Grimshaw Origins and History

Welcome to the website on the English family of Grimshaw!


A Grimshaw coat of arms from about 1567 is shown above. A description is provided further down on this webpage.

Please Note! The Grimshaw Origins website has been migrated from FrontPage to WordPress in 2015 and 2016. Because of the inherent challenges with FrontPage, this migration has been a long and laborious process. And it’s not over yet. Many webpages still have issues that will have to be resolved over the coming months (and years!) Please be patient, as there are more than 370 webpages covering various aspects of the “Grimshaw story” on this website.

The Grimshaw surname originated in Lancashire in the northern part of England, apparently around 1000 A.D. There appear to be few records of Grimshaw family lines for the first 200 to 250 years.

However, it is highly probable that the family’s roots are connected to the town of Grimsargh, which is a short distance northeast of Preston. The earliest recorded Grimshaw was Gilbert, father of William Grimshaw, who held the Manor of Grimsargh in thenage in 1242.

The Grimshaw surname originated near Preston which is in northern England. Preston’s location (indicated by orange circle) is shown in relation to Liverpool, Manchester, Blackburn and Leeds, all of which were important in Grimshaw family history. Map source: Bing Maps.


Website Introduction

This website seeks to tell portions of the “Grimshaw story”. A few highlights are presented on this homepage. There are a total of more than 370 webpages on this website covering various aspects of the Grimshaw story. More information on this Grimshaw Origins website may be found on a companion webpage, “About This Website”. The following search tool may help find a specific person or topic of interest.

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Grimshaw Origins and History

The convention of using “companion webpage” with a hyperlink is used throughout this website.The author of this website is an American Grimshaw whose research in his own origins grew into a larger range of interests in the entire Grimshaw family line. The website is  a very interesting hobby and is maintained and expanded as information becomes available. More information on the author may be found on a companion webpage. Most of the webpages are still in preparation in order to post a webpage as soon as possible after any information is obtained on the individual, family, or topic becomes available. The webpage is then completed later when more details (or time) permit. It should be noted that even when a webpage no longer has the “In Preparation” notation, it will continue to be upgraded as more information becomes available.

One of the main ways that the interesting story of the Grimshaws is being assembled is through the generous contribution of information and images from many sources, mostly be emails. The website author is deeply indebted to each of these contributors. A “hall of fame” for website contributors is being prepared on a companion webpage, which is still in preparation.

Would you like to add Grimshaw information to this website? If so, please send an email to the website author at the following address:

Since this website is a hobby, it is attended to and built as time is available. Please be patient!

Homepage Contents

As noted above, this homepage introduces some of the most significant or interesting aspects of the origins and history of the Grimshaw family. More detail on the following topics can be found further down on this homepage. Addtional information may then be found by using links in each topic.

Grimshaw Family Overview

Many branches have emerged in the Grimshaw family in the decades and centuries after its origination. A number of Grimshaws participated in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, which got its start in cotton weaving in this part of Lancashire. Many Grimshaw descendants contributed to the waves of emigration to the New World and other parts of the globe. Numerous fields in the arts and sciences – and the spiritual realm – have benefited from the talents of Grimshaw descendants, including evangelism, painting, history, engineering, and entomology.

The six topics shown below are generally of greatest interest to Grimshaw researchers. Click on on the ones that interest you for more information on various aspects of Grimshaw origins and history.

  1. Origins of the Grimshaw Surname

  2. Early Grimshaw Family Lines in England and Ireland

  3. Involvement of Grimshaw Family Members in the Industrial Revolution

  4. Grimshaw Immigrants to the New World and Around the Globe

  5. Prominent Grimshaw Individuals and Families

  6. Miscellaneous Grimshaw Individuals and Information

Each of these webpages contains links to other specific webpages on the topic.

Earliest Grimshaws around Preston and Blackburn

The name “Grimshaw” probably started about the time surnames were beginning to be used in England. As noted above, the first Grimshaws apparently lived in an area near the present community of Grimsargh, which is located a few miles northeast of Preston and northwest of Blackburn in Lancashire. Two of the earliest Grimshaws — both with the first name Walter — were apparently contemporaries (mid 1200s) but lived at different locations. One of the Walter Grimshaws was located at Eccleshill southeast of Blackburn, and the other was at Edisford, near Clitheroe (northeast of Blackburn). Many descendants of Walter Grimshaw of Eccleshill have been recorded, but none have yet been found for Walter Grimshaw of Edisford.

Detailed map of area around Preston and Blackburn showing the location of Grimsargh northeast of Preston. Other locations of importance to the family history (Clitheroe, Grimshaw Location, Clayton-le-Moors) are also indicated.  Map source: Bing Maps.



The place name “Grimshaw” remains at Eccleshill to the present but this is not the case at Edisford. The Eccleshill location of Walter Grimshaw is now marked by Higher Grimshaw Farm (shown below) and Grimshaw Brook Mill, an envelope factory and closed-down paper mill. More detail on the Grimshaw location is provided further down on this webpage.

Higher Grimshaw Farm. The hill behind the farm is Yate and Pickup Bank, with the community of Belthorn clearly visible at the top of the hill.



The plaque pictured below is near the entrance to the farmhouse in the above photo. 



Edisford Hall is located located just across the Ribble River from Clitheroe. It consists of several buildings at the location.

Edisford Hall. The hall is well marked at the entrance. 



The plaque shown below is on the corner of the house in the upper photo. 



More Detail on the Grimshaw Location

The place name “Grimshaw” is in Eccleshill, about three miles southeast of central Blackburn (see map above). Walter Grimshaw and his descendants apparently lived here for five generations, until the about 1370, when a move was made to Clayton-le-Moors. The location is on a stream called Grimshaw Brook, which forms the boundary between two ancient, small townships –- Eccleshill to the west and Yate and Pickup Bank to the east. It has had an eventful history. Grimshaw Brook provided a source of water power, and mills for various purposes have been constructed. Currently the site is occupied by a closed-down paper mill and a small factory for paper envelops. Click here for the Eccleshill Grimshaw webpage.

Grimshaw location in Eccleshill (center of photo). Grimshaw Brook flows from left to right across the middle of the photo. The site is now occupied by an envelope factory (brick building to the right of center) and a closed-down paper mill (left of center). The farmhouse and barn near the left side of the photo are on “Higher Grimshaw Farm”. The photo was taken to the southwest and down a steep hill (Yate and Pickup Bank) from Belthorn. Photo taken by website author in May 2000.



The Grimshaw location was greatly affected by development during the Industrial Revolution. As noted, the original facility constructed there was a cotton mill called “Grimshaw Bridge Factory”. The site now has an envelope factory and closed-down paper mill.

Grimshaw Brook Mill, an envelope factory, with a former paper-making cylinder in front. Photo taken by the website author in March 1999. The closed-down paper mill was behind the website author when he took this photo.



“Higher Grimshaw Farm” (also shown further up on this webpage) is located above (southwest of) Grimshaw Brook, near the road that leads into the envelope factory.

Northeast view of front side of Higher Grimshaw Farm. The village of Belthorn is visible on the horizon, at the top of Yate and Pickup Bank. (The photo of the Grimshaw location shown above was taken from Belthorn.) Photo taken by the website author in April 1999.



The power loom riots of April 24 to 26, 1826 reached the Grimshaw cotton mill in Eccleshill, as described in the following newspaper article.

Report of attacks on Grimshaw mill in April 1826. Source: Salem, MA, Essex Register, v. 26, issue 46, page [3] (June 8, 1826).



Descendants of Walter Grimshaw of Eccleshill

Thomas Dunham Whitaker, in his “History of Whalley”1, did a remarkable job of recording early Grimshaw families and is perhaps the foremost author for Grimshaw history. He developed an excellent descendant chart for the Walter Grimshaw of Eccleshill, who lived around 1250 AD. Other early Grimshaw families, such as William Grimshaw of Grimsargh and Walter Grimshaw of Edisford, have not been mapped out with such thoroughness. The upper portion of Whitaker’s descendant chart for Walter Grimshaw of Eccleshill (shown below) includes the first 10 generations (after Walter). Click here for the Eccleshill Grimshaw webpage.

Upper portion of Whitaker’s descendant chart for Walter Grimshaw of Eccleshill showing 10 generations. The lower portion of the chart (not included here) shows an additional four generations.



Clayton Hall, Location of the Grimshaw Family for Over 350 Years

The Grimshaw family lived at the Grimshaw location in Eccleshill from its origins until at least the mid-1300s. Because of a fortuitous marriage into the Clayton family by Adam Grimshaw sometime after 1368, the family relocated to Clayton Hall in Clayton-le-Moors, northeast of Blackburn (see map above). The family lived there for many generations until the heirs ran out in about 1715 and the estate passed to the Lomax family. Clayton Hall was demolished in 1977, One of the reasons for its demise was reported to be subsidence resulting from collapse of coal mine voids beneath the hall that had weakened the structure. There was apparently an earlier Clayton Hall that was replaced the one shown below. Click here for the webpage on Clayton-le-Moors and the Grimshaw family that lived there.

Photo of former Clayton Hall from Pollard, 1978. The view is northward on the south side of the hall.



A portion of Clayton Hall has been re-constucted in recent years at the original site. This would therefore be the third Clayton Hall at this location.

Front view of the new Clayton Hall, a facsimile of the previous one that was torn down in 1977. The photo was taken northward from south side, the same angle as the above photo of the previous Clayton Hall. Photo taken by the website author in May 1999.



Robert Eaton, a retired schoolteacher living in the Clayton-le-Moors area, provided a “guided tour” of the Clayton Hall grounds to the webpage author and several others in May 2000. He described the history and features of the hall and related how he had grown up in the area when the manor was an abandoned derelict and had spent many happy hours as a youth playing in the old “haunted house.”  Robert made many sketches and paintings of Clayton Hall not long before it was demolished in 1977.

Example of Robert Eaton painting of Clayton Hall, now in the possession of Jack Frane, who kindly provided the following image of the painting. The view of Clayton Hall is generally to the northwest.



Grimshaw Coats of Arms

Members of the Grimshaw family have had coats of arms since the Clayton Hall days, always with a griffin as the central feature. One of the most attractive renditions of a Grimshaw coat of arms appears in the Harleian Manuscripts at the British Library in London. This rendition is displayed at the top of this webpage. Click here for the webpage on Grimshaw coats of arms.

Grimshaw coat of arms from Folio 1468, which includes “Pedigrees of the Lancashire Gentry, as registered (narratively) in the Visitation-book of that County, made in A.D. 1567 by William FlowerNorroy.” 



The earliest head of the Grimshaw family recorded during the 1567 visitation was Henry, born in 1467 and married Alice, daughter of Richard Tempest. Whitaker’s descendant chart for of the original Grimshaw family go back eight generations before Henry, to Walter, who was living in about 1250.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Clayton-le-Moors

A major geographic feature in Clayton-le-Moors is the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, an artifact of the Industrial Revolution that runs very close to Clayton Hall. Click here here for the webpage on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Westward View of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Highway A678 Bridge. Clayton Hall is located just out of view on the right side of the photo. Pendle Hill can be seen on the horizon above the canal. Photo taken by the website author in May 2000.


The Grimshaw Serpent and Ooze Castle Wood

The Grimshaw family kept their land holdings in Eccleshill after they relocated to Clayton-le-Moors in the mid-1300s. According to a 1742 publication by Charles Owen, a Grimshaw living at Clayton Hall was traveling to the family’s holdings in Eccleshill when he performed a valuable community service by killing a large serpent in Ooze Castle Wood, about a mile southeast of the Grimshaw location.

Upper portion of the title page of Charles Owen’s “An Essay towards a Natural History of Serpents”, which makes reference to a Grimshaw having killed a large serpent.



A good candidate for “Griom’s Ark”, the purported den of the serpent, has been located in Ooze Castle Wood. Ooze Castle Wood and the candidate for Griom’s Ark are shown in the photos below. The small reservoir in the upper photo can be found on the lower left map above, just east of Waterside and southeast of Belthorn. Click here for the webpage on the Grimshaw Serpent.

A potential candidate for Griom’s Ark as described in Owen’s 1742 article on the “Grimshaw Serpent”. The opening is in Ooze Castle Wood and is a crevice in a sandstone block that is part of a slump (earth movement) on the bank of Means Brook. Photo of the website author taken by his spouse in May 2000. 



Yate & Pickup Bank (southward view). The rock crevice that may be Griom’s Ark is in Ooze Castle Wood adjacent to the small reservoir. Shooter’s Hill forms the horizon on the left half of the photo. Photo taken by the website author in May 2000.



Owen made a connection between this serpent and the griffin on the Grimshaw coat of arms, but the exact nature of the connection was extremely vague. The serpent-killing event, perhaps at least partly a legend, would have happened between 1350, when the Grimshaws moved to Clayton Hall, and 1613, when the arms were sanctioned by the kings’ herald. Thus the griffin preceded the serpent in Grimshaw history by at least 300 years.

Competing Theories on the Origin of the Grimshaw Surname — Celtic or Viking

There are two competing theories concerning the original derivation of the Grimshaw name. The earlier Celtic derivation is based on the hyothesis that the terms “grim” and “grin” are forms of the one root word (that) signify the sun, when the term is used for that celestial luminary as a divinity, or as the object or symbol referred to in divine worship. These terms were given by the Angles and Saxons when they occupied lowlands that they had seized from the Celts (Segantii). If this theory is true, then most likely the very original Grimshaw location is west of Pendle Hill, perhaps not far from Grimsargh. Click here for the webpage on the earlier Celtic origins of the Grimshaw surname.

The theory for a later Viking derivation is based on the hypothesis that Grimshaw refers to “Grim’rs wood”, where the Grimr, a recurrent personal name in Viking place names, had ambivalent overtones. Sometimes it seems to have signified the god Odin, thought to go about disguised in a grim mask. At other times it seems to stand as a nickname for the devil. No location (aside from the Eccleshill site) has been identified for the location under this theory. Click here for the webpage on the later Viking origins of the Grimshaw surname.

Early Grimshaws at Cliviger

Cliviger is located a short distance southeast of Burnley in Lancashire. Grimshaws apparently arrived there quite early in the family’s history, probably around 1300 A.D. Research by Mavis Long indicates that two Grimshaws, Richard and Adam, were identified as tenants at Cliviger in 13104. Mavis hypothesizes that these two Grimshaws were brothers and were the sons of Walter de Grimshaw, head of the earliest recorded Grimshaw family line. Click here for the webpage on the early Grimshaws at Cliviger.

Mavis’ hypothesis that Adam and Richard were the sons of Walter de Grimshaw is illustrated in the descendant chart of the earliest recorded Grimshaw family Dunham’s “History of Whalley”3 (described above on this homepage):



The Pendle Forest Line of Grimshaws

One of the most important Grimshaw lines to originate from the oldest recorded Grimshaw family tree was the “Pendle Forest” line, which was located at Heyhouses on Pendle Hill and in the area on the east side of the hill. An extensive descendant chart was published in Whitaker’s “History of Whalley”1. The Pendle Forest Grimshaw line is junior to the earliest recorded Eccleshill and Clayton-le-Moors line, but the connection was not clearly indicated in Whitaker’s work. This connection has now been established, at least on a preliminary basis, as a result of research for this website. Click here for the webpage on the Pendle Forest line of Grimshaws.

The following image of the coat of arms for the Pendle Forest line of Grimshaws was included in Whitaker’s descendant chart for the line as published in his “History of Whalley”. The coat of arms consists of two images of a ducally crowned griffin. 



The Audenshaw Grimshaw Line

This line is referred to as the “Audenshaw” line because that was how it was referred to in a well-known reference5 because of it’s geographic location southeast of Manchester. Subsequent research has added substantially to the descendant chart in that reference. The earliest known progenitor was George Grimshaw who was born in 1600 and married Emme Telier or Taylor. Connection to more senior Grimshaw lines, such as that at Clayton-le-Moors, has not yet been established. George Grimshaw, earliest recorded progenitor of the Audenshaw line, had a birthdate of 1600, He would therefore have been a contemporary of approximately the 13th generation of Grimshaws descended from Walter de Grimshaw (Thomas, John, Ann, Nicholas, Robert, Thomas, Mary, Jane, Margaret, Anne, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Katherine) in Whitaker’s descendant chart (described above). Click here for the webpage on the Audenshaw line of Grimshaws.

The Griffin in the Grimshaw Coat of Arms appears prominently in a plaque in a church near Audenshaw. The plaque is dedicated to the memory of John Grimshaw, a descendant in the Audenshaw line of Grimshaws.



The “Yorkshire” Line of Grimshaws

An important Grimshaw family, in terms of descendant family lines, was the family of Edward Grimshaw and Dorytye (Dorothy) Raner, who were married in 1602. They started a line of Grimshaws in Yorkshire that is one of the largest, and best documented, in the world. The connection of this line to the Eccleshill/Clayton-le-Moors line or Pendle Forest line has not been established. The Yorkshire Grimshaw line had strong Quaker connections going back to the early 1600s. The family lived at Ivy House, starting with Abraham Grimshaw, son of Edward and Dorothy. He was a clothier and had a small farm and became discontent with the English church. Many descendants of this line of Grimshaws emigrated to America, perhaps seeking greater religious freedom. Click here for the webpage on the Yorkshire line of Grimshaws.

Early members of the Yorkshire line of Grimshaws became Quakers and lived at Ivy House, apparently for more than 300 years. This photo of Ivy House was taken by Enid Sheldon in 1996.



The “Irish” Line of Grimshaws

Nicholas Grimshaw was from Blackburn and apparently emigrated to Ireland in about 1776. Nicholas and Mary Wrigley were married in Manchester in 1768. Nicholas was the son of Nicholas and Susan (Briercliffe) Grimshaw and the grandson of Nicholas Grimshaw and Anne Grimshaw (of Oakenshaw), who are described in the Pendle Forest line of Grimshaws in Whitaker’s “History of Whalley”. Whitaker also included a separate (and extensive) descendant chart for Nicholas and Mary (Wrigley) Grimshaw. The Irish line of Grimshaws has included some of the more prominent members of the Grimshaw family. Click here for the webpage on the Irish Grimshaw line.

Nicholas Grimshaw started the cotton textile industry in Ireland when he built the first cotton twist mill in 1784. 




Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, 1872, An History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe (Revised and enlarged by John G. Nichols and Ponsonby A. Lyons): London, George Routledge and Sons, 4th Edition; v. I, 362 p.; v. II, 622 p. Earlier editions were published in 1800, 1806, and 1825.

2Pollard, Louie, 1978, Great Harwood Gleanings: Lancashire County Library and Leisure Committee, unk p.

3Ainsworth, Richard, 1928, The Old Homesteads of Accrington & District, Embracing Accrington, Baxenden, Stonefold, Oswaldtwistle, Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Great Harwood, Rishton, Hapton, Huncoat, Read, Simonstone, Altham, Whalley: Accrington, Wardleworth Limited, unk p.

4Farrer, William & J. Brownbill (eds), 1911, Victoria County History of Lancaster, Volume 6, p. 478-487. Online. Available: Date accessed: 13 May 2008.

5Skeet, F.J.A., 1906, A History of the Families of Skeet, Widdrington, Wilby, Murray, Blake, Grimshaw, and Others: London, Mitchell, Hughes and Clarke, 179 p.

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Progress of the development of this website is tracked on a companion webpage, “What’s New?” For quick access, the following links are provided for many of the webpages on this website, listed in reverse order of development.

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Shown below is the chonology of events in the development of the Grimshaw Origins homepage.

Webpage posted July 2000 – start of “Grimshaw Origins” website. Updated December 2003. Updated and reorganized June 2004. Google search tool added November 2004. Hit counter added Fall 2006. Webpage updated March 2007 with addition of maps, descendant chart, Walter Grimshaw of Edisford information, and Celtic and Viking hypotheses for origin of Grimshaw surname. Slightly reorganized December 2009. Reorganized and reconfigured as part of overall website organization initiative – April 2011. Updated and reorganized in February 2013. Moved from FrontPage to WordPress and updated in April 2016.

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