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The Gleggs were one of the most important families in Wirral from the late Middle Ages until the nineteenth century. Their main house was Gayton Hall, but there were also Gleggs in Irby and Grange (in West Kirby), and in the 17th century one of the Gleggs founded Calday Grange Grammar School. They were the only gentry family after the Reformation to become Anglicans - the rest were Catholics, (including the Masseys of Puddington, whose last descendant became a Jacobite in 1715). The Gleggs' real moment of glory came in 1689 when William of Orange stayed at Gayton Hall before setting sail for Ireland and the Battle of the Boyne from King's Gap in Hoylake. The Glegg of the day, also called William, was knighted as a result of his hospitality, and two evergreen oaks called William and Mary were planted in the grounds of the hall to commemorate the visit. The parish church of the Gayton Gleggs was Heswall, which, according to Mortimer's History of the Hundred of Wirral (1847), has "several curious memorials" of the Gleggs.
Mortimer gives a potted history of the Gleggs in a footnote on pages 264 to 265 of his book: The family of the Gleggs, so frequently occurring in this Hundred, is a very ancient one and of high respectability. Originally of British extraction [i.e. Welsh - this is debatable], their early possessions were retained by defence, rather than increased by conquest; yet they held a high station in the county prior to the marriage of Guilbert Glegg, about the middle of the fourteenth century, to Joan or Joanna, daughter, and, ultimately, co-heiress of Stephen de Merton; which Guilbert appears, by a post. mort. ing. temp. 85 Edward III [i.e. a law code], to have been seized of the manor of Gayton, with other estates, and the issues of the court of the Hundred of Caldy [a mysterious medieval sub-division of the Hundred of Wirral], in right of his wife. Of his immediate successors little is known, until the time of Thomas, his great-grandson, who intercepted the king's treasures at Gayton, for which he was imprisoned at Chester Castle. The eldest son of this Thomas, married a Poole of Poole Hall [Overpool/Netherpool in Ellesmere Port]; and by the marriage of John, their eldest son and heir, with Isabella daughter of John Leycester of Tabley, the Gayton line of the Gleggs was continued. To their second son, also named John, Grange was granted by letters patent 6 Edward VI., and he became the founder of the house of Grange, which after seven generations, terminated upon the death of William Glegg, (who married Deborah Birkenhead, the sister of the wife of his cousin, John Glegg, of Irby,) in 1739, without heirs male.
Five several marriages of the successive heirs of John, the elder son of Thomas above named, bring down the house of Gayton to Sir William Glegg, who was knighted there by William III. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Robert Cotton of Combermere; and his grand-daughter, who ultimately became his heiress, married John Baskervyle of Old Withington, Esq., who soon afterwards assumed the name of Glegg. The grand-son and heir of the latter, John Baskervyle Glegg of Gayton, married Anne, daughter of Thomas Townley Parker, of Entwistle and Cuerden in the county of Lancaster, Esq., and has issue, John Baskervyle Glegg of Old Withington and Gayton, lord of the court of Caldy Hundred, a gentleman who filled the office of High Sherrif of the county of Chester in 1814.
The Irby or Backford branch of the Gleggs, descend on the Glegg side from Edward, the fifth of the house of Grange, who purchased the manor and estate of Irby in 1655-6, which he gave to Edward, his son by a second marriage. John, the only son of this Edward, married Frances, daughter of Henry Birkenhead of Backford, and as he fixed his abode at the family residence of the Birkenheads, the Gleggs of Irby, should, thenceforth, be more properly designated as of Backford. The family of the Birkenheads first occurs in the reign of Edward III.; they are subsequently mentioned in a variety of documents extending over ten generations, until the male line became extinct by the death of Henry Birkenhead, above named, in 1717. He left two daughters, co-heiresses; the younger, Deborah, who married William Glegg of Grange, died without issue; the elder, Frances, who married John Glegg of Irby, had issue a son, John, who, in 1762, married Betty, the daughter of John Baskervyle Glegg of Old Withington and Gayton, Esq., who died in 1810, and by whom he left issue: first, Birkenhead Glegg of Backford, a general in the army, who married Emma, daughter and co-heiress of Edward Holt of Ince Hall, Lancashire, Esq., and dying at Liverpool, 9th December, 1845, was succeeded by his eldest son, John Baskervyle Glegg, a captain in the 12th Royal Lancers, who died, unmarried, in the following year, and was succeeded by his brother, Edward Holt Glegg, a captain in the Rifles; second, John Baskervyle Glegg of Thurstanston, Esq., lately colonel in the army, who married Maria Georgina the daughter of John Cotes of Woodcote in the county of Salop [Shropshire], Esq., by the Lady Maria Grey, daughter of George Harry, fifth Earl of Stamford.
The Baskervyle family is one of the most ancient and honourable in England. "Its name is upon the roll of Battel Abbey [in other words, one of the Baskervyles died, fighting on the Norman side, at the Battle of Hastings] ; it has ever maintained the highest rank among the gentry ; and it can boast of the blood of the PLANTAGENETS.'' Burke's LANDED GENTRY. Edit 1845. A moiety [portion] of the manor and estates in Withington was granted to Sir John de Baskervyle, by Henry III., in reward for military services in Gascony as early as 1268, since which they have passed in direct descent to Mr. Glegg, the present [in 1847] proprietor.
The Whitmores, so long the lords of Thurstanston, have already been noticed. An ancient pedigree traces the maternal descent of Randal, the third of that name, Earl of Chester, to the Whitmores, and certainly a figure cased in armour, which occupies a niche in the staircase leading from the hall to the chapel, has for centuries been pointed out as the effigy of the Earl Hugh his father. But the marriage and offspring of this Earl being involved in a mystery that neither the arguments of the learned antiquaries of Chester, Sir Peter Leycester and Sir Thomas Mainwaring, in their ten or twelve pamphlets on the subject, or the ingenuity of the court of law, to which their dispute was referred, could unravel, it may here suffice to state that the Whitmores were unquestionably in possession of Thurstanston at the latter part of the reign of Edward I. In a document of that date reference is made to the father and grandfather of the then proprietor, since which, during the long period of upwards of five hundred years, their descent is regularly ascertained by existing roisters, which show their numerous alliances with the Davenports, Egertons, Grosvenors, Pooles, Stanleys, Wilbrahams, and the leading aristocracy of the county.