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On a late-February evening in 1755 little Willy sought solace in sweet Sarah’s arms. I guess he was Big Willy now. This is his first unrecorded but undisputed ‘appearance’ in the records, a Yorkshire boy panting and shoving between the thighs of a local lass – not an inappropriate first glimpse, given the behaviour of some of his descendents.

It was just a question of which late-February evening.

Remember benevolent Uncle Henry – the one with too many girls?

On a similar late-February evening in 1755 Henry Spink Sr. rolled his eyes and went to Heaven. After much preparation the old sod was buried on  March 2 in Kirk-Hammerton.

I think we know where the young sod was buried.

The funeral was quite an affair – he was a well-mourned man. People came from everywhere, trundling down the Roman road from Aldborough, across from York, up from Bramham – and that was just the family. His hundreds of daughters were reproducing too… the hysterics were extreme. When the Slingsby girls turned up everything changed.

Obviously young Willy was not too overcome with grief.  

‘She fucked him at the funeral!’ squawked Hannah – and she was right.

The sha-a-a-me…

I’d imagine that in May, when news of Sarah’s pregnancy became obvious, solace was the least of little Willy’s problems; his second public appearance was in front of her po-faced parents. It might have been the old style religion in the fields of Whixley but it was a practical doctrine of faith – William was doubtless welcomed into her tribe with a resigned snarl and a shotgun.

Hannah was incandescent with rage. Father Will suppressed a chuckle.

Their son and this woman had done exactly the same as they had, twenty-two years earlier. At least these two sinners wouldn’t have to run away.

Banns for the wedding were first placed in late July and every seven days thereafter till the big day. Now Will entered history legitimately – or illegitimately, as the case might be, his shame exposed for all to see. We know by the cross on their marriage records that both were illiterate, which isn’t much of a surprise. Clearly, they didn’t need words to express themselves.

Sarah was six months pregnant when she lumbered down the aisle on 17th August 1755.

‘Pfft,’ said Hannah, ‘good riddance!’

’Pfft,’ said Willy, ‘goodbye!’

They didn’t mean a word of it. Blood is thicker than water.

But Triffitt paint takes a long time to dry.


According to multiple records William Triffitt married a lass called Sarah Hingsby.

Sarah Hingsby did not exist. There are no records of any Hingsbys in Yorkshire – or anywhere else for that matter. But in the neighbouring village of Aldborough near York was a young girl called Sarah Slingsby, conveniently born in March 1732.

It was good to be a Slingsby. Her blood was a mix of three of the oldest families in the district; the Shaws of Cowthorpe, the Crosbys of Alne and the Slingsby’s of Scriven – it flowed bright blue.

The Slingsbys were a Yorkshire dynasty. Parish records trace them back to John de Slingsby in 1210. It’s quite a juicy history peaking in the execution of Sir Henry Slingsby, 1st Bart of Scriven at the Tower of London in 1658. By the time William appeared on the scene Sir Thomas, the unmarried 4th Bart of Scriven had just died. The dynasty was in decline.

Slingsby Central was really the village of Scriven, ten miles west. Slavely was in-between. The posher members of the Slingsby family became the Slingsby’s de Scriven and the empire extended all of a mile down the road to Knaresborough.

Saayrah’s parents, not quite so posh, had settled in a distant outpost of the empire, five miles away. Posh or not, it’s a fair bet that the Slingsby’s leant heavily on the disintegrating family status.

One Peter Slingsby is first sighted getting married in Holy Trinity Goodramgate, right in the middle of York, on the 20th December in 1704. After a very merry Christmas he and Mary Crossby travelled the fifteen miles back to her family village – Cundall with Lecksby – and entered into the business of the day. That meant producing a son and heir as quickly as possible. Young Thomas dutifully made his way to Holy Trinity for his christening on the 10th October the following year.

This same Thomas Slingsby fathered a family of six between 1725 and 1737 in Aldborough, five miles south. Jane, his first wife, bore him a son and a daughter before expiring sometime in 1728. Mary Shaw, the second Mrs. Slingsby, had a son then three daughters in a row.

The first of these daughters, born in 1732, was Sarah.

Maybe she liked rough trade.



The Slingsbys were all over Whixley. It was to Slingsby land that our happy couple decamped; to a farm somewhere between Whixley and Marton-with-Grafton. Those of you with children know exactly what their married life was like. Some things never change – but in eighteenth century Yorkshire they were a lot harder.

Within three months of marriage their first child was born – not only did they have to cope with the newness of each other, an icy winter, a new home and a new life – suddenly the shock of a new squalling infant. They  hurled themselves in the deep end and to their credit, survived. It certainly didn’t impede their sexual urge.

If you stop to think of it, sex was the only thing they could do. Life was a grind from dawn till dusk. There was no entertainment, no games, no sport, no community – just the expanded family, lost in the hills. The Puritans had already swept through, banning anything that smacked of excitement; life was a succession of ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘no’. No laughter – that was forbidden, no joy – everything was sin. Sin and slog. Work. Sleep. Sin. Suckle. Work. Sleep. Sin. Suckle. What a bloody horrible time. Minds bent inward, perfect bonsai farmers – the world outside was feared.

All they had was that brief gasp of pleasure. Sure as night follows day there’ll be another little Triffitt.


William’s adult world was a slow, self-contained, seasonal thing, governed by planting, the harvest, weather and the propagation of children. He might travel north to Aldborough, walk to the Knaresborough markets, occasionally ride down to Cattal to see his parents and perhaps, very rarely, travel down to see the big city of York, eleven miles east – but that was about the extent of Will’s worldly travels. All the known events in William’s later life occur within a five mile radius of the Whixley high street. If you look on a map, it’s not very far.

His daily world covered an area a fraction that size – a thin sausage of prime farming land between Whixley and Aldborough. Whixley is noted for the high quality of its soil due to something called the ‘New Red Sandstone’, some kind of geological blessing that extends in a narrow strip north towards Boroughbridge and Ripon bestowing fine harvest and good fortune to those lucky enough to live there.

Well, he’s sitting right in the middle of it, a young man, hard-working, responsible, with a family – maybe even prospects. They all lived in a tumbledown farmhouse on the North Burrows, a mile out of Whixley. They were isolated, but in a household of eleven people, isolation is never a problem. He was a farmer. 


Whixley was famous for cherries; a Whixley cherry was the finest in the world. Even today you can visit Cherry House, Cherry Drive, Cherry Tree Farm, Cherry Hill, Cherry Tree Cottage, Cherry Garth, Cherry Wood – there’s even an interior designer called Peter Cherry. Odds on Will farmed them. He certainly celebrated the harvest.

Cherry picking officially starts on June 21st – the longest day of the year – and continues until the end of July.  Having plucked his cherries Will evidently liked to taste the fruit: both Thomas and John were conceived at the end of the harvest.

To add to the excitement, each year the villagers celebrated Whixley Cherry Feast on the first Sunday in August, a date that may have had some bearing on at least another two of the offspring; Ann and Edward both appear in April a neat nine months after the festivities.

It is as if the family has settled into the natural order of things. They have become part of the seasons, subtly altering their breeding to fit in with the cycle of their crop. Everything seemed to tick over very nicely. By harvest time 1767 there were seven little Triffitts running around. They are back being baptized in Whixley by now, but other than that life revolves slowly as always. It’s the calm before the storm.


On or about October 11th 1768, rather later in the year than usual, William and Sarah spent some quality time. With seven children in the house they probably had to barricade the door. Will snuggled down into Sarah’s familiar arms and began his rudimentary foreplay.

For Antipodean Triffophiles this moment is as close to the Holy Grail as they’re going to get. This is Ground Zero – our own Big Bang.

Perhaps Will’s sperm was curdled, perhaps he’d had garlic for tea; perhaps after seven good children Sarah’s body wanted balance and created a bad seed – nobody knows. Was his embryonic criminality accidental or premeditated? Was his wanderlust nature or nurture? What really happened to turn him bad?

Will rolled over and grunted, Sarah accepted her due and the two of them lay back on their straw mattress gasping. The deed was done, demon spawn deposited, sweet baby James already swimming to Tasmania.

There have been a great many Triffitts in Tasmania ever since. Some would say too many.


MARY TRIFFITT : 27 NOV 1755 Whixley.

HANNAH TRIFFITT : 31 JUL 1757 Whixley.

WM TRIFFIT : 12 AUG 1759 Whixley.

ANN TRIFFET : 16 MAY 1761 Marton With Grafton.

THOS TRIFFIT : 17 APR 1763 Marton With Grafton.

JOHN TRIFFITT : 09 APR 1765 Whixley.

EDWARD TRIFFITT : 28 MAY 1767 Whixley.

JAMES TRIFFITT : 11 JUN 1769 Whixley.

ABRAHAM TRIFFIT : 05 DEC 1772 Whixley.

RICHD TRIFFIT : 05 DEC 1772 Whixley.


Baby James was just six months old when he attended his first – and last – great family occasion.

When Uncle John married Hannah Greaves on 19th December 1769 in Great Ouseburn everybody was there. John was twenty-eight, finally making a break from the claws of Hannah, following in the footsteps of his elder brother Thomas.

They both married so late, trapped in Mother’s apron strings, unable to leave till she approved. Will already had eight children, a farm, a life of his own. These limp brothers were just an extension of their parents. No Triffitt spirit.

Alpha William was there, looking every inch of sixty, beaming proudly as his son took a bride. I wish I knew him better. Just a big-boned, sandy-haired farmer, fit only to fuck us through to the next generation. After all that searching he turned out to be rather dull. Not so his evil wife. Spink blood still flowed through those narrowing veins.

There she stood, ancient and regal, oozing disapproval as Saayrah and her brood walked by. She squeezed out a tear as her baby boy took his vows, forgetting the fact that he was nearly thirty, flourished an unnecessary handkerchief and blew her nose as his bride said ‘I do’, knowing that no woman could ever ‘do’ for her son like she did. He was like the purest Bonsai, a sweet, stunted , strangled thing – a cut above the others.

But even Hannah knew that nature must take its course. She was getting old, her husband snored, time for the next generation. She’d selected a suitable cow. John just did as he was told.

Hannah Greaves, as well as having a fine first name, came from a fertile family. She was one of the many children of three brothers; William, Joseph and Christopher Greaves in Hunsingore. Her cheeks glowed a cherry harvest, her thighs promised a thousand children, above all – her father was rich.

Hannah had Hannah on lay-by since she was a toddler.

So, today was Hannah’s day.

But nobody was quite sure which Hannah.

Then death came to Sleepy Hollow.

First Will’s father died at home in Cattal. That began the slaughter. The old sod was only sixty-two.

His death must have been sudden, as he died intestate. Of what, I have no idea. Dying was probably the only way he could be free of his harridan wife. He was buried in the bitter cold of November 11th 1770 in Hunsingore leaving Hannah the Black Widow of Cattal.  Ripley suggests she fell ill about this time. The greater family drew together. Our Triffs appear to have given up on cherries and moved to Kirk Hammerton, just a mile or so down the road from Whixley and the same from Cattal. Will’s brother Thomas had a house there.

Perhaps this dislocation upset the hormones. According to the reproductive clock the next child was due to William and Saayrah in mid-1771.  No baby appears that year. After eight offspring perfectly placed in a row this anomaly suggests something strange. Oddly, after a lifetime of invisibility, we have a whole range of interesting clues to lean on.

There was trouble at ‘t mill. Back in Cattal, Hannah was expiring as slowly and as loudly as she could. Like all families, the children looked after the mother. Well, some of them. Only two were still at home; Mary and Edward. Both attended their difficult patient with care. The others, save John, stayed away. Mary was nearly thirty – a ‘spinster’ and likely to remain so, Edward just twenty-one. Where was William? Nowhere to be found.

If the sour old bitch cared to notice anything but herself she might have observed things were a little chilly outside.

The family huddled round the fireplace in Cattal, waiting for Hannah to cark it, thrown together by a force even greater than her. It was the weather. The infamous ‘Black Winter’ of 1771/1772 caused massive crop failure and livestock death all over the North of England. It may have caused the failure of the pregnancy, too. All up, things were pretty bleak. William, like all the farmers in the district, faced ruin.


In a distant echo of their first encounter, in the cold of a late February night in 1772, once again William drew comfort from the arms of his wife. Let’s not begrudge them this moment of pleasure. Good moments were few and far between in the long Black Winter.

Alas, before she could see her grandchild, Hannah finally died, a cantankerous, demanding patient till the end. Cattal was so god-less it didn’t have a church. She was buried on the last day of October 1772, chiseled into an icy grave at St. John the Baptist, Hunsingore, just a mile down the road.

Hannah left a sting in her tail; she left behind the Will of Doom with  Edward and Mary her joint executors.

In the absence of his birth records, this is the only document that actually links this William with Alpha William and ANT. Circumstantial evidence is overwhelming but, until I find that final record…

Mary and Ed were obviously still in Hannah’s good books. Not so her first-born. His treachery would never be forgiven. She very pointedly left William ‘ye sum of five shillings’ – barely a week’s wages for a labourer at the time. The other kids got their proper due; each received money and items of furniture with John taking the residence and, with it, the farm. William and that slut Slingsby were left out in the cold.

Will and Saayrah had other things on their mind. Five weeks later, in the midst of a second wet, crop-rotting winter, twin boys were born; Richard and Abraham. They were duly carried through the rain to Whixley and christened a few days later.

Will was broke and at his wit’s end, his joy at the twins tempered at the mounting impossibility of two more mouths to feed. Ten days later, their mother was dead.

On December 15th in Kirk Hammerton, she expired, everybody assumes, from the rigors of childbirth. Poor flirty Sarah was buried in the Kirk Hammerton clod on the 17th December 1772.

So, apparently, was Dad.


For Sarah to fade away was understandable; she’d had ten children in seventeen years – the poor woman was tired. The real Yorkshire miracle is that she lasted so long; fatigue, difficult child-birth with the twins, complications, that bitter winter – any number of things could have brought her down – but when a reliable source states that her husband William was buried on the same day this raises the considerable mystery of the simultaneous death of both parents. To lose one is understandable; to lose two at once is very strange.

The ‘Black Winter’ of 1771/1772 rolled on. All around them people were going down like flies. Maybe it’s not quite so strange.

By implication, the fate of their two-week old twins seems sealed as well. Abraham and Richard, barely a fortnight old and suddenly orphaned in the thick of a bitter winter, almost certainly died in infancy.  They may be buried in Kirk Hammerton cemetery with Mum and Dad. It was a bitterly wet winter. They were all buried in ice.

Ann moves rapidly from christening to oblivion too. Records by this point in time are fairly comprehensive. The absence of information may constitute some evidence in itself. The only real answer lies in the graveyard of Kirk Hammerton and the written records, if they still exist, of the mysterious events of 15th. December 1772.



A second source now shows that James’ dad William died on 17 December 1772. The date could just as easily be the date of his burial – either way, the old fella is dead. I’ve just found confirmation that the twins died, too. I don’t have an exact date – just December 1772. Eleven year old sister Anne remains invisible.

this may, however, be unreliable

I’ve always thought that this slaughter of the innocents was an accident; a fire, perhaps, rather than mere cold and despair – we’ll never know until we get four, or five actual death dates. So far we only have one definite: Mum on Dec. 15th and a possible: Dad on Dec 17th. The twins were christened on Dec. 5th.  In those days, christening took place about five days after birth – we could probably infer that Mum and Dad were healthy enough to get their brood to church for the great event. Within a fortnight, five of them were dead. Only the Black Plague gets those kind of results. I’m not aware of a plague at this time…

I dwell on this event. If it hadn’t happened, James wouldn’t have grown up without parents in a house-full of kids; his life would have been totally different. Maybe he wouldn’t have… maybe, maybe…




  1. Christopher Triffitt / May 30 2010 1:40 pm

    As William’s 4th great-grandnephew I found this article and all your others totally fascinating. Great literary style too. Thanks – and looking forward to more.

    • thedogster / May 30 2010 2:51 pm

      Awww, Christopher… I can’t tell you how good it is to get feedback. There’s a long way to go with the interface of the site, but the data is there. As you see, I’m trying to make all those dates and dry facts readable. There is still more to come on some of the Tasmanian Triffitts in the 1800’s leading to my branch of the family – but otherwise, here is all I know. The big gaps in the story occur in Norfolk Island.

      and for what I’m actually working on right now. Go here:
      Have fun.
      Cousin Nigel Triffitt .

  2. Christopher Triffitt / Jul 1 2010 9:11 pm


    Just opened your reply to my earlier message – thanks. Have been away from my computer for almost a month. Can’t belive the volume of stuff you have published. Will look at the links you poposed and be in touch later.


    • Chris Triffitt / Aug 17 2010 3:44 pm


      Have just been going through some of my late father’s Family History papers. Have found a document provided to him in 1998 by George Ripley of Walton-on Thames (at the time of writing he described himself as approaching 80 so am not surprised that I can’t find him today). He, like you,was not a purist and enjoyed filling in the missing gaps. In the case of “William Triffitt 1730” he offers the following explanation which runs pretty much parallel to yours.

      QUOTE: If the calculated years of birth of (William and Hannah’s) five children were anything like accurate, the gap of 12 years between the birth of William (1729) and John (1741) merits examination. I offer the following expanation for this gap. A plausible reason for Hannah dispossessing her eldest son William, follows naturally…When William (junior) was in his late teens he met and sought to marry a lady called Sarah Slingsby. Young William was not the 3 odd years older than his proposed bride as is assumed, he was probably 4 years younger than his 23 year old bride. His mother Hannah, is unlikely to have approved of the early wedding “to an older woman” (who was in fact 6 months pregnant), but she did not make too much of a fuss. She did, however, let it be known that ‘the woman and her kids are not going to live in my house’. Sarah was probably only too glad to hear that she didn’t have to move in with Hannah……. yet in the five years between the birth to Sarah of Edward in 1767 and Hannah’s drafting of her Will in 1772, Hannah and her son William were at daggers drawn. Hannah managed to get in the final word (an insult) with her wretched five shillings. UNQUOTE.

      He then goes on to surmise that William was remarried to a Frances Lister in 1777 and had two further children by Frances called – yes – Sarah and William!.

      George Ripley’s documents are all typed up and of reasonable quality. If you are interested I could send you scanned copies. If so, please let me have an email address.



      • thedogster / Aug 22 2010 6:13 pm

        Well, Chris – I’m delighted someone else supports my theory. Thanks for that – a lot. See if YOU can find out when old Will died. I need a detective in Whixley. heh. Fat chance of that. I have a couple more tid-bits to share about William and James that people have sent in. Once I get off the road, I’ll attend. Internet access is limited up a Nepalese mountain.

  3. Chris Triffitt / Oct 23 2010 9:24 am


    Site mods (like them) suggest you are no longer half way up a Nepalese Mountain.

    Got the message regarding detective in Whixley. At the end of the month will be fully retired and will plan to go over there for a couple of days digging. Sems all the church records are now in the North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton:

    Let me have an email address and I will send you a scan of the George Ripley documents I mentioned before.

    We’re off to visit some friends in Sydney March/April 2011 and plan to spend a few days in Hobart. Any contacts there to advise us of the Triiffitt sights?



  4. Denise Vardy / Dec 12 2010 10:22 am

    Just came across a Sarah Hingsy married to William Triffett on the Latter Day Saints IGI searchbase maybe the name was spelt or transcribed incorrectly. I hit a brick wall with my research and came across the entry spelt with a B instead of a V. I have the Whixley and Hunsingore Parish records if I can assist.


    • thedogster / Dec 19 2010 3:38 pm

      Thanks Denise. Read on. I think you’ll find all you need to know about Sarah SLINGSBY. I do appreciate your comment. I’m on the road, somewhere in S.E. Asia, so forgive my tardiness in replying. I’m not in the Triffitt zone right now. Once I get home I’ll be adding some new info to the site.

  5. dianna / Jan 4 2011 6:19 am

    Nigel Lost your email in a computer crash.

    Keep the story going.. it’s great.. were are all fascinated and your great storytelling spurs me into keeping up the search.. I will be in the uk anagin in july aug so more legwork then.

    futher to will’s dad (William ) born about 1712 I have been looking at variations of spelling and by chance found another branch of my family (Bateman) actua;;y married into the triffet’s in 1640.. He married an Ann Triffit whom us actually an Anna Tyrwyhit. in some records so then following the Tyrwyhit path, where many have their names spelt triffit or and of about 20 different variations, they all live on the great north road (A1) and go back to 1200’s so another avenue to search Happy to forrward info all intresting with suggestions on were name came from
    Regards dianna

    • thedogster / Jan 4 2011 2:05 pm

      Wow. Good sleuthing Dianna. I’ll stick this in the new info post, too. I’m on the road at the moment, so Triffitt research is impossible. Back soon.
      Send more stuff. I have only traced the [possible] Dutch connection with Giuliemus etc.. but you may have hit on a whole new field . I can see I’ll have to get back to it.
      When you’re in the UK, see if you can trace the fate of James’ father. Did he die at the same time as Mum? – or, as recent data seems to suggest – not. I wish someone would scour the cemetary.

  6. Chris Triffitt / Jan 4 2011 5:57 pm

    Hello Dianna

    I recently found a note from my father (who died in 2003) concurring that “the important thing is to find the birthplace and date of (Alpha) William Triffitt (Treafit)” – having drawn a blank with Triffitt and Treafit he intended to research TREWITT and TRUIT ashe had found many references to these names in the records of Bramham, a village on the old A1 just south of Wetherby. As you say above, there are so many potential spellings – I suppose it is inevitable at a time when countryfolk could neither read not write. Truit is interesting as abt. 1743 William and Sarah’s son Thomas (b. 17 April 1763), James’s brother had 5 children, all of whom are shown as being Truitt or Truite in the records. I agree with Nigel if we can establish where abt. 1743 William was born this could well lead us to Alpha William – and who knows where else ! We will be in Hobart briefly in March – if you live in this are (my assumption) maybe we could meet up.

    Chris Triffitt.

    • thedogster / Jan 4 2011 6:32 pm

      Of course, if we find Alpha William, there’ll be a pre-alpha William too, I suspect – and a pre-pre-alpha…
      Bramham is the clue for internet research, I suspect. The difficulty here is that available net-records simply don’t go back before the 1730’s. Bramham may be an exception. I’ll have to check thru once I get home. The wilds of Bangkok are not conducive to research. Chris, I’ve forgotten whether I gave you clues on the Tasmanian connection – altho it’s all in the latter part of all this. I may be back in Melbourne by February. You’ll have to go thru there to get to Triffitt central in Back River, New Norfolk. Use my home e-mail to connect. I’ll pop this post up in the new info.

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