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Threlkeld Genealogy and Threlkeld Family History Information

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About the Threlkeld surname

The following is taken principally from the "Story of Threlkeld" prepared by Prof. Samuel G. Oliphant of Beloit, Wisconsin, for Prof. William Logan Threlkeld of Lexington, Kentucky, at the latter's expense. Also, from data furnished by Mr. Melville Calvert Threlkeld of San Francisco, Cal., procured at his own expense from Mr. J. Harvey Bloom, an experienced genealogist in England. Both of these show diligent research and are believed to be as accurate data as can be procured.


This surname, originally DeThrelkeld, was assumed by its original bearers from the name of their manorial lands, situated in the township and chapelry of the same name in the county of Cumberland, England. These received the name from the beck, or mountain rivulet, that runs down by Threlkeld into the Glendermaken. The name belonged more strictly to the source of the stream as is indicated by its deuterotheme keld, which in the Northern English dialect is especially applied to a "gathering of water bursting forth in a strong stream from a hill side," in this instance from "Blencathara's rugged covers."

As this part of England was not included in the survey of the Domesday record of 1086 nor in the inquisition of the Rotuli Hundredorurm of 1273, neither the place-name nor the surname occurs in these ancient records so valuable for the study of names.

The earliest known fact associated with the name seems to be that Henry de Threlkeld was in 1292 Sheriff of Westmoreland. At that time the surname may have been anywhere from a few years to a century or more old and the place-name was undoubtedly two centuries or more old.

[Note.-This last being true it would seem reasonable to give credence to the claim of some that Sir Lionel Threlkeld came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest, and that Sir Lionel was granted a large tract of land in the vicinity of Keswick. —Hansford Lee Threlkeld]

Threlkeld is the oldest and the most correct spelling of the name. It occurs in the variant forms Threlkelde, Thrilkelde, and a group with metathesis of the "r", Thirlkeld, and with omission of the first "I", Thirkeld, Thirkelde, Thirkyld, ThurkiId, Thyrkeld, Thyrkild. The forms Thirkelt and Thrikkeld are manifest errors. Thirkell and Thyrkill show confusion with the name Thurkell, a frequent Northern corruption of Thurkettle. Thirlkeld and Thirkield are American variants as is also the misspelling Thrailkill.

The place-names predominant in the neighborhood are Norse or Danish in origin and perpetual reminders of the fact that the Dane once occupied in force this part of the land. Threlkeld is one of these Norse names.

The prototheme is the Old Norse "thraell," a serf, slave, whence the Danish trall and Swedish tral of the same meaning. This is cognate with the Anglo-Saxon thrael and English thrall.

The deuterotheme is the Old Norse kelda, spring, well, whence Swedish kalla, Danish kilde, and Finnish kaltio, of the same meaning. This is found in English only in the Northern dialect, in which keld signifies a well, fountain, spring, etc., also a deep, still smooth part of a river.

This element is found in place-names in Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Yorkshire; e. g., HaIikeld, Salkeld, Bapchild [corrupted from Baccancelde] , Kildwick, Wheldale [in Domesday Book Queldale], etc.

The place-name Threlkeld then signifies the Thrall's Spring, the Serfs Well, etc. The spring gave its name to the beck, this to the manor, this to the hamlet, township, chapelry and family. The surname may indicate either the proprietor of the manor of Threlkeld or one who lived at Threlkeld. In the instance the two apparently become identical as there is no good reason to doubt that all that bear the name have a common descent from the ancient Lords de Threlkeld. Every Threlkeld mentioned in the surname period is known to have been thus descended.

The surname still survives in its native county of Cumberland, but is not frequent there or elsewhere in England.


Threlkeld lies in the parish of Greystock, union of Penrith, Leath ward, east division of the county of Cumberland. Agriculture is the principal employment of the inhabitants and the towns of Penrith and Keswick are their usual markets. As a whole the township is clean and the soil good. The land and inclosures are well shaded with trees and sheltered by lofty hills, covered with verdure and heath. A few of the inhabitants of the hamlet of Threlkeld are employed in the graphite mines at Woodend whose product is used in the pencil factory at Keswick.

The chapelry is said to be the oldest in the diocese of Carlisle but the date of its formation is not known with any degree of certainty. There was a chapel at Threlkeld as early as the year 1341.

The old church, a very ancient structure, was demolished in 1776, because of its dangerous condition. The present church, built by subscription, at a cost of 270 pounds, was finished in 1777. It is a plain, neat, oblong building, with a seating capacity of 300, and stands in the center of village. The tower contains two bells, one of which has the inscription "Ave Maria gratia plena." The brass chandelier was a gift of the Rev. Christopher Howe, a native of Threlkeld. Both churches were dedicated to St. Mary.

The hamlet of Threlkeld is situated almost four and a half miles, east by north, from Keswick, on the Penrith road. It is small and clean, with a population of about one hundred and twenty persons (1860).


This manor lies in one of the wildest and most picturesque districts of England. This region formed the southern part of the Old British kingdom of Strathclyde. It was long overrun by the Danes and did not become a part of the kingdom of England until the reign of William Rufus, (1087-1100).

The manor lies at the foot of Saddleback, a Parnassian eminence with two prominent peaks, of which Blencathara has an altitude of 2,847 feet. An ancient Roman road enters the estate of Wallthwaite on the east and runs on southwestward to the beautiful vale of St. John's, which is the scene of Sir Walter Scott's poem, "The Bridal of Triermain." It lies near the Glenderamaken River and not far from its confluence with the Greta. Within a radius of ten miles lies most of the much admired lake and mountain district of Cumberland, including Helvellyn (3,118 ft.), Skiddaw, (3,058 ft.) and numerous other lofty, bleak and rugged eminences; the beautiful and historic Derwentwater and the celebrated Falls of Lodore; UlIswater with its sheer rock sides; the vale of St John's also already mentioned; numerous wild and beautiful mountain tarns and picturesque streams, and the ancient "Druids' Temple," half way between Threlkeld and Keswick.

The manor is about 295 miles distant from London. The demesne lands contain about 4,000 acres, about one-third of which is arable, another third is meadow and the rest is poor pasture and woodland. How sequestered this place was and how secure from the prying eyes of those who were strangers to the district is shown by the fact that even as late as the fifteenth century Threlkeld was chosen as a safe retreat for the young sons of the "Butcher Clifford."

The manor originally belonged to a family that may have assumed the local name as its surname. As has been said, this was sometime prior to 1292. The lords of Threlkeld possessed also Yanwath Hall, a quadrangular castellated hall near Penrith and three other manors in Westmoreland, Crosby Ravensworth, Tebay and Rounthwaite.

The hall and demesne appear to have passed in marriage next to the Irton family, from whom it came to the Speddings of Armathwaite, who sold it to the Duke of Norfolk. The manor was sold before 1632 to the Lowther family. In 1860, the Earl of Lonsdale, a Lowther, was lord of the manor of Threlkeld. Little information relative to Threlkeld manor, of a later date than 1860, has been found. Threlkeld Hall has disappeared. Even its site is uncertain and the stones seem to have been carried away. On the other hand the ancient Yanwath Hall is still a serviceable farm-house and the ancient hall of Crosby Ravensworth is still standing.


The principal residence of the Threlkeld family was Threlkeld in Cumberland, where they were established as early as 1292, but they had considerable possessions also in Westmoreland as early as 32 Edward I. (1304-5). Just how they became lords of Yanwath and land owners at Crosby Ravensworth, Tebay and Rounthwaite is unknown, but Threlkeld was a mesne manor of the barony of Greystoke, and Yanwath was held by the Greystokes under the Cliffords, lords of the barony of Westmoreland. So in the long chain of Feudal dependency the Threlkelds would seem to have held both Threlkeld and Yanwath under the Greystokes.

At Crosby Ravensworth they appear to have been closely associated with the family of Hastings. The Threlkeld arms seem to point to a connection with that ancient family, for whereas the arms of the Hastings are sable, a maunch argent, the Threlkelds bore argent, a maunch gules, and it is worthy of note that William de Threlkeld in the fourteenth century bore a maunch, in chief six annulets, as is attested by two of his seals. The annulets doubtless refer to the original dependency on the Viponts, first holders of the barony of Westmoreland, from whom the Cliffords acquired.

This manor, Cosby Ravensworth, belonged to Torphin de Alverstain in the reign of Henry I. (1100-1135). Torphin was succeeded by his son Alan who had a son Thomas, surnamed de Hastings. The descendants of this Thomas continued to hold the manor till the reign of Henry VI (1422-61), for in 1452, we find that Edward Hastings, Knight, was lord under the Cliffords and that Sir Lancelot Threlkeld held the same under Hastings. After this the name of Hastings occurs no more in connection with Crosby Ravensworth, from which we infer that the entire lordship had been purchased from that family by the said Sir Lancelot Threlkeld. This would explain how Crosby Ravensworth was held by the Threlkelds under the Hastings, in the fourteenth century, and how it became the portion of Elizabeth, wife of James Pickering, under the partition in 1512 of the estate of her father, Sir Lancelot Threlkeld.