The Kay Family Association UK

John Kay of Salfordshire and Farnley Tyas

This article was written by Dr George Redmonds for the Kay Family Association. It is reprinted here with his permission.

The surname Kay or Kaye is likely to have more than one origin. Indeed, there are several possible etymologies offered in the national dictionaries and there are no obvious early contexts in which the meaning is made clear. Nevertheless, there is evidence in a number of early charters to show that many of the numerous Kayes and Kays who now live in Lancashire and Yorkshire share a common origin, probably in Lancashire. The spelling of the name has varied from place to place and from time to time, but Kaye is now the conventional form in the Yorkshire branches of the family, whereas Kay is more popular in Lancashire. In the early records ‘Cay’ was frequent but is not a surviving variant as far as I know.

The sources

The links between these two groups are not recent but they are implicit in documents that now lie widely dispersed, so it will be useful initially to say where those documents are located. Several are to be found in the Dartmouth papers at Sheepscar Library in Leeds, a branch of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, but these are too few in themselves to tell the whole story and their significance emerges only in conjunction with other Kaye material. It is clear that substantial segments of the Kaye family’s muniments were separated from the Dartmouth papers at a comparatively early date and as a result there are important collections or items in a wide variety of locations. These include the so-called Kaye commonplace book, which is now in the Folgar Shakespeare Memorial Library in Washington, the Kaye deeds in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in Lawrence, Kansas, which I refer to as the Kansas Deeds, and the Kaye Cartulary in the University Library of Liverpool. These are not primarily genealogical sources but there are genealogical details and information about the family in all of them.

The Kaye Cartulary

It is the last of these items that provides most of the evidence for the link between Lancashire and Yorkshire, so I shall begin with a short account of its value as a source and the difficulties it poses. The original in Liverpool is classified as MS.F.3.12. and a microfilm copy can be found in Wakefield at the West Yorkshire County Record Office (ZM11). The hand-written title page, which is not contemporary with the transcripts in the manuscript, bears the words Cartularium Familiae de Cay de Woodsom. The inscription Phillips MS / 15080 makes it clear that it was part of that famous collection before it passed to the university. It consists of transcribed charters and deeds for a period stretching from the thirteenth century into the mid-1400s, and it seems likely that the copying took place soon after the last of these. There are 117 items in all, some in French and some in Latin, and, where the originals have survived, it can be seen that they are generally accurate enough. Not all the deeds have a date. It seems clear that the cartulary was an attempt to bring together the important title deeds relating to the family’s estates, particularly those in Woodsome which remained their main residence, as well as the manors of Farnley Tyas and Slaithwaite. Some forty of the documents contain direct references to the Kayes, although the spelling of the surname varies. These cover the years from 1373 to 1432, and it was during that period that one branch of the Kaye family moved from Lancashire to Yorkshire.

The Lancashire origin

The earliest relationship that is clearly evidenced in the charters is that of John, son of William Cay, first referred to in 1373. William is a shadowy figure in these documents but it may be possible to find out more about him if his name can be located in other Lancashire records. There are two significant early deeds that relate to John, his son. In the first, a settlement dated 1373, John Cay is linked with Richard, the son of John de Radecliff. In the second, a deed of obligation also dated 1373, his name occurs along with that of William de Bradeschagh. These surnames seems likely to derive from places named Radcliffe and Bradshaw, respectively to the east and north east of Bolton. Both places were in Salford Hundred. In the second charter referred to above William de Bradeschagh is said to be ‘of Hagh’, almost certainly Haigh in Wigan, since he was later enfeoffed with lands in that parish by John Cay.

Neither of these earliest deeds actually says where John Cay was living, but there is confirmation almost immediately afterwards that his home was still in Lancashire in 1374. For example, in that year, ‘Thurstan, the son of John de Wygan, co. Lancs.’ was involved in a financial transaction with John, the son of William Cay ‘of the same county’. In another deed this man was given the more explicit patronymic Turstayn, son of John, son of Hugh de Wygan, and John Cay was referred to as ‘John Cay de Salfordschire’. In 1374 Robert Bakester of Wigan quitclaimed lands to ‘John, son of William Cay of Salfordschire’. With the exception of John Kaye all these individuals, or at least men with the same names, can be identified in the poll tax returns of 1379-1381 for Lancashire. In the Salford return a Henry Cay was taxed in Bury and a John Cay in Ashton under Lyne, although this man is unlikely to be John Cay, the son of William.

We know that by 1379 John was already living in west Yorkshire, for he was taxed 40s. in Farnley Tyas, along with his wife Margaret. He was listed there as a ‘franklin’, that is a substantial landowner, and his tax of 3s. 4d. placed him above every other landowner in the Almondbury and Huddersfield area. His status can be inferred if we compare him with the Huddersfield merchant John de Mirfeld, who paid 2s., or the farmer of Bradley Grange, who paid 1s. In Almondbury parish the most highly taxed persons were a blacksmith and a carpenter, each paying 6d. John Kaye’s move had made him a ‘big fish’ in an admittedly small pond. Two families taxed alongside him in Farnley Tyas were identified as his servants.

Other names in the poll tax returns suggest that the Kayes were not the only family on the move. Also living in Farnley Tyas was the tenant Henry Bibbe, a man with an unmistakable Lancashire surname. Across in Lancashire Randel Fenay of Bury may have taken his name from the Fenay estate that adjoins Farnley Tyas. Many more similar points could be made but these are perhaps enough to indicate that John Kay’s move may have been part of a more significant migration within the Duchy of Lancaster.

Unfortunately we cannot be certain just where John was living between 1374 and 1379, and just when he moved over into Yorkshire, although the West Riding manors of Slaithwaite, and Woodsome cum Farnley Tyas were granted in 1375 ‘to John, son of William Cay’. He held them of Dame Alice Finchden, whose dower they were. The grant of Slaithwaite manor was dated and signed at Slaithwaite, whereas other deeds from this early period were dated at Oxford and Westminster, or in places in Lancashire, for example in Manchester in 1373 and 1375, and in Lancaster in 1375.

John may have been living in Bury up to this time, since one or two documents in the cartulary relate to a John Kay or Cay de Bury. This different style of address means we cannot yet safely identify him as the John who acquired the Yorkshire lands, but that may have been occasioned by some change in his status.

Nevertheless, the references are of great interest for the light they throw on aspects of the family’s history and status. In one document, for example, John was said to have been one of the parties involved in a court case that dated to events in the ‘Battle of Spain’. This must be the Black Prince’s campaign of 1367: there is also reference to the Black Prince’s will and to John of Gaunt as one of the executors. Sir Geoffrey de Workesley (Worsley) was an important witness. Probably as a result of his part in this affair John Kaye appears to have spent some time in the Fleet prison.

After John Kaye’s acquisition of the Huddersfield area estates there was more trouble. In an appeal to the Duke of Lancaster he named William de Wode of Almondbury and the chaplain William Hepworth as confederates in an ‘alliance’ of armed men who invaded his lands, breaking down hedges and wreaking havoc in his woods. They also kept him from his ‘demean house’ at Woodsome and prevented him from attending church at Almondbury. One group of deeds seems to point to a claim or dispute going back to the 1340s. Nevertheless, from c.1380, the new occupier of the manor house was regularly known as John Cay of Woodsome, and he had the status of ‘armiger’. The charters also show that as late as 1390 he was involved with men from Lancashire in sorting out the tenure of these properties; named families were the Traffords, the Bradshaws of Haigh and of Horwich, and John Oldham of Mottram. Initially this John Kaye held the estate by virtue of a twenty-year lease granted to him by Dame Alice Finchden.

George Redmonds