Robert Wrigley (ca 1697 – 1773)


   1. His childhood

Robert Wrigley was the youngest of the two sons of John Wrigley (1648 – 1727) and Anna NN (1658 – ?). He was born in ca 1697 in the ancient hamlet of Midgreave near Saddleworth, West Riding, Yorkshire (now within Greater Manchester). The hamlet was subsequently over time absorbed into the village of Delph.1-8   2. His wife

Robert and his wife, Mary Thorpe (≈5 June 1703, Huddersfield – ?) were married on 19 March 1737 in Saddleworth. She was the daughter of Joseph Thorpe. Together Robert and Mary had six children.1-5,9

   3. His career

While in his late thirties, Robert still lived in the Saddleworth Parish area but some time in 1742 had moved 20 km north-east to Netherton, West Riding, Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire), which lies 5 km west of Almondbury, which would have been more profitable for him as a clothier.1,2,4,5,7 Although Saddleworth was a thriving cotton manufacturing town, so was Almondbury. From the Middle Ages onward, Almondbury was a major centre for the woollen industry. A weekly market was allowed from 1294 by a grant to Henry Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, who was Lord of the manor as part of his great Honour of Pontefract. Clothiers brought their cloth to the market from as far as Saddleworth across the moor and household weavers would buy their weight of wool and carry it home to produce their next batch of cloth.4,10

In 1728 Robert Wrigley inherit a Midgreave tenement from the estate of his brother, John who had passed away in 1727. John Wrigley (1694 – 1762) was also a clothier like his brother Robert, but he remained at Saddleworth his whole life. Whether Robert Wrigley resided at South Crosland, approximately 7 km south-west of Almondbury, at some point is not known, but he did work as Overseer of the Poor in the South Crosland area.1,4,10The Office of the Overseer of the Poor came into existence as a result of the Poor Law Act of 1597. The Poor Relief Act of 1601 (or ‘Elizabethan Poor Law’) established the parish (local church of a village or town) as the basic unit for distributing poor relief. Poor relief was administered by the parish vestry, which was a committee consisting of the church minister, church wardens and prominent local householders (property owners). Two officials, known as the Overseers of the Poor, were appointed each year by the vestry, subject to the approval of the Justice of the Peace (regional magistrate). They were responsible for collecting poor rate – a local tax used to fund poor relief – from householders, as well as for assessing the level of need among poor families and for supervising the relief distribution. These Overseers were also responsible for supervising the parish poor house, which was established to provide the poorest-of-the-poor with a roof over their head. They also assisted in finding employment where necessary. The amount of poor relief that a family was entitled to depended on the number of children, general health of the family, quality of housing, food prices and wage levels. In many cases, wages proved to be insufficient to support a family as many employers exploited the poor relief system by paying inadequate wages with their reasoning being that ‘they can save money as the church will look after their underpaid employees’. There were obviously also those lazy, allergic-to-work individuals who abused the system to provide for their basic needs. This eventually led to the reform of the Poor Law in 1834, resulting in the unpopular workhouse system.10,11

   4. His death

Robert Wrigley died at the age of 76 years on 31 March 1773 at Saddleworth and was buried on 3 April 1773.1-5,9

   5. His children

Their first two children were born at Midgreave and christened at Saddleworth parish church, St Chad Anglican Church. The last four children of Robert and Mary Wrigley were born at Netherton, West Riding, Yorkshire (now within West Yorkshire) and were christened 2.4 km away at Honley, the Ecclesiastical Parish District to which Netherton belonged, and as recorded in the Almondbury register.1-4,9  The six children were:

  • John (≈16 July 1738 – Ω6 December 1793) was 18 years old when he married Mary Todd on 16 August 1756 at Saddleworth. He became a victualler of Delph, licensed to sell alcohol.  Mary and John Wrigley had three children: Benjamin (≈31 May 1761), John (≈2 June 1763) and Sarah (≈10 January 1771).1-5,9
  • Anna (≈14 September 1740 – ?) went on to marry Josiah Lawton on 21 July 1760 in Saddleworth.1-5,9
  • Mary (*1742, ≈22 January 1743) married Miles Mayall on 22 August 1763.1,5
  • Sarah (≈5 May 1745 – ?) married James Brooks.1,5
  • James (1748 – 1809)1-5,9 became my husband’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.  READ MORE on James Wrigley.
  • Martha (≈6 May 1750 – ?) never married.1-5,9

All the children inherited from the estate of their wealthy uncle, John Wrigley, who died in 1727 with no issue. The daughters each received 200 pounds, while John inherited land property at Cliffe in Barkisland and at Hill End, Saddleworth. James inherited land at Netherton, including Netherton Hall, the house on the estate.1,2,9


  1. Hurndall, R. 1933 History of the Wrigley family of Netherton, Yorkshire. Copy made available in July 2018 by James Wrigley of Totnes, Devon, England.
  2. Family notes by Jean Jamison, made available by Katie Taylor in Germany, October 2017
  3. The Wrigley Family. 1999 Copy of family notes made available in April 2019 by Simon Wrigley of Tel Aviv, Israel
  4. The Wrigleys of South Crosland. Wrigleys of South Crosland
  5. Barrow, N. 2020 In search of the early Wrigleys. Saddleworth Historical Society Bulletin, Vol 50 (1)
  6. Saddleworth.
  7. Yorkshire.
  8. Delph.
  9. Wrigley, M. 1936 History of Netheron and the Wrigleys, 1633 – 1936. Copy made available by James Wrigley of Totnes, Devon, England
  10. Muir, M. 2002 The Wrigley family of Netherton in Yorkshire. Research notes in possession of Tony Jamison, Randfontein, South Africa
  11. Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601.