The Peace Family of Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England

My great-grandfather Vernon Linley Peace was born 2 Apr 1873 in Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England.  Though he left for America before he turned 20, his direct ancestors had generally stayed put, living in the West Riding of Yorkshire as far back as I have been able to research.  I have traced all of his lines back to at least 1750, and a few well into the 17th century.

Vernon’s ancestors are some of my favorites to work on.  The records for Yorkshire are rich and often easy to access even from the U.S., and the region’s culture and language are interesting, with the dialect retaining quite a few words from the Old Norse of the Vikings.


Portion of the West Riding in 1659.  Sheffield is in the lower right corner, Barnsley in the center right.  Denby is west of Barnsley by the paper fold and Cumberworth, where the Peaces were buried for a few hundred years, is a little northwest of it.  Shelley, where the earliest known Peace ancestor lived is just a little northeast of Cumberworth.  From the Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla via Wikimedia Commons.

The history of the West Riding is interwoven with the history of wool production, and the Peace family’s fortunes generally rose and fell with this industry.  At first a cottage industry, with many farmers keeping sheep and working on handlooms in their homes, production became increasingly mechanized and factory-based in the 19th century. Some in the Peace family became fairly large-scale manufacturers of fine yarns or fancy woolens at this time.  My fourth great uncle Aaron Peace exhibited his firm’s fabrics at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.

Cousins of mine in Yorkshire still run the wool-spinning firm of Z. Hinchliffe and Sons Ltd.  Founder Zaccheus Hinchliffe (1835-1902) married Vernon’s aunt, Hannah Horton Peace, and their son James Peace Hinchliffe was knighted for his service to the British woolen industry.  Vernon himself worked as a “boss weaver” or woolen mill supervisor in New England throughout his adult life, probably having learned much of what he needed to know while growing up in Denby Dale with a father, Henry Horton Peace, who manufactured fancy worsteds.


Teeswater sheep produce lustrous, long staple wool and have been raised in northern England for centuries.  They were likely one of the breeds raised by some of the Peaces.  Photo by Paul Buckingham via Wikimedia Commons.

A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames by George Redmonds tells us that the name Peace is more common in Yorkshire than any other county, and that it first appeared in Ossett near Dewsbury in the 13th century, but that the modern spelling only began to appear in the late 15th.  The original meaning is unclear, but may relate to the Middle English word for a pea, pese.

The earliest Peace ancestor I can name is John Peace, born about 1640.  He and Alice Hepworth were married 20 May 1662 in the parish of Kirkburton.  (A researcher looking for this marriage could find images of the original parish record at, and of the Bishop’s Transcript or copy at  Both sites have extensive records for Yorkshire.)

John Peace was listed in the Hearth Tax roll of 1672 at Shelley, a village in the parish of Kirkburton.  “John Peace of Shelley” described himself as a yeoman in his will dated the “fifteenth day off December in the first yeare off the reigne off our Sofferine Lord and Ladye William and Mary kinge and queene over England and in the yeare of our Lord godd 1689.”  He mentioned his “loveing Wiffe” Alice and all of his living children by name.  The inventory includes two looms “in the chamber over the house” as well as wool and combs.

Peace, John 1690 Will RPWil1006161-page-2 (2)

The signature portion of John Peace’s will.  I obtained this beautiful color scan from the Borthwick Institute, which holds the vast majority of probate records for Yorkshire before 1858.  These are indexed on, with a handy link to the Borthwick order form.

John’s son William (1667-1729) married Elizabeth Dyson in the adjacent parish of Kirkheaton 18 Aug 1697.  Though their four previous children were baptized in the parish church of Kirkburton, their last was baptized at Cumberworth St. Nicholas, a chapel in the village of Upper Cumberworth which sits on the border between the parishes of Kirkburton and Emley.

A chapel had existed on this site since about 1255, so it is not the case that a new church in a more convenient location was built causing the switch.  It seems more likely that William and Elizabeth moved closer to Cumberworth in between the birth of Lydia in 1708 and Mary in 1710.  In any event, the majority of my Peace ancestors from 1710 forward were baptized, married and buried at Cumberworth.

Cumberworth St. Nicholas 2

Two generations after William another John Peace (1727-1772) was the only one in this line who did not follow a wool-related occupation.  John is listed as an Innholder in every record I have found, though I have not been able to figure out which inn he kept.  He was among those in Denby who were licensed to run an alehouse in 1771.


West Yorkshire Alehouse Licenses 1771-1962 found on

Every Peace from the innkeeper’s son James down to Vernon’s father Henry Horton Peace (1832-1902) was a  manufacturer of woolen cloth.  Henry was apparently doing  well in 1874, living at Inkerman House in Denby Dale.  He declared bankruptcy in 1887 however, and by 1891 was living apart from his wife.  I think the loss of the business and resulting (or underlying) family problems probably factored into Vernon’s decision to leave the country around this time.

Peace, Vernon Linley

Vernon Linley Peace in Vermont about 1925.





2 thoughts on “The Peace Family of Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I hope this message finds you well. I have recently started to research my family genealogy primarily using as the vehicle for my search. I was able to trace the birth of my great, great, great Grandfather William Peace
    in February of 1811 to Sheffield, Yorkshire England. Today I came across the article you had written about your own genealogy and I wondered whether we had any ancestors in common. If you have come across William Peace in any of your research and would be willing to share the information I would appreciate it very much. Thank you

    David Peace


    • That is very interesting. I have not seen any of my Peaces in Sheffield, but Sheffield is not very far from Denby Dale and it’s possible your branch moved down to Sheffield at some point because of the thriving metalworking industry there. One branch of my family, the Marsdens, were cutlers, razor makers and scythe-makers in Sheffield. I see your William in Sheffield in 1841 and 1851. I think he might be slightly older, he might be the William son of John Peace (a cutler) and his wife Mary born in Sheffield 5 Aug 1806. There are 2 really helpful free websites for Sheffield research. One is and the other is . There seems to have been a Peace family in Sheffield who were all filesmiths from the early 1700s.


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