Introduction | Cumberland | Keswick | Workington | Cockermouth | Cockermouth Pt 2

CRAGG the name

The name CRAGG derives from the Gaelic 'creag', which in middle English became 'crag(g)'. This name indicated "one who dwelled near a steep or precipitous rock or stone." Variants of the name include Craggs, Craig, and Craiggs. Other variants also exist that were the result of phonetic spelling from time to time. The earliest occurrence of the name that has been found so far is a mention of a Henry Crag in the Assize Rolls for Yorkshire in 1204. Later a Hudde del Crag appears in the Assize Rolls for Lincolnshire in 1260. In 1301 the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire contain references to Peter del Kragg and John Cragges. It is difficult to ascertain whether these people are ancestors or not, but they are good examples of variances of the name Cragg. Only recently as the late 1800's had the family name changed from Cragg to Craig and back again to Cragg.

A Family Crest?

It may come as a surprise that not every family has a Coat-of-Arms, or only a branch of a family has a Coat-of-Arms. A Coat-of-Arms was generally granted to a family member who then passed it on to his descendants who had the right to bear that Coat-of-Arms. In England the entitlement to bear a Coat-of-Arms is still strict, as the Laws of Heraldry are still in force.

It is difficult to say whether the Cragg family in Australia have the right to bear a Coat-of-Arms. As yet there has not been found any direct link to an ancestor who was awarded a coat of arms. Still there may be an ancestor who was awarded a Coat-of-Arms. It just has to be proven.

In the County of Cumbria (formerly Cumberland), there is a small farming village called Ireby. If you were to take the High Ireby Road out of the village and turn right into New Park Lane you would find yourself driving down an old country lane weaving through paddocks full of sheep. Just past an old stone farmhouse, there lies an ancient stone church dating from Norman times (12th Century) surrounded by leaning tomb stones and a knee-high stone wall. Within Old Ireby Church on the southern wall there is the following inscription upon a stone:

'George Crage, of Priour Hall Gent. who faithfullye served Queen Elizabeth, King James, Prince Henry and King Charles King of England 1626' 1,2

There is also a crest accompanying the inscription on the centre panel of the monument that has 'ermine on a fess and three crescents'2. Three crescents generally meant that this person was the third son. Prior Hall was owned by Carlisle priory and stood near the Church, but was demolished in the 19th century and moved to a location north-east of the Church. This crest has also been found in Devon and Middlesex1. The town of Ireby itself is only 15km north of where the Cragg family was located a century and a half later. So the Coat-of-Arms mentioned above may well be in the Cragg family. The full description of the Coat-of-Arms as known today in Burkes General Armoury is:

Blazon: Ermine on a fess sable, three crescents argent. Crest: On a chapeau gules turned up ermine, a fleur-de-lis between two wings azure.

The motto of the Cragg family is 'bene merere et si praemia desint', which means 'he who serves reaps the final reward'.

A Traitor in our midst?

King Henry VIII's reign will be remembered for numerous notable events; from England's severing of religious ties with Rome to the execution of several of his wives during the quest for an heir to the throne. The dissolution of the monasteries by Henry under the guidance of Thomas Cromwell which commenced in 1536 was a successful attempt to boost the royal income with the selling off of Church land to English gentry. However it also caused much ill feeling and distrust amongst the people of England. The Church had long been a source of comfort and alms to the poor, especially in the north of England where poverty was commonplace. Deeply rooted religious tradition was also being turned on its head. Little wonder the peasantry soon felt enough was enough when they saw as a result of Henry's new policy arable land being turned into pasture and tenements regularly knocked down in the process. The strengthening of royal control in the North not only caused peasant outrage, but fuelled resentment amongst the local feudal magnates as well. Many groups consequently formed at various locations in the North generally banding together along traditional militia mustering lines. It is estimated that twenty thousand or more men, women and children took part in the rebellion in the North after having taken the rebel oath.

While no pitched battle ever took place the leaders of the rebellion were eventually captured and put on trial. In Cumberland and Westmorland seventy-four men were singled out for execution on 24 February 1537. Amongst them was a Richard Cragg of Eaglesfield (Richard Cragge of Eglesfyld) who had goods and chattels valued at 7 4s. 8d. which meant he was a well-to-do peasant possibly owning some land. Richard would have most likely been hanged in his own village. If not executed there, then certainly in the town of Cockermouth. The bodies were to remain hanging from their gallows to provide a grim reminder to those who dared to challenge the authority of the King. However the Duke of Norfolk wrote on May 8 that quite a few bodies including three who were hung at Cockermouth had been taken down by wives or relatives of the executed men. The village Eaglesfield is located 1-2km south west of Cockermouth where the Cragg family were situated 300 years later.3 While no direct line to Richard Cragg can be established at this stage it is highly probable he is related in some way primarily due to his geographical proximity to our Cragg line.


1. Hudleston & Boumpherey, Cumberland Families and Heraldry, 1978.

2. Paul Aubert Irby, The Irbys of Lincolnshire and The Irebys of Cumberland, Part II, 1939.

3. Scott Michael Harrison, The Pilgrimage of Grace In The Lake Counties, 1536-7, Royal Historical Society, London, 1981.

© Copyright David Cragg 1998 [Page hit counter]