The Sykes of Croes Howell

by Annette Edwards.

Croes Howell Hall is known to date back to the 17th century and on a map dated 1631 there are plots  which belong to William Edward Howell, David ap Howell and Dorothy Howell, the medieval cross was believed to have been situated on their lands. It was included in a list of crosses dated 1698 complied by antiquarian Edward Lluyd. (sic)

 In the Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire it states that it is on land owned by Mrs Thorley Sykes (dated 1911). The base of a cross  with a portion of the stem now stands at the edge of a wood adjoining the lawn of Croes Howell House. It was removed to this site about six years ago from a spot in the same wood called Croes Howell Hill, next to the north side of the public road. It was also mentioned in 1479 in Ministers Accounts for Bromfield and Yale.

After many occupants it eventually came into the Pate family.

In 1777 William Pate who was last of the family at Croes Howell married Christiana Watson, the daughter of Job Watson of Aldford, Cheshire. William died in 1783 aged 43 and left everything to Christiana who had a memorial dedicated to him erected inside Gresford Church. After her husband’s death Christiana Pate married Thomas Boydell of Trefalyn in 1788.

Christiana Boydell had no direct descendants, and the Croes Howell estate passed to her relative Elizabeth Thomson who married Joseph Thorley in October 1817. The marriage took place at Holy Trinity, Chester. Joseph was an Irish Linen Merchant of Manchester.

Their daughter Christiana Watson Thorley was born in 1820 and baptised on 18 June 1823 also at  Holy Trinity, Chester.

On 11 September 1846 at Gresford, Christiana Watson Thorley of Croes Howell married John Sykes Esquire of Earl’s Terrace, Knightsbridge, Kensington; his father was Samuel Sykes, a farmer.  John Sykes was born at Dunningley, West Ardsley, Yorkshire in 1818.

Joseph and Elizabeth Thorley were at Croes Howell until their deaths, Elizabeth in 1853 and Joseph in 1855. They were both buried in All Saints, Gresford. Joseph made a will in which he left all of his personal estate to his daughter Christiana Watson Sykes. There was also 19 guineas to Elizabeth Robson  “who is residing with me”  Elizabeth  who was from Manchester was the housekeeper at Croes Howell  and she was still there in 1871 after his daughter moved there.

After their marriage John Sykes and Christiana had moved to Thornhill in Yorkshire, where he was a “landed proprieter”. They had six known children, Emily Kate in 1848 and  John Thorley in 1855

By 1856 John Sykes and Christiana came to Croes Howell where another 4 children were born. All the children did very well for themselves.

1852 – 1907 Robert Hemsworth Sykes became a brewer  and in  1877 at  Dewsbury he married   Mary Eleanor Chadwick. This couple went to live in Yorkshire where he carried on his business.  He died in Ripon in 1907.

Chester Courant 6 February 1907

ROSSETT. DEATH OF MR. R H. SYKES.We much regret to record the death of Mr. R. Hemsworth Sykes, of Betwood, Ripon, second son of the late Mr. John Sykes, Croeshowell, Rossett, who passed away last week from heart failure, succeeding a severe attack of pneumonia. Deceased, who was a keen sportsman, was a frequent visitor to his brother, Mr. Thorley Sykes, at Croeshowell. His somewhat early demise came as a painful surprise to the people of this neighbourhood. He leaves a widow and six children. The interment took place at Skipton Ewer, Yorks., on Monday.

1854 -1914 James Dixon Sykes married in Kensington  in 1889 to Hope Gertrude Keith. He became a solicitor, moved to Surrey and died in 1914 in Helston Cornwall.

1856-1898 Charles Watson Sykes also became a solicitor and married at Conway in 1889   to Emma Stuart Davies, they moved to Berkshire and he died in Epsom, Surrey.

1859- 1921 Charlotte Elizabeth Sykes married  in 1879 to  Thomas Pearson Crosland JP at Gresford,  They moved to Huddersfield where she died in 1921.

Only the 2 eldest children spent the rest of their lives in the area.

1848 – 1912 Emily Kate Watson Sykes married on 10 June 1876  at Gresford  to John Allington Hughes who was a solicitor. They remained in Gresford for the rest of their lives and are buried in All Saint`s Gresford. (The Allington Hughes ) business in still in existence.

1851 -1908 John Thorley Sykes magistrate married in 1882 at Thornhill, Yorkshire to Mary Louisa March . The previous year John Thornley was with his parents at Croes Howell.

John Sykes died 24 Jan 1886   at Croes Howell and was buried in Gresford , Christiana died 21 Aug 1896 and was buried with her husband.

 Their son John Thorley Sykes aged 31 of Gresford, occupation cotton broker married Mary Louisa March  aged 25 on 27 September 1882 in Thorner, Yorkshire. He gives his father’s occupation as a gentleman. His brides father was George March an engineer. The couple went to live in Chester.

Mary Louisa March was born late in 1856 at Woodhouse, Yorkshire. Her parents were George who was a machine maker and Louisa Elizabeth Thompson.

At her parents’ marriage both their fathers were “gentlemen”.

By 1871 the March family were in Oaklands, Scarcroft, and now George had his own business as a flax machine and tool maker. Apart from George and Louisa there were 5 children, 2 in laws and 5 servants including a cook, housemaid, waiting maid, laundry maid and 2 nurses.  It was his home  but his  business was  in Leeds. Louisa Elizabeth March died on 21 May 1885 and was buried in All Hallows, Bardsey. On 30 May 1888 George remarried to Annie Catherine Elizabeth Watson.

George March died 15 July 1921 aged 93 at Thorner, by then he was a very wealthy man.

After his  mother’s death  John and Mary Louisa Sykes moved to Croes Howell  , he became very prominent in the area and was a magistrate  and a JP. He was also elected as a guardian for the Wrexham Union in 1882.  He died on 20 March 1908 and was buried in Gresford leaving his wife and two daughters.

The eldest daughter was Mary Gladys Sykes born in 1884.  Mary Gladys studied at Newnham College  and at Girton College. In 1910 she married David Thoday who was a professor in botany. The couple travelled to South Africa  and lectured in Cape Town University. She was very well known in her own right and assisted David in his research in Africa and Britain. She was a suffragist and attended many marches.   In 1917 she helped write a letter from many organisations to Prime Minister David Lloyd George which demanded that women be part of the elections to the first post-war Parliament. She was also joint secretary of the Women’s Peace Council in the 1920s, and had a leading role in establishing the Welsh branches of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Mary Gladys died in 1943.

Olive Thorley Sykes was the younger daughter born in 1885, she never married and died at Croes Howell in 1933.

In November 1914 Mary Louisa Sykes opened Croes Howell as a Red Cross auxiliary hospital, and eventually it contained 32 beds, an operating theatre and Xray room.

In 1917 Mrs. L. Sykes, Commandant, Croes Howell Auxiliary Hospital, Rossett was one of the ladies whose name was brought to the notice of the Secretary for War for valuable Services rendered in connection with the war. She was awarded the M.B.E.

Mary Louisa Sykes remained at Croes Howell until her death on 29 January 1951 aged 94  and after a funeral service in St Francis of Assisi Church in  Llay  she was buried with John Thorley in Gresford Church.

Annette Edwards. March 2021.

Images of Mary Louisa Sykes are from the IWM

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