Select Craven Miscellany

Here are some Craven stories and accounts over the years:

Possible Origins for the Craven Name

There have been many suggestions for the derivation of the Craven name.

The most obvious one is that is descriptive - of a person who is craven.  The dictionary gives craven, from the Old French cravant, as one is defeated and vanquished (in jousting probably) and hence is cowardly. However, craven in this form did not come into general use in England until the 13th century and Craven as a place-name and surname pre-dates that time.

Someone has suggested that Craven is an abbreviation of "Eric the Raven" and describes a Vking in landed in Devon in early times (unlikely if the name was originating in Yorkshire); another that Craven originated from a Norman baron named de Craume.

Then Craven could have come from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning "hard-headed" or "stubborn;" or from the Middle English crave, a cleft.  Perhaps a Craven was someone with a split lip or a cleft palate; or, alternatively, someone who lived on a cleft in a hill.

The most likely explanation is that Craven has derived from the Welsh word craf meaning garlic - as the Craven area in Yorkshire was known in medieval times for its wild garlic.

William Craven of Appletreewick and London

William Craven was born to a pauper's family in Appletreewick in 1548.  The rector of Burnsall found him a job in London and he travelled by cart there when he was fourteen.  There he entered into the service of a draper and mercer, Richard Hulson.  He worked his way up through his employer's firm, eventually taking it over, making his fortune, and becoming Lord Mayor of London.

It has been suggested that the story of Dick Whittington, which came out as a play in London in 1605, was based on Craven's career.  Craven is sometimes referred to as "Aptrick's Dick Whittington."

William Craven and Harriette Wilson

Unfortunately, this William Craven's main claim to fame was that he was the first lover of the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson.  He was 31 and unmarried at the time.  Harriette was much younger and did not give William a good press in her writings. 

Her memoirs began with this famous line:

"I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven."

She leaves the reader in no doubt that she found the Earl boring and old-fashioned, with his nightcaps and his endless talk of his cocoa trees on his estates in the Indies.  What Harriette must have made of Ashdown House when William took her to the country in 1801, is anyone's guess.  It is hard to imagine that Ashdown's rural isolation could appeal to this precocious and materialistic urbanite in any way.

He had his excuses.  The son of the 6th Baron Craven and his beautiful, scandalous wife Lady Elizabeth Berkeley, he was a man whose family background was what would be referred to today as dysfunctional. Both parents took lovers.  In 1783 they finally separated after thirteen stormy years of marriage and his mother went abroad.  When the 6th Baron died in 1791 and Lady Elizabeth, now the Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, returned to England, her daughters refused to receive her.  William, the new Lord Craven, was also for a time not on speaking terms with her.

The Craven Potters of North Carolina

Tradition asserts that Peter Craven moved to the Piedmont in North Carolina in the mid 1700's and settled in Randolph County.  Although there is debate as to whether Peter and his son Thomas were potters, the craft definitely emerged with the Rev. John Craven.  Within John's generation, some of the family spread out to Tennessee and Georgia while a few of his descendants remained in North Carolina.

There were many possible reasons why the Cravens might have left North Carolina.  Some could have been trying to escape the Civil War, some may have wanted to move to places where potters were more in demand; some may have wanted more land; and some possibly wished to distance themselves from slavery.

Rev. John's children who did stay in North Carolina were Enoch and Anderson.  They continued the potting tradition and passed it onto their children.  Various family members married into other prolific North Carolina potting families such as the Hayes, the Coles and the Foxes.

There have been nine generations of potters since the mid 1700's and living descendants still carry on the traditions.  Most of the early pieces that can be seen today are ovular or cylindrical jugs meant for everyday use. 
The later pieces exhibit a bit more color and are not the large utility pieces that were once the norm. This is due to increasing demand for more artwork as well as the influence of the Temperance Movement. There was no longer any need for the typical moonshine jugs and the advent of the American Art Pottery movement gave rise to more decorative pieces.

From Kentucky to Texas

The Darnalls had come to Texas before the fall of the Alamo.  But the Indians gave them so much trouble that in 1837 they decided to return to Kentucky.  Wiliam and his family were crossing the Red river when the waters began to rise and his wife was drowned.  William returned to Kentucky alone with his children.

Then Mary Cravens - after the death of her husband in 1845 - also left Kentucky for Texas, in her case with her son Gershom, their slaves and a party of friends.  Gershom had left behind his sweetheart Zerelda Darnall.  He was nineteen and she sixteen and her father William judged them too young for marriage.  But Gershom missed Zerelda greatly.  When their train came to the Cumberland river in Montgomery county Tennessee, Gershom slipped away in the night to return for Zerelda.  They were married nearby in Clarksville.

The Cravens settled on Bois d'Arc Crook north of Windom.  Soon the remaining Darnall children joined them. They were all buried in the Cravens cemetery in Fannin county.  The following were the Cravens recorded there:

Mary Cravens
Gershom C. Cravens
Zerelda Cravens
William H. Cravens
Mary E. (Eliza) Cravens
James N. Cravens
Mary (Ella) Cravens

Users of Craven A

Craven A is an English brand of cigarette still popular in Canada and Jamaica.  The cigarette was named after the third Earl of Craven in 1860.  Here are some of the people who smoked it:
  • Charles de Gaulle was said to be smoking two packs of Craven A cigarettes a day while he was in London during World War Two as leader of the Free French.
  • Norwegian resistance worker Dagmar Lahlum was smoking Craven A when she met the British double agent Eddie Chapman in Oslo in 1943.
  • American actress Tallulah Bankhead always smoked Craven A cigarettes.
  • So did the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
  • Craven A appears in the Bob Marley song Craven Choke Puppy.  From a Jamaican context the line "Craven Choke Puppy" is a colloquial metaphor of the actual action of a dog and "cravin" too much beyond one's means.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Craven Main Page