Coldwell – Early History

Norman Origins


Harrying depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry

Most school children know something about a defining event in British history namely that in 1066 the illegitimate William the Conqueror, a Norman duke, defeated king Harold Godwinson in the battle of Hastings, England. Not so well known is William’s other sobriquet – William the destroyer. In the years after 1066 William carried out a process of colonisation of England alongside a programme of rape, murder and waste which found its most dreadful form in the Harrying of the North. This was foul genocide that left expanses of Yorkshire desolate save for starving wretched women and children.


Some 200 years after William’s Domesday survey and census of England in 1087 we have the first documented reference to the Coldwell name in the Savile papers (see below). It is not known to me if the Coldwell family originated from a Briton who survived the Harrying or if the family descended from one of the Norman invaders or possibly originated from mixed ancestry. Many of the place names mentioned in the Domesday book have survived and are where Coldwell families have lived or are living today. These are centered on Austonley, near Holmfirth in the ancient Agbrigg district of Yorkshire and include:


How did Surnames originate?

Before considering how the Coldwell surname came about it is interesting to consider how surnames in general originated. Here is a very short explanation extracted  from a blog written by Celia Heritage in 2016.

Norman Knight 2

At the time of the Norman Invasion of England in the year 1066, surnames were a new concept; unknown in England and in their infancy on the continent. A very small minority of the Norman knights who came to England at this time actually had what we would term ‘surnames’; that is a hereditary name to be passed on to successive generations. All of these made reference to the name of the estates they came from in Normandy.

Today, surnames are one of the main ways by which we identify ourselves, but in the 11th century people in England were known by their first names and then a ‘byname’. Bynames and surnames were very similar, but a byname was not passed down to the next generation. Both were based on similar ideas; identifying someone by the way he or she looked, their personality, occupation or the place where they lived, for example, a feature in the landscape or the name of an inn.

Although William 1 was victorious at Hastings in October 1066 he was then faced by the arduous task of bringing the rest of the country under his control: no easy feat. One way of doing this was to re-distribute all the land in the country. From this point onwards all land technically belonged to the King and he in turn granted use of the land to men he believed would be loyal to him. These vassals did homage to their king and provided military service when required. In return the lords would require homage and services from those people who lived on their estates. Despite the fact that the new ruling classes were Norman, experts believe that one reason for the growing use of surnames among them was to strengthen their association with the land which they had been given. These were uncertain times and no-one felt secure!

Surnames did not suddenly come into use overnight! While we can pinpoint their origin among the landed classes at this time, it was not until the 13th century that surnames started to come into general use. By the end of the 14th century most people had one, but the rate at which the practice of using a surname differed around the country and many surnames from this time did not remain stable. There are many examples of different ‘surnames’ being passed down to siblings throughout the ensuing centuries.

See also Surnames on this site.

The Coldwell name

The following information is based on research undertaken mostly by Dr George Redmonds, Huddersfield.

Coldwell Sheild

The Place-Name

The place-name Coldwell occurs several times and it has given rise to several quite distinct surnames. In West Yorkshire the locality Coldwell in Austonley in the Holme valley gave a name which has ramified in the Holmfirth area.

(The shield is purely for fun and is not a formal heraldic shield for the Coldwell family)



1311 Thomas de Savile, have granted to Sir Thomas de Mounteney ……… and a yearly rent of 2s. in the vill of Coldwell, which I had of the gift of Baldwin my father. (Note added in 1926 – probably the farm in Austonley now known as Callwell. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 28, page 398 (1926)
1413/1422 Two different 18C maps which purport to be copies of a map surveyed in the reign of Henry V show a “Cowwell” or “Callwell” farm at Austonley.

(See 1757 map below)

Yorkshire Archaeological Society MS 1127 and MD225/Map 17.
1481 A messuage called Callwell, in the holding of ‘William Brodehede’ Wakefield Court Rolls (WCR).
1502 ‘John Brodehede of Calwell’ WCR.
1525 ‘Richard Brodehedde of Coldewell’ WCR.
1584 ‘John Hurst of Cawell’ WCR.
1640 ‘John Hirst of Coldwell’ WCR.


1757 Holmfirth Map a
Holmfirth map claimed to be from 1757. Traced by Edith D Coldwell in 1988

Note that the farm named “Callwell” on the 1757 map is the Coldwell farm near Austonley.

In his book, “Holmfirth Place-names and Settlement” (ISBN 09508526 7 8), Dr Redmonds provides the following origins and meanings of place-names.

AUSTONLEY (Almondbury parish) , ‘Alstan’s clearing’, from an Old English personal name such as Aelfstan, Ealhstan or even Ealdstan. It is thought to have formed part of an estate held by Dunstan and centred on Holme in the 11th century. Subsequently it was one of the seven territories which formed the graveship of Holme, and lay in the ancient parish of Almondbury.
1086 Alstaneslei(e), Domesday Book
1274 Alstanley, Yorkshire Archaeologically Society YAS.29
1510 Alstonley Banke, Court Rolls of Wakefield Manor MD 225/1/236
1515 Alstanlay Towne Ende, MD 225/1/241.

COLDWELL(Austonley) The ‘cold well’, possibly a well which could be relied upon to provide cold water even in summer. It is a common place-name, but the colloquial pronunciation resulted in a variety of spellings and one or two of these have created problems. For example Cow Well, on a map of 1817, developed via Calwell, Cawell. The early use of the surname suggests that there was a settlement on the site from at least the 14th century, but this family soon moved into the New Mill area where they were cornmillers for several generations. Coldhill Lane, formerly maintained by the Coldwells, demonstrates how the two local names Coldhill and Coldwell were confused.
In Austonley itself the house and lands at Coldwell passed to the Broadheads in 1480, and some fifty or so years later to the Hirsts. In the Manor Book of 1709, a freeholder called George Hirst was named as the tenant of ‘the whole messuage, and lands to the same belonging called Callwell’, but no fewer than six other local families had by then acquired some interest in what was one of the most important holdings in the graveship.
1376 John de Coldewelle, Austonley, MD225/1/102
1446 …ordered that Agnes Coldewelle …. repair the common highway ‘juxta le newemylne’, MD225/1/172
1480 Callwell, Austonley, MD225/1/206
1525 Coldewell, Austonley, MD225/1/251
1566 Callwell, Almondbury, Parish Record
1577 Cawell, Austonley, Huddersfield Library KX.2

HOLME (the graveship of) This is the name given to the combined territories of Holme, Upperthong, Austonley, Cartworth, Wooldale, Scholes, Hepworth and Fulstone, which were brought together after the Norman Conquest as a sub-division of Wakefield manor. The south-east half of the graveship was in the ancient parish of Kirkburton, the north-west half in Almondbury. Much of the history of the graveship has already been discussed (see Morehouse and WYAS), but it is worth commenting on the status and description of the places within it. It is traditional to call them townships and yet for much of their history, for non-manorial purposes such as national subsidies and local rates, they were all grouped together under the heading Holmfirth: in such lists the other places were all townships. In the Protestation Returns of 1642, where the territories within the graveship were listed separately, only Holme was called a ‘towneshipp’, the others were all ‘hambletts’, a term used for places of lesser status but with some degree of autonomy. This relationship between Holme and its neighbours may be reflected in the use of the term ‘mere’ in much early documentation. Although ‘mere’ would normally be explained as meaning boundary, it is clear from the contexts in which it is used that it here described the separate territories within the graveship, certainly from c.1300. As far as I can tell the suffix was used in connection with all the major places except Holme and Austonley.
1327 Cartworthmere, YAS.109
Cartworthmere, MD 225/1/229
1327 Scholemere, YAS.109
1331 Hepworthmere, YAS.109
1370 Fogeleston meare, Spencer-Stanhope Papers
1514 Fulstonmeyre, MD 225/1/240
1434 Thwongemeyre, MD 225/1/160/1
1434 Wo1dalemeyre, MD 225/1/160/1


See also the very comprehensive book “A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames” by George Redmonds ISBN 978-1-907730-43-6 published by Shaun Tyas 1 High St, Donington, Lincolnshire PE11 4TA. The dictionary includes Coldhill; Coldwell with Couldwell and Cowlwell; Cowdell and Cowgill

Early History 1376 – 1596

1376 John de Coldewelle involved in a dispute with John de Malleshedde at Austonley. WCR.
1376 Thomas de Coldewelle surrendered a cottage and five roods of land in Wooldale. WCR.
1379 Thomas de Coldwell and his wife paid 4d. and John de Coldwell 4d. (Holmfirth). Poll Tax of West Riding
1386 Thomas de Coldewell, constable at Fulstone. WCR.
1391 John de Coldewell, senior (Fulstone) WCR.
1400 John de Coldewell (Scholes). WCR.
1417 John Coldewell, land at ‘Breryrode’ in Fulstone. WCR.
1422 John Coldwell junior surrendered a cottage and land, partly in Hepworth, partly in Fulstone, to the use of John Coldwell, senior. WCR.
1430 John Coldwell, a juryman at the manorial court. WCR.


In this first 50 or so years of the family’s history, the surname finally became hereditary and the ‘de’ was lost. This was probably a scribal rendering of a description such as ‘Thomas o’ Coldwell’. If the family did move into the New Mill area, as the evidence suggests, it may well have been as a result of the dispute of 1376 which arose over an eviction in Austonley.


1430 John Coldwell, probably the constable on the jury, was himself indicted for illegal butchering of animals. WCR.
1444 William Coldewelle indicted for brewing offences. WCR.
1448 William Coldwell of Fulstone indicted for brewing offences. WCR.
1448 Robert Coldewelle in a plea of debt with John Atkinson. WCR.
1448 John and William Coldwelle made pits on Cumberworth Moor. Robert Coldwell fined for illegal cutting of green wood MD/225/1/172 (1447) to MD.225/1/173 (1448/9).WCR.
1447/8 Scholes: A byelaw that Agnes Coldewelle should repair and mend the common way ‘juxta le newmylne’. Could this be the first evidence of a connection with the corn-mill itself. Coldwell (now Coldhill) Lane leads to the mill site? MD/225/1/172. WCR
1451 Richard Coldewelle did not attend the greave’s election. WCR.
1455 William Coldwelle – butchering offences. WCR.
1456 William Coldwell held a tenement called Catheland (annual rent 4s.) in Shepley. Quoted by F. A Collins in Kirkburton Parish Registers. Appendix CXCVII.
1467 Shepley constable reported that Richard Coldwell, in the night time, stole cattle from William Goldethorp. WCR.
1469 Richard Coldewell involved in an affray with the Mathews family of Shepley. WCR.
1469 John Waynewryght of Birchworth a complaint against Richard Coldewell ‘de milne’. WCR.
1471 Hepworth constable indicted Thomas Coldewell ‘de Hoghelands’? – stole nine sheep from William Syke. WCR.
1471 Richard Coldewell ‘de Fulstone’ husbandman, involved in an affray – swords, bows, cudgels mentioned – drew blood from John Moorehous. WCR.
1472 Thomas Coldewell indicted for illegal digging of peat. WCR.
1474 Richard Coldwell and William Morehouse, an affray. WCR.
1480 Richard Coldwell and Richard Marsshe, an affray. WCR.
1481 John, son of Richard Coldewell, took 20 acres of land which had passed into the Lord’s hand because of arrears. WCR.
1481 The same John surrendered land in Butterley Ing on the west side of the mill dam. WCR. He also acted as attorney for Adam Benethegate. WCR.
1486 Elias Coldewell in a plea of debt with John Burneley. WCR.
John Coldwell, in partnership with Nicholas Littilwodd and John Hyncheclyff took the farm of the corn-mills at both Cartworth and New Mill. A 12 year lease. WCR.
1492 Three acres of land in Fulstone called Coldewelfelde. WCR.
1494 Thomas Coldewell elected constable of Shepley. WCR.
1500 Oliver Robert & James Charlesworth surrendered one and half acres in Wooldale, called Damynge, to John Coldewell. WCR.
1509 James Coldwell, constable of Shepley. WCR.
1516 John Coldwell de Newmylne, took some land from the waste. WCR.
1525 Newmylnegoite, Grenehilloyne and Coldewellynge. WCR.
James Coldwell turf cutting offences. WCR.
1541 James Coldwell buried 3 Dec. P.R.
1542 Annual quit rent of 11s. issuing from a messuage and lands of John Coldwell (will of Thos. Goldthorpe of Shepley) Quoted by F. A Collins in Kirkburton Parish Registers.
1543 John Coldewell, a daughter baptised. Parish Register P.R.
Joan, wife of John, buried. P.R.
1545 William Coldwell buried. P.R.
1545 John Coldwell of Shepley, taxed 1d. on goods valued at 20/-. Subsidy Roll.
1545/6 Thomas Coldwell, Rental of 37 Henry VIII. Spencer Stanhope M.S.
1580 John Goldwell witness to will of Thos Beaumont of Wooldale Quoted by F. A Collins in Kirkburton Parish Registers.


Engraving of All Hallows Church Kirkburton (Moorhouse)

From this point Coldwell can be traced through the published registers of Kirkburton. The name enters Almondbury Registers c.1565 at Field End in Austonley. The following references are from other unpublished sources:

Unpublished Sources

1626 List of ‘150 footmen of the regiment of Sir Henry Savile, baronnette’ – referred to as the Train Band. Includes Thomas Coldwell (Musqueteer) of Cumberworth. Possibly fought in the civil war for the Royalists. Beaumont Papers Also see History of Huddersfield, Sykes, page 153
1639 Thomas Coldwell member of ‘Inquision’ Cumberworth: Election of Constable. Thomas Coldwell present. Kirkburton Court, Cumberworth Half. Thomas Coldwell mentioned in connection with trespass in a wood called ‘Whitherwood’ Kirkburton Court Leet
1664 Holmfirth – Nicholas Gouldwell (1 Hearth), James Gouldwell (Nil). Shepley – William Gouldwell (2). Hearth Tax. See Sykes page 192/199. Shelley (Hardingley Farm)
1666 Thomas Couldwell, tanner, was indicted at the Quarter Sessions for saying “Oliver Cromwell was the best protector that ever was in England – the best man we ever lived or were governed under” – and also “now nothing but great assessments and taxes”, “he neither cared for Mr. Binns (the vicar) nor Michael Haigh – they were all thieves and traytors and asked nothing but popery”. QS
1667 Thomas Cowlwell of Shelley, tanner, was indicted for taking Laurence Mitchell as an ‘inmate’ or sub-tenant. . C.R
1678 John Hobson testified against Thomas Coldwell of Hardingley (Shelley/Shepley boundary) ‘touching his speaking several words against Sir John Kaye and the present government of the realm.’ . Q.S
1683 Josias Coldwell and Mary his wife ‘are absented from their parish church’ Constable’s report Q.S.
1687 Grace Cowdwell of Shelley, midwife, ‘saith that Martha Stott —- did come to Cumberworth and, being big with child, did fall into labour — she said Samuel Genkinson of Woodhouse in Lancs. was the father’. Q.S.
1700 Petition by Josias Coaldwell from the lower gaol at Pontefract, ‘lying in holes more fitt for dogs than Christians — we moane and groane with sighs unutterable, being quite ruin’d and undone — wee get plenty of water but not halfe breade enough’. Petition rejected. Q.S.
1701 Abel Tinker ‘had a cock, value 18d., stolen and doth suspect Robert Cowdel of Shelley, husbandman. Robert confesseth he met John Brown of Manchester, labourer, with a cock under his arm and after some discourse he bought the cock. He afterwards carried it to Joseph Allenson of Mirfield’. Q.S.
1712 Held in custody at the request of Mr. Radcliffe J.P. Robert Coldwell declared to a fellow prisoner that ‘he was acquainted with the way of coineing money’ and that they would both be released if they agreed ‘to swear coineing against Mr. Radcliffe’. He ‘was sure that he could hang him’ he said. Q.S.
1717/8 A detailed schedule of Robert Coldwell’s goods and debts 1717/8 has survived. He was then in Halifax Gaol. Q.S.
1731 Robert Coldwell of Shelley indicted for saying ‘Let us drink the Pretender’s health. God Dam King George and all Presbyterians — God Dam King William and all his offspring’. Q.S.


Protestation Returns

1641/2 Austonley – John Coldwell; Overthong – James Coldwell House of Lords


Geive m/s

1650 John Coldwell, Shephouse. Sheffield City Archives CM 787


Hearth Tax Returns

1672 Holmfirth, Nichol. Cundwell (?), 1 Hearth Tax Returns
1672 Thurlstone, John Coudwell, 2. Hearth Tax Returns
1672 Hoylandswaine, John Couldwell, 4. Hearth Tax Returns
1672 Hoylandswaine, John Cawdall, 1. Hearth Tax Returns
1672 Langsett, William Cowldwell, 2. Hearth Tax Returns
1672 Langsett, John Couldwell, forge 1. Hearth Tax Returns

Petition in favour of Penistone Market

1699 Parish of Penistone : Josias Coldwell, William Couldwell, John Couldwell, Joseph Couldwell, William Couldwell Brotherton Library, Leeds.  Wilson 295/vii


Wills (proved) 

1691/2 Feb. Nicholas Coldwell, Austonley with reference to Dorothy and John Coldwell Pontefract Deanery. Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, York
1706 Nov Edw. Coldwell, Bilcliffe, Penistone Doncaster Deanery. Borthwick
1718 Dec Wm. Coldwell, Lower Denby Borthwick
1731 Nov Joseph Coldwell, Judfield Lane-head, Penistone Borthwick
1736/7 March Jeremy Coldwell, Highfields, Penistone Borthwick
1774 May Thomas Couldwell, Hanshelf Borthwick
1783 Sept William Couldwell, Denby Borthwick


Tree a
Above Holmfirth