The Rathbun Family Crest - Thomas Rathbone
The Rathbun Family Crest

Thomas Rathbone, son of Thomas Rathbone and Grace Coppowe, was baptised 9 Jan. 1596 at Prescott, Lancashire, England.

He married Alice Alice Childwall, a widow, 13 April 1616.

Thomas died 7 Feb. 1654 at Prescott, Lancashire, England.

Extracted from The Rathbun, Rathbone, Rathburn Family Historian, Volume 8, Number 3, July 1988

Few ordinary Englishmen of the early 1600s owned land, and Thomas Rathbone, the shoemaker (also called cobbler or cordwainer), most likely lived on a small piece of land which he, and possibly his father before him, occupied on a long-term lease. The property was perhaps owned by the wealthy Bold Family, which held title to more than 30,000 acresof land in the Ditton area.

We can only speculate on the Rathbone home. It was probably a small,one-story cottage with an overhead loft, built with a frame of timbers and filled in with a mesh of smaller poles and covered with a mixture of mude and other materials, called “wattle and daub” This was whitewashed to contrast with the dark timbers. The floor was probably of packed dirt, and the windows are simply openings covered with shutters. Few “common” people had glass windows in this period.

The lower section was probably divided into two rooms – a combination-kitchen-living-dining room, with a fireplace, and a “chamber” which served as the parents’ bedroom and a storage area. The children slept in the loft, which was possibly divided into two sections for the girls and boys.

The estate inventory of Thomas Rathbone, who died in 1654, mentions a”shop” containing “shoes, leather and things belonging to the shoemaker trade.” The shop could have been either part of the house or a separate building. His will mentions his “new house,” so we know that the house had been built recently, possibly on the site of their old house.

The will also mentions a “garden and stock yard.” Every family had a garden for raising vegetables, and the stock yard would have been for the “two cows, one heifer, one little cow and also one mare” which were listed in the inventory. Surprisingly, the inventory does not list any chickens; perhaps perhaps they were not considered of enough valueto mention.

The livestock was valued at seven pounds, nearly one quarter of Thomas’ total assets of 29 pounds, thirteen shillings and two pence.

The property was probably four to ten acres. English law required that every new cottage have at least four acres. Thomas must have done some farming, for the inventory also listed a corn cart, a vegetable cart, a plow, plow parts, a harrow and extra wheels and rims.There was probably a small barn or strage shed. The inventory lists corn and hay for the livestock, vegetables, fuel (probably firewood), grindstones, muck (compost?), a quantity of hemp, a “brake” (a device used for beating hemp into useable fiber), and a pitchfork, ladder and other tools. The hemp was probably used in Thomas’ shoemaking operations.nIn the house were listed beds and bedding, linens, chests, shelves, table, chairs, stools, a dishboard, yarn, earthenware, baskets, brass and and pewter items (dishes, candlesticks etc.), a hatrest, wisket (broom?) and clothing.nThe inventory also lists “money due by bonds and other ways” — five pounds, 16 shillings. Some of this may have been due from shoes he hadsold or repaired, but the reference to bonds seems to suggest that hehad made loans or other investments. It would appear that Thomas was trying to move up on the social scale – an early-day “Yuppie.”

As a shilled “artisan” – a classification which included such tradesmen as carpenters, masons and tailors, as well as shoemakers – Thomas Rathbone ranked a little higher on the social scale than day laborers and tenant farmers, but he was still near the bottom of England’s rigid class system. He could never aspire to the “upper classes” of nobility, landowners or professionals, and be called “gentleman,” but he could hope to become a prosperous middle-class yeoman (land-owning farmer) or a small shopkeepers. In addition to making and repairing shoes for his neighbors, Thomas probably took his wares to sell on market days in Widness and other nearby towns.

Thomas and his family no doubt ate well, but their meals were chicken, fish and mutton; rye or oat bread, and peas, beans, cabbage and other vegetables from their garden. Only the gentility ate beef and pork or white bread made from wheat flour. Thomas and his family wore clothing made from handspun wool. Lines and silks were reserved for the rich.

But compared to most other nations of that day, England offered most “common people” a reasonably good life. Our shoemaker ancestor very likelynagreed wholeheartedly with Bishop John Aylmer of London, who urged hisnfellow Englishmen to ‘fall flat on thy face before God and give him thanks that thou were born an Englishman and not a French peasant, nor an Italian, nor German.”

Extracted from The Rathbun, Rathbone, Rathburn Family Historian, Volume 8, Number 3, July 1988, Page 38-40.

John’s father died in February 1654 (1655 by today’s calendar), leaving John about five pounds as his share of the estate. His brother, Thomas, received two pounds more, plus furniture, as the eldest son. Grace, the eldest daughter, was given the cow. All five surviving children then shared the rest of the estate. The estate was not settled for nine years. During the Cromwell period, wills could be probated only in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, requiring a long journey. Since Thomas’ estate was so small, the executors did not bother. The will was finally probated in 1633, after the Restoration of Charles II, and long after John Rathbone had gone to America. It was then probated in the Lancashire court system, but possibly the executors had distributedthe estate earlier without probate.nThe daughter, Grace, and Thomas’ brother, William, were named executors, raising the question of why Thomas, the eldest son, was not named. Possibly he had moved from the area, or his father did not consider him responsible.

Extracted from The Rathbun, Rathbone, Rathburn Family Historian, Volume 1, Number 1, January 1981, Page 10.

Will of Thomas Rathbone: The Shoemaker of Ditton.

“In the Name of God amen, This Seventh day of Febr’ 1654, I Thomas Rathbone of the Hough Green with in Ditton in the County of Lankaster shoomaker being sicke in bodie yett in good & p’fect memorie blessed benGod doe institute, ordaine, make, nominate & appoint this my last will & testamt in maner & form following. First & principally I give andbequeath my soule in to the hands of Almighty God hopinge to be savedby the Joious merrits & mediation of Christ Jesus my most glorious Savior and my bodie to Christian burial in the chapell yard at Farneworth, And for such worldly goods as if hath pleased God to endowe me with all my will and minde is, vis. I give to Tho: Rathbone my eldest sonne, the sume of fortie shillings to be raised out of my goods. I givemore unto him the dishbord and Cupboard & frame bords standinge in the house and the standing beddstead in the Chamber. Item: I give to mydaughter, Grace, one cowe & a black fairke. Item: my will and minde is that after my funeral expenses be taken out of the renartion or remainder of my goods, that the remainder there of be equally divided amongst all my children, viz: Thomas Rathbone, John Rathbone, Grace Rathbone, Mary Rathbone and Ailes (Alice) Rathbone. It is my will and minde further that my said three daughters shall in habitt & possesse & enjoy the newe house, the garden and stocke yarde until they or any of them shall happen to marry and after the the marriage of any of them my will is that those soe married shall forthwith a voyd from thence and those others unmarried to enjoy the same until they shall happen to marrie. Lastly I institute, ordaine, make nominate & appoint my Brother William Rathbone executor & Grace Rathbone executrix joyntly of this my last will and testamt hoping they will P’form the trust imposed in them.” signed Tho: Raithbone.

Original Author: Unknown

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