Family Origins

By 310 AD wheat was milled at Sowerby Bridge, in what is now England, to supply the Roman Garrison at Slack at a distance of 3 1/2 leagues. The strategic location of Slack at the Northernmost point of the Calder River Basin and the crossing of the Roman Watling Street Road at Sowerby-Bridge located the village at the main crossroad of Central Britannia.

According to the Domesday Book, “In 1089 next to the mill, which paid annual rent of 20 shillings, was the church with accommodations for one priest. With the population of 45 serfs there were houses for 2 villains, 3 sokeman, 8 borders families. Between the village and 40 acres of woods was 6 1/2 carucates of waste plow land which had belonged a Dane but now belonged to Richard.”

The children named, William, Richard and John, were the only surviving sons of Uncle Ivo in the Bubonic Plague of 1349. Richard was the most common family name. The surname, Saltonstall, originated from their village (Saxon Sal = willow trees tonstall = cowpasture) and not from their trade as millers. Miller, the most common last name among all English-speaking people, would have been difficult to follow through 350 years of the Wakefield Manor Court Rolls.

Around 1275, Uncle Ivo’s great grandfather chose the location at upper Saltonstall to build a mill pond to feed an overhead water mill which would operate as a grain mill. In 1330, Richard, Uncle Ivo’s father, built a bakehouse and a cattle shed next to the mill.

In 1290, with technology brought back from the crusades, William, Ivo’s grandfather, had converted the grain mill at Sowerby Bridge to the first fuller mill to process woolen cloth. With fulling being done at the mill, local weavers were able to produce a higher quantity and quality of woolens, which could be exported to Antwerp.

In 1303 Uncle Ivo’s father organized the Merchant Adventurer's Guild, receiving a royal monopoly on all exports. They established offices in Antwerp where the Jews who financed the wool trade had relocated in 1330. The taxes paid by the guild on the exports of wool were used to pay longbow men from Sowerby Bridge and Saltonstall a wage of 6 shillings for service in Flanders in 1335 and again in 1347.

The years before the Black Death were prosperous for Uncle Ivo’s family of 45 adults in both villages. The longbow men’s wages and souvenirs brought back from France, increased production and sale of wool and woolen cloth, together with the increased capacity of the mills on top of good harvests all contributed to the prosperity.

After the plague however, only the three sons -- William, Richard and John -- and three grandsons -- Richard, Richard and Adam -- survived.