Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Boroughbridge Boyhood in the 1850s: the diaries of John Stubbs

The next series of posts will be an account of John Richard Stubbs' boyhood in Boroughbridge. 

John Richard Stubbs was born on 2 October 1838 at five minutes past three o'clock in the morning at the Bridge Foot, Boroughbridge.  His parents were Thomas Stubbs (1796-1867) and Mary Henlock (1803-91).  John was one of six children.  His brothers and sisters were Jane (1826-1902), Joseph (“Joe”) (1829-1906), Thomas (“Tom”) (1834-66), Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzy”) (1842-1914) and Alice (1844-1921).

John married Ellis Macfarlane on 13 April 1871 at Claremont House, Helensburgh.  They had three children:  Thomas Duncan Henlock (1872-1931), Mary Kathleen (1874-1948) and William Henlock who died in 1886 at the age of seven.

John qualified as a solicitor in May 1860 and started in practice in the newly incorporated borough of Middlesbrough in February 1861; he was one of the earliest solicitors in the town.  His entry in the 1903 Contemporary Biographies of the North & East Ridings of Yorkshire reads:
John Richard Stubbs, J.P., Park End, Ormesby, near Middlesbrough; son of Thomas and Mary Stubbs (née Henlock); born at Boroughbridge, October 2nd 1838; educated at Giggleswick.  Solicitor; Notary Public; Commissioner for Oaths; Clerk to the Justices for the Division of Langbaurgh North; Official Receiver in Bankruptcy for the Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, and Northallerton Districts; Justice of the Peace for the borough of Middlesbrough.  Married, April 13th 1871 at Helensburgh, N.B. [North Britain], Elizabeth Grace Ellis, daughter of Duncan Macfarlane.
John must have initially retired from practice in 1908 when he gave his law library to Middlesbrough Town Council, but it seems that the pressure of war and the absence of so many of the younger men brought him out of retirement in January 1915.  However, he was now an old man and had suffered the loss in 1914 of his fifteen-year-old grandson, a midshipman on HMS Aboukir.  His health failing, he died on 6 December 1916 at Coatham, aged 78 years.

Alfred Pease of Pinchinthorpe Hall wrote to John's son:
… When a father dies no matter what his age it makes a gap in the family that is never filled again and in your case I am certain the loss will be deeply felt, for few men by their qualities compare with your father.  In the days when I constantly met him I learnt his worth and held him in honour and I may say too in affection – a most just, kind, gentleman …
His widow Ellis died on 30 April 1922 at Scriven Lodge, Knaresborough and was buried at Coatham on 3 May.

For much of his life, John kept a diary noting the main events of his day.  The entries for the 1850s are generally written in small pocket diaries, 4½ by 3 inches in size, with a week to a page.  They are not reflective or introspective, but offer a picture of the daily life and surroundings of John, his relatives, neighbours and friends.  As this may be of interest to local and family historians, I have tried to reflect this in my account of John's early life.

Unfortunately, as nobody remembered to write the names under the photographs in the family album, my choice of illustrations was limited!

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