Wednesday, 6 March 2013

William Weatherill of Guisborough (1807-73)

The obituary of William Weatherill (1807-73) captures the social change of the 19th century.  He was the second son of a Marske farmer – his father, also William, had the old Hob Hill Farm.  He was born in the violent heyday of smuggling, and in his childhood illicit cargoes were run up from the Saltburn beaches and hidden in the clay holes near his home. 

Smuggling was a huge illegal industry, as this report from the year of William’s birth shows:
Leeds Intelligencer, Monday 26 January 1807 
The smuggling trade on the north coast of Yorkshire, and on the opposite shores in Durham, has been carried on lately to a height almost beyond imagination.  It is computed that upwards of eight or nine hundred tons of different kinds of goods were landed and run in the course of the last two months in the old year; a circumstance loudly calling for the attention of Government.
Ten years later, there was little change in the situation:
Leeds Intelligencer, Monday 24 March 1817 
A terrible engagement took place on Wednesday night, near Whitby, betwixt a revenue cutter and a smuggling vessel. – Both vessels, from the severity of the storm, were run ashore, four of the cutter’s men and seven of the smugglers were killed.  Ten of the men belonging the latter went through York, unpursued, on Thursday and Friday, by the coaches for London.

William became an influential local solicitor with a practice in Westgate, Guisborough.  He was for a time in partnership with William Wyn Lloyd, and later with Arthur Buchannan. His offices in the new town of Middlesbrough were at 13 Sussex Street.

The Industrial Revolution brought widespread and profound social and economic changes during William’s lifetime.  From the 1830s, successive governments sought to mitigate the worst effects by reforming legislation.  We find this reflected in his obituary. 

The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 had established a new (and quickly, a deeply unpopular) system of poor relief – William was for 30 years Clerk to the Board of Guardians in Guisborough. 

The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1836 had brought in civil registration for England and Wales – modern government is unimaginable without it – and William was Superintendent Registrar.

The combination of an ever-growing urban population and epidemic disease brought about an awareness of the need for better public health and for improved burial provision and regulation of cemeteries, resulting in the Burial Acts 1852-7 – William was Clerk to the Burial Board and to the Guisborough Board of Health, established in 1865.

Friendly Societies had grown increasingly popular and important during the century, as a system of mutual benefit amongst the members, to provide financial protection in case of illness and accident, and to pay for a decent funeral.  William was a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters.

In 1859, the situation in Europe and fear of possible French invasion prompted the Secretary of State for War to issue a circular to the Lord Lieutenants of counties in England, Scotland and Wales authorising the formation of volunteer rifle corps.  These became very popular amongst the burgeoning middle classes, and military reviews and funerals with military trappings became a normal part of life for many.
William was Clerk to the Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding.  He was a keen member of the 20th North Riding Corps of Rifle Volunteers, established in Guisborough by Thomas Chaloner in 1861, and became its Captain Commandant.

In William’s lifetime, the agricultural landscape of the lower Tees valley had given way to heavy industry.  The farm where he grew up became the Hob Hill ironstone mine, in use from 1865 to 1874 and then again from 1899 to 1920. 
(The mine area later became the golf course, with ready-made hazards and bunkers caused by subsidence.  The farm was rebuilt on the opposite side of the Guisborough-Saltburn road.) 

He died on 13 January 1873.

His obituary reads:
The Late Mr Weatherill, of Guisborough –

Mr Weatherill, a very well known and highly respected solicitor in Guisborough, where he had practised for eight-and-thirty years, died there at his residence in Westgate, at 12 o'clock on Monday.  He was 65 years of age at the time of his death, and had been for long a popular and justly esteemed inhabitant of Guisborough, in which place the news of his death has caused a very sad impression. 

In addition to a considerable private practice, the deceased was Clerk to the Board of Guardians and the Assessment Committee of the Guisbrough Union; Superintendant Registrar of the Guisborough district, Clerk to the Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire, to the Guisborough Local and Burial Boards, and to the Skelton Local Board.  In all those offices his service was rendered with intelligence and punctuality, while his many private clients will mourn a useful adviser and a good lawyer.  
Mr Weatherill was an enthusiastic sportsman, and it may be noted also that he was an excellent shot. 

Of late years he had taken up the rifle movement very ardently, and, indeed, he was mainly instrumental in getting up the Guisborough Corps to whose funds he was a liberal subscriber, and of whom he was Captain Commandant.  
Those who had the pleasure of his personal acquaintance knew him as a man of much kindness and generosity and he was popular among a large circle of friends of all classes. 

The Volunteer Corps which he commanded gave him a military funeral, which took place at Guisborough on Wednesday at noon, at the Parish Church.  
At 12 o'clock the funeral procession set off from his residence.  In front marched the band, playing a slow march; after them walked the Rev F H Morgan, chaplain of the corps, and then came the coffin borne by volunteers, the pall bearers being also chosen from the companies Captain Weatherill commanded.  The coffin was covered with the pall of the Foresters' Lodge, the deceased gentleman having been an honorary member of that body.  On the coffin were placed his Volunteer cap and sword, and a beautiful cross of greenhouse flowers and ferns, which latter was afterwards laid on the coffin in the grave. 

After the body followed the chief mourners, while a vast number of townspeople and friends also followed.  The service over, the firing party, which had been drawn up on each side of the grave, fired three volleys, and then the volunteers, according to military custom, returned to the sound of lively music.  
The corps was commanded on the occasion by Captain W Weatherill and Lieutenant H Weatherill, and the firing party was under the charge of Sergeant Madden.  All the shops were closed as a mark of respect, and a large crowd lined the streets and churchyard.

The sales particulars for his house in Westgate show very clearly how far he had come in affluence and influence. 

The decision to sell was made quickly – perhaps it had already been long planned.  Within a week of his funeral, on Wednesday 22 January 1873, the Northern Echo carried a notice that the executors had instructed Mr H Watson to sell by public auction at the Buck Hotel on 11 February:
All that capital Freehold RESIDENCE, situate in Westgate, in Guisbrough, together with the Garth and Gardens behind the same, lately occupied by Mr Weatherill. 
The House, which is substantially built of Stone, contains on the Ground Floor – spacious and lofty Drawing Room, Dining Room, Breakfast Room, Linen Room, 2 Pantries, Scullery, large Kitchen, well closeted, with Ale and Wine Cellars underneath.  On the First Floor – 4 large Lodging Rooms, 2 Dressing Rooms, Bath Room, Nursery, Servants’ Lodging Rooms and Attics.  In the Yard are a Coal House, 2 Poultry Houses, Laundry, 2 Coach Houses and a Loft, 4-stalled Stable, with Hay Loft, Cow House for 4 Cows, Dog Kennel, Piggery, large Hay Shed. 
Immediately behind the House are Two Gardens (one walled round and containing a quantity of choice Fruit Trees) and a Paddock, in all about one and a half acres. 
The above Property is situate in the centre of Westgate, the principal street in Guisbrough, is in excellent repair, and affords to private gentlemen and to those connected with the trade of the district, an opportunity of purchasing a desirable Family Residence, such as is rarely to be met with. 
For the convenience of purchasers, the vendors will have no objection to allow a large proportion of the purchase money to remain on mortgage of the property, if required. 
Particulars may be obtained of the Auctioneer, or at the Offices of Messrs Weatherill & Buchannan, Solicitors, Guisbrough and Middlesbrough.

His widow Ann remained in Westgate – the Kelly’s Directory of 1879 shows that she resided at Number 77.  She died in 1880 at the age of 68.

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