Select Lightfoot Miscellany

Here are some Lightfoot stories and accounts over the years:

The Rev. Richard Lightfoot's Memorial in Northamptonshire

The Rev. Richard Lightfoot is considered the forebear of the Lightfoots in America.  He was rector of the church of St. Mary the Virgin at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire from 1601 to 1625.  The following memorial can be found in the church (transcribed from the Latin):

"This tomb was placed here to the memory of Richard Lightfoot, minister of the gospel and rector of this church for twenty-four years, by John Lightfoot, his son and heir.  Death quietly and unexpectedly overtook him while feeding his flock by word and deed.  His life was short, for it was a long meditation on death.  Thus he taught others to live and himself to die.  He died in the year of our Lord 1625, aged 63 years."

Hannah Lightfoot and the Prince of Wales

King George III admired the simple goodness of the Quakers and there is an old story, first published in 1770 but much embroidered in the 19th century, that, in amusement, linked his name as an extremely shy teenager of fifteen with that of Hannah Lightfoot, eight years his senior, who had run away from her husband in 1754 and disappeared.  The King, then Prince of Wales, was said to have organized her abduction and, according to later stories, to have secretly married her and had children by her. 

All of this was conjecture, which gained strength as the years passed.  Her mother had died in 1760 and noted in her will: “I am not certain whether my daughter be living or dead I not having seen or heard from her for about two years last past.”  Her husband had remarried in Wiltshire, describing himself as a widower in 1759. 

Hannah never did reappear.  She was advertised for in 1793, apparently without success.  A portrait, attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds, has been linked to her, but without proof.

William and James Lightfoot and the Murder of Neville Norway

Detective Charles Jackson could have been a role model for Sherlock Holmes.  His bosses in the London Constabulary told him: “Go down to Bodmin in Cornwall and solve this murder mystery.”  That was in the winter of 1840 and in those days many Londoners would have thought of Bodmin as the end of the world.

It was a tough case. A businessman, Neville Norway, had been riding his horse home to Wadebridge from Bodmin fair on February 8th when he was attacked.  His body was found hours later in a stream.  His skull was bashed in and his face viciously battered.

Detective Jackson went first to the place where the body was found.  He followed a trail of dried blood spots, a track made by the dragging of the body, and footprints which he deduced were made by two men.  His inquiries led him to a blacksmith who lived in a cottage next to James Lightfoot, one of two brothers seen together on the night of the murder.

Lightfoot, said the blacksmith, came home very late on the night of the murder.  The blacksmith went on:

“The bedroom wall partitions are very thin and there are holes in them. I heard James Lightfoot’s wife and child crying. James Lightfoot said, ‘Lie still! The folks will hear thee, damn thee!’ The wife said, ‘I won’t lie still – they shall hear me and I don’t care if they do!’”

Next day Detective Jackson searched Lightfoot’s cottage and found a pistol hidden in a hole in a ceiling beam.  He arrested Lightfoot who immediately made a statement implicating his brother William.

Their original plan was to waylay the Rev. William Molesworth from St. Breock.  But when William Lightfoot saw Mr. Norway counting gold and silver coins from his purse to finalize a transaction at Bodmin market they decided to waylay him instead.

Dragging Mr. Norway from his horse, William Lightfoot fired the pistol twice, but it did not go off.  The brothers then beat him to death, dragged his body across the road and rolled it down a bank into the stream.

The Lightfoots were tried at Cornwall Assizes where the jury took only a few minutes to find them guilty. The following month, on Monday, April 13th, 1840, a crowd of 25,000 gathered outside Bodmin jail to watch the double hanging.

The local newspaper reported that the prisoners ate their breakfasts with an appetite and relish which surprised even their attendants.  Their long association with criminals had never before made them acquainted with two mortals so indifferent to their approaching death.  Maybe that was because they were the sons of a sexton.

Lightfoots in the 1881 Census


The Lightfoot Mansion at Yorktown

The Lightfoot mansion overlooking the harbor at Yorktown must have presented an imposing sight to any ship sailing up the York river from Chesapeake Bay.  It was a status symbol of the branch of the Lightfoot family that lived in Yorktown through most of the 18th century.  A British traveler described it in 1736 as one "equal in magnificence to any of our superb ones at St. James." 

Philip Lightfoot was known as "the merchant prince."  He had moved to Yorktown in 1707 and his widow Mary lived there until her death in 1775.  When she died Mary had in fact outlived her husband and all her children.

John Emmanuel Lightfoot

John Emmanuel Lightfoot was born in Accrington, Lancashire and made his mark in the printing trade.  In the 1860’s, working with his brother Thomas and his son John, he developed a process whereby a black was printed on cotton by applying aniline to the rollers of printing machines.  His patented aniline black process soon caught on at other printers.  His notes and diaries have been preserved, together with various business papers. 

John prospered as a printer and became Accrington’s first mayor in 1882.  He died in 1892.

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