The Husbands: a family of recusants

Pamela Jordan
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

A few months ago I agreed to help Mike Slater with his project researching the names behind the initialled door heads in the North Craven area. Emmeline Garnett had identified the ‘WH 1763’ on the barn at Grain House, Giggleswick as belonging to one William Husband in her article published in The Journal (2019). However, my research revealed a different story about him and his family to that in the original article and I believe it deserves to be told.

Following Henry VIII’s dispute with the Pope and the subsequent establishment of the Church of England, it became illegal to follow the Catholic faith until well into the 18th century. Catholic clergy and lay people faced penalties if they were found practising the old faith and some tried to hide their real faith by attending Anglican services. If it could be proved that they were practising Catholics, lay people were fined heavily and had to register their property. Boys and men went abroad to newly created colleges to be educated and ordained, returning to England to carry on their mission. But this was considered to be high treason and they could face the death penalty if discovered. The severity of the persecution tended to ebb and flow depending on the perceived threats such as the Jacobite rebellion. There were a number of prominent Catholic families in the North of England, particularly in Lancashire, and the Husbands, a gentry family from Bentham, were part of that recusant network.

In 1699 William Husband (d.1715) of Bentham appeared in the Giggleswick Parish Registers when he married Millicent Brokas. It was his second marriage having lost his first wife, Elizabeth, three years earlier. But who was Millicent Brokas? Her identity is unknown, but she could have been Millicent Brockholes, the daughter of John Brockholes of Torrisholme, a member of the Brockholes family of Claughton, who were known recusants. There is no evidence to suggest that William and Millicent ever lived in Giggleswick, but they certainly lived in Bentham and after William’s death Millicent moved to Austwick. Their daughter, Elizabeth, had married Thomas Ingleby in 1716. The Ingleby family were Catholics, with land and property at Austwick, Clapdale and Lawkland. Mass was known to be said at Lawkland Hall, with the services attended by the family and those known to them.

Matthias Husband of Grain House and John Husband of Craven Ridge, who had arrived in Giggleswick sometime in the late 17th century, were a branch of the Bentham Husbands and they were very likely William’s brothers – they certainly had a brother of that name [1]. There is little mention of either of them, other than as witnesses to their neighbours’ wills or as signatories on probate inventories [2], until 1722/23. Following the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, everyone had had to swear an oath of allegiance. This was reinforced again in 1722/23 when Catholics refusing to swear the oath of allegiance were required to register their names and details of their estates at quarter sessions or have their property seized. Matthias and John were required to swear the oath of allegiance on 4th July 1722 before William Dawson of Langcliffe Hall and Charles Harris of Catteral Hall, both local Justices of the Peace, at the Naked Man in Settle. Matthias and John failed to appear, along with others including Thomas Ingleby [3]. John had to begin the process of registering his estates in March 1723 due to his failure to sign the oath [4], as did Millicent Husband [5]. Thomas Ingleby had already registered the estates of his late father-in-law William Husband in 1718 [6]. However, I can find no trace of Matthias registering his estates.

The lack of parish register entries has made it difficult to track the Husbands but fortunately both Matthias and John left useful Wills [7] making it possible to identify the various family members. I have been unable to find burial records for either of them but their widows, Elizabeth and Ann respectively, were buried at Giggleswick, described in the register as papists. John and Ann do not appear to have had any children, but Matthias and Elizabeth had three children and it is with this family at Grain House that the story continues. One daughter, Ann, married William Salisbury, a Settle apothecary. Sarah, her sister, married Adam Dale of Girlington, Wycliffe, near York [8], it presumably being no coincidence that the lord of the manor of nearby Thorpe was an Ingleby!

Matthias’ and Elizabeth’s son, William (d.1746) married Ann Faithwaite, the daughter of Henry Faithwaite of Pott Yeats of Littledale. The Faithwaites had lived at Pott Yeats for many generations and were known recusants and one of Ann’s ancestors had had a considerable amount of his estate seized in 1624. William and Ann’s marriage bond [9], which was registered at Lancaster on 13th January 1740/1, stated the marriage was to take place at Caton. However, there is no mention in the St. Paul’s Church registers so one can only assume that they were married in a Catholic service. The bondsman was Nicholas Skelton, a known Catholic priest, who had a house on St. Leonardgate in Lancaster, using the barn, which was situated behind the house, for religious services. Nicholas was imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for a time as he was believed to have been connected to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. He was close to the Faithwaites and Ann’s brother, Thomas Winder Faithwaite was his executor, inheriting half of his estate.

William and Ann’s first child, a girl, died within a year of her birth but they then had a son, William (1743-1779) who was baptised at Giggleswick in 1743. Sadly, within three years William was dead and Ann found herself a widow, looking after a young son. The Grain House property, some land at Stainforth, and the Craven Ridge and Tipperthwaite property which had been left to William (d.1746) by his uncle, John Husband, who had died in 1735 was left in Trust for young William. Ann must have stayed at Grain House but whether she farmed in her own right with the help of servants or let the farm to tenants is unknown. What is known is that young William chose a very different path to that of his father and in July 1759 William Husband of Grain House, aged 16, appeared for the first time in the registers of Douai College in France [10].

Douai College

Douai College had been established in 1561 by William Allen who had the idea of providing facilities to enable English Catholics to study and train as priests. Over three hundred priests are believed to have been trained by the college and then sent to England as missionaries, many of whom were executed when discovered. The students were very often from the North and the surnames of many of the prominent Catholic families appear in the registers. For security some of the students were registered with an alias name, including a William Husband, registered with the surname Barnard, who was ordained in 1674. Whether he had any connection with the Husbands in this story can only be a matter of conjecture. Eventually the College was moved to England, due to the French Revolution, and what is now known as St. Cuthbert’s College was founded in County Durham.

William’s (1743-1779) progress at Douai can be traced through the registers and he was ordained a priest in 1769. He was appointed Professor of Poetry and in October 1770 he became Professor of Rhetoric. However, his time at Douai was drawing to a close as an entry in the diary of Henry Tichborne Blount, who was the President of the College at the time, explains – ‘10th July 1771, Mr Husband, Priest and Professor of Rhetorick, set out for England’. William was placed at Great Singleton in Lancashire replacing a Mr Davison who had been the priest there but had been reported to the authorities and had had to seek refuge elsewhere. Davison became the resident priest at Salwick Hall, owned by the Clifton family who were prominent Catholics, and on Davison’s death in 1775, William was transferred to Salwick where he was to remain for the rest of his relatively short life. In August 1779, he contracted smallpox after visiting the sick and he died at Salwick [11]. It is believed that he was buried on land belonging to the Cliftons at Lytham.

It is unknown if Ann had moved from Grain House to be near her son, but certainly by the time she made her Will she is described as living at Aspull. I have been unable to find the whereabouts of either William or Ann’s’s Wills. However, both are mentioned in the Registers of Salwick and Lea, and it is stated that Ann left provision in her Will for £500 to set up an educational fund at Douai [12]. I have found a draft Deed in the Chichester-Constable family and estate records [13] which explains that after the sale of Grain House, Craven Ridge and Tipperthwaite, £500 was to be paid to the President of Douai College to establish a fund for ‘bringing up boys to be made priests to serve the English mission’. The nomination of the boys was to be made by the Bishop of the Northern District and Ann had asked that preference was given to descendants of James Taylor, who was her surviving executor, or of the descendants of Ann Salisbury and Sarah Dale, her sisters-in-law. Ann died in 1787 and her bequest gave the chance for future generations of young men to train to be priests. As the 18th century drew to a close, the risks and dangers that Ann and her family had experienced would soon be in the past when practice of the old faith became more acceptable to the authorities.


  1. 1735 The Will of John Husband, Borthwick Institute for Archives (BIA) vol.84, f.245
  2. The Giggleswick Wills Project, North Craven Heritage Trust Archives
  3. West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Roman Catholic Oath Records 1714-1787, 1829, QE28\10 and QE28\11
  4. WYAS, Roman Catholic Oath Records 1714-1787,1829, QE28\118
  5. WYAS, Roman Catholic Oath Records 1714-1787,1829, QE28\119 and QE28\176
  6. WYAS, Roman Catholic Oath Records 1714-1787,1829, QE28\60
  7. 1738 The Will of Matthias Husband, BIA vol.85, f.506
  8. 1739 Marriage Bond between Adam Dale and Sarah Husband, Lancashire Marriage Bonds; Lancashire,Westmorland: Marriage Bonds, Deaneries of Lonsdale Kendal Furness Copeland and Amounderness (Archdeaconry of Richmond) 1739-1745,
  9. 1740/1 Marriage Bond between William Husband and Ann Faithwaite, Lancashire Marriage Bonds; Lancashire, Westmorland: Marriage Bonds, Deaneries of Lonsdale Kendal Furness Copeland and Amounderness (Archdeaconry of Richmond) 1739-1745,
  10. Edited by Harris P.R., 1972, Douai College Documents 1639-1794 Catholic Record Society Publications (Record Series) Volume 63
  11. Edited by Smith J.P., 1913, Lancashire Registers, The Fylde 1, Catholic Record Society printed by J. Whitehead & Son, Leeds, Pages 152-3.
  12. Edited by Smith J.P., 1913, Lancashire Registers, The Fylde 1, Catholic Record Society printed by J. Whitehead & Son, Leeds, page 153.
  13. East Riding Archives Service, Chichester-Constable Family and Estate Records – Draft Deed of Covenants, Varley and Gibson, to Taylor (surviving executor of Ann Husband), DDCC/131/9

Other Sources

  • British History online –
  • Wilson, S (ed), 2002, Aspects of Lancaster: Discovering Local History, Chapter 2, Gardner, Norman and Noble Tony, Catholicism in Lancaster and District, Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley
  • Gudgeon, R.G.K., 1999, A History of Catholic Life in Settle, Giggleswick, Lawkland and surrounding areas, St. Mary and St. Michael’s Church, Settle
  • Hoyle, R. W. (ed) 1986, The Parish Register of Giggleswick, Volume 2, 1669-1769, The Yorkshire Archaeological Society Parish Register Section
  • Chippindall, W.H.(ed) 1932, The Parish Register of Bentham, 1666-1812, The Yorkshire Parish Register Society