My seventeenth and eighteenth century Leatherland ancestors lived in several Northamptonshire villages which border Warwickshire and Leicestershire. The family seems to originate in Clay Coton in the 1650s. It is not clear where they came from before then although there are clues to an earlier family which lived in Clifton upon Dunsmore on the outskirts of Rugby. My line seems to have moved to Yelvertoft in the 1690s and then to Crick in the 1730s. During the later 18th century they moved to Kilsby, and then Pailton and Churchover durong the 19th century.

The Evidence 

They have been traced using the parish registers which exist for Clay Coton from 1541, Crick (from 1559), and Yelvertoft (from 1575). Unfortunately the earliest Kilsby parish registers were lost many years ago although there are Bishop’s Transcripts (copies of the registers made for the Bishop) from 1706 which may be incomplete. The Kilsby parish registers start in 1754 (for marriages) and 1785 (for baptisms and burials). There are missing links in my ancestry which may be explained by the lost parish registers. The Northants Militia List for 1777 is an excellent source although it only lists men between the ages of 18 and 45.


I have made an assumption that most of my Leatherland ancestors remained within the Northants / Warwickshire / Leicestershire area focussed on the villages mentioned above and the evidence tends to support this. Although some families lived in the same area for generations, it was not unusual to move up to ten to twelve miles away for example when looking for work. Although railways were not built until the 1830s, prior to that people would travel around by horse, or horse and cart / coach, or by walking, and the extent to which people travelled and communicated over long distances can be surprising. For example, we tend to think that postal services began with the Penny Post of 1840, but there were postal systems and deliveries for more than a century before that. It might have taken several days for post (and people) to travel around the country, but there is plenty of evidence that travel over long distances did take place. It is always dangerous to assume that families were static. The search for work, civil war, joining the county militia, gaining an apprenticeship could all lead people to move around. It can be very difficult to trace this, even with a rare surname, which is why I do not discount the possibility that some of the branches of my family veer off in unexpected directions.

Clay Coton Leitherlands

I know very little about my earliest ancestors. The only clue lies in the parish register for Elizabeth Leitherland which described her as a “poor widow”. There are no family wills for this period and I have found no other evidence to shed light on their circumstances. It seems likely that Edward and Elizabeth were farm labourers. They had eight children over a period of sixteen years, three of whom died in infancy. One son may have died just before he was 30. One daughter may have died unmarried at the age of 60. The other three children married and had children. None of them appear in Gren Hatton's transcriptions of wills made in the area in the 16th and 17th centuries, and there are few parish records which have survived other than the registers. It is nevertheless possible to find out about the lives of the working poor at that time through the work of historians of early modern social history, and I hope to expand this chapter in due course to paint a picture of their lives.

Yelvertoft Yearnings

My direct family line settled in Yelvertoft in the 1680s / 1690s. The parish registers enable their baptism, marriage and death to be traced. Once again there is relatively little other documentary evidence, but there are now some clues. When Christopher Leatherland married in 1686 he married by marriage licence rather than via banns. I don't have a copy of the licence. His wife Sarah's first child was baptised five weeks after they married, which may be why the marriage took place by licence – which was quicker and more discreet - rather than banns. They had a further eight children in the space of 20 years. Little more is known about Christopher but the parish burial entry described him as 'poor'.

Family Fortunes in Crick

The family fortunes seem to have prospered during the second half of the eighteenth century. The direct ancestor Edward married a carpenter's daughter by licence. The licence gives some clues about Edward describing him as the servantman of Jermiah Bullock who is known to have been a schoolmaster in Crick. Edward's father in law, William Watts, left a will the contents of which indicate that he was fairly prosperous. Edward had two sons : Edward and William. Son William seems to be the one who continued the family line, but his brother Edward junior became a weaver and amassed considerable wealth. His will left en estate of £450, although he had no children so the wealth passed outside the direct family most of it being left to friends and his Ekins nieces (apparently on his wife's side). The William Leatherland / Clark Problem Meanwhile, Edward's brother William is somewhat of a Problem. There is evidence that a boy called William was baptised in 1764 in Crick, son of William Leatherland and Eliza Clark. I can find no evidence that they married so was the boy brought up as William Leatherland ? Or as William Clark ? The answer to this is key to my family history.

Kilsby Conundrums

In 1783 a William Leatherland married Ann Hall in Kilsby. Was this the boy born in 1764 ? If he was, he would have been 19 when he married, which is younger than the age at which most men married. William and Ann had two children, one dying in infancy. Ann died in 1801. Two years later, William married again to Jane Daniel in Kilsby and they had nine children the last of whom was baptised in 1822. If this is boy baptised in 1764, he would have been 58 years old when his last child was born in 1822 which is quite possible but raises some doubts. William Leatherland was buried in Kilsby aged 69 in 1830. This would mean he was born in 1761. This might be the William baptised in 1764 as ages at death are not always accurate in the burial records. However, there are at least two other William Leatherlands who may be the one who married Ann Hall and then Jane Daniel : William Leatherland baptised in Watford in 1760, son of William and Rebecca. This would fit better with the William Leatherland buried in Kilsby in 1830 aged 69. Or . . . William Leatherland who was baptised 1765 in Little Addington, Northants, son of John and Hannah. The first alternative William is also a direct descendant of the Clay Coton Leitherlands.


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