The Leighton line

The Leighton family lived and farmed in the area around Sedbergh, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, for over 300 years. Their lack of mobility has made it relatively easy to trace my ancestral line back through the generations, and this is the furthest back that I have reached on any branch of the family. It should be noted that I have had to make some assumptions in connecting the first three generations listed below, due to the incompleteness of the earliest parish registers, but I am reasonably confident that it is correct.

Allan Leighton (abt 1580 - ?) [probably my 9x gt-grandfather]

The parish registers of Sedbergh record the marriage of Allan Lighton and Anne Chester on 16th May, 1605. They had a son, baptised on 14th April, 1606, but the name in the register is missing or illegible.

Allan and Anne are probably the parents of Matthew Leighton (see below)

There is no record of Allan's death, but the parish register lists, on 26th February 1657/8, the burial of "Anne wife of Allan Leighton late of Loyne side". From this, it can be assumed that they lived at Luneside, a settlement by the River Lune about 2 miles west of Sedbergh town.


Matthew Leighton (abt 1606 - ?)

I have assumed Matthew to be the son of Allan and Anne Leighton, although I have no categorical evidence for this. There are, however, some supporting facts: he lived at Luneside, he named his second daughter Anne (his presumed mother's name), there is no other candidate for his father, and the dates fit.

Matthew married Dorothy: once again there is no direct record of the event, but this can be deduced from the burial of "Dorothy late wife of Matthew Leighton" in 1690.

Matthew had at least six children:

  1. Margaret Leighton, baptised 25 February 1632/3 "daughter of Matt: Leighton of Loonside"
  2. Anne Leighton, baptised 3 July 1635
  3. John Leighton, baptised 15 December 1638 (see below)
  4. Alice Leighton, baptised 14 November 1641
  5. Jane Leighton, baptised 21 September 1647
  6. Dorothie Leighton, baptised 11 July 1656 "daughter of Mathew Leighton of Loynside"

In 1642, he entered into a written agreement with landowner Roger Otway regarding his residence at Luneside:
"Witnesseth that whereas the said Matthew Leighton holdeth one house and one little garden at Luneside aforesaid of the said Roger Otway of the yearly rent of two shillings and a boon day shearing, and wheras the said Roger Otway hath given way that the said Matthew Leighton shall enlarge the said garden three yards in breadth - in consideration whereof, it is agreed that the said Matthew Leighton and his heirs shall satisfy and pay unto the said Roger Otway and his heirs one boon day shearing or four pence in money every year hereafter. In witness whereof the said parties interchangeably have set to their hands and seal the day and year first above written."

There is no record of Matthew's death in the parish registers, but his wife Dorothy was buried on 28th March, 1690, at Sedbergh.


John Leighton (1638 - 1713)

John, the son of Matthew Leighton, was probably born at Luneside, and was baptised at Sedbergh on 15th December, 1638. There is no record of his marriage to Isabell, but this can be deduced from the burial of Isabell in 1722, where she is described as the wife of John Leighton, and is supported by two of John's sons each naming a daughter Isabel.

John and Isabell had four children, all sons:

  1. Matthew Leighton, baptised 7 February 1668/9 "sonn of John Leighton of blands gill". Married Jennet Pearson in Shap, Westmorland, and had children there.
  2. John Leighton, baptised 26 March 1671. Married Annas (Agnes) Shippherd.
  3. James Leighton, baptised 2 November 1673 "son of John Leighton of the swineridding"
  4. Myles Leighton, baptised 24 June 1677 (see below)

From the parish registers we can infer that John moved away from Luneside after his marriage. Initially he was at Blandsgill (about 2¼ miles northwest of Sedbergh town), but by 1673 he was at "the Swineridding". Swineridding appears on an 1852-53 map (but not on later maps), and was in Garsdale, close to Hole House, at grid reference SD707911.

John was buried at Sedbergh on 23rd January, 1713/4; his wife Isabell was buried on 10th May, 1722.


Myles Leighton (1677 - 1754)

Myles was christened at Sedbergh on 24th June, 1677, "son of John Leighton of the Swineriding". He married Jane Bayliff at Sedbergh on 8th April, 1703. They had nine children, all born or baptised in Sedbergh:

  1. John Leighton, baptised 12 December 1703 (see below)
  2. James Leighton, baptised 28 January 1704/5, buried 16 February 1704/5
  3. Isabell Leighton, baptised 27 December 1705
  4. Matthew Leighton, baptised 6 February 1708/9. Married Jane Moor.
  5. Myles Leighton, baptised 16 December 1710, buried 17 December 1710.
  6. George Leighton, baptised 13 July 1712, buried 7 September 1712.
  7. Anthony Leighton, baptised 26 June 1715
  8. Richard Leighton, baptised 9 March 1717/8. Married Agnes Wilson.
  9. Ann Leighton, baptised 21 October 1722. Probably married John Cock.

The parish register entries for some of their children's christenings give a clue to the family's movement between farms in the area. Between 1703 and 1705 they were at The Knott. This is the name of a hill to the northeast of Sedbergh - presumably there was a farm there. In 1710 they were back at the Swineridding, and in 1717 they were at Fawcett Bank, 2 miles northeast of Sedbergh on the west bank of the River Rawthey.

Myles was buried at Sedbergh on 21st October 1754; his wife Jane was buried on 3rd October 1757


John Leighton (1703 - 1769?)

John was the first child of Miles and Jane Leighton, and was christened at Sedbergh on 12th December, 1703, "son of Myles Leighton of the Knott". He married Averil (or Alveralla) Metcalf on 9th June, 1731, at Sedbergh. They had 5 children, all baptised at Sedbergh:

  1. Miles Leighton, baptised 8 June 1732
  2. John Leighton, baptised 6 October 1734
  3. Thomas Leighton, baptised 24 October 1736
  4. Richard Leighton, baptised 18 February 1738/9
  5. Matthew Leighton, baptised 13 November 1743 (see below)

A John Leighton of Underbank was buried on 7 September 1769, which may or may not have been the same person. Alveralla was buried at Sedbergh on 7 September 1787, aged 85.


Matthew Leighton (1743 - 1823)

Matthew, baptised at Sedbergh on 13th November, 1743, was probably the last child of John and Averil Leighton. He married Elizabeth Greenbank (daughter of William Greenbank of Dent, born 1745) at Sedbergh, on 12th May, 1777. Matthew and Elizabeth's children were:

  1. Alveralla, born 31 May 1778
  2. Elizabeth, born 6 November 1779
  3. John Leighton, born 30 April 1782
  4. William Leighton, born 8 April 1784 (see below)
  5. Miles Leighton, born 29 January 1786. Married Catherine Ridley of Haltwhistle, and moved to Dumfries, where he was Provost 1852-55 and 1856-60. Descendants emigrated to New Zealand.
  6. Mary Leighton, born 27 April 1788

Matthew died on 16th January, 1823, at the age of 79 (a ripe old age in those days), and was buried at Sedbergh four days later. His wife had died in 1821 aged 76.


William Leighton (1784 - 1848)

William was the second son of Matthew and Elizabeth Leighton. He was born on 8th April, 1784, and was christened at Sedbergh on 9th May of the same year. He may have lived at Garsdale before his marriage.

He married Nancy Atkinson at Sedbergh on 23rd August, 1813. Nancy was born in Bland, near Sedbergh, the daughter of William and Eleanor Atkinson. They had 12 children, all born or baptised in Sedbergh:

  1. Elizabeth Leighton, bapt. 17 July 1814. Married William Woods.
  2. Eleanor Leighton, bapt. 1 Sept 1816. Married Joseph Law.
  3. Matthew Leighton, bapt. 24 May 1818 (see below)
  4. Agnes Leighton, bapt. 30 July 1820
  5. Mary Leighton, bapt. 30 July 1820 (twin sister of Agnes). Although she never married, she had two sons, and lived most of her adult life in Kendal. Died in 1901.
  6. William Leighton, bapt. 16 October 1821. Died in infancy
  7. John Leighton, bapt. 1 December 1822
  8. Alverella Leighton, bapt. 2 April 1826. Married Robert Matthews.
  9. James Leighton, bapt. 27 January 1828. Died aged 27.
  10. Miles Leighton, bapt 24 February 1830
  11. Thomas Leighton, bapt. 3 June 1832. Died aged 27.
  12. Nancy Leighton, bapt. 10 July 1836

William was a farmer, and around 1840 was living at Toad Pool (or Puddle), Frostrow, where he farmed an area of 23 acres belonging to John Adamthwaite, although at the same time he was both owner and occupier of land and property at Hall Bank. In his will, dated 1845, he described himself as a husbandman, of Hall Bank. He died at Toad Pool on 27th January, 1848, and was buried at Sedbergh. His wife Nancy died in 1857 at Hall Bank, where her son Matthew lived.


Matthew Leighton (1818 - 1883)

Matthew was born at Frostrow, near Sedbergh, and was christened at Sedbergh on 24th May, 1818. When aged 23 he was living and working as a servant at Underwinder, a farm at Marthwaite, near Sedbergh. He married Mary Braithwaite at Sedbergh on 2nd January, 1843. Mary was one of eleven children, the daughter of Thomas and Ann Braithwaite, who farmed at Garsdale Rigg. After marrying, Matthew and Mary settled at Hall Bank, Frostrow, near Sedbergh, and remained there until at least 1861. They had 9 children:

  1. Nancy, born 26 February 1843 at Garsdale Rigg. Married Thomas Nelson.
  2. Alverella, born 5 August 1845 at Hall Bank
  3. Elizabeth, born 3 October 1849 at Hall Bank. Married Henry Brunskill and moved to Leeds.
  4. Eleanor, born 17 July 1852 at Hall Bank
  5. James, born 17 September 1857 at Hall Bank
  6. Agnes, born 20 August 1859 at Hall Bank (see below)
  7. Sarah Ann, born 27 September 1861 at Hall Bank
  8. John William, born 24 December 1861 at Sedbergh
  9. Mary Jane, born 6 April 1866 at Sedbergh. Died in infancy

He farmed until about 1860, when he began operating a carrier service with George Dodd. The Post Office Directories of the time show them operating to Kendal on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Later, his partner was James Ellis.

On 1st March 1866, Matthew was charged with bringing "one calf's skin, four cows' hoofs, and about six stones of cows' offal" into Firbank, Westmorland, in contravention of restrictions imposed during an outbreak of cattle plague. He pleaded guilty, and was fined £2 with 13 shillings costs. [Kendal Times, 3 March 1866]

The family eventually moved from Hall Bank into Sedbergh town, where they had addresses in Lockbank Lane (1866), Howgill Lane (1871) and Back Yard (off Main Street, near the Golden Lion - 1881).

He died in 1883 following an accident, which was reported in The Westmorland Gazette of Saturday, March 31st, 1883. On Thursday, March 22nd, he had been walking with his horse and cart in Peat Lane, Kendal, when the horse was frightened by a train and bolted. One of the cart wheels ran over him. He was picked up by a passer-by and helped back onto the cart. Later the same morning, another passer-by, James Bindloss, took him to the Castle Inn for some brandy, then helped him with some deliveries before taking him to the Wool Pack Inn, from where he called a doctor. Mary travelled to Kendal and joined her husband at the Wool Pack on Thursday afternoon, and remained there with him until his death at about 2 o'clock on the Sunday afternoon.

Matthew was buried at Sedbergh on 28th March, 1883. His widow Mary died at Sedbergh on 14th February 1889, aged 68.


Agnes Leighton (1859 - 1939)

Agnes was the sixth child of Matthew and Mary Leighton, and was born at Hall Bank, Frostrow, near Sedbergh, on 20th August 1859. Shortly before her marriage, the 1881 census shows her living as a housemaid at Guldrey Lodge, Marthwaite, the home of William Thompson, curate of Sedbergh.

She married John Armitstead at Sedbergh parish church on 18th June, 1881, and moved to Kirkby Lonsdale, where she and John had 5 children:

  1. John Armitstead, born 8 March 1882. Became a butler.
  2. Mary Agnes Armitstead, born 28 March 1884. Married Harry John Evans and moved to Burnley
  3. Matthew Leighton Armitstead, born 16 May 1886
  4. Richard Armitstead, born 3 March 1889
  5. Joe Braithwaite Armitstead, born 19 June 1894

They lived in Tram Lane, Kirkby Lonsdale during the 1890s, but had moved to 15 Market Square by 1901. They took in boarders - two were living there in 1901, and local directories indicate that Agnes continued to do so after John's death in 1914. She was still at this address in 1930.

Agnes later moved to Burton-in-Lonsdale, to live with her son Richard and daughter-in-law Ethel at the Joiner's Arms Hotel. She died there at the age of 80, on 14th January, 1939. She left a will, leaving her estate (net value £530 6s 9d) to be divided among her 5 children. She was buried in the same grave as her husband in Kirkby Lonsdale churchyard.


John Armitstead, York, England.  Last updated 7 April 2017