By Bill Remus
An excellent book by Bill Remus about the Sheldons in England including their migration the America. Although the title refers to Burslem England (Staffordshire), the book contains information about the Sheldons in other areas of Staffordshire as well as Derbyshire.
The Sheldon family lived at the southern end of the Pennine Mountains that run down the center of England. This area known as the Peak District includes the villages of Bakewell, Sheldon, Monyash, and Stanton. These villages were only a day’s walk from each other. All these villages did surface lead mining and subsistence farming. The miners paid the owners of the land a percentage of the lead they produced.
The article in the link below has six chapters (approximately 92 pages). The first three chapters cover the Sheldon family up to the end of the English Civil War in the mid sixteen hundreds. In the early sixteen hundreds all the Sheldons lived in central England. However by the mid sixteen hundreds the Sheldon migration to New England had begun. The last three chapters of the e book focus on the Sheldons that stayed in England after the Civil War period and may not be of interest to Americans.
The Sheldons that migrated to America during and after the English Civil War period might be interested in the first three chapters as their ancestors were still in England at that time. Here are details in each of those three chapters.
The Sheldon Family of Sheldon, Derbyshire
This first chapter will explain about life in these villages and in the village of Sheldon in particular. There will be details of the how the lead mining was done there and how the people lived. When adopting family surnames, the people of this village took the village name – Sheldon. There are pictures of this area, maps, and descriptions of the terrain.
The Sheldon Family of Monyash, Derbyshire
Just a few miles west of Sheldon was Monyash. It is the subject of the second chapter. Initially this area was swampy and wet so Monyash initially was not mined. However technological developments led to draining and mining this area. A village was also built there. It was nicer than Sheldon village in many ways so Sheldon residents migrated there.
The Sheldon Family of Stanton, Staffordshire
Stanton was another Sheldon village just to the west of Monyash. It too was a lead mining village and is the subject of the third chapter. It was also the birth place of the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of Oxford University Gilbert Sheldon. This chapter talks about the village but more importantly about Gilbert Sheldon.
Sheldons from the west side of the Peak district such as Stanton were lead miners, attended the Anglican Church, had Royalist landlords, stayed in England, and ultimately these Sheldons were potters and craftsmen. The last chapter about the Sheldons in England is about making fine dining ware like Wedgewood.
So American Sheldons can safely omit the last chapters in this e book as the ancestors of these American Sheldons were busy in New England. However chapters 1 and 2 are applicable to all Sheldons and three is also probably of interest too.
How about Bakewell, Derbyshire?
Many American Sheldons trace their heritage to Bakewell. This village is a few miles east from Sheldon village so it was on the east side of the Peak District and Pennine mountains. This village and the villages near it were also lead mining villages. It was unique in that it had the beautiful All Saints’ Church shown below which was initially built in 920 AD. The church served several villages so the records show much intermarriage of people from Bakewell, Sheldon, Monyash, and Ashford.
Bakewell is pleasantly situated on the Wye River and the cafes are currently full of the world famous Bakewell tarts. In the time of the Sheldon migration it was pock marked with tunnels and diggings – just like other mining villages. And there were no cafes. Since then Bakewell has become a prosperous, well kept town.
Sheldons from the east side of the Peak district like Bakewell were also initially lead miners and attended All Saints’ Church in Bakewell. However in the sixteen hundreds the east side miners and landlords became Protestants. The Bakewell church became Protestant. The preaching was strongly Protestant like that of the “Apostle of the Peaks,” William Bagshaw, who serviced many of the villages on the east side of the Peak District.
Why the Sheldons of Bakewell left for New England.
The period of 1631 to 1640 was the “Great Migration” to America. Many were Protestants like the Bakewell Sheldons who wanted to leave the disruptions and tribulations in their area of England. Going to America also allowed practice their beliefs without interference.
The first migrants to travel to New England are known as Pilgrims; they wanted to rid themselves of all Catholic ideas to focus on the bible. That first group did not do well with half of them dying in the first years.
The second wave was much better organized and gained the right to self governance from King Charles I. Ultimately their migration was arranged and overseen by the Massachusetts Bay Company. The first Massachusetts Bay Company fleet of 11 ships containing 700 people left England in 1630. The migrants were often recruited by the protestant pastors as was the case in Bakewell and their travel subsidized by the company. This second group is known as Puritans as they wanted to purify the Anglican Church – not to destroy it. The Bakewell Sheldons were Puritans. By 1840 about 20000 people had migrated to Massachusetts.
All these troubles ultimately led to the English Civil War starting about 1640. The Royalists won the English Civil War. They had a coronation for King Charles II (the son and successor of deceased Charles I). His government strongly favored the Anglican Church over the Protestant churches like the Puritans. The Puritan clergy like that in Bakewell were replaced with Anglican clergy. Open protestant worship was forbidden. Opportunities for migration also diminished although migration on a smaller scale still continued.