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.


Early life - George Tweddell

Probably because he told Horsfall Turner more about himself during the interview of 1889, knowledge of George's early years is more extensive than of his future wife. George had been told (perhaps by his grandfather John Tweddell, 1770-1850), that the Tweddell family had originated in the border area of Scotland, but had migrated in the middle of the seventeenth century to escape religious persecution and settled in Easby, at that time a detached part of Stokesley parish. George Tweddell (the name by which he was baptised) was born on 20th March 1823 and claimed he was the son of a Royal Navy Lieutenant, George Markham, who had been born in 1797 in the Rectory, Stokesley. His father, another George Markham (1763-1822), was the Rector of Stokesley, whilst also holding the post of Dean of York, and his grandfather was Archbishop Markham (1719-1807), famed for saving the walls of York from demolition in the first decade of the nineteenth century with the help of the author Walter Scott. Lt Markham had lived an adventurous life in the Royal Navy, had been mentioned in dispatches during the late Napoleonic campaign on the Mediterranean coast of France and was wounded in the Siege of Algiers in 1816. Obviously, one must imagine that his dalliance with Elizabeth Tweddell (1800-1841) while on leave in Stokesley during summer 1822 resulted in George Tweddell's birth the next year and must have been a typical event in the pre-Victorian period. So too was the way the child was welcomed by this mother's yeoman family without social problems; George would be perceived as an extra worker in the family's various enterprises and brought the added advantages of 'noble blood' to add it to the Tweddell line. Members of the following generations used to say George had 'aristocratic hands', by which they meant broad, long and powerful hands and fingers with slim wrists. But these same people found it difficult to accept the circumstances of George's birth, living as they did a generation later during Victorian and Edwardian times when the hypocrisy prevalent during the period (what they called 'respectability') had taken its grip on changed social norms. The family made up a story to rationalise George's illegitimacy presumably so they could continue to discuss George's literary exploits and the glorious history of their Markham ancestors (which stretched back through John of Gaunt to the pre-Norman thane, Claron of West Markham) whilst preserving their own 'decorum'.

George Tweddell never met his paternal grandfather as Dean Markham died in September 1822 whilst on a visit to Scone Palace, the home of one of his daughter's father-in-law, Lord Mansfield, before the child was born. As a result the remaining Markhams left Stokesley by 1823 when the next Rector took over the living. Lieutenant George is the subject of a brief chapter (§19) in Sir Clements Markham's family history of 1913, Markham Memorials, stating that, during the time of his relation with Elizabeth Tweddell (the author makes no mention of it, unsurprisingly), he was suffering from a head injury the result of a fight following a dispute during a gambling game at sea. Perhaps Elizabeth found him an attractive partner - prestigious and courageous but also in need of her feminine reassurance. Although he returned to sea, Lt Markham never recovered from the injury and died in 1834 tended by his second sister, Henrietta Montgomery, at her home, Nunton House near Salisbury where her husband was vicar. Documentary evidence of Lt George's death was available in George Tweddell's time in Foster's Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire (1874), but one must assume he could not have found it, as he leaves a gap for his father's date of death in his notes, presumably hoping to fill it in when he found it.

The main house of the extended Tweddell family, Garden House, was a 15-acre farm one mile along the Great Ayton road from Stokesley and must have been considered too small to sustain a family adequately even in those days. Fortunately the family also had two businesses in Stokesley with accommodation attached, and whilst George was working in the town in the late 1830s, he lived in their grandfather's grocery shop in West Green. His Uncle, John Tweddell (1794-1862), had early become a successful businessman (and reputedly a Quaker), trading as a draper and building West Villa for himself and his wife around 1815 along with some artisans' cottages nearby.

George's mother worked in her father's grocery shop, and from an early age took George for walks around the district when time allowed during which she taught him all she knew of country lore. Consequently George developed a keen interest in everything around him while the bonds between them became very strong. When George became older he was put forward as a student at the local charity foundation school, Preston grammar school, but the governors refused to accept him, despite his obvious merit. In a way this was fortunate for, by attending the National School, he came into contact with an inspirational teacher, William Sanderson, who took him under his wing expanding the school's teaching with an informal education given around the countryside during fine evenings. These discussions built up the boy's knowledge of science, philosophy and history and he acquired a life-long love of literature, particularly for poetry.

It is likely too that his future radical views were developed at the school for it gave him the opportunity to meet the children who lived in the workhouse, many of whom were either orphans or, like George, illegitimate but less fortunate in their family circumstances. This became particularly significant in 1835, (George was 12 at this time), when the governors of Stokesley Workhouse Union, the local organisation charged with the operation of the new Poor Law Act, defied its requirements in common with many other Yorkshire unions. The Act demanded (consistent with its punitive objectives) that the teaching of workhouse children must take place within the confines of the workhouse to ensure that these children received a lower standard of teaching given by less qualified teachers. More enlightened, the Stokesley governors arranged for the six children in their care to attend the National School and consequently they received closer contact with other children and the same quality of education.

Liberal ideas were also prevalent in the Tweddell family. There is a story of some like-minded Stokesley yeomen, John Tweddell included, making up a jovial party when riding to York in 1807 to vote (the first opportunity property owners in Yorkshire had had to vote since 1741). We might hope, with hindsight, that they voted for the Tory candidate William Wilberforce, to encourage his anti-slave campaign, but unfortunately they did not, choosing the Whig candidate, presumably more to their political tastes.
Search for knowledge and unconventionality also runs through the family in the years before George's birth and is reflected in the two books that survive from this time. The flyleaf of the first book below lists the names of the owners, from the first owner, Horatio Tweddell (1769-1822, George's great grandfather) until the present time. One was the 1794 edition of A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar of the World (14th edition), that was a very popular book (it ran to over 20 editions) and included a wide-range of interests, among which was the current on-going exploration of Australia. The second book was Whistons' translation of the Jewish History of Josephus, The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus published in Newcastle on Tyne in 1786. The French philosopher Voltaire, the most progressive personality of the Enlightenment, used this book as one source of the historical implausibility of the Biblical gospels, and thus questioned the veracity of Christ's existence. Is it possible that Horatio Tweddell chose to buy Josephus and explore Voltaire's ideas further? Early in his life he had shown independence of mind by leading the anti-Catholic 'Mass House riot' recorded in John Graves' History of Cleveland of 1808.

<<Previous Next>>