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Origins of the Name Blackwell

Blackwell is a well that springs from a black volcanic rock side vent of a volcano that emerges from the white limestone which the Peak district is famous for. Thus the "black well". These volcanos are what raised the limestone from the seabed to form the Pennines "mountains". The local volcano is called Calton hill, just south of Blackwell Manor. Blackwell in the Peak was part of the parish of Bakewell in Derbyshire. Bakewell is said to be derived from Bathwell thus you see Battequell sometimes. Nearby Taddington was a sub chapel or chapel of convenience, part of Bakewell parish. Taddington later became a parish in it own right in the 1700's. Both Blackwell and Bakewell are on the Wye River. Blackwell is high above the Wye River gorge on thick limestone deposits hundreds of feet deep. Bakewell is down river on thinner limestone deposits. Matlock, still further down river is again on thicker limestone deposits and is near spectacular limestone cliffs, though not as spectacular as at Blackwell's narrower gorge.

I speculate that the Blackwell family was dispossesed of Blackwell manor after the 1066 conquest. Thus you see rebellous Blackwells in the records. Of course it was not a single family that was dispossed but an entire village or clan which tried to resist. I speculate that many were killed, others frighten off, and a few perhaps bought off. An Isabel de Blackwell is recorded as marrying a Norman lord in Alfreton at an early date. Perhaps she is a daughter or widow of a leader of the Blackwell clan in the Peak. Later the parish of Blackwell is seen in eastern Derbyshire outside the white limestone Peak district. This Blackwell near Alfreton and Normanton is not in the early Doomsday book but is a creation of the Normans. Perhaps it is a resettlement village of refugees from Blackwell manor now owned by William Peveral, who is said to be a natural son of William the Conquerer. These little battles and raids would not be recorded anywhere. William Peveral's grandson later (1200?) gave Blackwell manor to Lenton Priory, perhaps as a compromise and to stop later ill feelings. Perhaps the Blackwell clan was able to return and manage the manor for Lenton Priory. This appears evident finally in 1500 when Richard Blackwell makes an 90 year lease. Perhaps there were earlier leases.

Thus I speculate that the Blackwells had a strong attachment to their place of origin. A good well in limestone county is valuable because water goes thru limestone quickly and in dry spells there are no ponds or streams on the surface for sheep or cattle or people to drink from. There are rarely any natural ponds on limestone. The nearby Wye river is deep down at the bottom of a limestone gorge and is fed by underground streams. Bill Gregory, the current owner of Blackwell manor remembers taking water from the Blackwell spring for his father's cattle to drink from. Other farmers had to drive their cattle down a few dangerous and steep access points to the Wye river in any dry spell. (David C. Blackwell)

Bakewell versus Blackwell

Comments by David Craig Blackwell <dblackwell@s1.drc.com> 1996

Regarding Bakewell and Blackwell. Did you know that the manor of Blackwell was then part of the Bakewell parish. Taddington was a sub chapel of Bakewell. Bakewell parish is one of the largest parishes in England. So when last names were being created and when scribes asked where you were from, Blackwells could say they were from the parish of Bakewell or the manor of Blackwell. The manor of Blackwell was owned by Lenton Priory and Blackwells owned property around it in Bakewell and other parishes. So they were not always of the manor of Blackwell but were often of the parish of Bakewell. There is also a manor of Bakewell which at later times was occupied by the Bakewell family with a completely different & later arms.

So if you were a scribe in 1300 London what would you write down? John de Bakewell or John de Blackwell? This may be the source of the confusion. I have yet to figure out how it can be resolved. But it is too early to say that in London in 1300, Bakewell and Blackwell are different, personally I feel they are the same Blackwell family, perhaps they resolved to reacquire what was once theirs.

Another possiblity is that the Bakewells in London "daughtered out" and the Blackwells were their heirs in some way. Perhaps the Blackwells married the Bakewell heirs and therefore inherited their arms.

Sir John Blackwell/Bakewell(d.1307) has the earliest arms. It is believed that he was awarded the arms for service against the Scots. David L Blackwell states that he served on three juries, one of which convicted William Wallace, the Scots leader, of treason in the Mayor's court of London. Is not the Scotish lion red on a yellow field, and Sir John's lion is reversed yellow on a red field. (Does this signify anything?). I once thought the black and white bars on the Bakewell/Blackwell arms signify the black volcanic rock and white limestone of Blackwell in the Peak but David L. Blackwell points out that the bars are blue and silver not black and white (I should have noticed that). Is it not ironic that Bill Gregory whose grandfather bought Blackwell Manor farm from the Duke of Devonshire in the late 1800s conciders himself a descendant of a Scotman who came to Derbyshire in the 1700s to work for the Duke. (Bill's hair still has a slight ting of red.)

David L Blackwell <BsIsland@aol.com> writes:

With regard to Sir John Bakewell(d.1307), actually there is no confusion at all. I have about 150 primary references to him, not one of which calls him Blackwell. Stow in one place talks of De Blanckwell husband of Dame Jane Sayne (wrong wife), according to Philip, however Stow elsewhere adamantly makes the case that Blackwell Hall began as Bakewell Hall, and clearly makes the case for no "L". The confusion comes not with Sir John, but 150 years later, when in City of London corporate records give the oath to be taken by the Keeper of Blackwell Hall, and later in 1560 when William Blackwell, the Clerk has the (Bakewell) arms, with the addition or the ermine border and the swan crest. (DCB Ed.note: someone thought the swan crest, a badge of the Dukes of Buckingham, might indicate a history of service to Buckinghams).

Comments by David Craig Blackwell <dblackwell@s1.drc.com> 1996

The arms of Richard Blackwell son of Robert and Isabel (Litton) Blackwell are awarded later in 1494 and I speculate it may be considered a cadet or younger branch of the Blackwells. Perhaps this is a resolution of friction between the country cousins and the city cousins. Farming was still done on narrow strips of land assigned to each clan member/farmer. Sheep are becoming more common and people are being pushed off the land so more profitable sheep can be raised. The London Blackwells might want more wool and lead to trade. So the London Blackwells might discourage  subsistance farming and take Blackwell sons and try to place them in city trades The clan no longer serves a purpose, land does not have to be defended or intensively farmed, the King rules, primogentry says all property goes to the eldest son and little or nothing to younger sons and cousins. Thus the clan disappears between 1200 and 1500. Only a extended family survives, which intermarries with other families more for business reasons than for love or attraction. Mining which was a winter time occupation now becomes a full time occupation. Life become more frantic, till wars or plagues temporarily decrease population pressure.

Another possiblity is that Richard Blackwell of Blackwell in the Peak is the senior line and perhaps knows that the London Blackwell arms are "inherited" through marriage and perhaps the London Blackwells are the cadet line.

After Henry VIII disolved the monastries, including Lenton Priory, the Blackwells held an 80 year lease to the manor (the lease started in 1501?). They apparently tried to acquire the manor, but perhaps because they were suspected recusants (Catholics) they failed and lost the last few years of the lease in a complicated court case against the Duke in the 1570s. Henry's son EdwardVI gave the manor and other monastic lands to the Dukes of Devonshire as a reward of their support. The Derbyshire Blackwells, while Royalist in the English Civil War, somehow bought the manor from the Commonwealth government, but lost the property back to the Duke at the restoration of Charles II in the 1660s in another complicated court case. Exact what happen has yet to be puzzled out from the records. The Dukes held the land till the late 1800s when it was sold to Bill Gregory's grandfather. A miracle had happened. American farmland and immigration and the industrial revolution (trains and ships) had decreased the value of land in England so a tenant farmer could buy it.

Other Early Blackwells

Van Blackwell points out that another Blackwell  in the Doomsday Book exists in Worcestershire near Treddington. Pre Conquest records indicate that the king gave it to the church.

David L.Blackwell writes:

Of interest here is the Richard de Blukeville of Bucks in 1237 who sat as a juror to determine a case of avodson (whose lay right to appoint a rector) concerning Lenton Priory! There are about 30 references to Blakewells in Bucks from 1210 through 1275. Lots of Williams, Roberts, Ralphs, and Ivo de Blakewell. Perhaps a branch of the Derbyshire family came early to Bucks. 

I'll have to look at this one again to see if Bucks records show any local Lenton Priory. In any event Sir John passed his Bakewell name on down, and there were Blakewells in Bucks and Middlesex from the early 1200's. They start appearing in London by the mid 1300s.

I have been building a London-Mddsx-Herts document and a good deal of material on William Blackwell the town clerk of London and five generations of descendants. In England in 1994 I found almost every reference of Philip's at SOG, some which he left out, and greater detail in some that he left behind, apparently after he centered in on the Watford line.


more comments later ...


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send comments to David Craig Blackwell <dblackwell@drc.com> (editor)
and David L Blackwell <BsIsland@aol.com>

August 1996.