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I've removed everyone born after 1930:
Ashenhurst of Ashenhurst
John Ashenhurst, 1739
William and Nancy Ashenhurst
Ralph Ashenhurst and Sarah Campbell
Scottish Ashenhurst Lineages
ARTICLES: The Three Colonels
The Three Colonels Ashenhurst
Growing up in California during the fifties and beyond, our
great-grandmother, Euphemia Ashenhurst McDowell (1880-1997), told us about
Ashenhurst Hall in England (actually, she believed it was a castle). For
decades, I've told anyone who would listen that I'm descended from a Colonel
John Ashenhurst, a Cromwellian calvary officer who felt obliged flee to
Ireland after the restoration of the Crown. It turns out the story may not
be totally accurate and is, certainly, somewhat more complex. In fact,
there were three Colonels Ashenhurst during the English Civil Wars, and it's
often difficult to determine which actions are to be attributed to which
man. I'll try to sort it out.
The Ashenhurst family can be found in Staffordshire as early as the 13th
century. Ralph Ashenhurst of Ashenhurst Hall, near Leek, married the
heiress of Beard Hall in Derbyshire near the end of the 16th century. He
had four sons. The eldest, Randle and Edward, were elevated to colonels
early in the first war. Edward, a Staffordshire Committee member, was
apparently the first of the family to stand with the Parliamentarians.
Captain John Ashenhurst, Randle's eldest son, was promoted to colonel in
1650 and given command of a cavalry troop. There were two other brothers:
Francis, the Mayor of Macclesfield in Cheshire from 1642 to 1643, for whom I
can find nothing more for this period, and Edmund of Old Park in
Staffordshire, who appears to have been neutral, if not of Royalist
sympathies, during the wars.
Not long after King Charles I raised his battle standard at Nottingham in
1642, Captain Randle Ashenhurst, then serving for the Royal army in
Derbyshire under Sir John Gell, defected with forty horses and men to the
Parliamentary forces of Sir Thomas Fairfax.1 The next year,
Randle was promoted to colonel and raised a regiment of foot soldiers, and
his son, Captain John Ashenhurst, was installed as governor of Caverswall
Castle in Staffordshire.2 The fortunes of the Ashenhursts were on
the rise. But in December that year, 1643, Colonel Randle Ashenhurst was
captured with one of his sons in a skirmish with Colonel John Frescheville
at Hassop Hall in Derbyshire.3
The young man present with Randle on that day hasn't been identified.
Randle, styled "of Beard Hall" due to the inheritance from his father, had
been married twice and had several sons, at least two of whom were too young
to have yet served. His second son, William, was a witness in August of
1643 to the will of Sir Edward Fitton and served as surgeon in Fitton's
regiment--that is, in the King's Army.4 It's unlikely, then, that
Randle's prison companion was William. It wasn't John as he was active
during the pair's nine months of captivity. Another son, Peter, is known to
have served as a lieutenant in Ireland ten years later, but his birth date
is unknown.5 From what we now know, however, he's the best
candidate for the second imprisoned Ashenhurst.
Randle and son remained at Frescheville's garrisoned Stayley Hall until
the following August when Major-General Lawrence Crawford commandeered
Bolsover Castle and secured the surrounding area. In the meantime, the
other Ashenhursts remained busy in Staffordshire. Randle's brother, Captain
Edward Ashenhurst, was promoted to major in early 1644 and given the
governorship of Paynsley.6 In February, Captain John Ashenhurst,
Randle's son, began a month-long siege of Biddulph Hall.7 The
heavily garrisoned building finally surrendered after the captain deployed
"Roaring Meg," the largest cannon of its era, and felled a supporting
That August, father and son were released from Frescheville's custody and
Randle was given command of the newly relieved Bolsover Castle.8
Up until this time, historians can distinguish between the three Ashenhurst
men by their respective ranks: Captain John, Major Edward, and Colonel
Randle Ashenhurst. By November, however, Edward was promoted to colonel,
introducing some confusion as to who was whom. But it is Captain John
Ashenhurst who gained a bloody victory at Wolverhampton in July 1645 with
ten of the enemy killed and thirty-eight captured.9 One of the
dead appears to have been Andrew Gifford whose home, Walton Grange, was
seized by the captain's uncle, Colonel Edward Ashenhurst. In June of 1651,
Giffard's widow, Katherine, pleaded for the return of her estate as she and
her eight children were homeless. But in March of the following year,
Edward bought the estate's mortgage and was thereafter styled Ashenhurst of
Charles I, the second in the Stuart line, was defeated in 1646. After
some negotiation with Parliament, concessions were made and he was returned
to the throne. He reneged on his promises, however, and was again captured,
tried, and finally executed in January 1649. Oliver Cromwell, the
parliamentarian strong man, was now firmly in power and wasted no time in
raising arms in Ireland. During the next year, 1650, as Charles's son was
crowned in Scotland as Charles II, Randle Ashenhurst was made Justice of the
Peace in Derbyshire and John was promoted to colonel of the horse.
Confident of victory, Charles's Scottish allies quickly invaded England but
were routed at Dunbar and defeated at Worcester on September 3, 1651, after
which the King secured temporary shelter at Bascopel House, just west of the
Staffordshire border. None other than Colonel John Ashenhurst and his troop
of calvary missed capturing the King there by no more than a half
hour.11 Charles had found cover inside a hollow of a nearby oak
tree, now known to legend as the Royal Oak, and, after forty days on the
run, gained his passage to France. In 1680, the King confided to Samuel
Pepys that a Roundhead passed the oak tree just beneath his hideout.
The remainder of the decade passed peaceably for the Ashenhursts. John
Ashenhurst had four children during Cromwell's rule: John, Thomas, Sarah,
and Peter, all baptized in Staffordshire during the 1650s. In 1657 alone,
Justice of the Peace Randle Ashenhurst conducted seventeen marriages in
Derbyshire. Just the previous year, his son Revell was admitted to the
Inner Temple and his youngest son Francis entered Cambridge. In 1659,
Randle's brother, Colonel Edward Ashenhurst, was appointed Commissioner of
the Militia in the County of Stafford,12 and Lieutenant Peter
Ashenhurst, possibly Randle's cell mate in 1644, was enumerated on the
census of Ireland, marrying there to Mary Brooke in 1660.
Charles was restored to the throne in 1660, two years after the death of
Oliver Cromwell, and the Ashenhursts began to disappear from the record.
Randle died in Derbyshire in 1666,13 and in 1667 John sold the
Ashenhurst estate in Staffordshire to his cousin Francis
Hollinshead.14 Edward Ashenhurst, the miser of Walton Grange, was
dead by 1671, and Edmund Ashenhurst, the youngest of the four brothers, died
But what of the American Ashenhurst's supposed ancestor, Colonel John
Ashenhurst, the terror of Wolverhampton, the bomber of Biddolph Hall, and
the would-be captor of the King? Did he and his family flee to Ireland
after Charles regained the crown in 1660? In fact, Ireland would not have
been the safest place for someone on the run from the King. And, if he had
been a fugitive, why did he remain in England until at least 1667 when he
sold the family estate? His children, however, appear to be no mystery to
the casual historian: Peter is recorded to have died in infancy and,
according to the History of Leek, the others had no issue. True? Or
can it be that the whole lot simply disappeared to another land? Although
there were likely other John Ashenhursts during Restoration England, it
needs to be noted that a man of that name was transported, courtesy of the
King, to Barbados in 1669 and is presumably the same to have stepped ashore
on the American mainland in 1675.
One way or another, Ireland was well populated by Ashenhursts by the end
of the eighteenth century. Lieutenant Peter Ashenhurst, Randle's son,
remained and died there, but he seems to have had three daughters and no
sons. Major Edward Ashenhurst, fourth in descent from Randle, and said to
have been the last of the Ashenhursts, died in Ireland in 1770 leaving a
single daughter. Yet, however it came to pass, an extended family of
Ashenhursts crossed the Atlantic from county Tyrone to Virginia in 1793. It
consisted of brothers Oliver and William, their sister Nancy, and her
husband, a first cousin named William Ashenhurst. During passage, Nancy
gave birth to the couple's youngest child, Oliver Ashenhurst.
In addition to later emigrations to Australia, Canada, and South Africa,
Irish Ashenhursts returned to England and others moved into Scotland. Thus,
there is a virtual Diaspora of Ashenhursts throughout the English speaking
world, and possibly beyond. Some years ago, I started the Ashenhurst Y-DNA
project at FTDNA.com, but only two male Ashenhursts have tested (a third is
in the pipe). Should more brave Ashenhurst men contribute a wad of spittle
to the effort, it's possible to establish, at minimum, whether there's a
single distinct family of Ashenhursts. Or is there another tribe that can
claim the appellation, "Ashenhurst of Ashenhurst?" You tell me.
- c1589 Ralph Ashenhurst of Ashenhurst, Staffordshire, marries Elizabeth
Beard, hieress of Beard Hall, Derbyshire.
- 1631 Randle Ashenhurst is Justice of the High Peak Hundred of Derbyshire.
- 1632 Randle's children named in will of brother-in-law Franics Bradshaw.
- 1638 Randle mentioned in will of his cousin William Leversage of Wheelock.
- 1642 First civil war begins. Charles I raises battle standard at
- 1642 Capt Randle Ashenhurst and Lt Thomas Hadfield defect from Royalist
Col John Gell with 40 men and horses (Derbyshire).
- 1643 "Edward Ashenhurst, a Staffordshire Committee member."
- 1643 Randle promoted to Col and authorized by Lord Fairfax to raise a
regiment of foot.
- 1643 (Aug) Randle's son, William, is witness to the will of Colonel Edward
Fitton, for whom he served.
- 1643 (by Dec) Capt. John Ashenhurst made Governor of Caverswall Castle,
- 1643 (Dec) Col Randle Ashenhurst and a son captured by Colonel John
Frescheville at Hassop Hall, Derbeyshire.
- 1644 (Feb 26) Capt John Ashenhurst besieges Biddulph Hall.
- 1644 Captain Edward Ashenhurst made Major by March and is governor of
Paynsley, Colonel by Dec.
- 1644 (August) Balsover Castle, Wingfield Manor, and Staveley House, where
the Asehnhursts were imprisoned, are taken by Major-General Lawrence
Crawford. The Ashenhursts are released.
- 1644 Randle becomes Governor of Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire.
- c1644 Randle takes possession of Shallcross Hall, Derbyshire.
- 1644 Randle Ashenhurst is on the committee for Commonwealth Assessments
- 1644 (June) Brereton besieges Dudley Castle. Two majors, two captains, two
liuetenants taken prisoner.
- 1645 (July 1) "Capt" Ashenhurst's victory at Wolverhampton. 14 killed and
34 captured. Some texts say this was Edward, but he was already
commissioned a colonel, as was Randle.
- 1645 Caverswall Castle back in Royalist hands.
- 1645 Edward Ashenhurst serves under Sir William Brereton at Chester.
- 1646 Brereton takes Dudley Castle. Col Edmond (Edward?) Ashenhurst, former
prisoner at Dudley, is negotiator.
- 1646 Charles I surrenders.
- 1648 Second civil war
- 1649 Charles I executed. End of second civil war.
- 1649 Third civil war
- 1650 Randle becomes Justice of the Peace in Derbyshire.
- 1650 Capt John Ashenhurst commissioned colonel of horse.
- 1651 "Col" Ashenhurst just misses capturing Charles II as he escapes to
- 1652 (March 10) Col Edward Ashenhurst buys Walton Grange.
- 1657 As J P, Randle performs 17 marriages.
- 1659 Col Edward Ashenhurst appointed a Commissioner of the Militia in the
County of Stafford.
- 1660 Restoration of Charles II
- 1666 Death of Randle "of Beard" in Derbyshire.
- 1667 John Ashenhurst sells Ashenhurst estate to cousin Francis Hollinshead.
All original portions ©
Michael Cooley, OrbitInternet.net -