Yorkshire or other county records. The exceptions are that we have on our family tree, courtesy of Dom Hugh Bowler, the Catholic Historian, a George Bretton (Possibly born around 1609/10), for whom we have never found a marriage or death, a William Bretton at Cathill, virtually in High Hoyland, which was also the site of the original “Little Bretton”, which was a potentially exciting discovery (more of this later) and the burial of another William Bretton, who could have been either the William Bretton mentioned above or a child, son of the William Bretton mentioned above. If it was the latter and the death took place around the time when the next child was due then quite often the next son was called after the child who had just died.

We also searched for records of the Calvert family, being aware that the 1st Lord Baltimore came from North Yorkshire at Bolton Castle and Kiplin. Various IGI records of the family were found but the information was apparently corrupted by the unfortunate but common practice of someone submitting unattributable information in support of what they desired to be the case.  For example they state that George Calvert, son of Leonard Calvert and Alice Crosland was  born in 1578, 1579, “about 1580” and then that he was the son of Leonard Calvert and Anne Brent and was born in 1580) However in Foster’s “Visitation of Yorkshire in 1612” carried out by Richard St. George Norroy King of Arms is the following pedigree

Leonard Calvert of Danby Wiske m.  Alice(Grace) Crosland of Crosland (near Almondbury)

(1)Cecil (heir)  (2)Leonard   3)George   (4)Francis   Ann Grace                                                 (5)Henry      Dorothy Ellen                                                                         Elizabeth

The information we have on William Bretton states that it was generally supposed that he was known to the Calverts and that he had gone to Maryland to take up the posts of Clerk of various Courts. . We were wanting to refine our search areas for William’s origins in England so that the search of land records was shortened and we considered how and where William Bretton may have been associated with the Calverts. Unfortunately there are several possibilities :-

  1. In one document relating to Lord Baltimore it stated that after Lord Baltimore became a Roman Catholic the four Calvert brothers were educated at Douai in France (Where Blessed John Bretton’s sons went to train as priests both before and  after his execution on 1st April, 1598.)(Matthew was at Douai from 1584 to 1604 and Richard from 1599 to 1613) It is also thought that his nephew, another John Bretton also went there to train for the priesthood. If the Calvert sons were at Douai then the families could have been aquainted through this because the presence of the English priests must, in the circumstances, have made them each seek out the others.. We then sought to check Douai records to see if we could discover when  Sir George Calvert’s sons  were there. Unfortunately we found that all the original Douai records for the appropriate period were destroyed during the French Revolution. Ushaw College, which has later Douai deeds, was not able to help for the period in question.
  2. Leonard Calvert married Alicia/Grace Crosland of Crosland. This is only a few miles from Bretton where Blessed John Bretton, the Catholic Martyr lived before his execution in 1598. As the two families were of the same social standing it would be impossible that John Bretton, and his martyrdom, was not known to the Croslands. Equally one of the Crosland daughters married a son of the Baron Beaumont of Whitley family . As we mention elsewhere in the family history the Beaumonts were originally Brettons who adopted the Beaumont name when they moved from Bretton to Beaumont near Whitley in the 1200’s.
  3. The other thing that might reinforce this theory was our first reason for a local search. It was common practice for early settlers to name their new homes/towns etc after the places they had left. William Bretton named his new estate in Maryland “Little Bretton” and there was a part of Bretton/West Bretton called “Little Bretton”. It is mentioned in our family history as part of a conveyance of land from Richard Wentworth to John Bretton in 1476 (which in itself is significant if the Bretton family still owned land at “Little Bretton in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s) and, by an amazing coincidence we found a second mention of it the day after we started searching for William Bretton, in a Pedigree of a minor Yorkshire family. In this case it was a member of the “West” family, Lewis West, who arranged the sale of the Bretton estate by Captain John Bretton in 1642. He was described as “Clerk” which was commonly used for Lawyers and it said that the family lived at Little Bretton. If William had lived there and named his new estate after his home area then there is no doubt that he was part of our family. We then found that, according to Johnston, Little Bretton was at High Hoyland, on the edge of the (later) Bretton Hall Estate and that, in Johnston’s time, consisted of 2 houses.  Having found  that the West’s lived in one house there and that Lewis West, a lawyer  with links to the Brettons lived there in the early/mid 1600’s, it is easy to take the next step and wonder whether the “other” house was at some time occupied by William Bretton.
  4. We had a branch of the Bretton family living near the Calverts at Danby Wiske and Kiplin in the 1500/1600’s so he may have known them there.
  5. The worst scenario from a search point of view is that if William Bretton was a lawyer, he had been trained, and  lived, in London and known the 1st Lord Baltimore there.  Lord Baltimore only became a Catholic late in his career in London, in 1624 in fact, but there was sufficient time for him to have  met  William Bretton, as a Catholic, between that time and 1632 when he died, and for William Bretton to get  to know Sir George’s sons.

Subsequent action

As we say above we decided to concentrate of the “coincidence” of William Bretton naming his estate in Maryland “Little Bretton” and search in this area. We pre-supposed that William might have been trained as a lawyer in England and sought to check any possible training with the Law Society or any attendance at the main English Universities, Oxford and Cambridge, both of which appeared to start in the 1200’s.

However, in discussing our plan with a leading Archivist, he felt that either search would  be non-productive. He wondered whether William, from what we had told him about his career in Maryland, would have hidden his light under a bushell and concealed his Catholicism. In that case he pointed out it was highly unlikely that he would have been accepted for either Oxford or Cambridge, and even less likely that he would have been considered for training as a lawyer, the antipathy towards Catholics was so strong in the “Establishment”. He also suggested that a man with a good education (even apart from Oxford or Cambridge) would have had no difficulty, and need no training, to be appointed Clerk to such a body, as had happened to William Bretton. We had the same principles confirmed with other experts but nevertheless checked with both Oxford and Cambridge. Neither of them had any record of a William Bretton at the appropriate period. Our search with the Law Society, after an un-acceptable delay brought forth the information that their records started well after the time when William Bretton could have been receiving training.. We have since found confirmation that members of the military and civil establishments had to swear loyalty to the Crown and abjure the Roman Catholic Church which precluded most staunch Catholics from following these professions. Even if William Bretton had “conformed” (on the surface) he still might have found it difficult to make such an oath.

We searched every local archive for any sale of an estate in Yorkshire by a Bretton or Nabbs without success (apart from the sale of the Bretton estate and sundry small pieces of land, but not involving any “William Bretton”). Enquiries at other potential sources of land records were again unsuccessful. We then commissioned a search by a genealogist of every possible Yorkshire Archaeological index, searching for an estate record, purchase or sale by a William Bretton or by a Thomas Nabbs (Knabbs). We found nothing, but this did not surprise us considering the amount of time we had spent over the last 42 years searching the records for the 1500’s and 1600’s and how little information is available to the researcher for those periods.

A check on the records of Ancient Manuscripts was equally unsuccessful.

A preliminary check on Recusants for this area  did not show him named. It did however show  some Brettons, Beaumonts and Crosslands.

We attempted to check all lists of recusants for the whole country but rapidly found that this was going to be difficult. We started at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research at York University who are the leading repository for old manuscripts and have a huge collection of the Catholic Records Society publications. We knew that Father Hugh Aveling had published a roll of Yorkshire recusants and were extremely disappointed to see that he had only named the members of the aristocracy who were registered as recusants and some  of “the Gentry” although he gave numbers of other recusants for each parish. He showed Blessed John Bretton as a recusant until his death and Frances as a continued recusant after that date. He never mentioned his martyrdom, nor that of all the other Yorkshire Martyrs who were not “in the upper classes” and only mentioned Saint Margaret Clitheroe as “Mrs Margaret Clitheroe” of York. It gave an impression  that the rest didn’t matter. Equally an article about the famous Gascoine family only mentioned their recusancy although the article made clear that all the other recusants in their home parish were named in the original rolls. A gentleman from the Catholic Records Society said that the “rif-raf” were not generally mentioned by name in the returns and then hurriedly said that he used the term in a  jocular fashion.   We then tried the Catholic History Society, again without success.

Two full days by the two of us at the Borthwick found no concrete evidence of William Bretton. We did however find a  mention of  “Little Bretton” which was very helpful. Little Bretton was explained as being the former “North Bretton” (of which we had never seen a mention) and it explained it as being in (near to) High Hoyland.

To explain – the village of Bretton is on a rise with the land dropping to the two lakes through all the Bretton Park estate. Across the lakes the ground rises up what is called “Long Side” to a road which leads from Bentley Springs to High Hoyland. From High Hoyland and Cawthorne the road eventually splits  – one road to Hoyland Swaine and the other to Silkstone.

Current map of Bretton
Current map of Bretton


Silkstone Parish Church was at one time the church of the Wentworth family from Bretton Hall and there are two elaborate tombs of Sir Thomas Wentworth and Sir George Wentworth. The reference we saw stated that at one time (no date) there were only two houses at “Little Bretton”. It is set out below :-

From Professor Hunter’s ”South Yorkshire” (under “High Hoyland”) published in the 1820’s

“Little Bretton is described by Johnston of consisting but of two houses in his time. It seems to be the place called North Bretton in early deeds. Of the Wests, a visitation family, who resided here, an account has already been given”

We certainly know that the Wests lived there in what would have been a large house befitting their status, but as we said earlier – William Bretton……?

However we searched part of the Bishops Transcripts for Silkstone and Sandal Magna Parish Churches, and compared them with the search we had done of these records many many years ago.Under Silkstone found the following entry :-

“Anne, daughter of William Bretton of Hoyland Swaine baptised 6th August, 1630/31” This we felt to be an extremely important entry, showing as it did that there was a William Bretton producing children at the appropriate time and living close to the area that was known as “Little Bretton”. But would a staunch Roman Catholic, especially a close relation of Blessed John Bretton, have conformed so soon after his martyrdom ? The answer could be that he did conform but chaffed under the yoke and welcomed the chance to start afresh in America with freedom of religion.

There were a few doubtful (to us) entries that may, or may not have referred to Brettons, and on our last visit to the Borthwick we were only able to search the Silkstone parish transcripts up to the above date but so many of the transcripts are virtually unreadable that we had to go back and check them again with an appropriate magnifier. We did  – but with no success so far as William Bretton was concerned.

The difficulties we faced, and have faced over the last 40+ years, for this period of history can be summed up with a few additional details. We said that Hugh Bowler provided our 1500/part 1600 family tree with some additions from ourselves during the latter part of the 1600’s. If we were to take a conservative estimate of Bretton births from the time of Adam fitz Swain and estimate that each  generation had one male child followed by the the succeeding generation having two male children etc etc it would mean roughly that by the time of Blessed John’s grandchildren there would have been around 512 branches/male members of the Bretton family bearing that name in the early 1600’s (and that figure was reached by reducing the estimated numbers by four times). The most branches we have on our tree around that time is 4, containing 9 male Brettons. So there are huge gaps which we could not  start to fill  and the following excerpts from  two of the local parish records  are of no help. We are unable to place these people on our tree at all. We feel that as these people are recorded within three or four miles of here there is no doubt at all that they are family members :- Sandal Magna

Matthew Bretton buried 1627 Thomas, son of Thomas Britton  baptised 29th September, 1633 Bartholomew, son of Bryun Bretton buried 7th April, 1635 Bryan Bretton buried 2nd May 1635 Thomas, son of Elizabeth Bretton, buried 21st March, 1640 ———? Brettoner  and James Rhodes married 26th November, 1672/3 Thomas Bretton buried 14th March 1691 Mr Bretton (very helpful) and Elizabeth Dawson married 30th March 1695 Martha, daughter of Thomas Bretton Robert, son of Richard Bretton baptised 27th August, 1710 Elizabeth daughter of William Bretton baptised 26th April, 1711 Ann B(retton) baptised 27th March 1712 William son of William Bretton baptised 18th May 1712 Silkstone Parish church

John Britton baptised 8th September 1605

Plus, no doubt many many others where records are now non-existent.

We also visited Barnsley Archives to look at the Hoyland Swaine parish records for the late 1500’s and the early 1600’s. If the William Bretton who baptised a daughter Anne (above) is the correct one then he would have been married and had a son, William, baptised at either Sandal, Hoyland Swaine, or Silkstone if, at the time of the marriage/birth he had conformed and was attending a Protestant Service, as we say above. A glance through the Recusant Records will show that the Commission suspected that many of the marriages/baptisms were not officially registered and tracing these people is virtually an impossible task.

A  day at the British Library at Boston Spa threw no more light on the subject. Checks on pedigrees of Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire had no success.Checks on all the other English counties were also non-productive.

HOWEVER,  a  further discovery of Christine’s is extremely interesting. She was checking through a “History of All Saints Church, Silkstone” when she was struck by the description of a memorial in the church. This reads (We used bold for the important word ) :-

“Not far from here are placed the sacred ashes of William Wood of Nabbs, Gent, who was a faithful subject of the King, an orthodox son of the Anglican Church, dear to his relatives, Boni omnib Febitus, he departed this life on the 21st July, 1682, aged 71 years”

With that in mind she examined a large scale ordnance map of the Silkstone area (fortunate that we are so close) and, near Silkstone, found “Knabbs Hall farm” clearly marked. The coincidences are mounting up to such an extent that they are not looking “coincidental” after all. It was very common from the 1100’s for Anglo Saxon aristocracy to change their names to reflect the new Norman culture and the most important land owners in each village adopted the name of that village, as my own ancestors did   “—-de Bretton” for example. Clearly there was a Knabbs or Nabbs around Silkstone from which Thomas and Mary Nabbs could have been descended just as William Bretton appears to be descended fom the Brettons of West Bretton.

We spent another day going through the Bishop’s Transcripts for Silkstone Parish Church, High Hoyland Parish Church and Hoyland Swaine Parish Church without finding the marriage of William Bretton or the birth of William Bretton who was four years old when they arrived in Maryland. This means very little because probably 70% to 80% of the records for the late 1500’s and up to 1637 were completely unreadable, even with a good magnifying glass, they were in such poor condition. We found a transcript of the Silkstone Parish Registers (as opposed to the Bishop’s Transcripts of those registers) but were mortified to find that the person who had done the transcription in the 1920’s noted that the records for 1601 to 1655 were missing !

We did, however, decipher the burial of a “William Bretton of Hoylandswaine” in 1634 – no month and no age. We were reminded of a very common practice that when one child died young the next child of the same sex was given the same name as the dead child. The “William” aged “4” who went out to Maryland could have been born shortly after this death and given the same name.

On Sunday 5th May we rode over to Silkstone and noticed, for the first time, the name of a road which we have travelled regularly, “Knabbs Road”. On Knabbs Road, as marked on the ordnance survey map we came across Knabbs Hall Farm. On the map the farm was named in Olde English script which means it has some historic interest and we were not disappointed. It was a very old building with an intricate shield and a date that read either 1614, 1624 or 1674. Which of these was not clear without stopping and staring and, as we were going to ask a favour of unknown occupants we did not wish to do that.  It was clearly an ancient building that was now a working farm and not the gentrified 1500/1600’s building that you would get if it had been purchased by English Heritage or the National Trust and “restored”. We spoke to the owner about the history of the building and the whereabouts of any old deeds. He wasn’t able to help us and suggested that we speak to his father who may know more than he did. He gave us the telephone number and suggested we phone him the following day – which we did. In fact his wife answered and had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the deeds (or even the age of the house). We later spoke to the churchwarden of Silkstone Church who knew these people and said that they are purely farmers and do not welcome visitors. He told us that the outbuildings are older than the main house and are thought to date from the late 1500’s.

We have (later) found , courtesy of Mr John Goodchild, a leading archivist with a unique knowledge of West Yorkshire history, a book, “The History of Silkstone” by Rev. Prince, published in 1922 in which he says about “Nabbs” (as he describes it) :-

“Nabbs is a very interesting old house, and well worth a visit from the antiquary. It is situate near Silkstone Station, and the property of Mr P. Johnson, of Green House, Penistone : his two sons reside there farming the estate. Mr Percival Johnson tells me this is the third residence built on the same site. The oldest date now discernible is over the stable door viz. 1644 and on the barn adjoining, R.S. 1653. This is the same Robert Swift who held charters, tithes and leases from Queen Elizabeth and James I . Over the malting house the initials of William and Elizabeth Wood appear “W.W.E. 1658 On the front of the house there are some lead pipes of beautiful shape and workmanship and on the left of the porch in raised figures ‘E.W. & W.W. 1662’ ; on the right ‘E.W. &  W.W. 1666’ and over the porch W.W. 1666. This Mr Wood was an old resident and worked Wortley Forge These Swifts, Woods and Butterworths were the ancestors of the present owner. The interior of the house is noted for its fine oak pannelling. There was until recently a magnificent refrectory table there,  but it was sold by the present owner. We are told that in Cromwell’s time it possessed a private chapel, and during repairs in 1840 several old documents and several coins of the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles were discovered. (!!!!!)

There is also a priest’s hiding-place under the stairs, and in it a box of old deeds was found, but too mildewed and crumbling to be deciphered : (loud groans from SB and CB) and like many of those early houses which needed secret hiding-places in the troublous times it was possible to ascend from an opening near the floor of the house, cross the roof, and descend another such opening at the other end of the house, and escape.

There is a large royal crest over the door implying that royalty once slept there. Mr Johnson has shown me over 170 old deeds connected with this property, some with the Great Seal attached temp. Elizabeth. (Off we go again – there are no prizes for guessing our next line of search  –  SB & CB)

Mr Goodchild was also able to produce a book of Yorkshire place names which included Nabbs Hall and indicated that the first known recorded mention of the Hall was in 1558 when it was mentioned in a will.

It would appear to us to be a strong possibility  that the Thomas Nabbs who went to Maryland with his daughter, his wife, and with William Bretton is from this area and, indeed, may have lived in an earlier house on that site.

We shall continue the search for the sale of an estate but centred in the Silkstone  area and seeking a sale by both a Bretton and a Nabbs (concentrating on “Knabbs (Nabbs) Hall” or “Knabbs Hall farm”). The addition of the word “Farm” to “Knabbs Hall” is probably a modern alteration which is not uncommon.


We started an intensive search to see whether we could find if (and where) the 170 deeds had been deposited. We eventually tracked them down to Sheffield Archives and  went down there to look at them. The original deeds, on vellum, were there from the mid 1500’s until the present  day and there was a detailed index available. On looking through the index our hopes were dashed immediately. Some of the earlier deeds referred to houses and land that were well before the date the present Knabbs Hall was built and started in the mid 1500’s. They contained no entries referring to anyone called Nabbs or Knabbs so evidently the family had not inhabited these houses.

Nevertheless we went through the deeds up to the 1630’s to see if there was any mention of a Thomas Nabbs (or any Nabbs), William Bretton or Mansell, Harris or Jelfe (the servants) as witnesses to any deeds. No such mentions were found so if the family lived in this area they were like the Brettons  and were not important enough to occupy the (possible) “family” seat and were not called upon to witness deeds relating to that house. This search could be likened to a ride on a see-saw. Our hopes keep on being raised and then dashed, but the discovery of the deeds opened up another possible channel and no doubt there will be others waiting to be found.

A comprehensive search of the graveyards of both Silkstone and Hoyland Swaine parish Churches failed to find any mention of either family – but it was very much a forlorn hope and we did not expect to find any graves from the early 1600’s. In the event we only found one that MAY have been in the 1690’s. The Churchwarden confirmed that all the very early graves had been covered over, as churches are allowed to do after 100 years and that no early memorials remained. It was worth the check because , from the descriptions from Maryland of both William Bretton and Thomas Nabbs as “Gentlemen” their families would probably have warranted a memorial of some kind  A further search of Penistone graveyard was similarly without any trace of the names Knabbs, Nabbs or Bretton. There were graves there for people from HoylandSwaine so we checked the Penistone parish records without success. As we always do, we shall check these again when the time is available.

We are still considering doing the same with Bishops transcripts for Silkstone but, in that case, asking for just the bare bones of a search ie., looking for just the surnames Bretton and Nabbs (of any spelling) to avoid directing anyone too specifically. Unfortunately we have spent half a day checking in four places for  the most complete Silkstone records as we were very doubtful about the records we had searched ourselves. Allowing for a very small population area we felt that there were not a lot of records (and most of them unreadable as we said before). What we now find is that the Parish Records are missing the period 1598 to 1651 and the Bishop’s Transcripts, which we had searched were worse than we thought. In many cases it was impossible to ascertain which year we were searching because most of the entries were unreadable. They only exist from 1558 to the early 1590’s (in extremely poor condition) and then, for the period that we need,  in only the following years :-

1600,1601,1602,1604,1605,1608,1610,1612,1614,1623,1627, 1629,1630, 1631,1632,1634, 1635,1636 1637 (plus 1638/9/40). So with 20 years missing there is an enormous problem, especially as 1633 is one of the missing years and that may be the year of William Bretton Jnr’s birth.

Law Society

At last we have received a reply from our “tame lawyer” about a search of the Law Society Records. Unfortunately, he tells us, they only start in 1729.

Calvert Family Records

The Kipling Hall records of the Calvert family (the Lords Baltimore) are held in the Archives of North Riding County Council in Northallerton and we went up there on Wednesday 15th May to search those for any mention of William Bretton and any indication of how he was known to the Calverts and so asked to go to Maryland to take up his role with the two Assemblies.

We (Christine and I) spent all day  searching the archives of Kiplin Hall and Danby Wiske records , the two homes of the Calvert family, to see if we could find any reference, in any shape or form, about William Bretton, Thomas Nabbs and the servants they took with them to Maryland. The records are extremely well indexed (the best we have ever seen) which made it a one day job instead of several days. We examined every deed and checked the names of “Clerks” and witnesses, we checked the Tithe Rolls etc etc etc and we checked every possible spelling. We found not a single mention of any of them and we went up to about 1700 to see if there were any others of the family names mentioned. We had been to Northallerton before several times over the last thirty years and we were aware of a number of Brettons, of different spellings. Two of our known ancestors lived up there in the 1500’s. We found one Thomas Brittan as a witness to a Calvert deed but he lived at Kings Lynn in Norfolk and the deed related to one of the Calvert’s southern properties.

We also checked many of the transcribed parish records covering all the area for which records exist up to 1700’s to find any of the names we required. We found Brettons of course but no Knabbs or Nabbs. We are no wiser than we were before – we proved nothing – neither did we dis-prove anything. We did , however, find a marriage settlement which, amongst other things relinquished to  the use of one of the Calverts, and his wife to be, “Maryland” (a minor matter of 12,303  square miles – or 7,873,920 acres).

This search was no different to any other search we have conducted over the last 40+ years. It left us with more queries than we started with. The following deed is the one mentioned above (which left us speechless with awe – we are very familiar with marriage deeds, but not one that includes a complete State of the United States of America) and two other deeds that appear to relate to the purchase of Danby Wiske and Kiplin Hall, the two  estates that we have always  associated with the Calvert family. YET, these two deeds appear to suggest that the two estates were only purchased in the 1619/1620 period when they seemed to record their purchase from Lord Wharton. If this is so then where did Leonard Calvert (the father of the first Lord Baltimore) live before that ? Did he in fact live in Danby Wiske and rent the property from Lord Wharton (and then later see his son, the 1st Lord Baltimore purchase it when he was Secretary of State) ? Certainly he was stated to be at Danby  Wiske in 1612 at the time of the visitation by Norroy King of Arms.

Miscellaneous information from the Calvert (Lords Baltimore) Archives Kiplin Hall, North Yorkshire. in the possession of the North Riding County Council Archives

Marriage Settlement (Release only)

  1. Right Honourable Charles, Lord Baltimore, & Hon. Benedict Calvert (Lord Baltimore’s son and heir.)
  2. Right Honourable Edward Henry, Earl of Litchfield & Right Hon. Lady Charlotte Lee (the Earl of Litchfield’s eldest daughter)
  3. Most Noble, George, Duke of Northumberland:  Rt. Honourable Robert, Earl of Lindsey, Lord Great Chamberlain of England:  Hon Roger North of the Middle Temple Esq.: Sir Henry Lawson of Brough Bt. :  and Edward Somerset of Pauntley Court, Gloucestershire Esq.

In consideration of the marriage of Benedict Calvert to Charlotte Lee.

All Calvert property in Kiplin, Moulton and Catterick : the Lordship, manor & town of Cloghamon, co Wexford ( 1700 acres) : the town land of Baheny Park, co. Wexford (1070 acres) :  town land of Carracodle, Mucke & Owlet (1315 acres) : town land of Coolemelagh (1186 acres) : town land of Balenrankah (598 acres) : and all other Calvert lands in Counties Wexford and Wicklow & all the Country, Province and Islands in America commonly called Maryland with all  incomes, rights, royalties or duties payable to the Calverts as owners/governors of Maryland.

To Lawson & Somerset to the use of Baltimore till marriage. After marriage to use of Northumberland, Lindsey and North for 99 years.

Usual clauses. 30/31 December 1698

Maryland comprises 12,303 square miles (7,873,920 acres). Title deeds

Licence of Alienation

Philip, Lord Wharton : Sir Thomas Wharton to Sir George Calvert

The free chapel of Kiplin ; Kiplin Grange ;  8 messuages ; 4 cottages ; 1 water mill ; 8 gardens ; 8 orchards ; 140 acres of land ; 160 acres of meadow ; 360 acres of pasture ; 10 acres of wood ;  40 acres of furze and heath ; 40 acres of moor ; right of warren at Kiplin and Catterick & fishing in Kiplin

1 September, 1619

Conveyance ( Bargain and Sale) £2,500

Phillip, Lord Wharton and Sir Thomas Wharton to Rt. Hon. Sir George Calvert, Principal Secretary of State

Mansion and manor house and capital messuage, hamlet, town and grange of Kiplin, demesne etc., water corn mill, free chapel with Chapel Garth (2 acres), St Margaret Lea, belonging to the free chapel (tenant Michael Johnson),all messuages, tenements and hereditaments etc. in Kiplin hamlet and grange, all other messuages, lands tenements etc of Philip, Lord Wharton and Sir Thomas Wharton in the parish of Catterick and all charters of muniments re above property

16 January, 1619/20

Stitched to this deed  is a Power of Attorney (to receive seisin) Sir George Calvert and Leonard Calvert esq (father) to receive from Christopher Smithson of Moulton, gent., & Nicholas Smithson of Richmond gent., (Attorneys) full possession and  seisin of above property

17 February 1619/20

George Bretton

George Bretton has been on the periphery of our searches and we have not particularly bothered about him as he only went out to Maryland in 1657 and figures only on the sidelines to the main enquiry. Apart from one or two mentions he seemed to disappear and no marriage or children are attributed to him. As we have said several times the records for the 1500’s and 1600’s are very sparse and we were indebted to the Catholic Historian, Dom Hugh Bowler, for our family tree around those times.  Dom Hugh had a George Bretton mentioned on that tree – and at the relevant time period). This George was the son of Mark Bretton and the grandson of Blessed John Bretton, the Catholic martyr. No date of baptism is quoted but the eldest brother of George (Richard) was baptised in 1607 and only one other sibling is mentioned on the tree, a sister, Jane who is said to have married in 1627.

There is no other comment about George Bretton on Hugh Bowler’s tree, no marriage or children are quoted. There are several large gaps, and loose ends in the tree around that period so is this George the one who appeared in Maryland in 1657. At that time he would have been somewhere in his late 40’s , which is not too late to decide to seek a new life. More important – was there another brother – William  springing from one of the many loose ends ?

Later – Little Bretton

We had found two references to Little Bretton and, as we said earlier, to make the best use of our time, had instigated a professional search of the records of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, for any references to all the names and places mentioned in the Maryland history of William Bretton. We were very disappointed therefore when we went along to Bretton Hall, former Hall of a branch of the Wentworths and talked to Leonard Bartle, the Custodian of the Bretton Estate Archives. He immediately pointed out that he held, in the archives, the originals of “The Bretton Deeds”, but that The Yorkshire Archaeological Society had copies of these deeds and he immediately showed us an index of these deeds in  “Yorkshire Deeds” where several mentions of “Little Bretton” were made and which had not been picked up in the professional search. We are indebted to Leonard, a former colleague of mine, for this information, mainly in the 1400’s but he also found another mention of Little Bretton in 1620 which confirms the information (that the “West” family lived there in the 1640’s) giving us two 17th century references to Little Bretton.

These are the references referred to (also called in some deeds “Netherbretton”) :-

Yorkshire Deeds Volume 6 Page 16

  1. Deed between some of the Wentworths regarding land in the  vill of Westbretton and the vills and hamlets of Littelbretton, Sandall and Woolley. St Thomas the Apostle, 8 HenryVI, (December 21, 1429)
  2. St Dunstan the Bishop, 8 Henry VI ( 19th May 1430) quitclaim by Richard Flynthill to Maud, Countess of Cambridge of land in various vills and hamlets including Lytulbretton

55.11 Henry VI   30 April, 1433 Quitclaim by Christopher Dronsfeld to the Wentworths including land at  Nederbretton

  1. Wednesday after the Invention of the Cross, II Henry VI, (6 May, 1433) Quitclaim by Christopher Dronsfeld to Richard Wentworth esq ……….. All rights etc etc to land and tenements etc with rents  etc  with appurtenances in the vills and hamlets of ……including Lytulbretton. There is a note by Farrer with this deed stating “ Little Bretton and Nether Bretton, in the previous deed, appear to be identical”
  2. June 1, 12 Henry VI (1434) Indenture between Richard Wentworth and Christopher Dronsfeld by which the former granted that id he and his wife Cecily, John Cowell and William Lynderyck should hold forever a chief messuage with apputenances in West Bretton, and four messuages, six cottages, 300 acres of land 100 acres of meadow,200 acres of pasture, 300 acres of moor, and 10 acres of woods in the vills and hamlets of West Bretton, Netherbretton etc etc.
  3. Deed no. 58,  October 3rd 1441, also includes Littelbretton.
  4. Deed number 59 mentions Netherebretton, in 1443
  5. Deed number 61, dated Thursday after the Assumption,  25 Henry VI, (August 17, 1447) is a quitclaim by Philip Wentworth etc etc, to Richard Wentworth of Everton, William Fitzwilliam, Nicholas Fitzwilliam etc etc,  in the lands ( same as 58 except Littelbretton
  6. Eve of the Decolation of St John the Baptist, 25 Henry Vim (28 Aug. 1447) quitclaim which includes Lytylbretton

64 Quitclaim on April 10 , 28 Henry VI, (1450) Quitclaim by Cecily, lat wife of Richard Wentworth of Everton, to lands etc including Litelbretton. Also mentioned in deed 65 as Litelbretton and again in 1450

When Leonard Bartle wrote to us on 16 January, 2003 he mentioned that since our last visit to Bretton Hall he had found a reference to Robert Burdet living at Little Bretton in 1620. If you recall “Burdett” was the name adopted as a nom de plume by one of the Brettons whilst training for the priesthood at Douai in France at around the same time. It is also the name of the Knight who owed a considerable amount of money to one of the Wentworths at the time of his (the Wentworth’s) death.