The amazing and under-researched life and work of George Markham Tweddell crosses many boundaries.
Known also by various pen names including Peter Proletarious he was a radical printer, publisher, author, editor of an early radical newspaper, Chartist, odd-fellow, Freemason, author of a People's History acknowledged by historian Asa Briggs, poet and much more.
Full biography of George Markham Tweddell can be found on the website here http://www.tweddellhistory.co.uk/ - which is soon to be updated with further material researched recently by his descendant Paul Tweddell.
Paul Tweddell also provided a shorter bio for the Collected poems which is repeated here -
An Outline of the Life of George Markham Tweddell
By Paul Tweddell
“On Saturday last was laid to rest in Stokesley cemetery nearly
the last of the veterans of Cleveland.”So wrote the writer of the obituary in November 1903 of George Markham Tweddell in the North East Daily Gazette about one of the prominent representatives of the literary network that spanned the North of England during the nineteenth century. This group of writers, printers and publishers, their patrons and supporters embraced a wide range of interests and a diversity of social backgrounds. It has only recently begun to receive its justifiable attention, as Tony Nicholson the Teesside University historian comments: [these] ‘cultural encounters’ …… played a key role in shaping a new sense of place [for Cleveland and the North].[xii]It is likely that research into Victorian intellectual activity in Yorkshire and the North East would find Tweddell’s life and work serving as a paradigm for its study. Tweddell's work in North Yorkshire and South County Durham, for example, is part of a network of interlinking clusters of radical thinkers (or men sympathetic to their ideology) and interested in literature. Tweddell could be a candidate for Cleveland’s representative; William Andrews in Hull, Ebenezer Elliot in South Yorkshire, James Montgomery in West Yorkshire, John Critchley Prince and Charles Swain over the Pennines in North East Cheshire and South East Lancashire (respectively), W.H.Burnett in Blackburn; all of whom could be shown to know each other. Nor would it be surprising to find one in Newcastle upon Tyne, perhaps Joseph Cowan (1831-1901)[xiii], the local newspaper owner and radical M.P. who harassed Gladstone about the unsatisfactory agreement between his administration and politically-aware working-class men toward the end of the 19th century.
Despite personal difficulties, Tweddell established and maintained his position amongst this group by:
· corresponding extensively with friends and colleagues;
· keeping a large number of notes on local matters. (Towards the end of his life, he stored them in the basement of his house and office, Rose Cottage, 3 Bridge Street, Stokesley and some of these are still extant in the Tweddell Collection of Teesside Archives. But many were destroyed after his death during one of the town’s frequent floods);
· receiving guests at his home and visiting friends, who respected him for his knowledge, enthusiasm and reminiscences of past acquaintances, as well as access to his notes;
· offering encouragement to fellow writers and, in return, accepting their support for his endeavours, even their money, too, when he needed it (see the poem ‘Snilesworth’, p. 67 below);
· serving on the committees of many worthy organizations, including his local branch of the Freemasons and Odd Fellows, sometimes serving as a regional representative;
· advocating the works of fellow writers who shared his proud vision of the region through his writings and publications on local history, dialect, and, particularly, poetry. He also often embedded political issues in the commentaries he submitted to newspapers;
· involving himself in national discussions that aimed to bring about constitutional change. When young he supported the Chartist movement, and, towards the end of his life, articulated the disappointment felt with the failure of Gladstone’s Liberal administration to live up to the expectations of working people and their middle class supporters after the expansion of the vote in 1884 (see p. 41 below in Note 6).
· being a paid-up member of a large number of literary and learned societies, the total of which printed on his title pages at its zenith about 1870 was twelve.[xiv]
As Trevor Teasdel has already demonstrated above, Tweddell’s dominant purpose in writing his poetry for his Victorian audience was to use its most persuasive and popular method to disseminate his ideas and principles. But the other means he used, commentaries he made in local newspapers, await publication and they should soon become available with the completion of an electronic version in progress by the Humanities Department of Teesside University. In the meanwhile his poems may help to understand whyEbenezer Elliott held Tweddell in such high esteem writing:
“I declare I feel honoured by receiving a letter from such a man.”[xv]
* * * * * *
George Markham Tweddell was born in March 1823 into a local family of yeoman farmers and shopkeepers in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, and baptised as George Tweddell. He was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Tweddell (1800-1841), and George Markham (1797-1834), a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and probably on leave in 1822 after being seriously injured during an affray on board a ship the previous year. He was staying with his father, also George Markham (1763-1822), who had been rector of Stokesley since 1791 and, as an able administrator, added the duties of looking after the personnel and fabric of York Minster as Dean of York in 1802. Dean Markham was the third son of William Markham, Archbishop of York (1719-1807), who is now remembered best for saving the city walls of York from destruction, along with the author Sir Walter Scott. George Tweddell never met any of these three Markham ancestors although one of his father’s younger sisters, Frederica Haviside (1798-1863) kept up a correspondence with her nephew before her death.
Although most of Elizabeth Tweddell’s siblings lived in relative comfort, she in contrast was expected to work as an assistant in her father’s shop. When George was young much of her free time was spent wandering the fields with her boy at her side, for George was unquestionably the favourite and brightest of her three sons. She had an extensive knowledge of country lore, especially about plants, which she imparted to her son, as well as the family’s recent ancestry, that hints at his paternity in his poem ‘My Mother’ (p. 162 below). Although George was put forward as a scholar to Stokesley’s Preston Grammar School, the governors refused him a place. This disappointment proved to be a great advantage to the boy, for his school days, coincided with the brief period when the inspirational teacher, William Sanderson (c.1796-1864), held the post of head teacher at the National Board School - Rudby School - Hutton Rudby Near Stokesley. In the 1820s, Sanderson had left his native Hutton Rudby (three miles west of Stokesley) to set up a private school in Whitby. During the 1832 Reform Parliament election he had voted for the radical, but unsuccessful candidate (Sanderson’s choice inevitably being widely known, there being no secret ballot at this time) and, in revenge, another failed candidate persuaded the parents to withdraw their children thus forcing the closure of the school. Taking up the Stokesley vacancy, Sanderson soon recognised George’s abilities, and set about extending the formal learning of the school by introducing discussions with George over a wide range of subjects, either on long walks during the summer or at his fire in winter. In particular he inculcated a deep love of poetry. The boy’s earliest poem found identifying a date was‘Lines written early in Spring in 1837’ (p. 141 below). Sanderson’s account of his treatment in Whitby was an powerful influence on his student’s adoption of radical-leaning politics, although the boy may have already had a predilection in this way as his grandfather, John Tweddell (1770-1850), had supported the Liberal candidate in the 1805 election. A few years later, hearing Peter Bussey, the Chartist missionary who used Stokesley as a base for his work in spring 1839 when George was 17, could have reinforced these opinions, although there is no documentary evidence for this.
In 1836, at the earliest opportunity and much to his disappointment, George was taken away from school and joined his mother as an assistant at his grandfather’s shop. In contrast, his younger cousin was sent to a private school and was extremely indulged, so much so that in 1844 this difference in treatment between branches of the family seems to have created tensions mentioned in the poem ‘Address to a Cousin’ (p. 14 et seq. below).
The year 1841 was an important one in Tweddell’s life. On 19th February, to his great distress, his mother died of consumption aged 41, which he immediately made the subject of a poem, detailing the circumstances of her death in ‘On the Death of my Mother’ (p. 9 below), one he was to revisit poetically throughout his life. On 7thJune Tweddell paid half a guinea to join the Stokesley branch of the Loyal Cleveland Lodge of the Manchester Oddfellows, (technically an illegal organisation until 1850, like all mutual friendly societies, but from the 1830s officially tolerated), and the next day, 8th June, was elected a committee member. By the 24th December he was recorded as the corresponding secretary to the local Chartist Society in the national Chartist newspaper the Northern Star. The next year, in November, ‘Brother Tweddell’ had also joined the Cleveland Lodge of the Freemasons. These were the earliest of the many praiseworthy organisations on which he served, many of which received commendation in poetic form.
Sometime in 1841, Tweddell began to acquire skill in what was to become his life’s work. A local printer and publisher, William Braithwaite (c.1810-1873), who was noted for encouraging local talent, took on Tweddell as an apprentice. Braithwaite had also been a long-serving governor of the grammar school, and may have been redeeming his involvement years earlier in his refusal to accept Tweddell as a pupil. Whilst working there, Tweddell took the opportunity to make the acquaintance of many of the prominent authors whom Braithwaite published. One of these, John Walker Ord (1811-1853), became a close friend, and, despite their differing political opinions (Ord was a Conservative), offered material for George’s later literary enterprises. Through Ord, Tweddell probably started corresponding with the well-known radical poet, Ebenezer Elliot, and the poem of that name (p. 62 below) expresses Tweddell’s sorrow that Elliot died in 1849, before they could meet.
All started well, with Braithwaite supporting George in setting up and printing a monthly newspaper, The Stokesley News and Cleveland Reporter, the first edition of which appeared in November 1842. As well as writing trenchant editorials, Tweddell filled the pages with poems, many his own – albeit using a variety of pen names, and was one of the earliest persons outside the north west of England to publish poems of the Lancashire poets, John Critchley Prince (1808-1866) and Richard Wright Proctor (1816-1881) who wrote under the name of “Sylvan”. Unfortunately the local Tory establishment soon took offence at the radical stance of the editorials of The Stokesley News and persuaded Braithwaite to withdraw his support and sack Tweddell after only two editions. Tweddell was able to find alternative funding, so Braithwaite then commenced the production of a rival paper, The Cleveland Repertory and Stokesley Advertiser, with editorials more in keeping with his colleagues’ own political views. Thus for the next two years the news-
papers rivalled each other until Tweddell’s paper folded in September 1844, and the other, its purpose completed, folded in 1845. Even before the collapse of his project, Tweddell was planning a new one, which proved to be the first of the two major books by which he is best remembered, Tweddell’s Yorkshire Miscellany (the second was Bards and Authors). It was published in monthly parts during 1845 and 1846 in magazine format and contained essays written by diverse authors, including a few poems. It created, too, the earliest of the many financial problems that littered his life. His loss at this time was further worsened by a month’s imprisonment in autumn 1846 and provoked the defiant ‘Sonnet Written in York Castle’ (p. 227 below and for details of the circumstances see p. xxv, bullet #1.)
On the last day of 1843, George had married Elizabeth Cole, one of the daughters of the Stokesley parish clerk and artist, Thomas Cole (1787-1867), who had helped set up the Odd Fellows in the town as well as proposing Tweddell as a member. The long partnership between Elizabeth and George Tweddell was to prove a creative one, for, besides being interested in literature, Elizabeth had a firm but sympathetic personality upon which her husband was to rely through- out his many tribulations. (See ‘The Love to His wife Lady Love’, p. 8 below.)During the early years of their marriage she undertook a number of editorial roles on behalf of her husband, but it was only later, when their older daughters had become old enough to supervise the younger ones, that she was able to write on her own behalf. This development took place around 1862 when one of Tweddell’s best friends, walking companion and benefactor, John Reed Appleton (c. 1825-1889), persuaded Elizabeth to develop her poetic skills. The results were to bring her local fame as a regional writer with poems and stories in the Cleveland dialect under the name of Florence Cleveland. The equality with which they treated each other, so contrary to the conventions of the time, suggests it may be an early example of feminism. Interestingly, this feature in their partnership was remarked upon at the time. For example, William Andrews (c.1854-c.1920), instigator of the Hull Literary Club, a freemason, local historian and author, wrote in 1884:
“The common, but erroneous idea, that a woman of literary habits must be thereby unfitted for her domestic duties, is best corrected by an intimate knowledge of the life of such a woman as the wife of George Markham Tweddell, whose devotion to all that is womanly, as daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend – if those who know her best may be allowed to judge – has through life been as marked as the purity of her writings, a subject on which all agree.”[xvi]
In the following ten years the principled standpoint adopted by Tweddell in the books he wrote and edited brought his reputation to a wider
audience. In 1855 the Government Inspector of Reformatories, Rev. Sidney Turner (fl.1840-60), and the prison philanthropist, Thomas Wright (1789-1875), invited him to be the pioneering headmaster of a new-styled ‘Industrial School’ in Bury, Lancashire, with his wife acting a s matron. This move, with the opportunity to attend the Manchester Literary Club, brought him into direct contact with three of the poets with whom he had previously published but so far only corresponded, John Critchley Prince (1808-1866), Richard Wright Proctor (Sylvan) (1816-1881) and Charles Swain (1803-1874). Prince stayed with the Tweddells in Bury and intrigued his hosts with eccentric behaviour when saying his bedtime prayers. The last poet, Charles Swain, besides being one of the wealthy, local-landowner members of the Society and a generous patron of the arts, was also an admired poet. The Romantic poet, Robert Southey (1774-1843), observed that, “He was born to be a poet”, whilst a reviewer of the Yorkshire Miscellany (1845), “Liked especially the song of Charles Swain” [i.e. ‘Stanzas for Music’], and Tweddell himself wrote of him, “The ever-treasured Memory of my beloved old friend, who lived Poetry as well as wrote it.”[xvii]
Obviously Tweddell made new acquaintances too, one of the most prominent being Mark Philips (1800-1874), who for 15 years had been the radical Liberal Member of Parliament for Manchester and manager of a factory that manufactured the then universally known ‘Philips’s Tape’. Tweddell had been particularly interested in the charitable origin of this business. Mark’s father, Robert (1760-1844), had set up the first mill in the Staffordshire village that his family owned in order to give the village farm workers an income when times were hard. The naming tape, used on clothes, was sold in the locality but not really commercially viable. To make it so, he had expanded the business with a factory in Manchester, but still run on benevolent lines. The son took over the company on his father’s retirement and maintained its charitable policy, or, as Tweddell wrote ‘In Memoriam of the Death of Mark Philips, Esq.’, quoting what had been said of Tennyson, “He dared be honest in the worst of times” (p. 42).[xviii] It was in the Bury period that Philips first welcomed Tweddell to his manor near Stratford on Avon, these visits being times of good meals and intense conversations.
In 1860 the industrial school reached a crisis when its key supporter left Bury and the governors lost their initial enthusiasm when funds became difficult to find. Although the couple had found their roles at the school satisfying, albeit extremely arduous, especially for Elizabeth who had found the work had weakened her constitution. Nevertheless, they must have had mixed feelings when the governors closed down the school in August 1860, for, even then, Tweddell was sufficiently unhappy to make a bid to take over the school at his own financial risk. His proposal, however, received no local support and by September the family was back in Stokesley.
Shortly after arriving in Bury, Tweddell took the opportunity to add Markham as his middle name; the first recorded mention being written in his hand: ‘Bury, December 15th, 1855’,[xix] (and from then on often appears abbreviated to ‘GMT’). Despite publicising the change in the national Freemason newspaper and what it signified, the Markham family seems to have accepted it. The reason why was to appear shortly after his return northward.
By 1861, as soon as he could set up a new printing and publishing company, the family moved into premises in Commercial Street in the nearby, rapidly expanding town of Middlesbrough. Fortuitously then, in 1863, a younger sister of GMT’s father, Frederica Haviside (née Markham), died leaving him a generous annuity, which gave him the opportunity to move the business into a better location at 87 Linthorpe Road. Between 1864 and 1876 the company of Tweddell & Sons reached its apogee and expanded with a branch opened in Stokesley before 1870. He put his second son and apprentice, Horatio John Tweddell (1848-1918), in charge of the long-established printing press his father had bought. This was situated on the north side of the High Street in Stokesley but is now demolished.
This period saw the publication of a series of impressive literature works. The first was a combined magazine and directory for his new town, Tweddell’s Middlesbrough Miscellany of Literature and Advertisements(1870-71), a useful facility for the townspeople.[xx] Around the same time he started to publish a series of booklets called The North of England Tractates, in order to print:
“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.”[xxi]
This series became one of the most important places in which regional writers could put their works before the public, including Tweddell’s own in particular. The series reached No. 36 by the time it ended in 1890. No. 1 commenced with a poem by Appleton in pride of place, followed by one by GMT, a grateful obituary to Frederica Haviside (née Markham) as ‘Cleveland Sonnet No. X’ (p. 37). Soon, too, was begun A People’s History of Cleveland and its Vicinage,[xxii] taking a new, radical stance, but ceased after only four completed instalments of the 16 planned. His notes, set out by location and historical aspects, exist in Teesside Archives.[xxiii]
GMT’s second major book, mentioned earlier, was Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham(1872),[xxiv] but only the first volume of the three intended appeared. The lack of its two unpublished volumes or their notes is still regretted as a lost source for further literary research.
This period also saw GMT honoured by the Royal Old North Germanic Language Society, Copenhagen that awarded him a diploma in 1867, probably for his work on the Cleveland dialect, signed by its president, the King of Denmark.[xxv]
As early as the end of 1871 financial problems resurfaced and new ways were tried to find more income without compromising the quality of the work published. At this time the Middlesbrough office was closed down and GMT with his wife and their younger children returned to live and work in Stokesley. They chose Rose Cottage in Commercial Street (now known as 3 Bridge Street), using the ground floor as an office, the back cellar to store books, stationery, notes, etc, and with the living quarters above. Horatio John Tweddell’s growing family (he had married Jane Elizabeth Clark (1850-1934) from Thirsk in Middlesbrough during 1870) lived in an apartment across the road. Associated with the family business was a shop somewhere in the Market Square area in direct competition with the shop of Tweddell’s half-brother, Thomas. The young Jane Elizabeth brought her skills to the business as a dressmaker employing assistants and attempted a short-lived employment agency for domestic servants. An advertisement for the Tweddell shop, reprinted in the 1982 book, Stokesley Selection (edited by A. Wright & J. Mawers) shows: “George Tweddell, Hatter & Bookseller, Commercial Row; Books, Stationery, Teas, Coffees, Snuff, Patent Medicines, gloves, brushes, hats etc.” and also an agency for a fire insurance company. Slaters Yorkshire Directory (in both 1876 & 1879) identifies Jane Elizabeth Tweddell as managing a bakers and confectioners shop in Market Square, and Horatio John Tweddell as a newsagent and bookseller besides a printer.
By 1876, despite these efforts, Tweddell & Sons remained in financial crisis and was bailed out a second time, this time by numerous admirers with a Purse of Gold arranged by William Andrews. These funds, however, were soon lost after being invested in ill-advised shares, as the introduction to A Hundred Masonic Sonnets explains. Inevitably, financial stress remained and Horatio John Tweddell’s need for a greater income to support his growing family became a serious burden on the company’s costs and from 1878, the younger Tweddell sought alternative employment further and further away from Stokesley. It took him four years to find it, first briefly in Goole (further south in Yorkshire), then as a compositor in Mold, North Wales. Fortunately, the esteem he lost in Yorkshire was soon retrieved in Wales when he became one of the few Englishmen to be crowned a Welsh bard in 1886. He adopted the name ‘Efrogid’ (in English meaning ‘Man of York’).
For the older Tweddells, now into their late 50s, illness and tragedy began to stalk them causing the postponement of a number of projects.
The first event was caused by the typhoid fever that struck down both their first grandson followed by their oldest daughter, Elizabeth Georgina Hodgson (1845-1880), a minor poet, at the age of 33 within the month of March 1880. GMT’s grief lasted many years for eight years later he was still writing to assuage his distress with the poem ‘My First Grandchild’ (p. 216 below). Inevitably, with death becoming increasingly frequent among his ageing colleagues, GMT wrote a considerable number of obituaries at this time often as poems. Sometimes he sent them uninvited, as with The Royal Leamington Spa Courier, January 3rd 1874, with one to celebrate Mark Philips’ life. In other cases he was commissioned (probably by a local newspaper in Batley, West Yorkshire) for the death of Isaac Binns (p. 214 below), the Borough accountant who died on August 6th1884. The Hanley Directory invited GMT to open its 1889 edition with an obituary to Alderman Matthew Wardaugh (1813-1888), actor manager and a recent mayor of Longton, Staffordshire. GMT will have taken on this request with a particularly strong sense of duty, for Wardaugh had materialized in his life at a number of crucial times. The first time was when the impressionable George was a youth in Stokesley and Wardaugh arrived as a travelling actor playing various Shakespearean roles and helped to inculcate a love of the bard in the young boy. Wardaugh’s Travelling Theatre turned up again in Bury shortly after the family had moved there. It is thought, too, that Wardaugh’s support gave two of Tweddell’s artistic sons the opportunity to flourish in the theatre. Unfortunately, GMT’s obituary task proved difficult though, as his health continued to decline after a blood vessel in his brain had broken in 1885. (An apology for the late publication of A Hundred Masonic Sonnets appears giving the precise date of the event on p. viii – “15th October, 1885”. He was 62 years old at the time.) Evidence of this can be observed in the loss of his writing’s former precision, and sentences now became even longer than previously. He also suffered increasingly from may have been rheumatism, what he called “paralysis”.
Another example of his difficulties can be seen in the Hundred Masonic Sonnets of 1887. With one eye almost blind, he had turned to writing poetry during long evenings when sleep did not come easily. Being without his printer son, GMT was obliged to be his own compositor, an awkward task to set up type for someone with arthritis.
During this period two visitors turned up at Rose Cottage. The first, on 29th September 1878, was the author, R. A. Douglas Lithgow who was preparing a biography of GMT’s departed friend, John Critchley Prince. Lithgow must have been delighted to glean more than GMT’s reminiscences, for he was able to make copies of the letters Prince had sent to his host. These would complete the correspondence from GMT to
Prince, which Lithgow had received from Prince’s surviving relatives. This was placed side by side in the biography two years later. In gratitude Douglas gave his interviewee a copy of his Pet Moments, signing it “with the author’s kind regards”.[xxvi]
About ten years later another biographer, John Horsfall Turner of Bradford, turned up to feature Tweddell at the beginning of his second volume of the Yorkshire Genealogist . Horsfall Turner sat opposite his interviewee by the fire in Rose Cottage making notes about GMT’s long life and ancestry.
1892 signalled the final act of Tweddell & Sons, closing with a second edition of Elizabeth Tweddell’s Dialect Poems as illness overwhelmed both poets. They had the help of a female neighbour who tended Elizabeth when bed-ridden while two granddaughters handled daily domestic duties (one being the daughter of their oldest daughter who died of typhoid fever in 1880) under the oversight of the old couple’s only offspring who had stayed in Stokesley, Thomas Cole Tweddell. Money was still a problem, as the value of their annuity must have become considerably deflated, so a number of sons contributed to their parent’s upkeep, especially the childless George (Junior), by this time a successful scenic artist in London.[xxvii]
Sadly GMT wrote nothing for his wife’s death in 1899 (at least nothing survives). At his burial, Oddfellows & Freemasons followed the family in a long cortège to lay his body to rest next to his beloved Elizabeth in Stokesley new cemetery. Although there are two extant obituaries of his death, neither mentions this gathering, but is only available from the Tweddell family tradition.
Posthumously, it was only Tweddell’s historical works that were valued during most of the 20th century. It was only in the 1980s when interest in him revived with the publication of Stokesley Selection[xxviii], which contains a trail of GMT documents, and Daphne Franks’ 1984 Printing and Publishing in Stokesley [xxix], where Tweddell has his own chapter. Even later, another compendium of local history, etc, Roseberry Topping (Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project), published in 2006, quotes him quite frequently including the story that may explain why GMT went to prison in 1846 for contempt of court for carrying beer to the Trinity Fair against the magistrates’ express instructions.[xxx]
As for GMT’s poems, tastes were changing and Tweddell’s poetry was judged pedantic and old fashioned. As early as 1908 opinions were being expressed publicly that his poetry was ‘boring’ and his son Horatio John wrote from Canada to challenge the idea,[xxxi] quite the opposite to that of his wife’s poetry that was often favourably quoted, often in travel guides and the works of the Yorkshire Dialect Society. Cowley (Honarary Treasurer of the Society[xxxii]) for example, commented in 1963: “She stuck
to the easy rhythms, genuine dialect and a sound homely social philosophy”, whereas he wrote of Tweddell: “[His poetry] was neither – most of his writings are tedious in the extreme”.[xxxiii] When the internet became widely available in the 1990s it was Elizabeth’s poems that were first given an airing there, but recently, GMT has caught up with his wife.
Finally, Tweddell’s contemporaries held conflicting opinions about him, which caused the grief mentioned above. His professional and mostly middleclass friends admired him, but many of his fellow citizens of Stokesley found him troublesome and his opinions ambiguous, an opinion which may still be active in the twenty first century. Whereas William Andrews, GMT’s Hull friend, preferred to describe him as: ‘A many-sided man—poet, historian, public speaker, and a painstaking collector of local lore’,[xxxiv] the anonymous author of a recent brief guide to Stokesley neatly sums up the attitude of many of George Markham Tweddell’s 19th century neighbours with an adaptation of Andrew’s portrayal: ‘A man of many interests, poet, historian,stirrer-up of controversy and publisher’.[xxxv] Some reasons for the penultimate description would still be obvious today:
· He was very antagonistic to capital punishment and hunting (e.g. Halifax Gibbet, p. 64 below andPoetry of an old Besom, “…… poor grouse which sportsmen seek/ to slaughter for amusement”, p. 52 below, line 34);
· His own family life-style, so admired by his professional colleagues, made a strong challenge to those who adhered to conventional views of family life;
· He opposed corporal punishment supporting what now would be known as ‘pupil-centred education’, even less understood then than at present. It appears in a number of poems (e.g. The Birch–Betula Alba p. 192 below), whilst Tractates No. 30 (a prose pamphlet) outlines his educational principles and recounts a fierce argument between him and some anonymous townspeople about his suitability as a school governor of the National School (which, incidentally, he, his wife and his children had attended);
· He occasionally expressed fierce comments about marriages among the upper classes:
“But as long as these mock-marriages continue in vogue – these weddings of wealth, not of heart, of rank and title, not of mutual love, will undoubtedly prevail, for legal prostitutions are they and not true marriages, where two hearts are melted into one”;[xxxvi]
· Although slavery had been banished in the British Empire, Tweddell continued to criticise the British cotton industry, especially the port of Liverpool. He recognised that this city’s trading supported slavery indirectly by ignoring New York’s exploitation of the slaves of the South of the United States.
Other issues lying behind Tweddell’s motives may have been too ambiguous for ‘the man in the street’ to understand: how could he have:
· Served on the committee that opposed the Stokesley, agricultural hiring fair (a notoriously drunken affair),[xxxvii] and made a close friend (John Appleton), who traded as a wholesaler in drinks. Yet he carried alcoholic drinks to the top of Roseberry Topping for the long-standing Trinity Fair to challenge the authorities who wished to close down a similar event that they felt had developed into alcoholic disorder. For this act of defiance GMT was imprisoned.
· Supported the publication of the broadly humanistic, religious beliefs held by Freemasons, but disliked the Established Church, for its support for the wealthy and the Methodists for their excessive sobriety (in his introduction to the poems of John Castillo), yet counted many clergymen among his friends. What moved GMT spiritually, according to one of his obituarist, was a Unitarian service;[xxxviii]
· Counted as friends a number of the yeomen who had benefited from the agricultural Enclosures, which had caused great distress to ordinary agricultural labourers, a change still in the memory of many older people in Cleveland at Tweddell’s time. (See the conflict between The Poetry of an old Besom [p. 52 et seq.] and the introduction to his edition of the poetry of John Castillo, which he dedicated to a prominent yeoman farmer – p. 205.)
Finally, here is a quotation from a 17-year-old boy in Edwards Blishen’s 1969 book, The School that I'd like, which GMT would have surely approved:
“If I am studying a book by Molière, I ought to be able to place it in its social, historical, literary and artistic context; I should study it not only in the light of Moliere's other work but in the light of the social and political pressures and artistic and philosophical ideas that formed it. A work of art may be universal in its application, but it is temporal in its expression; to understand it completely I must understand the epoch that formed it. A knowledge of four books does not make up a knowledge of French literature; a study of four books, and their authors taken in their literary and historical context, may at least help to.”
Paul M. Tweddell, 2008, Canterbury
[i] Footnote in the Dedication of The Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham, 1875, p. 5 (Tweddell and Sons, Stokesley). Teesside Archives, U/TW/1/18
[ii] Teesside Archives, U/TW/1/2 & U/TW/1/2
[iii] The Bards of Cleveland by Andy Croft written in 1989, and read on the BBC 2 Open Space - Breaking the Ice – For Arnold Rattenbury, 1990
[iv] Middlesbrough Public Library, Tweddell Collection Listed, Tractates # 32
[v] Ibid, CO52
[vi] Teesside Archives U/TW/1/21. The comment in brackets is deduced from the book’s introduction.
[vii] Ebenezer Elliot (1781-1849) was an iron founder of Rotherham and Sheffield and briefly supported the Chartist cause. Like GMT, he shared his poetic labours between his political causes and his love of plants. Seehttp://www.tilthammer.com/bio/elliott.html
[viii] From www.judandk.force9.co.uk/elly.htm
[x] see: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poet/361.html &
[xi] John Watkins features in Malcolm Chase’s Chartism: a new History (Manchester University Press) 2007, pp. 117 et seq.
[xii] A new sense of Place; Cleveland in:
[xiv] In both Tractates Nos. 10 & 12
[xv] Middlesbrough Library, Tweddell Collection C 920T and another version in Teesside Archives, U/TW/2/15
[xv] In William Andrews’ Modern Yorkshire Poets (1885), pp. 49 et seq.
[xvii] Tweddell (1872), p. 137; Stokesley News, Vol. II No. 20 1st August 1844, A favourable review of Tweddell’s Yorkshire Miscellany, p. 33; (1887 & 1888) in Tractates No. 29
[xviii] Tractates No. 15
[xix] On the fly-leaf of The Oddfellows’ Reciter (1852), Tweddell Collection U/TW/1/7
[xx] Middlesbrough public library, Tweddell Collection CO52 4207
[xxi] Advert for Tractates series in Paul Tweddell’s archive Doc.139
[xxii] Middlesbrough public library, Tweddell Collection C942
[xxiii] Teesside Archive U/TW/4/2 to U/TW/4/9, inclusive
[xxiv] There are two copies annotated by GMT. The archive copy (U/TW/1/16) came through Horatio John Tweddell; the Middlesbrough public library copy (C1 928) through the widow of the artist George Tweddell (Junior).
[xxv] U/TW/6/1-3. The Society is called in Danish Det Kongelge Nordiske Oldskrift Selska. The translation in the text above is fairly precise, but GMT preferred to use the term Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries.
[xxvi] In Teesside Archives U/TW/2/6. Prince’s biography is:
[xxvii] Letter from George Tweddell (Junior), U/TW/5/3/5
[xxviii] Wright, A. & Mawer, J. (1982) Stokesley Selection (Studio Print, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire)
[xxix] Franks, D. (1984) Printing and Publishing in Stokesley (Stokesley & District Local History Study Group)
[xxx] See Pearce (2006), p. 86-87 and GMT’s poem Sonnet written in York Castle (see endnote xxxvi below)
[xxxi] The article is undated, but may be from the Stockton and Hartlepool Mercury. It can be read in Teesside ArchivesU/TW/3/3-1.
After emigrating to Brandon Manitoba, John Horatio Tweddell (as a jounalist) with his wife Jane Elizabeth and all but one of their surviving children, the parents retired to Melville, Saskatchewan to join their youngest daughter and family. They returned briefly to England (Barnstaple) staying with the family of their only son left in Britain. They went back (alone) to Brandon as WWI broke out. During the war they moved to Hamilton, Ontario, and died there in 1918 and 1934 respectively.
[xxxiii] Cowley, William (1963) A Cleveland Anthology (Yorkshire Dialect Society) 1963, p. 11
[xxxiv] Under ‘Stokesley’ in Andrews, William (c. 1918) Picturesque Yorkshire: The Shires Series (Valentine & Sons Ltd, London)
[xxxv] Stokesley Society (2002), Stokesley Trail, p. 29
[xxxvi] Cooper’s Journal, or unfettered thinking and plain speaking for Truth, Freedom and Progress, 1850, p. 85 in Brotherton Library, Leeds University
[xxxvii] Stokesley Selection, p. 65 (see endnote xxviii above)
[xxxviii] Teesside Archives, Tweddell Collection, U/TW/3/3-1