Saturday, 5 January 2019

The Hutton Rudby Sawmill, the Richardson family and Seaham Villas

Darlington & Stockton Times, Ripon & Richmond Chronicle, 9 October 1880

TO BE LET, to enter immediately.  TWO good FAMILY RESIDENCES, each containing Six Rooms, with Kitchen and Outoffice; large Garden. For particulars apply to JAS. RICHARDSON, Hutton Rudby, Yarm.
I thought originally that this little item from the local paper in 1880 might be of use to those trying to disentangle the Richardsons of Hutton Rudby, but on looking into it further, I found that it opened up various lines of interest:  the Richardsons, the Sawmill and Seaham Villas themselves.

The Richardson family

This coincidence of names – Seaham (of Seaham Villas) and the surname Richardson – suggests to me a link between James Richardson of Hutton Rudby and John Richardson of Hutton Rudby (1821-92), proprietor of the Seaham Weekly News

In that earlier post on John Richardson, I suggested that John was probably the son of John Richardson & Elizabeth Richardson.  In the 1841 Census, John (a "general mechanic") and Elizabeth were living in Enterpen, Hutton Rudby, with their children John, Jane, James and Robert.

(This is the O.S. map 1888-1913, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland from their magnificent Map Images Website,  Do visit the georeferenced maps on the website to use the slider which will enable you to superimpose the old map onto the map of today.)

I think it very likely that James Richardson was the younger brother of John Richardson, the proprietor of the Seaham Weekly News.  Corroboration of this idea can be found in the 1891 Census, in which a Matilda Richardson, who was the same age as James's daughter Matilda, was working as housekeeper to John Richardson's family in Seaham Harbour.  This Matilda is described as John's niece and was born in Hutton Rudby.  In addition, James had daughters called Hannah and Emma, and when John's widow died in 1905 she left £50 apiece to her nieces Hannah and Emma.  I wonder if John had invested in property to let in the village and that it was being managed for him by James ... 

John Richardson married Eleanor Wight on 20 June 1848 in the church of Dalton-le-Dale.  They settled in Seaham Harbour, where they ran a shop and started the Seaham Weekly News.

In July 1849 John's mother Elizabeth died.  The 1851 Census shows that her widower John was still living in Enterpen.  He was 56 years old and his occupation is given as Cabinet Maker.  With him were his apprentice Simeon Burdon, 18, and his nephew Stephen Richardson, 13, also described as Cabinet Maker.  I can't identify James Richardson in the 1851 Census.

However, by 1855, James Richardson was definitely in the village and was working as a joiner:-

York Herald, 13 October 1855
WANTED Immediately, a good WHEELWRIGHT and JOINER.  Constant Employment and good Wages offered.  Apply to Mr JAMES RICHARDSON, Joiner, Hutton Rudby, near Yarm
He was by then married to Hannah, whose surname I think was Charlton (a search on freebmd shows that only one James Richardson married a Hannah in the Stokesley registration district, and her surname was Charlton) and they had started a family.

By the time of the 1861 Census, James looks to be well established and with a growing family.  He had two joiners living in the household and the children (Sarah, Matilda, Lewis, Jane and Ellen) were aged between 1 month and 9 years.  His father John continued to live on Enterpen, on the same side as the National School; James & Hannah lived on the opposite side.  Both James and John are described as Joiner & Cabinet Maker, and John has married for a second time.  His second wife, like James's first wife, was called Hannah.

By 1869, James had branched out and gone into business as a Timber Merchant, as we can see from this advertisement, in which he is perhaps acting as an agent for the owners of the Mill.  I think this must have been the mill in which Joseph Mellanby Mease had lost an arm in 1860:-

York Herald, 18 December 1869
TO BE LET, a STEAM FLOUR MILL, power found, containing Three pairs of Stones, two French and one Grey, with Flour Dresser and Screen, all complete, together with Dwelling-house and Stable, &c.
For particulars apply to JAMES RICHARDSON, Timber Merchant, Hutton Rudby, near Yarm
In the 1871 Census he describes himself as a Timber Merchant employing 6 men & 1 boy.  He & Hannah had three more children: Hannah, John James and Emma.  James's father John, now 76, still described himself as a Joiner.  

And by this time, James & Hannah had moved across to the other side of Enterpen.  According to the house order listed by the enumerator, they lived in the next house after Joseph Hunt the blacksmith.  (We know that the smithy stood beside the National School, on the site of the house called Pyah.)

Smithy on the Wynd, Hutton Rudby
(the School can be seen to the right)
Next door to James was John and his second wife, and listed after John came the occupants of the Brick Garth (Poplar Avenue).  This suggests that the Richardsons were living at the top of Sexhow Lane, close to the site of the Sawmill itself – but not in the house now called Sawmill House, as I will explain later.

In 1872 he had a slight brush with the magistrates:-

York Herald, 6 January 1872
Before I. Wilson and J. Emerson, Esqs., James Richardson, Hutton Rudby, timber merchant, was charged by Robert Scrafton, excise officer, with having used a dog cart at Hutton Rudby on the 29th November last, and not having paid duty for the same.  The case, however, was dismissed.
And then in 1873, his business crashed:

Edinburgh Gazette. 8 April 1873
Bankruptcies Awarded
James Richardson, of Hutton Rudby, York, timber merchant
However, all was not lost, and he was soon back at work in the timber trade.  Within a matter of months James was the manager of the Sawmill in Hutton Rudby.  

In the 1881 Census, he was aged 52 and he and Hannah had with them their younger children, Ellen, Hannah, John and Emma.  Their eldest son, Lewis, is described as a visitor; he was a 25 year old timber merchant.  By then, James's father John had died.

In 1885, James was still a Timber Merchant in the village as we can see from this advertisement:-

Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 8 April 1885
TO LET, a pleasantly situated HOUSE at Hutton Rudby; seven Rooms; large Garden.  Apply James Richardson, Timber Merchant.  Hutton Rudby, Yarm
I think this is quite possibly one of the Seaham Villas again.  In 1880 they were advertised as "containing Six Rooms, with Kitchen and Outoffice" but I wonder if now James is counting the kitchen as one of the rooms; reducing the number of words in the advertisement would probably save expense.

Then the following year an identical house is advertised by James's son Lewis – and he gave his address as Sawmill, Hutton Rudby:-

Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 21 October 1886 
HUTTON Rudby. - To Let, good House (semi-detached); 7 rooms; large garden.  Apply Lewis Richardson, Sawmill, Hutton Rudby, Yarm 
Clearly, Lewis was now in the timber trade in the village, perhaps having taken over from his father.  A notice in the York Herald reported that on 30 June 1887 Lewis married Miss Florrie Poole of Clifton, Bristol.  In 1888 their son James Arthur Poole Richardson was born in Hutton Rudby.  Soon afterwards, Lewis cleared his stock:

York Herald, 27 October 1888
TO Wheelwrights. - A quantity of best class and specially selected FELLOES, all sizes, for Carts and Rollies.  Also BEDS, SOLES, and sundry Scantlings of first quality.  Will be sold cheap to clear - Apply to LEWIS RICHARDSON, Sawmills, Hutton Rudby, via Yarm
He and Florrie moved the family to Ripon, where their daughter Elsie was born in 1890.  In the 1901 census they can be found living in Stretford, Lancashire, where Lewis was working as a "Foreign Timber Agent".

In the meantime – and perhaps while Lewis was running the Sawmill – his father James had become a farmer.  The 1891 Census finds him and Hannah and their unmarried children Eleanor (Ellen), Hannah, John James and Emma at Potto Carr farm.  It lies off Parson's Back Lane, a little way outside Hutton Rudby.

The 1901 Census shows John James and his sisters Hannah and Emma running the farm together as partners.

The Sawmill in Hutton Rudby

Hutton Rudby Sawmill
We see here the Sawmill in full operation in this photograph, together with 6 men, 3 children and a dog on top of the log pile.  

The first mention that I can find of the Sawmill is in the 1861 Census, when it is recorded by the enumerator, not as an occupied building but in the same way that he recorded the National School and the chapels.  However, while in the 1871 census I can find several men who are clearly employed in the sawmill, in the 1861 census I can find no one.  Either the Sawmill was not in operation, or somebody ran it as part of their main business and employed general labourers to operate it.

By the time of the 1871 Census it is clear that the sawmill is in full operation and staffed by workmen from outside the village.  Apart from James Richardson, described as a timber merchant, there were 3 bobbin makers (two of them born in Middlesbrough, the other in Morley), a bobbin turner (born in Pudsey), a wood turner and a Newcastle-born sawyer.  

But James went bankrupt in April 1873 and it was clearly not a good time for timber merchants in Hutton Rudby, as another notice shows that Aaron Carter of Hutton Rudby, Timber Merchant, went into a composition with his creditors under the Bankruptcy Act of 1869 in February 1874.  Perhaps Aaron Carter had taken over James Richardson's business?  It seems very likely.

And perhaps it was at this point that the Wilson brothers became actively involved.

Allan Bowes Wilson (of Hutton House) and his brother Thomas (of Enterpen Hall) were linen manufacturers and owned the Sailcloth Mill beside the River Leven.  Their father James Wilson was the founder of their fortunes, and the family was of considerable importance in the village.  They had capital behind them and were able to invest.  I wonder if they owned the sawmill buildings, and stepped in to keep the business running.

This advertisement of 1874 shows the Sawmill – now called the Hutton Rudby Sawmill Company – advertising for workmen, and we can see from it that James Richardson is the manager:-

York Herald, 7 February 1874
WANTED, by the Hutton Rudby Sawmill Co., one WOOD WAGGONER,  accustomed to loading all kinds of timber; one SAWYER, used to work a Rack-Bench; one WOODFELLER; none but steady men, with good characters, need apply. – Address, or apply personally, to JAMES RICHARDSON, Hutton Rudby, by Yarm
And we are reminded in this advertisement of the crucial importance of the nearby railway station (now disused) at Potto throughout the history of the Sawmill (for a full account of the history of Potto station, see here):

The Northern Echo, 21 March 1874
TO FIREWOOD DEALERS. – FOR SALE BY TENDER, a constant supply of FIREWOOD, free on rails at Potto Station.  Tenders at a price per ton will be received up to the 31st inst. – Samples may be seen, and all particulars ascertained, on application to the Hutton Rudby Sawmill Company, Hutton Rudby
But the Wilson brothers' active involvement seems to have been short term.  A notice in the London Gazette of 4 May 1875 shows that Allan and Thomas had been partners in the Hutton Rudby Sawmill Company as Timber Merchants, Sawyers and Bobbin Manufacturers with Thomas Lewis of Middlesbrough, Cabinet Maker, but that the partnership was dissolved on 30 April 1875 and Thomas Lewis went on to carry on the business on his own account.

Thomas Lewis was still in business in 1879, as we can see from this advertisement:

York Herald, 16 May 1879
WAGGONER – WANTED immediately, a Head Man for English timber.  None but experienced and steady men need apply. - Thos. Lewis & Co., Sawmills, Hutton Rudby, via Yarm
Nine years later, Lewis Richardson was winding up his business at the Hutton Rudby Sawmills – and it seems likely that it was at this point that the sawmill ceased working.

The Sawmill and Sawmill House

Various questions arise over the Sawmill building.  The photograph of the sawmill shown above shows quite a range of buildings.  Did they belong to James Richardson?  Did he have the capital to erect them?  Or did he, as seems much more likely, lease the buildings and the land from Allan Bowes Wilson and his brother Thomas?

This photograph shows the Sawmill in the 1950s, divided into three dwellings.    When did this happen? 

Sawmill House, Hutton Rudby, 1950s/1960s
The censuses provide a clue.

When Lewis Richardson gives his address as Sawmill, Hutton Rudby in the advertisement of 1886, I think this is simply his business address.  The 1891 Census does not show a Sawmill House, and there is no sign of such a house in that area.

Sawmill House makes its first appearance in the 1901 Census.  Listed between the houses of the Brick Garth (today called Poplar Avenue) and Allan Bowes Wilson's home at Hutton House, we find Henry Bainbridge, builder, living at Sawmill House.  He is 34, and his family consists of his wife Susan and children Walter, Alick, Bewick and Maud. 

But I think that the house was not the terrace we see today.  The 1911 census does not give the name Sawmill House, but it is clearly the same house.  The enumerator notes that there is a joiner's workshop next door to it.  It seems to me that Henry Bainbridge is living in part only of the old Sawmill buildings, because he gives the number of rooms (not counting scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom or warehouse, office or shop) as 7.  Perhaps the joiner's workshop took up the remainder of the building.  So the final conversion of the buildings into the houses we see today took place after 1911.

And lastly

Seaham Villas, Hutton Rudby

I had despaired of identifying these houses when a chance glimpse of the 1911 enumerator's lists showed a Seaham Villa a short way up South Side on the western end.

It was occupied by John Purkis Banning, a 75 year old retired schoolmaster and his wife, and two of their middle-aged children, Miss Mary Banning (Professor of Music) and Miss Lizzie Banning (Professor of Music and Dancing).  The tailor John Hall and his family lived next door at Scarborough House.

I think Mr Banning's Seaham Villa was very probably No 37 South Side, and that, together with its neighbour Scarborough House, the pair of Victorian semi-detached brick villas just opposite North End were the Seaham Villas of James Richardson's advertisement in 1880.

An advertisement, in which Lewis Richardson describes one of the houses as "modern", supports this identification:-

Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 2 May 1887
To Let, Hutton Rudby, semi-Detached House, modern; 7 rooms; every convenience; large garden.  Apply Mr L Richardson, Saw Mill, Hutton Rudby, Yarm
And the photograph below, thought to date from the end of the 19th century, shows the two houses in the centre of the picture:-

South Side, Hutton Rudby
All photographs courtesy of the Hutton Rudby History Society.  To see them at their best, look at them on the Society's Facebook page, in the Albums for The Wynd, Enterpen and South Side.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

An elaborate hoax at Stokesley, 1849

Somebody went to a great deal of trouble to set up this elaborate hoax against a local landowner.  I wonder what can have lain behind it ...

Darlington & Stockton Times, 17 February 1849
We love at heart a jest, but not at the expense of our neighbours: we hope that whoever may have concocted the following will soon find to their cost that it is "above a joke":- 
Last week letters were sent in the name of James Emerson, Esq., to Stockton, Guisborough, Northallerton and Thirsk, requesting the attendance of solicitors, physicians, surgeons, auctioneers, builders, cabinetmakers, and even undertakers, at Mr Emerson's house precisely at one o'clock, besides ordering an open carriage and four greys from the Vane Arms at Stockton, to convey from home Mr Emerson and his family.  The various parties arrived in good time, but only to learn their services were not required.  
We understand that Mr Emerson has, with his accustomed liberality, offered a reward of £100 to be paid on conviction of the offenders, and that a clue to their discovery has already been obtained.
I'm afraid I haven't been able to discover whether the culprit was found or why it happened at all.

Mr Emerson was a man of some importance and became even more prominent in the years that followed this incident.  

According to A History of the County of York North Riding (which can be found on the British History online website) his family had owned a considerable amount of land in the Stokesley area since the 18th century.  In 1853 James Emerson added to this by buying the manor of Easby, presumably from Robert Campion because according to White's Directory of 1840 
Rt Campion, Esq., of Whitby, is lord of the manor, and resides occasionally at Easby Hall, a neat modern mansion, standing near the site of the ancient hall, which was long the seat of the Lords Eyre or Eure, the last of whom died in 1698. 
The County History describes Easby in this rather lyrical vein:
The roads of Cleveland all meet at Stokesley. That running east from the town to Whitby comes after about 4 miles to the little village of Easby.  Here a small stream which flows north from Battersby joins the Leven, and between the two streams is the park surrounding Easby Hall, a large stone mansion built in the 19th century, and the seat of Mr. John James Emerson.  The old manor-house of the Eures was on the other side of the stream, where it is commemorated by Castle Hill, on the summit of which is a memorial to Captain Cook, who was born and educated in this neighbourhood. 
On the outskirts of the park, across Otter Hills Beck, is a private chapel built in 1881 by the late Mr. James Emerson and maintained at his own expense. A little to the west is the Methodist chapel.
At much the same time James Emerson bought the manor of Kirkby-in-Cleveland from Mr John Hindson (the entry in British History online can be found here)

And that is why on 15 April 1854 these notices could be found in the York Herald:
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that at the Court Leet and View of Frankpledge, together with the Court Baron of JAMES EMERSON, Esquire, Lord of the Manor of Easby in Cleveland, in the County of York, to be holden on MONDAY, the 24th day of APRIL, in the year 1854, the Boundaries of the MANOR OF EASBY will be perambulated; and that such perambulation will commence at the Bleach Mill, within the said Manor, belonging to the said James Emerson, and in the occupation of Benjamin Claxton, and proceed from thence along the midstream of the River Leven, in a South-East direction to the Boundaries of the Manor of Kildale, at ELEVEN o'clock in the Forenoon of the same day, and proceed from thence round the Moor.
Steward of the said Manor.
Stokesley, April 8th, 1854
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the Court Leet and Court Baron of JAMES EMERSON, Esquire, Lord of the Manor of Kirkby, otherwise Kirby, in Cleveland, in the County of York, will be holden on TUESDAY, the 25th day of APRIL, 1854, at the MANOR HOUSE, in KIRBY aforesaid, at TWELVE o'Clock at Noon, when all Inhabitants, Resiants [sic], and Freehold Tenants within the said Manor, and others who owe suit and service at the said Courts, or either of them, are required to be and appear, at the time and place aforesaid, then and there to do and perform the same.  Dated this 8th day of APRIL, 1854.
Steward of the said Manor.
Stokesley, April 8th, 1854
John Page Sowerby was a Stokesley solicitor.  I think he was probably the solicitor mentioned here, who as a young man found himself increasingly anxious at the conduct of his partner Robert Brigham.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Ploughing with horses – how to do it

If you've ever seen on television a programme in which someone is struggling to plough with horses and wondered how people ever managed such an exhausting task – watch Maurice Atkinson talking to Malcolm McPhie on this video on the Hutton Rudby History Society Facebook page.

This is Malcolm's introductory note:
We are fortunate to live in a village surrounded by fields in all directions. Many of them require ploughing each year to prepare the ground for the next crop, a task that most would take for granted. Prior to WWII this activity was largely accomplished by horses and a ploughman.
This video is an interview with retired farmer, Maurice Atkinson (aged 91 on September 15th!) where I asked him to talk about learning to plough using horses.
In the interview he describes how his grandfather (Cooper Atkinson of Goslingmire Farm) spent an afternoon teaching him the necessary skills. The year was 1939 and Maurice was only 12 years old at the time.
Unfortunately we don’t have any photographs of Maurice working with horses, but have shown one of his father Eric W. Atkinson working with horses and one of Maurice in his teenage years working with a tractor.
Maurice, his father, and his grandfather were all prize winners at local ploughing and hedge cutting competitions.
In the second part of the video Maurice uses a scale model of a Ransome Plough to describe the complexities of setting one up correctly. He was a skilled blacksmith and welder and made the model himself.
We are lucky to have such in depth knowledge of farming in the 1930’s on our doorstep.
There should be no need to fight with a plough.  "A plough should run on its own," explains Maurice.  "It'll run on its own if it's set right."

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Local newspapers report the news of the Armistice in 1918

The North-Eastern Daily Gazette 12 November 1918
The rejoicings which began in Middlesbrough yesterday morning over the news of the armistice continued without interruption till nearly midnight and the town has seldom passed through fourteen hours of such joy.  In the afternoon the streets were a seething mass of humanity, and Linthorpe-road has seldom been so congested.  All the works were stopped by mid-day, and as the day wore on the neighbouring communities poured their thousands into the town to swell the huge crowds who had already congregated in the main thoroughfares.  Owing to restrictions of all kinds which could not be entirely removed with a wave of the hand, the illuminated display was not on such a scale of grandeur as might have been possible on an occasion of rejoicing in the halcyon days of peace; but the people did their best with the lights at their disposal, and the brighter streets were a pleasant reminder of a time which seemed almost to go down into the distant past.  The sky was lit up at intervals by the pyrotechnic display, and the jubilant note which prevailed throughout seemed to be well controlled.  In the days to come when Middlesbrough spreads its wings it will probably be better able to accommodate such huge crowds on a day of national rejoicing, but it may never again have an occasion when the circumstances so thoroughly justified such an explosion of pent-up exuberant patriotic feelings. 
In the long history of Stockton there have been many enthusiastic gatherings in the High-street opposite the Town Hall, but never one so large and so lively - and yet well behaved - as assembled yesterday afternoon when the Mayor and a number of other public men delivered short speeches of congratulation upon the great event of the day.  The band of the Bowesfield Ironworks played, and the people, with all their hearts, and with all the powers their lungs could give, sang the National Anthem, and then sent up cheer after cheer for the King.  "It is a memorable occasion, an occasion which has never before occurred in the history of the country," said the Mayor (Alderman J Harrison) "and we rejoice in it.  After four years of terrible war we have broken the terrible German menace, and we are confident that we have broken it in such a way that Germany will never again be able to make war.  This is not yet a declaration of peace, but we thank God that the armistice has been signed, and that we can see the end of the war."  
There followed loud cheers, and with cheers were also greeted the other speeches in the High-street, Stockton.  Alderman Bainbridge said we had fought a good fight, and won, and he hoped that everyone would feel the responsibility of doing his or her share in the work of reconstruction which lay before the country.  "Whilst," said Alderman Nattress, "we rejoice in victory, and whilst we think of those men who have won the final victory, let us not fail to remember those who have fallen on our behalf."  "It is a victory for the forces of democracy and freedom over autocracy and militarism," said Councillor Bollands.  Councillor W Reed said in the great fight we had proved that might is not right, but that right is right, and that the God of Righteousness had been on our side.  Councillor I Robson and the Vicar of Stockton also addressed the gathering, and the company broke up with the singing of the National Anthem.  Similar proceedings took place from the balcony of the Town Hall, Thornaby. 
A solemn Te Deum will be sung at All Saints' Parish Church, Middlesbrough, tonight at 3pm, in thanksgiving for the end of the war. 
During the afternoon yesterday, the No 1 South Bank Boys' Brigade paraded South Bank, calling the people to a United Thanksgiving service at the Wesleyan Church.  There a good and representative company, which was presided over by the Rev M P Evans, President of the Free Church Council, and addressed by the Revs H W Pates, J Rutherford, C Allwright, and Councillor Vaux.  National hymns were sung, and the thanksgiving of the assembly voiced by Councillor T Bosher, Mr T Peacock, and others.  It is intended to continue the rejoicing on Sunday evening next in the Baptist Tabernacle.

The Yorkshire Post carried reports of rejoicing across the region, including

The Yorkshire Post, 12 November 1918
Cheering soldiers were in great evidence at Richmond, and at the Market Cross there was a great crowd, where, on the motion of the Mayor, it was decided to send a message of congratulation to Marshal Foch, Sir Douglas Haig, and the Prime Minister.  At Catterick Camp a general holiday was proclaimed 
At Whitby the band of the Hunts, Cyclist Battalion paraded the town, and the gaily decorated streets were thronged with happy people.  
There were scenes of intense enthusiasm at Darlington, but happily unmarked by any touch of rowdyism.  

Remembrance at Nunthorpe

At Nunthorpe, impressive displays by the Nunthorpe and Marton Knitters remember the fallen of the Wars and the suffering of children and animals.  This photograph from the Nunthorpe Working Together Facebook page shows the display near the War Memorial.

Midshipman Duncan Stubbs is commemorated on that Memorial.  His story can be found here.  And here is a photograph of his father's horse Jess, one of the many horses who died during the First World War, can be found here

Duncan's father Thomas Duncan Henlock Stubbs built the Red House on Church Lane, Nunthorpe and the family lived there for many years.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Joseph Skelton, grocer & draper of Hutton Rudby in 1830

Perry's Bankrupt Gazette, 13 February 1830
To Trustees for the equal benefit of Creditors, pursuant to 6th Geo. IV. cap. 16, sec. 4 
SKELTON Joseph, (Dec. 14) of Hutton, near Rudby, Yorkshire, grocer & draper.  Trustees, F Richardson, of Stokesley, gent. and R Tate, of Easby, farmer.  Sol[icitor]. Mr [William] Garbutt, Stokesley
Perry's Bankrupt Gazette, 26 February 1831
Insolvents applying to be discharged 
Court-house, York, for the county, 11th March, at eleven.
CATCHASIDES James, jun. of Hutton Rudby, near Stokesley, genl. shopkpr. late of Ormesby, near Guisborough, out of business
CATCHASIDES James, senior, of Hutton Rudby, near Stokesley, Yorkshire, publican and blacksmith 
The Joseph Skelton who went bankrupt in 1830 must have been the husband of Elizabeth ("Betty") Catchasides, whose father and brother applied for their discharge in 1831.  Clearly times were hard in Hutton Rudby in those years.

Joseph and Betty had married on 3 August 1826, when she was about 42 years old.  She was the daughter of the elderly couple, James & Grace Catchasides, who kept the Bay Horse Inn at the top of Hutton Bank, beside her father's smithy.

Betty, her father, mother and brother all died in the first week of the cholera outbreak in Hutton Rudby. 

For the full story of the year of the cholera and what happened to the unfortunate Catchasides, go to this post from 2012, where you will find the relevant chapter of my book Remarkable, but still True: the story of the Revd R J Barlow and Hutton Rudby in the time of the cholera.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Midshipman John Duncan Stubbs (1899-1914)

This was written for the archives of the Live Bait Squadron Society.  

John Duncan Stubbs (always known as Duncan) was born on 24 June 1899 at Coatham on the North Yorkshire coast.  

When he was eight years old, his family moved inland to the rural hamlet of Nunthorpe Station, south of the industrial town of Middlesbrough where his father was in practice as a solicitor.  Coatham remained a familiar place; his grandparents lived there and in May 1909, when he was nearly ten years old, Duncan left the care of the governess who had taught him at home with his younger brother and became one of eleven pupils boarding at Coatham Grammar School.

By that time he had already decided that he wanted to join the Navy.

Duncan’s parents could live very comfortably on his father’s professional income – this was a time when food was cheap and domestic staff plentiful – but their finances needed careful management.  His father, Thomas Duncan Henlock Stubbs (also always known as Duncan), and mother, Margaret Isobel Buchannan (“Madge”), herself the daughter of a solicitor, had three children.  Duncan was their eldest.  His brother Hugh was nineteen months his junior, born a week before the death of old Queen Victoria, and their sister Katharine was born in 1905.  Duncan and Madge were anxious to do their best for the children.  They must have found little Duncan’s ambition a source of pride and some relief; fees for the Royal Naval Colleges were subsidised by the government and were not as high as those charged by the public schools.  This would be an ideal way of educating the boy and providing him with a career.  His younger brother’s future would have to depend on getting scholarships.

Madge & Duncan Stubbs
with Duncan, Katharine & Hugh

After two years at Coatham Grammar School, Duncan was sent in January 1911 to Pembroke Lodge, a preparatory school at Southbourne on the south coast.  His parents probably thought this would better prepare him for the Selection Committee and the entrance examination for the Royal Navy College Osborne.  He passed these hurdles in February 1912; after his death the private secretary to the First Sea Lord wrote that Duncan 
“was quite one of the best boys that ever came before the Selection Committee for Osborne & his progress at the two Colleges had only confirmed the good opinion we had formed of him.”  
Duncan Stubbs c1914

Duncan was a confident, lively boy, much liked, good at his schoolwork and excellent at sports.  At home, he led his brother and sister in fun and mischief in their rather hazardous games in the ponds and woods beside their home.  He loved the family dogs and country sports, and he and his brother and their friends were to develop a passion for motorbikes, after having been allowed to borrow the one owned by Gerald Cochrane, a close family friend.

He entered RNC Osborne in May 1912.  At the end of his first year he was one of the four boys, out of seventy, to be promoted cadet captain.  At the end of his second year he came out head of the list, being presented with the prize for the highest aggregate of marks, including seamanship and engineering.

Centre: Duncan Stubbs
Right: Geoffrey Gore-Brown

That winter his parents found the money to send him on a holiday to Switzerland; he had evidently been invited to join friends in winter sports at Klosters.  He enjoyed it enormously, sending a postcard to Gerald Cochrane asking him to persuade his father to let him have a go on the bob run:
“It is absolutely safe on the run we use but the people I am staying with will not take the responsibility.  [Added at the top of the postcard] You might put it v. gently”
He entered RNC Dartmouth in May 1914, a few weeks before his fifteenth birthday.  His grandmother sent him a postal order (“I will give your mother another five shillings to keep till you may require it later on”) and his father wrote, 
“I hope you will have a happy day and many happy and useful years.  You are beginning to get to an age not far removed from early manhood and you will meet new troubles and difficulties but if you face these squarely and are determined to stick to the right you will pull through alright.”
Duncan expected to go home on leave in early August and was longing to try out the motorbike that his father had recently bought.  The family expected him back on the 6th, but on 4 August they received a postcard from the college saying that Duncan had been sent to his war station at Chatham.  That evening, his father, an officer in the Territorial Army, received his own order to mobilise.  He and his Battery (the Northumbrian North Riding Heavy Battery) were posted to Tyneside, where he would be joined by Madge and the younger children within a few days, and he was promoted Major. 

Within a day or two, the family heard from Duncan.  The order to mobilise had arrived during a game of cricket, but everything was packed and down to the station in a very short time and, he being placed in charge of nine other boys, they had travelled through the night to Chatham where he joined HMS Aboukir as senior acting midshipman.  Duncan wrote to Gerald Cochrane,
“I say you might sort of reassure my mother and tell ’em that it is nothing serious as I think Mother will start to fret.  I would be very grateful if you would.  I am in the ‘Aboukir’ cruiser and we will not probably see service unless there is a real set to.  I am sorry that I won’t be back yet to ride the bike.  Do you realise that 1915 Douglases have 3 speed gears?  Well I hope I will meet you again and until then, adieu … [written in a corner of the postcard]  I have an idea we will meet sometime and have a gorgeous time on our Bikes”
Duncan evidently wrote home when he could, but the letters have not survived.  He wrote in a postcard to Gerald Cochrane dated 25 August,  
“We are having a very fine time.  After the days work we go & do gym on the quarter-deck to keep us in training.  I am writing a PC [postcard] which gets through the GPO & censure [censor] quickest.  I am keeping a diary.  I wonder how the works are standing the strain.   Will they hold out?  [Cochrane was an ironmaster] I wonder what the Daily Mail’s accounts of the War looks like?  All headlines I suppose.  We get our news by wireless & then get the stale papers which are about our only form of literature.”
On 21 September, the day before the disaster, his parents received an account of him from the mother of another midshipman.  This was Mrs Wilson, mother of Alisdair, and she wrote because HMS Aboukir had been at Chatham recoaling and repairing for four days in mid-September, and she had gone to visit her son.  She had invited Duncan to join them; later she was to tell Madge that in his letter of thanks to her for her kindness, Duncan had written, “Next time I shall hope to have my Mother but she is so far away in Newcastle.”  Mrs Wilson reported that, all the boys being promoted midshipmen, there had been much competition amongst them to be the first in having the midshipman’s patches put on their uniforms.  Duncan, she told his parents, was as full of life and spirits as a boy could be.  Indeed, it’s clear that Duncan enjoyed every moment of his time on board ship.  It was, for him, the most enormous adventure and he excelled at his work.  

The gunnery lieutenant, John Bernard Hughes, wrote to Duncan and Madge on 24 September from his father’s rectory at Tarporley in Cheshire, when Duncan was still posted missing and hope remained that he might yet be found among the survivors,
“He was a very great friend of mine.  So absolutely straight and upright, so thoroughly keen at any work or game, always cheerful no matter at what hour of the night or day or how rough the sea was.  He was my special assistant, and always worked with me.  As you probably know, he was the senior midshipman, and as I was the officer in charge of them I had much to do there, and could not have done without him.  He will be a great loss to the service, and was bound to have done well.  I only hope that he may still be alive to do so now”
On 2 October, with Duncan’s death confirmed and after appearing before the inquiry at Chatham, Lt Hughes set off for Newcastle to talk to the parents.  Major Stubbs recorded in his diary:
“He spoke so nicely of Duncan and found some difficulty in speaking sometimes.  He said Duncan was extraordinarily quick and capable, able to pick up things in a day or less that an ordinary person would take a week over, he was known and liked by all the men and was quite capable of managing his battery of 12 p[ounde]r guns entirely by himself.  Hughes could leave him alone in charge of the battery and at the foretop, Duncan’s station, knowing the work would be done properly.  He said it was impossible for Duncan to tell a lie and that he was a long way the most capable of the midshipmen.  Duncan had never mentioned to Hughes that he had passed out top from Osborne and Hughes did not know it until I told him, but D had often talked about us and Nunthorpe to him.  Duncan and the gunner Mr Shrubsall were great friends and took the watch together, Hughes wanted to change Duncan’s watch for some reason but Mr Shrubsall would not hear of it, he liked to hear Duncan talk at night and would not have any other midshipman with him.  Hughes said that when he was in his hammock he could hear the two talking on watch and Duncan’s laugh could be heard all over the ship.  Duncan had been perfectly happy at sea the whole time, was never sick and always cheerful, the night before the disaster Hughes had spent a long time with Duncan and said he was in splendid spirits”
Duncan & Gunner Shrubsall

It was from Lt Hughes that Duncan and Madge at last learned something of the movements of HMS Aboukir and Duncan’s part in them:
“Ever since the War began these cruisers had been engaged in patrolling the North Sea off the German coast preventing mine laying the only time when they were withdrawn for a few days the Germans came out and laid mines.  Also they had taken marines to Ostend when fighting was expected there, Duncan begging Hughes to let him go with the landing party”  
Lt Hughes wrote a few days later from the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport to Gerald Cochrane,
“He was always so cheerful.  Everyone who had anything to do with him liked him.  I know the men did.  He had charge of one of the 12 pdr: batteries & took charge of it splendidly.  He drilled the guns’ crews before he had been more than a few days on board, – they were nearly all reservists – men of 30 to 40.  He had the knack of taking charge.  As he told me one day, “the men didn’t seem to take much notice of what he told them, but he didn’t want to ‘run them in’ as they always did it.”   
We had some very rough weather a few days before the disaster, but he was not the least seasick, though I admit I was pretty bad.  He was the senior midshipman and as such took charge of the remainder splendidly.  I was in charge of them all, but left it nearly all to him.  I have never met anyone so quick at picking up anything.  He seldom wanted telling twice.  He made great friends with the Gunner – an excellent man – and they used to keep watch together at night on the guns manned for defence against torpedo attack.  I used to sleep in a hammock close alongside and I shall never forget his hearty laugh (which was usually the last thing I heard before I went to sleep & the first thing I heard when I woke) at the Gunner’s rather tall yarns.”
Later he told Cochrane:
“As senior midshipman, and as there was no sublieutenant in the gunroom, I frequently had to call on him in matters concerning the discipline of the gunroom, which he said, made him feel rather like a policeman.  I asked him what the others thought about it and he said “That doesn’t matter; I can punch all their heads except Gore Browne, and he and I get on all right.”  He started a “temperance league” as he called it, which meant refraining from throwing food, etc, about the gunroom, and really the Gunroom was remarkably well behaved as gunrooms go”
With Lt Hughes’ help and through the letters and telegrams that flew between the midshipmen’s mothers, Duncan and Madge began to piece together some idea of the sequence of events.  It had been a scene of terrible confusion and it took some time for details to emerge.  

The Aboukir was hit by a torpedo fired by a German submarine at 6.20 am on the morning of Tuesday 22 September.  Duncan, the senior midshipman, went below to wake Midshipman Herbert Riley, who had slept through the explosion.  Riley (who did not survive the disaster) told Lt Hughes this himself, when they were in a boat together.  “It required some pluck to do that, with the ship heeling over and liable to go at any moment,” commented Hughes.  

The Aboukir’s midshipmen then went into the water and swam for the Hogue; she herself was hit and went under at 7.05 am.  Before they reached her, Duncan and Midshipman Kit Wykeham-Musgrave had together tried to save a drowning marine.  

Duncan’s parents learned of this from Kit’s mother.  She described their attempt to keep the man afloat and their success in reaching the Cressy shortly before she too was hit at 7.30 am.  Mrs Wykeham-Musgrave’s letter does not survive, but is paraphrased by Major Stubbs in a letter written on 17 October to Gerald Cochrane:

Duncan & her boy after leaving the Aboukir swam towards the Hogue but before they reached her they saw a drowning marine they got hold of him & held him up for a long time, telling him how to help himself by floating, the marine could not swim, but they could not keep him afloat any longer & he was drowned.  They then swam towards the Hogue but she sank before they reached her so they got to the Cressy where they had cocoa & were sitting together on the quarter deck when the Cressy was struck the second time.  They both went into the sea again & after that Musgrave never saw Duncan again.

Later, Kit seems to have given a fuller account of events, in which he described Duncan’s death; it must have been hard for the boy to speak of the deaths of his friends.  

Duncan was last seen clinging to an oar with his close friend Geoffrey Gore-Browne.  They took the oar to the aid of a drowning man, but his desperate grip took all three of them under the water and they were lost.  

The disaster happened so early in the War that, although it came as a terrible, dismaying shock, early enthusiasm and patriotic idealism remained untouched.  This can be seen in Lt Hughes’ second letter to Gerald Cochrane, who was by then trying to join the Army (“I hope you will have no difficulty in getting to the front”, Hughes wrote).  Of Duncan, Hughes said,
“What a glorious death & what a hero the boy was.  Dying hardly seems to matter if one can die like that.  It makes me feel quite ashamed of myself, to think of him risking his life 3 times in as many hours to save others.”
In Newcastle, Tuesday 22 September had passed very pleasantly:
“we were all so jolly and happy, little did we think that our dear Duncan had that morning given his
T D H Stubbs
life for his country”
wrote Major Stubbs in his diary.  At about 5 o’clock he went to the house where his wife and daughter were staying, intending to take them out for a walk.  As he entered the gate he saw Mr Bell, the owner of the house, with a newspaper in his hand:
“he was very white and looked much distressed when he saw me.  I guessed in a moment, he asked me to go into the house and then asked the name of the ship our boy was on.  I told him.  He shewed me the paper in which the stop press news stated in a couple of lines that the Aboukir had been struck by a torpedo.  Nothing further.  I wired the Admiralty for news and he very kindly took the telegram.”  
Major Stubbs then went out in the hope of discovering more information before telling his wife.  He found another newspaper which carried an official report that the three vessels had been struck and that lists of the saved – “a considerable number” – would be published as soon as possible.  

As he waited in the camp for more details to come through, Mr Bell came to tell him that Madge had received a telegram from her sister asking whether they had news of the Aboukir; he went to her immediately.  Meanwhile, in the chaos, their nine-year-old daughter had picked up the newspaper and learned of the fate of her brother’s ship for herself.  

“That night”, wrote Major Stubbs
“I wired Mrs Wilson the mother of one of the other boys asking if she had news and stayed that night at St Georges Terrace.  Neither of us slept and the suspense was too terrible, Mrs Wilson wired about 1.30 am to say she had no news yet.”
The next day they heard by telegram from the Admiralty that Duncan was not among the saved.  

Major Stubbs’ diary entry for the following day begins,
“Another terrible day.  I don’t know how we got through it.  Many letters from friends but awful.”
Their younger son Hugh had by then started at his public school, Sherborne.  The news of his brother’s death was broken to him by his housemaster.  It took the man two attempts; on his first, he was unable to bring himself to do it.

Letters of sympathy were pouring in; the family received more than a hundred within the first five days.  A memorial service was arranged for Friday 2 October at St Cuthbert’s, Ormesby, where the family worshipped.  “The church was full of people,” wrote Major Stubbs,  
“Everyone loved our little Duncan and they are very touched at his death.  Neither the choir nor bellringers would accept payment so I thanked them all, Metcalfe the leader of the ringers said, ‘That is the very least we could do Sir’”  
Major Stubbs soon learned that bodies were washing up on the Dutch coast and he approached the Dutch authorities.  On the 6 October, General Snijders, Commander in Chief of the Dutch armed forces, wrote to his officers saying that he had been asked to cooperate in the search for the body of Cadet Duncan Stubbs so that it might be returned to his family.  He described Duncan as a slight boy of fifteen, blond, with delicate features and blue eyes.  

We know from Major Stubbs’ diary of one result of this appeal.  On Wednesday 14 October he was sent details by the British Vice Consul at Ymuiden of the body of a boy of about seventeen, together with a photograph.  He could not identify the face but thought the hands were similar to Duncan’s.  He telegraphed the Vice Consul asking him to look for identification marks “especially the teeth and to take a cast if possible”, but the boy was not Duncan.  

A recent discovery among papers relating to the town council of Heemskerk reveals that they thought that a beachcomber in their employ had found Duncan’s body on 12 November, but it is not known whether an identification was made.  As far as the family was concerned, Duncan’s body was never found.

In mid-October Major Stubbs heard that Duncan’s sea chest was still at Chatham and would be sent home.  He wrote to Gerald Cochrane, who was a near neighbour, and who was of great assistance to the family at this time,
“I wonder if you could possibly take it in, it is a big thing but there may be things in it which should be kept, it is probably locked & the key will be lost with the ship but I believe they are all numbered & probably a duplicate key can be obtained.  The chest could of course be taken to our house & put in his bedroom, when I could see it next time I am over probably this would be the best & it is very big & heavy – I want to keep it though, he was so proud of it.” 
The chest has not survived the years, but its contents included Duncan's lettercase, in which were found the letters that he had received on his birthday.

Duncan Stubbs

Duncan was commemorated by his friends and family on a brass plaque in Ormesby church and, together with his cousin 2nd Lieut. Jock Richardson who died a few months later, on a plaque in Guisborough parish church.  His name is inscribed on the Nunthorpe War Memorial and on the memorial erected by Coatham Grammar School.

In the years that followed, the family’s grief was embodied in a sadly lasting form in the lifelong depression that afflicted Duncan’s mother.  In the 1920s she was admitted on at least two occasions for treatment in an institution, and her bitter distress was manifested until her death in 1958 in difficult and often unkind behaviour towards her family and those nearest to her.  


When Henk van der Linden appealed in the Navy News for contact from the families of men of HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, I replied on behalf of my family to tell him of Duncan’s life and of the diary entries made by Major Stubbs during those terrible weeks.  By a curious coincidence, Henk at this point had received only two other replies, and one was from the family of Gunner William Shrubsall, whose name appeared in Major Stubbs’ diary.  This was all the more striking because on the publication of the Dutch edition of his book Henk had recieved a letter enclosing the request from General Snijders to his officers regarding the body of Cadet Duncan Stubbs.

We were very moved to learn from Henk that the site of the wrecks had become a vital ecological resource, a nature reserve for marine life.  We were honoured and delighted to be present at the launch of the English edition of his book on 22 September 2012 and at the centennial commemoration of the disaster in Chatham and The Hague.  We were frankly amazed to find ourselves part of the film made by Klaudie Bartelink and her team.

We had never forgotten the blight caused by the loss of a boy so loved and full of promise, but at the book launch in 2012 we met families on whom the disaster had brought the extra burden of dire financial need, with emotional and economic consequences to a man’s widow and children that cascaded down the generations.  The implications of the lasting social dislocation caused by war was brought home to us fully for the first time; I know that realisation was shared by others there, historians and families.  The ability to share stories with the other families in 2012, the pleasure of meeting the family of Gunner Shrubsall, and the moving experience of meeting the family of Otto Weddigen in 2014 have left a lasting imprint on our minds.

At the book launch at Chatham in 2012, Duncan Barrigan, great-grandson of Duncan Stubbs’ brother Hugh, was fired with enthusiasm by the presentations by divers Klaudie Bartelink and Robert Witham.  On 4 August 2013, with Klaudie and her team of diver-filmmakers, he dived the wreck of the ships that his great-great-uncle had known, in the North Sea waters where little Duncan Stubbs had died nearly a hundred years before. 

Related blog posts

There are quite a few posts on this blog that relate to young Duncan Stubbs, so I have rounded up a few of them here:

The loss of HMS Aboukir, Hogue & Cressy
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 23 September 1914
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 27 September 1914
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 1 October 1914
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 2 October 1914
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 5 October 1914
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 14 October 1914
Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 16 October 1914
The wrecks of HMS Aboukir, Hogue & Cressy
Nunthorpe-in-Cleveland War Memorial - this includes the Order of Service for the unveiling of the memorial in 1921

War Horse - Major Stubbs' horse Jess

Klaudie Bartelink's documentary

A Boroughbridge Boyhood in the 1850s - this begins a series of posts on John Duncan Stubbs' grandfather, John Richard Stubbs
Days of plenty in Redcar - a middle class household before the First World War - these are recollections of meals at her grandparents' house, recorded by Katharine Isobel Ellis Stubbs, but it begins with her vivid memory of the beginning of the War
Nunthorpe in the early 20th century
War begins - Nunthorpe, 1914
The Live Bait Squadron 1914: survivors from Whitby
The War Memorial to the 50th (Northumbrian) Division