The Greatorex family of Nantwich

This website details the history of the Greatorex family

The Sudbury family

Sudbury is a parish and small village 13 miles south west of Derby. It is a typical English village within which is a church, manor house, school, pub and a few houses for the inhabitants, many of whom would have either worked at the hall or provided the services required for the village.

The Doomsday book of 1086 records that there was a church at Sudbury. This was most likely a wooden building on the site of the present church. This building was replaced by a stone building after the Norman conquest, and was rebuilt around 1300.

Further additions were built in later centuries with the south porch and other works being added at the time of the building of the existing Sudbury Hall by George Vernon in 1659.

The manor of Sudbury was given by the Conqueror to Henry de Ferrers, the Earl of Derby, who fought with him at the battle of Hastings in 1066. In the early Norman period it was held under the de Ferrers by the Montgomery family of Cubley Hall near Sudbury.

In 1513, during the reign of Henry VIII, an heiress of the Montgomery family married Sir John Vernon, son of Sir Henry Vernon of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, and so brought the estate into the hands of the Vernon family, who were themselves of Norman descent.

A descendant, Sir John Vernon, who lived at the Rectory, died in 1600. His wife, Dame Mary Vernon, began to have problems. First with the local priest, Clement Austin, and then with a nephew who, with an unruly mob, forced an entry into the house while she was away and lived riotously for a week before they were arrested by the Sheriff. These difficulties persuaded Dame Mary, in 1613, to build for herself, her son Edward and his wife Margaret, a small Manor House at Sudbury.

After the death of Dame Mary the Vernon family did not spend their lives at the manor, preferring either Houndshill or Hilton, properties some 5 miles away that had been inherited by Margaret. In 1659 their son, George, inherited the property and he built the fine Manor House  that stands today.

Sudbury is where my particular branch of the Greatorex family can be first identified through the recordings of Parish registers.

The earliest registers in England and Wales begin in 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, Vicar General to Henry VIII, issued an injunction that records of baptisms, marriages and burials should be kept by the clergy of the Church of England. These early registers were paper books and only a few have survived. Out of 11,000 ancient parishes less than seven hundred (6%) have registers that go back to 1538. Parish registers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but it is the way that these records were written that is important to the family historian. Most of the details of an event would have been made in a notebook or on slips of paper by the Priest or Parish Clerk, and entered into a register at a later date. These records therefore may be incomplete depending on the reliability of the Parish Priest.

The vicar of All Saints, Sudbury from 1595-1637 was Clement Austin. He failed to keep any records during his incumbency and, was on many occasions, in conflict with Dame Mary Vernon.

During the Civil War and Commonwealth period of 1642-1660, many clergymen were forced to leave their parishes. Some took their registers with them, some buried them for safe keeping with the result that many were lost or damaged. During this time the standard of recording deteriorated drastically and in many parishes no records were kept at all during the whole period. Unfortunately, it appears that Sudbury was such a parish. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 did not change things for the better in Sudbury and not until 1673 did church records commence. Even then they could not be regarded as 'well kept'. One of the very first entries in the registers is of the burial of Thomasin, the wife of John Greatoricks, who was buried on August 22nd 1673. During the next seven years are recorded the baptisms of Sarah, January 2nd 1675; Ann, December 25th 1677; William, December 4th 1680; and Jane, August 19th 1683; all children of John and Elizabeth Gratoricks. Another child, John, was born before the records commenced in about 1670. Also, on May 7th 1674, is recorded the baptism of Mary, daughter of Edward Gratoricks and Dorothy his wife.

What does this tell us of the Greatorex family who lived in Sudbury?

The fact that John and Edward were having children in the 1670s indicates that they were probably born around 1645. They may well have been two of the children of John and Thomasin (who was buried in 1673) Greatoricks. John was probably born about 1620. Another child who may well have been the son of John and Thomasin appears to be William who was buried in 1694. I have been researching family history for 35 years and the parish registers of Sudbury are the most incomplete records I have ever researched. Very few people, named in the records, can be identified as being born, married and buried within the parish. This is highly unusual and makes the origins of the family history difficult to ascertain.

How long have the Greatorex family lived in Sudbury and, from where did they come from? These two questions are impossible to answer with any accuracy. John Greatoricks, who was born about 1620, may well have been the first of the family to live in Sudbury. It is equally possible that the family had lived there from much earlier times and they may well have lived in Sudbury since the 1500s or even much earlier. From where did they come from? From somewhere in Derbyshire.

The first Greatorex to live in Sudbury was probably a younger son of one of the families that had, by the 16th century, populated many villages in Derbyshire. Quite possibly from Hopton, Callow, Carsington or Wirksworth, where an extensive Greatorex network of families had thrived since the 14th century. The Greatorex family had all but died out in Great Rocks Dale by the middle of the 16th century but he may well have been a brother to William or Hugh, who left England for Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth I. We may never know, but with the availability of medieval records for researching improving, the answer may one day be found.

I will now try to identify the genealogy of the family in Sudbury based on available information and, where information is scant, or missing, by filling in the gaps using the most likely scenario. I will only identify the main family history. Other members of the Sudbury family are identified in the register report and descendant tree to be found at the end of this chapter.

The family tradition is that the eldest son in the family is always named John. In nearly every generation of each part of my family this has turned out to be so. There are exceptions, one of which I will discuss in a later chapter.

John Greatoricks (1) was born about 1620 and married Thomasin. They had three sons, John (2), who married Elizabeth; William, who married Mary; and Edward, who married Dorothy.

John (2) was born about 1650 and died on 13th November 1713. His wife, Elizabeth, died September 24th, 1697. They had 5 children. John (3), who was born about 1670; Sarah, baptised January 1st, 1675; Anne, baptised December 25th, 1677; William, baptised December 4th, 1680; and Jane, baptised August 19th, 1683.

John (3) was born about 1670. He married Anne, who was buried on December 1st, 1736. They had three known children. Edward, who was baptised at Sudbury church on January 8th, 1693/1694 (until 1752, Britain used the Julian calendar which started each new year in late March. Therefore dates that show two years indicate that the event was in the second of the two figures, using the new, Gregorian calendar which started each new year in January) and was buried on September 25th, 1694 in Sudbury churchyard; a second, Edward, was baptised on December 13th, 1694 (the idea of naming a son using the same name as a sibling who had pre-deceased their birth was a common occurrence in all families during this period, when many died early); and Thomas.

Thomas Gratrex (4) was born about 1700 and was buried in Sudbury on October 16th, 1754. He married Elizabeth Martin in Sudbury church on February 25th, 1729/1730. Elizabeth was buried on July 17th, 1754, three months before her husband. Their sixth son, Joseph, also died in November of 1754, aged 11 and their fourth daughter, Dorothy, died in December of that year aged 8. Four deaths in one family, within the space of six months! This indicates a contagious disease such as Smallpox, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Cholera, or one of many such diseases that our ancestors had to contend with, has visited the family.

Thomas and Elizabeth had 12 children born between 1731 and 1748. John was baptised in Sudbury on December 1st, 1731; Thomas, on May 15th, 1733; Ann, on August 16th, 1735; Sarah, on September 27th, 1737; John, on February 9th, 1738/1739; Edward, 1740; Jonathan, on November 5th, 1741; Joseph, on August 6th, 1743; Henry, on February 17th, 1743/1744; Elizabeth, on March 21st, 1745/1746; Dorothy, on November 5th, 1746; and Catherine, on January 19th, 1747/1748.

What a disastrous year 1754 must have been for the family. Both parents and two children had died, leaving a family of nine remaining children. The oldest, Thomas, was 21 years old and the youngest, Catherine, only six years old.

Did Thomas manage to keep the family together? I believe he did. At least for a time. It appears that of the five remaining males, at least three left Sudbury and possibly only Edward, who was buried on April 29th, 1830, in Sudbury, stayed in the village. His grave is to be seen to the left of the church's main doors.

Jonathan (5) and Henry both left for Birmingham where, in 1761, the 'metal bashing' magnate, Matthew Boulton, opened his famous Soho Works. It is possible that this was the year that they left Sudbury to start new families in the Midlands. Thomas ended his days in Dinas, Powys.