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George Markham Tweddell.


Elizabeth and George Markham Tweddell

1824-1843 Early life - Elizabeth Cole.

1823-1843 Early life - George Tweddell.

1842-1844 George's first big assignment - a newspaper.

1843-1854 Marriage and the earliest publications,

1855-1860 Work amongst Lancashire's poor.

1860-1890 George's later publications.

c.1865 + Elizabeth enters the literary frame;

c.1875-1892 Staving off ruin.

1872-1892 George, the historian.

c.1870-c1885 The political activist - a historian making history.

1903 The declining years.



c1870-c1885 Tweddell History.co.uk

The political activist - a historian making history

George's work in the political field still awaits proper evaluation, but whilst this text is being written there is a growing understanding of the significant part he played in Cleveland's political activity. This comes not only as a result of the obvious influence of his newspaper in the 1840s, but also from the political support he gave to the development of trades unions among local iron miners toward the later years of his life. A number of the archived records of the meetings of these unions mention George and he briefly writes about this in his introduction to Bards and Authors. One recent cultural analysis is critical of the Arcadian and arcane subjects chosen by the area's 19th century poets. Its writer, Andy Croft, feels these writers should have given more attention to exposing the deprivation of many of the inhabitants of industrial Middlesbrough, rather than extolling the beauties of Cleveland's scenery or giving an idyllic, but false picture of rural life in Yorkshire during the 18th century. Not surprisingly, considering the well-known, radical stance George had taken, Andy Croft chooses George's poetry as evidence for his case. He contrasts it with the literature of such novelists as Gaskell and Dickens whose beneficial aim was to raise the social plight of ordinary people in industrial areas.

Perhaps these writers (and George Markham Tweddell, in particular) had another strategy in mind as yet unexplored. They would have known from personal experience that Stokesley during the second half of the nineteenth century, unlike now, was no rural paradise overlooked by striking hills. It had many slum dwellings and was suffering financial decline and depopulation as a result of a national deterioration in agriculture and a shift in local trade from rural to urban locations. As for the hills, the Cleveland Hills escarpment was not an appealing scene for the extraction of stone, iron ore, jet and alum from its flanks had scarred it. Consequently so damaged were they that it has yet to be fully restored. Indeed the iconic Roseberry Toppin' will never recover from the ironstone mining carried out on its summit.

The Tweddells were well aware of this as, for by 1890 only one of their eight surviving children were still living in the town. Of the others one daughter was living in Guisborough, another in Durham City, a deceased daughter's family was living in Whitby, whilst two sons were based in London (and working throughout the country), a third son in North Wales and a fourth in South Shields. Even before this time Elizabeth Tweddell had written the melancholy poem, 'Awd Stowslay Toon' in 1875, describing Stokesley's sad condition: "We aint mitch trade/ Ah mun confess,/ Fer Stockton did us brown,/ Wi' takking t' market clean away/ Fra poor awd Stowslay toon", and in a later stanza: "There 's monny a yan 'at 's geean away".

Inevitably, anyone living in the area came into contact with many industrial workers, as did George and Elizabeth. Two of their daughters married men who became ironstone miners shortly after marrying. One, son-in-law, Robert Watson, was originally a butcher and from a family of yeoman stock who had farmed Rosedale from Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, but was lured to work in a mine near Skelton Green, and the other, Thomas Turner, at first a grocer, moved to the mine at nearby Brotton. Robert Watson's older brother (an agricultural worker) also moved from Rosedale with his family and settled in New Skelton. Son Tom Cole Tweddell, too, had two brothers-in-law in the mining industry; both had been agricultural workers but moved away to be miners, one to the iron mines above Ingleby Arnside, the other to the southern area of the Durham coalfield. Three of Robert Watson's daughters (i.e. George and Elizabeth's granddaughters) married the sons of miners after their grandparents' deaths to men they had met as children in Skelton Green in the 1880s. These men's fathers had originated from a variety of places; one enticed from North Norfolk (a shepherd), another from West Cornwall (a tin miner), and the third was a local agricultural labourer. Thus George had every reason to visit the Skelton area and see the problems experienced by miners and their families for himself and involve himself in their struggle. (Perhaps another useful research subject could explore whether George's involvement in miners' organisations contributed to the rise of the left wing political party emerging in Britain at the end of the 19th century?)