The Craxford Family Magazine Red Pages

{$text['mgr_red1']} Cottingham 1

Page 3a. Welcome to the Welland Valley: Cottingham and beyond

ON TO Page 3b. Family stories from Cottingham (Craxford, Beadsworth, Claypole)

ON TO Page 3c. Family stories from Cottingham (Binley, Crane, Jackson, Tansley, Tilley)

ON TO Page 3d. Gretton and its people

The crucible of our family tree

Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene Church, Cottingham: a view across the village from Blind Lane

ADC, site administrator

Alan Craxford Site Administrator

Welcome to Northamptonshire. This landlocked county lies to the south of the East Midlands of England, its county town being Northampton. About three times longer than it is wide, it lies on a south west to north east axis between its principal neighbours, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east and Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire to the south. Our genealogy studies in this part of the world are mainly concerned with families who have lived, worked and died in two particular Northamptonshire settlements: Cottingham and Gretton.

The Welland Valley lies to the north of the county adjacent to the borders of Leicestershire and Rutland. A wide 'U' shape in contour with a steep southern escarpment, the River Welland cuts an easterly path through the soft marshy clay of its floor on its way to the sea. It is not surprising that the local combination of geography and geology was an attractive proposition for Iron-Age man. The fertile soil supported dense forests, teeming with game and, together with the iron-bearing sandstone beds, provided those early settlers with all the basic requirements for their existence: food, fresh water, and raw materials for building and toolmaking. Many villages and hamlets appeared during this time. It is known that a rocky outcrop on the southern slope called Rockingham Hill was used as a natural fortress which overlooked the valley. The Roman colonisers established a mining community to exploit the mineral deposits. Later, during the Dark Ages the Saxon tribes used the old hill fort to defend themselves against the marauding Viking and Danish invaders. (1).

It was after the Norman Conquest that the Welland Valley became of national strategic importance. William the Conqueror confiscated the lands and estates of the Saxon noblemen and built a series of castles around the country to impose his rule. Rockingham Castle became a firm favourite as a meeting centre and place of retreat for the court outside of London. He declared Rockingham Forest (which, as well as woodland, provided areas of grass and parkland vital for grazing deer) to be a Royal Hunting Forest. The area had also attracted the attention of the church. William granted the confiscated manor of Lyddington, which lay some five miles north across the valley just over the border in Rutland, to the Bishop of Lincoln and over the following two centuries it was developed into their palace (2). This proximity served as an intermittent but ongoing source of tension between the church and state and as early as 1095, the Council of Rockingham was convened by William II where all the bishops and barons debated the compatability of the Church's allegiance to both pope and king. This interface remained unchanged until the reign of Henry VIII when his activities led to the dissolution of the monasteries and acquisition of church property. He was not unfamiliar with this section of England as parts of the nearby town of Melton Mowbray were given to Anne of Cleves (his fourth wife) as part of the settlement on the annulment of their marriage (3). In the 1540s the Palace was surrended to the crown and at the same time the now derelict Castle was leased and subsequently sold to Edward Watson who had been secretary to the bishop at Lyddington.

The village of Gretton lies some three miles to the east of Rockingham. The name is Saxon for Great Settlement although traces of Iron-Age and Roman excavations have been found. It was a royal manor during the 11th century, the same period in which St James the Great Church was built. It became an important settlement within Rockingham Forest during the Middle Ages, and its development and economy were founded on the twin occupations of agriculture and ironstone quarrying (4). The village of Cottingham lies in the shadow of Rockingham Castle. Immediately to the west is the hamlet of Middleton with which it has a shared history. The name 'Cottingham' has Anglo-Saxon origins, with ham meaning town or settlement and ing denoting a tribal leader's sons, dependants or followers. Cottingham therefore literally means 'homestead of Cotta's people', Cotta ('or Cotti') having been an Anglo Saxon chief. The spelling of Cottingham has varied throughout history too. There are references to Cotingeham in the Domesday Book and Cotingham in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. In the 1162 and 1166 Pipe Rolls there are references to Cottingeham and, in the 1343 Inquisitiones Post Mortem, Cotyngham and Cotynham. From at least 1066, the country's parishes were split into administrative districts called 'Hundreds'. In 1086, Cottingham lay within the Stoke hundred which was subsequently merged into the Corby Hundred (5).

The 1600s was a tumultuous century in English history punctuated by wars (three against the Dutch and the English Civil War), invasions, pestilence, famine and the ongoing conflict between church and state. No fewer than six monarchs sat on the throne punctuated by a two decade period as a republic.

Alan D. Craxford - Site Administrator

Continued in column 2...

The crucible of our family tree (Continued)

The English Civil war raged between 1642 and 1646 - a conflict between the forces of the king, Charles I, and parliament. The populace of Northamptonshire was predominently parliamentarian in sympathy. Much of the actual fighting in the East Midlands occurred west of the county on a line between Oxford and Lichfield with the final battle occurring at the village of Naseby. Armies gained recruits through volunteering: there was no conscription (6). However the population was expected to pay to support their local garrisons (such as the one at Rockingham) and provide food, horses and shelter for the troops. When this fell short of expectations, both armies resorted to theft and pillage of the countryside. Although there is no evidence that Gretton was directly affected, it has been noted that Brigstock in the Rockingham Forest was afflicted not only by heavy taxation but by plunder of cattle and illegal ploughing up of the park (7).

It was against this backdrop that the first Craxford appeared in the annals of Gretton about 1620 and the dynasty was founded.

References can be found at the bottom of column 3

A Welland Valley Roll Call

Over time, as our investigations have proceeded, we have come to realise that no one family can be meaningfully studied in isolation. Trees touch and branch, join and rejoin, across the generations through marriage and new birth. The interrelationships between individuals can only be fully appreciated when surnames are traced between cousins and along female lines. This is particularly true when the families belong to a small community such as a village.

We have been fortunate that, for Cottingham at least, records are available for study going back to the early 1700s. In this section, we repeatedly come across the same few surnames, albeit with changes of spelling over the centuries. Some date back to the earliest records. The first Craxford appears to have arrived in the village about 1750. The chart below lists the most common.

  Surname Count
1 Tansley 152
2 Crane 136
3 Claypole 115
4 Binley 82
5 Tilley 81
6 Beadsworth/Beesworth 76
7 Jackson 47
8 Bamford 41
9 Craxford 38
10 Jarman 27
11 Bradshaw 27
12 Chamberlain 18
Our surnames for Cottingham, Northamptonshire and Middleton, Northamptonshire

  Surname Count
1 Clipson/Clipston/Clipstone 52
2 Moore 47
3 Walpole 6
4 White 5
5 Freeman 4
6 Tansley 2
Our surnames for Geddington, Northamptonshire

Further afield: Web sites of interest

There are several other families resident in Gretton and other villages in the neighbourhood whose trees have historically intertwined with ours. More will be added here as they come to our attention.

The front page of this site leads to four other sections including a fully illustrated guide to the village of Gretton in Northamptonshire edited by Maurice Kellner and the Gretton Local History Society site supervised by Elisabeth Jordan. She has been very helpful on a number of occasions in pointing out directions of research and study into the family name. The illustration is "The Green, Gretton", from an original watercolour by Sheila Macadam © 1998.

Cottingham Stories: The Village

The old smithy: Access the article BACK TO OUR ROOTS: VISITS TO COTTINGHAM
Although the earliest parts of the churchyard nearest to the church are overgrown, the newer sections provide areas of quiet contemplation amongst the memorials.

Despite the many changes, our village still retains its charm and our ancestors would still be able to recognise some of the landmarks that were there more than a century ago.

The stamps, 32 in all, are about an inch wide by an inch and a half long. I doubt that many people still have them after nearly 70 years!

The Binley Cottage: Access the article THE BARRACK YARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY
Water initially had to be carried from the pump situated on the pound, but certainly in the 1950s there was water laid on in the scullery over the kitchen sink.

"A week or so later a pigeon settled on the new pot when Fred happened to be passing with his gun ... and the lady needed another new chimney pot.."

Cuttings from Cottingham: Access the article THE COTTINGHAM DISPATCHES
Each page contains notices from several years and they have been sorted into sequence below. For ease of reference, a list of the surnames and the number of times each appears is included below the image.

St George: Access the obituary IN MEMORIAM: MARY ANNE NEEDHAM (née Beadsworth)
"And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!"


1. Pre-Norman Rockingham in "Rockingham Castle: 1000 Years of History." by Basil Morgan and Peter Brears: Heritage House Group 2005
2. Early history in "Lyddington Bede House" by Charmian and Paul Woodfield: English Heritage 1998
3. 14th Century - Local Government under the Guilds: Melton Mowbray Town Estate
4. A Walk Through Time In Gretton: The Rockingham Forest Trust
5. Cottingham - Name, size and location: A history of the village of Cottingham, Northamptonshire.
6. "1643: Civil War in the Midlands" and "1645: The Storming of Leicester and the Battle of Naseby": British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate The First Civil War - 1642-1646
7. "The War, the people and the absence of Clubmen in the Midlands 1642-1646" by Simon Osborne 1994; Chapter 10, The English Civil War: The Essential Readings, edited Peter Gaunt: Pub: Wiley-Blackwell Oxford 2000

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Page added: December 2nd 2011
Last updated: June 1st 2021

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