Select Yardley Miscellany

Here are some Yardley stories and accounts over the years:

Yardley Parish in Birmingham

Yardley today is a council constituency in east Birmingham.  The name appeared in the Domesday Book and was referred to as early as 972 in King Edgar's charter where it was named Gyrdleah.  It was mentioned as being under the possession of Pershore abbey.

The ancient parish of Yardley, which includes the 13th century church of St. Edburgha's, was generally considered to be part of Worcestershire and was only added to Birmingham and Warwickshire in 1911.

The Early History of Yardleys of London

The story began in the reign of King Charles I when a young man called Jonathan Yardley paid the King a large sum to gain the concession of providing all the soap for the City of London.  However, all details of this enterprise were lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Only one particular remained; that lavender was used to perfume the soap.

It was in 1770 that the soap and perfumery business now known as Yardleys was established by William Cleaver in the city of London.  Thirty years later, William Yardley, a wealthy and ambitious man from his business of purveying swords, spurs, and buckles to the aristocracy, gave his daughter Hermia in marriage to Cleaver's son and heir William. 

At that time William Cleaver had persuaded Coutts Bank to advance him 20,000 on the security of the soap and perfumery business.  However, he gambled away this money and was unable to repay the loan.  Father in-law William Yardley, who had stood as guarantor, paid instead and thus came to own the business.

When Yardleys first started business in 1770, lavender was the herb chosen to perfume its range of luxury soaps.  Since that time English lavender has become established as the signature fragrance for Yardleys.

Yardleys in the 1881 Census


In the towns the largest numbers were in Birmingham and Coventry.

Yardley Township, Pennsylvania

Yardley today is a borough in Bucks county, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.  The town was founded by William Yardley, a Quaker, who in July 1682 at the age of fifty left his home at Dairyhouse in north Staffordshire and immigrated to America with his family. 

William had made an agreement with William Penn before leaving England to buy land totalling 500 acres for ten pounds.  A survey was completed on the land in October 1682 and the area in which William Yardley settled was named Prospect Farm.  The building, located just outside of the present borough of Yardley, still stands.  William Yardley himself died in 1693 and his family in 1702-1703, all of them to smallpox.

A nephew, Thomas Yardley, came to America in 1704 to settle the estate.  He never returned to England.  He opened a ferry line which started operating in 1710 from Letchworth Avenue, the lower boundary of the village, and landing in New Jersey further downstream.  This was an important link between west Jersey and the three roads leading to Philadelphia by way of Falls, Langhorne and Newtown. 

The Yardley family occupied this land for more than 150 years.

Yardleys in Rutherford County, Tennessee

The following Yardleys married in Rutherford county, Tennessee  during the first half of the 19th century.

Captain Thomas Yardley
Margaret Warren, first wife  
Captain Thomas Yardley
Mary Cox, second wife
Thomas N. Yardley, second son
Elizabeth Lawrence
John W. Yardley, eldest son
Sarah Fulks
Thomas N. Yardley
Martha Evans

Captain Thomas Yardley's sons by his second marriage who married in the 1850's and 1860's were James and William.  Captain Thomas himself died in Rutherford county in 1848.


The Suspicious Death of William Yardley in Australia

On December 8th, 1805 the Sydney Gazette reported on an inquest into William Yardley's death at his farm on the 4th.  The Hawkesbury coroner found that he had been burned to death in a house fire which had probably been caused by a lightning storm which was passing that night.  His wife and children had escaped.  But he had been trapped while going back inside to save clothing. 

The paper speculated, without much evidence, that local aborigines, "'to whose excesses ‎[Yardley's]‎ activity was a constant curb," may have set the house alight.  A few days later a "fine boat" belonging to the Yardleys was wrecked on Mullet island on its way to the Hawkesbury. 

Local gossip resulted in the arrest of Yardley's widow and their convict servant in March 1806 in suspicion of murdering Yardley and concealing the crime by burning the body in the house.  Suspicious blood stains and a head wound which appeared to have been covered by a handkerchief were found on the exhumed body and Catherine was subject to intensive questioning over a period of several weeks.  A neighbor said the servant had displayed a noticeable dislike of his master, but that Catherine had been "sensibly affected" by his death.

Both were released on April 5th when the Bench of Magistrates decided there was insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Yardley Main Page