Friends of Middleton Park


Ralph Brandling 1662 - 1749
and Anne Leigh ...


    (covering the years 1706 - 1749)

    The Brandling Family Background...

    Ralph Brandling's Life in the Northeast...

    Ralph Brandling's Life at Middleton, 1705 - 1749

    Other References to Coal Mining in Middleton

    Ralph and Anne's Religious Life

    Anne Brandling (nee Leigh)



The Brandling Family Background...

The Brandling family were a prominent family in Newcastle-upon Tyne. Amongst its notables were John Brandling who in the early 16th century was mayor and sheriff. His son, Sir Robert Brandling, was mayor of Newcastle on five occasions and M.P. for Newcastle through four parliamentary sessions. A later ancestor, Sir Francis Brandling, knighted in 1617, was a knight of the shire for Northumberland (1623 and 1625) and sheriff in 1626. He moved the family seat from Felling (in Newcastle) to Alnwick Abbey, where he was host to King Charles I. Sir Francis died in 1640. Charles Brandling, was the son of Francis Brandling. He served as a Colonel in the Royalist Army in the civil war and was at the surrender of Newark Castle. He married Anne, daughter of Robert Widdrington of Plessey, Northumberland, by whom he had five children: Francis (died in infancy), Robert Brandling, Ralph Brandling (of Middleton), Charles Brandling, Mary and Catherine Brandling.

To view a PDF of the Brandling Family Tree Please Click here.


Ralph Brandling's Life in the Northeast...

Ralph Brandling was born on the 7th December 1662, the third son of Charles Brandling. He was three years of age at his father's death and was raised by his mother, Anne. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic (the religion of his mother) and remained a Catholic all of his life. At the age of twenty-three he entered Gray's Inn and gained a legal education:

1685. May 29. Ralph Brandling of Alnwick, Northumberland esq. son and heir of Charles B. Late of the same, esq. Deceased. [1]

Two years later Ralph returned to Alnwick, sold his estates, and moved back to Felling. Ralph was amongst those chosen to form the new Corporation of Newcastle, appointed by James II:

1687/88. March 17: Then turned out Alderman Robson, Fenwick, Aubony and William Johnson; and in their roome Mr Ralph Widdrington of ye Grange; Ralph Brandling of Fellen esq. ..... which are named in ye additional charter given this towne by this King, James the Second. [2]

Later in the same year, he was named in the charter for Newcastle:

Aug 3. This day our new charter for Newcastle came home and was met with fourty-six horsemen, gentlemen and their servants. The persons named for the magistry in that charter were as follows;
............... Ralph Brandling, esq ................. [3]

Further, Ralph was also made a freeman of Newcastle.

On the 23rd December 1688 King James, faced with discontent, fled to France. William and Mary, of the protestant House of Hanover, were invited to succeed to the crown. As James had been a Roman Catholic, all those of the Catholic faith were now viewed with suspicion. The Jacobite Rebellion in the north against William, supported by many of the catholic gentry, further increased prejudice against all Catholics. In 1689, Ralph's freemanship of the city was removed:

1688 ...... Brandling Ralph sir Per King James proclamacion 17th 8ber 1688. Per order Common Councell 23 7ber 1689 these freedoms are void. [4]

The Corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was disbanded and on the 29th October of the same year an order was issued to:

...........summon papists named in the schedule to make, repeat and subscribe to the Declaration [of loyalty] and to seize the horses and arms of papists. [5]

Ralph was amongst those Catholics named and he was later suspected of hiding Jacobite cavalry in his coal mines:

..... that Brandley, a papist or reputed papist, living at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, has at least three hundred horses in his possession, or in the possession of some other person to his use, under the colour of employing them about his coal-mines, although upon enquiry it will be found that he always made use of oxen in that service till of late..... [6]

As Ralph's business interests continued it would appear that there was no substance in the above accusation. Ralph's activities as a coal-owner continued and he was involved in numerous schemes to develop the Tyneside coal industry.


Ralph Brandling's Life at Middleton

In 1697, Ralph married Anne Leigh of Middleton at Rothwell Parish Church: Marriages:-

1697 Nov 16. Ralph Brandlyn of Durham Esq. and Mrs Anne Leigh of Middleton. [7]

Ralph proceeded to make Middleton his permanent home (the only Brandling to do so) and from 1705 onwards he describes himself as Ralph Brandling of Yorkshire esq. or Ralph Brandling of Middleton.

As a papist [Catholic] Ralph had to register his estates at regular intervals. In 1715, under an Act of Parliament I-George-I, entitled An act to oblige papists to register their names and Real Estates , Ralph's returns show he remained an extensive land and coal owner in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. [8]

Under the same act Ralph registered his estates at Middleton:

York - West Riding: Ralph Brandling of Middleton Esq. Manor of Middleton, entailed with lands and a mill at Hunslet, in Leeds, in right of Anne his wife ..... £437-11s-4d. [9]

Further, at a later date:

Durham: Ralph Brandling of Middleton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire,   
Esq; - Estate at Jarree in Possession of Thomas Owen, et al £379 5 0
West Riding: Ralpth Brandlyn of Middleton esq. £387 11 4
Newcastle Upon Tyne: Ralph Brandling of Middleton, in Com York, Esq.    £4 1 2
Northumberland: Ralph Brandling of Middleton, in. com. York. Esq. [10]



Others References to Coal Mining in Middleton

In our notes on the Leigh family we made reference to Sir Ferdinando's colemyne, valued in 1645 at £350 per annum. Francis Conyer was also a mine-owner in Middleton, in and around the year 1669. His mining operation being extensive enough to warrant the striking of special coins (tokens) for use at his pits. One of these coins has survived and is illustrated here.

Image of a Conyer Token

Frances Conyers of Midlton in Yorkshire his Half Peny 1669

For the Use of Ye Cole Pits [engraving of a falcon] [11]


There are a number of references to the Conyer family in the Rothwell Parish Registers.

In the years 1709/10 there is a reference to several gentlemen and rich freeholders who are owners of several coalmines in the Parish of Rothwell (which included Middleton).

From 1640 the occupation of coalminer begins to be recorded:

1640 May XVIJ Edward fil Willumi Jackeson de Midleton, colyer et Maria fil Rici Rawson [wedding].

In 1714 under burials:

ye 12th [September] Dorothy daughter of James Sherwood, miner, Midleton. and ye 26th [November] Eliz. daughter of John Wood, miner, Midleton.

In December 1733:

Joshua Mills & John Mills his son & Benjamin Wood brethers the 2nd day, all four slain in Midelton Wood Coal pitts.

Again in 1745:

Alexander Rotherforth ye 26thday [November] from Sow laine head, minor, kild by ye fire damp. [12]

In 1715 Thoresby's 'Ducatus Loidensis' was published in which he describes Middleton as being:

This Lordship (which abounds with good coal and wood ........).

Little is known of the specifics of the Middleton coal pits at this time and there are only two references to Ralph's mining activities. The first is from Ralph Thoresby's diary:

Thence in our way to Woodhouse Hill, we called to see an ingenious engine & lately erected by Mr Brandling to drain his coal mines & missing of himself received little satisfaction. [13]

The second is from the West Riding Register of Papist Estate , where Ralph is described as the owner of a wrought colliery or coal mine with a water engine and smithy.

There is also the story of William Driver's arrival at Middleton:

William Driver was born on the 28th of June, 1763, at Bromworth Cragg, in that stoney and mountainous district of Yorkshire, which is called Craven. Many a bright gem has been discovered in rugged places, and many of the excellent of the earth have come from bleak and uncultivated regions. When William had acquired sufficient strength, he was trained to daily labour before he could write or even read. As he grew up, he despised the godly counsels and examples of his parents, associated with transgressors and became hardened in wickedness. After reaching manhood, he went to Middleton, near Rothwell, and laboured as a banksman at a coal mine, in its neighbourhood. At this place he resided when he was twenty- two years of age... [14]


Ralph and Anne's Religious Life

Until the early 1800's the Catholic religion only survived because of the provision of Mass Centres by wealthy Catholics. Middleton was to obtain notoriety as a mass centre during Ralph's lifetime.

A chapel was in use at Middleton in 1712 when on 12th January of that year Thoresby, in his diary, reveals:

........ to Middleton Hall, was kindly received by Mr Brandling....; in their private chapel I saw some rich copes and vestments with a mass book, but never a bible in any language. [15]

Prior to 1728, the Reverend John Elston (who had previously been Chaplain to Lady Mary Howard at Roundhay) took up residence as Ralph's Chaplain at Middleton and was conducting services there.

In both 1728 and 1729 Ralph's chapel at Middleton was visited by Bishop Thomas Williams, who on both occasions administered confirmation:-

                 Gentlemen whose
houses were visited
   Chaplain Number Confirmed          
June 1728     Brandling     [John] Elston     13
1729     Brandling     Ipse Illus
[The Bishop himself]
    5 [16]

Bishop Williams visited Middleton Hall yearly from 1732 to 1735 and in 1737 to 1739 administered confirmation on each occasion. On his first visit in 1728 he brought with him a companion, an ordained priest by the name of Fr. Thomas Worthington. Thomas Worthington was born in 1671, a son of Thomas Worthington and his wife, Jane Plompton, a Catholic family living near Wigan, Lancashire. Thomas was a missionary for some years in London, a former prior of Bornhem and an ex-professor of Lovain. He also wrote a number of treatises on biblical history and an introduction to the Catholic faith. He later become a companion to Bishop Williams, hence his visit to Middleton.

In 1730, Worthington settled at Middleton (in Middleton Hall) and remained there until his death. He kept the registers of the chapel [17] , said mass, baptised, married and said funeral services. The influence and services he provided stretched far beyond Middleton as the registers show. The chapel was used by Catholics from Bradford, Halifax, Wakefield and other places as the 1735 visitation record shows:

Ossett - Pontefract. Aug ye 15th 1735.
Sir, According to ye injunctions i received from you ye last visitation, requiring me to give an Account what Number of Papists or reputed Papists there is in my Chapelry. I send you this particular account viz: yt there are none except one William Towend, a collier & wife who go frequently to Middleton Hall to Esqr Branlins to hear Mass, as all our neighbourhood believe and say .......

The above is a return of the 1735 visitation. In that year Lancelot Blackburn, the Protestant Arch-Bishop of York proceeded to survey the number of papists within his diocese. For the purpose of this visitation the following questionnaire was circulated amongst his clergy:

i) What number of Papists, or supposed Papists have you in your Parish, Men, Women and Children above the age of thirteen years; return their Names, Titles, Distinctions or Trades in pursuance of the 114th Cannon.
(ii) Is there any Popish priest, or any persons supposed to be such, who constantly Dwell in your Parish or are Sojourners there and return their names.
(iii) Is there any house or place in your Parish in which Mass is understood to be performed and to which there is a resort of Papists on the Lords Day or at any other time.
(iv) Is there any Popish School within your Parish for persons of either Sex and by whom kept.
(v) Hath any Visitation or Confirmation been understood to have been held by any Popish Bishop within your Parish.
(vi) Do you know of any Persons who have been Parverted to the Popish Religion and by whom and when. [18]

The returns for the Parish of Rothwell are as follows:

Rothwell - Pontefract.

i) There are thirty-four papists in the Parish of Rothwell:

Ralph Brandling Esq.
Anne Brandling, his wife
Elizabeth Thorp
Paul Thorp     -     Servant
Catherine Stringer     -     Servant
Ann Rawson     -     Servant
Thomas Briggs     -     Servant
John Hattersley - Husbandman
Jane, his wife
Ann Hattersley - Children
Thomas Hattersley
Mathew Marshall
Mary, his wife
Matt and Mary Marshall - Children
John Brillain - Weaver
Catherine Wrigglesworth, Wife of Tho. Wrigglesworth, protestant.
William Rawson - Husbandman
Ann, his wife
William Rawson jun. - Husbandman
Susan, his wife
Francis Rawson - Husbandman
John Rawson - Husbandman
Frances Thompson, wife of Tho. Thompson, protestant
Thomas Horbury - collier
Alice, his wife
Arnold Griffith, petty school master
Mr William Steele - Farmer
Mrs Steele
Thomas     -     Steele Children
Mary     -     Steele Children
Marmaduke     -     Steele Children
John     -     Steele Children

ii) There is a Popish priest or person suspected to be such who constantly dwells in ye Parish, his name is Mr Worthington.

(iii) Mass is understood to be performed every Lords Day at ye house of Ralph Brandling, esq. of Middleton in ye Parish of Rothwell.

(iv)There is no Popish school understood to be kept within our Parish.

(v) A popish Bishop is said to come sometimes to the house of Ralph Brandling, esq. but whether any visitation or confirmation hath been held by him there is not known.

(vi) Susan, the wife of William Rawson, jun. is said to have been perverted to ye popish religion about three years since, and Thomas Horbury and Alice his wife about half a year since while inhabitants in ye Parish of Hunslet, but wherefore or by whom is not known.

John Wise, Curate of Rothwell. [19]

Ralph Brandling appears to have played little part in the parish life of Middleton. His name appears only twice in the Middleton Register, once as a witness at a wedding:

1742 11th Feb.        Thomas Jordan
Elizabeth Constable
Testes [witnesses] Brandlings
Mary Constable     [20]

and when he and his wife, Anne, were enrolled into the Rosary Confraternity:

1749 June 10        Ann Brandling
Ralph Brandling, Esquire    Middleton Yorks.    [21]

During the time when Catholics were regarded with suspicion, the addresses of missionary priests were kept secret. Ralph's home at Middleton Hall appears to have been used, at least once, as a 'postal address' for Bishop Williams:

To Mr Williams, at Ralph Brandlings Esq. at Middleton, near Leeds, Yorkshire. [22]

Ann Brandling died in 1748 and was buried at Rothwell:

Ann, wife of Ralph Brandling, Esq. Buried 4th July. from Middleton Hall. [23]

Ralph's right of inheritance of Middleton was challenged by some distant relatives of the Leigh family, on the grounds that Ralph was a catholic:

Oct 1748 - Knaresborough ... claim made to Manor of Middleton cum Thorpe by coheirs Curzon and Lister, in lieu of Ralph Brandling, disqualified by reason of Papistry.

The claim was rejected on the 4th October 1748 at the Quarter Sessions [24]. In the following year Ralph died, aged 86 years, and was buried with his wife:

Ralph Brandling, Esq. buried 22nd June, from Middleton Hall. [25]

Since Ralph and Anne had no children, the estates were settled on Ralph's nephew, Ralph Brandling (II).


Anne Brandling (nee Leigh)

Anne's date of birth is unknown, but she was probably in early middle age when she married Ralph Brandling. Like her husband she was a devout Roman Catholic. The Middleton Registers show she had anniversary masses said for her parents and her uncle Francis:

Mar 17     Anniv.     Johannis Legh, patris               1707
April 29     Anniv.     D. Helenae Legh, matris     1701
Nov 23     Anniv.     Francisci Legh, Patrui     1715       [26]

About 1720 Anne gave the gift of a house and a field for the use of a priest at Hexham (another 'mass centre'). [27]

Clearly Anne had a great regard for Thomas Worthington, giving him a gift of £300 before her death. This is recorded in the Middleton register:

Dae Annae Brandling, de Middleton, in Comitatu Eboracensi. Eadem Anna Brandling uxor Raldulphi B. de Middleton in com. Ebor. Prope Leeds, armigeri, dum adhuc viveret consignavit mihi F. Thomae Worthington, ord. Praedicat. Provinciae Angliae summam 300 lib. sterling: ea intentione ut addita summa lib. sterling per Testamentum ut supra. fundus esset sufficiens ad alendum perpetuo missionarium ejusdem ordinis & Provinciae FF. Praedicatorium qui pabulum vitae spirituale Catholicis Romanis de Middleton et vicinis administraret. [28]

She also bequeathed him a further £800 (by private instruction to her executor, Sir Edward Gascoigne) in her will. This too is recorded in the Middleton register:

Dae Annae Brandling, de Middleton, in Comitatu Eboracensi. Domina Anna Brandling uxor Raldulphi Brandling de Middleton in comitatu Eboracensi prope Leeds, armigeri, obit dic primo Julii, anno millesimo septingentesimo quadragesimo octavo, et per ultimum suum testamentum in Honorem et Gloriam Dei Omnipotentis reliquit Edoardo Gascoigne de Parlington in Comitatu Eboracensi, octingenta librarum sterling monetae Anglicanae in confidentia, eo scilicet consilio ut ipse prefatus Edoardus Gascoigne, prefatum sumam Pecuniae consignaret in manus F. Thomae Worthington Ordinis Predicatorum Provinciae Angliae ea Intentione ut erigeretur fundus perpetuus ad alendum Missionarium ejustem ordinis et Provinciae FF.m Predicatorum qui pabulum vitae spirituale Catholicis Romanis de Middleton et vicinis administraret. Ego igitur, F. Thomas Worthington, auctoritate accepta ab Edwardo Gascoigne, a Raldulpho Brandling, armigero, uxoris suae Annae Brandling solo executore et administratore summam predictam octingenta Librarum sterling monetae Anglicanae. [29]

Anne died in 1748 and was buried at Rothwell.



[1] Foster. Gray's Inn Admission Register.

[2] Surtees Society. Vol: 124.

[3] Surtees Society. Vol: 124.

[4] Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Record Series.

[5] Sharpe MSS. Durham.

[6] Calender of State Papers 1689/90.

[7] Rothwell Parish Registers.

[8] English Non-Catholic Jurors 1715.

[9] English Non-Catholic Jurors 1715.

[10] The names of the Roman Catholics, nonjurors and others who refused to take the oaths to his late Majesty King George (1715)

[11] Tokens issued in the 17th, 18th and 19th century - William Boyne

[12] Rothwell Parish Registers.

[13] The Diary of Ralph Thoresby.

[14] The Jubilee of the Methodist New Connexion. Page 848

[15] The Diary of Ralph Thoresby.

[16] Catholic Record Society Publications. Vol: 25 pages 112 - 114

[17] The Middleton register can be found at PRO, RG4/4423. See also Payne. Old English Catholic Missions.

[18] Catholic Record Society Publications. Vol: 32 pages 205 - 206

[19] Catholic Record Society Publications. Vol: 32 pages 301 - 302

[20] The Middleton register.

[21] Catholic Record Society Publication. Volume 14 page 218

[22] Catholic Record Society Publication. Volume 13 page 161

[23] Rothwell Parish Registers.

[24] West Riding Quarter Sessions, Wakefield, Knaresborough Sessions, 4th October 1748.

[25] Rothwell Parish Registers.

[26] Payne. Old English Catholic Missions. Page 59.

[27] Catholic Record Society Publication. Volume 26 page 133

[28] Payne. Old English Catholic Missions. Page 59 - 60.

[29] Payne. Old English Catholic Missions. Page 57 - 58.

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