Family History

The Dunham Massey Archives and Joseph of Dunham’s will.

I became involved with the early family history after a visit to Dunham Massey House and to Bowdon Parish Church some years ago, when I was able to view Josiah of Dunham’s gravestone. In discussion with the custodians at Dunham Massey House it was discovered that all the estate archives had been catalogued by researchers at Manchester University and it would be worth viewing these, as there could well be some mention of the Phethean family in the archives. I was fortunate enough to have a nephew studying for a PhD at Manchester so I was able to persuade him to investigate for me. His studies uncovered a numerous references to various Phethean surnames but only one possible mention of Josiah of Dunham – all other references were much later and it appeared that most references involved one Joseph Phethean, Farming Steward. The records of the House Stewards only started a year after Josiah of Dunham died so there was no mention of him in this section of the archives.

From evidence in the estate archives, it became clear that the Joseph Phethean, Farming Steward mentioned therein was the Joseph Phethean of Dunham (d1774), the “cousin of Josiah Phethean of Dunham Massey” as recorded by Florrie Phethean. It was also apparent from these records that Joseph had a brother Josiah who had connections at Enville in Staffordshire. This was of great interest since Enville Hall was the main family seat of the Grey family, the Earls of Stamford, who also held Dunham Massey estates at this time. There was also mention of Josiah Phethean of Breightmet (see Introduction) as an executor of the estates of Joseph of Dunham so there was an indication there of a family link.

To obtain additional information about Joseph of Dunham I was able to obtain a copy of Joseph’s will and tuition orders from Cheshire Record Office. Appendix I contains a detailed abstract of Joseph of Dunham’s will together with some comments on the interpretation of the data.

It is apparent from the information in his will that Joseph of Dunham had a brother Josiah, who pre-deceased Joseph. This Josiah held land at Enville in Staffordshire. There is no mention of a surviving wife for Joseph of Dunham at the time of writing of the will. There is mention of a sister Martha (now Martha Dunstar) and a Mary Phethean of Enville (d1776). Joseph of Dunham also had three living children at the time of the writing of his will: Josiah, Elizabeth and Henrietta. Josiah of Breightmet is mentioned in the will as the cousin of Joseph of Dunham, although I was inclined to treat this with caution at first since the terms nephew, cousin, second-cousin all seem to be synonymous at this time. If this was true then the interpretation by Florrie Phethean that Josiah of Dunham and Joseph of Dunham were cousins could not stand. Josiah of Breightmet was one of the executors of Joseph of Dunham’s will and was subject to a Tuition Order signed by the executors of Joseph’s will to “educate and bring up in learning” Josiah aged 8, Elizabeth aged 7 and Henrietta aged 6 years until such time as that they come of age or be married.”

Florrie Phethean’s original tree recorded a son Joseph d1786 as a brother to Josiah, Henrietta, Elizabeth. This is an error by Florrie as she would have assumed from the List of Wills at Chester that there was a Joseph who died 1786. (I was under that impression too, until I saw the copies). There is no mention in the will or the estate details of a Joseph Phethean and as detailed in Appendix I, the wills and other documents at Cheshire Record Office dated 1772 and 1786 are all part of the same administration of Joseph of Dunham’s estate, amended when his son Josiah reached the age of 21 in 1786 and inherited Joseph of Dunham’s estates. Josiah was granted rights to the leases etc held in trust on 23rd March 1786 and the remaining executors (some had died) released their title to the estate. This is why Cheshire record Office has two dates in their List of Wills 1772 and 1786 referring to Joseph of Dunham – the later dated document is the final discharge of the original administration order.

Josiah Phethean of Breightmet, Innkeeper died intestate on 12th Feb 1791 and his wife Alice was granted an Administration Order for the residue of his estate (document provided by Lancashire Record Office). One of the witnesses to this document is Henrietta Phethean, daughter of the late Joseph of Dunham, so at this time she was still in the care of Josiah of Breightmet’s family. Another signatory to the document is one Josiah Phethean, Gentleman of Manchester – it is not known at this time if this is Henrietta’s brother or the Josiah Phethean son of Josiah of Breightmet as depicted in the original family tree.

From the evidence that was currently available, the family of Joseph of Dunham at the time of his death now appears as depicted in Figure 2 below:

Figure 2: The family of Joseph of Dunham to include evidence from his will and the estate records from the Dunham Massey archives.

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