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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.



1855-1860 Tweddell History.co.uk

Work amongst Lancashire's poor

During the 1840s British industrial towns were experiencing the worst effects of the industrial revolution. Large families lived in destitution, with inadequate housing and frequent periods of unemployment. In 1850, the British government was alerted to these conditions through a report by the Committee of Council that had recognised a correlation between those being convicted of crimes and their lack of education. By introducing children to reading and writing and by giving them the habits of working regularly, members of the council hoped children: "who had fallen into a life of crime could be persuaded to amend their ways" through 'Industrial Schools' set up by local initiatives. If anywhere in Britain needed such institutions, it was the new town of Middlesbrough where, according to the historian, R.I.P. Hastings, social facilities were slow in developing due to the town's lack of leadership (except for the efforts of a handful of non-conformist churches). Inevitably, despite a willingness to be involved in the new Industrial School movement, Elizabeth and George had no convenient place in which to assist in Middlesbrough, which had to wait until 1875 for such a school of its own. In contrast the Lancashire town of Bury, where crime was common despite the flourishing state of its cotton and iron industry, had swiftly heeded their town's need. By March 1855 prominent Bury people had pledged their support alongside the local police and were ready to set up and fund an Industrial School. So it was there that George, as headmaster, and Elizabeth, as matron, responded to a call made probably by Rev. Sidney Turner, the government inspector of reformatories, and Thomas Wright, the prison philanthropist with both of whom George had corresponded. Being away from home George took the opportunity to add 'Markham' as a middle name by which he is now known, presumably to allude to his father's family. One example was a mug given to G. M. Tweddell by a friend from Bury.

As they took their duties seriously (George wrote reports regularly), the life of the Tweddells was extremely arduous and they often felt discouraged, despite the widespread admiration for their work. A number of prestigious people gave them encouragement and one, Matthew Wardaugh (1813-1888) the owner of the theatre in Bury and later mayor of Longton (now part of Stoke-on-Trent), maintained a continuous interest in the Tweddell children. Intellectual relief from the grind in Bury came from the meetings of the Manchester Philosophical Society. Even more pleasure came for George in 1859 when he undertook a pilgrimage to Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford on Avon, the social highlight of which was an invitation to dine with Mark Philips, liberal MP for Manchester, who lived close to Stratford. Their contact survived to the end of Philip's life in 1874, for he subscribed to George's books and even sent a book to one of George's daughter for her 19th birthday in 1871. George put an account of his trip to use later.

After two years of taxing work the couple started to seek a less difficult life as Elizabeth's health began to suffer. In 1857 George applied unsuccessfully for the editorship of the Odd Fellows Quarterly Journal in London and, according to family tradition, applied at this period to join the London police force but proved to be two inches too short.

Despite the wide support given to the school, notice was given in July 1860 that Bury Industrial School would close on 20th August without any apparent reason. The event that set the crisis underway appeared to be the departure of a Unitarian minister, Benjamin Glover, who had taken responsibility for the administration work of the school and raised funds. George was deeply disappointed by the decision and tried to set up another school on his own. In an open letter to the local newspaper he appealed for subscribers and offered to open a new school on the 1st September, accepting a lower salary than before and defraying any extra costs from his own income. Disappointingly, money did not materialise and the author of an article in the Bury newspaper in 1919 suggests Bury's leading citizens did not approve the private nature of this venture, as the school would no longer be in the control of the town authorities.