The Newcastle Umfrevilles

This later branch of the Umfreville family are quite well documented and seem to have originated in the Langham area of Essex and there are still Umfrevilles living in Essex and London today. According to Hedley this branch of the family possessed a ‘pedigree’ tracing their descent back to the Redesdale Umfrevilles (is this the same pedigree as posessed by Charles D'Olier?) and also owned a sword belonging to either Sir Robert Umfreville, the Vice-Admiral (Sykes) or Gilbert Earl of Angus (Hedley), of course the same sword could have belonged to both. From the Redesdale family tree I can see that for the sword to be passed down they must be heirs of someone alive around the same time as Sir Robert the second Earl of Angus.

It is possible that they are descended from Thomas, the younger brother of Robert Earl of Angus, as he is known to have been at the royal court during the reign of Edward II (deposed 1327) or Edward III. Thomas is known to have been alive in 1305 but as yet I have no evidence of any descendants. Edward III (Plantagenet) is known to have kept between 70 and 100 esquires (trainee knights) at court from all the noble families as favours or ‘hostages’ for good behaviour from all the noble families, including the Umfrevilles and it may be this Thomas or his nephew Thomas of Harbottle. who held office at the royal court (according to Hodgson). If the earlier Thomas was given lands of his own by one of the Edwards then that would explain their displacement south. Indeed Charles D'Olier traces his descent from this Thomas.

What is interesting yet perhaps unsurprising is the recurrence of the names Gilbert and Thomas within this family. There are 16 males on this family tree of which 4 are named Thomas, 4 are Williams and 3 are Gilberts. Two brothers of the first generation named their firstborn sons Gilbert. If we refer back to the Northumbrian Umfrevilles then it is very clear that generation after generation named their eldest son Gilbert. Robert the second Earl of Angus named his first TWO sons Gilbert, the first of course died in infancy. Note also the repeated use of the name Robert, Richard and William amongst the Northumbrian Umfrevilles but only William appears amongst the Newcastle line.

It is indisputable that the Newcastle Umfrevilles possessed a pedigree so that the recurrence of the name Gilbert comes as no great surprise (in fact it acts as a pointer that the family were well aware of their heritage) as the most famous Umfrevilles in the north were Gilberts. Modern day descendants of the Umfrevilles possess a family tree tracing their line back through William, son of Gilbert the third Earl of Angus. This would certainly explain the pedigree and the sword which was meant to have belonged to this Gilbert. As the eldest surviving son of Gilbert (the elder brother Robert died in 1375) William would have indeed have passed on the sword of his father to his son and thence down the line of a few generations to William Umfreville of Langham (See Family tree). Perhaps William and Gilbert were in possession of other lands and titles (in the south?) that allowed them to hand over the Prudhoe barony to the Percys?

Captain Thomas Umfreville Captain of Dragoons

bur. 13/7/1721

The fourth son of William Umfreville of Langham, Thomas was a Captain in the Earl of Essex’s Regiment of Dragoons. According to Hedley Thomas came to live in the Bigg Market in Newcastle. He had three sons, Gilbert, Leonard and Thomas and two daughters, Isabel and Anne but these do not appear on Hedleys family tree. A fourth son, William, (between Gilbert and Leonard) died in infancy in 1701/2 (Sykes). Thomas married Mary Thornton of Riplington who died within 2 months of his own death in 1721..

As his parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews all lived within Essex and London Thomas must have had some specific reason to come to Newcastle. It is extremely unlikely that the Essex Regiment was stationed there so he must have come north because of the family name. As a former officer of Dragoons is it too far fetched to imagine Captain Umfreville riding over Redesdale and the Tyne valley as his forefathers (and namesakes) had done over 300 years ago?

Gilbert Umfreville Customs Officer

d. 5/4/175?

The eldest son Of Captain Thomas Umfreville. Gilbert worked as a customs officer at South Blyth. He is buried at Earsdon.

Leonard Umfreville Printer

b. 23/12/1702 d. 9/3/1737

Third son of Captain Thomas Umfreville. Leonard was an established printer in Newcastle and in 1734 published the ‘North Country Journal or Impartial register’ in 1734. Leonard is also known as the writer of ‘The book M or Masonry triumphant’, this was in the very early days of freemasonry and it is very unlikely that he WASN’T a freemason in order to write such a book. He passed on the business to his brother Thomas suggesting that he had no heirs.


Northumberland Families Vol. I, W. Percy Hedley

Monthly Chronicle of North Country lore and legend, 1887

Northumberland and Durham local records Vol. I, Sykes

Thomas Umfreville Mercer

bap. 26/10/1704 d. 28/6/1783 bur. 30/6/1783

The monthly chronicles and Hedley call Thomas the brother of Leonard while Sykes refers to him as Leonard’s bastard son. Presumably the confusion arises over the fact that Leonard passed on his business to him. Sykes is clearly stretching credibility if he can assume that Leonard was a father aged 2. Clearly Sykes did not have access to the information that Hedley had.

Baptised at Morpeth in 1704 Thomas trained as a Mercer. He was enrolled in the Newcastle Merchant Adventurers company on 30/8/1721 aged 16. He became a freeman of Newcastle on 26/4/1731 and later became free of the Merchants guild just over 10 years later (23/9/1731). Presumably Thomas was also ‘within the lodge’.

In the Elsdon register of births, marriages and deaths 1672-1812 there is a record for the marriage of ‘Thomas Umfreeville’ to a Margaret Hall of Elsdon in Redesdale on 3/1/1734. Certainly this is the same person and Hedley is in agreement with this. Are there any Umfrevilles buried within the same holy grounds? Almost certainly one would assume as they held Elsdon from possibly as early as 1066 until as late as 1436. Thomas must surely have known that his namesake fought at Otterburn with Henry Hotspur and resided at Elsdon castle.

As stated above Thomas inherited his elder brothers publishing business and continued to produce the North Country Journal that had been initiated three years earlier in 1734. Thomas, however, does not seem to have possessed his brothers acumen as he was declared bankrupt sometime around 1734. Either that or he inherited his brothers debts. After this he served as the Parish clerk of St Johns in Newcastle for 40 years until his death aged 79 in 1783. His son William survived him by only 6 years.


Northumberland Families Vol. I, W. Percy Hedley

Monthly Chronicle of North Country lore and legend, 1887

Northumberland and Durham local records Vol. I, Sykes

William Umfreville

Bap. 8/8/1743 d. 17/11/1789 bur. 28/11/1789

The most notable event about William Umfreville’s life, according to local historians anyway, was his death! Sykes, who must be quoting another source, states that William died ‘in very indigent circumstances’ at St Nicholas’ poor house (attached to St Nicholas’ church) in Newcastle of which he was the Beadle. He left a wife, small son and two smaller daughters. Hedley states that the wife, Eleanor Chisholm died on 8/1/1813 aged 68. Two daughters and a son died before William. William had married Eleanor on 16th May 1769 at St Hildas church, South Shields.

Sykes states that William possessed a ‘pedigree’ that could trace his family back to Robert ‘with the beard’ De Umfreville, Lord of Tours and Vian who came to England with the Conqueror. Also within his possession was a sword which belonged to Sir Robert Umfreville, Vice-Admiral of England in the time of Richard II. The sword and pedigree were taken by the Duke of Northumberland for a few pounds as the Umfrevilles were kinsmen of his by marriage. Hedley claims from other sources (Spearman?) that the sword belonged to Gilbert the first Earl of Angus but this does not mean that it wasn’t owned if not used by Robert. Robert died childless so how the sword came into possession of the Newcastle Umfrevilles is a matter for some speculation. It could of course have been passed down from the third Earl to his son William (or purchased as an antiquary). If the sword is genuine then it establishes a clear link between the Essex Umfrevilles and the Redesdale ones. Whether the sword is still at Alnwick castle is not known. Sykes relates that William had 2 sons. The Eldest son was a Captain in the army and doesn’t appear on Hedley’s family tree, perhaps he is confusing him with Thomas the Captain of Dragoons as Hedley has a son called Thomas who he says died in infancy. Both Hedley and Sykes agree that the second son was a Commander in the Navy, John Brand-Umfreville. Sykes is not exactly reliable with his facts so it would not suprise me if the sword had never been in the possession of Robert the Vice-Admiral but had been passed down all the way to this William from William the second son of the third Earl of Angus.

Of course the Northumbrian nobility being what they were there is always the possibility that the Percys would have an advantage in discrediting the Umfrevilles in order to keep possession of Prudhoe and Warkworth. The Percys had been attainted several times and Warkworth had passed to Umfreville control at least once and were clearly rivals. Finding a new branch of the Umfrevilles back in Northumberland after a 200 year gap must have come as a shock. The Duke of Northumberland took the evidence of the Umfrevilles noble origins for a few pounds, a worthwhile investment you could say as without the pedigree and the sword to back it up what evidence did the family have apart from their name? In the late 18th century you needed money, and lots of it, to fight a legal battle to reclaim your inheritance. Sykes may well have been merely passing on 'facts' favourable to the Percys rather than the Umfrevilles, Hedley may be much nearer to the truth.

John Brand-Umfreville

bap. 7/11/1784 d. 6/5/1820

Johns father died when he was aged 5 (Hedley) and he was cared for by his godfather the historian John Brand whom he may well have been named after as there are no other Johns amongst the family. John became a Lieutenant in the navy aged 22 on 16/1/1806 and finally a Commander on 6/12/1813. He must have retired soon after as on 25/10/1815 he took up freedom of the city of Newcastle.

John died at Broomhaugh (Near Riding Mill) aged 36 in the parish of St Andrews, Bywell and was buried at Hexham, the resting place of Gilbert Earl of Angus. His sister, Margaret, outlived him by 5 years. There are two graves bearing the name Umfreville-Law within St Andrews cemetery dating from the 18th century.