FAMILY folk-lore suggests two brothers’ links with Durham City’s Freemen may stretch back to the 14th century Battle of Neville’s Cross.

But extensive research into the lineage of 27-year-old James Watson-Lee and younger brother Alex, 22, who were sworn into the Drapers’ Company at the Lammas Guild Day recently, has only found firm evidence that takes them back to the 1680s.

Dorset-born James, a chartered accountant working in London’s Canary Wharf and now living in the capital, said: “It has been passed down by word of mouth through many generations that the a member of the Lee family was among the citizens of Durham who helped defeat the Scots in the battle in 1346 and was rewarded with the freedom of the city.

“Detailed investigation of our lineage identified a common ancestor, Roger Lee, who we believe was born in the 1680s and became a freeman in 1705. Missing freemen’s documents stopped us going further back in time.

“Our own family records start with my great-great-great grandfather, William Lee, described as the son of Mark Lee a draper, and born in the 1790s. His son, also called William, was born in 1833, a year after his dad was made a freeman.

“The two Williams were both enthusiastic members of the Drapers’ Guild but worked in the coal mines, the father as an overman at West Rainton and his son ultimately as under manager at Eden Pit in Leadgate.”