How did Richard Henry Gunstone Gibbs Slade Casswell get his name?

Once, upon a time long ago, there lived a Hugh de Carsewelle in the village of Yatesbury, nestled in a fold high on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, England.

The area supported the production of sheep, and the nearby town of Calne was historically known as being a major woolen center. Little is known of our first record of Caswells living in the village, except that in the year 1284 Hugh had to pay a quarterly rent of one penny, (4d in all annually) plus one ‘sore’ sparrow hawk. The word ‘sore’ meaning ‘sorrel’ or red, the color of a young hawk plumage in its first year.

This lone record demonstrates to all of us Wiltshire Caswells that ‘this’ is where ‘we’ come from, and until as late as 1938, a span of almost 700 years, there were descendants of Hugh still living in the same village. Nowhere else in the county of Wiltshire is there any evidence of the origin of the Caswell clan.

One could imagine that our Hugh was farming the land, as did many of his descendants, passing down a tradition that endured until the late 1800s, and building wealth and fortunes which today would could be converted to over half a million pounds.

Our next record, of William Carsewelle of Yatesbury, shows him to be paying a tax of six shillings and eight pence in the year 1332.

One can only assume that must be a son or grandson of Hugh as there are only 48 years between these two entries.

A generation or two passes a gap in our records, until we come to Robert Casswell of Yatesbury a yeoman farmer, who, thankfully left a very explicit will, leaving his wealth to his named children in 1593. From this record, we are now able to connect almost all the records available to us through the various sources and build the family tree,. and continue our quest to discover why Richard Henry Gunstone Gibbs Slade Casswell (RH for short) was so named. Our Robert, is the first CASSWELL to spell his name in this manner, and the first to name one of his sons RICHARD. He is responsible for the unusual spelling of the surname, handing down – CASSWELL, the last part of RH’s name.

Two generations later, John Casswell marries Elizabeth Flower, of the Cherhill line of farmers and he names his sons, RICHARD, and Thomas. RICHARD and Thomas are to be where the Casswells split off, RICHARD’s line going on to become the Trowbridge line, spawning our RH and his Canadian/American descendants, and Thomas’s my own line of blacksmiths and bakers, and the other line of blacksmiths living in the Ogbournes.

So, here is the first & last part of RH’s name – RICHARD- CASSWELL, handed down over several generations.

Which leaves the middle names HENRY GUNSTONE GIBBS SLADE!

There are no Henry’s in the CASSWELL family, until the late 19th century, so the name obviously does not easily hand down from there, so, for the moment, lets move on to GUNSTONE.

My very first encounter with the name was in my early days of research, and I chanced upon a marriage record of a Susannah GUNSTONE SLADE who married a James CASSWELL of Trowbridge. Her name had such a lovely ‘exciting’ ring to it, I often said it out loud “SUSANNAH GUNSTONE SLADE!” Of course, Susannah’s presence stayed with me in my quest to discover more about these people. At the time I often pondered on how she got her name, never for one moment thinking it would lead me to such enormous finds, and changing my life.

Many years later, I was peering over some ancestral file submissions in the Mormon church computer records, and suddenly found a submission by Beverly George, which stated that her earliest known ancestral record was of Richard Henry Gunstone Gibbs Slade Casswell! (RH for short)

Here was Susannah’s name, all mixed in with this fellow’s most unusual name. The ‘Gunstone Slade’ part sent off alarm bells, but as I reread the rest of the name, it seemed utterly convincing that this entry was from my clan, after all, even my father & grandfather were named Richard, and Gibbs was a common name in Wiltshire.

I simply had to follow this up and made several phone calls before connecting with Beverly George, who was living in Portland, Oregon, and who was indeed related to RH. She told me the family had emigrated from Trowbridge, England and then I was able to piece the rest of the puzzle together, having almost all the English records in my possession

Our Susannah Gunstone Slade was RH’s grandmother, So we now knew where he got that part of his name, GUNSTONE SLADE. All that remained was the name GIBBS. A quick look at the records showed that Susannah’s mother in law was indeed Mary GIBBS. The GIBBS family were prominent members of the Trowbridge community, and owned property only a few yards away from the Blue Bowl Inn, where Mary Gibbs and James Casswell were victualers.

So, the puzzle was almost solved, except for the name HENRY, which has never been used in the CASSWELL family, and what about Susannah, the lady who’s spirit helped me to find her? How did she get HER name? After all, it is such a lovely name, surely it deserves a little more research?

I decided to try and find out everything I could about the Slade family, especially GUNSTONE SLADEs. It was not easy, they led me a merry dance. I collected information from many sources, and particularly from members of the Slade families of Wiltshire. But, none of them knew of the name GUNSTONE SLADE. I tried all the GUNSTONEs, too, but they were very thin on the ground.

Eventually, I chanced upon a Henry Slade who left a will in 1783. In it he bequeathed his estate to a Lucretia Gunstone and a Henry Slade Gunstone. I reread the will several times, to make sure I read it correctly, and there was not doubt, it was ‘Henry Slade-Gunstone’. One would think that finding the birth record of such a person would be fairly easy, but it was not to be, because there was none. No record of either Lucretia or Henry Slade Gunstone. Yet there was a record of our Henry Slade who wrote this will, marrying a Susannah Gunstone, spinster, when he was 74 years old, and only 2 months after his wife Anne died.

A little later we see another record stating that Henry Slade Gunstone is getting married to a Mary Casswell.

Are these two surnames, Gunstone-Slade and Slade-Gunstone, different families? What’s going on here? I’m really confused!

And then my wife Carol, employing her women’s intuition, came up with the solution.

Old Henry had a mistress, Susannah Gunstone, and she had two illegitimate children, Lucretia and Henry. They carried the Slade name as a middle name, because it bore weight in those days, as our old Henry was a wealthy man.

As soon as he was able, when his wife died, Henry married his mistress, legitimizing her two children.

With no ado they ‘flipped’ their names around to reflect that they were indeed SLADES, (of course they could now do this, as their real parents were properly married). As you can see from the shaky signatures, everyone was perhaps ‘nervous’ in this ploy to legitamize these children. Things were different in those days. “Bastard’ children were really looked down upon! You really have to admire old Henry for this clever manipulation of the ‘system’.

Young Henry Slade Gunstone, now Henry Gunstone Slade, owner of the bequeathed SLADE estate, was now a respectable wealthy man, and so he went to Trowbridge town to find a wife. He did well, choosing a young lady of the rich CASSWELL family, ‘landed gentry’ and married Mary CASSWELL, daughter of Richard Casswell. And of course, here is the source of RH’s name HENRY, it being from the SLADE family of Hilperton.

Henry and Mary called their daughter SUSANNAH GUNSTONE SLADE, and she married her 1st cousin JAMES CASSWELL. It is from them that Edwin CASSWELL was born, and it is HE who made this tribute to them all, by naming his son RICHARD HENRY GUNSTONE GIBBS SLADE CASSWELL.

Edwin was a real entrepreneur. He and his brother Albert sold everything they had in Trowbridge, three farms and other property, and moved to Ingersoll Ontario, Canada. Edwin became heavily involved in the cheese exporting business, seeing a huge potential market, after the Americans got into political differences with England, and stopped exporting their cheese.

He became involved with the Kraft brothers, rumor has it that Edwin patented a cheese spread, which he sold to Kraft. (Cheese Whiz) It was made from grinding up dried cheese rind and mixing it with some pimento. It was placed in a pottery jar which had a wire clip to secure the lid. He made fifty five trips to England in his efforts to promote Canadian cheese. The Black Diamond logo is one of Edwin’s group’s original trade marks, and is still used in England today. He is held in high esteem by the Canadian Dairy Industry, who still recognise his efforts.

Finally, I suspect that the legend of the bells of James Church in Trowbridge being rung for the birth of a CASSWELL in far off Canada, would have been for the occasion of the birth of this little baby with the big name! After all, he was named after the entire town! Why wouldn’t they want to ring those bells!

  1. Enjoyed meeting you and Carol at the Casswell-Bassett reunion August 1996.
    I had lost the information you had given us, had tried through John Keliher to get the family tree.
    Hope all is well with you and Carol

  2. 3rd daughter of Frederick Slack and Irene Slack nee Eden and Granddaughter of Hazel Victoria Slack nee Caswell.Thank you that info is interesting.The Eden side of our family also has Gibbs relatives from England.

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