With the Kilners we enter the pre-industrial era where for centuries economic and social activity was for the main focused on the ownership of land, agriculture, hierarchy and status. The Kilners are very much part of that society, as tenant farmers, renting their land from a landowner.
Kilner is a good example of an English traditional occupational surname. Originally the word referred to either a potter or one who was in charge of a kiln and is derived from the Old English word “Cylen(e)” meaning Kiln, itself from the Latin “Culina”, kitchen, a derivative of “Coquere”, to cook.
This Kilner family line are connected with Cow Hey Farm in the Kirkheaton parish just outside Huddersfield, which has been described as a “croft” or smallholding farming tenancy on land belonging to the Beaumont estate at the end of the 17th century. It is now a saddlery business.
In our Norris line, the connection with this family runs through Elizabeth Kilner and her father, Joseph Kilner of Cow Hey, who died in 1789, the year of the outbreak of the French Revolution, and whose grave headstone in St John’s Kirkheaton parish church is shown here. The family would appear to be tenant farmers holding land in the Beaumont Whitley estate. Richard Kilner (1675-1730) and his father John Kilner (1631-1695) were involved in debt recovery proceedings by their landlord, Richard Beaumont (1671-1723) for rent arrears, as a result of which they had to sell all their belongings to settle the debt. The
Beaumonts of Whitley Park, of former French heritage, were a strong landowning family, who like so many members of the former dominant social class, came upon hard times by the 20th Century and their former family seat was demolished in 1950.
An earlier member of this family, John Kilner (1550-1606) was the parish constable, an unpaid post with responsibilies for local law enforcment in an age where there was no police force, apprending local miscreants and putting them in a local lock-up until they were taken to the county assizes for trial.
Evidence about this family’s activities are hard to come by, but for the outstanding research by Richard Horton who was inspired by his own investigation to find family graves in Kirkheaton parish churchyard to identify thousands of ancestors of people not only in Kirkheaton but other places too. Hence Kirkheaton is a mine of information for the genealogist.
To view a family tree of the Kilners, click here: