Select Whittaker Miscellany

Here are some Whittaker stories and accounts over the years:

Whitakers and Whittakers Today

Numbers (000's)

The Whittaker spelling predominates in Lancashire, the Whitaker spelling in Yorkshire.

The Whitacre Family of Warwickshire

By tradition this family was descended from Wihtgar, a nephew of Cedric the king of the West Saxons.  It was said that Johias Whitacre died fighting at the Battle of Hastings on the side of King Harold.  Nevertheless this Saxon family was apparently allowed to keep their lands in Warwickshire after the Norman Conquest. 

Simon de Whitacre was recorded as a landowner in Warwickshire at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086.  The principal seat was at Whitacre Hall, a medieval fortified manor house in Nether Whitacre.  Jordan de Whitacre appeared to have held the Whitacre manor in 1203. 

Sir Richard Whitacre was knighted by Edward III in 1327.  He later fought in the King's retinue during the English victories at Calais and Crecy in France.  For this it is believed that he received lands in Lancashire and some of his descendants might have migrated there.  The name in Warwickshire does not seem to have lasted beyond the 1370's.

The Whitakers of Holme in Lancashire

The first Whitaker to arrive at The Holme is thought to have been Richard de Quitacre who came to Cliviger from Padiham in 1340.  Thomas Whitaker was recorded at The Holme in 1431.  The Whitaker 40 room manor house, completed in 1603, rested on the site of an earlier property.

"Originally built of wood, the center and eastern wings were rebuilt in 1603.  The west remained of wood until 1717 and had one or more private closets for the concealment of priests, the family having continued as recusants until the end of Elizabeth's reign if not later."

The Holme remained in Whitaker family hands until 1959.  Afterwards it served for a time as a nursing or retirement home.  In March 2003 the middle and east wings burned down (the police suspected arson).  Three hundred year old oak beams fell in on the walnut floor in the living room with its fieldstone fireplace and mirrored wall.  The west wing of the building and the 1859 northeast additions did survive.

The Whitakers of Hesley Hall in Yorkshire

The Whitakers were an old Yorkshire trading family that had moved to Sicily in the early 1800's to develop the fortified wine industry at Marsala.  Grown rich, Benjamin Whitaker - the eldest of twelve children of Joseph and Eliza Whitaker - had returned to England in the late 1800's and acquired Hesley Hall near Doncaster.

Hesley Hall had one of the largest households in the area in 1901 with an indoor staff consisting of a chaplain, butler, housekeeper, two footmen, and six maids.  The outdoor staff included a coachman, groom, gardener, farm bailiff, gamekeeper, and several farm workers.

Benjamin Whitaker was an important part of the local gentry scene until his death at the age of 83 in 1922.  When his wife Caroline died in 1941 Sir Albert Whitaker inherited the Hesley estate.  Hesley Hall later became a School for Crippled Children.

The Apostle of Virginia

Alexander Whitaker was a son of Dr. William Whitaker of Holme, the noted English divine.  In 1611, at the age of 26, he made his way to the new English colony at Jamestown in Virginia.  There he established two Reformed churches and was known as "the Apostle of Virginia" by his contemporaries.  

He was a popular religious leader with both settlers and natives.  In 1613 he was responsible for the baptism and conversion of Pocahantas.   Pocahantas and her husband John Rolfe stayed with him for a time at his Rock Hall plantation in Henricus.  

His relative tolerance of the Native American population that English colonists encountered can be found in his sermons, some of which were sent back to England to help win support for the new colonies in North America.  

The most famous of these sermons was Good News from Virginia, in which he described the native population as "servants of sin and slaves of the devil," but also recognized them as "sons of Adam" who are "a very understanding generation, quick of apprehension, sudden in their dispatches, subtle in their dealings, exquisite in their inventions, and industrious in their labor."  

Unfortunately in 1617, at the young age of 32, he drowned while attempting to cross the James river.   He was unmarried and left no issue.

James Whittaker in Australia

In 1828 James Whittaker was convicted for larceny in London and sentenced to life transportation to Australia.  He duly arrived in Sydney harbor at the end of the year on the Royal George.  

He worked at Parramatta in NSW until he finally received his pardon in 1845 and he then moved to the mining town of Kapunda in South Australia.  There he operated a general store and opened a hotel, the Sir John Franklin Hotel. He became a successful and respected businessman, and a wealthy one, before retiring in 1854.  

In 1859, despite being ill, he took sail for Melbourne and the horse races.  He was confident that the ship, the Admella, was "unsinkable" and tore up his will as a sign of his faith.  But the ship hit Carpenters Rocks and 87 lives were lost including James.  Many of the businessmen offered $100 to anyone who could swim to shore and raise the alarm.  The captain knew that the ship was about to sink and yelled for all to get on deck.  James, being so sick, was left behind and drowned.  

The next months saw the Whittaker family travelling to South Australia to claim a share of the legacy he left.  Most of the fortune was in fact lost to lawyers as various family members fought each other for their share.  The story that he had a large number of golden sovereigns in a belt around his waist as he drowned lives on.

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