The earliest of my Rhodes ancestors for whom I have documentary proof is Miles Rhodes (my 6th great-grandfather) and his first appearance in the historical record was an act of extra-marital sex.
As a proud Yorkshireman, it is immensely gratifying to know that the surname ‘Rhodes’ has a long and ancient association with God’s own country. The name itself derives from an old English word, ‘rode’, meaning a clearing in a wood. The name has no connection with the Greek island of Rhodes, or with the roads that we drive on, but later spelling variants, such as Rhodes, Rhoads and Roads, have undoubtedly been influenced by them.
Although my patrilineal history begins with a sex scandal in eighteenth century Baildon, its association with the West Riding village may be much more ancient. In 1160, Hugh de Lelay (the lord of Baildon manor) granted land in Rodes to Bolton Priory. Rodes (which, I presume, was originally a clearing in a wood) was in Menston and is now remembered in the name ‘High Royds’, which later became the site of a psychiatric hospital in Menston (and therein lies another story entirely!)
By the beginning of the fourteenth century, one of the most prominent residents of Baildon was Thomas del Rodes (Thomas of Rodes). Several decades later, Adam del Rodes “et uxor” (and wife), and Alice del Rodes were listed amongst Baildon poll tax payers. In 1615, a Jane Rhodes was living in one of ten Baildon cottages which were mortgaged by Gervase FitzWilliam to William Hawksworth. Whether we are descended from these earlier Baildon residents is, however, pure conjecture.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, Baildon had a thriving coal mining industry, in which Miles Rhodes (born c1705) worked as a collier. In 1731, Miles impregnated local woman, Mary Whitaker and, nine months later on 10 April 1732, “Miles ye bastard child of Miles Rhodes” was born. Miles ye bastard was baptised five days later in the Church of St John the Evangelist in Baildon.
It is unclear what became of Mary and Miles ye bastard but what we do know for sure is that Miles senior did not make an honest woman of a Mary. Rather, he married Jane Rawlings just over one year later, in the same church, on 24 June 1733. Jane was born in Yeadon in June 1713, the daughter of Thomas Rawlings (about whom nothing more is known).
Together, Jane and the prolific Miles had eight children between 1734 and 1752. The youngest of those was my 5th great grandfather, Joseph Rhodes , who was born in December 1752 and baptised on the 27th of that month.