Alexander Coulthart (c. 1753-1807) of Dumfrieshire, Scotland and Distington, Cumberland, England

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This story goes back to Alexander Coulthart who appears on the scene in Distington, just north of Whitehaven, in Cumberland, England. Alexander was born c. 1753 - his granddaughter said in Dumfriesshire. This is born out by Alexander's will when he uses the Scottish term "seisine" for handing on rights to his nephew, also named Alexander, son of an unnamed brother. The documents have been searched but no record has been found of either Alexander.

Alexander married Mary Wilkinson of St. Bees on 19 October 1795 at St. James Church, Whitehaven. Mary came from a family with long links to the area and her sister had married into a Whitehaven family with shipping and stone mason links. Mary was baptised 30 April 1757 at St. Bees and was therefore some 38 years old at the marriage, Alexander being about 42. It was a first marriage for Mary and probably for Alexander too as he does not mention in his will any children of a former marriage.

Alexander was a Stone Mason and they started married life at Barngill House, Distington which is being restored by its present owners, after a period of neglect, to the state in which Mary and Alexander would have commissioned and furnished it. The house was part of the Lonsdale Estate as was so much of that part of Cumberland but the deeds show that it was built about the time of Alexander and Mary's marriage, possibly by Alexander and his workmen. It is a substantial, two storey house of the Georgian period.

Despite Mary's age, they produced three children, Robert (later Rev. Robert) in 1797, Martha (named after her maternal grandmother) about 1799 and Alexander junior (Alex) about 1801. The children were apparently baptised at the High Meeting House in Whitehaven, the records of which no longer exist. We have Robert's baptismal date as he has to provide this information before being ordained.

Alexander senior died in 1807 and was buried in Mary's home village of St. Bees. It was apparently a very fine tombstone, crafted either by himself, his workmen or another colleage. This tombstone confirmed that Alexander was a Stone Mason, as read by other members of the family and not a Mariner as read in later years by Alfred Coulthard. The tombstone, along with several other family graves has now "disappeared" from St. Bees Churchyard. There is a large stack of huge gravestones on top of each other in one section of the graveyard so it is hoped that one day these will be restored to a place where they can be read.

After Alexander's death, Mary promptly moved the family to Sandwith near St. Bees and certainly in later years the family had quarries and a small farm in that village. She also changed the spelling of the surname to Coulthard, under which name she made her will and was buried in 1814 with her husband. From Alexander's death onwards this family became entirely English in their speech and outlook.

As their eldest son was only eight at the time of Alexander's death, there was no question of him inheriting his father's business and so his tools and equipment were left to the nephew Alexander, mentioned above. There is no indication as to whether or not this nephew lived in Scotland or elsewhere but presumably he was also in the trade and near enough by for him to collect or have collected the tools, if he wished to have them.

Apart from this there is no clue to Alexander's parentage and place of birth. From the Scottish naming pattern it would appear likely that his father's name was Robert. Despite many searches over the years no other family for him either in Cumberland or Scotland has been found.

The Children of Alexander Coulthart and Mary Wilkinson

Robert Coulthard (1797-1868) married late in life to Henrietta Neate. He was a Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford and became a clergyman in Berkshire.

Martha Coulthard (1799-1845) married Clement Mossop of Rottington Hall near St. Bees. The Mossops were well established yeoman farmers in the area. Unfortunately both Mary and Clement died young as did all but two of their children. Descendants of their two surviving daughters would be named Brewin and MacQueen.

Alexander "Alex" Coulthart Junior (1801-1847) married Catherine Fox of St. Bees. Her family was also well established yeoman farmers whose parentage can be traced back to the 1500s. Her uncle, Rev. John Fox, who married them, was Provost of Queen's College, Oxford. Alex farmed at Sandwith until ill health forced him to retire to a cottage in St. Bees owned by his father-in-law. They had two children. William Alexander (1828-1833) who died, from family recollection, from scalds received after pulling a pan of boiling water off the stove. Robert, born 1829 at Sandwith, died 1880 in Liverpool.

  • William Coulthard (1828-1933) died as a child.

  • Robert Coulthard (1829-1880) married Ann (Annie) Brocklebank of Waberthwaite on 12 October 1859. Annie's father was a farmer and miller, again from a long established family in the area and also had Case relations who owned a brewery in Barrow-in-Furness. Her mother's Grice relations were Australian merchants and also farmers and shopkeepers in Bootle, Cumberland.

    Robert had worked in the Post Office in Liverpool but returned to Cumberland where he farmed at Town End, Haile. Having come into some inheritance he retired from this and lived as a gentleman at Bookwell House in Egremont. Following the failure of some of his investments he moved the family to Liverpool where his best friend, John Danson Newton, owned a Shipping Line and offered him some gentlemanly and not too demanding post. He had only been thus engaged for a few months when he died of a chest infection after a life time of suffering with bronchitis and similar complaints.

    Two of Annie's brothers had by this time moved down to Anglesey in Wales to farm Plas Llandegfan whilst two others worked in the Liverpool area. After she was widowed, Annie took her children first to the Wirral to be near J. D. Newton and family and her brothers and then to Anglesey to be near her other brothers and her sisters who were also living there. She died in Anglesey in 1890 after which her elder surviving children,Robert and Lizzie, aided by their Brocklebank uncles, took responsibility for the welfare of the younger children.

    Robert Coulthard and Annie Brocklebank had seven children:-

    Kate Fox Coulthard (1861-1891) born in Haile, married her long time sweetheart Harry Moore but died at the birth of their first, non surviving child. After this, Harry went to Newfoundland where he died a few years later.

    Robert Coulthard (1863-1930) born in Haile, married his second cousin, once removed, Sarah Elizabeth (Elsie) Park (from the Grice side of the family). They had two children who both died unmarried. In later years they lived at Colton House in Colton, Lancs (now Cumbria).

    John (Jack) Coulthard (1867-1931) born in Haile, married his second cousin Mary Jane (May) Coward (from the Brocklebank side of the family). He became farm agent for Lord Bulkeley, farming his Home Farm in Beaumaris, Anglesey for many years. Jack and May had four sons and one daughter, but only one, Frank Outram Coulthard, had children.

      Frank Outram Coulthard (1896-1974) married Elizabeth Metcalfe, daughter of a Captain of White Star Line. They had two children:

      • Elizabeth Coulthard (1934-1980) who married Kenneth Newham and had two children. There are two grandchildren at present.

      • John Metcalfe Coulthard (1937-) married Jill Mulliss in 1966. We have two children, Richard (1970) and Ruth (1975). Richard is married to Joanna and has two children, Ryan (1992) and Leah (1996). Ruth has recently married.

    Lizzie Coulthard (1868-1937) born in Haile, married Edward Morgan Hughes (Ned) of Liverpool where she lived for the rest of her life. They had three sons of whom the eldest died in WWI.

    Martha Coulthard (always known as Patty) (1870-1948) was the first of the children born in Egremont. She married James Herbert Rees. They had one son, Harold.

    Frederick Alexander (Fred) Coulthard (1874-1897) died at sea whilst 3rd Officer of "North Star". He was unmarried.

    Percy Coulthard (1876-1938) married Mary Newton, daughter of J. D. Newton, after all their parents' deaths. They had two daughters and a son. At first they farmed in Cumbria but whilst the children were still young they moved to South Africa for the sake of the health of their elder daughter. There are very many descendants in and around South Africa but only one branch still carrying the surname, the youngest being Bradley Ian born 1996.

If you have additional information about these English families or their Scottish origins please send it to: or write: Terry Meinke, 1004 Ridgewood Lane, Palatine, IL 60067 U.S.A. so this webpage can be updated and/or corrected.

If anyone has any family information that might identify Alexander Coulthard's origins please contact Jill Coulthard at or write: Jill Coulthard, Millbrook Station Road, Verwood, Dorset BH31 7PU, UK. Please do not send Jill random sightings of the surname but only solid evidence on either Alexander senior or his nephew Alexander. It may even be that some of his family emigrated and have left records. More information on Alexander and his descendants can be found on Jill's website at

  • Email from Jill Coulthard of Dorset, England.
  • Chart 29 from Alfred Coulthard's book, "A Coulthard - A History of a Surname"

Page last updated 09/23/2000. © Copyright 2000. Terry Meinke. All rights reserved.

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