Home Page Image

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.



1842-1844 Tweddell History.co.uk

George's first big assignment - a newspaper

After leaving school, George worked briefly with his grandfather, John, and then became an apprentice to William Braithwaite who ran one of the two large printing and publishing companies in the town. Braithwaite had the reputation of supporting promising young employees and introduced George to John Walker Ord (1811-1854), the admired author of The History and Antiquities of Cleveland (1838). The two men became friends, despite their differing politics, and continued corresponding until Ord's death.

In 1841 George sought approval from his master to set up a newspaper and his master agreed, in spite of the obviously radical tone George proposed ('to give the ordinary people of Cleveland a newspaper that would reflect their more liberal opinions rather than those of the landowning classes'). The first copy of the Cleveland News and Stokesley Reporter appeared on the 1st of November 1842 being printed on Braithwaite's presses. This major project must have consumed immense energy and may have helped to distract George from the death of his mother in February 1841 from consumption. He wrote later that, to comfort himself, he often rode many times to Saltburn to take long, pensive walks over the sands.

Unfortunately, by the time a third edition of his newspaper was being planned, representatives of the local propertied class visited Braithwaite to persuade him to stop broadcasting George's criticism of the Tory government, of which they were firm supporters. They demanded Braithwaite withdrew the use of his printing press and the licence to publish from the premises. As a result the printer dismissed George (probably on the legal grounds of "bringing his master into disrepute"). Within a month, remarkably, George had managed to acquire a new license and access to a new press (although from whom is not known) to produce the third edition on time. For George, the contents for the editorial for this edition were obvious and he castigated his former employer, claiming Braithwaite was trying to 'crush our little periodical', and that 'our printer is a good easy man, afraid that our generous principles of peace on earth and goodwill toward men should be mistaken for his own'. Although George's intemperate language no doubt reflected his youthful anger at a time of frustration, in more relaxed times he would have agreed with the historian, Daphne Franks, that 'William Braithwaite always remained in the background, a retiring figure, always eager to help local writers and further the cause of education'.

When it became obvious to his political opponents that George's newspaper was going to continue as an organ of anti-government opinion in the area, the opposition quickly put together a rival the Cleveland Repertory and Stokesley Advertiser, appearing on the same day as George's third edition, 1st January 1843. Braithwaite published this new journal, no doubt using the capacity of his press left vacant by George Tweddell's newspaper. Its editor set out its own policy: 'to put right the failure of other sources of news and opinion in the area' (whom could they mean?); 'to uphold great national institutions, especially the Church of England'; and 'to be more 'uncongenial to an agricultural population'. "We are," they concluded, "conservatives". The sounds of this debate still echo around Stokesley, for, when reaching Bridge Street, the anonymous author of the 2002 version of Stokesley Trail writes, “George Markham Tweddell lived here in the 1800s, a man of many interests, poet, historian, stirrer-up of controversy and publisher, etc.” In time, both newspapers ceased publication, the rival paper in December 1843 after twelve editions, while George's ended in September 1844, after 23 editions.

From George's editorials it is possible to construct his political 'wish-list', many of which came about. Of these some came quickly; the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846, the fall of Napoleon III in France two years later. Others took more time, coming piecemeal like the abolition (in peacetime) of the cat-o'-nine-tails as a punishment in the Royal Navy in 1871, the 1870 Married Woman's Property Act and universal franchise (from 1884). Others were indecisive, like Irish independence, equal rights of women and the abolition of the House of Lords. One, the abandonment of income tax, a form of tax then still fairly recent (1803), is yet to be abandoned.

In parallel with his newspaper activities George acted as secretary to the Stokesley branch of the Chartist Association and, when he was aged 23, shared the fate of many Chartist supporters by being imprisoned for contempt of court. Whilst there he wrote a defiant poem which was later published in Cooper’s radical-leaning magazine. This was one of a series on political themes, particularly about tyrants, oppression and people’s rights.