Lewis Carroll’s Preston family connections

Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll, .a.k.a. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, in 1866. Wikimedia

Sue Latimer was working her way through the 19th-century tithe schedule records on this site when she came across what looked like a possible link between Preston and the author of Alice in Wonderland. A Charles Lutwidge was listed in the schedule as owning a large estate in the town, and Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Could there be a family connection? Sue tore herself away from her own research to investigate further, establishing that there was indeed a connection: Charles Lutwidge was Lewis Carroll’s grandfather. She discovered that the Lutwidges were settled at Holmrook in Cumberland and that Charles’s father, Henry Lutwidge, married Jane Molyneux of Preston at Walton-le-Dale in 1767.


Sue is researching the Ashton Freehold Estate for an MA by Research at UCLan. She promises an article on the subject when time allows.


While the Preston link to Lewis Carroll proved to be somewhat tenuous, what the family and friendship connections traced below do bring out is the importance of uncovering social networks for an understanding of how society worked in the past (and, of course, today). Lewis Namier made masterful use of this approach years ago in his study of 18th-century English politics published in 1929, and his work is being carried on in the History of Parliament series that he initiated. [1] Namier fell out of favour, but recently Niall Ferguson has been revisiting Namier and advocating following him in the use of prosopography, the collection of biographies, as a way of discovering the informal networks that underpin the formal power structures set out in ‘official’ histories. Ferguson argues that ‘The rich get richer. Because of preferential attachment, most social networks are profoundly inegalitarian’. Family historians can play a hugely important part in unearthing these networks. [2]

Social networks can easily become invisible as time passes, leaving little trace in official archives. The network explored below provides a good illustration: the Lutwidges get only a single mention in just one of the standard histories of Preston, from Peter Whittle’s in the 1820s to David Hunt’s in this century, and that solitary mention is to a Fletcher Lutwidge’s gift of a lectern and a stall pew to the new St Luke’s Church on one page in the more than 600 pages of Hewitson’s Preston History. [3] Yet the Lutwidges were important figures in the development of the town, helping to shape its eastward expansion. At mid-century a Victorian Lutwidge was one of the four principal landowners in the town; his home was in Tunbridge Wells, where he was several times mayor. And in the early years of the last century a Lutwidge was still opening up land for building on the family estate in Preston.

Linking Lewis Carroll to the Lutwidges (omitted from the above is Charles Henry Lutwidge’s brother, Robert).

To establish the Lutwidges’ full Preston connection it is necessary to go back to the 17th century to a Mary Skeffington, daughter of John Skeffington, 2nd Viscount Massereene, who in in 1676 married Charles Hoghton, who became the 4th Hoghton baronet of Hoghton Tower in the following year. [4] The couple had ten children, and one of their daughters, Lucy, married a Thomas Lutwidge, a tobacco merchant trading from the port of Whitehaven, at St Bees in Cumberland in 1721. [5] The Lutwidges had two children Henry (Lewis Carroll’s great-grandfather) [6] and Skeffington (presumably named for his grandmother’s family) [7].

The following extract is taken from a history of Whitehaven (the site gives no references):

Thomas Lutwidge (1670-1746) came to Whitehaven from Ireland in 1691. He traded in tobacco possibly making extra money by smuggling it into Scotland and claiming back the tax by exporting it to the Isle of Man. He also built St. Bees lighthouse at his own expense claiming back a levy on all ships using the West Cumbrian ports. … His business failed after, amongst other things, the loss of one of his ships and he fled his creditors back to Ireland around 1741. [8]

Marriage certificate of Henry Lutwidge and Jane Molyneux
Ancestry

Henry married Jane Molyneux, the daughter of Rigby Molyneux of Preston, at Walton-le-Dale in 1767; Rigby had died in 1764. The witnesses were William Shawe (possibly the Preston MP, see below) and Skeffington Lutwidge (probably Henry’s brother). The marriage would have brought him a valuable Molyneux inheritance. Sir John Molyneux bought a ‘mansion in Preston called the Hall at the Towne-end; also the Peele Hall; also Arram House, late the estate of William Preston, gent. dec’d’ towards the end of the 17th century.

Rigby’s father, Thomas, developed the Arram House parcel, which stretched eastwards from the present Harris Museum and Miller Arcade, in the first decade of the 18th century. He built a number of smart town houses in what he named Molyneux Square (an improvement on the area’s old name of Arram’s Backside), and the butchers’ shambles in what was to become Lancaster Road. The town centre properties are described in a deed of 1774:

Lease and Release of divers messuages, shops, pews, lands and hereditaments on north side of Church Street, viz., Molyneux Square, Gin Ball Entry, World’s End, Back Weind and Wood Street, in Preston, with a deed poll or declaration upon the said deeds (but not signed) whereby the said L. Rawsthorne and W. C. Shaw declare that the said premises were purchased with the money of and in trust for Henry Lutwidge, his heirs and assigns.[9]

One confusing element is that in George Lang’s survey of Preston published in the same year only two fields are shown in the ownership of Henry Lutwidge (the town centre was not covered by the survey). The whole of the vast estate in Lutwidge hands at the time of the tithe survey in 1839 was owned by others in 1774. A John Fletcher esq owned the Peel Hall estate. There were intricate family connections between the various families that made up Preston’s landowning elite. Members of local families such as the Lutwidges, the Fletchers, the Rigbys, the Molyneuxs, the Winckleys and the Pattens frequently intermarried. Untangling this network of relationships and land ownership would be a natural candidate for a prosopography project.

Henry sold his Preston estate to the Earl of Derby for £4,546 in 1786 (just shy of £350,000 in today’s money, which seems pretty cheap for such a prime site). I think this was possibly just the town centre properties, although the deed does describe it as the sale of all his property in Preston. More confusion.[10]

Cooper Hill Walton-le-Dale
Cooper Hill in the middle of the 19th century: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/7069477029

Henry would have been the Mr Lutwidge who took a lease on Cooper Hill, Walton-le-Dale, in 1778, as described in the following extract from the Preston Chronicle:

Cooper Hill is pleasantly situated upon an eminence, and commands a beautiful prospect of the village and many miles of the surrounding country. It was originally the site of a cottage, erected by a Mr. Cooper,– hence the appellation of ‘Cooper Hill.’ The property formerly belonged to the Hoghton family, who granted to a Mr. Lutwidge a lease in 1778, for the house at Cooper Hill, for a term of 84 years. Mr. Lutwidge enlarged the original house, the plan for which was prepared by General Burgoyne, who represented Preston in several parliaments. General Burgoyne’s plan was for an octagonal building, but only six portions of the plan appear to have been complied with. The general was seated for Preston, along with Sir Henry Hoghton, the sixth baronet, by the House of Commons in 1768 in the place of Sir Peter Leicester, Bart. and Sir Frank Standish Bart., who were unseated on petition The general, together with Sir Henry, was also returned for Preston in the years 1774, 1780, 1784, and 1790. General Burgoyne died in 1792, when William Cunliffe Shawe, Esq., of Preston, was returned in the general’s stead, and as colleague of Sir Henry Hoghton. Sir Henry died in 1795 when he was succeeded as representative by his son, Sir H. P. Hoghton, the seventh baronet and grandfather to the present baronet, Sir Henry de Hoghton. Dr. Franklin [Benjamin Franklin], who was a great friend of Mr. Lutwidge’s, and who was also acquainted with General Burgoyne, whilst on a visit to Cooper Hill, fixed a lightning conductor to that building. [11]

Charles, the son of Henry and Jane, was baptised at Walton-le-Dale in 1768; he appears to have had a second baptism at the Unitarian Chapel in Church Street, Preston. A younger brother, another Skeffington Lutwidge, was baptised at the chapel in 1779. Charles married Elizabeth Dodgson in 1798, and the couple lived at Holmrook (in the register at St George, Hanover Square, London, the marriage is registered as between Charles and Anne Dodgson, but she signs herself Elizabeth; Skeffington Lutwidge and Charles Dodgson were witnesses). [12] Elizabeth was the older sister of Charles Dodgson, Lewis Carroll’s grandfather, whose elder son was another Charles, and father of Lewis Carroll (see family tree above).

Charles Lutwidge and Charles Dodgson senior were fellow undergraduates at St John’s College, Cambridge, from 1786, as shown in the following Venn Cambridge alumni biographies:

Cambridge biographies of Charles Lutwidge and Charles Dodgson

Frances Jane, the daughter of Charles and Elizabeth, married her cousin Charles Dodgson junior in 1827 and their first son Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was born in 1832. [13] Neither Sue nor I have been able to discover if he ever visited the town, although it is known that he did visit the Lutwidge family estate at Holmrook, so he would have passed through Preston on the train on his way there.

The Rev Charles Lutwidge’s Venn biography

The Lutwidge family continued its connection with Preston throughout the 19th century. They then owned the Peel Hall estate and the Skeffington Road district; the Peel Hall fields were bisected to provide land to make a way for the Longridge to Preston railway, at a price of £500 an acre (roughly £40,000 in today’s money). [14] At the time of the Preston tithe survey in 1839 the Rev Charles Henry Lutwidge owned 115 acres of what was to become prime building land in the district (see maps). Charles owned two other plots: one of four acres that included East Cliff and land that was to be developed as part of Preston railway station, and a further 6½ acres off London Road. When those estates were opened up for development members of the family gave their name to streets, pubs and mills in the district: Lutwidge Street and Lutwidge Avenue, the Lutwidge Arms (there is another Lutwidge Arms at Holmrook) and Lutwidge Mill. Skeffington Road and the Skeffington Arms are named for the family, as is Fletcher Road.

No longer a public house, the former Skeffington Arms still sports its pub sign. Although perhaps the figure ought to be in naval uniform, in recognition of Skeffington Lutwidge’s branch of the Services.

Mapping the 19th-century Lutwidge estate

The Lutwidge holdings in the 1839 tithe schedule superimposed on an 1890 map of Preston
The Lutwidge holdings in the 1839 tithe schedule superimposed on a modern map of Preston. © OpenStreetMap contributors

Admiral Skeffington Lutwidge. Wikipedia

The most famous bearer of the Skeffington Christian name was Admiral Skeffington Lutwidge, the younger son of Thomas and Lucy Lutwidge. Admiral Lutwidge had a distinguished naval career, including commanding one of the vessels that engaged in a lengthy exploration of the Arctic in 1773. One of his midshipmen on that voyage was a young Horatio Nelson, and it was while the expedition vessels were trapped in the ice that Nelson was reportedly chased by a polar bear. Another version has Nelson chasing the bear. Nelson again served under Lutwidge as commander of his own vessel when Lutwidge was appointed admiral. Admiral Lutwidge’s nephew Charles, Lewis Carroll’s grandfather, served with his uncle at the siege of Toulon in 1793. [15] The Skeffington Arms was probably named for the admiral, which means that, as noted above, the pub sign depicting a soldier probably celebrates the wrong arm of the services.

Robert Lutwidge. British Museum

Charles passed on the Skeffington Christian name to one of his sons, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, who was uncle to Lewis Carroll. A keen early photographer, he is credited with encouraging his nephew’s interest in photography. [16] Robert Lutwidge was a Commissioner in Lunacy and his regular visits to Preston to inspect the provision of care for the mentally ill in the town were recorded in the Preston Chronicle. [17] He met an unfortunate end, being killed while visiting an asylum by a patient who drove a nail into his skull. [18]

Fletcher Lutwidge: National Portrait Gallery

The Peel Hall estate was inherited by C. R. Fletcher Lutwidge, the son of the Rev Charles Henry Lutwidge and grandson of Charles Ludwidge. His favoured Christian name links him to the Fletcher family mentioned above, and to the district’s Fletcher Road. In 1866 he was described as one of the principal landowners in the town, along with the Shaws, Stanleys and Tomlinsons, [19] and he appeared frequently in the columns of the Preston Chronicle as a contributor to local charities. His principal residence was in Tunbridge Wells, where, according to his Venn Cambridge alumni biography, he was several times mayor, and Holmrook Hall was his country seat. He left estate valued at £118,615 (£9,272,395 in today’s money) [20]:

Fletcher Lutwidge’s Venn biography

While a young man he was occasionally a guest of his cousin Lewis Carroll. During one visit Fletcher helped his cousin construct a toy theatre:

Lewis Carroll’s continuing fascination with his marionette theatre was … shared by his cousin, Charles Robert Fletcher Lutwidge, who, being three years his junior, was twenty in 1855. On 9 July Carroll wrote in his diary of his activities helping at the new National School at Croft, adding ‘Fletcher has been here since Friday’. He refers to Fletcher again on 13 July: ‘Fletcher still here. During his stay he painted one scene, a palace interior, for the Marionette theatre. I am convinced now that calico is the best material for painting on.’ For Fletcher this was valuable experience for his contribution to ADC productions at Cambridge. [21]

Fletcher Lutwidge never married and his estate was inherited by his cousin Ernest Frederick Lowthorpe, who added the surname Lutwidge under the terms of the will. [22] Col Lowthorpe-Lutwidge was still developing the Preston estate in 1911, at which time his address was given as 8 Winckley Square, [23] although his main residence was Holmrook Hall, part of his inheritance from his cousin. The colonel exhausts the links in the Lutwidge social network that I have managed to discover; there are hundreds of records relating to the family on the National Archives site, but following all those links is a rabbit hole too far!

Sue Latimer uncovered a couple of sources that should be of interest to anybody wishing to know more about the Lutwidges’ Lakeland connections: Lakeland Lutwidges 1 and Lakeland Lutwidges 2. More on the Cumbria Lutwidges and the importance of family and kinship connections can be found in a Lancaster University PhD dissertation by Katherine Saville-Smith, Cumbria’s encounter with the East Indies c.1680-1829: gentry and middling provincial families seeking success.

It seems fairly clear that there must have been a web of similar interlinking networks of families and friends in Preston. Some pointers to them can be found in the lists of landed gentry, Cambridge alumni, public school boys and Great War combatants elsewhere on this site. Such networks are one of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s three forms of capital, which Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison made use of in their The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to Be Privileged:

At root a Bourdieusian lens insists that our class background is defined by our parents’ stocks of three primary forms of capital: economic capital (wealth and income), cultural capital (educational credentials and the possession of legitimate knowledge, skills and tastes) and social capital (valuable social connections and friendships). [24]

Uncovering such networks in Preston’s past could possibly reveal a great deal about the history of the town that is hidden from the more usual sources, showing just how families such as the Lutwidges and the Molyneuxs shaped the development of the town from the 18th century onwards.

I am grateful for Sue’s helpful comments on this article.


[1] Lewis Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1978).

[2] Niall Ferguson, The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power ebook (Penguin, n.d.), Chapter 9.

[3] Anthony Hewitson, History of Preston, reprint of 1883 edition (Wakefield: S. R. Publishers, 1969), 494.

[4] ‘Hoghton, Sir Charles, 4th Bt. (c.1644-1710), of Hoghton Tower, Lancs. | History of Parliament Online’.

[5] ‘England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 – Ancestry’.

[6] ‘England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 – Ancestry..

[7] ‘England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 – Ancestry.

[8]Whitehaven – Lowther Street’, n.d.

[9] ‘DDK/800/74& 75& 76& 77& 78& 79’, 1774, Lancashire Archives.

[10] ‘Contract for the Sale of All His [Henry Lutwidge’s] Property in Preston’, 12 November 1785, DDK/800/103, Lancashire Archives.

[11] ‘WALTON-LE-DALE IN THE OLDEN TIME’, Preston Chronicle P3, 23 May 1863, British Library Newspapers.

[12] ‘England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 – Ancestry; England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1936 – Ancestry; ‘England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1936 – Ancestry; Westminster, London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1935 – Ancestry.

[13] England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 – Ancestry; Cheshire, England, Select Bishop’s Transcripts, 1576-1933 – Ancestry.

[14] ‘SPECIAL MEETING OF THE TOWN COUNCIL’, Preston Chronicle P6, 15 December 1849, British Library Newspapers.

[15] ‘Skeffington Lutwidge’, Wikipedia.

[16] ‘Lewis Carroll’, Wikipedia, n.d..

[17] ‘Local News’, Preston Chronicle P5, 16 April 1870, British Library Newspapers.

[18]Biographies of Legal Lunacy Commissioners and Secretaries 1832- 1912’, n.d.

[19] ‘CORRESPONDENCE’, Preston Chronicle P6, 24 March 1866, British Library Newspapers.

[20] Ancestry – England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995’, accessed 16 January 2022.

[21] Richard Foulkes, Lewis Carroll and the Victorian Stage: Theatricals in a Quiet Life (Routledge, 2017).

[22] Walford’s County Families of the United Kingdom; or, Royal Manual of the Titled and Untitled Aristocracy of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland .. (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co., 1890).

[23] ‘CPB/2/13628’, 1911, Lancashire Archives.

[24] Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison, The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to Be Privileged (Policy Press, 2019), 14.

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