Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Who Was Rowland? (NZ167587)

Rowlands Gill, now a town of some substance in the Derwent Valley, was, until around a century or so ago, little more than an open expanse of countryside with a building or two surrounding the railway station established there in the 1860s. As you might expect, its name came from a rivulet which ran through the area before dropping into the Derwent – but who exactly was the ‘Rowland’ in question?

The answer is that, well, no one knows. Not for sure, anyway. For, new though the former village and present-day town may be, the name of the little beck seems to go back quite some time – to at least the early 1700s. So no wonder we’re having trouble pinning down the original Rowland.

An 1896 history of the area (History of the Parish of Ryton by William Bourn) states that Rowlands Gill (once a part of Ryton parish) derived its name from a 17th century landowner, Robert Rowland. However, a recent archival discovery and subsequent research* indicate otherwise. This tells us that the earliest reference to the name of the stream in these parts dates to 1728 and a ‘Rowland Richardsons Gill’ – and there is no evidence of a landowner by the name of Robert Rowland to be found.

That, however, is about as far as we can go – with any degree of certainty, anyway. The aforementioned research has brought us three possibilities as to the precise identity of this mysterious Rowland Richardson, but we cannot say for sure which is our man. There were certainly Richardson landowners in the vicinity at the right time, but there are several Rowlands among folk who bear this name. The three so far unearthed were plucked from the Ryton parish registers of the 17th century.

So that’s the best we can do…

* see here.

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