Saturday, 14 November 2020

Cholera: glimpses of the pandemics of the 19th century

In the 19th century, the usual yearly epidemics of frequently fatal infectious diseases in Britain were eclipsed by successive waves of a frightening newcomer: Asiatic Cholera.

It first arrived in 1831.  You can read about it in 'The year of the Cholera', Chapter 11 of Remarkable, but still True: the story of the Revd R J Barlow and Hutton Rudby in the time of the cholera .

There I describe how, in York, Dr Thomas Simpson and the surgeon J P Needham not only treated patients but also investigated the spread of cases.  They both believed cholera was contagious and Needham wrote a monograph on the subject in 1833, after the pandemic had subsided.  Dr Simpson, who thought it was an air-borne disease, published his Observations on the Asiatic Cholera: and Facts regarding the mode of its diffusion after the next pandemic, which happened seventeen years later in 1848.

In 1848, as in 1831, cholera was firmly associated with "nuisances" – sewage and filth – and it was still thought that it was the "unwholesome exhalations" and poisonous vapours from nuisances and decaying vegetable matter that spread the disease.  The theory may have been erroneous but the practice was helpful, because cholera is spread through water contaminated by faeces; this was the beginning of improvements in better drainage and public health.  

Cholera isn't easy to catch but without the correct treatment it is fatal in half the cases.  Nowadays it is treated by rehydration – which has to be begun without delay – and sometimes with antibiotics.  In the 19th century, careful nursing might pull a patient through but unfortunately doctors very often used purges and emetics on their patients, which would only have dehydrated them further.  

Meanwhile, there were plenty of advertisements for patent medicines.

William Hardcastle advertised his "Cure for Asiatic Cholera" and "Grand Preventive of Cholera" extensively in the Northern press.  Born in Sunderland, he had learned his trade as a chemist in Stockton-on-Tees and now had his own shop in Finkle Street – and I'm glad to say the interior of Hardcastle's is preserved at Beamish Open Air Museum (photographs here).  He was a man in his late thirties and evidently very enterprising.

At this time anxiety was all the greater because diarrhoea was thought often to precede cholera – of course there was a good deal of diarrhoea around – and it was believed that stopping diarrhoea would stop cholera developing.  William Hardcastle's advertisements proudly proclaimed that 

having witnessed the great mortality by Cholera which took place in Stockton, 17 years ago, when about 130 persons died in a very short time, Mr H. directed his earnest attention to discover some more efficient Preventive and Cure than were at that time employed, and has succeeded in compounding the "Diarrhoea Powders" and "Cholera Drops", which has rescued many from premature graves.  Their great efficacy has caused them to be so much esteemed in Stockton and the Neighbourhood, that the Proprietor has now made arrangements for extending their sale to other places.

The Drops could be sent by Post to any part of the UK on forwarding 12 Postage Stamps, and they cost a shilling and a penny halfpenny or two shillings per bottle.  I expect the chief ingredient was laudanum.

More useful in preventing cholera were products such as Sir William Burnett's Patent Disinfecting Fluid, which was advertised as "a deodorizing and purifying agent" and was a chloride disinfectant.  

When nothing seemed to help, the only answer was prayer:

York Herald, 22 September 1849

Cholera – The authorities of Middlesbro' have issued a notice to the inhabitants to set apart Friday, the 21st inst., as a day of humiliation and prayer to God to remove that desolating pestilence, the cholera, which has lately been so fatal in that place.

Then a third wave of cholera reached Britain in 1853.  It was at this point that Dr John Snow of London  (1813-58) demonstrated that cholera was a water-borne disease by removing the handle of the Broad Street pump.  He published his findings in his work of 1855, which drew upon the careful observations of Dr Thomas Simpson.  But it took many years for public health authorities to act to ensure a clean water supply and Snow had been long dead when the Chief Medical Officer for Health acknowledged the significance of his work.

We can see that keeping the streets clear of nuisances and encouraging better cleanliness was well established as a priority for the authorities:

York Herald, 15 October 1853

Cholera – On the 24th of Sept last, this devastating disease broke out in one of the low parts of Stockton, and since that period to the present time, 13 deaths have occurred, but all in that particular locality, which is said to be in a very indifferent state of drainage, and where many of the inhabitants are not of the most cleanly description.

In Darlington, the local board of health and the board of guardians held a joint meeting.  They decided to carry out the recommendations of the medical superintending inspector of the General Board of Health to set up a system of house to house visiting as the only effectual safeguard against the spread of the epidemic.  (This might remind us of recent events described in this story on the BBC News website in which Professor John Wright, Head of Bradford Institute for Health Research describes the work of the local test and trace teams, sending testers door to door in neighbourhoods with high rates of infection).  They resolved to employ more scavengers to clear away the nuisances, to set up a more general distribution of disintectants such as chloride of lime, and to supply water for free to the poorer districts, "in order that greater facilities for cleanliness might be afforded".   

And, then as now, there were plenty of conspiracy theories.  In some countries, the swiftness with which the disease spread led the people to think their water supply had been poisoned:

Huddersfield Chronicle, 2 September 1854

News has arrived in Palermo of the appearance of cholera in that city.  The Sicilians, it seems, are under the impression that the cholera is a poison which has been communicated by human means.  The people have surrounded the Governor's palace, and shouted "We will not have the cholera here!"  The Lord Lieutenant immediately issued orders prohibiting the people to speak of poison.  The city is in a very excited state.

In 1865 the cholera returned yet again to Britain.  

It reached Yarm on 8 October 1866 and when doctors Robert and Christopher Young, the town's medical officers, made their report on 13 November, they hoped they had seen the back of it.  There had been 23 cases of cholera, 12 of which were fatal, and 5 cases "approaching cholera", of which 2 were fatal. In the same period they had seen 87 cases of diarrhoea.  

A few days before cholera came to Yarm, it had already reached Hutton Rudby and Potto – but luckily not with the virulence of the 1832 outbreak, when there were 45 cases and 23 deaths at the east end of the village green:

York Herald, 6 October 1866

The Cholera – We regret to state that a fatal case of Asiatic cholera has just occurred at the small rustic hamlet of Potto, in the parish of Whorlton, near Stokesley.  Elizabeth Mary Cawthorn, the wife of a brickmaker, was attacked on Saturday afternoon last, and was visited the same night by Mr A A Boyle, assistant to Mr J H Handyside, surgeon, Stokesley, and he at once perceived that she was prostrated by a malignant attack of cholera.  Mr Handyside attended on the following morning, and Mr Boyle was present when she died on Sunday night, medical skill being of no avail.

Richmond & Ripon Chronicle, 13 October 1866

Thompson - On the 6th inst., at Hutton Rudby, Cleveland, of Asiatic cholera, aged 60 years, Mr George Thompson, brickmaker

Nearly twenty years and many cholera deaths later, people across the world were electrified to hear that the German scientist Dr Robert Koch and his team had discovered the "cholera germ".  

Dr Koch had carried out his researches in India.  This fact spurred Professor Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1929) to write a trenchant criticism of the British government's approach to scientific research that appeared in, among other papers, the Pall Mall Gazette of 2 November 1883.  He was the son of Edwin Lankester (1814-74), surgeon, naturalist, the first public analyst in Britain, the first medically qualified coroner for Central Middlesex, a man who made a major contribution to the control of cholera in London.  So his son had, in a way, a family interest in the fight against the disease.  

He deplored the fact that
when a dire disease broke out in a country occupied by British troops, and, for the time being, controlled by the English Government, no steps were taken by that Government to initiate a thorough study of the disease in the light of modern science, but that, on the other hand, independent Commissions were sent to the plague-stricken country by the Governments of France and Germany for the express purpose of making the investigations which the English Government had omitted to set on foot.
The French and German scientists were from 
the State-supported laboratory of M Pasteur; they were his assistants and pupils.  The German Commissioners came from the Imperial Sanitary Institute of Berlin, the workers in which are drawn from the twenty-two State-supported laboratories of pathology which are scattered throughout the German Empire
Britain should be following the examples of France and Germany in training scientists and funding research bodies and laboratories like those in France and Germany.

By July 1884 the "discoverer of the cholera germ" Dr Robert Koch was known to everyone and admired by all.  The Pall Mall Gazette of 11 July 1884 noted that "in the last five years he has succeeded in identifying the germs of cattle disease, of consumption, and of cholera" – he was the benefactor of humanity.

Two years later, the Sanitary Congress – the annual meeting of the Sanitary Institute of Great Britain, founded in 1876 – was held in the Museum in York (now the Yorkshire Museum).  

The Leeds Mercury of 25 September 1886 carried a report of the proceedings.  The president, Mr William Whitaker, read a paper about water-supply in which he said two of the chief problems in sanitary matters were getting good water and getting rid of bad water.  Percy F Frankland, associate of the Royal School of Mines, spoke on the filtration of water.  They had known for many years that the real danger in sewage-contaminated water lay not in the organic matter to be found by analysis but in "the presence of minute living organisms, capable of producing zymotic disease".  Largely thanks to the genius of Robert Koch they now had "beautiful methods of bacteriological investigation" and this had enabled the great advance made in water purification.  Surgeon-Major Pringle described his system of collecting and storing rain and drinking water. Another debate clearly centred on the role of government.  Enforcement or education?  The West Riding County Surveyor, J Vickers Edwards, took what might now be called the libertarian approach to achieving "a healthy house", arguing that sanitary science would not progress through the actions of local authorities nor by legislation, but by educating people to act for themselves.  

Over the next fifty years the Sanitary Institute was to become the leading public health organisation in the UK, with a world-wide reputation.  It is now the Royal Society for Public Health.

Public health reform was truly on its way.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

George Bewick in Hutton Rudby

 If anybody has any information on the origins of the George Bewick who settled in Hutton Rudby in the mid-18th century, do let me know.  

I've been contacted by someone who'd very much like to have more information on the family.

The Bewicks first appear in the Hutton Rudby parish registers in 1760 with the baptism of Susannah, daughter of George, on 16 October 1760.  Then there is the burial of George Bewick on 20 March 1761.  

The relationships of these early Bewicks can't easily be disentangled, as can be seen from my original notes on the family which can be found here.  Women of the Bewick family appear in the baptismal registers of St Mary's Roman Catholic in Crathorne (see The Roman Catholic population of Hutton Rudby, c1780 to 1830)

A later George Bewick plays a major role in the story of the disappearance of William Huntley.  This George was a Wesleyan Methodist linen manufacturer in North End who was at the time Constable of Hutton township.  The newspaper account of the testimony at the trial of the accused murderer of Huntley reports what George Bewick actually said at the time – it is like overhearing a voice from the past.  The story can be found here in Chapter 6. 1830: Suspicions of Murder of my book Remarkable, but still True.

Do contact me using the Contact Me page on the blog if you would like to be contacted yourself – using Comments doesn't give me your email address.

Monday, 26 October 2020

About the picture of Guisborough Priory in an earlier post

 In a post from 2012 entitled Changing Guisborough market day: 1813, there is a picture of the priory and this is a message to Ben G, who asked in a comment if I had any information on that picture.  

I can't reply direct because messages that come to me from a comment don't have the writer's email!  I need a message to my email via the Contact Me section for that.

The answer, hoping that Ben finds this, is that it's a photograph of an old picture that I inherited and so I'm afraid I don't have any information.  Check one of the 19th century local histories and see if it's there?  Perhaps the Rev Graves' history?

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Hard labour & transportation to Tasmania: Northallerton, April 1841

Each one of these cases brings us a little glimpse of the past.  I think the information might also prove useful to family historians.

These are the details of people brought before the North Riding Sessions in Northallerton in April 1841 at the same time as John Dale, Simpson Adamson and Sarah Adamson.  The story of Dale and the Adamsons can be found in Frederick Cator's trunk goes missing.

You can see that prisoners were still convicted even when they abandoned the item they were trying to steal.  In young Henry Richardson's case, he threw back on the hedge the stockings that he had planned to steal, but when that charge was put together with a previous conviction for felony, it earned him 7 years' transportation.  And of course the felonies are all crimes against property, while the grandfather who tried to rape his little granddaughter was tried for a misdemeanour.

And what was "hard labour"?  The treadmill.  For a description of Northallerton Prison – the "Northallerton Hell" as the Chartists called it – see The Treadmills of Northallerton and the wikipedia description of the Penal treadmill.

From the Yorkshire Gazette, 10 April 1841

Misdemeanant

William Best (71) – charged with assaulting on 7 March at Thirsk Mary Ann Storey "a child only 8 years of age" with intent to commit a rape.  The prisoner is grandfather to the child.  2 years' hard labour

Felonies

Jacob Granger (18) of Dalton – charged with having stolen a sovereign from G Robinson of Dalton, labourer.  1 month's hard labour.

Thomas Adamson (22) and George Stockton (39) – charged with having on 20 January stolen 2 pigs' heads, 8 pigs' feet, 7 hens and 1 cock, from a barn belonging to George Fawcit of Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre, farmer.  Adamson pleaded Guilty, Stockton Not Guilty.  Both 6 months in the House of Correction

John Carrol (24) of Middlesbrough – charged with having on 13 January stolen a shovel from a cart of manure belonging to Robert Barron of Middlesbro', cartman.  Carrol was seen working with the shovel on which was branded "R Barron".  Some time afterwards it was seen that the name was cut off the shovel, which Carrol still kept.  6 weeks' hard labour

Stephen Moody (15) – charged with stealing a sixpence and seven pennies from James Stewart, keeper of a beer-house in Middlesbrough.  Prisoner was caught by Stewart with the money in his hand.  The jury found him guilty but recommended mercy because "We think it is his first offence".  Chairman said he was afraid it was not.  Prisoner had been convicted of rioting in Middlesbrough the year before.  6 months' hard labour and to be once severely whipped.

Harriet Newill Horsley (18) – charged with stealing 9½ yards of printed cotton from Mary Easterby of Whitby.  Mary Easterby had bought some cotton of a travelling man and took it to Margaret Burton's house, who put it in a basket.  Harriet Horsley was there.  A few days afterwards Mary Easterby went to Mrs Burton's house but the cotton was gone.  Horsley told the constable that she had pawned it with James Appleby, where it was indeed found.  In her defence, and to the amusement of the court, she said repeatedly that there were nearly 10 yards, not 9½.  She said Mrs Burton had sent her to do it and had drunk some ale bought with the money.  1 month's hard labour

John Bennison (24) of Fryup – charged with having on 15 March stolen oats belonging to Mr W Keld Agar, farmer of Fryup, for whom he had worked.  Mr Agar had suspected thieving was going on, had kept watch and seen Bennison taking oats from the stable.  2 months' hard labour

Joseph Barker (22) of Great Smeaton – charged with stealing hay from Daniel Hossick Alderson of Linthorpe, gentleman on 24 February.  Alderson was a gentleman farmer living at Marsh House near Linthorpe (Marsh House Farm was demolished in about 1937).  Mr Alderson also occupied a farm at Great Smeaton.  The prisoner had a stable near Mr Alderson's cow-house, one of whose hinds (labourers) had suspected theft and had therefore marked a quantity of his master's hay with a stick. The hay was missed and found in the prisoner's stable, with the stick, and there were bits of hay strewn between the cow-house and the stable.  Prisoner said he'd bought it from a man from Osmotherley.  2 months' hard labour


John Hewison, out on bail – pleaded guilty to having stolen wheat from Mr Gordison, a respectable farmer living near Thirsk.  Mr Gordison had winnowed a quantity of wheat from the barn beside his house and on 8 January he took some wheat to Thirsk market.  One of his servants saw someone hiding a sack among some chaff which was in a stackyard.  The servant found the sack in which was some wheat.  In the evening they saw Hewison take the sack and begin to make off with it.  When challenged by Mr Gordison, he threw it down and ran off.  He was taken into custody a few days later.  1 month's imprisonment.

George Theasby, out on bail – pleaded guilty to stealing £3 19s 9d from Ann Sotheran of Newton-upon-Ouse near Easingwold.  Also charged with stealing £2 15s from her.  He was clerk and confidential servant to Mrs Sotheran, lime merchant at Newton, and the money had been paid to him on her account.  Sentence delayed.

Sarah Wilcox (40) of Rowton – pleaded guilty to stealing 1 iron chain, back band and other articles from William Fawcitt.  6 months' hard labour

John Batty (17) of Leeds – pleaded guilty to stealing 1 pair of boots belonging to Thomas Green of Mansfield, labourer, from a stable at Mansfield.  Batty was a chimney-sweep and had been called in by Green to sweep his chimney.  While the family weren't looking he took the boots from the stable where they were hung up.  1 month's hard labour

William Bradley (19) of Stokesley – charged with stealing a quantity of iron from the mill of James Blacket of Stokesley.  1 month's hard labour

Daniel Barker (52) and Daniel Barker the younger, of Appleton Wiske – charged with stealing 1 great coat, 1 horse's head brush and 1 pair of gloves from Robert Atkinson of Swainby, carrier.  Not Guilty.

Sarah Garth (41) and Jane Garth (13) both of Guisborough – charged with stealing lambs' wool yarn from John Smith of Guisborough, druggist.  Each to serve 1 month's hard labour

Henry Temple (57) of Borrowby – charged with stealing 8 bushels of barley and 2 sacks from Mr Thomas Rose, farmer of Boltby, who had put in his barn on 13 March 6 sacks, each containing 4 bushels of barley, slightly mixed with oats.  Next day 2 of them were gone.  In the road near Temple's house were the marks of a horse's feet matching the shoes of a horse in Temple's stable.  When Constable Little of Thirsk searched the house, he found the barley and also 2 sacks from which the marks had been cut out.  Also charged with having been convicted of a felony in Co Durham.  7 years' transportation
I haven't been able to find a record of Henry Temple arriving in Australia, so I wonder if he died on the voyage out.
Henry Richardson (16), late of Hutton Rudby – charged with stealing a pair of cotton stockings belonging to Thomas Sterling and a cotton shirt belonging to Joseph Coates of Thirsk.  The stockings had been washed and hung on a hedge to dry on 11 February.  A carrier saw Richardson take them off the hedge, roll them up and put them in his pocket but, seeing he was watched, throw them back on the hedge and run away.  Guilty.  Further charged with having been convicted of a felony at the last Sessions.  The prosecution then said that the charge of theft of the shirt would be dropped.  7 years' transportation.
This record in convictrecords.com.au shows that Henry Richardson was taken from the hulks to the convict ship John Brewer, which set sail from Sheerness in December 1841 to Tasmania. We can see from the record in the Digitalpanopticon.org that Henry said he was born in "Stously" workhouse (the old dialectal  pronunciation of Stokesley, often spelt Stowsla) and the details on Foundersandsurvivors.org show that he said he had no relations.   
His conduct record shows that he was 5 feet 5½ inches tall, with a fresh complexion, an oval face, brown hair and hazel eyes.  He could neither read nor write.  He had been convicted for vagrancy and theft, his character was "very bad" and the record shows he was in constant trouble in Tasmania.  It is a sad catalogue of solitary confinement and hard labour.  His record (see Image 164) shows he was again convicted of stealing and was sent to the harsh conditions of the penal settlement on Norfolk Island, where he was found dead on 30 October 1850.
Yorkshire Gazette 5 June 1841
Convicts
On Wednesday morning, the following convicts were removed from York Castle in pursuance of their sentences, to be delivered on board the Fortitude hulk, Chatham.  For life, John Mitchell, and Wm Kenworthy.  For fourteen years, Wm Bean, George Sayers, and Joseph Day.  For ten years, Edwin Pinder, John Moore, John Scofield, and James Naylor.  For seven years, Henry Temple, Henry Richardson, Nathan Hart, Samuel Fletcher and George Taylor
This paper by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Rebecca Kippen is a fascinating study of Sickness and Death on Male and Female Convict Voyages to Australia 


Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Bishop William Stubbs (1825-1901): a devout Yorkshireman

This is something I meant to write before, but it got lost in other work.  I'm afraid the alignment of text in this is a little haphazard - Google Blogger was not co-operating!  


William Stubbs by Hubert von Herkomer
William Stubbs, scholar, clergyman, Regius Professor of History at Oxford and finally Bishop of Oxford, was much loved.   A contributor to the Bucks Herald on 18 January 1802 in a column looking back over the year in the diocese of Oxford wrote 
The one death which marks and makes a loss to diocese, Church, country, and literature is that of good Bishop Stubbs, kind Bishop Stubbs, grand Bishop Stubbs, of the winning face, fatherly heart, humorous fancy, fine nature, wide and magnanimous tolerance, keen sympathies.  
William Stubbs was born in Knaresborough in 1825 and his roots in Yorkshire were of importance to him to the end of his days.  "So long as I last, I continue a devout Yorkshireman," he wrote not long before his death.

He grew up in a place rich in historical associations with important national events.  All around him were places where his forebears had lived for generations – in the written records the Stubbs family can be found, farmers and yeomen, in the Forest of Knaresborough from the mid 14th century.  In Bishop William Stubbs & Knaresborough, an article by Robert M Koch in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (Vol 82, 2010), you can find an evocative account of how the layers of history with which he was surrounded laid the foundation for William's career as a pioneering mediaeval historian.

He was drawn to the study of history very early on in his life and he recommended local and personal history to others as a way of connecting with the social and political history of the country.

His biographer W H Hutton (the biography can be read here) wrote that in 1886 William gave a talk in Crewe in which he took himself as an example.  Hutton doesn't give his source for his quotation and there are errors which William would not have made – perhaps it was an early draft or a newspaper report.

I wonder if the talk was at the Crewe Mechanics' Institute.  He presented prizes there on at least one occasion when he was Bishop of Chester and you will see that at the end of this quotation he encourages them with his own example of success, saying "please to remember that I am just as much a working man as any of you":
You do not mind my taking myself for an illustration.  
Where was I born? Under the shadow of the great castle where the murderers of Thomas Becket took refuge in 1170, and where Richard II was imprisoned in 1399.  My grandfather's house stood on the site where Earl Thomas of Lancaster was taken prisoner in 1322.  My first visits were paid as a child to the scene where Stephen defeated the Scots and where Cromwell defeated Prince Rupert; my great-grandfather had a farm in the township where King Harold of England defeated Harald Hardrada;  and one of my remoter forefathers had a gift of land from John of Gaunt in the very same neighbourhood where I was born.   
As you can see, William is referring to some famous battles fought in the North and West Ridings.  His forefather John Stubbs had a grant of newly cleared land at Birstwith in the Forest of Knaresborough from the prince and soldier John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, on 27 February 1387.  I think it wasn't his great-grandfather who farmed at Stamford Bridge, but his 3xgreat-grandfather, John Wright.  Further on, it was his great-grandfather who was out in the Gordon riots.

Now he turns – he was a precociously clever little boy – to events that happened when he was four and five: the arson at York Minster in 1829; the death of the King on 26 June 1830; the July Revolution  of 1830 in France when Louis Philippe, Duc d'OrlĂ©ans, overthrew Charles X; and the election of the statesman Henry Brougham in 1830.  Brougham was a major force in the passing of the 1832 Reform Act and the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act.  
What do I remember first?  Well, perhaps the first thing I do remember was the burning of York Minster – then the death of George IV, then the second French Revolution, then the election of Lord Brougham for Yorkshire, then the Reform Bill and the Emancipation of the West India Slaves. What sort of connection had I with soldiers and churchwardens, and such like?  Oh, my grandfather was out in Lord George Gordon's Riots; and all of my ancestors, so far as I can trace, served the office of churchwarden in their time.    
You may smile at this – perhaps I was lucky in the circumstances of birth and associations – but mind you, on every one of the points that I have mentioned hangs a lot of history to which my mind was drawn by the circumstances that I have jotted down, and from which the studies began which, not to speak of smaller successes, have landed me in the dignified position to-night of having to advocate the study of history before an audience of the most intelligent people in England!  
You like, I dare say, to be told so.  As I am flattering myself as you see, I may give you a little of the overflow of my self-complacency; and please to remember that I am just as much a working man as any of you, every step of the life which is now drawing to an end having had, under God's blessing, to be worked out by my own exertions, so that to some extent I may put myself forward as a precedent for you.
He had indeed worked his way through life by his own exertions.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Festivities in Stokesley become respectable

In the Cleveland market town of Stokesley at the beginning of the 19th century, festivities were lively and raucous.  As the decades went by, organised and decorous Victorian celebrations took their place.  This is a story about Stokesley – but it will have been true of so many towns and villages!

As I explain in Radicalism in Stokesley in the 1820s, during the Napoleonic Wars the town was particularly outward looking and full of activity.  There were nearly twenty inns and the Stokesley markets were the trading hub of a wide area.  Handloom weaving was at its height and weavers were known for their independence of thought.  The town was very much part of the coastal economy of Cleveland and was the home in the winter months of East India Company captains, merchant seamen, whalers and men of the Royal Navy – and there were plenty of places for them to drink and spend their wages.  

When the Wars ended in 1815, a severe economic depression followed – but all the same, during the 1820s when George IV was on the throne, Stokesley was a Georgian town riven by fractious debate and with a raucous sense of humour.

A lasting reminder of one of the acrimonious debates is the collection of pamphlets produced in the Stokesley Paper Wars (1822-4).  This was a war of the printed word between the radical watchmaker Robert Armstrong and the Methodist tradesman Thomas Mease (much more about his ventures here).  It was a bitter and noisy debate between the supporters of radicalism, Freethought and atheism on the one hand and the supporters of religion and orthodoxy on the other.   

That wasn't the only division – there was also ill-feeling between the various forms of Christianity.  The injustice of the system of tithes lay behind this because it meant that the Methodists, Calvinists and other Nonconformists, who were already financing their own chapels, had to support the Church of England as well in the person of its local representative, Stokesley's very well-to-do rector.  Thomas Mease was an active opponent of tithes and, according to his enemy Robert Armstrong, used to go to the parish church with his friend Robert Kneeshaw "for the purpose of laughing at the Parson". 

The town's bawdy sense of humour can be seen in the newspaper report of an event that took place in the spring of 1825.  The people gave themselves over to hours of fun to celebrate the moment when a 16 year old youth married a 55 year old woman.  The church and factory bells rang, the town-crier made his announcement, the barber shaved the groom with a 30-inch razor, everyone followed the town band to the church and after the ceremony the band led the married pair, carried on chairs and followed by a crowd of people, around the town.  "Rustic festivities followed", said the newspaper report, which can be found here in the account of the flax-spinning mill behind the High Street, where the bride and groom both worked.

By 1828 things were changing and Clarke's Topographical Dictionary described Stokesley as having rather an "air of retirement than business".  But it was still a lively place – in the winter of 1832/1833, there was something like a riot when the Tory candidate Hon William Duncombe visited the town electioneering.  Thomas Mease, who opposed Duncombe's politics, was said to have instigated it.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Frederick Cator's trunk goes missing, Stokesley 1841

The story that follows was reported in the Yorkshire Gazette and the York Herald on 10 April 1841 – two rather confusing and sometimes conflicting versions, which I have melded into one, with additional research into the people concerned.  

On Thursday 11 February 1841 a young man called Frederick Sawbridge Wright Cator was on his way from the University of Durham to Stokesley, where his father Charles Cator had been Rector for the past six years.  Frederick must have been coming back to a sad household because his mother Philadelphia Osbaldeston had died at the Rectory nearly six months earlier on 29 August – anyone who encountered him on the way would have realised he was in mourning because of the crape band on his hat.

The story starts when Frederick reaches the Cleveland Tontine Inn.  The Inn was nearly forty years old at this point.  It takes its name from the way the money was raised to build it.  Gentlemen of Cleveland decided that a coaching inn at the spot where the Stokesley road met the new turnpike road from Yarm would be desirable for the neighbourhood and very convenient for travellers.  They raised a subscription of some £2,500 using a financial instrument called a tontine.  This was rather like an annuity fund crossed with a wager as to who would live the longest.  Each man received a dividend from the fund and whenever a man died his share fell back into the common fund.  This meant that the survivors received ever bigger dividends, profiting in effect from the deaths of their friends and neighbours.  

Mr Scarth of Castle Eden must have designed the new coaching inn to impress, as the Revd John Graves in his History of Cleveland (1808) says it was built "on an extensive and elegant plan".  A couple of years later (according to Pevsner's The North Riding) stabling was added for the mail-coaches which now ran from Sunderland to The Crown at Boroughbridge, a celebrated coaching inn with its own library for the amusement of travellers.  There the Sunderland mail-coach would link up with the London coaches.  

The Tontine's foundations were laid on 13 July 1804 and on the same day a letter was sent from the principal inhabitants of Cleveland to the Postmaster General asking for an improved postal service – they were clearly intent on improvements for the neighbourhood.  They wanted a daily service between Thirsk and Guisborough and their request was granted.


The newspaper accounts say that Frederick Cator reached the Tontine Inn from Durham in a gig, but they don't say how he travelled the eight miles from the Tontine to Stokesley.  I wonder if he journeyed from Durham in the mailcoach and was met by somebody from the Rectory in a gig – a light, two-wheeled sprung cart, like the one shown here.


There was no room for his luggage, so he left his trunk at the Tontine.  His father was a well-to-do man in a rich living and was remembered by his descendants, according to this fascinating account of the Cator family, as "a very extravagant man" – which is presumably why, at the 1851 census, the household included two lady's maids, a cook/housekeeper, a housemaid, a kitchen-maid, an under-housemaid and a butler.  Frederick's trunk, however, was not new.  It had previously belonged to his now married elder brother George Albemarle Cator and the initials "G.C." were picked out on it in brass nails.

Inside it were packed: 6 shirts, 8 handkerchiefs, 3 night shirts, 3 pairs of stockings, 4 pairs of lamb's wool stockings, 1 satin waistcoat, several other waistcoats, 5 pairs of trowsers, and "a great many other articles of wearing apparel".

It was left to be picked up by the carrier Thomas Tate, who took goods twice a week between Stokesley and Thirsk, where you would find his waggon at the Red Bear on the north side of the market place.  Tate's driver John Dale was due to arrive at the Tontine that evening.

John Dale was a married man aged 37, born in Helmsley.  He lived with his wife Hannah, who was born in Wass, in Silver Street, Stokesley, with their three young children, Sarah aged 9, John aged 7 and Mary aged 5.  He duly arrived at the Tontine at about six or seven o'clock on that dark February night.  He was given two items to load onto his waggon for Stokesley.  There was a box to be delivered to the boots at the Black Swan Inn – that is, to the lad employed to clean guests' boots and other lowly tasks – and also the trunk which he was told was to go to young Mr Cator.  

The boots got his box – but Frederick was not to see his trunk again for nearly three weeks.  One hopes there was someone at the Rectory whose clothes fitted him.  

When the trunk hadn't turned up after a week, the people at the Rectory took all the steps one would expect.  They sent a manservant to speak to John Dale, who said he'd never had the trunk.  Then they asked the Stokesley police to make enquiries with John Dale's employer, Thomas Tate.  Lastly they had handbills printed and distributed around the area, asking for information about the trunk.

Constable Edmund Charles Gernon went to call on Thomas Tate.  He was a man of about 44, born in Bagby, and he lived in Back Lane, Stokesley with his wife Mary and young daughters Margaret and Ann.

Gernon found John Dale there.  As he questioned the man, Dale grew more and more uneasy and distressed.  Observing his alarm, Gernon asked, 

"Why are you so agitated?" 

Dale replied, 

"I feel as if a fellow would knock me down."  

Finally he said he had actually lost the trunk.  His shaky position was made much worse by the discovery that, though Mr Tate had given him a book in which he was to record the items he was picking up and dropping off, there was no record of Mr Cator's trunk in it.  This looked worryingly like deliberate theft.  

Either in response to the handbills or because of the rumour and gossip in Stokesley and the neighbourhood, someone came forward who had seen John Dale on his way from the Tontine.  The Yorkshire Gazette described the witness as "a boy called Foxton" who was with his father, "a fisherman at Staithes".  The York Herald writes of a man called Foxton and his son, both fishermen at Staithes.  I can't identify them – unless the reporter has misheard and it was William Foxton, a fishmonger living in Hinderwell, with one of his sons, Joseph or George.  (The presence of fishermen in this story is fascinating and must show the continuing importance of the coast in Cleveland life) 

The Foxtons were travelling that evening in the opposite direction to John Dale, going from Stokesley to the Tontine, and had seen Dale but said that they hadn't noticed any trunk in the road.  The boy had a longer story to tell.  At the top of Wilkinson's Bank (I don't know where this is), he had loosed one of the horses from his father's cart and gone back to Stokesley (we don't know why) leaving his father to carry on alone to the Tontine.  On his way he met with Simpson Adamson, a 31 year old fisherman, who was walking beside his own cart.  

"Hello, have you only got here?" shouted the boy, to which Adamson made no reply.  The boy went on towards Stokesley.  A little further along the road, he came up with John Dale's waggon and went past him – he could see that Dale had a lamp lit at the front of the waggon, so he must have seen Adamson as he went along even though it was such a dark night. 

So Constable Gernon asked John Dale if he had met with Adamson on the road, and he said that he hadn't.  Which can only have added to the police's suspicions.  

On Thursday 25 February, another of the Stokesley police officers, named as Bartram or Bertram in the newspapers – I think it was James Barthram – had been sent to Thirsk to summons Simpson Adamson to appear before the magistrates on some petty offence under the Highway Act.  Two days later, Adamson came to Stokesley and at ten o'clock in the morning met Constable Barthram "at the house of a Mrs Reddington".   I can find nobody of this name, but I think it probably means they met at the George & Dragon, the pub in the Market Place kept by Mrs Elizabeth Pennington.  

Adamson had heard about the handbills and the lost trunk, and that John Dale had been arrested the day before.  He asked Constable Barthram, "What are you going to do with Dale?" and was told that he was to be brought up before the magistrates.  A couple of hours later Constable Gernon saw Adamson, who complained, 

"What a shame it is to bring me so far on such a frivolous charge as this."  

Gernon made no reply and Simpson Adamson then said, 

"I have got something else."  

"What is it?"  

"They are going to prove that Dale was drunk the other night, but I met him and am going to prove differently."  

Perhaps drunkenness was thought in Stokesley to be the reason that Dale hadn't noticed Adamson on the road – and had lost the trunk.

But when Dale was brought before the magistrates, Adamson was seen to be whispering to him and after a few moments he called out, "I found the trunk."  His story was that he found it at the top of Wilkinson's Bank.  This would mean that the Foxtons had missed it in the dark as they went past in their cart – perhaps Adamson had seen it because he was walking.  

The constables immediately obtained a search warrant and took it to Thirsk where they enlisted the help of Constable John Little and went to search Adamson's house.  There they found his wife Sarah – and the trunk.  The brass nails with George Cator's initials had been pulled out but letters addressed to Frederick Cator in Durham, undeniably identifying the trunk as his, were still inside.  Some of the clothes were not and one of the night shirts, which had been marked as Frederick's, was found to have had the name washed out.  The initials G.A.C., which had been embroidered on a handkerchief which had evidently once belonged to his brother George, had been picked out.

John Dale, Simpson Adamson and Sarah Adamson were sent to be tried at the North Riding Quarter Sessions at Northallerton on Wednesday 7 April 1841.  The charge against Dale and Simpson Adamson was larceny.  This was a serious matter and they would see the people who came up before them for larceny sentenced to some months in prison, often with hard labour and frequently with a whipping, while those who had previously been convicted of a felony were sentenced to terms of transportation.  

The prosecution case was that Dale and Adamson were in it together.  If Dale, when he put the trunk onto his waggon, intended to steal it – that was larceny.  Anyway, the Adamsons must have known, from the letters and the name marked in the clothes, to whom the trunk belonged and so they must have had a "felonious intention" when they kept it all the same.

Sarah Adamson was charged with receiving stolen goods and had elected not to be tried with her husband.  Only the trial of Simpson and John Dale seems to have been reported – the press interest lay in the fact that it was a carrier who charged with stealing, a thought that would send a shudder down the spines of every reader who entrusted their goods to one of the many carriers plying their way between towns and villages.

A "great number" of witnesses were examined and they gave Dale a previous good character.  Mr Bliss had been instructed for John Dale and he kindly agreed to act for Adamson as well.  He did a good job for them – he addressed the jury 
in an eloquent speech, arguing that the trunk had been lost from the hinder part of Dale's cart, the night being extremely dark, and also that it was possible Adamson had found the trunk, and had detained it, expecting a reward would be offered for its being given up. 
As to the names on the linen, Adamson could not read them.
The jury found both these hapless men Not Guilty.  And Sarah Adamson, too, was later found Not Guilty.

And so Frederick Cator got his trunk back and recovered his shirts and silk waistcoat.  

We don't know how modishly the young gentleman liked to dress – perhaps he was quite dapper, like the man depicted here (from an illustration on Victoriana.com).  More examples of the clothes of the period can be found on the wikipedia page on fashions in the 1840s.  

But anyone choosing to make a shirt like one of Frederick's can do no better than to consult page 142 of The Workwoman's Guide by A Lady (1840).  They will find the illustrative plates which they will need for cutting out their fine linen or lawn at the back of the book.

And what happened next to the people we have met in this story?

Looking in the 1841 Census, taken two months later on 6 June, I can see that John Dale had, unsurprisingly, lost his job.  He was working as an agricultural labourer.  Simpson Adamson, still a fisherman, had left Thirsk for Middlesbrough, where he – but not his wife Sarah – was in the household of William and Jane Adamson, who were in their early twenties.  William was a seaman and may have been Simpson's younger brother.  Thomas Tate prospered – by the time he died in 1871 he was not only a carrier but a farmer of some 40 acres.  

Constable Edmund Charles Gernon was only at the beginning of his career – he was a young man in his twenties.  He was to have an eventful year because that June he would find himself at the beginning of the story of the skeleton thought to be the remains of the missing William Huntley of Hutton Rudby.  I think Gernon was probably from Ireland.  His wife Rachael is buried in Stokesley.  She had died in July 1838, two months after giving birth to a boy whom they named after his father.  Constable Gernon left Stokesley a few years after these events to join the police in London.  

The Revd Charles Cator remarried in 1849 and brought his bride, Miss Amelia Langford of Hyde Park Gardens, home to the Rectory.  They were both 63 years old.  I rather think her money must at least partly explain the comfortable living recorded in the 1851 Census.  They both died in Stokesley in 1872.

Young Frederick Cator, who was twenty at the time his trunk went missing, was shortly to leave Durham University and go to Haileybury College for three years.  This was where young gentlemen destined to serve the Hon. East India Company were trained.  His record there shows that during his fourth term he was awarded the third prize for the Telugu language.  In 1843 he was sent out to India to be a Writer (one of the junior clerks).  His record of service shows that he was progressed to Assistant and was posted to Tirunelveli (then called Tinnevelly) in Tamil Nadu; and in 1852 to Madurai (then known as Madura) and to Guntur (then called Guntoor) in Andhra Pradesh.  

Was he coming home on leave, or going back out to India, when he left the ship at the Cape of Good Hope, to die in Cape Town on 11 February 1854?  We don't know.
York Herald, 20 May 1854
At Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, February 11th, Frederick Tawbridge [ie Sawbridge] Wright Cator, H.E.I. Company's civil service, Madras Presidency, and fourth son of the Rev. Charles Cator, M.A., Stokesley, Yorkshire
He was 33 years old.  His possessions in India were duly inventoried for auction.  The inventory, in the British India Office Wills & Probate Records, captures the life he left behind.  

The first page lists his china and tableware, beginning "One handsome Dinner Service Blue and Gold".  The word "handsome" is either underlined or deleted, it's hard to tell which.  He had "One Common set (crockery)" and nothing of this is omitted, even the extra cover for his white curry dish.  On the next page, his furniture is listed  there's a "Large Easy Chair" and a "Grasshopper Couch" , the equipment such as a "Camp Table (3 pieces) and "3 Camp chairs (mahogany)", that he needed for his journeys around the country, and his "Double barrel fowling piece".  A page full of pans and cooks' knives and "2 Spits" also lists 3 garden rakes, 2 bird cages, a Dove Cot and 16 Pigeons, ending with "1 Lot of antelope skins".

His books take 4 pages to list and include The Family Shakespeare, poetry (Byron, Cowper, Pope), classics such as Plutarch's Lives, dictionaries and grammars (Latin, German, Hindustani, Tamil...).  He followed developments in science, owning Lyell's Geology (1830-3), books on natural history, botany, Herschel's Astronomy.  He kept up with affairs in the UK and in India, taking Fraser's Magazine, Blackwood's Magazine, the New Monthly Magazine, the Edinburgh Review and the Quarterly and Calcutta Reviews.  He had a copy of his father's published sermons

The inventory ends with 5,500 Bricks (good) and 1,590 Tiles, so he evidently intended some building work.  I wonder if he was going home to marry.

There were also "6 Poodle Dogs".  These will have been the Standard Poodle, used as a gundog.

His goods were sold and the prices recorded.  Captain Allan bought a lot of the household china.  The Revd W Snyder paid £1-4s for Cator's Sermons, which will have saved him some work preparing his own, perhaps.  Captain Farewell paid £3-8s for a Map of Hindustan and Rahim Sahib paid £1-5s for a map of England & Wales and a map of Durham.  The proceeds came to £703-0s-3d.

Mr Bance paid £2 for one of the poodles.  No mention is made of what happened to the other five.