The Croft Family of Claughton and Littledale

Although the surname Croft is found throughout Lancashire these days (as well as in other parts of England and also Australia and America), the origin of the family is quite specific and can be traced back almost a thousand years through Lancashire and  Westmoreland to Herefordshire. The attached article (pdf document download at the foot of this page) is taken from my website   www.croftfamilyhistory.com   where I have documented my own family line from its origins before the Norman Conquest to the present day.

The Croft Family in England originate in the county of Herefordshire. The word ‘CROFT’ is of Saxon origin, and refers to a farm. The CROFT family are not of Saxon origin however, but were Normans introduced to Herefordshire before the Conquest, in the time of Edward the Confessor (around 1050). The family were styled ‘de Crofte’ (of Croft) for four hundred years, the name being taken from the place in which they settled and made their home. Croft Ambrey, the iron-age hill fort situated close by Croft Castle (the ancestral home of the Croft family) dates back to the 4th century B.C. and is said to be the site of Caractus’s resistance against the Romans in the 1st century A.D.; the name ‘Croft Ambrey’ comes from the British King Aurelius Ambrosius who made it his camp in the 5th century A.D.

The Croft name first appeared in Lancashire around 1180, when Roger de Crofte was Lord of the manor of Dalton, and although his origin cannot be proven, it is generally accepted that he was the first of the Croft family to move north from Herefordshire, and was kin (possibly a brother) of Hugh de Crofte, Lord of Croft Castle. The Crofts prospered in Dalton and became a prominent family during the Middle Ages, the line eventually becoming extinct around the middle of the 15th century.

Around the same time, a branch of the family in Claughton began to increase in importance, eventually becoming Lords of the manor of Claughton in the 16th and 17th centuries and residing at Claughton Hall. The family eventually owned land and property throughout the Lune Valley, but due to their adherence to the Roman Catholic religion, and refusal to accept the new Church of England, they were repeatedly fined and eventually lost virtually all their wealth, lands and properties. The manor of Claughton finally left Croft ownership in 1702 when it was purchased by Thomas Fenwick of Burrow. His family held it until 1898 when it was sold to the Claughton Manor Brick Company who still hold it to the present day.

The Croft family spread out from Claughton throughout the Lune Valley area and beyond during the 16th and 17th centuries; the name can be found in all the surrounding villages during this time. With regard to Caton, the first member of the family to begin baptising children at Caton Church was Gabriell Crofte (and his wife, Ellin) during the early 1600s. Gabriell and his family actually lived in Littledale, at Tonguemoor House (an ancient building dating back to the 1400’s or possibly even earlier, sadly demolished in the 1970s!). From Gabriell, the family increased and flourished in Littledale, eventually owning or occupying several farms and cottages, and continued to live in this area for at least 5 more generations until the mid 1700s, after which the family dispersed to the surrounding villages. Tonguemoor itself remained in the family until around the year 1700, which is when the last document I have found refers to a member of the Croft family as being “of Tonguemoor”.

As previously mentioned, the various branches of the Littledale Croft family gradually dispersed during the second half of the 18th century, some going to Melling and Hornby, while some continued hill farming and moved from Littledale towards Wray and Roeburndale, living at Park House, Haylot , Deepclough, Smeer Hall and Craggs at various times during the late 18th and 19th century. These branches can be traced via the census returns, and members of the family spread throughout the Lune Valley to Kirkby Lonsdale, Warton, Silverdale and Borwick. In addition, a few descendants of the Croft family of Claughton and Littledale can still be found living in the Lune Valley to the present day.

During the course of my research into my family history I have collected many documents, and references, most of which are not included on my website. If you have an interest in family history in this area, particularly with reference to the Croft family, please feel free to contact me at stevecroftdriving@hotmail.com, and I’ll be happy to share any information I have with you.