The Basket Maker

Luyken, Jan. “De Mandemaker [The Basket Maker].” Wikimedia, n.d.

The legend of the basket maker is a little known oral tradition in my father’s family. It was handed down from generation to generation in the 16th and 17th centuries and seems not to have been written down until the late 19th century when the Rev. Thomas Pownall Boultbee compiled a family history.

The story is so shrouded in the fog of memory that it is not clear who the basket maker was, where he came from, why he moved from the north of England to Leicestershire, and when all this was supposed to have happened. The family history says: “an ancestor came from the North in troublous times (so the phrase ran), and that he was obliged to assume a disguise and work as a basket maker.” (Boultbee. An Account of the Family of Boultbee, p. 2)

So, where did this basket maker come from? It may be considered as nearly certain that the first of the family in Leicestershire came from the North whether in the way traditionally stated or some other, probably from a small village in Yorkshire, near Thirsk, named Boltby. What the family did there is unknown. What is known is that a Nicolas de Bolteby (1175-1205) and his son, Adam de Bolteby (1205-1291) resided in the area but the family link, if there is one, is lost until 1433.

But what were the troublous times that caused this move? One possibility was the Peasants' Revolt, a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. The second possibility was the Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536 and 1537.

The Peasants' Revolt, also named Wat Tyler's Rebellion or the Great Rising, was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381 A wide spectrum of rural society, including many local artisans and village officials, rose up in protest, burning court records and opening the local gaols. The rebels sought a reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour known as serfdom and the removal of the King's senior officials and law courts.

News of the revolt did not reach Yorkshire until mid-June and the violence continued over the coming weeks, and on 1 July a group of armed men forced their way into the city of York and attempted to seize control. The mayor gradually began to reclaim authority, but order was not properly restored until 1382. (

“Pilgrimage of Grace.” Wikimedia, n.d.

The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular revolt beginning in Yorkshire in October 1536, before spreading to other parts of Northern England including Cumberland, Northumberland, and north Lancashire, under the leadership of Robert Aske. The most serious of all Tudor period rebellions, it was a protest against Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church, the dissolution of the lesser monasteries, and the policies of the King's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, as well as other specific political, social, and economic grievances.

Following the suppression of the short-lived Lincolnshire Rising of 1536, the traditional historical view portrays the Pilgrimage as "a spontaneous mass protest of the conservative elements in the North of England angry with the religious upheavals instigated by King Henry VIII". (