Saturday, 25 June 2022

Heart Echoes in late Victorian Stockton-on-Tees

A few keepsakes from late Victorian Stockton-on-Tees.  They belonged to Miss Eleanor Bateson of 37 Skinner Street.  

Skinner Street, Stockton-on-Tees
(running vertically down centre of picture)
O.S. 1913 National Library of Scotland

 Eleanor was born on 21 November 1866 to John and Mary Bateson, the fourth child of a family of six.  

Her father was a cordwainer when she was born – not a cobbler who repaired shoes, but a man who made shoes from new leather – but when she was a little girl he became firstly a foreman in a local ironworks and then a school warden for Stockton, responsible for enforcing school attendance by calling on parents and visiting schools.  It was quite an onerous position.

These keepsakes and chance survivals of a long life date from Eleanor's twenties and early thirties.

To begin with the Christmas season – 


Eleanor kept two particularly attractive Christmas cards.  One of them shows a spray of ivy and the message "A Happy Christmas".  Folded, it measures 3 inches by 2 inches, and it opens out to reveal a quotation from Shakespeare's Sonnet 30 and a verse by Thackeray.  

 

We might not think the verses very Christmassy but they send wishes for "Good Health and Good Fortune" to an absent friend.

The second card is rather larger, measuring when folded 5 inches by 3 inches.  "With Louie's love to Nellie" is written on the reverse.  The picture shows strawberries and strawberry leaves together with a little scene of a house by the sea.  "Good Wishes" is the message on the front.




Inside is a verse by Helen Marion Burnside (1841-1923), an artist and  writer of lyrics and verses.  The verse inside this card begins 

Happy Christmas to you.
Best of earthly blessings
Fall on you to-day


A collection of small, brightly-coloured paper scraps shows that Eleanor kept a scrapbook.  

These are all that remain of the sheets of embossed relief images and die-cuts that she bought to fill her pages – but we don't have her scrapbook, so we can't see how she arranged them and what sort of artistic effects she achieved.


The next memento shows that Eleanor was a singer.  

The Programme for the Long Newton Cricket Club Annual Concert is simply dated Tuesday May 20th.  The year isn't given, but 20 May fell on a Tuesday in 1890 and in 1902.  I rather think the concert might have taken place in 1890.  Quite a few of the pieces date from the 1880s and listening to fairly new songs would have been part of the attraction.  

We don't know if Eleanor was in an ensemble that sang for the Long Newton Cricket Club's fundraiser or if she was involved in the Club itself.  And was the Mr Bateson on the programme her father or her brother?  We don't know.  Perhaps it was both of them, one of them giving a rendition of the music hall comic monologue 'The Penny Bus'  and the other singing the romantic ballad 'In Old Madrid'  (which you can listen to in a 1920 recording here).


Eleanor appears four times in the programme.  She opened the concert in a quartet singing 'O Who will o'er the Downs so free?'   and followed it up with 'Love's Old Sweet Song', which we might remember better as 'Just a Song at Twilight'.  She opened the second half with 'Needles and Pins', which I suspect must have been a comic song, and then she sang in a duet.  And both halves of the programme ended with a glee sung by all the company. 

Besides music, Eleanor also loved poetry.  In the late 1880s she bought a dark red, hardback exercise book measuring 7 inches by 9 inches – it was her Poetry Book.

The first poem she transcribed into her book was "Newly Wedded" by Lizzie Berry.  This probably came from a recently published book called Heart Echoes: Original Miscellaneous & Devotional Poems, which came out in 1886 and is available in a reprint today.  Lizzie Berry came, her publishers explained in their foreword, of a humble background and had suffered "great trials and difficulties".  Her verses were often printed in the newspapers and she came to have a devoted following.  


But Eleanor also liked older verse and classics such as Shelley, Cowper, Thomas Moore and Longfellow.  And she read novels – she had been reading A Romance of Two Worlds by Marie Corelli.  Newly published in 1886, it was Marie Corelli's first book and an immediate popular success – and the beginning of a highly colourful career.  Eleanor was clearly taken by it and she transcribed verses from the novel into her poetry book.  

She didn't confine herself to poetry.  When she saw something that amused her, she copied it out.  Some of us will remember Avoirdupois Weight – which usually went like this

16 oz (ounces) = 1 lb (pound)
14 lb = 1 stone
28 lb = 1 qtr (quarter)
4 qtrs = 1 cwt (hundredweight)

In 1895, when Eleanor was 29 years old, she was taken with a gently humorous, sentimental version:

Avoirdupois Weight
(New Code) 1895

16 Looks make 1 Smile
16 Smiles make 1 Nod
28 Nods make 1 Moonlight meeting
4 Moonlight meetings make 1 Kiss
20 Kisses make 1 Wedding

One of the quotations on the same page reads, "A true man is generous and unselfish and has a conscience."


The notebook is far from full – Eleanor only filled a dozen or so pages.  The last poem of all was part of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 'A Psalm of Life' (1838), which begins
Tell me not, in mournful numbers 
Life is but an empty dream!
Eleanor transcribed verses 6 and 9:
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
In 1901 Eleanor was living at 37 Skinner Street with her parents, her brother Malcolm and a young lodger, who was a grocer.  She was working as a clerk in a tea warehouse.  

The Square, Stockton-on-Tees
O.S. 1913 National Library of Scotland
I expect the tea warehouse stood at 29 The Square (where the library stands today) and belonged to William Thomas Trattles.  In the late summer of 1906, as she approached her 40th birthday, Eleanor married him.

A year after the marriage, Eleanor gave birth to her only child, Mary, born on 31 October 1907.  It was Mary who kept her mother's poetry book and the other little keepsakes, a small collection surviving by chance from a family's accumulated mementos.

Mary was only 14 when her father died, so she must only have had a child's remembrance of him.  He must have been a man of determination, energy and business acumen; he was certainly someone who knew personal tragedy.

William Thomas Trattles was 11 years older than Eleanor, a widower with 5 children – the youngest was 11 and the oldest was 21.

He was born in 1855 in Staithes, the son of a master mariner.  For many years – for all of Mary's lifetime – a picture of the sailing ship Zephyr had pride of place above the fireplace.  The Zephyr was built in 1845, master John Trattles, owner Thomas Trattles, her destined voyage was Hamburg and she was rigged as a snow.  (And you can examine her survey on the Lloyd's Register Foundation Archive here).  When John Trattles retired from the sea, he was for some time a grocer in Staithes.  Perhaps this was perhaps the impetus for his sons Matthew and William to go into the tea trade.  

In 1880 they were in business together as Trattles Brothers, tea and coffee merchants of 29 The Square.  But the partnership only lasted 3 years and they split up in 1883.  They must have agreed that William could keep on the warehouse at 29 The Square because he carried on there as a tea wholesaler.

William built up the business, advertising heavily to tea dealers in the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough – one of his selling points was that he was the "Sole packer of the celebrated Sultan Packet Tea".  He prospered, diversifying into Fancy Goods, Glass and China.  His December advertisement for 1891 proclaimed 
Christmas and New Year Presents – the largest and best assortment in the district at W T Trattles, 29 The Square, Stockton.  Dinner Sets, Chamber Sets, Toilet Sets, Tea Sets of endless variety to choose from, and all at wholesale prices
He tried branch shops for a while – the shop in Middlesbrough was on the "main thoroughfare" but it didn't work out and he put it up for sale in 1892 ("would suit a lady").  The shop in Darlington lasted longer.  He advertised it for sale in 1903 
To be disposed of, an old-established Present, Tea and Fancy Goods Business, in Darlington; satisfactory reasons for disposal; managed by a female.  
Meanwhile, he and his wife Agnes Jemima Wilson and their growing family progressed from 24 Balaclava Street, in the network of terraced streets near the railway station, to 13 Palmerston Street – where they had a live-in servant – to Park House on Richmond Road, next to Ropner Park.  It was a villa with "12 large, spacious rooms, with all conveniences, large garden and grass lawn; adjoining Park; very best position".

And it was there, on 29 May 1895, only three weeks after giving birth to her sixth child, that Agnes died at the age of 40.  William was left a widower with five children – their first baby, Agnes, had died within weeks of her birth.  Ida was the eldest at 13, and after Ida came Hugh Harold, William Horace (always called Horace), Agnes and the new baby Thomas. 

William picked up his life and carried on.  He had his business, he was a town councillor, and he employed a housekeeper.  The children were growing up and Hugh Harold started work as a Chartered Accountant's clerk.  Then disaster struck.

On 8 April 1902 a fire at the shop and warehouse in the The Square gutted the building and destroyed a great deal of the stock.  A few months later, on 26 July, his beloved daughter Ida died at Park House.  I'm not sure if his heart was in the business after this, or perhaps he no longer had the drive to rebuild the business.  At any rate, by the time of the next census in 1911 he was no longer an employer, but was working as a Commercial Traveller for China goods. 

When the First World War broke out, little Mary was nearly 7 years old.  Her eldest brother Hugh Harold was 29, living in Beckenham and working as a bank clerk.  He joined the 24th Battalion Royal Fusiliers as a private.  Horace had been living at home in 1911 and working as a drapers' assistant.  When war broke out he joined the 14th Battalion London Regiment as a Private.  Thomas was a merchant seaman.  He joined the Yorkshire Regiment in December 1915 when he was 20.  Their sister Agnes was 23 years old.  I think it was probably during the War that she trained as a nurse, the career she followed for the rest of her life.

William Horace Trattles
(1890-1917)
Mary adored her brother Horace, he was her favourite brother.  In June 1915 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Battalion Hampshire Regiment.  In the spring of 1916 he was attached to the 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and sent out to Mesopotomia.  He was killed in action on 25 January 1917 at the age of 26.  He is buried in the Amara War Cemetery in south-east Iraq.

Mary had prayed for him fervently every night; she never believed in God again.

By the time of Horace's death, Hugh had been wounded twice and was back in the trenches, and Thomas had been in hospital for 6 months.  

He had been sent out to France towards the end of April 1916 but was wounded within weeks.  The damage – I think he was left with epilepsy – that was caused by the gunshot wounds to his head on 12 July 1916 incapacitated him from work for life.

Hugh Harold Trattles died in 1920 at the Phillips Memorial Hospital in Bromley, Kent, aged 35.  His father William Thomas died the following year at the age of 66.

So only Mary, her mother and her brother Thomas were left in Stockton.  They lived at Rosebank, a house with 5 bedrooms and 3 reception rooms on Cranbourne Terrace, where the family had moved in 1915.  

Rosebank stood on a large plot and its garden stretched back to the railway line – which meant it was naturally called into use when the centenary of the Stockton to Darlington Railway was celebrated on of 2 July 1925. 

Cranbourne Terrace, Stockton-on-Tees
O.S. 1913 National Library of Scotland

A grandstand was built at the bottom of the garden for dignitaries and notables to watch the grand Railway Centenary Procession of locomotives going by.  

Locomotives of all types and ages, passengers and crew in period dress, the Darlington Band playing from one of the rear wagons, a tableaux train carrying a pageant illustrating the evolution of the wheel in transport, luxury trains – the Flying Scotsman carrying excited children – and in pride of place a replica of Locomotion No 1, led by a horseman flourishing a red flag to warn of its approach.  It was an enormous success and you can see newsreel footage of it on youtube today herehere and here.

Mary Trattles

Eleanor, Mary and Thomas lived at Rosebank for about 20 years.  Mary, it is said, was engaged to be married but she had her mother and brother to care for, and the engagement was ended.  

By the time the Second World War broke out they had moved to Stirling House, 98 Darlington Road, Hartburn.  Eleanor died there in 1952.  

Mary lived on there until her death in 1998, long outliving her brother Thomas and sister Agnes.  She was the last of the family.

Her most vivid memory to the end was her beloved brother Horace carrying her piggy-back as he raced round the garden, her mother calling anxiously all the while, "Be careful!  Be careful!  You'll drop her!"





Saturday, 28 May 2022

Letters of Mrs Lucy Browne of Gorleston: 1835 & 1836

Two letters in the collection that I describe in The Revd William Atkinson of Kirkleatham & Cambridge (1755-1830) are filled with news from Gorleston in Suffolk.  

They were written from Gorleston on 8 May 1835 and 22 July 1836 by Mrs Lucy Browne to Mrs Elizabeth Williamson – she features in the blogpost about her uncle the Revd William Atkinson.

Mrs Lucy Browne is almost certainly the widow of William Atkinson's friend the Revd Thomas Browne, late rector of Gorleston.  Mrs Elizabeth Williamson is her friend and former neighbour, now living in Baxtergate in Whitby.

Mrs Browne's handwriting is not of the clearest, but I expect somebody who knows the area would recognise the names which my colleague has found illegible.  There are many names – her friends the Miss Brownes, Mrs Oliver, Mrs Sewell, Mr Worshop, Mr Salmon, to name a few – as Mrs Browne is anxious to keep her friend up-to-date with all the goings-on in Gorleston.  She includes such little snippets of news as:

My poor friend Mr Morrison's Death is much lamented, he was a kind friendly Man

Mrs Price is at present in the same Lodgings with Miss Tapp whose Mother is dead.  I hear the Match is quite off between Mrs P and Mr Wake. 

But I think the most tantalising bit of gossip must be about the Spalding-Astley marriage.  Mrs Browne herself was an Astley by birth, so she must have a very good source here:

You could not be more surprised than I was in the Marriage [of] Miss Astley.  Till after the sons Marriage then I thought it might take place, they have almost ever since been residing in a place that he purchased at Stockton about 17 miles from hence.  Mr Spalding is in bad health confined to a weakness [?] in his heart, and is attended by Mr Smith who recommends abstinence.  
She is never seen and I hear nothing more of her than if she was not residing in the Parish, she is certainly in a more respectable situation since her marriage, but I fear she will have reason to repent.  There is not any communication between her and her Brother, this affair has given him very much concern.  

Daniel Spalding and Mary Ann Elizabeth Astley had been married on 16 October 1834 at Gorleston.  Perhaps Mr Spalding tried abstinence – perhaps he didn't – but at any rate his health worsened and he died in June the following year at the age of 60.  In 1836, Lucy Browne wrote

the late Mr Spalding's House is still upon Sale – his Widow lives at present in part of a Farm House near [Haddiscoe?] but I hear she is going to leave shortly

Contact the North Yorkshire County Record Office at Northallerton, which holds the collection of letters, if you're interested!


Friday, 15 April 2022

Thomas Barlow Allinson writes a letter: 1836

Thomas Barlow Allinson's letter of 1836 was among the small collection mentioned in The Revd William Atkinson of Kirkleatham & Cambridge (1755-1830). These letters survived apparently by chance, but very probably because of the intervention of Mr John Gaskin, MBE, of Whitby.  He was a solicitors' clerk for many years with Buchannans of Whitby and may have come across the letters in their offices and thought them worth preserving – possibly for their unusual postal markings, as he had a keen interest in philately.  The collection is now in the Northallerton Archives.

This is the story of one of those letters, as far as we can make it out.  I say "we" because I'm indebted to my collaborator for contacting me in the first place and for all the research she has done.  I hope this chance survival from 1836 might help the people who are trying to disentangle their Allinson forebears.  The Allinsons you will meet in this blogpost lived in Whitby and near Penrith, in the parish of Dacre in Cumberland.

I'm quoting below from a transcript and I have made some alterations for readability's sake.

It's a story which begins with Dickensian echoes and goes to darker places …

Billiter Square: O.S. 1840s-1860s.  National Library of Scotland

It's 4 April 1836.  The writer of the letter is a 24 year old solicitor's clerk called Thomas Barlow Allinson.  He's an unhappy and worried young man, marked by a series of disappointments and trapped in a job he doesn't like.  When he came to London from Staffordshire in 1830, he had thought that his uncle Josiah Allinson would help him to a clerkship in a trading or banking house.  Six years later, he's still with Messrs Druce in Billiter Square off Fenchurch Street in the City of London, in a job that was supposed to be temporary.  It's the Easter vacation for the law courts, and he's writing a personal letter from his employers' offices in the City.

Thomas is only a few months younger than Charles Dickens, who is now beginning his startling career as a writer – the first instalment of The Pickwick Papers appeared in print only weeks before Thomas started his letter.  But Thomas's story has echoes of Dickens' much later and darker novels and the dark and dirty London of Bleak House is the one that Thomas knew.

Thomas is writing to a relation he has never met, a Miss Nanny Ellerby Allinson of Whitby.  He is offering her information she wants and he has carried out a favour she has asked for – and between these two sections of his long letter, he has sandwiched a tactful and carefully-written account of the financial difficulties and disappointments beneath which he, his mother and his 7 siblings are labouring.  Miss Allinson is now under something of an obligation towards him, and she might be able to help them.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Jane Atkinson of Kirkleatham (1751-1817), wife of Captain Thomas Galilee

I've revised an earlier post of May 2013 and, as it belongs with the preceding posts, I'll post it here as well.  

The two letters quoted below were among the small collection of letters referred to in the previous post about the Revd William Atkinson.  I have made some alterations to spelling and punctuation for readability's sake.

Jane was born in 1751, the daughter of Thomas Atkinson of Scaling Dam (a hamlet on the Whitby to Guisborough road) and his wife Elizabeth Featherstone.  She grew up at Kirkleatham where her father was Master of the Blue Coat Boys at Sir William Turner's Hospital.  Her younger brother Thomas  Atkinson was a surgeon who wrote a journal of a whaling voyage to the Davis Straits in 1774

Jane married Thomas Galilee on 4 June 1775.

The Newcastle Courant of Saturday 17 June 1775 records: 
Last week at St Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe, London, Capt Thomas Galilee of Whitby, to Miss Atkinson of Kirkleatham 
St Mary's Rotherhithe by Rob Kam
Jane and Thomas spent many years in Rotherhithe, where their daughters were born and baptised, living in a house that Thomas owned in Princes Street.  They were living there in 1788 when he wrote to his wife from Narva in Estonia on 21 May.  At the time, the main trade with the Baltic was in timber and Thomas was taking on a load of sawn boards ("deals").  
Narva, May 21st 1788

My Dear Jane, 
I have now the pleasure to acquaint you that I am all Loaded except one pram of deals which I hope to get on board to night.  We have had a very troublesome time of it in the Bay and very cold weather that several of my people is laid up.  I hope in God this will find you in good health and all my dear children as bless God I am at present and I hope soon to have a happy meeting.  I have no news to tell you as this is the first time I have been in town since I arrived – it seems to be a poor place and every thing is very dear so that I have not bought you anything.  Please to acquaint Mr. Richardson of my being loaded and not to forget the Insurance 
I hope soon to have the pleasure to see you, pray give my love to my children &c, I am your ever affectionate and
Loving Husband
Thomas Galilee
It seems he had two passengers with him – perhaps they were there for the experience – but they hadn't enjoyed the trip much.  He ends his letter
My Two young Gentlemen is very well but I fancy this Voyage will make them sick of the sea.
It seems very likely that, when the Ship News in the Kentish Gazette on 20 June 1788 reported that the "Amphion, Gallilee, from Narva" had passed Gravesend on 16 June, it was Captain Thomas Galilee returning home. 

Thomas Atkinson, surgeon (b1753) of Kirkleatham, Canada & Honduras Bay

This replaces a piece about Thomas Atkinson posted in November 2012.  As it belongs with the preceding posts about the Atkinsons of Scaling Dam & Kirkleatham, I thought I'd publish it here too.  

With many thanks to Stella Sterry for her information

Thomas Atkinson, the writer of the Whaling Journal of Thomas Atkinson of Kirkleatham, 1774 was a young man of 21 when he made the voyage to Davis Straits.

He was born in the spring of 1753 in Kirkleatham, a North Yorkshire village a couple of miles from the mouth of the River Tees. 

His father Thomas was Master at the Hospital founded in Kirkleatham in 1676 by Sir William Turner for the relief of ten "poor aged" men and women and the relief and upbringing of "ten poor boys and ten poor girls". 

The "poor boys" and "poor girls" usually entered the Hospital at the age of eight and left at sixteen.  At this time most of the boys came from the North Riding, from Scarborough to Askrigg, but some came from much further afield – from Ticknall in Derbyshire, Bristol and Hertfordshire.  They included the sons of a local clergyman, a Darlington bookseller and a Northallerton attorney, which must indicate that, in addition to the poor children, the school was taking paying scholars.  This was usual in schools that began as charitable foundations. 

Thomas Atkinson's mother was Elizabeth Featherstone (c1720-1805).  His parents were married in Westerdale in 1749, so Elizabeth may have been the Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Fetherstone, who was baptised in 1720 at Danby in Cleveland.

It seems very likely that Thomas Atkinson's sons were taught alongside the boys of the Hospital.  Wherever they went to school, he and his brothers clearly received a good education; Thomas's second son William was to become a Doctor of Divinity and Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge. 

The career chosen for young Thomas may have been influenced by the surgeon employed at the Hospital (at a salary of £50, compared to the £45 paid to the Master), but the Hospital was also in contact with the York Infirmary whose surgeons pronounced one boy's "scrofulous disorder" as incurable in 1773.  

In his mid-teens Thomas's parents sent him to Ripon to be apprenticed for 6 years to William Chambers of Ripon, described by Thomas's father in the family Bible as "an eminent Surgeon and Apothecary".  Then on 27 February 1774 at the age of 21, he went to sea as a surgeon on the Hope of Whitby, on a whaling voyage to the Davies Straits.

Whitby whalers in the Davies Straits (from Richard Weatherill's book)

We don't know why he decided to make the trip.  Perhaps it was a hankering for adventure; perhaps he wanted to find out how he would cope in harsh conditions.  We don't know how he came to choose the Hope, but it's interesting to see that at this time one of the boys at the school was Thomas Peacock, son of the Revd John Peacock, curate of Stainton in Cleveland.  Perhaps they had a family connection to Captain Robert Peacock of the Hope.

It is clear from young Thomas Atkinson's journal that it wasn't the sea that took his interest, but the strange new lands he encountered and, above all, the Inuit. 

So it isn't surprising to find that, the following year, his curiosity and love of adventure led him to work for the Hudson's Bay Company

At the beginning of June 1775 he took up his post as a surgeon at Moose Fort (now Moose Factory), 
the Company's oldest settlement in Ontario, established in 1673 about 11 miles from the mouth of the Moose River on the shore of James Bay.

This was the home of the Cree and Anishinaabe peoples, but from the 17th century it was where the British and French fought over the fur trade.  (For more, see Tracing the History of Northern Ontario at the British Library by Shaelagh Cull)

In 1776 the Company was planning to establish a post on Lake Superior.  So they sent out a party of 5 men – Thomas was one of them – with two Indian families and instructions to "Build a Halfway House".  They set out on 16 October 1776 from Moose Fort and travelled about 200 miles by canoe along the Moose River, and by sledge, until on 11 December they reached "Wapuscogamee" Creek.  

Thomas chose a site for the Company's post – it was half a mile or so from the mouth of the creek, on the west bank of the Missinaibi River, which flows into the Moose River.  On 14 December they began to build a log tent in which they were to spend the rest of the winter.

When the spring came, they laid the foundation for the post and by early August 1777 Wapiscogamy House was ready for occupation.  Thomas was in charge there until 31 May 1778.

Early C19: Trading at a Hudson's Bay Company Trading Post, by Harry Ogden

I hope he was a good doctor, because he wasn't very good at choosing a place for a trading post, or at planning its building.  

A report to Edward Jarvis, chief at Moose Fort, in 1781 described a site vulnerable to attack with no way of seeing the attackers coming.  There was a large creek within 200 yards of the back of the house and a ridge of high land within 100 yards, and at one end of the small, inconvenient house (it measured 26 feet by 18 feet) there wasn't a window or a port hole.  

The foundations were laid direct on the ground, so it wasn't possible to dig a cellar without undermining either the chimney or the frame of the house.  They couldn't find anywhere to keep the gunpowder except "directly under the fireplace" and the summer heat spoilt their "Salt Geese".   Edward Jarvis decided it would be better to build a new post somewhere else.

By this time, Thomas Atkinson had been moved on to Henley House, a transit post on the junction of the Albany and Kenogamy Rivers.  He was Master there for 3 months from September to December 1779.  Perhaps he was filling in for the arrival of another man because he dropped down to Assistant for the next few months.  From June 1780 he was Assistant at Albany, the company fort on the James Bay, and then he left for home on the Royal George on 21 September 1781.

On 21 September 1788, when his father repaired the family Bible and recorded the most recent details of his children's lives, he wrote proudly that his eldest son had been "sometime Governor" of one of the Company Forts and was now "Surgeon at the English Settlement in Honduras Bay".  

So Thomas, having experienced the extremes of heat and cold in Northern Ontario, had taken a post in Central America, where the British were cutting logwood and mahogany.  There had been a British settlement in Belize for over a hundred years.  

An undated entry in the family Bible records that it was there that Thomas died. 

The Revd William Atkinson of Kirkleatham & Cambridge (1755-1830)

This account of a quiet life is thanks to information from Stella Sterry, and to letters that were found years ago in a house clearance in Leeds.  They seem to have survived by chance, possibly because of Mr John Gaskin, MBE, of Whitby.  He was a significant figure in organisations in the town in the first half of the 20th century.  He was very interested in local history and philately and for several decades was a solicitors' clerk with Messrs Buchannan and Son, and then with the successor firm Buchannan and White.  However he came across the letters and whatever his reason – local history or the unusual postal markings – he kept the letters and they are now to be found at Northallerton Archives.  I'm quoting below from a transcript and I have made some alterations for readability's sake.

William Atkinson was born on 16 May 1755 at Kirkleatham, where his father Thomas Atkinson (1722-92) was Master of Sir William Turner's Hospital.  Perhaps he was named for his father's brother William, who died only two months later in the fever epidemic that swept through Scaling Dam.

William's elder brother Thomas went out to look for adventure, and worked as a surgeon in Canada and Central America.  His brother Daniel died in New York and his brother John on the coast of Africa.  But William Atkinson was a studious young man.  He became an academic and clergyman.

Bookplate of Revd William Atkinson
At the age of 21, on 10 October 1776, he was admitted to Catharine Hall, Cambridge as a sizar.  At a time when attending Oxford and Cambridge was only for the very well-to-do, this was how someone from a humbler background could go to one of the universities.  Originally a sizar paid his way by doing fairly menial tasks; as the centuries went on colleges might offer small grants.  But it was essentially for the poor and deserving, and it was a lowly social position.

William matriculated in the Michaelmas term 1778.  He was made a deacon in 1778 and priested in 1781.  He took his B.A in 1781, his M.A in 1784, and his B.D in 1792.  

These were eventful times in the outside world.  In 1783, King George III was forced to accept the loss of Britain’s American colonies.  In January 1788, the first convict fleet arrived in Botany Bay carrying 1,480 men, women and children.  The Greenland whale fishery was in full operation, with 21 vessels leaving Whitby that season.  Across the Channel, France was in the grip of runaway inflation and ever increasing economic turmoil and on 14 July 1789 the storming of the Bastille would mark the beginning of events that would shake Europe.  Meanwhile, back at home in North Yorkshire, Whitby was a major centre of shipbuilding, ranking third after London and Newcastle in the early 1790s.  Along the coast and the escarpment of the Cleveland Hills, men were mining alum, a valuable commodity and vital to the textile and leather industries.  

St Catharine's, Cambridge (called Catharine Hall until 1860)

Meanwhile, William was elected Fellow of Catharine Hall in 1781 and in 1807 he was a curate at Sawston, 7 miles south of Cambridge.  But from 1790 William became involved in a feud among the Fellows.  It lasted 20 years and involved petitions to the College Visitor, exchanges of acrimonious letters and finally a pamphlet war.  William and his friends were pitted against Dr Procter, the Master of Catharine Hall, and his supporters.  William's friend Dr Browne, Master of Christ's College, was also involved.  In 1808 William left Catharine Hall.  

Then on 2 July 1808 William was elected Fellow of Christ's; it was the first election in the time of his friend Dr Browne's Mastership.  It is all very convoluted.  William Jones, in his A History of St Catharine's College, Cambridge (CUP 1936) comments that  

One finds it difficult not to suspect that much of this feud was due to sheer idleness.  The Fellows at St Catharine's at this period were not busy with research.  They had no undergraduates, or practically none, to teach.  Unmarried, they had no home interests.  Satan, indeed, found work for idle hands to do

At the time of the feud, William wasn't living in College.  By 1788, he was living in the village of Whaddon, a dozen miles south-west of Cambridge.  By 1806 he had moved to Stapleford, about 5 miles south of Cambridge.  There he lived at the Grove at the fork in the road near Sawston Bridge.

1888-1913 O.S. Stapleford
CC-BY-NC-SA National Library of Scotland

Apart from being Mildmay Preacher between 1816 and 1818, Christ's has no record of him holding a College office, or a benefice, or being resident in College, though he never missed a meeting until his last five years.  

Christ's College, Cambridge: Fellows' Garden, showing rear of Fellows' Building

How did he spend his time (apart from taking part in the College feud)?  He must have lectured, perhaps he had pupils and he seems, on occasion at least, to have taken duty for another clergyman.  He certainly farmed.  He had his library, which was a typical middle-class collection judging by the inscribed volumes that have passed down through the years – and Jane Austen would have been pleased to see that he didn't disdain novels.  He had Samuel Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison.  We can imagine him working away at the system of shorthand that he invented.  It was a quiet life.

Thomas Atkinson (1722-92), Master of Sir William Turner's Hospital, Kirkleatham

This follows on from the preceding post, The Atkinsons of Scaling Dam in the 17th & 18th centuries

Thomas Atkinson was born on Friday 13 April 1722, between 9 and 10 o'clock at Night.

We don't know where he was educated – perhaps in one of the Whitby schools – but he clearly was something of a mathematician (for example, his answer to a problem was printed in Miscellaneous Correspondence, in Prose and Verse Volume 4, 1764).

He married Elizabeth Featherstone (c1720-1805) on 21 September 1749 in Westerdale.  Elizabeth may have been the daughter of Peter Fetherstone, who was baptised on 2 February 1720 at Danby in Cleveland.

On 9 May 1751, when Thomas was 29, he took up the post of Master of the Blue Coat Boys at the Turner Hospital at Kirkleatham.  When he and his family moved into the master's house, the Hospital – which consisted of almshouses, boys' and girls' schools and a chapel – had only recently been extended and remodelled by Sir William's great-nephew Cholmley Turner.  Thomas must have been very pleased with his new situation.  He and his family stayed there for nearly 25 years.   

Sir William Turner's Almshouses by Mick Garrett

He was clearly an able and meticulous man, and in 1774 he drew up a map of the parish and manor of Kirkleatham for his employer.  So perhaps when he left Kirkleatham a year later at the age of 53, and went to Marske Hall on the Cleveland coast, it might have been to become steward for Lawrence Dundas.  Dundas was an ambitious and forceful Scottish businessman and politician who had bought the Marske Hall estate a dozen years earlier, at about the same time as he bought the Aske estate in Richmondshire.  

By 1788, Thomas was in retirement and he and his wife Elizabeth were with their son William in Whaddon in Cambridgeshire.  

He now had time to repair the family Bible that had been spoilt and defaced after his father's death in 1755, when it had been 

clandestinely taken away from my Mother, by one Hudson who had not the least Right or Pretention of Right to it; after having kept it several Years in his Possession, I obliged him to return it; but it was in such bad Condition by his writing his own Name a vast Number of times, and a Repetition of the Names of his Children and many Sentences too ridiculous to be seen in a Book of this Sort; I thought proper to cut out the Pages he had so Contaminated and to introduce several Leaves of fresh Paper in their Stead; whereas I shall transcribe such Particulars as my Father thought fit to leave on Record in this Book relating to our Family; and do hereby earnestly recommend this Book to the Care of my Children, that they never suffer it to go out of the Family for the future. 
Example of Thomas Atkinson's repair to the family Bible

Thomas Atkinson and Elizabeth Featherstone had 6 sons and 2 daughters:

  • Jane Atkinson, born 9 March 1751
    • on 4 June 1775 at Rotherhithe, she married Captain Thomas Galilee (1744-97) (for more on his family see here
    • they had 6 daughters who survived infancy: Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Jane, Harriet & Henrietta
    • Jane died on 19 December 1817 aged 66 and was buried at Whaddon, Cambridgeshire
    • for more on Jane and her daughters see later post, Jane Atkinson of Kirkleatham (1751-1817), wife of Captain Thomas Galilee
  • Isaac Atkinson, born 5 March 1757
    • was a London wholesale linen draper with premises in Cheapside, while living out of town in the country air of the parish of St Mary, Islington
    • he died aged 46 on 6 July 1803 and was buried with his father at Whaddon on 13 July 1803
  • Daniel Atkinson, born 7 February 1759
    • he is known to have married and had 3 children, because they are mentioned in his brother William's Will, made in 1828:
    • An undated entry in the family Bible says that Daniel himself "Died at New York"
  • John Atkinson, born 12 February 1761
    • an undated entry in the family Bible says that John died on the coast of Africa
  • Robert Atkinson, born 8 February 1763
    • he died in infancy and was buried on 14 June 1765 in Kirkleatham
  • Elizabeth Atkinson, born 18 February 1764
    • she was baptised on 29 Feb 1764 and died 3 days later.  Buried at Kirkleatham

Thomas Atkinson died on 1 February 1792 at the age of 70.  A note in the burial register records that he was "late of Marsk near Gisborough N Riding Yorks died at the Vicarage house at Whaddon Feb 1"

Thomas's son William wasn't the vicar of Whaddon, so that wasn't why Thomas was living in the vicarage house.  William isn't recorded as having held any benefice, and I think a Revd Thomas Wilson was vicar at the time.  According to the Victoria County History 

In the 1790s the vicar had only a room in an old cottage, probably the old vicarage, which was enlarged in the early 19th century, and again c1877  

Robert Hurlock, who succeeded Mr Wilson and was vicar from 1797 to 1852, also held Shepreth.  It must have been more comfortable at Shepreth before the Whaddon vicarage was enlarged, because by 1807 he was recorded as living at Whaddon.  So perhaps Thomas and Elizabeth were renting the old cottage that had been the old vicarage.

St Mary's Whaddon, Cambs by Alan Kent

Elizabeth survived him by 7 years.  She carried on living with her son William at Whaddon and it was there that she died on 19 November 1805 aged 85.  

Thomas and Elizabeth were both buried at Whaddon.  

Elizabeth had also outlived her son Isaac, who died aged 46 in 1803.  Though he lived in the parish of St Mary Islington, he was buried with his father at Whaddon on 13 July 1803.  Whaddon was to become the place of burial for all of the family who lived in Cambridgeshire:  Thomas and Elizabeth, their children Isaac, William and Jane, and their granddaughter Harriet.

When Stella Sterry visited Whaddon in 1970, she was able to read the inscriptions on the gravestones of Thomas, Isaac, Elizabeth, Jane and Harriet.  William's gravestone, with its Latin inscription, was not very legible.  

Excerpt from insert in Atkinson Bible