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Re: Elizabeth Anne Butler (nee Greetham)
Posted by: Doug Greetham Date: February 21, 2001 at 07:45:34
In Reply to: Re: Elizabeth Anne Butler (nee Greetham) by Norm Butler of 66

Part Three. I'll get to part four(the last) in a few days.

Benjamin Greetham (1765 – 1825)

Child of Benjamin Greetham and Bridget Dench was:
              Eliza Rose, b. unknown

Children of Benjamin Greetham and Margaret Tyldesley were married on the Isle of Man, in Kirk Arbory on Nov. 14, 1795. Their children were,
              Richard James Greetham, b. about 1797; d. July 02, 1853, Ancient Yard #I2, Kirk Arbory, IOM; m. (1) Sarah Cawkwell, August 01, 1822, St. Peters Church, Liverpool, m. (2) Sarah White, date unknown
              Thomas Tyldesley Greetham, b. December 1799, Liverpool; d. July 23, 1801, St. James, Liverpool.
              Benjamin Greetham, b. April 23, 1801, Liverpool; d. June 26, 1849, St. James, Liverpool; m. Elizabeth Evans.
              Mary Anne Greetham, b. May 29, 1803.
              Catharine Greetham, b. about 1804.
              Robert Quayle Greetham, b. about 1805; d. May 01, 1848, Castle Mona Lawn, IOM.

enjamin Greetham will be described in two parts, in that his marriage to Margaret Tyldesley necessitates a detailed examination of her family before we can adequately explain their life together.

Part 1

Benjamin was the last of our forebears to have been born in Portsea, on Sept. 9, 1766. This date ties back nicely to the inscription on his grave stone, which reads , “sacred to the memory of Benjamin Greetham, who departed this life, the 22nd of Dec. 1825, Aged 60 years.” The entry in the Portsea records states his father as a William Greetham. However, this reference must be to his Godfather in that Isaac’s will clearly names Benjamin as his son.

There are numerous references to Benjamin in Liverpool’s trade directories;

1790, ‘96 Ships Chandler, Salt House Dock       
1797, 1805, ’16, ’21 Rope and Ships Chandler, St James St              
1823, 25 Gentleman

There are other references to his occupation which list him first as a ships chandler and then as a rope maker. One from the death certificate of his son Thomas (who died of scarlet fever) and also his will (appendix 8). He was also referenced as Benjamin and Co, a partnership formed with his younger brother Thomas. Two codicils to his will indicate that this relationship was fractured because of an apparent family squabble.

He married twice. First to Bridget Dench, who then disappeared from the record, along with their only child, Eliza Rose. The assumption is that they both died. He then married Margaret Tyldesley “of the Friary,” on the Isle of Man. They married Nov. 14, 1795 on the Island, at Kirk Arbory. This church is about 400 yd. from the Friary Farm where Margaret presumably lived. The church still exists and is still active. Why would he marry a woman from the Island rather than someone from Liverpool? Three possibilities come to mind
·       The Tyldesley’s were of the local gentry and it was the norm in English society to marry their daughters as well as possible. Bear in mind that most of the aristocracy’s wealth was tied up in real estate and that only the eldest son stood to inherit. Thus, everyone else in any given family had to scramble for anything and everything. In terms of a daughter, marriage to a successful merchant was very acceptable.
·       He seems to have done sufficient business on the island to have rented a house near Castletown called the “Bowling Green House” . He therefore would have been known to the local community. There is also evidence that Benjamin knew Margaret’s brother, Richard about five years before they were married. The two of them were named as witnesses at a wedding on the island in 1790.
·       Finally there is the possibility that they knew each other and genuinely fell in love.

Regardless of how they started out, the situation became somewhat more complicated before long. But before their life together can be described, it is necessary to describe the Tyldesley’s of Man.

The Tyldesley’s of Man (1417 – 1850)


Tyldesley is a place name, the same as Greetham. It is a village outside the city of Manchester. The family is a very old one and was once quite prominent. The name first shows up on the Isle of Man in 1417. To understand how, we must first back up a bit and briefly describe the history of England and how the Isle of Man related to it.

Henry of Bolingbroke assumed the crown of England in 1399 and became Henry IV. He did so by arresting the ruling King, Richard II and then had him murdered. The reason for all of this was that Richard II had exiled Henry, who was his cousin and confiscated all his lands. Something no one thought very highly of, because it flew in the face of the existing laws governing property ownership. When Richard’s back was turned in one of England’s eternal invasions of Ireland to quell the natives, Henry returned from exile and found himself with a considerable backing amongst the nobility and so he challenged Richard for the crown.

Henry won.

In doing so he set in motion the series of events that would later become known as the Wars of the Roses. It also provided Shakespeare with enough plot material for seven of his plays!

Needless to say, assuming the throne without the benefit of primogeniture left the door open for contenders and there were a number of them. Notably, the Percy family from Northumberland, who twice challenged Henry and lost. One of Henry’s supporters throughout these conflicts was Sir John Stanley of Lancashire and his brother William. In gratitude for this, Henry gave them a large amount of property, one of which was a former possession of the Percy family - the Isle of Man.

King Henry IV ordered John Stanley and his brother William, to take possession of the Isle of Man and to hold it in his name. The year was 1405. Later he changed this to a grant of the Island, with the patronage of the Diocese to John Stanley alone and his heirs and assigns, on the service of paying homage and two falcons to all future Kings of England on their coronation, a ceremony which continues to this day. He also gave him an earldom and the Stanley’s thus assumed the title, ”Earl of Derby.” The Stanley’s held the island from this date until 1736. In fact, their ownership was so absolute that the early rulers called themselves “The King of Man and the Isles.”

All was well until the last twenty years of the 17th century when the island became a center for international trade, including the import of rum from the West Indies. The reason for this was that customs duties on Man were much lower than those in Britain and Ireland, and gave rise to a very lucrative smuggling trade between the island and its neighbors. In fact, from that period until 1765, the Isle of Man unofficially became, a virtual duty-free port with a status in Europe corresponding to that held by Singapore in South-East Asia today. The fact that the island lies in the Irish Sea, about 50 miles from Liverpool, made this port the principle entry point for the “trade,” as it was known.

The situation became such a problem for England in the mid 1700’s that England’s economy was threatened. Thus, in 1765, the island was “sold” to the Crown by its owner for 70,000 pounds and the Island became a part of Great Britain. It should be noted that this sale had been anticipated, because the headquarters of the “rum trade” had been transferred a few years earlier to the Faroe Islands!

John, the original Stanley to own the island, never went there. But his son Thomas did in 1417. Thomas changed nothing of the Islands governing structures, left and never came back, and was much loved for it. He did however, leave behind two of his trusted companions to keep the peace and collect his rents. One of these was Thurston Tyldesley. He and his offspring remained a presence on the Island for over 350 years , during which they acquired a considerable amount of property, some of which was described under the name of the Friary farm.

The Friary

The Friary farm seems to have been acquired by the Tyldesley’s in the early 1600’s from the Stanley’s. The farm in and of itself has a fascinating history . It was originally a Franciscan Friary, founded in 1367. Some 800 years before this, “two stones with Ogham inscriptions were raised on the site, possibly by followers of an ancient Celtic Church.” One bears the word MAQLEOG, which is today the modern name of Clague. In a strange resonance, the name Clague will appear again and again throughout the Tyldesley and Greetham presence on the Island. For example, one of the witnesses to Benjamin and Margaret’s wedding would be a Thomas Clague. The two original buildings on the site were a church and the first floor of the farmhouse. The latter serving as the monks dormitory. They were built in the 1370’s, reputedly by the same masons who built Castle Rushen in Castletown and they, just like the castle, are still standing! The church is now used as a storehouse while the farm has two additional floors and is presently owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Noel Cringle. He is today, President of the Manx governing body, known as the House of Keys.

The Tyldesley Family

We lose track of the Tyldesley’s for much of their stay on the Island, but we do know that they continued to play a considerable role in the politics of the place. Their story is picked up with some degree of confidence in the early part of the 18th century. The accompanying chart defines our present knowledge of them.

There are two “facts” to note about the family.

·       The title “Captain” refers to membership in the Manx Fencibles, The Islands militia.
·       Ann was indeed a distant cousin of the same Stanley family mentioned above. This family’s pedigree, showing Ann’s relationship is outlined in Appendix 5.

The sequence of events that now follows is critical in defining future events.

Thomas’ wife, Catherine Quayle died in 1780, then Richard Tyldesley died in 1781. He had bequeathed to his oldest son “for certain considerations” the Friary and three other farms, which in time would become collectively known as the Friary Farm. What these “certain considerations” where, is not known. None-the-less, Thomas inherited and promptly died three years later. Moreover, he died intestate and his brother-in-law, Robert Quayle assumed responsibility for the property and Thomas’ three orphaned children . It would appear that Robert was in considerable disagreement with a few of his relatives and in-laws as to how to raise the children and how to manage the farm. However, when a court convened to settle the dispute, almost everyone involved remained so. When Thomas died, his eldest son Richard inherited the farm. Tragically, he too died, at the age of 25. The gravestone in the churchyard at Kirk Arbory states his death to have been in 1797. There is evidence that he was living on the farm in 1793 where his occupation is listed as “gentleman”. He was also listed as a Captain in the Manx Fencibles, which was integrated with the 39th foot Regiment of the English Army in 1794. Curiously, this is the regiment sent to Montreal to keep the peace after France ceded New France (Quebec) to England, about the same time as these events were unfolding on the Island

Richard’s death came after his sister Margaret married Benjamin Greetham. In other words, when Benjamin married Margaret, there was no expectation of inheriting any of the Tyldesley property on the island. Thus, Margaret went off to live in Liverpool with her husband and in fact never returned. However, Thomas also died the following year and Margaret did indeed inherit the Friary Farm, just about the time she and Benjamin had their first son.


It seems safe to assume that Benjamin and Margaret remained in Liverpool simply because his business was too successful to give up for the sake of his wife’s inheritance. One wonders what kind of conversations took place in the Greetham household on the subject. Remember that English aristocracy then defined membership in their exclusive club as “someone who did not work for a living”. Benjamin and Margaret could have joined this club, but to do so would have meant selling his business and moving to the Isle of Man. My guess is that in doing so their life style would have changed from that of prominent urban dwellers in a large and prosperous city to farmers on a small island that was probably outside the mainstream of English society. Sensibly, they stayed in Liverpool. Their actions seem to be quite in keeping with inscription on Benjamin’s father’s grave stone, “whose path thro’ life was marked by temperance and strict integrity”. The family is undoubtedly best described as dependable and solidly conservative. They were also significant members of St. James Church in that not only did Benjamin have a burial vault like his brother Thomas, but his was in the foundation of the Church, at the foot of the stairs to the right front door. And it’s the only one there. While the Church is now derelict but standing and all the graveyard moved to another location, Benjamin’s burial vault is still to be seen.

Most of the information we have about Benjamin and Margaret derives from their wills. We will start with Benjamin’s . It is written in November of 1807. At that point in time he would have been 42 years old, his wife 33 and their children ranging from 10 to just born. He would live for another 18 years. In it he states,

“Whereas my oldest son Richard James Greetham will, in right of his mother be entitled to an estate on the Isle of Man at her death, I am therefore inclined to make some provision for my younger children before he be entitled to any part of my property.”

He then goes on to say that everything goes to his wife until each of the children reaches the age of 21. Until that time,

“…. the rents, profits of my real estate and the interest and produce of the residue of my personal estate, ….. for the term of her natural life for her own maintenance and the maintenance, education and binding out apprentice of my younger children…”

His provision for his younger children is that at the age of 21, each would be paid up to 500 pounds. The money to be derived from the sale of a part of his estate. Then, on the death of his wife, everything was to be sold off and each child was to be given an additional 500 pounds. If anything was left over, after each child received a total of 1,000 pounds, it was to be divided amongst all of his children, including Richard James. Finally, he stated that if all the children were dead before his wife died, then his estate would go to his brother Thomas. He then named his wife and his wife’s uncle, Robert Quayle, as executors.

Four and a half years later, he hurriedly hand wrote a codicil which backtracks part of his will, in that he had given away his wife’s estates without her consent! English law at that time allowed women to hold real estate in their own name but that a husband was entitled to realize any income that might accrue from such holdings. He had been a little confused. In any event, he makes amends and further states that she is to receive all his household furniture. There is then a really curious statement,

“And as my beloved brother has become quite rich since I made that will I, for fear that my children shall come under the command of his wife who has of late behaved very badly ………I revoke that part of my will leaving my heir ??? in case of my wife and children’s deaths.”

“…in consequence of hurts given by my brother and Charlotte his wife of their wish for a dissolution of partnership of me and my dear brother Thomas.”

He then writes another codicil 8 days later in which he expands household furniture to include,

“all my household furniture, linen, plate, books, instruments and organ, if she remains a widow”.

Before describing what actually happened at his death, it is worthwhile speculating on what all of the above might possibly have meant.

·       If Benjamin was to give each of his children 1,000 pounds before Richard James received anything, the Estates on the Isle of Man must have been worth as much or more. At least, that was probably the case when he wrote his will
·       His personal estate would continue to produce something after his death. Presumably there was an expectation that someone would carry on the rope making business, probably Richard James.
·       He made provision for the apprenticeship education of his younger sons. Therefore, regardless of what he owned there was the expectation that his children would remain within the merchant class and not grow beyond that. Moreover, he expected them to remain within the traditional and conservative merchant class, rather than the more aggressive class of capitalists that the industrial revolution had begun to grow.
·       He owned an organ? Must have had a fairly large house and it must have been a fairly accomplished household.
·       He was in a partnership with his brother Thomas and Thomas’ wife wanted it dissolved? Sounds like Charlotte wanted to move up in the world and Benjamin, or Margaret, or both wanted to stay where they were.

All of Benjamin’s worries came to naught, Thomas’ wife notwithstanding. When he died his children were all grown and his wife lived on for another 25 years without remarrying.

A copy of the Benjamin’s death duty register has also been acquired. In it is described how his estate was distributed and how much it was actually worth. Unfortunately the document is difficult to read and impossible to reproduce. What follows is my interpretation.

Benjamin died in 1825 and his will was probated. The first set of disbursements was made in Aug. of 1826 when each of the four children received 317 pounds. These four were Benjamin (Jr.), Mary Ann, Catherine and Robert Quayle. Then, when Margaret died in 1850 the remainder of the estate was sold off and each of these same children, or their children, received 807 pounds, in 1855. They had thus, each received a total of 1,124 pounds. There was a balance left over after these disbursements and it was distributed on July 2, 1856. The amount was 2,106 pounds and was given out to all five children, including Richard James. The net result of all of this was that the four younger children each received 1,545 pounds and Richard James received 421 pounds. The total amount being 6,603 pounds.

All of this is well and good, but just what does 6,600 pounds represent in today’s terms? The best guess I can make after reading through a couple of books on the subject is that it’s roughly equivalent to $2M in today’s US currency. Or to be more accurate, in today’s equivalent buying power.

Please note that none of the above involved the Friary Farm. That was Margaret’s to hold until she died. However, one assumes that her eldest son would derive any income from it, as his father had done before him – until she died.


The last will to be considered is Margaret’s which she wrote on July 18, 1849. She died one and a half years later, on Dec. 13, 1850.

In it, she acknowledged her husbands will and it’s codicils. She then gave all her personal property to her two daughters Mary Ann and Catherine. The estates on the Isle of Man were specifically excluded from this, but nowhere did she indicate just who was to get them. The presumption is that it was Richard James. She then went on to state,

“…and I declare that I expressly release all debts, claims or demands due to me from my son Richard James Greetham and of my late son Benjamin Greetham or any or other of my children…..”

That’s it. Nowhere does it say where she died, nor do we know how much her estate was worth. The curious statement specifically releasing Richard James and Benjamin’s debts would indicate that these were significant. There was a footnote to the probate document in which the estate of Robert Quayle claimed 100 pounds against her estate. He was obviously now dead and that Margaret owed him something, for some unknown reason.

Kirk Arbory Today

St James Church Today


This ends our journey through 230 years of our family’s presence in two English cities, Portsmouth and Liverpool. The story now shifts to the Isle of Man and beyond. It is appropriate at this time to take a backward glance, to try and put a perspective on all of what that has been found.

We have tracked five generations of our family, three in Portsmouth and two in Liverpool. In both places, the family’s presence coincided with periods of great economic growth. Growth that changed the social and economic structures of England forever. Most of our family participated in this growth and prospered as members of an emerging merchant class, the English equivalent of the French bourgeoisie.

Most of us seem to have been members of what we would be called the upper middle class. For example; when James Greetham petitions for the construction of St. James Church in 1775, he is described as a merchant, but in 1781 he is described as a gentleman. He had become a squire or lesser member of the gentry. James father described himself as a gentleman in his will in 1776. There is also the mysterious reference to James Greetham, gentleman of Southampton in an earlier time. Again, Benjamin married into the gentry from the Isle of Man, plus his burial vault at St James church in Liverpool is located in the church’s foundation. This would indicate that he had become the local squire. One indication of Benjamin’s aspirations in this regard, would be in giving several of his children ancestral names. Thus Richard James, Thomas Tyldesley, Mary Anne and Robert Quayle Greetham. He seems to have been the first of our family to have done this.

While some of this merchant class would aggressively exploit the lower classes of society to their own benefit and become, in time, the capitalists of England, the majority of them remained attached to the old ways of apprenticeship and craftsmanship. They would remain royalist and strongly conservative. It is in this latter class that our family seems best to fit, rising and falling in and out of the lower ranks of the gentry.

They were, in effect, a microcosm of English society during its transition from an agricultural to industrial economy.

The family then simply disappears from both Portsmouth and Liverpool. Today there are two Greethams listed in the Liverpool phone book and neither knows anything of their origins. The same seems to be the case in Portsmouth.

Benjamin’s family evolved as follows. Robert Quayle Greetham moved to the Isle of Man some time before 1848. His death notice appeared in the Manx papers in 1848 . We also know that Mary Anne Greetham was not in Liverpool when her mother died in 1850, in that she was not stated to have been at the probate hearing of Margaret’s will, whereas Catherine Greetham was present and defined as a spinster. Then latter, when Richard James died, both Mary Anne and Catherine were stated to be living in Douglas, on Man. We know nothing about Benjamin Jr. Greetham except that he died in Liverpool and was buried at St James. His wife and children then disappear. There is a suspicion that they all went back to her parental home of Chester. One of his children, Peter Greetham married a woman on the island of Malta and they had children, but we know nothing of their fate or whereabouts.

We also know very little about Benjamin’s siblings. While William moved to this country and fathered a large family, repeated attempts at locating his descendents have produced little. Thomas’ descendents seem to have also migrated to North America. A David Greetham in NYC and another Greetham in the Toronto area are his descendents, but neither knows anything beyond what has already been described here.

The story of our family’s presence in England ends on this note. Our family lived in England, under the name of Greetham, for 600 years, or more. The last 230 of which are reasonably well documented. Our specific family now devolves entirely to Richard James Greetham and his descendents. However, that story moves to the Isle of Man, then on to Montreal and we will reserve its narration for the next volume.


In rereading all of this before committing it to print, I end up wondering about a few things.

In writing it, I have attempted to place the “facts” of our family within the context of some sort of condensed readers digest version of English history(my version). Otherwise these facts would have no meaning. Now there have been individuals in the past who so powerfully affected events around them, that they could be understood as the context itself. The “facts” of their life defined the context.

Is there any evidence of this being the case in our family’s history? The answer seems to obviously be no. To put it another way, we did not shape events, rather they shaped us. Within the context of the time, we were simply ordinary folk who undoubtedly suffered their share of failures, along with the successes that are recorded in their wills.

So why bother writing about them at all?

I believe that it’s is a worthwhile endeavor because of the simple fact of our own existence. It is necessary to know how and why we came to be who we are. Willa Cather once wrote;

“As we grow old we become more and more the stuff our forebears put into us…… We think we are so individual and so misunderstood when we are young; but the nature our strain of blood carries is inside there, waiting, like our skeleton”

So who were these Greetham’s, whose strain of blood is still with us?

Well for one thing, they were a tough bunch. They all lived and worked within the context of dockyards and waterfront. First in Portsmouth and then in Liverpool. One does not succeed in that sort of environment without being so. They were also willing to take risks, at least in the earlier generations. Charles packed it up and went to Portsmouth, Isaac packed it up and went on to Liverpool. James, in between, managed to hold everyone and everything together through a remarkably long life under the chaotic circumstances of the emerging town of Portsea. Assuredly, none of the places they lived were kind or gentle.

Yet everyone seemed to stick together. They took care of each other. They went to church together. There were two instances in the parish register of St Marys in Portsea, when more than one Greetham child was baptized on the same day. Perhaps the most fitting epitaph for the entire five generations was the one found on Isaac’s grave stone.

A family, “whose path thru life was marked by temperance and strict integrity”


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