We’ve managed to trace our EASTHAM roots back to the late 1500’s in Croston Parish, Lancashire, thanks to England’s excellent preservation of ancient records and the many organizations that are working hard to make those records available online. We are fortunate that our family lived in Croston Parish:
The Church of Croston is one of the oldest in Lancashire and dates back certainly to the twelfth century, and its Registers are amongst the very small number of those commencing in 1538, in compliance with the Royal Injunction published by the Vicar- General in that year.
(The Registers of the Parish of Croston in the County of Lancaster, as transcribed and edited by Henry Fishwick, published 1900, Printed for the Lancashire Parish Register Society, by Strowger & Son, at the Clarence Press, accessed online at Internet Archive on 21 Aug 2017)
In the England of the 1500’s and 1600’s, there were two kinds of people : the rich (the aristocracy) and the poor (the commoners).
Since our people were commoners, most of them would have lived in 2- or 3-room cottages (thatched, and of course with no plumbing) and they would have made or bartered for most necessities. Shops were mostly found only in larger towns and cities. Money was hard to come by. Taxes, which were heavy, were mostly paid in the form of crops or products. Their diet was limited and didn’t include much meat – mostly grains and root vegetables. They couldn’t (legally) hunt – all the areas where ‘wild’ animals could be found were preserves owned by nobles who would violently and legally protect their ‘right’ to those animals. Most folks had only one or maybe two sets of clothing, but in cold England, shoemakers were useful to have around. Candles and fuel were expensive, so most people went to bed when it got dark.
Education was not pursued by commoners – even upper-class boys were not expected to be educated (though they often were). It was the rare noble girl who was trained in anything more than music, embroidery and housekeeping skills. Common girls learned spinning and weaving, gardening and much more, but no ‘book learning.’ Politically, England seems to have been in a constant uproar. In other words, life was difficult, but apparently our ancestors were up to the challenge!
Each village our family lived in is recorded as having been a possession of the Lacy and Bussel families, large landowners who sometimes assigned management of their properties to lesser nobility. (Their lands were later transferred to the Duke of Lancaster – i.e., the King of England.) This implies that our EASTHAM ancestors were originally serfs (or possibly yeomen) serving these noble houses in the typical feudal fashion. Our people appear to have included more craftsmen than farmers, indicating specialized training and ownership of the tools applicable to those trades – slightly out of the norm and a step above the peasants of those times.
What follows is a brief outline of our ancestors, so that you can locate them on the map (below) and get an idea of who they were and where they lived. We will be adding more detailed reports as time permits.
A look at the map reveals that our family has lived within eight miles of Preston since the beginning of the 15th Century!! We made a very short and simple move from our origins in Brindle / Ulnes Walton / Croston / Leyland to Preston, a few miles away. We have been ‘proper’ Prestonians since the beginning of the 1700’s, and our relatives still abound there.
NOTE: The list of ancestors begins with the most ancient ancestor of record and works toward JOHN MOSES EASTHAM, our immediate ancestor.
HERE BEGINNETH THE ANCESTRAL ROLL
GEORGE ‘EASTAM’ is the first ancestor of whom we have any record, and that is only because he is recorded as the father of “Thomas of Croston” (the first ancestor of whom we have more detailed knowledge) on Thomas’s baptismal record. We don’t know who George’s wife was. George was probably born between 1545-1565 and lived in or near Brindle, Lancashire (see below), where his son Thomas and his daughter Harriet were baptized in an Anglican church in July 1586 and 1588.
George, like all other Englishmen of his era, had been born into a Catholic family, but his family seems to have immediately acknowledged the authority of King Henry VIII, who, in 1534, had declared himself the head of “The Church of England”, the first monarch and religious system to defy the authority of the Pope of the Church of Rome.
Since religion was identified with government in those days, Henry VIII set about destroying the power of Rome in England by confiscating Catholic-Church-owned properties and deporting clergy. Catholic churches and their services were ‘protestantized.’ Adherence to Catholicism (perceived as loyalty to the Pope and therefore treasonous), was illegal and was severely punished. Obviously this was not a good time to be a Catholic in England! Our family seems to have converted to the Anglican church system pretty early on – their baptisms were regularly recorded in Anglican churches.
George was born into the midst of all this political/religious brouhaha. The following is copied from History of Brindle, published by the Brindle Historical Society and accessed 21 Aug 2017:
“Brindle is a small and ancient village set in farmland and bordered by the towns of Preston, Chorley and Blackburn. … At the heart of the village is the Parish Church of St. James, in pre-Reformation days known as St. Helen’s. Its first rector is recorded as Ughtred in 1190. The present church tower was constructed about 1500 and two of the original bells are still regularly rung. Some eight paces from the lych-gate is an old inn, the Cavendish Arms.
A short distance down Water Street, past a row of seventeenth century white cottages [existing in the time of our ancestors, George and Thomas], is the village school established in 1623 as ‘Brindle Free Grammar School’. It was rebuilt from its place in the churchyard to its present location in 1828. There are twenty-four other buildings, made from the stone won from the local quarries, which are listed as being of architectural and historical significance.
The parish itself sprawls across a large acreage (the 1851 Census showed Brindle as being 10,388 acres) and contains a number of hamlets and folds. Close-by lies the fortified presence of Hoghton Tower and its equally ancient estate. The population remains relatively unchanged; in 1821 there were 1,574 residents, today there are around 1,800. Many of the surnames which can be found in the parish registers as far back as the sixteenth century are still present on farm gates and in the electoral register. . . .
Catholicism remained a significant factor in the story of Brindle. In 1613 there were “unlawful meetings of Papists in Brindle”. Mass houses such as Slack Farm were regularly used and there was a strong Jesuit presence. In 1628 Father Edmund Arrowsmith was pursued and captured in Brindle, later being executed at Lancaster. It is estimated that about 50% of the population remained true to the old faith and recusancy was regularly recorded. The establishing of a mission in 1677 by Benedictine monks led eventually to the building of St. Joseph’s Church in 1786 and the first Catholic school in the same year [after Catholicism received more toleration]. …
Involvement in wars has always affected rural communities and Brindle is no exception. In 1513 Brindle bowmen marched north to Flodden to join the English in the defeat of the Scots and in 1642, at the beginning of the Civil War, local men joined a Royalist Regiment under Sir Gilbert Gerard at the battle Edge Hill.
No doubt George and his family were aware of all of this, and were affected by it.
Our second known ancestor, THOMAS EASTHAM I, George’s son, was baptized on 31 July 1586 in Brindle, Lancashire, England.
Thomas lived in the area of Croston (in Chorley district), a village about six miles south of Preston and not far from his family in Brindle. We don’t know who he married. When he registered the birth of his son George, he gave his occupation as ‘farmer.’ (Farming and hand-weaving were the main industries of the area.) Tom, as he was surely known to family and friends, lived to be 52 years old, dying in March of 1638, and is recorded as being buried in Croston.
Tom’s life (1586-1638) was lived during a remarkable period in western history, called the Renaissance, which was a reawakening of cultural advancement. It’s doubtful that he derived much benefit from the changes that were brought about, but his world was changing on an almost daily basis. Even the English language was changing, becoming much more akin to what we speak today.
This is a time of great invention in the language, as writers struggle to find appropriate terms to describe the groundbreaking techniques and concepts they are pioneering. Not content with raiding Greek and Latin, they are soon ransacking more than 50 languages from across the globe.
Controversy regarding the immense proliferation of terms follows. Some writers see the introduction of ‘new’ Greek and Latin terms as an ‘enrichment’ of the language, while enthusiasts for native English words condemn the newfangled additions as ‘inkhorn terms’.
In addition to this influx of foreign terms, many new words are created by the addition of prefixes (uncomfortable, forename, underground); suffixes (delightfulness, laughable, investment); and by cobbling together compounds (heaven-sent, commander-in-chief). The Ages of English, by David Crystal
Croston Old School: dates from 1660, “substantially rebuilt.” Located in Croston, Lancashire, England. So far, our ancestral research has led us back to the Parish of CROSTON, in Lancashire, England, about 8 miles southwest of Preston. Our ancestors never lived more than 10 miles from Preston – until Jack’s generation, that is!
Tom also lived during the Jacobean era (1567-1625), when the Scottish King James I was on the throne of England. James Charles Stuart, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, ruled as King James IV of Scotland and as King James I of England until his death in 1625, when our James was about 40 years old. As expected of a loyal citizen, James would have celebrated when King Charles I ascended the throne.
In Tom’s lifetime, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts and the Virginia Colony was founded; William Shakespeare was presenting his plays in London; and in 1611, the King James Bible would be published for the first time.
In the Croston area of 1600’s England, commoner housing tended to be of ‘cruck’ construction.
“Cruck building starts from a simple principle seen in many parts of the world. Pairs of timbers – straight or curved – prop each other up, when tied together with wall plates and a ridge-piece at the apex. Over that main frame can be laid purlins, rafters and thatch on the roof, and timber panels filled with wattle and daub for the walls. (For a simpler predecessor in Britain, we can look to the Saxon Sunken Featured Building.)
Crucks were most used for houses and barns no more than 6m (20ft) wide, put up for smallholders, parsons and, most of all, peasants. The earliest survivals date from the 13th century and most must have been built before 1600, when the rising demand for two full storeys made crucks obsolete. They are found mainly in Wales, western England and Devon.”
Alcock, N. and Miles, D., The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England (Oxbow 2012).
Accessed 20 Aug 2017 at Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles – Vernacular Architecture
Thomas’s son, GEORGE EASTHAM II, born about 1633, was baptized 8 May 1633 at Ulnes Walton, Croston Parish. (Wife unknown.) He was a shoemaker and the father of James I (below). He died in October 1707 and is buried in Croston.
Notice that our people have gone from Brindle to Croston to Ulnes Walton and back to Croston. This movement indicates two things: (1) Our EASTHAMs were freemen, and (2) they went where the work was.
Peasants were tied to the land and were not allowed to move away from the land or change their profession unless they became freemen. To become a freeman a peasant would have to buy a plot of land or pay dues to the lord.
Nice as being a ‘freeman’ sounds, being one in the 1600’s was not easy. A freeman (also called a yeoman) had very few rights, and what rights he had could easily be thwarted by the nobility. He had the duty to fight for his lord when called upon, often at his own expense (and there were a lot of internecine wars in those days, so a lot of time spent away from home and a lot of life-risking). His tax load was very heavy, and he faced debtor’s prison if he couldn’t pay them. There was no social aid available, so all of life was a gamble, and the odds weren’t great.
We know that George’s life was difficult, because even though he managed to have at least seven children, only two (possibly three) lived to adulthood. Three died as toddlers and one died at age 13. Even among those who lived to adulthood, one died at the young age of 23. It’s possible that a daughter named Ellen lived to bear children, but the only one of George’s children that we KNOW lived to have descendants was our own ancestor, George’s second child, James (below). Yes, life was hard.
In George Eastham’s era, there was great social unrest in England, as well as wars with France and Spain. Massachusetts and Virginia had been official English colonies for less than 30 years, but Englishmen were heading for America in such numbers that King Charles I passed a law to limit emigration. Obviously our EASTHAMs stayed home.
These were crazy, scary times in England. In 1649, when George was young man of about 16 years, the English and Scottish parliaments rose up in rebellion against the very autocratic King Charles I, and after successfully defeating his armies, they executed the king for high treason! The English parliament, headed up by the super-conservative protestant (Puritan) Oliver Cromwell, abolished the monarchy and declared a republic called the Commonwealth of England. Shortly thereafter, Cromwell was made Lord Protector of England – essentially a dictator, and genocidally anti-Catholic. This was a revolution of immense proportions, and had to have been an earth-shaking and life-changing event for George and his family.
The “Protectorate” soon became unbearably oppressive, and ancient tradition prevailed: after still more upheaval, the monarchy was restored to Charles’s son, Charles II, in 1660, when our ancestor George II was about 27 years old. Nevertheless, during his lifetime and beyond, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant was fierce and unrelenting.
George’s village, Ulnes Walton, is today still a small village about 8 miles southwest of Preston. An informative history of the town may be read at British History Online, but it’s interesting to note that in 1666, there were only about 60-70 households in the village, so there may have been even fewer than that when George was born there 33 years earlier.
An unsourced article in Wikipedia says, “Legend has it that the original [lord of the manor] UIf [Walton] was a Danish pirate who sailed up the river Douglas, into the river Lostock and settled at Littlewood.” If this is true, then our ancestors probably worked for the descendants of a pirate!
George’s son, JAMES EASTHAM I, born 26 May 1665 in Croston, died in 1726 at the grand old age of 71 (probably in Croston or Leyland). James’s occupation is unknown. He was 26 years old when he married (31 May 1691) LUCIA (Lucy) WALMSLEY, our most ancient known ancestress. Lucy, born in 1761, was the daughter of Thomas Walmsley of Leyland. James and Lucy had three known children, of whom George Eastham III (below) was the middle child, born when James was 29 years old and Lucy was 23.
In James’s era, the political scene was in constant turmoil, but in 1660, five years before James Eastham was born, King Charles II regained his throne, restoring some sense of national stability. Nevertheless, the country continued to be embroiled in a series of wars. Among the noted events of James’s life: In 1666, the Great Fire destroyed a huge part of London, a terrible blow to England’s prestige and economy.
James and Lucy’s son, GEORGE EASTHAM III, was born about 1694 in Leyland, Lancashire, a village about six miles south of Preston. He was baptized there on 19 Dec 1694.
At about age 26, George married (17 Dec 1720) MARGARET PEMBERTON, also born about 1694. She was the daughter of Richard Pemberton and Margaret Borne. (Interestingly, George’s and Margaret’s son Richard had been born two years earlier. Would love to know why they had to wait so long to marry!)
George Eastham III’s occupation is unknown, but he was possibly involved in the cottage industry of weaving, which was the primary industry of the area in that era until the 1760’s. He could also have carried on the family trade of shoe making, or he may have been the first of the slaters in our family, since that’s the trade that was followed by his son.
George Eastham III was born into a nation that had recently passed a Bill of Rights giving commoners rights that they had never previously enjoyed. Parliament had also established a Constitutional Monarchy (restricted to Protestant kings only), limiting the powers of both king and nobles. The Englishman’s famous love of freedom was beginning to express itself in ways that would affect our ancestors.
Unfortunately, in George Eastham III’s lifetime, there were more wars with France, Portugal, Spain, Holland …. Taxes must have been fierce to pay for of all those wars. Life would continue to be a struggle.
His home, Leyland, was an ancient town, “an area of fields, with Roman roads passing through, from ancient Wigan to Walton-le-Dale.” Notable features that still remain include the St Andrew’s Parish Church (below), built around 1200 AD (where many of the family were baptized), and the large stone Leyland Cross, thought to date back to Saxon times.
George and Margaret’s son, RICHARD EASTHAM, was born abt. 1718 and was described as being “of Preston.” Richard appears to be the ancestor who made the move to Preston. He died in Preston in 1802. He married (10 Jan 1743) ELIZABETH HEALD, a native of Preston. Born about 1722, She was the youngest daughter of Evan Heald and Ellin Parker of Chorley Parish. Richard and Elizabeth had two known children, of whom our ancestor James Eastham II (below) was the youngest.
Richard was a slater by profession (he made and installed slate roofs), and since Preston was booming at the time, it was a great place for him to make a living.
His was an era of amazing changes, because it was during his lifetime that the Industrial Revolution forever changed England and the rest of the world – and it all started right there in Lancashire! In fact, one of the primary ‘instigators’ of the Industrial Revolution, Richard Arkwright, inventor of the ‘spinning jenny’, was born in Preston. Too much happened to even mention in this little paragraph!
Here’s just a sample:
- 1718 In North Carolina, the English pirate Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, is hunted down and killed.
- 1719 The British, Dutch and Austrians have teamed up against Spain’s move into Sardinia and Sicily. The British sink the Spanish navy.
- 1726 François Arouet, to become known as Voltaire, is sent into exile from his home in France. In England he increases his admiration for British institutions.
- 1733 Georgia, the last of the Britain’s thirteen colonies, is founded as a debtors’ asylum.
- 1735 George Hadley publishes the first explanation of trade winds.
Richard and Elizabeth’s son, JAMES EASTHAM II, was born 20 September 1753 in Preston. He died after 1793, probably in Preston. He married (28 Oct 1775) HANNAH ROBINSON (daughter of James Robinson), whose place of birth is uncertain (possibly Denton or Garstang, both very close to Preston). James and Hannah Eastham had seven children, of whom our ancestor Thomas III (below) was the 4th son and the youngest child.
Since both James’s father and James’s son were “flaggers and slaters,” it’s a safe bet that James was, too — in the England of those days, a son usually inherited his father’s occupation, whether he wanted to or not. “Slaters” installed slate roofs, which first involved cutting the brittle slate to create the slates, or shingles. “Flagging” refers to the intricate and laborious work of cutting and installing suitable stones or bricks to create a durable road. Preston needed STRONG roads, as tremendously heavy machinery and heavy loads of Preston-made products had to be transported over them, to and from the Preston docks.
In James’s lifetime, the Industrial Revolution was radically changing England and the rest of the world; also in his lifetime, America caused a great uproar by fighting for its independence from England; France was causing problems; and much more was going on to keep England in a state of unrest.
James and Hannah’s son, THOMAS EASTHAM I was born 22 July 1793 in Preston, and died 8 July 1874 in Preston. He, too, was a “Flagger and Slater” by profession.
Thomas was the first of the Easthams to serve as verger at St. George the Martyr church and served in that capacity for 54 years. He was the great-grandfather of our John Moses Eastham. He is the first of our ancestors of whom we have a photo, for which we are very grateful! This photo was originally published in a pamphlet commemorating St. George the Martyr Church.
Thomas married (18 July 1827) ELIZABETH “Betsy” PRESTON, a native of Preston as his second wife. They had five children, of whom our ancestor Thomas II (below) was the eldest. (He had seven additional children with his first wife, Betty Preston, who was possibly a relative of Betsy’s.)
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, people were leaving the countryside and moving to the cities (like Preston) to work in the great factories that were rapidly popping up.
“In 1801, at the time of the first census, only about 20% of the population lived in towns. By 1851 the figure had risen to over 50%. … Furthermore in 1801 the majority of the population still worked in agriculture or related industries. Most goods were made by hand and very many craftsmen worked on their own with perhaps a laborer and an apprentice. By the late 19th century [late 1800’s] factories were common and most goods were made by machine.”
A History of Britain in the 19th Century, retrieved 8 July 2017
Thomas also lived through the time of the American Civil War, which had a devastating impact on Preston’s manufacturing trade – no cotton was coming from America, so Preston couldn’t make its amazing cotton cloth, which rivaled that of India. No doubt Thomas and his family felt the sting of that situation in a variety of ways. All of Lancashire was said to have suffered a famine!
Thomas lived in a constantly changing world. It is to his credit that he remained a faithful servant at St George the Martyr, despite all the changes going on around him.
Pictured here are just a very few of the huge cotton and textile mills in Preston around 1850. It only took one or two generations for Preston to go from being a rather sleepy cottage industry town to being a bustling manufacturing CITY!
From this point forward, the vast majority of our family would earn its living either working in the mills or in collateral jobs, such as maintenance.
THOMAS EASTHAM II, born about 1828 (baptized 29 March 1829) in Preston, d. 9 Jan 1888 in Preston. He, too, was a “flagger and slater” by profession, although he started off as a blacksmith, according to the 1841 Census. He also inherited the position of verger at St. George the Martyr Church and served for 15 years.
Tom married (16 Jul 1849) ELLEN IANSON (I’Anson), a native of Preston. Thomas and Ellen had seven children together, of whom our ancestor Thomas III (below) was the second child and the oldest son.
Modern road construction was still an undiscovered art, and asphalt shingles were still unknown, so Tom was quite able to earn a good living as a flagger and slater. Here’s a photo (1939) of some old Preston road that shows the work of flaggers like Tom.
Thomas II, like his father, lived in a world that was transforming itself from the old medieval, agricultural and pastoral society into the modern industrialized city society that you and I would be familiar with. With those changes came much chaos and unrest. Charles Dickens’s books were written in and about this era and make very interesting and entertaining reading.
THOMAS EASTHAM III, son of Thomas II and Ellen Ianson, was born 22 May 1851 in Preston and died 10 June 1923 in Preston.
The child of three generations of ‘flaggers and slaters,’ it was a sign of the times that he had a much more modern occupation. He was an “iron turner” (using a heavy lathe, he carved machine parts out of iron blocks), whose machine parts helped create Preston’s great mills.
He inherited the position of verger at St George the Martyr Church and served in that capacity for 35 years.
Thomas Eastham married (23 May 1874) MARGARET ANN COOKE, a native of Preston. She was the third child and oldest daughter of Moses Cooke, a Quaker shoemaker, and Ellen Duxbury. Thomas and Margaret had seven children, of whom our ancestor John Moses Eastham (below) was the 4th child and the 3rd son.
Tom’s life spanned an amazing variety of world events and radical cultural and scientific changes.
- Ten years before Tom was born, the Great Irish Potato Famine had sent literally millions of Irishmen fleeing their homeland, and many of them had come to Preston. That, plus the many jobs available in the mills, had transformed Preston into a somewhat cosmopolitan city.
- Tom was only three years old when the Crimean War began, and he was six years old before it ended. England then immediately launched into the Opium Wars with China. In 1863, when Tom was still a child, England went to war with Japan to force them into trade agreements. Tom’s nation was at war somewhere in the world for most of his life, but the outcome was a huge British Empire.
- During Tom’s lifetime, Charles Darwin published his famous theory, Origin of the Species.
- When Tom was ten years old, the American Civil War disrupted England’s cotton trade so severely that all of Lancashire was literally starving.
- It was also during Tom’s lifetime that Queen Victoria occupied the throne, and England occupied India, South Africa, Palestine, Egypt, many island nations, and more, creating the British Empire, the largest and most powerful in human history. The culture of the day taught that this made England the greatest nation and the most virtuous. No doubt Tom was a very proud Englishman!
- Tom was born into a world of candles and whale oil lamps, but saw the invention of gas lights and then incandescent light bulbs. Amazing!
- Tom was alive to mourn the passing of Queen Victoria and to celebrate the accession of King Edward VII. Ten years later in 1910, he was alive to mourn the passing of Edward VII and the accession of King George V. There was no television or radio coverage for these events, but newspapers were readily available and were kept up to date via telegraphy. By the 1920’s, though, radio was the communications ‘king’ and Tom probably owned one. (The world’s first radio factory was in England.)
- In 1903, when Tom was about 52 years old, The Ford Company in America began mass producing automobiles, and by the end of Tom’s life, automobiles were affordable and running all over England, scaring the horses that were still widely used.
- Also in 1903, Tom read the exciting newspaper reports about the Wright brothers’ first flight. Planes were flying regularly by the time of his death.
- All through Tom’s final years, England was at war somewhere, mostly with the French, who had their own empire. The Irish Civil War erupted in 1920, and the English economy was struggling. It’s difficult and expensive to maintain a world-wide empire!
- He was 63 when Britain became embroiled in WWI, and there must have been many moments when he feared an imminent German invasion. He lived to see England victorious (as usual) with America’s help.
- In Tom’s lifetime, he saw the advent of planes, trains and automobiles! Dirigibles! Gaslights! Electricity! Famine, World War… Quite a list for one life!
When Tom died, he was a moderately wealthy man, leaving an estate of just over £2028 (the equivalent, in 2017, of $175,000 American). None of that went to his son, our American family founder, Jack Eastham – Jack and his dad weren’t on good terms.
JOHN MOSES “Jack” EASTHAM, the founder of our American branch of the family, was born 23 June 1881 in Preston, and died 17 March 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. He was a talented mechanic by trade, specializing in heavy machinery. He married MARGARET ELIZABETH “Maggie” MARSDEN, a native of Preston, and the daughter of James Marsden and Elizabeth Harling. Jack and Maggie had six children, the first of whom died in infancy, and the rest of whom grew up in America. Jack lived through tuberculosis, The Great Depression, Al Capone’s Chicago, and two World Wars… He was smart and TOUGH! Jack’s history is detailed on the page named: JACK and MAGGIE.
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