“THE CLEVELAND RACE”
In practice, parishes that are close together are likely to house families that are closely related, particularly when they share a rare name. A notable bundle of such parishes lies in the Cleveland district of North Yorkshire, along the south of the river Tees. The heart of this patch is the stretch of eight miles or so from Ingleby Barwick eastwards to include Thornaby, Stainton, Marton, Ormesby and Eston. Several of these have now been swallowed up by Middlesborough.
The idea that Mewburns from this area were closely related was implied back in 1846 by W. Hylton Dyer Longstaffe, in his history of Darlington, when he mentioned “the Cleveland race”. He seemed familiar with these Cleveland Mewburns but did not spell out how they were linked and related or whether there was any further significance to the geography.
The earliest record we have from Cleveland is from a manor court at Eston on the 10th October II Henry IV, the second regnal year of Henry IV, or 1400. A Thomas Mewburn was fined 4d for allowing 20 of his cattle to wander – “20 beasts taken in severalties”.
Ormesby, however, is the breeding ground for most of the early Mewburns.
EARLY ORMESBY from 1550
A 160-year gap opens up from the careless Thomas at Eston to the baptism of Brigett, daughter of John, in 1559 at neighbouring Ormesby.
Ormesby from that time appears to be the cradle of the “Cleveland race” or at least its principal source of records. It provides three early wills that identify members of a family living there in the mid-16th century. The first will is for William Meaburne in 1578. He names his wife and several children. Then there is one for Elline or Hellen in 1582 who appears to be William’s wife and who names most of the same children. Finally there is a will for Jaine in 1597, one of the daughters – who names a known sister. From these we can reconstruct that family.
The 16th century family of William Mewburne of Ormesby
The son Richard from this family is likely to be the one buried at Ormesby in 1611 and we know from his mother’s will that he married and had children.
However, there is no substantial body of other records prior to the 17th century that might present a view of the general presence of Mewburns in the area – though we have clear evidence above for at least two families. Unfortunately there are no 1641 Protestation returns for Cleveland to give a check on the early 17th century position.
Ormesby parish records do, though, start to provide evidence soon after – most particularly for one family of eleven children in the early 1600s to a John Mewborn. They were not, however, the only ones present. Henrye Mewborn married Margaret Garnett in 1606, though there are no records for any children by them. Then there is another marriage in 1627 of a Christopher to Ellen Lazenbye that produced at least five children. That Christopher is too old to have been John’s son Christopher from 1614 so must have been the son of some other late 16th century Mewburn (probably not Henry, since none of Christopher’s sons was given that name).
Some other John died at Ormesby in 1620. Yet another John was married to an Anne Mewburn in 1641 and had a son James in 1642.
Links between them all are unknown and their subsequent spread beyond Ormesby, perhaps necessitated by the number born, cannot be defined precisely but have been hazarded.
Early Ormesby births from John
Early Ormesby births from Christopher and Nicholas
Though we do not have hard evidence to link these with subsequent births in the mid- to late 17th century, distinctive names permit speculation as shown below. We can take it even further and wonder whether the John Mewburn at the apex of this tree, and who may have been born around 1580 or earlier, was a son of Richard, the son of William in the 1578 will? The timing is certainly credible.
To leaven this speculation, there are Hearth Tax records from 1673 that show there were several significant families in the North Riding, so we can ask how Miles, Christopher, the Georges and Johns, Nicholas, the Richards, Thomas, William, another Christopher and possibly two Elizabeths, might be related.
North Riding (1673)
Hearth Tax records for the Ridings of Yorkshire
Miles is likely to have been the one baptised in 1619. There is a marriage for a Miles to Mary Coates in 1667 and a will in 1696. Technically, the 1619 Miles could have had a much earlier marriage and a son who then was the one marrying Mary. However there are no records to support such a scenario. A Miles certainly had children at Ormesby following the date of the marriage and was progenitor of a line at Loftus.
Carlton, where a Christopher was living, is on the edge of the North Yorks Moors. He may have been the one baptised in 1614. He seems too young to have been the one who married Ellen Lazenbye in 1627. No births are recorded at Carlton.
There is no George in the first generation but there was a son of John born in 1637 and then a son of Christopher born in 1638 who could be those with property at Ormesby and Marton. A third George born in 1642 to a John is more likely to be the one buried at Eston that same year. I suspect that Christopher moved away from Ormesby, as did his sons, so it may be more likely that it was George (1638) who was at Marton. He is believed to be the progenitor of a line that ended up at Ingleby Barwick and has descendants still in Yorkshire today.
The John situation at Ormesby has not been resolved. There were almost certainly two producing children in the 1640s and one may have been John 1611. The John of Thornton, Stainton and Stainsbury is thought more likely to be John 1633, the son of Christopher and Ellen.
Nicholas is believed to be the one baptised in 1617. There are seven children for Nicholas. His son, William, baptised in 1652 would be just old enough to have been the Will at Upsall. The William baptised in 1613 is another candidate for the Upsall entry though a preferred theory is that he was the William who had a family at Brompton by Northallerton in the 1640s-50s. That theory is based on the fact that his elder brother John was more likely to inherit at Ormesby so settling elsewhere would provide greater independence.
The three entries for Richard are intriguing as we have records for only two. A Richard married Margaret Gowland in 1649 but she died a year later around the time of the birth of a daughter Mary. One year further on a Richard married Gillian Miton and there were three more births at Ormesby. His son Richard (1653) might just have been old enough to have been holding one of the properties. No other Richard is known.
Thomas at Ormesby is little known. His birth is unrecorded as is his death. There is a son George in 1660 and a daughter Averill in 1664 who may be for him.
Christopher at Welbury is also uncertain. One theory is that he is not the Christopher who married Ellen Lazenbye in 1627 and had five children at Ormesby. A rough date for his birth would then be 1602. A burial in 1655 at Stainton (where his son John is believed to have settled) could be for this earlier Christopher and the subsequent burial there of an Ellina in 1668 could be for his wife. The Christopher at Welbury is likely to be later. He produced two children there – Thomas in 1671 and Christopher in 1672 – so may well have been born in the 1640s or 50s. There is no record of him, though.
With Elizabeth we have little to go on though she may be the one born in 1618. If there were actually two Elizabeths then the problem is simply compounded and less well resolved. Warlaby and Yafforth though are only a mile apart on the edges of Northallerton.
In all this one name is missing. A James was born, perhaps around 1654 or earlier, who left us a will having died at Eston in 1704. Some of his descendants lived at Croft, a little to the east of the core Cleveland area, and also had links to Ormesby. It is, however, possible that James was living in County Durham at the time of the Hearth Tax (one of his sons even ended up in Northumberland and started the Acomb line). Kinship with James’s descendants is however claimed by later Cleveland Mewburns. There were two births in 1640 and another in 1642 for a James. It may be that one of them is for him.
LATER ORMESBY FRAGMENTS
Other people come and go in the Cleveland area and the registers for Ormesby offer a collection of fleeting appearances – births mostly in the early part of the 18th century.
Tree fragments from Ormesby
How these people relate to other Cleveland Mewburns is really not known. The John who had William in 1669 may well have been the same John that appears in the Hearth Tax returns for Ormesby. It is technically possible that the 1669 William is the same as the father of Margaret and Mary - but that would be the end of that line.
Richard could be the one born at Stainton in 1668 and these daughters could be the result of a second marriage with Jane Preistcosen (or someone else if Averill was born in wedlock).
The three sons George, Thomas and John are not known to be linked to any future family. Overall we are looking at a set of apparent genealogical dead-ends.
A possible exception is John (1733). His father may have been a sailor and there is a John, also a mariner, married to a Catherine, who had children at Sunderland – Ann (1765), Catherine (1767), Jane (1770), John (1773) and Jonathan (1779). Once again, though, there is no trace of the sons having had families.
18th CENTURY SOURCES
Almost 70 years later the 1741 Poll Book for Yorkshire gives us:
Mewburn, George – freehold at Hunslet; abode at Leeds; condition T
Mewburn, Miles – freehold at Lofthouse; abode at Lofthouse; condition T
Mewburn, James – freehold at Croft; abode at Croft; condition T
Mewburn, John – freehold at Newby; abode at Thornaby; condition T
Mewburn, Ralph – freehold at Ingleby; abode at Marton; condition F
George of Leeds is otherwise unknown; Miles is the son of the earlier one; James at Croft is a grandson of the missing James mentioned earlier; John may be another of James’s grandsons; Ralph is a grandson of the earlier George of Marton.
18th century Mewburns from the heart of this area appear in the diaries of Ralph Ward Jackson a significant landowner and diligent chronicler of all his own doings. Between 1757 and 1769 the diaries mention George Mewburn at Eston and his son James at Normanby who have farms of Jackson. They must be George, 1711, butcher and farmer, and James, 1743, both of the Marton line.
He also met a John Mewburn in Stokesley to negotiate the purchase of a farm at Upsal, owned by Mewburn (perhaps the one that appears in the Hearth Tax). In 1769 he had dealings over rents and tithes jointly with William Mewburn of Eston and his mother Elizabeth (said to be aged 80).
These last two appear to be the Mewburns mentioned by Longstaffe as being related to those who ended up at Danby. He refers to:
William Mewburn of Eston of this Prudom blood, married Joanna Consett of Ormesby,  whose mother was a Pennyman. … he died in 1811.
Mewburn was bearer at the funeral of Sir James Pennyman in 1808 when he was 71 years of age [therefore born 1737?]
His son William had emigrated to America in 1788.
The Prudom blood refers to the marriage of John Mewburn and Elizabeth Prudom. They, however, had no known son called William. John, though, had a second marriage to Elizabeth Snowdon with three sons William (1724 – so the comment of him having been 71 in 1808 must be wrong, he would have been closer to 81), George (1726) and Henry (1730). William is a good candidate for Ralph Jackson’s tenant (though not actually of Prudom blood) and Elizabeth, William’s 80-year old mother would then be Elizabeth Snowdon. George (1726) is not the one mentioned earlier as he did not marry and had no son.
He also quotes the diary of William of Eston as mentioning:
1769 – Cattle bought in 1769 – April 25, a cow of my coz’n at Croft. [James Mewburn of Monkend]
This links with his comment that:
Thomas Mewburn (dead before 1760) had three sons. Thomas, a gentleman of Blackwell; John an attorney at Darlington and James, who lived at Monkend, in right of his wife, Miss Aislaby [m 1746].
If James was literally a cousin then the elder Thomas and the first John were brothers. Remarkably, the records do provide one candidate pair of brothers in John born 1648 (close enough to his projected birth of 1646) and Thomas born 1651 both at Brompton-by-Northallerton to a William recorded variously as Meburne/Muburn/Meeburne. As a speculative hypothesis this links the two lines. William could be the one born in 1613 to John at Ormesby.
It seems certain that the elder Thomas was the husband of Abigail Moon. He died in 1729 but Abigail then was embroiled in court actions over the affairs of her deceased father where the complainants were her infant (under 21) children James, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Thomas and Ann (John was not named because he was born just after the court case was brought). The children were represented by a John Mewburn as ‘next friend’. He may have been John (1646/1648) of Eston. The children match a set born to a Thomas at Ormesby; Abigail is described first as of Monkend and later of Blackwell – which ties in with Longstaffe’s comment. Thomas is buried at Croft where it states he was buried in 1729 and was then 50 years old giving his birth as 1679.
The John Mewburn mentioned by Jackson might then be John (1711) of the true “Prudom blood”. This, however, seems less likely as there is reference to Upsall in the Accounts of William Mewburn of Eston. William is letting Upsall out, probably to William Garbutt, at around 1765.
An unpublished history of the Mewburns of Acomb by Dorothea Mewburn-Watson asserts (though without stating her evidence) that Thomas and John were brothers, as though this was common knowledge within the family. She also speculates, and admits that it is speculation, that James the progenitor of the Danby line may also have been a brother.
 Ralph Jackson Research Group, transcribers. (2005) Ralph Jackson’s Diaries (19 vols). Available online:
 Blackwell is on the southern edge of Darlington. Monkend and Croft are a mile south of Darlington.