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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.



1860-1890 Tweddell History.co.uk

George's later publications

Reflecting thirty years later on this time, George wrote that he "enjoyed collecting abandoned children" in Bury, although Elizabeth had found the combined duties as matron to the school and mother to the growing family too onerous. The Tweddell family left almost at once even postponing the baptism of their latest child until they had found a new home back in Stokesley. The next year they moved to live at 11 Commercial Road in Middlesbrough. At this time almost all the inhabitants of this town were labourers, which made George one of the very few people in the town to have status high enough to be worthy of note in Slater's 1864 Yorkshire Directory, George being one of the only two 'gentry' entered in it. In the interim the couple may have heard from Bury that the town had quickly rallied to set up a Ragged Sunday School and to take over some of the tasks of the Industrial School.

Whilst still in Bury, George had made contact with a member of his father's family, Frederica Haviside (1798-1863), a younger sister of his father, who lived in the (then rural) Rectory Manor, Walthamstow. In 1859 Frederica sent him two paintings of her house with a dedication recording her gift to him, framed in gilt. By the time Frederica, now widowed, wrote her last will George and Elizabeth were living in Middlesbrough, and when she died in 1863 her will showed she had bequeathed an annuity of £100 per annum for the term of their lives. On the early instalments of the bequest the couple set up a business 'Tweddell and Sons' as newsagent and printers at 87 Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough. In gratitude George penned a sonnet to celebrate Frederica's life.

From 1871 to 1872 a new enterprise was produced to help the finances of Tweddell and Sons, a Middlesbrough Directory, and through which it is possible to track changes in the business. Its novelty was the extensive sale of advertisement space in each part published. Beside the growing list of streets covered and useful information such as the price of rail tickets, there was a 'miscellany' of literary and topographical articles. (George's description of his journey to Stratford on Avon was published in parts 1 and 2). During the following ten years he also produced a series of publications on Masonic subjects (exploiting his contacts in the Masonic world, having joined aged just 14 when, for a fee of 10/6d, he was initiated in the Loyal Cleveland Lodge of the Manchester Odd Fellows in Stokesley), and, towards the end of this period, two versions of a magazine, Tweddell's North of England Illustrated Annual with the same format as his earlier Tweddell's Yorkshire Miscellany, inviting items with a North East England flavour. Slotted amongst these were examples of his own works. As the printing and publishing business proceeded, George seems to have learnt from his earlier period and adopted a more cautious business strategy. This time a list of subscribers was set up before the heavier expense of printing was started. With a major book, a list of 300 subscribers seems to be the number sought before starting a print run, although a small book could make a profit with 100 subscribers. Only the preparation and editing remained a speculative cost to be borne by the business if the project failed.

George also found a substitute for writing editorials in his earlier newspaper, by adding political and social commentaries in the linking sections between articles by contributors. For example, in an essay about the history of Liverpool, alongside a woodcut of its coat of arms, George takes the opportunity to comment on the evils of the city's involvement in the slave trade, using the nom-de-plume he reserved for such social ideas (or moralising), Peter Proletarius (Peter of the Ordinary People), and by this strategy he aimed to preserve the conventions of editorial objectivity: "Unfortunately when the offended player, GEORGE FREDERICK COOKE, advanced to the footlights and told the burgesses of Liverpool, that 'the very bricks of their houses were cemented by the blood of the slave!' he acted no fictitious part, but boldly uttered a great truth, which must for ever leave an indelible stain of blood in the annals of Liverpool, which, like that on the hands of Macbeth, 'all great Neptune's ocean' cannot wash away, and 'all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten'".

Particular articles in the magazines could also be useful indicators to him as to which subjects might be sufficiently successful to publish without subscribers. Some essays included in the magazine described places that might attract tourists to visit them (tourism was becoming increasingly popular at this time), suggesting a resort fashionable enough to be expanded into a book. In 1863 he decided to prepare a visitors guide on the merits of Redcar, Marsk and Saltburn as holiday places. The railway had reached Saltburn in 1861 as a continuation of the Stockton and Darlington Railway eastward along the south shore of the River Tees estuary and its extension had stimulated the development of commuting to Middlesbrough while the places along the route had begun to become holiday resorts. The book gave related information, particularly historical and literary and, for those whose interests were botanical, a list of wild flowers to be found growing in the sand dunes.

A few years later, in 1869-70, George published a six-part History of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The book included sections that sum up the debate at the time on the social implications of the development of railways, the positive benefits in the wider distribution of a diversity of goods and the increased mobility of trade, set against the adverse effects with the increase in air-pollution, noise and 'the pace of living'. There is also information about the financing of the constructing of the line and details of its history up to that date, although most of the project's technological and engineering implications aspects are only superficially treated.

A successful series called Tractates was started in 1868. Each were small pamphlets costing only one penny with the intention of printing: "… a collection of small Treatises … relating to the North of England; offering them to the general Public at the lowest Prices which will clear the necessary expenses of Publication." In all 36 pamphlets were produced and thrived until it ceased in 1890 achieving success with the very first pamphlet, a small collection of sonnets, with five printings each of 1,000 copies in the following few years. Beside contributions by Elizabeth and George, two of their sons, Horatio John and Oliver Louis (1860-1898) also wrote for the series.

One of the most interesting books of this period, one still sought in antiquarian booksellers by those interested in both local literature and local history, is the 1872 book Bards and Authors of Cleveland and S. Durham and the vicinage of Cleveland whose manner of publication and contents closely mirrors the earlier Tweddell's Yorkshire Miscellany. For historians there are many insights into 18th century events in Cleveland and, more recently, about George's involvement in political meetings both in his younger days (with threats from Tory opponents) and contemporary meetings with workers attending his lectures at Mechanics Institutes. The book's introduction suggests that two more volumes were planned, with notes waiting editing, and, presumably, these were among those lost in a flood mentioned earlier. Particularly interesting was new evidence into the life of the medieval poet who influenced Chaucer, John Gower, which George claimed his research had found to be born in Sexby, near Stokesley.