The Origin & History of the name ‘Micklethwait’

To date we have gleaned the following information about the origin & the history of the name Micklethwait:-

5th to 9th Centuries

The origin of our Micklethwait ancestry is found in the history of Yorkshire in north east England. The Saxons from the part of Germany which extends north into the Danish peninsula had invaded England in the fifth century, and their descendants were living on the Plain of Holderness and in the Vale of York when, after decades of piratical raids the ‘great army’ of the Danish Vikings landed in England in 865, took York apparently unopposed two years later and went marauding over the country for the next nine years.

But in 876 about 1,000 Viking warriors settled down in York. They became farmers, craftsmen and traders, quickly intermarried with the local population and adopted Christianity.

10th to 12th Centuries

Old records show that there were a number of different places in Northern England called Micklethwaite which is hardly surprising because the name comes from the word ‘Mulceltoit’ – Norse for Great Clearing & no doubt there were many great clearings in the surrounding vegetation of Northern England at that time. There are still two places bearing the name – one in The Lake District & one near Bingley in Yorkshire.

One of the Micklethwaite places that used to exist was in the parish of Cawthorne, near Barnsley, Yorkshire. All the evidence suggests that our particular family first settled there.

To date, there is no evidence to suggest that our family were ever at the Micklethwaite near Bingley or at the Micklethwaite in the Lake District - both of which I have visited.

It is reported that Micklethwaite was included in the lands & holdings of Erneis de Buron of the great Norman house of Buron, but we are not sure at this stage to which Micklethwaite this refers.

The following is an extract from a comparatively recent article which tells us about ‘The Hamlet of Micklethwaite’ in Yorkshire. It was originally published in the Yorkshire Dalesman but here again we are not yet sure which Micklethwait is being described.

Prospect of Micklethwaite

People have lived in and around the village for over 3,000 years, and artefacts from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and the Roman occupation have been discovered. However, Micklethwaite originated as a Viking Settlement in the 10th century A. D., and according to the Domesday Book was called ‘Muceltoit’. (Norse for ‘great clearing’).

More about the transfer from place name to surname is detailed under the heading 13th to 15th Centuries.

13th to 15th Centuries

The fashion of adding surnames began in Britain in the thirteenth century. The population was expanding, becoming more complex, and there was a concerted movement from the countryside to the towns and villages. It had become necessary to be able to distinguish reliably between individuals for many reasons, and a number of methods evolved including the one of naming people after the area in which they lived.

Having in mind that there were several places called Micklethwaite & that people originating from all these places are likely to have used the place name as their surname, it follows that one cannot assume that all people with the surname Micklethwait(e) are from the same family.

The ancient chronicles of England reveal the early records of the name Micklethwaite as a Norman surname, which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is closely interwoven within the majestic tapestry as an intrinsic part of the history of Britain.

A family name capable of being traced back to the Domesday Book, or to Hastings, was a great honour for most families during the Middle Ages, and even to this day.

A well known publication called Hunters ‘South Yorkshire’ reports that:-

The early residence of the family of this name was a farm called ‘Micklethwaite’ at Gunthwaite, Nr. Ingbirchworth in the Parish of Penistone, where 3 generations were named as residing before 1272.

In ‘A volume relating to Penistone’ by E J Bedford mention is again made of the family farm in the 13th century followed by the words ‘a connected pedigree does not seem to have been traced however beyond the sixteenth century, when we find one branch living at Ingbirchworth in this parish & another at Swaithe Hall in Worsborough Dale’.

There is no doubt that both these articles refer to our family.

The family's early history is shrouded in antiquity. However some very old deeds found in the Chartulary of Monk Bretton Abbey & other ancient records, and seen by Hunter the eminent historian of South Yorkshire, have provided us with the names listed in the next paragraph. Please also see the page entitled 'Micklethwaits not yet added to the family trees'.

Among the early written references to the name or a variant form we read of one called Walter de Mickelthwayt in 1277, and Robert de Mikelthwayt in 1303, along with another de Mekilthwayt in 1304, according to the Inquisitions Post Mortem (1236 - 1432) for the county of Yorkshire. The Poll Tax Rolls for Yorkshire referred to the names of Adam de Mekkelhawath, Magota Mekkelwayth, Johanna de Mickilwayte, and William de Mickilwayte all in the year 1379. There is little doubt that if not all, certainly most of these Micklethwaits are my ancestors because the majority of them originated from the area of Gunthwaite / Cawthorne & Ingbirchworth.

16th to 18th Centuries

In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. Religious elements vied for control, the State Church, the Roman Church and the Reform Church. All, in their time, made demands on rich and poor alike. They broke the spirit of men and many turned from religion, or alternatively, renewed their faith, pursuing with vigour and ferocity, the letter of the ecclesiastical law. Many families were freely "encouraged" to migrate to Ireland, or to the "colonies". Non believers or dissidents were banished, sometimes even hanged. Despite this turmoil, The Micklethwaits survived & prospered.

It is said that the early Micklethwaites owned considerable property and manor houses in the whole of the three Ridings of Yorkshire and married into families who had land, thus compounding their holdings; they also owned collieries, owned boats and had river rights.

In the 17th Century, the family established their right to Coats of Arms & further information on this is given on the page entitled 'Coats of Arms'.

The surname Micklethwaite emerged as a notable family name in the county of Yorkshire & elsewhere in England where they held numerous high offices including Lords of several Manors; Mayors of Leeds; Mayors of York; High Sheriffs; Aldermen; etc.

Other Micklethwaits that we know of (4 adults & nine children) decided to emigrate to the USA. We have not so far found any direct connection between those who emigrated & those who stayed in Yorkshire but further research may uncover a link. Many English emigrated aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the "White Sails". The stormy Atlantic, small pox, dysentery, cholera and typhoid took its toll on the settlers and many of these tiny, overcrowded ships arrived with only 60% to 70% of their passenger list remaining. The Micklethwaits listed on our family tree (USA branch) were fortunate in that they emigrated of their own free will & arrived safely.

Other members of the family emigrated to Australia as detailed in the family trees covering the Inbirchworth branch & the Hodroyd branch.

19th & 20th Centuries

The attached article entitled ‘Walks through the City of York’ published in 1880 & the attached extract from ‘The Surtees Society 1875’ Yorkshire Diaries paint a good picture of the family in the UK during the first part of this period.

More recently it was said that ‘There were many notables of this name Micklethwaite; Sir Robert Gore Micklethwait, Q.C., Chief National Insurance Commissioner, Hon. Knight, Hon. Society of the Knights of the Round Table; Rear Admiral St. John Aldrich Micklethwait, C.B. D.S.O., to name but two’.

An excellent report has also been written which details the fate & progress of the 13 Micklethwaits who emigrated from Yorkshire to the USA & their descendants. To summarise, once established & after a very difficult start especially during the great depression, some of them became landowners & in more recent times their ranks have included doctors; dentists; an Attorney & a Major General US Army amongst their family. Perhaps more importantly, they worked hard in the best Yorkshire traditions; many of them have made a significant contribution to the development of their local communities; have set a good example & earned the respect of their fellow citizens as described in various US local newspaper articles.

21st Century

The family continues with several new arrivals!

This article last updated 9th January 2003 by J. P. Micklethwait


The information contained in this paper has been taken from a variety of sources as mentioned in the introduction but I am particularly indebted to the late Ralph Bruner Micklethwait & his sons for much of the information that we have about the Micklethwait family in the USA

Extract from

'Walks through the City of York'

By Robert Davies

PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR 1880 (pages 134-5-6)

As an example of the class of city magnates who flourished in the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras I will present to you a short notice of the family of an Alderman of York who resided in Micklegate most probably in one of those sumptious houses alluded to by Mr Drake, and who was buried in the church of the Holy Trinity, in Micklegate in the year 1638.

He was Mr Elias Micklethwaite, the third son of John Micklethwaite of Ingbirchworth (his Uncle Ralph Micklethwaite, merchant, took up his freedom in 1553 was Sheriff of York in 1572-3 and died in August 1584, leaving a son and heir, Stephen then 24-years old) he was Lord Mayor of York in 1615 and again in the year 1627. He sprang from an ancient agricultural race, who took their surname from a small estate called Micklethwaite, situate in the township of Gunthwaite, near Peniston, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, of which they had been the proprietors and cultivators from the time of King Edward I. (1272 – 1307)

Elias and his elder brother Francis Micklethwaite settled in York as merchants in the later part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. (1558 – 1603) Elias served the Office of Sheriff in the year 1605 and was elected an Alderman in the year 1614. He was married twice and had a numerous family.

His eldest son Elias was a barrister of the Middle Temple, and died leaving no descendants. Another son was Captain Micklethwaite, who was severely wounded at the battle of Marston Moor and died of his wounds shortly afterwards. Another son was in holy orders and was made rector of Marston in 1622. His second son was Doctor Joseph Micklethwaite, who practised as a physician in York for many years. His residence was in Micklegate, he died in 1658, and was buried in York Minster. Several years before his death he had retired from his profession and having purchased the Manor of Swine in Holderness, settled there as a country gentleman and became an active magistrate of the East Riding.

His eldest son, John was a barrister and also in the commission of the peace for the East Riding. He died at an early age leaving a son Joseph, only four-years old. In due time the child became a man and married the daughter of Sir Thomas Middleton by whom he had two sons.

The elder of these two sons was Thomas Micklethwaite of Swine who was born in 1678. Having succeeded to a large estate under the will of Sir John Cropley Bart he entered into public life, was a member of Parliament for the borough of Arundel, in the early part of the reign of King George I was made a Lord of the Treasury and at the time of his death in 1718, held the important office of Lieutenant - General of the Ordnance to which he had been appointed on the 19th March 1717.

The second son Joseph Micklethwaite attained still higher honours and distinction. In the year 1708 he was secretary to the Earl Stanhope, the English Ambassador at the Court of Madrid, and in the year 1724 he was advanced to the dignity of a Peer of Ireland by the title of Baron Micklethwaite of Portarlington, and three years afterwards was made Viscount Micklethwaite of Longford. Lord Micklethwait represented the borough of Arundel in the Parliament of 1727 and in 1732 he was returned for the borough of Hull in his native county. Dying unmarried in 1734 his honours became extinct.

It is pleasing to observe that in his title of nobility he did not seek to conceal the ancient surname which he had inherited from his ancestor the York Alderman.

Extract from page 1 of

'The Surtees Society 1875' Yorkshire Diaries

The Micklethwaits had long been resident at Ingbirchworth and at Swaith Hall in Worsborough dale. A younger branch settled at Swine in the East Riding, from which descended Joseph Micklethwait M.P. for Hull who was created Baron and Viscount Micklethwait in the Irish peerage, but dying in 1734, without issue, the title became extinct.