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The Ball Family

Part 1 Thurnham and Lancaster

17th-18th century

restructured & updated with new information March 2012

An extended family tree showing the complicated inter-relationships between several families can be seen on the Family Tree page. It would be useful to make a printed copy for easy reference while reading these pages.

The first 5 generations are

dates generation & name spouse notes
17th century 1... William Ball Cicely Worthington  
abt 1670-1766 2... Robert Ball Winifred Taylor  
1704-1771 3... William Ball unknown not found
1738-1821 4...Thomas Ball Elizabeth Brown
main line, see Ball2
1763-1847 5...John Ball Jane Cornthwaite

The 4th generation family listed above is dealt with in much greater detail in Part II
which then continues with John Ball and links to the Cornthwaite family
This page concludes with a 'side-line' of 3 generations descended from William Ball's son Robert

1744-1807 4...Robert Ball Agnes Roe 6 children
1760-1838 5... Marmaduke Ball Ellen Hodgson 5 children
1784 + 6...the children of Marmaduke & Ellen end of this research

William Ball (1703-1771) & Cicely Worthington

The early history of the Ball family is patchy but some details have been found from the 17th century. This line goes back to William Ball who married Cicely (or Cecilia) Worthington who came from a family with several priests and nuns. The family was also connected in some way with the Allens of Rossall Hall. They appear (in Latin) on the 1682 list of Lancashire Recusants in Thurnham, owing £60 each in fines for their non-attendance at the parish church as 'Willus' Ball, occupation unknown, and 'Ciciia' his wife, housewife. According to Joseph Gillow who edited the bulk of the volumes of the Catholic Record Society (CRS) they had at least three sons, Robert, Thomas and George.

The following is by Joseph Gillow, the historian, quoted by the Records of St Peter's Lancaster, published in 1910, p.206:

.....the Balls had become the tenants of Dolphinlee and in 1717 Robert Ball, yeoman, in registering his estate as a Catholic Non-juror stated that he held it for the lives of his sons, William, George and Robert. Mr Ball, who had previously lived at Scale Hall, had a brother George, born in 1678, who was ordained at the English College in Rome in 1704 and in 1716 was reported by Richard Hitchmough, the infamous informer, as being a missionary priest in his neighbourhood. Tyldesley the diarist , records going to 'prayers', that is, Mass, at Bulk in 1712 and it is very probable that Mr Ball was serving the mission at Dolphinlee at the time. After the Rising of 1715 and the consequent wave of persecution, priests all over the country had to seek temporary safety in hiding or to change their mission for some remote part of the vicariate. It is most likely therefore that Mr Ball left Dolphinlee in 1716 and took the place of the Rev.Hugh Tootell alias Mossborough Hall, the seat of Robert Molyneux Esq. Thence he removed in 1728 to Moor Hall, the home of Mrs Wolfall where he seems to have died in November 1734. Mr Ball's brother Robert, the Non-juror, of Dolphinlee married Winefred, daughter of the Mr Taylor of Park Hall, already mentioned, and sister to the Rev Thomas Taylor. His eldest son William Ball succeeded to Dolphinlee, and his two other sons, George and Edward, born respectively in 1703 and 1707, became priests and no doubt in later years frequently said Mass in the old chapel at Dolphinlee when they were visiting their parents and relatives. William's son Robert continued the tenancy of Dolphinlee after his father's death and the family gave several more priests to the church during the nineteenth century.

The following account is based mostly on the wills of various members of this family with additional details from the Return of Papists of 1767. Other sources used are:

Recusant Records and Catholic Record Society transcripts with notes by Joseph Gillow and others
The History of St Peter's, Lancaster, Billington & Brownbill, Sands & Co., London 1910
Historical Notes on English Catholic Missions by Bernard W.Kelly, 1907 (reprinted by Michael Gandy)
Catholic Directory 1980

Birth dates unless given with day and month are approximate.


Robert Ball and Winifred Taylor

Robert Ball's Will made in 1742 though not proved till 1767 after his death in 1766, adds some more details about his family. His wife was Winifred Taylor of Park Hall, Quernmore, and they had at least 8 children, as named in his will.:

  1. William Ball b. 1703 d. 1771 (see below and Will)
  2. Rev. George Ball 1703-1748 a priest
  3. Rev. Edward Ball 1717-1789 a priest
  4. Rev. John Ball 1722-1781, a priest (referred to by William as 'my brother John')
  5. Robert Ball m .Jane d. bef 1766; 3 children, Alice, Elizabeth & Winifred, Benedictine nun
  6. Elizabeth Ball b. bef 1724 m. .... Nutcher bef.1742
  7. Jennet Ball b. Bulk
  8. Hanna Ball b. Bulk

2. George, born 2 Jan 1703, was admitted to Douai on 15 Jun 1717 and ordained as a priest on 2 Apr 1729. For a time he taught syntax there and was then sent 'on the missions' to England on 25 Jun 1730. It is more than likely that he served at Dolphin Lee when visiting home. He was for a time at Warwick Hall, Cumberland, home of the Warwick family. (The mission there is said to have been 'always' run by the Benedictines. They are known to have been there from 1715, but the later situation could be more complicated) Later George was appointed as a rural Dean. He died on 26 Apr 1748 at the age of 45.

3. Edward, born on 5 Aug 1717, went to Douai in 1730. He was ordained there on 23 Sep 1841. It was usual for priests to take an 'alias' for their own safety and that of their families and Edward is known to have used his grandmother's maiden name of Worthington. He also stayed on as 'professor' (i.e. teacher) but on 6 Aug 1747 was sent to Ugthorpe, Yorkshire, referred to as 'very poor, a purgatory of a mission'. In 1750 he was at Great Eccleston, Lancs, then went on to Staffordshire. He was first at Paynsely Hall, Draycott in the Moors near Stoke-on-Trent in 1757, at that time probably owned by the Langdale family. It was remarked of Stoke (and presumably the area) that it was 'a stronghold of protestantism, where the Catholic religion could not find a place to cover her head.' Edward went on to Wolverhampton in 1759, the situation there being described much later, looking back, by a Mr Green, 'We were obliged to steal our way in small parties, or rather, singly, and by different and circuitous routes, to avoid observation, and the consequences which often attended detection.' After several years Edward became chaplain at the Sardinian chapel in London, around 1773-4, and finally retired to St Omer's, another seminary .in France where he died on 16 Feb 1789 aged 71.

4. John, born 13 Mar 1722, also used the alias of Worthington. He went to Douai in 1735, like his brothers at the age of 14, and was ordained there at the age of 24 on 26th Mar 1746. He didn't stay though, going instead to Brailes, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, a mission begun in 1726 at the home of the Bishop family (In the 19th century this rural mission had no resident priest as it is not mentioned by Kelly, and in 1980 was being served from Shipston) He seems to have left Brailes because of the persecution of Mr Holland, an attorney of Cleobury and brother of Mrs Bishop. (This bald statement leaves a mystery about this episode. Was Mr Holland a protestant and the source of the persecution, or did John fear that as a priest he was compromising him? The situation in that part of the Midlands was still very tense. The nearest mission to Cleobury Mortimer was at Mawley Hall, home of the Blount family, where they called the chapel 'the servants' hall' to disguise its real purpose). After this John returned to the continent in 1775, perhaps partly for his own safety (or possibly through ill-health?), as confessor at the Augustinian convent in Bruges, Belgium. He returned to the English mission in 1778, becoming chaplain to Sir Richard Acton Bt at Aldenham Hall, Salop but he died there less than three years later, on 6 Jan 1781. (The mission was begun in 1762. From 1849 it was known as Aldenham Priory but was closed in 1890 when a new church was built at Bridgenorth so is not mentioned by Kelly. It was demolished in the 1950s)

5. Robert Ball was recorded in 1717 as having been at Dolphin Lee one year. He signed his own Will so the spellings above are probably his own and not those of the lawyers. However, spelling was very informal and a pet name like 'Betty' for 'Elizabeth' could well appear in a Will.. George and Robert were appointed joint executors of the Will. It is known that George died in 1748 but it looks as though Robert had also died by then, so William was sworn in to administer the Will. The Will does not indicate who took over Dolphin Lee, but three of them, John, Edward and George, were priests, and the Return of Papists shows that Thomas, son of William, had taken over. This Thomas has been identified with the Thomas Ball b.1738 but there are problems with this, not least that the span of his parents' family would be too large. See Part 2 for more on Thomas of 1838.

Robert names his daughters first in his will, then his sons in the following order: Robert, George, John, William. The will was actually made in 1742. The impression given is that the girls were older, Elizabeth already married, and perhaps Jennet too as he only leaves her one shilling, 'her fortune having already been paid.' (It is quite possible that she was not married, but a nun, with a similar dowry) He leaves the property to William first and then if William has died, to Robert 'and his Jane'. (Whether Jane was Robert's wife or daughter is not clear.) The others, being priests would have no use for the land. The will was drawn up in 1842. Robert lived to a good age, and by the time his will was proved in 1767 it was George who had died.

Of the children of Robert and Winifred nothing more is known of no.5, Robert, or of the daughters. The main line of this family continues below with William


William Ball 1704-1771 & unknown

eldest son of Robert Ball and Winifred Taylor above

An entry on the 'Return of Papists of 1767 gave 'William Bell' but this is a mistake for 'Ball'. (The names of the children in the will agree with those in other records) William, b.1703/4, made a Will in 1768, d.1771. His wife had already died by then so her name is not known but they had 8 children:

  1. new Thomas Ball b. 1738 Bulk, Lancaster, m. Elizabeth Brown 1758 d. 1821
  2. new Winifred Ball b. 1741 m. Robert Crosskell 1764 St Mary's. Lancaster; d. 3 Jul 1814 Bulk
  3. Robert Ball b. 1744 Bulk, Lancaster m. aft 1764 Agnes Roe, d. 11 Jul 1807 at Dolphin Lee
  4. Winifred Ball m. Robert Crosskell on 3 Nov 1764 at St Mary's, Lancaster
  5. William Ball b. 1746
  6. Alice Ball b. 1748 Bulk, Lancaster
  7. Cicely Ball b. 1750 Bulk, Lancaster m. John Varley
  8. Nancy Ball b. 1752 Bulk, Lancaster
  9. George Ball b. 1754 Bulk, Lancaster
  10. Mary Ball b. 1758 Bulk, Lancaster

2. Winifred married Robert Crosskell, son of John (d. 1747) & Elizabeth on 3 Nov 1764 in St Mary's, Lancaster. Crosskells appear in lists of convicted recusants but are very difficult to follow. Robert and Winifred had 5 children, John, b.abt 1769, Elizabeth, William, Thomas and Charles. Thomas m. a Miss Coulston and their eldest son Robert, b. Liverpool, became a priest, Mgr Robert Crosskell, 1808-1902 (He was living in Levenshulme in 1901), Robert being followed by Gabriel (1814) who became a shoemaker, and then Thomas (1821-1901) who has not yet been found on a census.

1. Thomas Ball & Elizabeth Brown

eldest son of Willam

The main family line continues from here, via Dolphinlee to Poulton and Fleetwood. Follow the link below for many more details on Thomas and Elizabeth and their descendants. The rest of this page concludes with notes on the rest of William's children as listed and numbered above.

Thomas Ball m. Elizabeth Brown on 28 Aug 1758 at St Mary's. Lancaster. Thomas died of 'old age and asthma' and was buried on 6 Apr 1821, according to the records of the Catholic chapel in Lancaster in Leonardgate. Dated records of the children are given below, but the rest are unknown, the first four in particular being born 'some time after 1758'. These are all of course dependent on the beginning of the Catholic records.

  1. James Ball
  2. Henry Ball
  3. William Ball
  4. Elizabeth Ball
  5. Ellen Ball b. Bulk, Lancaster 1759
  6. Mary Ball b. 1761 Farleton, m. 1785 Robert Cornthwaite of Littledale, 14 children, d. Hornby 1796
  7. John Ball b.1763 m. 1785 Jane Cornthwaite (b.1763 Claughton) , 9 children, d. Poulton-le-Fylde 1847
  8. Richard Ball b. 1767 Bulk, Lancaster, m. Dorothy, 5 children

Go to the Ball Family Pt 2 for this family, with many more details


2. Robert Ball, (2nd son of William Ball) m. Agnes Roe

Robert Ball, the second eldest of William's sons, m. Agnes Roe, daughter of Henry Roe of Bank Houses, Cockerham, and sister of the Rev. John Roe of Blackladies, Staffs.

i. William Ball m. 29 Sep 1798 Mary Layfield.
ii. Robert Ball m. 16 Jan 1806 Agnes Corless,
iii. Agnes Ball, m. ..... Robinson, d. 26 Dec 1801 at Dolphin Lee
iv. Mary Ball, m. .... Slezak
v. Dorothy Ball m. 13 Nov 1795 Randolph Penswick
vi. Alice Ball m. William Frith, d. at New Brighton in the Wirral
vii. Sarah Ball m. 3 Oct 1808 William Bone of Billinge at St Michael's

i. William & Mary had a son, John, chr.17 Nov 1798 at St Peter's, Lancaster

ii. Two records are listed for the marriage of Robert Ball and Agnes Corless, - 16 Jan 1806 in the parish church of St Mary's and just '1806' for the marriage in St Peter's. Which came first is not known, but by law the Catholic 'blessing' had to come second..

v. Dorothy's husband, Randolph Penswick was the 3rd of that name, agent to the Gerards of Bryn and brother to Bishop Thomas Penswick, Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District, and the Rev.John Penswick. His name appears in Robert Ball's Will as "Randal Phonswick of Ashton in the said County, Manufacturer". The family came to Lancaster from Lytham and are listed in the records of St Peter's.

vi. Alice Ball married William Frith of Sheffield, Yks and had a son, Randolph .(1809-1893) who became a priest.

vii. The entry for Sarah Ball in the parish records of St Michael's reads: 'William Bone, Billinge ctn man p Wigan & Sarrah Bell tp lic wit Rowd Penswick, J.ffrance'.
Bell=Ball is the editor's correction. John France descended from a family who lived a long time at Little Eccleston Hall. William Bone (Bowen?) was a cotton manufacturer in Wigan . The witnesses were Rowland Penswick and John France

Robert, 'gentleman' of Dolphin Lee made his Will on 4 Jun 1807 and it was proved on 8 Feb 1808, his daughter Sarah being named as Executrix. There is no property in Bulk listed in the Will.


William & Sarah Ball

William Ball, son of Robert and grandson of William, and his wife Sarah appear on the 1767 list of recusants with their four children. William was a cabinet maker born about 1821, Sarah being three years younger. The names and ages of their children are also given in the record.

  1. Mary Ball b.1752
  2. Thomas Ball b.1753
  3. Marmaduke Ball 1760-1838
  4. Ann Ball b.1761

    3. Marmaduke b. 1760 is the only one of these about whom anything more is known. He married Ellen Hodgson who was born about 1764, on 28 May 1782 in Lancaster, presumably at the parish church of St Mary. Marmaduke and Ellen had five children, all baptised in the chapel which preceded St Peter's, Lancaster.

    1. William Ball chr. 6 Oct1784
    2. Elizabeth Ball chr. 28 Jun 1788
    3. Ellen Ball chr. 20 Nov 1790
    4. Thomas Ball chr. 25 Apr 1793
    5. Marmaduke Ball chr. 5 Apr 1797

    Marmaduke Ball senior died on 13 Apr 1838 and is listed in the burial records of St Peter's.
    This line has not been researched any further.

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Continue - Part 2- the 'main' line