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Elizabeth and 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.



1903 Tweddell History.co.uk

The declining years

The last book George wrote was Cleveland Sonnets in 1890 just before the second edition of Elizabeth's popular Rhymes and Sketches to illustrate the Cleveland Dialect in 1892. By now George described himself as a 'retired author' when signing some of his children's marriage registers. There is no evidence to indicate whether George handled the work alone or took on help. Elizabeth's health became a growing anxiety to George at this time as she was often forced into bed for long periods with severe arthritis. The burden of looking after her had become too much for him, despite the help he had from a local woman, Mrs Brown, and two of the granddaughters. His own health too was failing, for he suffered increasingly from rheumatism and what he called "paralysis". The latter had started with the breaking of a blood vessel in his brain in 1885 that seriously affected him for about a year, holding up the books he had in preparation at that time. Signs of difficulties with his mind, and thus his writing, can be seen in an obituary he prepared for Matthew Wardaugh in the Hanley directory of 1888, which includes a sentence of prize-winning length. George had long had a reputation for being able to handle long sentences and this stretched beyond his death. A writer in the Cleveland Standard on 29.08.1936, while reviewing the Handbook to Redcar, Cotham and Saltburn-by-the-sea, wrote: "You can see what I mean that Mr Tweddell has done much more than give his impressions of the district. But I am glad we do not see sentences of such length in newspaper leading articles today". It recalls the comments made years earlier by a newspaper reporting Frederica Markham's bequest to George when it called him plodding, while another, anonymous cutting describes him as factive, where 'practical' seems less complimentary than the phrase, the highly imaginative', the same commentator used of his friend Walker Ord. A few years after George's death, his son Horatio John was defending his reputation in a local paper where, apparently, someone had accused George of writing "boring poems".
To add to their burdens, in 1880 they had felt obliged to take on the responsibility of their orphaned granddaughter Annie Hodgson (born 1878) from their son-in-law after their oldest daughter (and grandson) died of Typhus in Whitby. Later she was to repay their kindness by helping to look after them with one of her cousins until their deaths. All the sons and daughters travelled back to visit their parents from time to time, with the oldest son, George (1844-1919, by this time a London-based scenic artist), helping out the couple with their continuing money problems. Around 1890, their son Thomas Cole Tweddell returned home permanently from his work in Middlesbrough and stayed with them in Rose Cottage until he married in 1894 but lived nearby. During Elizabeth's most serious illness, (which coincided with the 1891 census) there was quite a collection of offspring in town, including daughter Sarah Cole Turner (from Durham City), and Horatio John Tweddell (from North Wales), for the enumerator to count.

Elizabeth died on 20th March 1899 aged 75 whilst being cared for in the Stokesley Union Workhouse (now Springfield House), what now would be called 'respite nursing'. The reports of her funeral conducted in the chapel in the New Cemetery appeared in the newspaper and mentioned the severe snowstorm that prevented many of her admirers from attending. George died on 31st November 1903 aged 80 and was buried beside his well-loved wife in the South Eastern corner of the New Cemetery. In the cortège his body was carried from Rose Cottage towards his birthplace, Garden House; along the same route his mother had carried him back from his baptism 80 years before. Unfortunately, no account of his funeral has yet been found, but family tradition has it that many prestigious local and regional dignitaries (especially free masons), as well as many relatives, joined in the funeral procession, while another tradition says the Odd Fellows present undertook a Masonic style service by the graveside in George Markham Tweddell's honour.

Two obituaries survive and appear to be the work of the same hand but with some insignificant differences. The writer(s) suggests George may have leanings toward Unitarianism, and this seems to be the only reference to religion in his works, save for many generalised appeals to God, and one denunciation of Irish Roman Catholicism in his otherwise sensitive introduction to the dialect version of the poems of John Castillo (1878): "His parents …… [were] Roman Catholics; an obnoxious state church, doing more than anything else to retard the enlightenment of the people." A final comment in the North East Daily Gazette: "On Saturday last was laid to rest in Stokesley cemetery nearly the last of the veterans of Cleveland" seems to pick up George's unfulfilled wish to publish 'a work similar to Chambers' excellent Cyclopedia of English Literature, to be confined to the Poets and Prose Writers of the North of England', and pre-empted comments of the historian Tony Nicholson, who suggests that George was one of a significant group of people trying to establish a distinctive cultural milieu for the North East, similar to local attempts to launch a regional intellectual and artistic renewal at the beginning of the 21st century.