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Review of Bannister Grimshaw's book, The Entwisle Family, by Peter Stanford

“The Entwisle Family” – a review

Bannister Grimshaw wrote “The Entwisle Family” in 1924.  We discover from it that the family’s history is better than any invented melodrama.  It has everything – a hero, the gallant Sir Bertine Entwisle; a black sheep, the weak-willed George Entwisle; and a villain, the odious Thurstan Tyldesley, “a man notorious for unscrupulous dealing in every phase of his life … George was soon in Tildesley’s clutches”.

The upshot was that, in the middle 1500s, Tildesley acquired from George the Manor of Entwisle, bar a few small farms which George’s father had evidently given to younger sons during his lifetime.  Much later some members of the family laid claim to the manor and Grimshaw set out to gather the facts.  In doing so he acquired much knowledge of the family more generally which, fortunately for us, he decided to publish.

As well as lots of interesting snippets of information there are some tables of wills, officials and abstracts from parish registers.  I don’t want to spoil all your fun but can’t resist mentioning one more character.  We all know who invented the locomotive, the Rocket, but how many people know the name of the driver on its famous first trial trip?  Well you do now – Edward Entwisle.  Others are named who have produced useful inventions themselves.

As for the claim to the manor, the upshot was that it wouldn’t stand, for any one of three reasons – The transfer was legal (if despicable, but despicable doesn’t count), the situation almost four centuries later had become too complicated to unscramble and, in any case, even a valid and simple claim would have been time-expired by over three centuries.  Sorry, folks.

The Entwisles were the last corner of my family whom I expected to find had been amongst the landed gentry, less yet the aristocracy.  Their land holdings once stretched from Entwistle as far as Manchester, and I was amazed to find that in the fifteenth century the queen was in the habit of popping in to see her friend and trusted advisor of the family at Entwistle!  Yes, this really is a good read.

But some serious misapprehensions concerning the family’s origins, arms and the derivation of the name are mentioned.  I do not blame Grimshaw for them because he was reporting what others had said and he disclaims expertise in such matters – though clearly he has some considerable knowledge and ability in historical research.

It had been claimed that the Entwisles were descended from the Norman Estotevilles, but really none of the arguments for this hold water.  The pedigrees of three upper class families claimed marriages with Entwistles not long after the Conquest.  As Grimshaw rightly says, even if the brides and bridegrooms were fictitious, the records tend to prove the high esteem in which the Entwisle family was held.  Now this may, indeed, suggest Norman origins, but it does not suggest being of the Estotevilles.  Quite the opposite, in fact, because the name is given as Antwisel and Enwissel – and this was supposed to have been as early as the reign of William Rufus, though I suppose that the pedigrees mentioned were compiled at a later date.

Other reasons given are:

- The Entwisles have born the Estoteville arms, or a close variant.  I can find no evidence of this whatsoever, and the Entwisle arms as far back as the early 1400s (and probably before) are completely different.  The book illustrates a shield of red and white bars overlaid by a black lion and labelled “Sir John Antwysell’s Coat of Arms 1067”.  Grimshaw was not to know that in 1067 nobody, not even the king, was using hereditary arms.  These arms are of the sort borne later by Estotevilles.

- Enwistle (the place) is named after the Entwisles, not the other way round, because the earliest references do not say “of” (de) Entwisle, so they must have brought a surname in with them.  Well, the trouble with this is that “twis(t)le” is a common element in Lancashire placenames and there are at least two others – Oswaldtwistle and Extwistle.  It means land in the fork of a river, and there is certainly such a feature at Entwistle.  The other part may come from water-hens – there were certainly plenty of those when I used to go camping there as a boy.  The other thing is that, by the evidence of Grimshaw’s book, it just isn’t true, because in fact the earliest mentioned for which he quotes a verifiable source is Roberto de Entwisell about 1200.

This Robert married William Radcliff’s daughter and seems to have adopted his arms.  These are also illustrated, with more justification, with the caption “Robert Hennetwyssell’s Coat of Arms 1200”.  They consist of a white shield with an indented black bend and these are the only arms ever used by the family that I know of.  In fact the illustration is not quite correct as it shows three white mullets (five-pointed stars) superimposed on the bend.  This charge can be emblematic of a knight (symbolising the rowel of a spur) and, though from the evidence of his memorial brass of 1455 illustrated by Grimshaw Sir Bertine himself did not use it, it may well have been added in his memory.

Finally, whilst Entwisle association with former Estoteville territory in Normandy is not in question, we would have to reverse history to believe that this was anything more than coincidence, since Sir Bertine only acquired it well over three centuries after the Conquest, and then apparently by purchase.

Peter Stanford


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