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About the study

A study of the Grisenthwaite name worldwide. I have been researching the Grisenthwaite name for many years with my 2nd cousin’s wife in Australia. I am also in contact with a number of Grisenthwaite 'cousins' in both the UK, Canada and other countries. Our very early Grisenthwaites were centred in the How Bound district of Castle Sowerby, Cumberland, with a few families moving a few miles away to the Caldbeck and Greystoke areas by the early 18th century.  

In the mid-18th century one male moved to Liverpool and married in 1765 in Ormskirk, Lancashire. Before this date there were no recordings of Grisenthwaites in Liverpool and his Will proves he was from Cumberland, mentioning the same property he had moved from in Greystoke which he had inherited being the first born son.

To further the research of the early Grisenthwaites,  in 2012 I began sourcing other materials including Manorial Court Records, amassing a large amount of material relating to the early Grisenthwaites. The early Cumberland Grisenthwaites were Yeomen farmers and their land transactions, disputes etc. were all recorded in the Manorial Court records. I photographed these old documents and spent a great deal of time transcribing the old handwriting and court shorthand.

In 2014 I published The Grisenthwaite Name Through Time ISBN 978-0-9930484-0-1. Included are some the Manorial Court Records, the early Grisenthwaites (with charts) and some of the early Wills. I obtained permission from the Duke of Devonshire Archives to publish some of the Manorial Court Record images I had photographed at Cumbria Archive Service, Carlisle. The book also covers key points as the Grisenthwaite families migrated in the 18th century. The Grisenthwaites of Liverpool are considered in some detail. There is also a paragraph with details of our research into the early Yorkshire ‘Gristhwaites’.

Variant names

Grissenwhat; Griselwhite; Gristwate; Grisewithe; Grisenthwaik; Grisenthat; Gristlewait; Grisawhae; Gristlethwaite etc.  In some of the early documents it is obvious that the Vicars used shorthand variants of the name. Manorial Court Records use Court shorthand. With the census and other online records, the majority of spellings in the actual documents are correct or near-correct, but the transcribers being unfamiliar with the name have invariably spelt it wrong. It’s best when searching for Grisenthwaite to use wildcards.

Name origin

There are two sources -  Grisenthwaite (Cumberland) & Gristhwaite (Yorkshire).

It is thought that the name GRISENTHWAITE is derived from the Norse words, Grissen – a young pig and Thwaite – a clearing in the forest.  Our early Grisenthwaite families lived in Inglewood Forest, Cumberland. The first Norse settlers were thought to have arrived around 925AD, and unlike raids on the east coast, the Vikings who raided Cumberland were believed to be Norwegians who came via Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Their influence is still to this date evident in a large amount of place names, particularly in the central lakes – FELL, THWAITE and DALE are still abundant in Cumbria to this day.

According to the dictionary of English Surnames “Gristhwaite, Grisethwaite” the earliest record of the name is Lambert de Gristhwait 1327 SR Yorkshire; William Grysthwayte 1417 IMP Yorks; Richard Grysethwayte 1520 FR Yorks. From Gristhwaite in Topcliff NR Yorks.

We have researched both the Yorkshire and Cumberland Grisenthwaites but have not, as yet, been able to connect the two. The early Cumberland Grisenthwaite family has so far been traced back to c1500 and a one name study completed (although it is never completed as there are always new records to add as more documents become available!).

Historical occurrences of the name

Photograph of William Grisenthwaite, Penrith

The lives of the early Grisenthwaites living on the border with Scotland would be volatile and they would often suffer raids from Scotland. The low copyhold rents the tenants paid to the Lord of the Manor reflected the fact that they could be called upon at short notice to carry out border service. John Gristenthat in the Muster Rolls of 1581-2 is listed as with ‘bowe furnished’. In the early 1600s when James 1 came to the throne, the countries of England and Scotland were unified, and men such as the Armstrongs and Elliotts were hunted, some being executed and the borders were a much safer place to live, although skirmishes were to last into the 18th century.

In 1828 our first Grisenthwaite was transported to Australia - he was born 1796 Ormskirk, Liverpool and died 1879 in Liverpool, New South Wales.

A large part of Penrith, Cumbria was built by William Grisenthwaite in the 19th century. These houses were built of sandstone from the quarries he leased near Penrith. Several mansions were built by him - Langdale Chase, Windermere (now a hotel) was one of the largest he built. Further afield in Paignton, he carried out a huge scheme of water supply from Dartmoor and also built the bridge over the Dart in the same district. At one time his business was the largest in the county employing over 200 men.

Arthur Gordon Grisenthwaite 1889-1957 Cockermouth, Cumberland is mentioned in TE Lawrenc’s book ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’  as one of the soldiers who gave of their best during his desert campaign as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in WW1. For his contribution to the Arab Revolt as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Arthur was awarded The Order (fourth class) of Al Nahda of the Kingdom of the Hejaz.

Descendants of Mary Grisenthwaite 1710-1786 and her husband James Robinson 1703-1756 both of Castle Sowerby, Cumberland were founders of Provost Oats, Annan, Dumfriesshire.

Some of our "interesting" Grisenthwaites were also mentioned in The Grisenthwaite Name Through Time.




Distribution of the name

Several families were found in Cumberland at Castle Sowerby in the 16th century in Manorial Court documents and Wills and were centred around the How Bound district. By the mid-18th century one male had moved to Liverpool and so the start of the Lancashire branch of the Grisenthwaites. One male also moved to Grantham, Lincs at this time. Several Grisenthwaite families moved to the town of Penrith, Cumberland, the farming traditions left behind and became stone masons and builders. By the 19th century there were Grisenthwaites in different counties in England and Scotland and also several emigrations.

BMDs recorded in the GRO 1837-2004 with surname Grisenthwaite and variants:




With the Yorkshire Gristhwaites the earliest recording is 1312-1338 Thomas de Gristhwayte listed as the 9th Abbot of Jervaulx Abbey near Masham, North Yorkshire. We are unable as yet to connect the Yorkshire Gristhwaites to the Cumberland Grisenthwaites.


The one name study includes:

Data from various Parish Registers on microfilm throughout the UK including BTs  -  counties including  Lancashire, Yorkshire, Norfolk, London, Cumberland and Westmorland; Wills from various sources including Cumbria Archive Service, Lancashire Archive Service and the Borthwick Institute,York; Manorial Court Records of the Duke of Devonshire’s Cumberland Estates D/MBS 4 series; D/MBS/4/146 Plan of Castle Sowerby 1769; X1193/23 List of Castle Sowerby grooms and brides marrying in other parishes pre 1812.

DX14 - Carelton and Castle Sowerby Manorial deeds etc 1595-1932.

DMBS/4/37 Copy of forest boundary, Inglewood and Castle Sowerby 16th-20c.

DX1596 16th-20c deeds.


DRIC/65 Admittances mainly CS 1573-1810.

Q/RE/1/41 Castle Sowerby Enclosure 1769.

National Archives:

Kew: SC 2/165/6 Estreats 1600-1602

SC 2/207/105 Estreats 1623-1643

LR 2/Vol 212 ff.159-202

Newspapers courtesy of British Newspapers Archives.

The Border Papers—Calendar of Letters and Papers relating to the affairs of the Borders of England and Scotland, Vol 1 1560-1594; Thomas Denton A Perambulation of Cumberland 1687-1688, Edited by JL Winchester, The Surtees Society and of Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society (Cumbria Records Office MS D/Lons/L12/4/2/2).

Northmen of Cumberland and Westmorland,  by Robert Ferguson, 1856.

Transforming Fell and Valley, Landscape and Parliamentary Enclosure in North West England, Ian Whyte.

Census documents 1841-1911 UK & USA census documents; 1939 register (FindmyPast). Cumbria Archive Service; Lancashire Archive Service, National Archives; Borthwick Institute; Ancestry Worldwide; Findmypast; Lancashire Online Parish Clerk; Latter Day Saints; Free BMD; Free REG; Commonwealth War Graves Commission;   Gazettes Online;  GENUKI; Historical Directories of England & Wales online; Internet Archive Digital Library;  Family Search Books online; HathiTrust books online;  Lancashire BMDs;  Old Cumbria Gazetteer; Open Library Books;; Yorkshire BMDs; British History Online; Scotlands People and many more websites I have looked at over the years.


Facebook page which has some information about my book and also some stories, documents and photographs of Grisenthwaites.