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.
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)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.
And that is why on 15 April 1854 these notices could be found in the York Herald:
MANOR OF EASBYNOTICE 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.JNO. P. SOWERBY,Steward of the said Manor.Stokesley, April 8th, 1854
MANOR OF KIRKBY, OTHERWISE KIRBY, IN CLEVELANDNOTICE 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.JNO. P. SOWERBY,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.