The Revd George Lewthwaite (1772-1854)

The Revd George Lewthwaite

Written by Tim Cockerill

Occupation: Clergyman

Early life and education

George Lewthwaite was baptised at Thwaites, near Millom, on the 19th August 1772, the third son of William Lewthwaite (1740-1809) of Broadgate, Thwaites, Millom, Cumberland and his wife Mary, youngest daughter and co-heiress of Joseph Nicholson of Milholme, Bootle in the same County. The Lewthwaite family were yeoman farmers but had diversified into iron-ore mining in the Furness area and owned plantations in the West Indies in both Antigua and at Check Hall in Dominica. In the 1790s George's father William became a rich man when he won a Chancery case over the disputed Will of his cousin, John Lewthwaite ( 1701-1790), a West Indian merchant in Whitehaven, against the powerful Lawson family of Brayton Hall, Aspatria and Isel Hall, near Cockermouth, who were also related. In consequence he became a rich man overnight and was able to buy The Cupola, later the Town Hall, one of the best houses in Whitehaven, and was also able to provide liberally for his eleven children. On his father's death in 1809 George inherited £8,700, a share in the family plantations and slaves in the West Indies. 

Young George was educated at Hawkshead Grammar School with his two elder brothers William (1769-1845), later of Broadgate, and John (1771-1849), later an Attorney-at-law and Town Clerk of Lancaster, where they were contemporaries of William Wordsworth (1770-1850 ). In 1791 he entered The Queen's College, Oxford, eventually graduating BA in 1795, MA in 1797 and BD in 1805.In 1801, in company with his friend, John Wilson of Brigham, near Cockermouth he embarked on a visit to Scotland, writing a journal of their Scottish tour in the manner of Boswell’s tour with and Dr Johnson, a copy of which has been handed down in the family. It reveals a rather serious if not pompous young man.

His clerical career

He was ordained deacon in 1796 and priest in 1797 and for a period was curate of Croughton, near Aynho, Northamptonshire before becoming Vicar of Stanway, Gloucestershire and private chaplain from 1807 to 1809 to the family of Francis, 8th Earl of Wemyss, of Stanway House, between Winchcombe and Broadway, a gem of the Cotswolds with its magnificent gatehouse attributed to Inigo Jones.In 1806 William Lewthwaite had purchased the next presentation to the rectory of Adel, near Leeds from the Patron Mrs Mary Ann Carruthers for £3,650, he was able to present his son George to this rich living on the death of the incumbent, which occurred in 1809. The population of Adel, now a prosperous suburb of Leeds, was about 820 and the stipend was £623 per annum. Furthermore the rectory was a large Georgian house which dwarfed the small but fine Norman church nearby, often called 'the Kilpeck of the North' as it has important carvings around its doorway and upon the capitals within. Thus began a long association between Adel and the Lewthwaite family, George's daughter, Margaret, the wife of the Revd George Brewin (1815-1895) bought the advowson in 1894 for £1,500 and the writer of this article (whose mother was a Lewthwaite) is the present Patron of the living.

The Revd George Lewthwaite was Rector of Adel for forty-five years, from 1809 until his death in 1854, rarely leaving the parish. In the absence of a resident squire and as an active Justice of the Peace,he presiding over the village as its most prominent inhabitant. In 1835, as the village representative, he was invited to dine at Harwood House, the home of Henry Lascelles (1797-1857), the 3rd Earl of Harewood, to meet the young Princess Victoria and her mother the Duchess of Kent. Lewthwaite, who was aged thirty-seven when he arrived in Adel, seems to have been a country parson of the old school, strict with his flock but well respected, kind, good tempered and generous to the poor and needy.He was always keen to enhance the family's social position and in 1816 he was instrumental in obtaining a coat of arms from the College of Arms and, following family tradition, he was admitted a Freeman of Lancaster in 1820.

Family Life

In 1816, at the age of forty-four, George Lewthwaite married at St Bees, Cumberland, Martha ( 1777-1861) the daughter of Thomas Birley of Low Mill, Egremont, flax miller and sail cloth maker, whose family came from Kirkham, Lancashire had made their fortune two generations earlier as West Indian merchants. Martha's brother, John of Woodend, Egremont was a corn-miller and flour dealer and her brother Henry (1771-1830), of The Flosh, Cleator, later the home of the Ainsworth family, was founder of the Cleator Linen Thread Mills and a ship-owner in Whitehaven, where both families were well known. There were three children of the marriage, William Henry, George and Margaret:

1.William Henry was born at Adel in 1817 and was educated at Oakham School, Rutland and Trinity College, Cambridge graduating BA in 1840 and MA in 1843. He was also ordained in 1840 and served as  his father's curate at Adel from 1840 until 1842 when he was then presented to the living of St Luke's, Clifford, in the West Riding of Yorkshire by George Lane-Fox of Bramham Park, Boston Spa,in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Here, on a nominal stipend, he devoted nine years of his life to building a village school and inculcating the teachings of the Oxford Movement, although he was an original member of the Cambridge Camden Society, whose aims were broadly similar. In 1844 his health broke down, but in 1851 he became a Roman Catholic priest, joining the Institute of Charity. Between 1874 and 1883 Lewthwaite assisted the celebrated Father William Lockhart (1819-1892) at the beautiful 13th Century Gothic Chapel at St Etheldreda's, Ely Place in London, to which position he was appointed by Henry Manning, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. After his health broke down again in 1883, Lewthwaite returned to his native Yorkshire and was appointed Chaplain to St William's Catholic Reformatory School at Market Weighton. Here his 'holy and happy death on Easter Sunday' occurred in 1892 and he was buried at Ratcliffe College, Nottinghamshire. His obituary contains a thumb-nail portrait of him, describing him as having a ‘seemingly rough exterior and somewhat hasty manner,’ but also being ‘a kind and good man, very generous to the poor; active and rather forbidding, but not above driving pigs bought by him at Loughborough market all the way along the road to Ratcliffe College.'

2.George, junior, the second son, was born at Adel in 1818, attended Rugby School under Dr Thomas Arnold, and went on to University College, Oxford where he graduated BA in 1842 and MA in 1845.  He was ordained and then became his father's curate at Adel from 1842 until 1860, afterwards helping with services for the rest of his life, despite blindness. He never married and, until his eyesight deteriorated, was a knowledgeable local historian and antiquary, writing several learned papers on Adel's Norman Church for the Yorkshire Architectural Society. He died in 1893 and was buried in Adel churchyard.

1.Margaret, was born Adel in 1820 and by the early 1860s she was living in Leamington Spa with her widowed mother. In 1865 she married at Kirkham, Lancashire, the Revd George Brewin ( see above), perpetual curate of Wortley, near Sheffield 1845-1880. The patron was John Stuart-Wortley (1776-1845), 1st Baron Wharncliffe of Wortley Hall, who appointed Brewin to this living. The population was about 1,000 and his stipend £120 per annum. The couple, who were in their forties when they married, rented Cotefield, a substantial house in the village, from him. They were childless and, after her husband's death in 1895, Mrs Brewin moved to Grove House, Southsea, Southampton, where she died in 1908. She was buried at Wortley with her late husband.

The later years

The Revd George Lewthwaite the elder never retired but died in office as Rector of Adel on the 28th June 1854 aged eighty-one and was buried near the south side of Adel Church. He had made his Will shortly before his death which shows that he owned estates in the parishes of Arlecdon and Lamplugh and was one of the principal landowners in Winder, all villages near Whitehaven. In addition,he left an estate of £9,000. There are monuments to him in Adel Church and also at St Anne's, Thwaites, the parish of his birth. His widow retired to Leamington Spa but died in 1861 aged eighty-four and was also buried at Adel. Their son the Revd George Lewthwaite the younger continued to live at Cuzgarth, Adel until he died in 1893, when the Adel branch of the Lewthwaite family died out and their considerable wealth was inherited by the senior branch of the family, in the person of William Lewthwaite (1853-1927), of Broadgate, Thwaites, who was created a Baronet in 1927. This included oil portraits of the Revd George Lewthwaite, senior, and his wife Martha, by unknown artists and remain in the family’s possession, as does a fine water-colour of the Rector of Adel by Botterill of Leeds, painted in 1847. Photographs also exist of their three children.


  • Burke, Sir Bernard, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland , London, 1863,90, 698
  • The Clergy List, various dates
  • Draper, W.H., Adel and its Norman Church, Leeds, 1909, 140-181
  • Foster, Joseph, Alumni Oxonienses, Oxford, 1888, Vol 111, 849
  • Parson, William and White, William, A History, Directory and Gazetteer of Cumberland and Westmorland, with Furness and Cartmel, Leeds, 1829
  • White, William, Leeds and the Clothing Districts of Yorkshire, Sheffield, 1853, 393