William Dickinson (1604-1677): Marriages


William Dickinson (1604-1677): Marriages




William inherited a good quality farm from his father and two tenements in Mockerkin from his mother. He was literate, intelligent and obviously going somewhere; so a very good match as a young man. We often concentrate on the 'charms' of the female partner in the arranged marriages of this time; but here's an example of the male being the catch.

He married twice - to Janet and Elizabeth.



The basic problem about his marriages is that there in no known record of the actual events. He didn't marry in Lamplugh, and the registers for neighbouring Dean, Loweswater, Arlecdon and Ennerdale haven't survived for that particular period.

The wives


Successive copies of the family tree at Red How gave Isabel or Elizabeth Steel as the first wife and Janet or Ann Sumpton as the second. A more recent version changed this to 'Janet (Sumpton?) of Wright Green' and 'Elizabeth Steel of Acrewalls', observing that the parish register lists Janet's burial in 1637/8 and that Daniel made an agreement with his mother Elizabeth shortly before 1690. Although this lists the wives in the right order, by the right forenames, and for the right reasons, it still must have the surnames wrong.

Daniel's Mother


The more recent version of the Red How tree seems to show Daniel, the eldest son and heir of William, as being the son of Elizabeth. This can't be the case, as Daniel was baptised (in September 1637) before Janet was buried (in February 1637/8) as the wife of William Dickinson of Streetgate.  Indeed, it is quite possible that Daniel was the cause of Janet's death.

There is no problem about Daniel describing Elizabeth as his 'mother' in written records rather than as his 'stepmother' - that was a prefectly normal usage at the time, and Elizabeth was the only mother that he would remember.



Inheritance proves that William's first wife was Janet Steele, daughter of Anthony Steele.

First Marriage - to Janet Steele (buried 10 February 1637/8)

The Steele property of Keekle Head


Also called Whillimoor Head; or just 'the Head'

This property was given by Anthony Steele to William his son-in-law as a dowry. William's eldest son, Daniel, inherited it.

Had the inheritance come through William's second wife, it is unlikely that Daniel would have inherited the Head. The property would have descended to the eldest son of that marriage.

The fatherless and motherless


Fortunately, there's a conclusive argument to show that the Steele inheritance came through Janet.

After his goods were sequestrated, William explained to the County Standing Committee that he held portions for six children, three fatherless and three motherless.

The three children from this first marriage (Isabel, Elizabeth and Daniel) are the 'three motherless'. They made good quality marriages because they each had an inheritance from their grandfather Anthony Steele.

Your Petitioner having six children portions, the one three fatherless, the other three motherless, the portions given them by one Anthony Steele their grandfather, and left in your petitioner hand in trust for their use; for which your Petitioner entered bond with two neighbours for payment of the said children portions, as shall be sufficiently proved unto your worships; the most of the goods sequestrated unto the said children.
[William Dickinson to the County Standing Committee c1646]

Anthony Steele (elder)


Anthony Steele of Whillimoor was of a younger branch of the Acrewalls family and had inherited the 'Head' at Whiillimoor.

He was fined £10 in 1635 for not appearing at the coronation - a taxation ruse that bore no relation to reality and helped to lose Charles I his head. That he had to pay the tax shows that his land holdings were worth more than £40 p.a.. This was the nominal ground rent value (as a comparison, a single customary tenement without mining rights would have had a ground rent of about 10 shillings p.a.).

As a younger son, he wouldn't have that sort of inheritance through the Steeles. Nor could he have got it through his wife. The most likely explanation is that he inherited a substantial property though his mother - unless he came rich through his own efforts.

At any rate, he held property that was worth far more than the Head, and it's argued below that this was a property in Isel.

Anthony had married Agnes Bowman, the daughter of Henry Bowman of Lingcroft, great-niece of an Archbishop of Canterbury; and neighbour of William Dickinson. The Bowmans controlled the local ecclesiastical court.

Whillimoor was within the manor of Lamplugh and Arlecdon, as was Lingcroft, as was Streetgate. William's marriage to the daughter of the manor's richest tenant, and to a granddaughter of the family controlling the local ecclesiastical court, was undoubtedly a coup. It's not clear whether he was already Steward to the Lord of the Manor - if not, people saw the potential.

The eventual settlement on his grandchildren shows that Anthony must have had two children with three children each, the legacies to these grandchildren being in William's care.

Anthony Steele (younger)


An Anthony Steele of Isel married Frances Kendall of Lamplugh in Cockermouth 01-11-1636. Her father was 'butler' to the Lamplughs of Lamplugh Hall.

It seems very likely that he was son to the Anthony above, and so brother to Janet, William's wife at the time.

[The Kendalls died out in Lamplugh within a generation. It may just be coincidence that a John Kendall was Vicar of Isel for 53 years in the eighteenth century]

Had his father held a freehold in Isel, then Anthony would have inherited that. Whillimore [Keekle) Head would thus have been available as as a dowry for Janet.

The easiest solution to the three fatherless problem would be to assume that Anthony died sometime in the ten years between his marriage and William's petition, most likely at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644. That would give him (or, rather, his wife) time to produce three children.

It's interesting that, in 1669, a Joseph Steele was involved in an agreement with the Patricksons over Salter Grange. The three witnesses were: James, John and Anthony Steele. Could these witnesses have been the children? They would have been old enough to witness - and Joseph could have been a foster father or brother.

The Steeles of Acrewalls and the Head

Second Marriage - to Elizabeth [Jackson?]

William's second wife was certainly an 'Elizabeth', as she is described as such in William's probate. She was described as 'mother' by William's children. There is no record of her surname.

There is some evidence to suggest that she was of a high social standing. In an entry in the Bridekirk register, where she acted as a godmother, she is described as 'Mrs' - I have never found any document describing William as 'Mr'. The first Dickinson to be so described in the Lamplugh register was his grandson, John.

25 November 1673
Daniel filius Richardi Tubman de Tallentyro gen : cujus susceptores fuere Thomas Belman cler : Antonius Wilkes, gen. et Mrs Dickinson de Lamplugh.

However, the child was William's grandson from his first marriage, so the honorific may simply reflect the social status of the kinship group, rather than anything attached to Elizabeth herself.

A couple of possibilities

Thomas Jackson of Arlecdon (died 1658)


Thomas Jackson of Arlecdon, smith, died comparatively young in 1658, leaving a widow Elinor and underage children. 

A smith then was of a much higher social status than we would assume nowadays. Before the Industrial Revolution, smiths were likely to be yeoman with full or part ownership of their smithies. They were pillars of the community.

William was his bondsman at his death. John Jackson, either Thomas' son or brother, was bondsman for William when he died in 1677. That indicates a very close family relationship.

Thomas Jackson had another close and recorded family relationship - with the Pearson family of Fangs in Loweswater. He was married to Elinor, daughter of John Pearson of Fangs (and his first wife). Thomas, John's eldest son by his second wife (Janet Robinson of Thackthwaite)  was apprenticed to him. 

William Dickinson was also a bondsman, and a trustee, for Janet Pearson.

Janet Pearson of Fangs (died 1648)


Janet was the daughter of John Robinson of Thackthwaite in Loweswater (probate 1664). She was the second wife of John Pearson of Fangs. Her son Thomas was favoured in terms of legacy and inheritance both in his grandfather's will and his mother's, so making it clear that he was an eldest son of a marriage and hence that Janet was a second wife. Her stepson, William Pearson, inherited the Fangs property.

The probate bond was set at £1000 - a considerable sum that may explain why five bondsmen were appointed. It is entirely possible that William became one for reasons other than family - he was a respected attorney, steward to John Lamplugh, and may have been perceived as someone who understood the local politics of the Commonwealth.



Thomas Jackson named his third (recorded) son as Nathaniel (baptised 1656). William Dickinson named his youngest son (and fourth son by Elizabeth) as Nathaniel (baptised 1655). There is no evidence that this forename was used before in these families. Again, that is suggestive of some sort of connection.



It is possible, if unlikely, that Elizabeth could have been a Patrickson. There is no evidence that Elizabeth provided any land as a dowry, so the alternative to look for would be cash.

Two things may suggest a Patrickson. The first is that Thomas Patrickson of Stockhow attempted to buy a small part of Havercroft some ten years after William married Elizabeth. Though this appears to have fallen through, the intention may have been to provide a dowry or dower. The main support for this is that Thomas had an unnamed sister baptised on the 14th June 1618 on Lamplugh, who would have been about 20 when William remarried. Thomas had inherited from his father, William, in 1645, a difficult time for both Patrickson and Dickinson families, when spare cash was scarce, and fines on Royalists looming.

The main thing against is that no Elizabeth is mentioned in Patrickson probate material, which makes the idea rather a dead duck.

The other thin evidence is that, when William Dickinson died in 1677, Mr Joseph Patrickson (this one of How Hall) owed him £29 12s, by far the largest of his debtors, This is large enough to be a dowry, but isn't a rounded figure as one might expect.