To deny the significance of race, as has been attempted so frequently in this century, usually from political motives, is to deny the evidence of one's senses. I know it is unfashionable to discuss breeding at a time when, with few exceptions, each man believes himself the equal of every other, and therefore, as well-born and well-bred as the next--stated in plain terms, what a silly doctrine is this one of equality!--but the refusal to accept differences of quality between man and man in no wise alters their reality. The members of the Sitwell family who are the subject of this survey have never believed other than that they were by birth and by upbringing extraordinary; which is not to say that they have flaunted their distinction, but have accepted it as their birthright. The history of the Sitwell family since the first record of that name in the year 1301, falls into three phases--the foundation and growth of the line, the establishment of the family seat at Renishaw, three miles from Eckington, its original home, and the succession of the baronetcy from Sir Sitwell Sitwell, elevated to that rank in 1808. Early Sitwell history was documented in great detail by Sir George, father of Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell: Sir Osbert has, in the first volume of his autobiography, written of his immediate ancestry. Of necessity, the account that follows will, in essentials, echo theirs; but it intends no more than to present the main facts of the family history, with a single digression to supplement Sir Osbert's observations upon his collateral kinsfolk.
The first phase opens with the name of Simon, variously spelled Citewell, Sitewell, Cytewel--Sir Osbert elects for the last of these, and to that I shall conform. This Simon Cytewel was granted leave to assume his father's death at the end of the thirteenth century, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and to inherit his estate. His father, Walter, was of the family of del Wode, de Boys, or de Bosco,* by which he was termed in legal documents. It is conjectured that his son adopted the surname Cytewel from his mother's family. The next reference is in 1310, when a Roger Cytewell is recorded as a founder- member of the Guild of St. Mary of Eckington.____________________