The Cowlishaw Ancestors

The Cowlishaws

This page tells the story of the Cowlishaw line of the family. If you want to see a detailed diagram of the Cowlishaw ancestors, then click Cowlishaw Tree. This will open in a new tab so that you can flip between this page and the diagram.

These are the ancestors on the maternal line of Grandma Mary Wragg. The surname Cowlishaw is thought to have been derived from a place name, one in Lancashire and one in Derbyshire. This would tie in with this surname being most prevalent in those two counties. I have not been able to find out exactly where Cowlishaw was in Derbyshire, however there is a Cowlishaw Wood, just west of Tupton.

The Cowlishaws in our family lived most of the time in Crich Derbyshire. The earliest reference I have found to the Cowlishaw ancestors was in 1655, so the story starts from there.

John Cowlishaw

The earliest reference was when John Cowlishaw had his son John christened in Crich Derbyshire on 18 Oct 1655. The Cowlishaws continued to live in Crich. The record of the christening didn’t include the mother’s name so I have been unable to trace John’s wife.

John Cowlishaw and Mary Verden

John was the son of John christened in 1655. He married Mary Verden in 1690. Mary was also from Crich and was christened in 1674. I also found the christening of her father John Verden in 1628. This is the earliest record I have found of any of our family.

Samuel Cowlishaw and Deborah Hough

Samuel was a son of John and Mary and was christened in Crich in1699. He married Deborah Hough in 1729. She also came from Crich and was christened there in 1701.

William Cowlishaw and Mary Robinson

William was a son of Samuel and Deborah and was christened in Crich in 1738. He married Mary Robinson in 1765. Mary came from Crich and was christened there in 1743. William died in 1815 and Mary died in 1822.

Thomas Cowlishaw and Ester Turner

Thomas was a son of William and Mary and was christened in 1769 in Crich. He married Ester Turner in 1790. I have not been able to trace Ester’s birth. Thomas died in 1839.

William Cowlishaw and Elizabeth Beardah

William was the son of Thomas and Ester and was christened in Crich in 1793. He married Elizabeth Beardah in 1820. Elizabeth was christened in 1820. They had 6 children. William worked as an agricultural labourer. He died in 1837 and Elizabeth died in 1856.

Charles Cowlishaw and Hannah Bratby

Charles was the son of William and Elizabeth and was christened in Crich in 1838. Charles married Hannah Bratby in 1862. They had 6 children. Hannah was christened in 1843 in Crich. Her father David Bratby worked in Chrich as a quarryman. His family originally came from Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

In the 1861 census, Charles’ occupation is shown as a limestone getter. I found the following description of a limestone getter’s job.
At the quarry face, stone getters would work in gangs varying in numbers from two to four men, with each individual quarry man having to provide his own tools, these would include sledge hammers, bars and shovels and each gang was even required to pay for all explosives used by that gang. The gang was also responsible for its own particular “piece” of the rock face.
The method for working the stone was simple, but arduous. Each gang undertook its own blasting, rock breaking and haulage within the quarry. The removal and excavation of a face was affected by a system employing relatively short holes drilled using a hand-held jack hammer. The fireman responsible for boring and firing would use black grain powder, which was packed into the drill hole and well bedded with the fuse. The fuse was sometimes just wheat straw filled with a similar explosive, which had been damped to give it a slow burn rate. Following the blasting, the loose stone was “barred down” by the fireman, broken or crushed with hand tools by the gang and loaded into skips, drums or drays which were then pushed on narrow gauge light rail tracks or hauled by horses to loading bays within the quarry.

By the 1881 census Charles was a stone quarry mason, suggesting that he had moved on to more skilled work. However, by 1891, like many men in the area, he turned to coal mining which would have been better paid.

Charles and his wife Hannah did get a mention in the local newspapers in 1865. The report was as follows.
Charles Cowlishaw, labourer of Crich, was summoned by his wife, Hannah Cowlishaw, for assaulting her. The magistrates dismissed the case, at the same time cautioning the defendant as to his future conduct.
There was no other information, so we can only guess what was going on.

Charles died in 1912 and Hannah in 1921

Elizabeth Cowlishaw and John Holmes

Elizabeth was the daughter of Charles and Hannah and was christened in Crich in 1871. She moved to Clay Cross when she married John Holmes in 1889 in Clay Cross. I have already covered their marriage on the Holmes page. They were the parents of Grandmother Mary Holmes so I have come to the end of the Cowlishaw ancestors.


The name Crich is derived from an old Celtic word for hill. The main employment for many years at Crich was the limestone quarries, lead mining and framework knitting. In 1791 Benjamin Outram and Samuel Beresford bought land in Crich for a quarry to supply limestone to their new ironworks at Butterley. One quarry was later transformed into a tramway museum. Crich would get some national fame when it became the location for the setting for the ITV drama series Peak Practice.

There is a big collection of Crich parish records at