Links Between the Fallowfield and Workman Families of Westmorland County, England

by David Fallowfield

The Homestead is happy to be able to share this very interesting post from David Fallowfield, a lifelong resident of Penrith, Cumbria County, England, who explains some of his family history, including his connection to the Workman family, as well as notable elements of the area then known as Westmorland County, in the rural northwestern corner of the country. David has been on several trips to America, including as a representative of the Old Spanish Trail Association’s William Workman chapter, of which he was secretary for some two decades, and two of his aunts migrated to greater Los Angeles in the 1880s, so we hope you enjoy his contribution for his discussion of his ties to both nations.

Many years ago now I worked out that the pioneers, David and William Workman, were my first cousins five times removed and that Judge David Workman of Los Angeles and his siblings were, therefore, my 5th cousins. In fact, I see it was November 1993 that as a member of the Cumbria Family History Society I produced a family tree showing some connections to the Workman family of Brownhow near Clifton and their descendants. These links between the two families mainly came about due to the geographical proximity of their respective homes.

The River Leith rises on the high moorland near to Shap and flows north until it reaches the small hamlet of Melkinthorpe where it turns east and eventually joins the River Lyvennet, a tributary of the much larger River Eden. At Melkinthorpe the Leith forms the boundary between the two ancient manors of Great Strickland and Melkinthorpe. My Fallowfield ancestors were lords of both these manors from the time in the 14th century when Nicholas de Fallowfield married the Strickland heiress and assumed the lordship, until the 17th century Fallowfield heiress Lucy (1618-1682) married her cousin John Dalston.

Whereas, Brownhow where the Workman family lived and farmed was, like the rest of the Melkinthorpe dwellings on the northern side of the River Leith, in Melkinthorpe manor. Melkinthorpe Hall, where my Fallowfield ancestors lived, was on the southern side, while Great Strickland Manor was the principal of the two. This meant that the Fallowfields were for generations living only half a mile from the Workman family. Consequently, over the centuries there were many marriages between members of those families. An example of an early marriage would be the one between Richard Fallowfield and Elizabeth Workman, who had their son John baptised two and a half miles away at Lowther Church on 30th January 1565.

Brownhow, where the Workman family operated a farm for some two centuries.

Although the area around Melkinthorpe was very rural and agricultural, in the period 1300 to 1600, it was certainly not peaceful due to it being in a corridor of invasion from Scotland which was only about 30 miles to the north. At the extreme this could involve incursions by a Scottish army or simply by small bands of raiders (known as Reivers).

To give a flavour of what was happening in the 16th century (considered by some as the worst period) I will relate here the involvement of my most illustrious Fallowfield ancestor, Thomas Fallowfield (1516-1579). The year 1516 was the seventh year of the reign of Henry VIII, also a very distant relative, and the year of the birth of his daughter Mary (later Queen Mary I) to his wife Queen Catherine of Aragon (she, too, is related to me by some distance).

Also born this year were two boys in Westmorland, one in the north of the county and the other in the south. Not only were these two related, but they would later both be engaged in the defence of the border, just about 30 miles north, against the Scots; each would represent Westmorland in Parliament; and surprisingly one would marry the other’s daughter, while they both had two wives.

The Norman castle at Brougham, two miles from Clifton.  Note the flooding of the River Eamont when this photo was taken in 2009.

The above-mentioned Thomas Fallowfield was born at Great Strickland, near Penrith, in 1516, and was the son of Nicholas Fallowfield (born c.1490), lord of the manors of Great Strickland and Melkinthorpe and his wife Janet Lamplugh (1499-1550). As the Fallowfields had gained the lordship of these manors through marriage with the heiress of Robert Strickland (b.1344), this meant that young Thomas Fallowfield was cousin to the Stricklands of Sizergh.

Walter Strickland, then, was my direct ancestor and was born at Sizergh Castle, near Kendal in 1516, being the son of Sir Walter Strickland. He came into possession of his estate in 1537 and was subsequently patented to assist with keeping the peace in the West March of the border with Scotland and which involved receiving the annual fee of £10.

In 1537, at age 21, Thomas Fallowfield became the constable of Brougham Castle, a strong and imposing structure situated only two-and-a-half miles to the north from the Workman family’s Brownhow farm. A constable of a castle was also a warden and the Lord Clifford needed this figure at Brougham because he was mainly based at Skipton Castle in Yorkshire, though the Clifford family also owned Pendragon, Brough and Appleby castles.

“The Three Davids,” with cousins David Workman and David Furman visiting from the United States and flanking David Fallowfield at the churchyard at Clifton, 1997.

In view of Thomas’s age, his appointment as constable looks like an hereditary appointment – the Fallowfields being close by and related to the Lord Clifford. Not surprisingly, Thomas also became steward to Henry Clifford, the 1st Earl of Cumberland, and later to his successor and namesake son Henry. He was also appointed to assist Deputy Warden Sir Thomas Wharton (another distant relative of mine), with the duties of Border security and would have received the same £10 fee mentioned earlier with regard to Walter Strickland.

Strickland was with Wharton at Carlisle in 1542 in anticipation of a Scottish invasion, which came about on 24 November when the Scottish Army numbering about 15,000 crossed the River Esk at Longtown, Cumberland. Wharton, with his much smaller English force of approximately 3,000, attacked the Scots, many of whom were drowned in the river, and panic set in and the invaders were routed. Strickland commanded 200 archers from Kendal at the battle, which is known to history as the Battle of Solway Moss. The effect of this defeat on his army did not help the sickness that King James V of Scotland (yet another distant relation to me) was suffering and he died exactly three weeks later— some say from the shock of the outcome.

The following year, saw Wharton keep up the pressure on the Scots during the period known as the “rough wooing”. In September 1543, there was a large raid on the valley of Liddesdale (known as the “Cockpit” of the border region) in Scotland. Strickland led his 200 Kendal horsemen and Thomas Fallowfield commanded a unit of 100 others. These mounted men are not named individually, but could easily have included Workman menfolk as Fallowfield would have had to raise them from his two manors.

David with Josette Temple and Alex and Dan Dugan, all Workman descendants, at the Workman House, then the Whitrigg House bed and breakfast, in Clifton.

In 1551 Fallowfield fell out with Wharton and he was subsequently charged with riot and unlawful assembly at Kirkby Stephen when several of Wharton’s relatives and followers were injured. The case was tried in the Star Chamber in London and he and other defendants claimed they were provoked. Fallowfield, however, had the powerful support of the Earl of Cumberland and it appears the case went in his favour. In 1553 and 1554, Fallowfield was the senior of the two members of Parliament for Westmorland County. He continued to represent the Earl of Cumberland and in 1560 held the Earl’s courts at Casterton, Crosthwaite and Lyth, Grasmere and Windermere. Interestingly, he was involved with Germans imported to work the mines at Keswick and supplied them with large quantities of charcoal for the smelters, though were some legal problems associated with these efforts. He died at Great Strickland in 1579 aged 63 years.

As for Walter Strickland, he represented Westmorland in Parliament in 1563 and was also one of the commissioners that year who investigated military preparedness of Carlisle, likely over continuing concern of a Scottish invasion. Strickland made many improvements and additions to Sizergh Castle before he died, age 53, in 1569 and his son Sir Thomas (1563–1612) succeeded him at Sizergh. Incidentally, two U.S. presidents descended from the Strickland family, these being George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who are then very distant cousins of mine.

Another direct ancestor of mine and of the same generation as Fallowfield and Strickland was Sir Richard Lowther (1532-1607), who was appointed deputy warden of the West Marches area of Cumberland and Westmorland counties in the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was knighted and then made high sheriff of Cumberland in 1565. When Mary, Queen of Scots, escaped from that country and entered England three years later, she was escorted by Lowther to Carlisle Castle and spent her last night in the area at Lowther Hall before continuing south. Lowther was sheriff again in 1587 and then became lord warden four years later and a full-length effigy of him is in St. Michael’s Church at Lowther.

David with Workman, Temple and Rowland family descendant, Don Rowland and his wife Jean on their Old Spanish Trail Association tour of northwestern England.

Some reading this 16th century history may well be inclined to think it sounds something like the ‘Wild West’ in the United States! For several centuries it very much was, but things were about to change. On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 she was succeeded by James VI of Scotland who became James I of England in the “Union of the Crowns” and a degree of peace came to the troubled border between the two nations.

The 17th century saw other changes, such as when the northwest of England became the cradle of Quakerism. This saw about half of the Fallowfield families living around Great Strickland become Quakers, including Lancelot Fellowfield, a distant cousin who migrated to America in the 1680s and bought land from William Penn in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The West and East Fallowfield townships in that southeastern part of the state, when John Rowland of Rancho La Puente once lived, were named for him.

Religion obviously played an important part in the lives of these subjects. The more senior Fallowfields stayed with the Catholic Church as long as possible but finally gave way to conversion to the Anglican Church. The Reverend Richard Fallowfield was vicar at St Andrew’s Crosby Garrett for some four decades until his death in 1636, but his niece Isabel was the grandmother of St. John Plessington, a distant cousin and one of the 40 Catholic martyrs of England and Wales after he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Chester in 1679.

The listing of David’s aunts, Lizzie and Lena Fallowfield, on the manifest of the ship “Servia” in its 1884 sailing from Liverpool to the United States.

Emigration to the United States was not only an escape from religious persecution but an economic opportunity. This is especially true in the area we are considering and where major landowners like my Lowther cousins, who went on to become successively the earls of Lonsdale and had almost unlimited funds from coal and mineral mining, were able to buy up all the land which became available.

My father, Edwin Fallowfield (1885-1970) had two older sisters Lizzie and Lena who emigrated to Los Angeles in the year before he was born and he never saw them. Two of their nieces, Jessie and Lena followed them to the Angel City in 1913 and 1920, respectively. In consequence, I grew up hearing about California which created my life-long interest in it. Aunt Lizzie stayed in Los Angeles and Aunt Lena lived in Pasadena and it was to the latter that I went on several occasions. There, I was hosted by Lena’s granddaughter Betty Keatinge, who in 1971 came to the Penrith area in search of me and the last time I saw here, we had dinner with David Workman. My late cousin Jessie’s grandson Ken Beer has a very large fish farm at Galt, south of Sacramento.

Another area of interest for me has been Freemasonry. David Workman was initiated into the Unanimity Lodge in Penrith shortly before he left for America in 1818 and his brother William became a mason in Los Angeles. Unanimity happens to be my “mother lodge” where I joined in 1973 and was worshipful master in 1992 and 2013, when it celebrated is bicentennial. For about a decade, I gave talks at masonic lodges around Cumbria about the 19th century exploits of David and William Workman and these were always well-received.

Lena Fallowfield not long after she came to Los Angeles.

Another Great Strickland family were the Chesters, who were important yeoman farmers and who married into the Fallowfield family about 1660. My direct ancestor John Chester married Anne Workman, while their son Matthew married Mary Workman of Brownhow Farm, establishing another direct tie between my line and that of the Los Angeles Workmans. In fact, when the late David Workman mentioned his “Chester cousins” in a 1993 letter, I realized his line was the same as those in my own family tree.

This connection first became known to me in the mid-1980s when local historian John Sharpe and I were police officers at the Cumbria Police headquarters in Penrith and heard stories from a colleague, Doug Workman, about William Workman, who’d settled in 19th century Los Angeles and become a well-known figure. These remarks fell on fertile ears as I had family connections in California and had visited there in 1983. Sharpe lived in the village of Clifton, near Penrith, which had been William Workman’s home village. I made several further visits to California and not only pursued the Workman story further but also visited sections of the Old Spanish Trail, used by William Workman and his family in their 1841 migration from New Mexico, in California and Nevada.

In the 1990’s John Sharpe and I, both now retired from Police Service were still in regular contact and the Workman story was frequently discussed. As a result of that correspondence from David Workman, I realised that his great-grandfather and great-granduncle David and William Workman were my relatives. After reading a book on the Old Spanish Trail by LeRoy and Ann Hafen, I decided it would be an adventure to drive from Santa Fe to Los Angeles on highways following close to the trail and this was accomplished in November 1997, arriving in Los Angeles on the 5th, the anniversary of the Workmans’ arrival more than 150 years before, and went to the Homestead Museum on the first of four visits there.

Lizzie Fallowfield in Los Angeles in 1940, five years before her death.

While in the bookshop of the Kit Carson Museum in Taos on that trip, I purchased Ron Kessler’s book, Retracing the Old Spanish Trail – North Branch. On returning home to England, I wrote to Kessler, then President of the Old Spanish Trail Association, about our English interest in the Trail. Kessler replied, encouraging membership in the organization and the formation of the first international chapter. We gave it the name William Workman Chapter and it was in existence for 21 years during which time I was the secretary. Over the years I attended eight annual Association conferences and made many good friends, as well as and organised two visits by groups from the organization to England & Scotland. I am still a member of the Association and the Descendants and Travelers Chapter.

4 thoughts

  1. Very interesting and illuminating article especially as I lived in Melkinthorpe as a youngster. The history of the Workman family continues to intrigue and enthral.

  2. Hi Michael, we’re glad you liked David’s post and we’re happy to be able to share some of the history of the Workman family and that part of England by David and John Sharpe.

  3. There is a connection between Thomas Workman and Ann Willoughby his wife, formerly Ann Cholmeley, widow, of the parish of St. Michael Barbados. I wonder if David has found any other connections in Cumbria with the Chamley/Cholmeley family.

  4. Hello, we will pass this on to David Fallowfield and see what he may know of this connection.

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