Heathfolk Revisited

Chapter 1
Early Days (1321 – 1790)

The Hall o’Heath

An early mention of the Heath family in Cheshire is recorded by Ormerod 1He says that in 1338:

John son of John del Heth obtained of Nicholas Dek by fine tenements in Haslynton, also in Churchcopenhale and Hunterson.

It is of interest to note that a website entitled ‘The Soldier in Late Medieval England’ shows that some 21 soldiers (mainly archers) with the surname Heth and its variants (de Heth, atte Heth, del Heth, of the Heth) saw action in various conflicts between the years 1373 and 1449.

A deed 2 dated 23 September 1337 is concerned with ‘six messuages and three carucates 3 of land in Haslynton, Churchcopenhale and Hunterson.’  (Haslynton and Churchcopenhale we know today as Haslington and Church Coppenhall, which is incorporated in Crewe.  Hunterson is near Wybunbury.)  The parties to the deed are John, son of John del Heth, and Nicholas del Heth 4.

In essence, the deed says:

Nicholas grants the property to John to have and to hold for the lifetime of John.  After John’s death then to Robert, son of Nicholas del Heth [it seems clear from the document that this is another Nicholas] and to the heirs of Robert’s body to have and to hold for ever.  If Robert should die without such heir then to Nicholas his father and the heirs of his body to have and to hold for ever.  If Nicholas should die without such heir then to Nicholas and his heirs to have and to hold for ever.

This deed implies that it was a Nicholas del Heth, not Nicholas Dek, who gave the property to John del Heth.  Indeed, Professor Roger Bryant, who translated the deed from the original Latin, could find no mention of Dek, the name mentioned by Ormerod.

Another deed (written not in Latin, but in French) drawn up on 15 November 1337 (barely two months later) is concerned with an arrangement between John de la Bruere and Nicholas de la Bruere.  It is worth noting here that ‘heath’ is written in French as ‘bruyère’.  These two men are obviously the same as those in the foregoing paragraphs.

This deed, roughly translated, says:

By a separate document, John has granted to Nicholas and his heirs £20 of annual rent to be paid from all his lands and tenements in Cheshire.  Now Nicholas grants that if John provides Sibyl, the wife of Nicholas, and Nicholas his son and Ellen and Janet his daughters with suitable sustenance and clothing for the term of the life of Nicholas and for the term of the life of Robert, brother and heir apparent of Nicholas, then the rent will be nullified and cannot be claimed.

The exact relationship between these people is hard to determine.  Ormerod quotes an earlier deed of 1321, when Nicholas de la Bruere with his wife Sybil obtained of Nicholas Deken 5 tenements in Haselynton and Copenhale.  These ’tenements’ may have included the Hall o’ Heath, which Ormerod also mentions:

The Hall of Heath, now a farmhouse, took its name from (or more probably the heath gave its name to) the family of Heaths, its ancient proprietors.

However, Magna Britannia 6 (p 383) states:

The Heaths of Hall-o’-Heath were extinct at an early period, the heiress having married a More.

This marriage is also revealed in The Heraldic Visitation of Cheshire, 1613 7The pedigree of the Moore family of the Hall o’ Heath starts with the marriage of Randall Moore of Haslington to Ellen, daughter and heiress to Nicholas Heathe [sic]. Beddow believed the Hall was the lady’s dowry.  Unfortunately, no dates are given in the pedigree until Randulphe Moore of Hall o’ Heath is listed as dying in 1626, some five generations later.

Beddow claimed that this Moore family were the ancestors of ‘that very great and blessed saint’ Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535).  However, the pedigree of the Moore family in The Heraldic Visitation of Cheshire 8, shows only one Thomas, whose eldest brother died in 1626. There may, of course, have been sons from previous generations who are not mentioned in the pedigree, but the story is of doubtful origin.

The Heraldic Visitation of Cheshire, 1580 also shows that another branch of the Heath family had a daughter Agnes who, like Ellen, was the heiress.  She married one Robert Swane, and her daughter Margery (also an heiress) married John Weever. This latest union again produced no male heir, and their eldest daughter (another Margery) married into the Woodnett family of Shevington.  The Woodnet coat of arms then included the Heath arms 9 in one quarter.

There were members of the del Heth family still living in Cheshire in 1416, as this will 10 makes clear:

In the name of God, Amen.  On Wednesday next after the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (4 February) in the year of the Lord 1416, I, Margaret, the wife of John del Heth, seeing the imminent danger of my death, sound of mind, make my testament in this way.  First, I leave my soul to God and the Blessed Mary and my body for burial in the grounds of Saint Oswald of Malpas.  Item, I leave to Alice daughter of Randolph Dod one cloak (red deleted) of green colour and one red dress and all my headdresses.  Item, I leave to my mother one belt of silk, studded with silver.  Item, the rest of my goods not left above, I give and bequeath to my parents that tthey may deal with them as they shall see fit for the benefit of my soul.  And for the carrying out of this testament good and faithfully, I make and constitute Randolph Dod and my father my executors and John del Heth my husband the supervisor.  In witness of which deed I have put my seal to this present testament, with these witnesses Richard de Boterley, chaplain, Ughtred le Byrd and others.  Given at Broxton on the day and in the year of the Lord aforesaid.

John Heath of Monks Coppenhall

Although the Heaths who occupied the Hall o’ Heath may have become extinct circa 1400, other branches of the family (possibly descended from John de la Heth) appear to have remained in the area for another 500 years, still holding land in Haslington and Church Coppenhall.  Indeed, the Cheshire Recognizance Rolls have an entry dated 20 December 1398 showing that one Thomas del Heth was paid for his services as a soldier to Richard II in the battle of Radcot Bridge in Oxfordshire.  Clearly at least one branch of the del Heth family was still in existence in Cheshire at that date.  Moreover, the principal character in our story – Samuel Heath I – was born in Haslington in 1816, and one of his sons lived in Crewe until 1900.  Beddow says:

Fourteenth and fifteenth century documents give us Heaths firmly settled in both Church Coppenhall and Barthomley 11Seventeenth and eighteenth century documents, parish registers, tombstones, give us Heaths still settled on these ancient lands.

Beddow also says:

The Harl.MSS which give a ‘true and particular account of all the delinquents sequestered who have lands in the Nantwich Hundred’ (entry 2128 dated 8 December 1646) refer to a Richard Heath, sequestered in the Broxton Hundred, and ‘noe order’ was made, probably because the said Richard had already paid his fine at Broxton.  This was during the Civil Wars at the very beginning of the Coppenhall Register.

After Richard, the next member of the Heaths of Coppenhall for whom the author has found a written record is John Heath, whose death occurred in 1685.  Beddow thought it likely that he was the son of Richard.  Certainly the dates fit, and the possession of land in the Nantwich area is a further clue.  In her will 12 dated 1 March 1650, the widow of a Richard Heath of Weston names her son Richard as her executor and bequeaths her bed and some furniture to her grandson John Heath.  He could well be the John Heath mentioned above.

Almost all that we know about John is contained in an inventory and valuation 13 of his ‘Goods, Cattle and Chattles’ [sic] dated 3 December 1685.  After an introductory paragraph which calls him ‘John Heath of Monks Coppenhall in the County of Chester, Yeoman’, the document reads as follows:

£  s  
seven feather beds, bedsteads and all furniture
    belonging to them thorough the house 10: 00: 00
all Chests, Coffers and Boxes in the house 02: 00: 00
all Tables and Formes belonging to the house 01: 10: 00
one livery Cupboard, Skreen, all Chaires,
    Stools & Cushions in the house 02: 00: 00
all Sheets, table Clothes, napkins & all sorts
    of napery ware in the house 02: 00: 00
all Yarne and Tow in the House 01: 00: 00
one frying pan, all brasse and pewter in the house 06: 00: 00
one iron beame, grates, fireshovell, tongs
    and all sorts of ironware in the house 04: 10: 00
one Cheese presse, Barrells and all sortes of
    treen ware in the house 01: 10: 00
for all sorts of Bottles and earthern ware
    in the house 00: 06: 08
for Cheese and Bacon 10: 00: 00
one stone Cisterne and all swine troughes 00: 10: 00
ten Cowes, five young Cattle 36: 00: 00
for all sortes of Corne and Graine 09: 00: 00
for horses, mare and Colt 12: 10: 00
for Hay in the Barne and elsewhere 10: 00: 00
for wagon Carts, ploughes, Harrows and
    all sortes of husbandry ware 08: 00: 00
for muck 00: 10: 00
for all sorts of feather fowle 00: 10: 00
for a looking Glasse 00: 02: 00
for all sortes of fuell 00: 10: 00
for Oake, Ash and poplrs abt the house 00: 10: 00
for money laid out upon Ground for a time
    wch is to come 26: 13: 00
Gold and Silver in his purse 03: 05: 00
Moneys oweing in the Country in severall hands 35: 00: 00
for his wearing Apparell 05: 00: 00
if it should fall out that there be any left wch
    comes not to our knowledge in Consideration
    thereof wee doe allow 00: 10: 00
                                        Sume 189: 06: 08

[The monetary system of the day was pounds (£), shillings (s) and pence (d).  There were 12 pence to the shilling, and 20 shillings to the pound.]

The inventory was signed by Richard Heath 14, William Stephenson and William Holland.  Administration of John’s personal estate was granted (according to a note in the Irvine Collection) 15 to his son Thomas on 3 December 1685.

Today, John Heath’s personal estate would be worth about £17,000.  John was thus a moderately wealthy man, owning land and property in Monks Coppenhall.  It is interesting to note that the farmhouse and land were not included in the valuation; it is likely that they had been in the family for several generations, and were entailed.

Sarah Heath, believed by Beddow to be the widow of John, was buried at Coppenhall on 18 December 1695 16In 1698, letters of administration 17 in respect of the personal estate of Sarah Heath, widow of Coppenhall, were granted to her grand-daughter Sarah Boughy, spinster of Middlewich.  Since the male line had priority in those days, there is an implication that Sarah Heath had no living son, in turn giving rise to doubts about whether she was the wife of John Heath.

Beddow points out that Thomas elected to live on the family’s land in Balterley (Barthomley), so he may have allowed his father’s personal estate to pass to his mother, and for it to be subsequently disposed of to Sarah Boughy, whilst he retained ownership of the real estate.  Sarah Boughy could have been the unmarried daughter of an unknown daughter of Sarah Heath.

Susannah, believed to be a daughter of Sarah and John, is known to have married Richard Twiss (a ‘taylor’) on 30 December 1699 at Coppenhall, but the marriage register gives no indication of Susannah’s parentage. Beddow writes:

. . . . there is no documentary evidence (how could there be?) that Thomas Heath of Balterley and Susannah Twiss, née Heath, were brother and sister, alike children of John and Sarah Heath.

However, the entry in the Irvine Collection (of which Beddow was obviously unaware) proves that Thomas was John’s son, even if doubts still linger about their relationship to Sarah and Susannah. These doubts, however, do not affect Beddow’s assertion:

We cannot trace the Heaths any further back than this in the registers, because the [Coppenhall] registers themselves only go back as far as 1653 18But surely the most exacting critic would be content with what we have established, namely, that the Heaths obtained lands in these two parishes [Coppenhall and Barthomley] in 1338, and that Heaths were still holding lands in these two parishes in 1700.  Who can doubt that it is the same family?

The Bishop’s transcripts of the Coppenhall parish registers (to which Beddow does not appear to have had access)were signed in 1667 and 1679 by John Heath as Churchwarden.  Later Heaths were also Churchwardens and the office may have been a family tradition.

Thomas Heath and his Family

So we come to Thomas Heath, the son and heir of John Heath of Monks Coppenhall.  According to the IGI, Thomas married Hannah Steele on 16 March 1685 at Wynbunbury 19Their first daughter Hannah was baptised in Coppenhall on 26 December 1687.  Their son William was baptised on 12 June 1692, and their second daughter, Mary, was baptised on 26 December 1694.  A third daughter, Elizabeth, was baptised on 20 January 1704 at Barthomley, where Thomas appears to have made his home.  Nothing more is known of daughters Hannah and Mary.

Hannah, their mother, died soon after giving birth to Elizabeth 20, and was buried at Coppenhall on 10 February 1704. Thomas lived until 1718, being buried, according to the register, ‘Upon Midsummer Day’.  Elizabeth married Daniel Clowes at Coppenhall on 17 March 1732; they had three children, all baptised at Coppenhall: Elizabeth (baptised 1734), Jane (1735) and Daniel (1738).  Elizabeth and Daniel, the parents of these children, died on consecutive days in 1747.

William’s wife is unknown, but she bore him three sons: John (dates of birth and baptism unknown), Thomas (b 1722 21) and William (b 1730 22).   John married Ann Insor in 1743; no children of the marriage have come to light.  John died in 1768 and was buried in Church Coppenhall.

Thomas left Coppenhall and became a cheesefactor in Warrington.  He was the wealthiest of the three sons, and Beddow believes that he inherited the Coppenhall estates when his brother John died (this assumes that John was the eldest son, who had inherited the land from their father).  Thomas also acquired land and property in and around Warrington, and it was his possessions which brought additional prosperity to the family in the mid-nineteenth century.  His story is told in the Appendix.

Beddow tells us that, like his brother John, William was a churchwarden at Coppenhall, but the burial register dismisses him as a ‘labourer’.  Beddow regarded him as a ne’er-do-well, if not the black sheep of the family, who managed the Coppenhall estates as bailiff for his brother Thomas.  Certainly Thomas showed more concern in his will for William’s children than for William himself, who was granted nothing more than an annuity of £20.

William married Elizabeth Bolten in 1752.  They raised a large family: Samuel (b 1753), Mary (b 1756), Ann (b 1758), William (b 1761), Thomas (b 1764), John (b 1766), Joseph (b 1768; lived only one year), another Joseph (b 1771) and Richard (b 1773).  It is with their fourth son John and his descendants that this history is mainly concerned.

However, some attention must be paid to Samuel’s family, especially his grandson Martin Heath, who (since his father and grandfather were both dead) inherited the Coppenhall estate jointly with John under the will of Thomas Heath of Warrington.  One may wonder at this arrangement; it is not surprising that Samuel, as Thomas’s eldest nephew, should be granted part of the estate, but why did Thomas want his fourth nephew John to have an equal share? (Had he not done so, this story would never have been written.)

The IGI reveals that a Samuel Heath married Elizabeth Done at St Helen’s church in Tarporley on 1 April 1777.  Although the register 23 gives no details of their parents, the date fits well with the age of Samuel, son of William, who would be 24.  This Samuel had apparently settled in Eaton, near Tarporley, and the parish registers show that his first legitimate child was his son John, baptised 24 August 1777, although he had a ‘base son’ (also called Samuel) by Ann Johnson baptised in December 1776.  There were several other children of the marriage, and Elizabeth appears to have died in childbirth in 1785 when her son Thomas was born.

However, further research has shown that it is unlikely that the Samuel Heath of Eaton and the Samuel Heath who was the grandfather of Martin were one and the same.  There were so many in the Heath family called Samuel and John that uncertainties about individual identities will always linger if documentation is lacking.

John was married in 1808 to a young woman who was born in 1790.  Details of the marriage of John, and the story of his eldest son Martin, are revealed in a later chapter.

John Heath of Haslington

We must now turn to yet another John, the fourth son of William and Elizabeth Heath.  Beddow says of him:

John went to live in Haslington and married someone named Catherine in about the year 1795 . . .

However, subsequent research has revealed that John Heath (a ‘bricklayer’) married Catherine Stockton at Nantwich parish church on 30 December 1790.  Catherine’s parents were Edward Stockton, a farmer of Hurleston and his wife Sarah (née Stretch), who were married at Acton on 28 December 1761.  They had at least seven children, of whom Catherine was the fourth.  She was baptised at Acton on 3 July 1772, so she was 18 when she married John 24John and Catherine became the ancestors of a line of Heaths stretching to the present day.  The story of their children – and that of their son Samuel in particular – is told in the next chapter.

Further Sections:



Chapter 2: Samuel Heath I (1816 – 1882)

Chapter 3: Martin Heath (1810 – 1887)

Chapter 4: Samuel Heath II (1837 – 1922)

Chapter 5: The Heath Family in America

Chapter 6: Mary Alice & Thomas Henry Heath

Chapter 7: William Henry Heath (1862 – 1943)

Chapter 8: Samuel Percy Heath (1893 – 1977)

Chapter 9: William Geoffrey Heath (b 1924)

Appendix: The Will of Thomas Heath



1  The History of Cheshire by George Ormerod.  Second Edition, 1882.  A copy is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester.  Back

2  The original deed and the one mentioned later are held in the British Library, London.  Back

3  A carucate was the amount of land which a team of oxen could plough in a season.  It varied between 60 and 180 acres, depending on the terrain.  Back

4  In the early 1230s Alexander Stavensby, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, built a hospital at Denhall on the marshes of the Dee estuary to help the poor and the shipwrecked and annexed to it the neighbouring church of Burton in Wirral which had been ab antiquo a prebend of Lichfield cathedral.  Among the ‘Priors, Masters or Wardens’ of the hospital is listed ‘Nicholas de Hethe, occurs 1343-9, resigned by 1352.’  (From: ‘Hospitals: St Andrew, Denhall’, A History of the County of Chester: Volume 3 (1980), pp. 184-86.)  The author is indebted to Ricky Cooper for this information.  Back

5  See the earlier comment regarding ‘Dek’.  Back

6  Magna Britannia, Vol II, Part II, Topographical and Historical Account of Cheshire by Rev Daniel Lysons & Samuel Lysons.  1810.  A copy is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester.  Back

7  A copy is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester.  Back

8  A copy is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester.  Back

9  The Heraldic Visitation of Cheshire, 1580, describes the Heath arms as ‘Gules on a bend cotised Argent three birds (moorcocks?)’.  The Genealogical Quarterly, Vol XXV, No 4, Summer 1969, describes the birds in the arms of the various branches of the Heath family as ‘heathcocks’.  The ‘moorcocks’ in the first description were probably ‘heathcocks’ – a visual pun on the family name.  Back

10  The author is indebted to Chris Heath (no relation) for drawing his attention to this will, which can be seen in the Cheshire Record Office.  Back

11  Haslington was in the parish of Barthomley.  Back

12  The original document is available on line from the Public Record Office.  Back

13  The original document is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester (Ref: WS 1685).  It is reproduced with the permission of Cheshire County Council and the owner/depositor to whom copyright is reserved.   Back

14  This Richard was probably a close relative of John, but it is most unlikely that he was his father.  Back

15  W F Irvine Collection, p 427. A copy is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester.  Back

16  The Coppenhall parish register and the Bishop’s transcript agree on this date.  Beddow, however, gives the burial date as 18 November 1696.  He says: ‘My mother . . . offered to help in searching the registers, and indeed she discovered most of the information . . . she was then about seventy-three and her eyesight was as good as ever.’ Perhaps her eyesight was not quite as good as her son believed!  Back

17  The original document is held in the Cheshire Record Office, Chester.  As was the case with the inventory of John Heath’s possessions, Beddow was unaware of its existence.  Back

18  The Bishop’s transcripts go back into the 1500s, but are incomplete and do not reveal any further information about the Heath family.  Back

19  Beddow was unaware of Hannah’s surname and the date and place of the marriage.  Back

20  Beddow suggested that Hannah’s imminent death was the reason for Elizabeth’s baptism at Barthomley, although the older children were all baptised at the ‘family church’ in Coppenhall.  Back

21  This date is deduced from a memorial inscription in St Elphin’s church, Warrington.  Thomas died in 1802, aged 80.  Back

22  This date is deduced from the burial register of Coppenhall parish church.  William died in 1800, aged 70.  Back

23  The author is indebted to Mr John Bennett of Northwich for supplying many of the entries in the Tarporley parish registers.  Back

24  The author is indebted to Mr David Reade of Lydney, Gloucestershire, Chairman of the Stockton Society, for the information about Catherine’s parentage.  Back

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