The Greatorex family of Nantwich

This website details the history of the Greatorex family


David Greatorex retired from the Fire Service where he reached the rank of Divisional Officer grade 1 (Senior Operations Officer).

He had operational responsibility for

  • 24 fire stations,

  • 800 personnel,

  • The Operations Department,

  • The Command & Control Centre,

  • Brigade Workshops.

He was awarded the Fire Brigade Long Service and Good Conduct Medal by Her Majesty the Queen in 1992.

David retired in 1996.

He now spends his spare time involved in politics, as a School Governor, raising money for local charities and researching his family history.

  • He has been researching his family history for over 30 years

  • His aim is to gather family information in one document to ensure that it will not be lost.

  • His objective is to share family knowledge with the wider Greatorex family both now and in the future.

  • His hope is that by reading his book other members of his family, both now and in the future, will continue the research and answer many of the questions that are, so far, unanswered.


This work is dedicated to my daughter Wendy.

Wendy has continued the name Greatorex in my family by giving my grandchildren,

Jack C. Greatorex-Bailey and Emily M. Greatorex-Bailey,

a unique variation of the name.

No people will look forward to posterity who do not often look backward to their ancestors

(Edmund Burke)




David T. Greatorex

1, Mercer Way




Table of contents


        Chapter 1

        DNA and the Y-chromosome

Chapter 2

The origin of surnames or family names

Chapter 3

The early family

Chapter 4

The Sudbury family

Chapter 5

The Midlands family

Chapter 6

The Showman family


 My family


I became interested in my name from my early school years when my teacher explained the origin of surnames during my favourite lesson, history.

My name, Greatorex, is French, said my Grandmother. Intrigued, I decided to find out. This has been a lifetime's research and a task that I shall never complete.

To start my research I questioned my family. Information was scarce. My Grandfather Albert died of Influenza in the epidemic that swept the world after the Great War. Consequently my father Leonard, who was only 18months old when his father died, knew very little about his family history. In fact he knew almost nothing. This only spurred me on to find out about my ancestors.

I knew that my family had been showmen and that my Great-grandfather, John, had been a travelling photographer and that he stumbled into the amusement profession giving magic lantern shows to the public. He eventually owned and ran his own amusement business as a fairground proprietor.

I started by using the civil records and other records kept in Somerset house, county record offices, libraries and other wondrous places that I loved, but which my wife Pam hated! It was a blessing that she enjoyed shopping and visiting different towns! At the end of the 20th century the internet revolutionised genealogical research. It was now possible to access information from all over the world at the touch of a button.

Various record offices, including Warwickshire and Derbyshire, yielded their information on my family and that of the Greatorex name. I found that the name wasn't French, as my Grandmother had told me, but that it was English. That was a great relief!

I have decided to write My Greatorex family records for a number of reasons. I want to record my research so that future members of my family will know from where they came; so that my research, so far, is not lost; to prove to myself that I can achieve a useful academic work; and because I am planning a reunion of the ancestors of John Greatorex 1846-1905, to coincide with the anniversary of his death, one hundred years ago.

I hope that you enjoy the experience of knowing a little more about the Greatorex family and my particular branch of this noble name. If you do, my efforts will have been worthwhile.




With grateful thanks to the following individuals for their help and support



Philip Roy and Angela Anderson who have helped me by proof reading and assisting me with my English Language skills (or lack of them!).

My wife Pam for accepting some very late nights.

John Titford for his insight into how to write your family history. To my daughter Wendy for buying me his book for my 57th birthday in 2004.

To my many relations who have contributed their knowledge and family details.

In particular to Christine Holmes and Margaret Clarke who have provided me with information and photographs regarding their own branches of the family.

To the many other people and organisations that have given me support.

I thank them all.


No man can be sure that the name he carries links him with generations past who bore the same name. We can't even be sure that the person registered as our Great-grandfather is indeed the man whose genetic DNA we carry. That is a fact. To claim descent from people who lived 900 years ago seems to me to be stretching the imagination way beyond acceptable genealogical boundaries. Yet I am doing just that. Throughout this book I am piecing together 5 different family groups.

The early family is a group of Greatorex families who lived between 1200AD and 1700AD. Their names and exploits have been recorded in a variety of manuscripts and documents. Are they of one family? I believe they are. In fact, I believe that all people with the name Greatorex, or one of it's variant spellings, who are genetically related, claim descent from one man who lived in Great Rocks around 900 years ago and who was known by the place he lived-Gretraches.

Why should I make that statement? Great Rocks Dale was a feudal estate farmed by the Greatorex family for 300 years until it passed, through marriage, to the Bagshawe family. Other members of the family had, during the previous 300 years, left the estate to make their mark in the world. Many of the surrounding villages and towns had their own Greatorex family. Gretraches was no more than a settlement. The chance that more than one family from here took the name as a family name is remote.

I believe Greatorex, or its variant forms, to be the name of just one family who are all related.

In a letter from a Mr Bateman to Mr Glover, the Derbyshire historian, he says; I have no doubt the Irish Greatrakes and the Carsington, Callow, and other families in the Peak of that name, are descendants of the Great Rocks family. Some of these branches climbed high, attaining note and position; and some drooped low, almost to the earth itself.

The Sudbury family are one of those families of a younger son who went looking for a better life. They lived in Sudbury for at least 200 years.

The Midlands family is the story of Jonathan, his son, Henry, and his grandson James. Born in Sudbury, Jonathan, perhaps with other members of his family, left Sudbury for Birmingham. One of his sons, Henry, appears to have moved to Bedworth near Coventry.

The Showman family and My family are within living memory so there can be no argument about the links of these families.

What links these families together? it is faith. We can never be 100% positive about our ancestors. Very often proof is hard to come by, especially looking back hundreds of years. Very often, it's in the lack of evidence to the contrary that we make assumptions about our heritage. I believe that these five groups of families are linked. One day, perhaps through DNA, someone may prove otherwise. Until that day I believe my story will stand.