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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.



1872-1892 Tweddell History.co.uk

George, the historian

George's habit whilst travelling around the area was to make notes on scraps of paper left over from printing and then bundle those on similar subjects together for future use.

Although he had been collecting historical information for some time, his first major book on this subject was The People's History of Cleveland begun in 1872. It was an important project which, had it been completed, would have brought him considerable prestige. Two quotations from the pamphlet that was prepared to advertise the book demonstrate that its importance was already recognised: "For many years, it is well known, Mr Tweddell has been engaged collecting materials for what he intends to be his life-work; he has made himself intimately acquainted with every book in which Cleveland is described or alluded to; he has visited and personally examined every place of interest throughout the district; and we have here the first instalment of the results of much thought, research, and inquiry." - Middlesbrough Gazette

Unfortunately, only the first four parts, just an eighth of the intended book, were published. He started with a broad overview of the geology and topography of Cleveland in part I and the first half of part II. The remaining three parts covered agriculture in considerable detail. The title strongly suggests that the book's intention, as its title implies, was to bring a more radical perspective to the history of the area than historians like Graves (1808) and Ord (1846) had given. George raised such aspects as farming and bad weather, famine and the prices of produce with their impact on ordinary tenant farmers and labourers and then contrasted the lifestyles of agricultural workers, tenant farmers, yeoman farmers and the landed gentry. Unfortunately, the significant, political parts of the book were not published, so it is not possible to analyse how the Author planned to re-balance the conventional view of British social classes. However, a set of notes for a later book on a similar subject, Tweddell's notes for a proposed History of Cleveland (1889) may well serve as an example of how he planned to treat such issues in the earlier history. The specific example from the notes chosen reads:

"sarah, the daughter of Mr Kay of Stoxsley, born Feb 2nd 1656, according to the parish register of Stokesley. She is not mentioned in the pedigree of the Eases given by Graves page 236. In the same month we have John the son of John Tweddell, of Easby, buried."

From this material George might have explained the subtle, but significant, differences by comparing the treatment accorded by the historical documents within the extract. The deaths of these two children took place at the same time but were members of different of two social strata. One, a local farmer (and incidentally the son of one of his ancestors, John Tweddell of Easby), only receives the bland assertion from Stokesley parish register offered to the lower orders: "In the same month we have John the son of John Tweddell, of Easby, buried". On the other hand, however, despite the child of a member of the gentry receiving much the same treatment in the register: "sarah [sic], the daughter of Mr Kay of Stoxsley [sic], born Feb 2nd 1656, but Graves in his History offers a more personal treatment although he had really nothing more to say: "She is not mentioned in the pedigree of the Eases …". The most the reader could make is the assumption that Sarah Kay (like John Tweddell) died early so was not placed in the pedigree.

George's attempt to write social history on such a broad canvas during the nineteenth century was a bold project for at this time history was chiefly political history, while the study of local, social history was only in its early stages. It was only in the next century, when the necessary intellectual tools of history became available - theories that embraced sociology and politics - that George could have written the sort of radical social history he wished to achieve in such detail. Perhaps another style adopted a few years later by a local professional colleague, John Atkinson in Forty Years in a Moorland Parish might have been more appropriate. It was published in 1891 and offered a more realistic and more relaxed study of local people no doubt helped by the fact that the author had been the parish incumbent (Danby in Eskdale) for a long time. Furthermore, those who were intellectually equipped to read historical works and wealthy enough to subscribe, mostly the gentry and the small number of professional people existing at the time, would be more interested in the style of history of the earlier Northern historians, Graves and Ord with their more conservative ideology.

Reading George's historical writings one is reminded of the limited facilities available at his time in contrast to the well organised and resourced archives available now to historians. George was obliged, for example, to gain the consent of individual clergymen to pour over parish registers making hand written notes in their unheated vestries; now convenient transcriptions and photographed copies of the register are brought together in warm county archives.

George continued adding notes for various planned books to the end of his life including three histories. One assignment he set himself was about his father's family, the Markhams, in which he hoped to rework the radical views of his youth, which still appeared to burn strongly. In preparation he purchased a copy of The History of the Markhams (1854) that had originally been in the hands of a Markham family friend. In 1891, whilst Elizabeth was just recovering from a serious illness, he wrote a letter from Rose Cottage to his eldest son George in London reporting on his Markham researches: "Did I ever tell you how deeply interested I am in tracing our genealogical descent all I can. I could write a treatise …… as interesting as my history on romance, and if spared long enough, will do so. It will smash to atoms all the foolish Pride of Birth."

Unfortunately, there is no mention of his 'world-revolution' revelations in George's notes, just details of the Markhams' living in exulted places, their various actions of 'derring do', an extension to the family tree back towards the 'dark ages' and a remarkably enlarged family of ancestors he had extrapolated from Shakespeare's plays and known genealogical sources.

In contrast to the Markham study the second study is a more humble one intended to cover his mother's side, the Tweddells. Only a few pages appear in the notebook he dedicated to this subject, and to which he also attached two sets of notes towards a family tree. Following present day practice his first includes the forebears his living relatives could remember, whilst the second are those extracted from the Stokesley parish register.

The third history is an almost completed text of a History of Middlesbrough that continues to be widely used by contemporary historians and was used as the basis of his long article in Bulmer's 1890 North Yorkshire Directory. Among the many acknowledgements to George Markham Tweddell by historians, he would be very gratified best by a comment made about this manuscript in Victorian Cities by Asa Briggs: "It is interesting to note that G. M. Tweddell in his excellent account of Middlesbrough in Bulmer's North Yorkshire (1883) noted with pride that the new School Board …… had just bought a piano. This, he added, was 'to be principally used for teaching the pupils vocal music, which cannot but have a civilising influence'."