Robert Wrigley (1619 – after 1666)


1. His childhood

The earliest progenitor of our Wrigley family line is Robert Wrigley of Midgreave (later absorbed into Old Delph), who was born presumably in late 1619, and christened on 20 January 1620. It is unclear who his parents were, but he had two brothers, Anthony (? – 1657) and John (? – 1697).1,2

NOTE: The correct progenitor of our Wrigley line is Robert Wrigley of Midgreave.1 Secondary sources, however, identifies our earliest ancestor as George Wrigley (ca 1600 – 1656),3-5 but the most-recent research into primary resources refutes that and connects George Wrigley to a different Wrigley family, who originally resided at Saddleworth Fold.1

In the early 17th century there were several Wrigley families living around Saddleworth, West Riding, Yorkshire (now within Greater Manchester). The four ancient hamlets with Wrigleys were Diglee, Midgreave, Old Tame and Saddleworth Fold, and all within less than 10 km from each other.1,2,6-9 Whether these Wrigley families were related is not yet known, but the current Y-DNA project involving Wrigley male descendants seeks to determine possible relationships.10,11 Our specific Wrigley line has its roots at Midgreave, approximately 4 km northwest of Saddleworth.1,2

The area around Saddleworth may not have been the ‘cradle of mankind’ but it certainly seems to be the ‘birthplace’ of our Wrigley family line. The 1881 census in England revealed that the highest occurrence (51%) of the Wrigley/Rigley surname was located around Saddleworth, Oldham, Ashton, Huddersfield and Rochdale in West Riding (now within Greater Manchester or West Yorkshire).1 Very little is known about Robert’s childhood family. The fact that Robert signed an oath of allegiance in the Protestation Return of 1641 suggests that he had some form/level of education, in contrast to the commoners of the day. His brother, Anthony was also listed in the Protestation Return of 1641, and in 1653 Anthony was fined in the Almondbury Court for not making his hedges and fences. Although initially residing in Midgreave/Midgrove/Midgrow Anthony later moved to Brownhill. There he died in the first half of 1657 and was buried on 14 May 1657. Robert’s other brother, John was a husbandman (farmer) of Midgreave. John was documented as being assessed for Tithes in 1669, paying Hearth Tax in 1670 and in that same year was elected Parish Constable. He died in presumably early 1697, with his will proved on 20 April 1697. He left his estate to his nephew, John Wrigley (1648 – 1727) of Midgreave and five shillings to each of the children of his niece, Mary Winterbottom (née Wrigley).1

   2. His wife

No information thus far is available on the wife of Robert Wrigley apart from her name, Susanna NN. Archived records revealed that at least one son and one daughter were born from their marriage.1

   3. His career

For centuries Saddleworth was a centre of woollen cloth production in the domestic system. Following the Industrial Revolution, in the 18th and 19thcenturies, Saddleworth became a centre for cotton spinning and weaving. Many farmers and manufactures travelled to Almondbury, 24 km northeast of Saddleworth and later Huddersfield, 21 km northeast of Saddleworth, to trade their wool and cloth.9 It is, therefore possible, yet speculative, that Roger Wrigley was involved in the cloth manufacturing business as Saddleworth was a thriving wool industry town in his life time. He may have been a domestic cottage weaver (working from home) or a sheep farmer who provided wool to the mills and weavers. None of this, however, could be confirmed from researched documents, thus far.

The fact that Robert was fined in 1653 at Almondbury Court for not making his hedges and fences,1 suggests that he owned or leased land and probably did some farming. The enclosure system of farm holdings requiring permanent bushes or sticks, or stone walls, was part of the changing farming landscape in 17th-century England.12

From 1664 to 1666 Robert Wrigley is recorded to have paid Hearth Tax (Chimney Tax)1 – a tax imposed on the people from 1662 to 1689 by Parliament to support the Royal Household. One shilling was liable to be paid for every hearth, fireplace or stove in houses and lodges and was payable on 25 March and 29 September, thus it amounted to two shillings per chimney per year.13

Robert Wrigley lived during tumultuous times in the political history of England. He was born during the reign of James I, who succeeded Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. His convictions on the position of the king regularly brought James I in conflicted with the English Parliament. He was followed by Charles I whose rule lasted from 1625 to 1649.14-17 It was during the rule of Charles I that rumours of plots and anxiety that the Protestant reformation was in danger to be undone, surfaced. In May 1641 the Parliament drafted a national declaration that required all English males over the age of 18 to take an oath of allegiance to live and die for the true Protestant religion, the liberties and rights of subjects and the privilege of Parliaments. The lists of names and signatures were called the Protestation Returns of 1641 to 1642.18 Robert Wrigley took the oath in 1641.1 Soon thereafter, however, the English Civil War of 1642 to 1651 broke out and resulted in the replacement of the monarchy by the parliamentarians, and England and Wales was thereafter ruled as a republic called The Commonwealth with a Lord Protector and the Parliament overseeing the affairs of the country. This lasted until the English Restoration in 1660 when the monarchy was restored to the thrown in the person of Charles II, who ruled until 1685.6,19,20 One wonders what Robert’s overall political convictions were. Royalist or Parliamentarian? And how much was the family’s normal daily living affected by the political dilemmas and upheaval of the day?   4. His death

The last time Robert Wrigley’s name appears in archived documents is in 1666.1 He probably died some time thereafter while King Charles II was still ruler over England. Robert was possibly buried in the church cemetery at St Chad’s Anglican Church, the parish church of the Saddleworth area.

It seems as if there was some odd personalities among the inhabitants in the Saddleworth area, and Robert may have shared his life with some of these interesting characters as well. In his books, Ammon Wrigley (1861 – 1946) – an English poet, local Saddleworth historian and descendant of the Wrigleys of Diglee – captured many of these stories.1,6,7,21 One story relates to a vicar serving there at St Chad’s at Saddleworth at one point in time. The vicar and the church warden sat up late one night drinking the excellent ale in the pub near his church. The next day, however, he preached a fiery sermon on the evils of alcoholic beverages. “But, why?” asked the warden afterwards. “We ourselves sat up till late last night drinking!” “Indeed”, replied the vicar, “And do you want the whole parish to come drinking up that excellent brew? When the ale is as good as that, you don’t even tell your own father!” 7

  5. His children

5.1 John

John was born in 1648 and lived at Midgreave his whole life. Our family branch descends from him.1,3-5,7,22 READ MORE on John Wrigley.

5.2 Mary

Mary was christened on 9 July 1654 at St Chad’s (Anglican) Church, Saddleworth. She later married Samuel Winterbottom. In 1697 her children inherited five shillings each from Mary’s uncle, John Wrigley (? – 1697).1The current St Chad’s church building originates from the late Georgian era, and was built in 1831, although the site has been a place of Christian worship since 1215 AD. St Chad’s was the mother church of Saddleworth and the graveyard, the last resting place of over thirty generations of Saddleworth people, was in use for more than 800 years. Available records of the Bishops Transcripts of christenings, marriages and deaths in St Chad’s parish dates from 1612. During a recent project by the Saddleworth Historical Society, the cemetery was restored and old gravestones unearthed and cleaned. Inscriptions on all the headstones and vaults have been transcribed.1,8,23-26


  1. Barrow, N. 2020 In search of the early Wrigleys. Saddleworth Historical Society Bulletin, Vol 50 (1)
  2. Historical maps. A vision of Britain through time.
  3. Family tree notes by Jean Jamison, made available by Katie Taylor from Germany, October 2017.
  4. Wrigley. FamilyCentral Family History Service.
  5. The Wrigley Family. 1999 Copy of family notes made available in April 2019 by Simon Wrigley of Tel Aviv, Israel
  6. Information received on 2 March 2020 from Neil Burrow in the United Kingdom, coordinator of the Saddleworth Wrigley DNA Project
  7. Muir, M. 2002 The Wrigley family of Netherton in Yorkshire. Research notes in possession of Tony Jamison, Randfontein, South Africa
  8. Radliffe, J. 1887 The Parish Registers of St Chad, Saddleworth, in the County of York (1613 – 1751).
  9. Saddleworth.
  10. Wrigley DNA project.
  11. FamilyTreeDNA – Saddleworth, Yorkshire, England Surnames.
  12. Orser, C.E. 2018 An archaeology of the English Atlantic World, 1600 – 1700. 1st Ed. Cambridge University Press: United Kingdom.
  13. Hearth tax.
  14. Kings and Queens of England & Britain.
  15. Elizabeth I of England.
  16. James I of England and Scotland.
  17. Charles I of England.
  18. Protestation Returns of 1641-1642.
  19. Oliver Cromwell.
  20. Charles II of England
  21. Ammon Wrigley.
  22. Hurndall, R. 1933 History of the Wrigley family of Netherton, Yorkshire. Copy made available in July 2018 by James Wrigley of Totnes, Devon, England
  23. St Chad Saddleworth – Parish Church.
  24. Saddleworth Church, St Chad’s.–manchester-england-church,jpg
  25. UK Yorkshire Nidderdale Middlesmoor village St Chads churchyard view down Nidd Valley.
  26. St Chad’s Church, Saddleworth. Monumental Inscriptions in the Old Churchyard. 2015 Saddleworth Historical Society. 1st Ed. Edited by Mike Buckley