I’ve been a volunteer at the Garden since 2014, where I have used my interest in local history to help research the Middleton Hall estate. I am particularly interested in the Middleton family: who they were, where they came from and their local connections.
The first Middleton to live on the estate was Henry Middleton, but our story begins with Henry ’s grandfather John Middleton, an ironmonger from Chester. We know little of John’s ancestry, he first appears in the records in 1555 when he was made a Freeman of Chester.
The Chirk Connection
John’s wife Katherine, was the daughter of another Chester Ironmonger, Thomas Bavand and his wife Margaret Myddleton. Margaret was the daughter of Robert Myddleton of Chester, who was the son of David Myddleton of Gwaynynog, the Great Grandfather of Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk. This then gives us the family link between the Llanarthne Middletons and the Chirk Myddletons.
John Middleton was one of the more important Chester merchants trading with the continent during the 1560s. In 1562, John was one of 8 merchants, who controlled more than fifty percent of the wine and iron which was shipped to Chester. In 1565-6, 27 merchants exported Manchester cottons to the continent, of these, only two men handled more than 2,000 goads, one of them was John.
In 1570 John was taken to court along with two other men, for failure to pay duties owed on a shipment of leather bound for France. In addition he was charge with the assault of the customs officers who tried to seize the leather. This does not seem to have harmed John’s reputation as he was elected Sherriff of Chester the following year.
John appears in the customs accounts for the last time in 1572-73 and then seems to have fallen on hard times. By December 1587 John appears close to ruin; stressing his great decay and the need to support his wife and children he asks the city council for a loan of £4 for twelve months. It is obvious that he was in great financial difficulty for in both 1588, the year of his wife’s death, and 1592 he asks for the loan to be extended for a further year.
The city council sought to help this former Sheriff and in 1595 ordered that he should have the benefit of keeping the New Shambles. Three years later the council was concerned about the lack of progress shown by the New Haven project and appointed John as an overseer of the work; he was to see that the labourers worked well and did not waste time, and his expenses were to be met by the city. This is the last we hear of John in the records, it is believed that he died sometime around 1600.
What became of John’s children will be the subject of my next post.