The Richardson family of Ayton, Whitby, and Newcastle

John Richardson = Margaret Stead

     |         other children

Isaac Richardson = Deborah Sutton

      |         other children

Edward Richardson = Jane Wigham

      |         other children

Elizabeth Richardson = Robert Spence Watson

      |         other children

Mary Spence Watson = Francis Edward Pollard



Elizabeth Richardson was born on the 12th September 1838, at 6 Summerhill Grove, Westgate, Newcastle. Her childhood was very happy. One of a large family, with parents who fostered the intellectual interests of their children, she had greater scope and a wider horizon than many girls of the period, and she had opportunities for the physical activity which laid the foundation for her splendid health and strength.1

At the time of the 1841 census she was living with her family and four female servants in Summerhill Grove, Westgate. She was sent to school at the age of three, attending for a year or so at a school in Westgate Road, just below the entrance to Summerhill Grove, kept by two Friends, Mary Jane and Phoebe Goundry. She was next, at about the age of seven, at school at Mrs Gethings's, in Westmoreland Road, and afterwards (or perhaps before) in Elswick Row. While there she repeated all 54 verses of 1 Corinthians 15, and received 4d as a reward. One of her schoolmates later recalled her great enthusiasm about a voyage to Edinburgh in the early days of steamships, and her tears on reading of the cruel treatment of Prince Arthur in the reign of King John.2

The children of her parents' household were not allowed sugar because it was slave-grown. The one deliberate lie (if it merits the term) that troubled her conscience was, that as a little girl she asked her father for her Saturday penny earlier than usual, and when he asked her "What for?" she replied (knowing that she intended to buy sweets) "Nothing particular."3

Like all her family, she was a horsewoman, and she was given a pony, on condition that she tended it entirely herself, and on it she used to gallop barebacked. She was only once thrown, when cantering up Benwell Lane. Later the family had a phaeton, and she grew familiar with harnessing and driving. Riding with her husband was a favourite form of exercise and relaxation in the busy life of later years.4

In the summer of 1847 she holidayed with the family in lodgings at Whitburn. Around the late forties the Richardsons were visited by George Catlin's Indians; Elizabeth fell in love with a little Indian boy, about her own age, who was beautiful in her eyes.5

In 1848 she was taken to see her grandmother [O17] Deborah Richardson, when she was dying. She was rather a favourite of her grandmother's—she remembered once when she had thought her very good on a fourth day meeting, she took her to Bell the confectioner's afterwards, and bought her twelve sponge cakes and 1lb of barley sugar. Jane Richardson locked them up to be gradually consumed.6

Around 1850 she was taught at home for a year by her elder sister Anna Deborah Richardson. She found her sister to be a teacher with intellectual ability, understanding, and sympathy, one with whom it was indeed a pleasure to learn.7

signature of Elizabeth RichardsonThe 1851 census found her living with her family, two housemaids, and a cook, at 6 Summerhill Grove, Westgate, Newcastle. That year she was sent to a school at Lewes, in Sussex—run by two Friends, the sisters Dymond—where Anna had been before her. Though this seems a long way to go, one of the teachers—Sarah Rickman—was a friend of her mother's, and there seems not to have been a suitable school nearby. She was taken as far as London by Anna, staying in lodgings there a few days; she saw the sights of the city and the Great Exhibition. She didn't come home at all during her first year at Lewes, owing to the length of the journey; school terms then were two half-years, so she spent Christmas at Staines, with some Friends named Ashby. At the end of her first year she went to Nab Cottage with her family, in June, before the removal to Beech Grove. School life would be considered Spartan in these days, bread and butter only for breakfast and tea, with a spoonful of jam once a week. But there was plenty of outdoor exercise in the fine air, more freedom than was allowed in most schools, and excellent teaching which inspired and stimulated the scholars. School began at 7 a.m., with an hour's work before breakfast. Among the subjects taught were English, German and Science. With another girl, Martha Gibbins (later Hack), at one point Elizabeth Richardson manufactured a rude electrical machine, with stool and Leyden jar all complete for the giving of shocks, to demonstrate to the girls. Elizabeth used to speak with great affection of the Dymonds, and looked back to her school days as very happy ones. She left Lewes in her sixteenth year.8

While at Lewes the girls had Uncle Tom's Cabin read to them. Elizabeth later met Harriet Beecher Stowe and her family, and remembered hearing the song 'Swanee River' first sung by the Stowe daughters.9


Elizabeth Richardson, 1855)

Elizabeth Richardson, 1855

She felt deeply the deaths of her brother Isaac at the age of five, and especially of her sister Margaret, at four (1846 and 1855 respectively)—"I felt as if I could not bear the parting, for I loved her passionately."10

In 1856 she visited Rotterdam.10A

On returning home she studied at the School of Art under William Bell Scott, and while there she became engaged to [M2] Robert Spence Watson.11

The 1861 census found her living with her family and four general servants at 1 South Ashfield Villa, Elswick Lane, Elswick, Newcastle. On the 7th April 1861 she was appointed as one of two women from Newcastle Women's Preparative Meeting to attend Monthly Meeting in Shields the following fourth day. In November 1861 and September 1862 her father's private ledger recorded gifts of £5.0.0 cash to her, though no reason is given. In 1862 she saw the sights of Paris, with Emily and John Wigham Richardson.12

In April 1863 Newcastle Monthly Meeting appointed Henry Tennant and Robert Foster to enquire into the clearness for marriage of Robert Spence Watson and herself, with Robert Foster giving notice to Newcastle Preparative Meeting. The following month they were liberated to marry, with Robert Spence and Robert Foster given the task of ensuring conduct according to good order. On the 22nd May Edward Richardson paid out £10.0.0 "for Lizzie". Elizabeth and Robert were married at Newcastle meeting house on the 9th June 1863.13 The Newcastle Journal reported as follows:


MARRIAGE FESTIVITIES.—Yesterday morning, the marriage ceremony was celebrated between R. Spence Watson, Esq., solicitor, and Miss Elizabeth Richardson, daughter of Edward Richardson, Esq., South Ashfield, Elswick Lane, at the Friends' Meeting House, Pilgrim Street. There was a large muster of the relatives and friends of the happy couple, who arrived in ten carriages, and entered their place of worship under a canopy placed across the pavement in Pilgrim Street. The interesting ceremony was performed in the usual manner adopted by the Society of Friends. After it was over, the bride and bridegroom received the hearty congratulations of all present. A large number of the younger branches, who had been present, enjoyed the remainder of the day in pic-nic parties in the neighbourhood of the town. A most gratifying feature of the day's proceedings was the treat given to the children of the Ragged Schools. Mr. Watson is one of the secretaries to the gentlemen's committee of the Ragged Schools, and his bride one of the secretaries to the lady's committee. The children of the schools, after having had breakfast in order to commemorate the auspicious event, were drawn up in the court-yard shortly after eight o'clock, the girls under the care of the schoolmistress, on one side, and the boys, under the care of Mr. Morgan, on the other side of the yard, the whole acting under the direction of Mr. G.A. Brumell. They then sung several songs, after which a number of cannon, which had been mounted in the yard, were fired; and as each cannon was discharged, the children cheered loudly. They again sang a number of songs, and gave a hearty cheer for the future happiness of the two secretaries, whose marriage they were met to celebrate. The children dispersed to amuse themselves, and at the time appointed for the wedding, nine o'clock, a rocket was fired, and the cheering again commenced. The children then went to their school duties. At noon, the same rejoicings were repeated, with the addition of a small present for everyone who attended the schools, which had been kindly provided by the bride and bridegroom. From different parts of the building flags were hung out, which, together with the cheering, made those in the neighbourhood aware that something out of the ordinary was going forward. The countenances of the children betokened happiness and contentment, and the wish of each child was, that every joy and comfort might be showered down upon the happy pair, who had done so much for their benefit. At Messrs. Richardson's tannery, Newgate Street, a number of flags were displayed.

Robert and Elizabeth Spence Watson, 1863

Robert and Elizabeth Spence Watson, 1863

Quaker marriage certificate for Robert Spence Watson and Elizabeth Richardson (with apologies for the poor focus)

And the Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury reported:


WEDDING AT THE FRIENDS' MEETING HOUSE.—The marriage of Mr. Robert Spence Watson, son of Mr. Joseph Watson, solicitor of this town and Bensham Grove, Gateshead, with Miss Elizabeth, third daughter of Edward Richardson, Esq., South Ashfield, Newcastle, was solemnised at the Friends' Meeting House on Tuesday. Long before the time appointed for the ceremony taking place, the vicinity of the chapel was crowded by persons anxious to see the bridal party, which, about half-past nine, arrived in seven carriages—four of them being distinguished by having outriders, and the whole of the horses, postilions, &c., wearing wedding favours. The bridal party comprised Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, Mr. and Mrs. Watson, the Bride and Bridegroom, Mr. H.T. Mennell and Miss Jane Emily Richardson, Mr. Thomas Whitwell and Miss Emily Watson, Mr. Joseph Watson jun., and Miss Lucy Fenwick, Mr. John W. Richardson and Miss Alice Richardson, Mr. William Joshua Watson and Miss Ellen Ann Richardson, Mr. George W. Richardson and Miss Helen Watson, and Master Herbert Watson and Miss Gertrude Watson. The bride and bridesmaids were all gracefully dressed in white. The meeting house was filled by a large audience, chiefly friends of the parties, many of whom had come from a distance. Upon the bridal party proceeding to the table the usual forms were gone through, after which Mr. Charles Brown, of North Shields, delivered an appropriate and impressive discourse from the words "Commit thy ways to the Lord." The happy couple took their departure by the 1.30 p.m. train for the south, en route to Switzerland, where they intend to spend the honeymoon. The children of the Ragged Schools, of which the happy couple were secretaries, had rejoicings on the occasion, and at Messrs. Richardson's establishment in Newgate-street, various flags were displayed in honour of the event.13A

On their wedding night, at the London Bridge Terminus Hotel, the hotel was evacuated for a time, on account of a fire. On their six week honeymoon in Switzerland and North Italy Elizabeth made, with Robert, the first ascent of the Balfrin. They visited Switzerland and Italy again in 1865 (with Emmie and Allie Richardson) and 1867. In 1867 she made the first or second ascent by a lady of the Ortlerspitze, as well as ascending the Königsspitze and the Ortlerspitze. She travelled widely with her husband in their concern for freedom, visiting Switzerland, Norway, Corsica, the Pyrenees, Dauphiny, Madeira, and Tenerife; they made their first journey to Norway in 1868.13

The couple had six children: Mabel Spence (1864–1907, born at Moss Croft, Gateshead), Ruth Spence (1866–1914, b. Moss Croft), Evelyn Spence (1871–1959), [M1] Mary Spence (1875–1962), Bertha Spence (1877–1954), and Arnold Spence (1879–1897).14

On 26th November 1863 Elizabeth launched the East India clipper Delhi, from her brother's shipyard.14AA

After Ruth's birth in 1866 Elizabeth was very ill, and took a month to recover.14A

Once, with Robert at Tynemouth, she saw three separate shipwrecks in one afternoon, in a stormy sea.15

Her father-in-law, Joseph Watson, used to say "A sweeter woman ne'er drew breath than my son's wife, Elizabeth" (from Jean Ingelow's 'High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire').16

Around the late 1860s she translated from German some large treatises on philosophical subjects which her (future) brother-in-law Dr Theo Merz was then writing.17

On the 6th of April 1868 Elizabeth recorded in a private note:


In the last few weeks, I have not been very well, having been much troubled with cough & rheumatism. Often I have been much discouraged, not about my physical state, but because I seem to make so little real progress in anything that is good, & because I find the "being faithful in little things" so very hard. Ill temper so often given way to & excused to myself under the plea of being tired, or not feeling well—indolence, & neglect of what I choose to call little duties—how often all these sins beset me. And yet if I cannot be faithful in the little how can I be faithful in much? & how unless I myself strive more earnestly can I expect to teach the children to be gentle & patient? But what I want is not to reason or talk about these things—I believe I am conscious of many of my faults, & I doubt if a somewhat morbid self-analysis is likely to do good.17A

In the summer of 1868, with Robert, she made her first trip to Norway. In the autumn of 1869 they visited Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, &c. In December of that year her sister Anna Deborah commented on their activities:


Lizzie is very well . . . I sometimes think he [RSW] works his wife too hard, for she has not so good a constitution as he, especially in their ridiculous Alpine and Norwegian pranks; where, for example, they will walk 40 miles over ice one day, and drive 70, in a rattling 'carriole,' the next; but, so far, the paralysis which I expect for them both some day, is happily warded off.

In the summer of 1870 they visited Austria. They were abroad at the start of the war between France and Germany, and had considerable difficulty in getting back.18

The 1871 census found her living with her family and two domestic servants in Elysium Lane, Gateshead. In December of that year Elizabeth recorded, of her life at that time, "Of course . . . my time is almost entirely taken up with household work, & I have scarcely any leisure for reading."19

In 1871, 1872 and 1873 the family took summer holidays mountaineering in Switzerland. In January 1872 they took a winter break in Tenerife. Around 1873 it is recorded that Ann Richardson Foster offered a silk dress to Elizabeth if she or her husband could peel an apple into as many yards (not less than ten) as would make one, and keep the peel unbroken. The task was performed, and the peeling—ten yards and two feet long—was presented to the donor with a poem by Robert to accompany it. The summer holiday of 1874 was spent in Belgium and France.20

In April 1874 she played Portia in the family's production of Ye Marchand of Venyse at Mosscroft, and later that month Decius Brutus, in Julius Caesar; in May she played Regan in King Lear, and in November the Duke of Norfolk and John of Gaunt in Richard II. In August, with Robert and his sister Gertrude, she represented Gateshead at a conference of the Friends' First Day School Association, in Darlington. In early 1875 she was still living at Moss Croft, Gateshead, though Robert had inherited Bensham Grove by the death of his father in December. In the late autumn of that year Elizabeth spent a couple of weeks with the children, staying with her sister Emily White and family at West Knoll, Bournemouth, while Bensham Grove was made ready for them to take up occupation.21

In 1876 Elizabeth noted:


I do not know that I have ever remarked upon the delightful rides Robert & I have had together—at one time or another in the course of our married life. Both in the old Ashfield days but more especially since Alice's wedding—for Dr Merz made her a present of a beautiful horse called Rose, a splendid creature wh we have been fortunate enough to ride as well as its mistress. In the long spring evenings, & especially in the particularly beautiful ones of last spring, when the woods were carpeted with hyacinths, & everything looked lovely, we had some never to be forgotten rides—finding out new paths & new beauties every day. Now we have a nice little horse of our own called Jessie, wh Mabel rides admirably, & wh is also large enough for either Robert or me.21A

In 1876 and 1877 she holidayed with her family in Aardal and Faleide, Norway. In the latter year she made the first ascent by a woman of the Store Cecilienkrona. In October that year she noted:


What with home duties & cares—sewing (no light matter when 5 girls have to be provided for) much correspondence, & Ragged School & Training Home work outside not to speak of social duties—I find my time completely taken up—& have little leisure for reading, except just the morning's newspaper.22

At the beginning of June 1878 Elizabeth and Robert were at Pooley Bridge. In the autumn of that year they spent 6 weeks touring northern Italy. The following year they holidayed on the Isle of Wight.22A

In February 1880 she attended a meeting to petition for women being allowed to take exams at Cambridge.23

In 1880 Robert, Elizabeth and Mabel Spence Watson visited Sweden, where Robert had business. In London, on their way out, they had seen Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in The Merchant of Venice.24

At the time of the 1881 census she was living with her family and four general servants at Bensham Grove, Bensham Road, Gateshead.25

The family spent six weeks at Faleide again, in 1881, taking two maids out with them. On their return, Elizabeth noted, "Newcastle & Gateshead looked too dirty to live in, but Home is Home . . .". Soon after her return she had a fall in which she injured her knee sufficiently that she was "quite crippled" for some weeks. Similar periods were spent at Faleide in 1882 and 1884, the summer of the intervening year once again being spent in Switzerland and North Italy. In 1885 the family again returned to Norway for the summer, this time to Ørstenvik. 26

From before her marriage she remained for over forty years Secretary to the Committee of the Ragged and Industrial School for Girls, and with her husband was a prime mover in the founding of, and secretary to, the High School for Girls in Gateshead—the first girls' day school in the north east.27

She was an ardent believer in Home Rule for Ireland, and campaigned with her husband during the period 1885/1890. She is also known to have corresponded at length with Josephine Butler, the feminist and social reformer.28

In the Autumn of 1886 she and Robert took a trip in the Tyrol, returning via Basle.29

The Newcastle Women's Liberal Association was founded at Bensham in 1886, and Elizabeth remained its President for 25 years. A large number of the WLAs in Northumberland and Durham were inaugurated with speeches by her. Where the Newcastle and Gateshead WLA appears to be different from the others is the high profile given to the question of peace, certainly not part of the official Liberal Party policy. Elizabeth raised the peace question at most WLA meetings.30

She was a member of the Gateshead Nurses' Association, the Girls' Friendly Society, the Women's International League, the Tyneside Association, the Band of Hope, the British Women's Temperance Association, and the Women's Suffrage Society—she was President of several and took an active interest in all. She was a member of the Tyneside Peace and Arbitration League, and of the Newcastle and Gateshead Vigilance Association. In late 1889 she wrote to Sergei Stepniak, wondering (perhaps rather naively) if a personal letter from Queen Victoria might help the Russian cause; from 1890 she was a member of the general committee of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom, working actively for the society, sending out circulars and sending updates to Stepniak on the progress of subscriptions. She was also a member of the council of the Women's Franchise League, and in 1900 was one of the founders of the Newcastle and District Women's Suffrage Society, becoming an active member of its executive committee.31

signature of Elizabeth Spence WatsonIn February 1887 she visited Lewes with Robert. In the summer of that year the family spent six weeks in Norway, staying for part of the time at least inside the Arctic Circle, at Ørnaes; they returned to the same place in 1888, in which year Elizabeth and Robert also made a silver wedding trip to Spain. Elizabeth donated 10s. to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1888—enough for annual subscription, but she appears not to have renewed it. In November 1888 she founded the Newcastle and Gateshead Ladies Peace Association. The following month she visited London with Robert; and in January 1889 she stayed at Naworth Castle, Brampton, Cumberland. During April and May that year, with Robert, she toured Rome, Naples, Sicily, Venice, and then Dresden and Berlin (where they saw Bismarck and the Kaiser). In November 1889 she addressed the 2nd annual meeting of the Newcastle & Gateshead Peace Association, on the Franco-Prussian War. The summer of 1890 saw the family in Osen, Norway, for seven weeks. The 1891 census finds her with her family at Bensham Grove, in a household including Robert's nephew, a cook, and two other domestic servants. She spent five weeks with Robert in a tour of Spain, as well as a few days in Tangier, in the autumn of 1891. In the early part of 1892 Elizabeth spent four months with her daughter Mabel, who had been ordered south for her health, in the Canaries. Later that year she spent six to eight weeks with Robert, at a house called Bryn Cothi, in Caermarthenshire.32

Elizabeth (Richardson) Spence Watson

A close friend later gave a vivid picture of her at this period, appearing in drawing rooms at evening parties,


. . . with her hair braided round her head in a queenly coronal, when all the other mothers wore caps. I always see her in a beautiful robe of green plush that fell round her like moonlight. I hardly knew her in those days, but she was a most queenly figure . . .32A

She was on the Gateshead Board of Guardians for 18 years or more, which made a constant claim upon her sympathies; this work undoubtedly strengthened her temperance principles. She was one of the two women Guardians who insisted on trained nurses being employed for the first time at the workhouse. From 1889 William Moore Ede and Elizabeth Spence Watson were seen as "a formidable duo" on the Board. She retired from this position in 1913. A friend later recalled:


Her position on the Board was a difficult one; the leading members were bitter political opponents of her husband and disliked the presence of a woman on the Board. [ . . . ] Her fault, if it be a fault, was that she was too guileless and believed everyone to be as innocent as herself; consequently she did not always fathom the schemes and machinations of sinful men, and sometimes voted in support of motions which she would not have done had she perceived the ultimate purpose in view. But after all, this guilelessness and sincerity were the source of her inspiration.33

In March 1893, her children growing out of dependency, Elizabeth was again in low spirits:


The depression that comes upon me is at times almost unbearable. No little ones who must be cared for & worked for—no little feet to come running to meet one—the work that has to be of one's own choosing with the perpetual sense of "cui bono"? The strength & hope of youth gone & a constant feeling of weariness upon one.33A

In June 1893 Friends Literary Tracts published her The Wreck of the Victoria Man o' War. She spent the whole of July on holiday with her family in Wales. In July and November she had letters published in The Northern Echo, on the loss of the Victoria and the need for warships, and on the Matabele War. In December she spoke on women's suffrage, on the same platform as Millicent Fawcett. In January 1895 she had a letter on the Peace Question published in The Newcastle Daily Leader. In January 1896 she introduced the playing of chess and draughts to children in the Gateshead workhouse. In October 1896 she had a letter in the Women's Signal, on 'The Workhouse "Christmas Beer"'.33B

In 1894 she holidayed for two months in Norway, in 1895 in the Pyrenees, in 1896 in Ireland, in 1897 in Norway, and in 1898 in the Dauphiné Alps, with the family. At the end of 1898 she stayed at Studley with Robert. The summer holiday of 1899 was in Scotland, based at Oban.34

In 1895/6 she may have been the first female tutor at Durham University.34AA

In 1896 she was present at her daughter Mabel's wedding at Pilgrim Street meeting house; the reception was held at Bensham Grove. The death of the Spence Watsons' only son Arnold in 1897 was a devastating blow to the family. Elizabeth Spence Watson's 'Family Chronicles', recorded faithfully from 1864, cease abruptly, and it was fully 18 years before she could bear to put pen to paper again, to record their family life.34A

In February 1897 she was a signatory to an open letter to all members of the House of Commons, on women's suffrage. In August 1899 she went with her daughter Mary to a North of England WLA conference; she spoke beautifully, and carried a resolution against the government's proceedings in sending Britain to war with the Transvaal. In the days of the Boer War she was an active member of the local Stop-the-War Committee.35


Watercolour by Elizabeth Spence Watson, 1898, in my possession

In mid November 1899 she spent a week in York. On Christmas day that year she paid a visit to the workhouse. In January 1900, with Robert and Mary, she spent a week or two in Grange-over-Sands.36

In June 1900 she attended a women's peace rally against the Boer War, at the Queen's Hall, in London.37


Robert, Elizabeth, Mary & Bertha Spence Watson, Chamonix

Robert, Elizabeth, Mary and Bertha Spence Watson, Chamonix

In August 1900 Elizabeth and Robert visited Germany, then spent September in Switzerland. She was away from home at the time of the 1901 census, but it's not clear where. With her family, she spent a month at Loch Maree, in the summer of that year. In the following year she spent three weeks in Germany followed by three weeks in Southern France. In August 1902 Elizabeth had a letter in the Newcastle Daily Leader, on 'Military training of boys'; and in March 1903 she had a letter in The Friend on 'Friends and Military Service.' In April and May 1903 she and Robert took a holiday in the Swiss Alps and north Italy, for their health. In October that year she holidayed in Ireland with Robert and their daughter Ruth. From February to April 1904 she spent ten weeks in Algeria, Tunisia, Italy and Corsica, with her sister Ruth. In July that year Elizabeth and Robert went to see a show by Buffalo Bill. The following month Elizabeth was present at her daughter Mary's wedding in Newcastle, the reception again being at Bensham. In early October she spent a couple of nights with the newly-weds in York. During this year she was beginning to suffer from varicose veins, as well as a rheumatic shoulder. In April and May 1905 she was in Teneriffe with Robert. From March to June 1906 she was in the Canaries and Madeira, with Robert, Mabel and Mary.38

In March 1906 she was interviewed by the North Mail; she expressed her regret at recent actions by militant suffragettes. In November that year, in the Daily Graphic, she noted, more sympathetically, that "it must be remembered that quieter methods have been pursued during a long course of years with apparent want of success."38A

In February 1907 she had a letter in the London Daily News, on '"In the Name of Fashion"', objecting to tight lacing. The following month she had a letter in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle, on 'Liberal Women and the Suffrage'. In April that year she spent a week at Ampleforth, staying with her daughter Mabel. She was in London for a week in May. In July, after Robert was made a Privy Councillor, many of the congratulatory telegrams to him wished Elizabeth could have been included in the honour. In August that year the family holidayed at Oldstead Hall, Coxwold. She spent the first two weeks in September with Mabel in York—the final weeks of Mabel's life.39

Elizabeth (Richardson) Spence Watson

By October 1907 Elizabeth's health was suffering. She was very lame with sciatica, and sleeping badly. By November she was thoroughly run down, and her heart was very weak; she took to her bed, and had to have a nurse. By February 1908 she was prostrated under a bad breakdown—from the strain of months and years indeed—but improving slowly. In mid March she had had an attack of influenza, and had been in bed about six weeks, very depressed. In April she and her sister Caroline visited the Waverley Hydropathic Establishment, Melrose, Scotland. Around May and June she spent some weeks at Peebles with Robert and her nurse, still very poorly. By August, when she had been staying with the Weisses at Summerbridge, she seems to have been back on top form, as Evelyn writes:


She is wonderful. I wish you could have seen her skipping across the stepping stones yesterday & climbing stiles & railings, rushing along so that I could hardly keep up with her. She marches along, insisting on carrying her own cloak, & would absolutely spoil her grandchildren were it allowed, by waiting on them when they should wait on her.39A

In October she was in bed again, ill with an inflammation of the bladder. In January 1909 she again had influenza.40

In May 1909 she and Robert holidayed at Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight. In June she spent a couple of weeks in York, with the Pollards and the Richardsons, her daughters' families.41

At least from 1910 to 1916 she was a shareholder in the North Eastern Railway. From around 1910 until her death she was on the executive committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Vigilance Association.42

Robert died in March 1911. She had been to him a counsellor and adviser in all that he undertook, planned or executed. He had attributed to her the enlisting of his zeal in the cause of peace. In May she acted as one of the four executors of his will.43

Almost immediately after his death Elizabeth told Mary that it was her intention to leave Bensham Grove. Nonetheless, she never did, and lived there for the rest of her own life.44

The portrait now at Bensham Grove

(with thanks to Chris O'Toole and Shirley Brown)

At the time of the 1911 census she was with her daughter Ruth and granddaughter Betty Morrell, staying in an 8 room boarding-house at 43 Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton, Shropshire.44A

For the duration of August 1911 she stayed at Dunstansteads with the Pollards, for whose holiday there she paid. The Christmas and New Year of 1911/1912 were spent with the Morrells in York, her youngest daughter's family. In January 1912 she resigned from the chair of the WLA. In the spring of 1912 she visited the Italian lakes with the Morrells. August again saw a family holiday at Dunstansteads. In November she spent a fortnight in Manchester.45

In May 1912 she was ill with supposed gall stones. In January 1913 she was suffering from giddiness. She spent a week with the Pollards at the end of January 1913.46

In mid March 1913 she embarked for Tasmania, where she was to spend eight months with her daughter Ruth. In the summer she attended Australia General Meeting, at Adelaide. In October, at the age of 75, she climbed to the highest point of Mount Wellington. She was full of interest in all she saw in the new country, in the history of Tasmania and Australia, in the beauty of the scenery, the many friends who welcomed her to their homes, and in the Friends' High School, of which her son-in-law was head.47

The Richardson family were keenly interested in art, and the 400 sketches or more done on her travels in England and abroad and in Tasmania, that she left, bear witness to her skill and industry as well as to her love and appreciation of Nature. At one point she painted a series of wild flowers to adorn the great hall of the Gateshead High School. Her face would glow and her eyes shine at some beautiful sight, even to the end. It is interesting to see that, like the beauty of her character, her artistic power developed and increased, so that her later sketches are the most admirable—even those executed on her Tasmanian visit, when she was 75.48

She reached home on the 3rd February 1914, being greeted at the door by "the Jullions, Brewis, Ethel & Jane", her servants. A week later Mary took her mother to Low Fell, to arrange the hiring of a carriage for her. She settled for a 'Victoria', for £3 a week, complete with a man in livery. Her little granddaughter Caro Pollard dubbed her grandmother's Victoria "the strawberry cab", later that year.49

Before the end of April 1914 she subscribed a guinea to the Bootham Swimming Bath Fund.49A

By July Mary found her mother not nearly so strong, and "is so blind & deaf".50

By October Bensham Grove was on the telephone—no. 8, Gateshead.51

The war, of course, had begun by then. In early November the stables at Bensham Grove were commandeered by the military, for their horses.52

Over Christmas and the new year of 1914–15 she stayed with the Morrells at the Mansion House in York. In January 1915 she had a letter in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on 'Quakers and War'. In June that year she spent a fortnight with the Pollards at the Richardsons' home at Wheel Birks. She played patience most evenings. Mary found her to be growing sadly blind, and terribly depressed about the war. In October 1915 she had a short letter in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on ''"The Right Road"', advocating de-escalation.53

Around 1916 she was President of the Tyneside branch of the International Arbitration and Peace Association. She spoke and wrote fearlessly against the First World War, during which her active sympathies were aroused for the Aliens (she had written to the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on 'The Alien Question' in November 1914); and at the passing of the Military Service Act she advised and helped many young men whose punishments and imprisonments she felt most keenly. One such later recalled:


In the dark and stormy days which have fallen over the world since August 1914 and in which some have seen their way to testify to convictions which have not been deemed popular I can personally testify that in no quarter did I find such steadfastness of purpose and such a rigid adherence to deep religious convictions as in Mrs Spence Watson. In the struggle for liberty of conscience I received great inspiration through her brave and noble spirit nor can I forget how, in what were to me very trying days in 1916, when friends were falling rapidly away, Mrs Watson insisted on staying with me during the long hours which preceded the hearing of my claim before the Gateshead Tribunal, the only friend I had in court.54

In mid July 1916 she spent a few days at Heugh Folds in Grasmere, on the occasion of the funeral of her sister Caroline Richardson. She made her will in August 1916, bequeathing a fifth of her estate to each of her surviving children, a fifth to the children of her late daughter Mabel Richardson, and a fifth to her son-in-law Edmund Gower; she appointed Evelyn, Percy Corder, and John Bowes Morrell her executors, each being given £50 for their service. As specific bequests she left Sir George Reid's portrait of her husband to the Laing Art Gallery, as well as such other paintings and drawings of local interest at Bensham Grove as her executors and daughters should agree; the portraits of herself and her daughter Ruth by Wickham Howard, and the furniture and pictures in her bedroom (by then the guest room) at Bensham Grove to her children, as they should agree between themselves; she left such mementoes as Evelyn should select to her sisters and their choice of her friends; £100 to each grandchild living at the time of her death; £200 to her son-in-law Hugh Richardson; £10 to each domestic servant who'd been with her for five years or more, and a sum less than £10 to each domestic servant who'd been with her for a shorter period; £10, as a mark of esteem, to each of Thomas Jameson, Walter Heathcote Golding, Thomas Rodham Hutchinson, and John J. Bramwell, employees of her late husband's law firm; £20 to her gardener, William Orient Brewis; £50 to the Gateshead Nursing Association; £100 to either the Friends Peace Association or the Northern Peace Board; £50 to the Gateshead Branch of the British Women's Temperance Association; £50 to the Newcastle and District Band of Hope; £100 to the Committee of the Friends High School Hobart Tasmania; the residue to be divided in fifths as previously stated.

She spent December of 1916 at Wheel Birks. December the following year she spent at York, a week with each of her daughters resident there. After the February 1917 revolution in Russia she wrote to Peter Kropotkin, welcoming the news; he acknowledged his regret that they couldn't share the joy with her late husband; In February 1918 she was present at the celebratory luncheon to Emma Richardson Pumphrey.55

Her clear vision of right and wrong was unerring. Her eyes would flash with indignation, and she spoke out without hesitation against what she felt to be wrong. Offered once by a visitor a tortoiseshell tea-caddy looted from the Palace at Pekin, she flashed out, "Take what you stole, Never!" In these last years her face became irradiated with a love and peace and spiritual beauty which those who saw could never forget. John Morley said he had never understood the meaning of the words 'the beauty of holiness' until he became acquainted with Elizabeth Spence Watson. She had great faith in prayer; after breakfast she would read a short passage, usually from the Bible. She did not talk much about religion, but one felt it was religion which was the root of her character, and that it was the peace of God which ruled in her heart.56

In 1948 her servant, Brewis, looked back thirty years, and recalled:


Mrs Spence Watson was so kind & thoughtful & in my last year there I shared the Double bed room with Mrs Spence Watson as she wanted company at night & I felt very proud that I had been asked to sleep in the same room & I did every thing for her even to helping her to get her bath & bandage her legs which had to be done every morning, she was always so sweet & most grateful & never grumbled at all & she was very poorly then but would concent to have a nurse until I was leaving to be married . . .57

At the end of July 1918 she was suddenly taken ill with her heart, suffering agony at first, though recovering during the following week. In August 1918 she took a Miss Barringer as her companion, the latter taking up her duties at the beginning of September after Elizabeth had suffered a bad fall, bruising her face against the metal of her bedstead. On the 29th September she was well enough to walk to meeting, but apparently overtaxed herself or caught a chill after sitting at home with the fire out (because of coal rationing), and suffered a heart attack the following day. In considerable pain, for which she took morphia, she remained in bed till at least mid-November, fighting not only the pain but depression. On Armistice Day, 11th November, she had the Bensham flag raised, and herself summoned the strength to walk down to lunch.58

She was a robust Liberal (though not renewing her subscription during the war), keenly interested in the extension of the suffrage, especially to women; only a few months before her death she presided at a large meeting on Tyneside to celebrate the limited extension of 1918; she was a pioneer of the women's movement in the North of England. For Ann Craven, author of the only academic study of Elizabeth Spence Watson to date, "she was unusual in maintaining a holistic belief in peace and women's suffrage."59


Elizabeth (Richardson) Spence Watson, 1918

Elizabeth Spence Watson. c. 1918

She was a consistent and fearless champion of peace between nations and between classes; she was a most delightful and inspiring friend of all kinds of people; she never kept silence when the cause of truth demanded her assistance. To the hospitalities of Bensham Grove she contributed no little of their peculiar grace and charm.60

She had a high-souled nature, and was a keen lover of justice and gifted with an untiring zeal in the furtherance of all good causes.61

To both Robert and Elizabeth children were a great joy, and in later years their grandchildren were their greatest comforters in sorrow. Elizabeth loved to have her grandchildren with her even to the end, and 'Grannie' was beloved by them all.62

Towards the end of January 1919 she fell gravely ill, and it became clear that it was her final illness. However she lingered a fortnight more, at times in great suffering, sedated with morphine, sometimes delirious, but sometimes tranquil. It was a time of enormous distress to the family, as indeed it was to herself. On the 5th February she had a further heart attack, and it was doubtful whether she'd survive the night. She was unconscious from the 10th February, then at five o'clock on the 14th February, just as her daughters were sitting down to tea at Bensham Grove, they were summoned upstairs, where they arrived just in time for their mother's last moments of life. She died of atheroma of the coronary vessels and pyelitis 19 days. Her sister described her face in death as "calm and untroubled and peaceful." Her body was buried in the Jesmond Old Cemetery, Newcastle, at 1:30 on Monday the 17th. Theo Merz gave a fine eulogy at the meeting after the funeral, after which the family withdrew to Bensham, where sketches and photos were spread out. At the probate of her will on 23rd October 1919 her effects were valued at £6812.10.8d (£144,494 at 2005 values). The notice of her death in the Northern Echo bore the headline "GREAT LOSS TO THE NORTH".63

In 1920, as her sister Alice noted, the Annual Monitor "contains a very perfect little memoir of Lizzie—we wonder who has written it."63A

Elizabeth Richardson was the fifth child and third daughter of [O2] Edward and [P1] Jane Richardson.64



1 birth certificate; Annual Monitor 1919–20

2 TNA: HO 107/824/10 f21 p34; TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Herbert Corder: 'Elizabeth Spence Watson': 1. Augusta Richardson's Reminiscences say, of Mrs Gething's school, that her "small class was held at her house in Westmorland Terrace, of which one side was newly built and looked across brickfields and down to the Shot Tower and the River.  Here we went daily to school for I think about three years.  Mrs Gething was a highly educated and very interesting woman, but more fitted to have taken girls of 16 or 18, and not severe enough in grounding us in the dull foundations.  Each afternoon she spent chiefly in reading or relating to us some elegant passages from the poets, dilating on its beauties and with much impressing elocution etc.  For instance, one afternoon she would give us 'A Mother’s Love' read passages and poems, and tell of incidents and stories bearing on the subject and so on.  Another day, we were given Paul’s speech before Agrippa, and a contest for a prize to who should say it best.  Eliz Watson got the prize, now Mrs Spence Watson."

3–4 Annual Monitor 1919–20

5 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 24, TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson

6 TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson

7 TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 35

8 HO 107/2404 f469 p57; Annual Monitor 1919–20; TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson; Ann Craven (2004) 'Elizabeth Spence Watson: a Quaker working for peace and women's suffrage in nineteenth century Newcastle and Gateshead' , MA dissertation, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

9 TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson

10 TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson, Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson

10A diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms)

11 Dictionary of Quaker Biography

12 TNA: RG 9/3815 f47 p2; Minutes of Newcastle Preparative Meeting (Women's) 1834–1878, Tyne & Wear Archives Service MF 194; Richardson private ledger, TWAS Acc. 161/330; Robert Spence Watson collection, House of Lords RO Hist. Coll. no. 136; marriage certificate; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 159

13 minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting 1861–67, TWAS MF 170; Richardson private ledger, TWAS Acc. 161/330; family documents now at TWAS; Joseph Foster (1871) A Pedigree of the Forsters and Fosters of the North of England; marriage certificate; front papers to my copy of Percy Corder (1914) The Life of Robert Spence Watson. London: Headley; Reminiscences of Robert Spence Watson; Corder (1914); Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; The Friend 1863-08-01 p. 196, The British Friend 1863-07-01 p. 181; Alpine Club Register: 368–9; Ms journal of their wedding tour

13A Newcastle Journal, 1863-06-10; Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury, 1863-06-13

14 Dictionary of Quaker Biography; The Friend IV:146 1864-06-02, The British Friend 1864-07-01; children's birth certificates

14A Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles";

14AA Newcastle Journal, 1863-11-27

15 TS Reminiscences of Elizabeth Spence Watson

16 Evelyn Weiss: Ms Foreword to TS RSW Reminiscences

17 Reminiscences of John Theodore Merz. London: Blackwood (privately printed), 1922: 255

17A Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

18 Reminiscences of Robert Spence Watson; John Wigham Richardson: Memoir of Anna Deborah Richardson Newcastle 1877: 251; Catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; William K. Sessions: They Chose the Star. 2nd edn 1991, York; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; letters from Elizabeth & Robert Spence Watson to Jane, Caroline and John Wigham Richardson, now at TWAS

19 RG 10/5051 f63 p24—the enumerator gives the street name as "Leasham" Lane; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

20 Reminiscences of Robert Spence Watson; RSW & ESW letters now at TWAS; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; RSW in Wayside Gleanings

21 Mosscroft visitors' book; The Friend NS XIV.Aug:273; daughter's birth certificate; RSW & ESW letters now at TWAS

21A Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

22 Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

22A letter from Robert & Elizabeth Spence Watson to Mabel Spence Watson, TWAS Acc. 213/25; Corder (1914); Reminiscences of Robert Spence Watson; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

23 Reminiscences of Robert Spence Watson

24 E. Spence Watson: Notes to RSW Reminiscences; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

25 RG 11/5033 f97 p14

26 E. Spence Watson: Notes to RSW Reminiscences; Three holiday journals, 2 by ESW & 1 by RSW, formerly held by Mabel Weiss; catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

27 Corder (1914); DQB; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; Sansbury, Ruth: Beyond the Blew Stone. 300 Years of Quakers in Newcastle. 1998: Newcastle-upon-Tyne Preparative Meeting; Marriott, Dan (2002) 'Robert Spence Watson. A Pioneer of Education in the North' , University of Durham MA dissertation.

28 front papers to my copy of Corder (1914); Sansbury, Ruth: Beyond the Blew Stone. 300 Years of Quakers in Newcastle. 1998: Newcastle-upon-Tyne Preparative Meeting.

29 Reminiscences of John Theodore Merz. London: Blackwood (privately printed), 1922: 280

30 'Newcastle-upon-Tyne Women's Liberal Association 1886–1911', by Elizabeth Spence Watson; front papers to my copy of Corder (1914); Dictionary of Quaker Biography; Craven, Ann (2004) 'Elizabeth Spence Watson: a Quaker working for peace and women's suffrage in nineteenth century Newcastle and Gateshead' , MA dissertation, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

31 DQB; Craven (2004); Elizabeth Crawford (1999) The Women's Suffrage Movement, London: Routledge, p. 702; To the Arctic Zone, reprinted from Free Russia; Lara Green (2019) 'Russian Revolutionary Terrorism in Transnational Perspective: Representations and Networks, 1881–1926', 2019 PhD thesis, University of Northumbria

32 letter to Mabel Spence Watson, TWAS Acc. 213/249; three holiday journals, 2 by ESW & 1 by RSW, now at TWAS; Corder (1914); Evelyn Weiss: Ms Foreword to TS RSW Reminiscences; catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; RSW & ESW letters now at TWAS; Reminiscences of Robert Spence Watson; RG 12/4176 f60 p46; Diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; The Friend XXIX Mar:Ads 15; UK outward passenger lists

32A Herbert Corder: 'Elizabeth Spence Watson': 1; letter to Mabel & Mary Spence Watson, TWAS Acc. 213/258; letter to Mabel Spence Watson, TWAS Acc. 213/261; letter to children, TWAS Acc. 213/262

33 Annual Monitor 1919–20, Northern Echo 15 Feb 1919-02-15, The Friend LXIX:133–5 1919-03-07; F.W.D. Manders (1973) A History of Gateshead; the Newcastle Chronicle of 1889-04-02 records that her nomination for the Board of Guardians had been ruled out of order, on the ground that her name didn't appear in the rate book, where an official had altered the name 'Robert' to 'Elizabeth', apparently without their knowledge

33A Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

33B Craven (2004); RSW Cuttings; Diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard

34 RSW & ESW letters, and postcard from Evelyn to Elizabeth Spence Watson, now at TWAS; diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Mary Spence Watson, Commonplace Book; The Journal of John Wodehouse First Earl of Kimberley for 1862–1902: 463; E.S.W. 'South-West Donegal', Westminster Gazette 1896-10-08; ESW sketchbook

34AA The North's Forgotten Female Reformers, citing the 1895/96 Principal's Annual report (NUA/3/1/1, University Archives)

34A Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; RSW Cuttings

35 The Guardian 1897-02-02; diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms), The Friend 60:133-4 1919

36 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms)

37 catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service

38 E. Spence Watson—watercolour sketches possessed by me; Diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms), ESW: Album/holiday itinerary, now at TWAS; catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; letters of Mary Pollard; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; The Friend XLIII:156–7; RSW Cuttings; Frank and Mary Pollard visitors' books; letters from Elizabeth Spence Watson to Molly Richardson, 1901-09-16, 1905-04-09, and postcard, 1905-05-14, possessed by Paul Thomas; letter from Ruth Spence Watson to Molly Richardson, 1904-02-28, possessed by Paul Thomas

38A Craven (2004); RSW Cuttings

39 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"

39A diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); letters from Frank Pollard; letter from Evelyn Weiss to Robert Spence Watson, now at TWAS; letter from Caroline Richardson to Molly Richardson, 1908-04-04, possessed by Paul Thomas; letter from ESW to Molly Richardson, 1908-04-27, possessed by Paul Thomas

40 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); letters from Frank Pollard

41 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Frank and Mary Pollard visitors' books

42 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; NGVA leaflet in my possession

43 Annual Monitor 1919–20, The Friend 51:164-7 1911; Robert Spence Watson's will, codicil, and probate

44 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); will; index to wills and administrations, Principal Registry of the Family Division; death certificate; Annual Monitor 1919–20

44A TNA: RG14PN15924 RG78PN980 RD344 SD1 ED1 SN131

45 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Craven (2004)

46 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Frank and Mary Pollard visitors' books

47 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); DQB; Annual Monitor 1919–20; RSW & ESW letters now at TWAS; Corder (1914); The Friend LIII:524–5, 869; Frank and Mary Pollard visitors' books

48 Annual Monitor 1919–20

49 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms)

49A Bootham 7.1:76, May 1914

50 letters from Ruth Gower to Mary Pollard

51 letters from Elizabeth Spence Watson to Mary Spence Watson (Pollard)

52 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms)

53 diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms)

54 Annual Monitor 1919–20; letter from R.W. Ridley to Evelyn Weiss, now at TWAS; MSWP album of cuttings, in my possession

55 entry by ESW in Heugh Folds visitors' book, in possession of Elizabeth Ryan; will; letters from Frank Pollard; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; Ms Recollections of Emma R. Pumphrey, TWAS Acc. 474/11; Frank and Mary Pollard visitors' books; Green (2019)

56 Annual Monitor 1919–20:294-5, Joseph Foster (1873) Pedigrees of the County Families of England, Vol.1, Lancs.; Mary S.W. Pollard: 'A Few Reminiscences', TS; The Friend 60:133-4 1919

57 letter from Gertrude Brewis to MSW, 1948

58 letters from Elizabeth Spence Watson to Mary Spence Watson (Pollard); Diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms)

59 Northern Echo 15 Feb 1919; The Friend 60:133-4 1919; Diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); Craven (2004)

60 Northern Echo 15 Feb 1919; The Times 3 Mar 1911

61 Corder, op. cit.

62 Annual Monitor 1919–20

63 letters of Mary Pollard; Annual Monitor 1919–20; death certificate; DQB; Northern Echo 15 Feb 1919; Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 1919-02-17; front papers to my copy of Corder (1914); will and probate; The Friend LIX:116 1919-02-21; Alice Mary Merz, 'Family Notes', typescript

63A Alice Mary Merz, 'Family Notes', typescript

64 RG 6/404, /1149; GRO index


##  NB There are literally hundreds of references to "Mrs Spence Watson" in the British Newspaper Archive; I have not yet worked through these.  ##



Selected opportunities for further research

Tyne & Wear Archives, and Newcastle University Library, have considerable numbers of letters, to and from numerous correspondents, that I have not had the opportunity to read. TWAS also has a collection of condolence letters on ESW's death.

The Bodleian Library has half a dozen ESW letters to James Bryce.

A memoir of Mabel Spence Richardson, by ESW, is held privately, as are considerable numbers of her watercolours.


Edward Richardson was born on the 12th January 1806, in St John's parish, Newcastle. Though his father died when he was only four, he found a second father in his uncle George Richardson. He was always delicate—he suffered from asthma—and this made him an object of care and tender solicitude to his mother, to whom he was ever a dutiful and affectionate son.1

At the usual age he was sent as a day-scholar to John Bruce's school, where he was a favourite with his master, who considered him clever. For his age he excelled in Greek, which at that time was not much studied in day schools. After a few years he was sent to Frederick Smith's school at Darlington, which ranked as a first-class school among Friends, where he was placed among the older pupils in the classroom with young men who had almost a collegiate training, under an able professor from the University of St Andrews: he made satisfactory progress in his studies, and took a good position as a classical scholar. On his return home he used to enjoy reading Greek with Robert Foster (sr).2

On leaving school he worked as an apprentice in the tanyard in Newgate Street established by his father, in which he afterwards became a partner. As a young man he was fond of intellectual and scientific pursuits, and enjoyed entertaining his young friends with experiments in electricity and pneumatics. Many a happy evening was spent in this way. He had a decided aversion to metaphysics, considering that the human intellect when turned too much inwards, was apt to prey upon itself. His highly practical mind led him to prefer natural science to abstract. He took a kind interest in the apprentices of the tanyard, ten or twelve in number, whom he used to invite to his home, where he read to them, and showed them experiments with the electrifying machine and air pump. His tendency to pulmonary disease prevented his close attention to business, but his manner towards the workmen and apprentices was refined and courteous, and he was much beloved by them.3

In July 1825 he attended Quarterly Meeting at Sunderland with his brother, whose letter gives an account:


About 35 friends embarked on board the "Britannia" of two engines of 25 horse each, on second day morning at ¼ before eight, reached Shields at ¼ before 9, where 17 friends joined us, and Sunderland pier at ½ past 10, where 14 more made up the company. A fine, warm, westerly breeze, smooth sea, and smile on every face rendered the voyage delightful. We formed into social groups, or noticed the progress by the land objects, or pointed out the ships scattered about us, or paced the deck as inclination led us.

At the mouth of the Tees we took in Wm. Aldam and family for a short time, who are Friends from Leeds staying at Seaton, and who gave about a dozen urchins or sea-hedgehogs amongst us which they had been fishing for. As the tide had not risen sufficiently high we sauntered at the mouth of the Tees some hours, where a group of seals and a variety of sea birds interested us. We reached Stockton Quay a little after 6.

On third day night the wind had removed to the North-east, yet so little of it that friends embarked at ½ past eight on fourth day morning, without the slightest apprehension. We sailed finely down the Tees about 13 miles, but as we approached the sea the pilot, we took in, a little excited our fears by telling us he must go on to the Tyne as he could not re-land with his small boat on the coast for the breakers. As we got out to sea one after another fell sick. We stood against the wind, which was quite contrary, for some hours; the day was cold accompanied with small rain, which rendered it uncomfortable, yet only 3 or 4 of those quite knocked up went down to the cabin, of which poor brother Edward was one. In attending to him and getting him to bed, I fell sick, yet chose to lay on the deck. At last the captain not choosing to risk of anything giving way with such a valuable cargo on board, put back to Hartlepool, where we were all safely landed. The next consideration, after an unrelished cup of tea, was to get homewards. Wm. Aldam kindly sent his carriage with some, besides which there were 6 fish carts engaged for the "sick, the women, children and baggage." After doing what we could to provide for our female friends, brother and I set off to walk, and reached Sunderland at ½ past 9 last night, 23 miles—thinking walking most likely to relieve our sickness, which indeed we found was the case. There were other companies of walkers, but as we set off between the carts, expecting they would overtake us, did not fall in with them. We left Sunderland at 5 this morning. Charles Bragg and I to Newcastle and my brother to Tynemouth. The "Britannia" is still lying weather bound at Hartlepool. The account of this curious journey has taken up so much room that I cannot give much detail of our Quarterly Meeting. It occasioned in this short journey a great mixture of pleasure and profit, as well as of toil or trouble than I ever met with, though I think upon the whole the novelty of riding in fish carts gave a kind of social enjoyment that was not disagreeable.4

In April 1826, with John Richardson, Edward was one of the founding twelve members of the Newcastle Book Society. He joined the Newcastle Lit. & Phil. in 1828. In April 1827 he was one of two representatives from Newcastle to Monthly Meeting, held at North Shields. In August that year, described as of Spring Gardens, he donated ten guineas to the Newcastle Dispensary. In 1828 Edward served three times as representative to Monthly Meeting, in January, September and November. In October he was listed as one of the trustees for the meeting house and burial ground.5

signature of Edward RichardsonIn April 1829 he inherited his grandfather David Sutton's house on Princess Street, of which he was already in occupation, together with £500 and ¼ of the furniture and effects. With his brother John, he was executor of David Sutton's will; each executor was paid £30.6

In his early twenties he sought the friendship of [P2] John Wigham's only daughter. The fame of her talents and accomplishments made an attempt to obtain her hand a somewhat anxious task. His visits to Edinburgh were times of great interest in the family circle. It was before the time of railways. The Richardson house stood by the North road, and the 'Chevy Chase' coach passed their gate, and when it stopped to take him up, the little household would turn out to bid this beloved brother good speed on his important errand. At the beginning of March 1830 Newcastle Monthly Meeting appointed James Gilpin, Robert Spence and John Mounsey to enquire into Edward's clearness for his proposed marriage to Jane Wigham, which proved uncontentious. On the 28th April 1830 he married [P1] Jane Wigham, in Edinburgh. Edward and Jane's children were: Anna Deborah (1832–1872), Caroline (1834–1916), Edward (1835–1890), John Wigham (1837–1908), [O1] Elizabeth (1838–1919), George William (1840–1871), Isaac (1842–1846), Jane Emily (1844–1903), Alice Mary (1846–1933), Ellen Ann (1848–1925), and Margaret (1851–1855); all births were registered by Durham Quarterly Meeting.7

In June 1830 Edward was one of four representatives from Newcastle to the ensuing Quarterly Meeting at Darlington. In July and October he was one of two Newcastle representatives to Monthly Meeting, as he was in June and September 1831, February, October and December 1832, October 1833, and March 1834 (in February 1832 his co-representative was Joseph Watson). In July 1831 he was one of 45 men Friends who signed the certificate for George Washington Walker. In 1833 Edward was a member of the Essay Society in Newcastle, to which he contributed a poem on the forthcoming Aurora annual. His poem was "much remarked upon as very original metre, or no metre at all but irregular verse." In 1834 he served on the main committee, and as a teacher, at the First Day School, to which in May he gave four books, a Bible, and a reference testament, as well as £1 from his brother and himself; by 1840 he was no longer teaching.8

On his marriage he had taken up his residence at Summerhill Grove, then a country suburb of Newcastle with an uninterrupted view of Ravensworth and the valley of the Tyne. The 1832 electoral register shows him there, qualified to vote by virtue of his share of freehold houses and land at Spring Gardens, then occupied by his mother and others. The 1833–4 Newcastle directory shows the family home at 6 Summerhill Grove; the tannery, in which he was now, with John Richardson, a partner, was located at 66 Newgate Street—they were described as tanners, morocco leather dressers and glue makers. The 1835 electoral register entry replicates that of 1832. In 1836 the tannery was described as being at the White Cross, Newgate Street.9

In January, February, March, May and September 1835 the tannery cashbook records £100 payments to him, as well as an additional payment in May of £272.15.–. In March 1835, with Henry Brady, he was appointed by the Monthly Meeting to ensure that the marriage of Joseph Watson and Sarah Spence was conducted agreeably to good order, and to prepare abstracts of the marriage certificate. Described as a tanner of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he was a witness at the marriages of Sarah Spence and Joseph Watson, and Mary Spence and James Watson.10

In February 1836 the tannery paid him £150, in June £126-19-1, and in October £60, on the latter occasion with the annotation "To Torquay." The cashbook shows that the partners had accounts with the Northumberland & Durham District Bank, Sir M.W. Ridley & Co., bankers, and the Newcastle branch of the Bank of England. In 1836 he was a signatory to the deed of settlement of the Northumberland and District Bank—to his later cost.11

At the beginning of 1837 he wintered with his family in Torquay, on account of his delicate health. His brother and partner John kindly and willingly liberated him, whenever it was thought desirable, on health grounds, for him to leave home. He took many journeys for the benefit of his health, both by sea and land, often accompanied by his sister Ann. On one of these occasions they were shipwrecked. In 1837 they went to London by the Menai steamer to consult Sir James Clark, who recommended him to return home by a sailing vessel. Accordingly they embarked in a Newcastle trader, The Bywell, making her first voyage. The weather was threatening, and the captain crowded on all sail; hoping to have light enough to run into Yarmouth Roads and shelter for the night. But the storm of wind and rain increased. Edward and Ann were alone about six o'clock in the cabin, fearing no danger, when suddenly there came an awful shock, quickly followed by another and another. The vessel had struck upon the Newcombe Sands off Pakefield, and all hope that the ship would get off was taken away, for the rudder was soon lost, and she seemed to be breaking up by the violence of the waves. The men prepared to launch the boats; the first was swamped in the attempt, and the long boat shared the same fate. They were three miles from shore. They were about three hours in this state of exposure and uncertainty, when the lifeboat from Lowestoft, with seventeen brave men, came to their rescue. Just a quarter of an hour afterwards the ship broke up. Edward lost everything except the clothes he wore. They reached the shore at about ten o'clock at night, where they received most kind attention from the Vicar of Lowestoft, Francis Cunningham, and his wife, one of the Gurneys of Earlham [Richenda, sister to Elizabeth Fry and Joseph John Gurney]. He took them to their house, and kindly sent them on to Norwich in their carriage to take coach for the North.12

It was in 1837 that the politician John Bright first met his future wife, Elizabeth Priestman, at Edward Richardson's house in Newcastle.13

In 1838 he was still living at 6 Summerhill Grove, a tanner in the partnership of John and Edward Richardson, tanners, Morocco leather and glue manufacturers, of 66 Newgate-street. In July that year he subscribed £2 to the Royal Victoria Asylum for the Blind; in August that year he subscribed £10, and an annual subscription of 10s. 10d., to the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Zoological and Botanical Society, and in November he gave a second subscription of £5 to the Newcastle Female Penitentiary. In January 1839 he was co-signatory with John and others to an open letter to the Mayor of Newcastle, requesting that he call a public meeting with a view to petitioning Parliament over the corn laws. That month, too—doubtless reflect his experience the previous year—he subscribed £5 to the Infirmary at Lowestoft, enlarging for the benefit of ship-wrecked sailors. The following month his tannery advanced the wages of the tanners in their employment, in consequence of the high price of provisions. In February 1840 John & Edward Richardson, of 66 Newgate-Street,  advertised for sale the house and garden called Spring Gardens, with outhouses and stables, the whole containing nearly an acre. By September 1840 he had subscribed £1.1s. to the Newcastle Teetotal Society.14

The 1841 census recorded Edward Richardson as a tanner of Summerhill Grove, Westgate, Newcastle, living with his wife, six children, and four female servants. In 1841 he went to spend the winter at East Law (now Derwent Hill), Ebchester, a house belonging to his brother, John Richardson. That year he subscribed £1 to the North of England Agricultural School. In May 1842 he was one of 2 representatives from Newcastle to Monthly Meeting, as he was in June and December 1846. In 1843 he was Treasurer of the (Newcastle) Peace Society, as he was again in 1849. In 1845, in the will of his wife's uncle Anthony Wigham, he was described as a currier of Newcastle on Tyne. In February 1846 he and his brother were listed as shareholders in the Stockton and Durham County Banking Company. In the summer of 1846 he holidayed with his family with John Wigham, partly at Edinburgh, and partly by the seaside, at the village of Dirleton, not far from the Bass Rock.15

Around 1846, when George Catlin's Indians came to Newcastle—a dozen Sioux men, one woman with a baby and a lad some twelve years old—they all came to tea one afternoon; later he called on them at their lodgings. In December that year he was present at the death of his son Isaac, at Summerhill Grove.16

The 1847 directory still shows the partnership of Edward and John Richardson, tanners and glew manufacturers; but by that year Edward's nephew James Richardson had taken over from his father as partner.17

In the summer of 1847 he took lodgings, with the family, at Whitburn, a charming seaside village a little north of Sunderland.18

Around 1847, one dark night in the Christmas holidays he took his four elder children to see Lord Armstrong, (then Mr William George Armstrong, solicitor), exhibit his electrical machine. He himself had made a very good electrical machine which was often got out in the evenings and experiments performed. This was later presented to the Gateshead High School for girls.19

When his large family were growing up around him, he was very watchful over them; he enjoyed mingling with his children in their pursuits, and taught them to be brave and daring, encouraging a spirit of self-reliance. It was his desire to train up his children in the principles of the Society of Friends, to which he was himself sincerely attached. He was fond of horseback exercise himself, and trained them when young in the love of it; his manner towards them was gentle and kindly. He had a large wagonette (they called it the car), in which he used to drive his family to various points of interest—once, around 1849, along the Roman Wall. He was always fond of horses—he kept two saddle horses—a nearly thoroughbred mare called Fanny, and (in 1856) a horse called Minniehaha.20

At Monthly Meeting in Newcastle, in January 1848 he signed the testimony to Rachel Wigham; and in September that to Daniel Oliver. In November of 1849 Edward was stated to be Treasurer of the Newcastle Peace Society.21

By 1850 the partners in the tannery had established the Elswick Leather works, in Shumac Street, Newcastle. In November that year he was listed as one of two men to whom Newcastle Friends should apply if they wanted a gravestone.22

In March 1851 Monthly Meeting recorded Edward as one of the trustees of Friends' property; he represented Newcastle at Monthly Meeting in April and September. The census that year recorded him as a tanner master, living at 6 Summerhill Grove, Westgate, Newcastle, with his wife, seven children, two housemaids and a cook. In the summer holidays of 1851 Edward took Caroline and John Wigham Richardson to see the Great Exhibition, taking lodgings in Sloane Square for the occasion. In September 1851 he made a benefaction of £20 to the Newcastle Infirmary.23

6 Summerhill Grove was too small now for the large family, so Edward arranged to leave the house at the May term of 1852 and to reside at Beech Grove. When the May term came, the house was far from being ready, so he took Nab Cottage on the shores of Rydal Water for the whole summer. There had been some thought of going to Ullswater but it was considered essential to be within reach of a Friends' Meeting. In mid 1852 the family left 6 Summerhill Grove, moving to Beech Grove, Elswick Lane—a house and 16 acres. The total rent for Beech Grove was £180 which, taken at 4%, gives a value of £4500.24

Emma R. Pumphrey, in later life, recollected of this period:


The family of our Uncle Edward closest in touch with ours, moved from No 6 Summerhill Grove in 1852 to the newly completed mansion of Beech Grove just a little further along the road, bringing with them their sister Ann, for whom accommodation was made in the Western end of it—she having been left solitary at No 3 by the death of her mother Deborah Richardson in 1848. This was her home till Robert Foster took her away in 1858. It was the usual practice for our Uncle Edward to call in after breakfast for our father and they walked away together to the Tanyard in Newgate street. They were always brother John and brother Edward to each other, a lovely form of speech which died out with their devoted lives. And the same with the sisters in law, it was always sister Sarah and sister Jane between these busy mothers with their large households and ample means to provide for them.25

In January 1853 Edward subscribed £2 annually to the Newcastle, Northumberland, and Durham Society for the Repression of Juvenile Crime, and the Reformation of Youthful Delinquents; in June that year he contributed £50 to the Jubilee Fund of the British and Foreign Bible Society. In about April 1855 Edward visited his children Anna Deborah and Edward in Paris. That year Whellan's Northumberland directory listed "Richardson John, & Edward, tanners, 66, Newgate-st. & glue manfrs. Back-lane; ho. Elswick Lane". In the spring of 1857 he toured the Pyrenees with Anna Deborah and his sister Ann.26

He was one of the original twelve shareholders in the Derwent and Consett Iron Company, and was a partner in the Charlaw Colliery. He sold his share in the Consett Iron Company because he considered that Jonathan Richardson had not treated him quite fairly in a horse transaction, and yet notwithstanding this he invested in the shares of a bank under the management of the same man. In 1847, when the Union Bank stopped payment, he had been in a position to offer pecuniary assistance to [M3] Joseph Watson, although this had been declined. He was not so fortunate ten years later. With his 400 shares, he was a major shareholder in the Northumberland and District Bank, which was not limited in liability. In 1857 Edward Smith, director of one of the Sheffield banks, came to Newcastle and advised him to sell his Bank shares, even at a heavy sacrifice. Edward and John Richardson generally joined together in their investments, and, on this occasion, John declined to sell. Naturally, since he held three times as much as Edward, the latter was much influenced by the opinion of a brother, to whom he had always looked up, and who was thus, and to this extent, prepared to back his convictions. Still, the shares were ordered to be sold, but the Stock Broker suddenly fell ill and deferred the sale, and, in the meantime, the Bank stopped payment. Hard and bitter though it might be to a man with a large family, to find thus a large portion of his savings swallowed up, it was still harder to bear the suspense of not knowing what the calls might be, and this suspense was prolonged for a year and a half. The losses though, indeed, very heavy, did not turn out to be ruinous, and ultimately, Edward came to regard them as blessings, which had weaned his mind from earthly affections, and turned his thoughts to a higher life. The failure of the District Bank involved the whole family in pecuniary losses. In the thick of the crash, when everybody's credit was at stake, one of his workmen came to him, to say he had laid by about £400 from his wages; and, though he knew it would go scarcely any way, "if the master wanted it, the master should have it; and he didn't care if he never saw a penny of it again!". He warmly approved the settlement of the bank's affairs by the principal large shareholders taking over the Consett Iron Works at a very much reduced price, but declined himself to join. It seems strange that he should prefer to pay out large sums of money merely as calls and refuse to take in exchange shares in the Consett Iron Company, one of the most successful industrial concerns in the North of England. He believed himself to be under the direction of a higher power, and that what he was doing would be for the good of his children.27

Edward Richardson became ill, under the stress of the bank failure, and his nephew David Richardson doubted he would ever work again.28

Edward Richardson

At Beech Grove the household had a little colony of four dogs, besides birds innumerable, a new red cow, and the two horses. It was at Beech Grove that Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed with the Richardsons in October 1856. At least once, Richard Cobden and John Bright together came to dinner. But at this time, under pressure from the bank's liquidators, Edward decided the family would have to leave Beech Grove. The property was advertised for sale, by order of the liquidators, in March 1858.29

The bank was not the only shareholding which gave Edward cause for concern. He held shares in the Lombardo-Venetian railway, the value of which went down heavily in the summer of 1859, after France declared war on Austria—but as a matter of fact, the year of the war was the best year which the railway ever had and enabled the company to pay a 15% dividend. Very possibly it was the loss of value in these shares that led his wife to lend him £100 at interest, in June 1859. Concerned to settle his affairs, in January 1860 Edward made his will. At this time, too, he started his two eldest sons in business, buying for Edward jr a half share of the Blaydon Chemical Company, from their neighbour Robert Hawthorn, and giving to John Wigham Richardson the necessary capital (less than £5000) to start his shipbuilding firm.30

In January 1860 the address of the tannery was given as 39 Newgate Street. It was in the middle of this month that Edward and James had a relatively acrimonious exchange of letters, in which James proposed a three-way partnership between Edward, James, and his brother David, and Edward categorically refused to reduce the half share he had inherited from his father.31

1860 was the year in which the Richardsons finally removed from Beech Grove, taking up residence at South Ashfield Villa, behind Wentworth Place, Elswick, Newcastle. The private ledger in May that year recorded payments of 13/10 for "Minnie showing" and 15/– for "Six & Eight do." (presumably his horses—the ledger also covers payments for everything from coal to gold, poor rates &c., as well as water, hay, straw and oats—and 10/– for "carrotts, Horses" in December 1861). The 1861 census recorded him as a leather manufacturer employing 40 men and ten boys, living with his family and four servants at 1 South Ashfield Villa, Elswick Lane, Elswick. The property was evidently rented, for the private ledger records quarterly payments of £27/10/0 for "Rent of Villa", from February 1862 to September 1863. It also records a payment, in May 1861, of £39 for a half-year for "Jessie" and "Minnie"—presumably stabling. He also gave Jane £20 cash that month, as well as £5 cash payments to "Lizzie" in November 1861, September 1862, and May 1863.32

Despite their acquaintance with Mrs Stowe and her family, during the American Civil War, the Richardson household felt exultant whenever they heard that General Robert E. Lee and his little army had gained a victory over the Northern armies. The Americans of the North were indignant at this attitude in England. They had expected that the sympathies of the old country would be aroused in favour of the side which was fighting for the freedom of the negro, even although at first this purpose, for political reasons, was not avowed.33

another photo of Edward Richardson

Edward Richardson was a highly cultivated man. He was able, at least to some extent, to converse in Latin, and to the end of his life was studying the Greek Testament with Anna Deborah. His son John pictured him vividly: "I can see him now sitting by the fire, crossing one leg over the other, and laughing at my little jokes, often quoting a bit of Latin or a well-worn proverb."34

In September 1862 he made an annual £1 subscription to the local branch of the Royal Lifeboat Institution.35

In the autumn of 1862, with Anna Deborah, he chose the land of Heugh Folds to build on, at Grasmere, and assisted in the planning, going up generally more than once every day to see the workmen; he planted ivy all round the boundary wall, and also put in many fox gloves collected on his walks, and the London pride, on the top of the rock by the gate, was planted by him. He visited there in the autumn of 1863; Anna Deborah recalled:


We had a delightful morning together. The view was brilliant; and he sat a long while on the painted seat below the rock, which I had had made for him. He luxuriated in the warmth of this seat, and said: "I shall often sit here, I think. There cannot be a finer feast for the eye in England, but we must remember it is only a vestibule." Afterwards, in November, I found, in his pocket book, the little bit of card on which he had made some calculations for me, while sitting there: and on the other side was written, in pencil: "I will lift up mine eyes beyond the hills unto the Lord, from whom my help cometh."36

In the early morning of the 13th February, 1863, the tanyard in Newgate Street was destroyed by fire37:


On Friday morning, the 13th inst. about five o'clock a fire broke out on the premises belonging to Messrs E. and J. Richardson, tanners &c., Newgate Street. The premises in question, as many of our readers are aware, consisted of a number of erections used for the purposes of carrying on an extensive tannery business, and extended from Newgate Street into Stowell Street. At the top or west end of the yard is what is called the White Cross Tannery, above which, and running nearly the whole length of the yard, was a spacious drying warehouse, four storeys high, the engine house being on the basement at the east end. The premises were bounded on the north by Messrs Grey and Co's. saw mills and timber yard; while at the west, or Stowell Street end, were some premises, also the property of Messrs Richardson, and occupied by Mr. Brown, currier.

About a quarter to five o'clock on the morning in question Sub Inspector Allison, of the B division, was coming up Newgate Street, he saw smoke proceeding from the direction of Messrs Richardson's tanyard, there being also at the same time a strong smell of fire. Whilst trying to ascertain the cause of these appearances, he was joined by P.C. George Martin (B57), who joined in the search, which resulted in the course of a few minutes in their discovering that that part of Messrs Richardson's premises known as the "store room" was on fire. Martin immediately ran to the Westgate Police Station and gave the alarm, Mr. Allison remaining, and calling up those living in the vicinity of the fire whose lives might be in danger; and in a short time Inspector Walter Scott, with a number of men, and the reel and hose, were soon on the spot. By this time the fire had increased considerably, and began to assume somewhat gigantic proportions, spreading with fearful rapidity to the surrounding buildings. Messengers were despatched to the other police stations, to the Fire Brigade, and to the Barracks, for assistance, which was not long in arriving. A strong body of police from the different divisions, under Mr. Sabbage and the divisional inspectors, and accompanied by their hose—which has already proved of such inestimable service—were soon at the scene of action, closely followed by the men and engines belonging to the North British Company. By about six o'clock the engine, accompanied by a strong body of men arrived from the Central Station, and in a few minutes an engine party, with the engines belonging to the barracks under the command of Ensign Currie, had also arrived—strong enough it will be admitted, to combat with almost any fire of moderate proportions; but to the disgrace of the authorities of Whittle Dean, it was the old cry of "no water when most needed"—the fact being that upwards of an hour was lost after the arrival of the engines, &c, ere they could get to work, owing to the want of the most essential element to quench the fire. This being the case, the police, assisted by the bystanders, of whom there were by this time a goodly number—set to work to save as much of the stock and property on the premises as they could, whilst others, with a view of subduing in some measure, the fury of the spreading flames, emptied the tanpits of their contents, and carried the water therefrom in buckets, for the purpose of throwing upon the burning mass. About six o'clock, water was obtained from the plugs, and the whole of the apparatus of the police & firemen, together with the hose from the Central Station, got into play. While these were at work, others were busily employed in removing valuable goods from those portions of the warehouses which had not up to that time been caught by the flames, and the active exertions of the clerks resulted in the whole of the books and valuable papers being removed from the offices. Meanwhile, as may readily be imagined, the wind, blowing fresh from the west, wafted the flames from the end of the premises where the fire had broken out, now communicated themselves with the other buildings, so that by the time the engines got to work, the whole of the immense pile was in a blaze. The large drying shed already alluded to, was on fire from end to end, and there being but the wall between it and Messrs. Grey's timber yard, great fears were entertained lest these premises and their contents, might also take fire. The attention of the fire party however, was directed to this part, and whilst one portion were engaged upon the burning mass of buildings, another was busily engaged in preventing the flames from spreading. In the latter they were successful, but the fire had got such a hold of the drying shed, and its adjoining premises, that ere the fire was got under, they were all completely gutted; so that nothing now is left but a portion of the bare walls of a large and extensive building, which was only built about a year ago. At the east end of it was the warehouse, in which all finished goods were stored. A body of men were of course told off to save as much of the valuable property in the warehouse as possible, a task of no ordinary danger, considering that the flames were raging below, and around them. Unfortunately, while the men were so engaged, the roof fell with a dreadful crash, two men being severely injured by the falling debris. One of them, named John Nichol, a fireman belonging to the North British Fire Brigade, had one of his arms broken in two places; he was conveyed without delay to the Infirmary, where he now remains. The other was a tanner in the employ of Messrs. Richardson, named Tomkinson, who was conveyed at once to Dr. Rayne's surgery, where his injuries—which were not considered to be of a very serious nature—were attended to. The flames spreading as we have described, soon communicated with Mr. Brown's premises, which we are sorry to add, owing also to the want of water, were almost entirely burnt to the ground. The North Eastern men, with their engine, when they did get water, did admirable service here; for, although to save the premises of Mr. Brown was then next to impossible, they, by dint of hard labour, succeeded in preventing the flames from spreading to the adjoining properties. In fact, the whole of the men employed in extinguishing the fire worked with the most untiring zeal and assiduity; and notwithstanding the almost hopeless aspect of affairs, when they commenced, they succeeded in getting the fire under before eight o'clock. The damage, we are sorry to say, is considerable—nearly the whole of the extensive premises being in ruins—and cannot be less than at the least about £15,000, and which is, however, partly covered by insurance in the Manchester Office. The damage done to Mr. Brown's property is estimated at something like £2,000, part only of which is covered by insurance. As to the origin of the fire no cause can be assigned. Mr Hindmarch, the foreman of the yard, states that it was his duty to see all safe before going to bed; and about ten o'clock on the previous night he went over the works and saw everything was right.

It is assigned as a reason for the want of a plentiful supply of water on Friday morning, that it was in consequence of one of the main pipes having burst near Wylam, on the previous day. When the pipe burst, in order that it might be repaired, the whole of the pressure of water was removed from the lower part of the town. The pipe was repaired by 11 o'clock on the Thursday evening and the water again turned on. At the time that the fire broke out the water was turned on, but from the effect of the accident in the pipe, there had not been sufficient time to concentrate the pressure.

Edward bore this fresh catastrophe with great resignation and calmness. In April he signed an agreement with Walter Scott & Nicholas W. Reed, trading in Newcastle as builders and contractors as Scott & Reed, to build Elswick Leather Works, to be sited in a field between the River Tyne and Railway Terrace, as per plans and specifications. Construction was to be completed by the end of September, at a cost of £1603, with 4/5 of the amount of work done once a month to be paid. In August the firm signed a further agreement with Nicholas W. Reed & Robert Reed (N. & R. Reed) to build two cottages on ground adjacent to the tannery, to be completed by the end of November for £400 on satisfactory completion.38

On the 24th November that year he had intended to go with his family to Gilsland for a little change, but during the night he was seized with severe pain, and on the following day was very weak, and not suffered to converse. He had been out in the cold a few days previously, & had taken a chill which brought on, worse than before, his constant cough. On the 26th he looked very ill, but he spoke a few words cheerfully. On his son John going to take leave of him for the night he said to him very impressively yet cheerily, "John, my lad! I wish thee to know that when my Maker calls me to him, I shall go joyfully, yes joyfully!" It was arranged that Anna Deborah should watch by him during the night. He passed the hours quietly until about three or four o'clock in the morning of the 27th, when he took a fit of coughing, burst a blood vessel, and suddenly died in her arms, with little pain, as she was supporting his head. His death certificate confirms that he died at home (South Ashfield Villa), from chronic bronchitis of long standing and three days of pleuro-pneumonia; he is described as a tanner master. His body was buried the following Wednesday (2nd December) in Westgate Hill cemetery.39

The accounts in his private ledger were made up on the 12th December 1863, being in the name of his executors from that date. His will was proved at Newcastle on the 3rd February 1864. His executors were paid £93-2-11 from the estate that month. His effects were valued at under £45,000 (£1,942,200 at 2005 values). At his son's marriage, in April that year, he was described as a gentleman. In December 1866 his executors collected a final £12-0-0 from his estate. The ledger records the final payment of interest on the loan from Jane in June 1867.40

Edward Richardson was the fourth child and third son of [O3] Isaac and [O17] Deborah Richardson.41


1 TNA: RG 6/404, /628, TNA: HO 107/2404 f469 p57; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris : 89; Ann R. Foster in John William Steel (1899) A Historical Sketch of the Society of Friends 'in Scorn called Quakers' in Newcastle & Gateshead 1653–1898. London & Newcastle, Headley Bros. : 154; John Wigham Richardson (1877) Memoir of Anna Deborah Richardson Newcastle :1; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson

2 Ann R. Foster in Steel (1899): 154-5; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson

3 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Richardson (1877): 155

4 Steel (1899): 93-5

5 Ruth Sansbury (1998) Beyond the Blew Stone. 300 Years of Quakers in Newcastle. Newcastle-upon-Tyne Preparative Meeting; Steel, op. cit.: 97; minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, Tyne & Wear Archives Service MF 169;; Newcastle Courant, 1827-08-11

6 TWAS Acc. 161/4

7 Richardson (1877):155; Boyce (1889); minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 169; marriage digest (Scotland); RG 6/404, /1149; The Friend; The British Friend

8 minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 169; [Sarah Richardson, quoted in] Sansbury (1998); Steel (1899): 129; minutes of Friends' Sabbath School, Newcastle, TWAS MF 208

9 Richardson (1877):157; Ihler's Directory of Newcastle & Gateshead, 1833; Steel, op. cit.: 66; electoral register

10 Cash Book, John & Edward Richardson, TWAS Acc. 161/325; minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 169; RG 6/202, /527, /1245

11 Cash Book, John & Edward Richardson, TWAS Acc. 161/325 [NB this cashbook is too difficult to interpret sensibly]; TNA: BT 31/317/1105—where he is described as of Sunderland; it is possible, therefore, that this relates to a different Edward Richardson, but [O2] Edward Richardson is known from other sources to have been a substantial shareholder in the bank.

12 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Ann R. Foster in Steel (1899): 157-8; Annual Monitor:1875

13 The Diaries of John Bright, ed. R.A.J. Walling. 1931, New York: William Morrow. p. 53

14 M.A. Richardson's Directory of Newcastle and Gateshead 1838; daughter's birth certificate; Northern Liberator, issue 67, 1839-01-26; Northern Liberator & Champion, issue 155, 1840-09-26; Newcastle Journal, 1838-07-14; Newcastle Journal, 1838-09-08; Newcastle Journal, 1838-09-29; Newcastle Journal, 1839-01-12; Newcastle Journal, 1839-02-02; Newcastle Journal, 1840-02-15

15 HO 107/824/10 f21 p34; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 5, 18; Steel (1899): 81; The British Friend; TWAS MF 188; minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 169; will of wife's uncle Anthony Wigham, PCC; Yorkshire Gazette, 1846-02-14

16 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 17-8; son's death certificate

17 White's Newcastle & Gateshead Directory, 1847; catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service

18 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 24

19 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 31-2

20 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; Ann R. Foster in Steel (1899): 157

21 Minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 169; The British Friend

22 Ward's Directory of Newcastle & Gateshead; Steel, op. cit.: 217

23 Minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 169; HO 107/2404 f469 p57; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 48-9; Newcastle Journal, 1851-09-13; daughter's birth certificate

24 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 58-9; Ann R. Foster in Steel, op. cit.: 158; Richardson (1877): 15

25 Ms Recollections of Emma R. Pumphrey, TWAS Acc. 474/11

26 Newcastle Journal, 1853-02-19; Newcastle Journal, 1853-06-11; Richardson (1877): 82, 102; Whellan's Directory of Newcastle

27 Benwell Community Project (1978) The Making of a Ruling Class. Newcastle; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; BT 31/317/1105; JWR in Richardson (1877):112-3 & 141; Annual Monitor 1875

28 Sansbury (1998)

29 JWR in Richardson (1877):113-4 & 120; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Newcastle Journal, 1856-10-11; Newcastle Journal, 1858-03-27

30 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Richardson private ledger, TWAS Acc. 161/330; will

31 Correspondence with James Richardson, in possession of Kate Wentworth

32 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; death certificate; RG 9/3815 f47 p2; Richardson private ledger, TWAS Acc. 161/330

33 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Richardson (1877)

34 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson: 6 & 165-6; Richardson (1877):188

35 Newcastle Journal, 1862-09-11

36 JWR in Richardson (1877):185, 187

37 Morpeth Herald, 1863-02-21

39 Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Ann R. Foster in Steel, op. cit.: 160; TWAS Acc. 161/34 & /35

39 Elizabeth Spence Watson's "Family Chronicles"; Memoirs of John Wigham Richardson; Ann R. Foster, loc. cit.; DQB; index to wills and administrations, Principal Registry of the Family Division; Notice of death Newcastle Courant 4 Dec 1863; death certificate; Elizabeth Spence Watson: 'Family Chronicles/Home Records', and supplement; death/burial digest; The Friend 1863-12-01 p. 297; The British Friend 1863-12-01 p. 306; Durham Chronicle, 1863-12-04; Newcastle Journal, 1863-11-28

40 National Probate Calendar; daughter's marriage certificate; Richardson private ledger, TWAS Acc. 161/330

41 RG 6/227, /228, /404, /627, /628, /629


Isaac Richardson was born on the 11th February 1761, at Seghill East new house, Earsdon parish, Northumberland.1

He was sent when a boy to reside for a time with his grandparents at Whitby, in order that he might have the advantage of attending a school in that town, conducted by a Friend. Of the school and its master we know nothing; but Isaac, who was thus favoured above his brothers, who attended the ordinary schools of Shields, is always spoken of as a man of superior abilities and attainments.2

At the age of twenty-three, about 1785, Isaac Richardson entered upon the business of John Storey, tanner, of the White Cross, Newgate Street, in Newcastle, and being an industrious, successful tradesman he acquired considerable property: but as he grew in experience he became sensible of the insufficiency of worldly possessions without vital religion to promote true happiness either here or hereafter. His tastes led him to read many Reviews and other literature in which were mingled plausible insinuations which tended to undermine some of the essential doctrines of the Gospel. This predisposed his mind to give place to suggestions that were thrown out during the religious controversy which agitated the Society of Friends at that time. By the events which followed he was much weaned from such reading, and "being humbled under the hand of God he became in degree more prepared to appreciate the attributes of our Divine Redeemer."3

A year or two after his own move to Newcastle, his sister Margaret also removed there, to be his housekeeper.4

The Richardson tannery at White Cross was the first to use power, initially from its own windmill, and later from a steam beam engine of Richardson's own design.5

signature of Isaac RichardsonHe married [O19] Deborah Sutton on the 20th August 1795, at Newcastle Friends' meeting house. After 1795 he and Deborah resided for many years at Spring Gardens, near Gallowgate.  Their children were: David (1797–1809), John (1799–1859), Isaac (1800–1810), Margaret (1802–1810), Rebecca (1804–1805), [O2] Edward (1806–1863), Rebecca (1807–1834), and Ann (1809–1893); four of them died young. These sorrows, together with a heavy pecuniary loss by fire at the tanyard and his own failing health were made the means of weaning him from earthly things.6

By 1800 he had entered into partnership with his brother William, in the dressing of various sorts of sheep leather. In 1801 he is recorded as a tanner, of White-cross, Newcastle. The tannery business is elsewhere said to have been in Gallowgate. He continued in the tanning trade to his death.7

In 1804, as a tanner of Newcastle, he was a witness at his brother's wedding.8

On the 10th May 1805, through his solicitors Kirkley & Fenwick, of Newcastle, he wrote his will. Under its terms he left all his household goods and furniture to "my dear wife Deborah"; and to his brothers William, George, and Henry Richardson the tanyard and buildings in Newgate Street, and all his stock in trade, in trust until the two eldest sons reach 21; profits from the business to go into his residual estate. When his sons reached 21, they were to have the tanyard if they wanted it. Deborah was to have £100 p.a. tax free, paid quarterly, and interest on £2000 also held in trust. The residue went in equal shares to the children. If there were no surviving children, half his estate would go to his wife, and the remaining half be divided between his brothers John, William, George, Henry, Aaron and Joseph, and his sisters Margaret Unthank and Elizabeth Procter. Each trustee was to receive £50. Finally, £100 was to be divided among the workmen in the tanyard.9

From 1806 he was regularly one of the two Newcastle representatives to Monthly Meeting, attending in February, May, July and September that year, in January, March, June, September and November 1807 (in March with David Sutton, and in November with Joshua Watson), in January and April 1808, and in August and October 1809 (in August with David Sutton). In 1806 he subscribed £100 towards the fund for a new meeting house in Newcastle.10

Isaac Richardson was among the earliest members of the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle. He interested himself in schemes for the education of the poor, reading a paper in July 1806 on the Propriety of introducing the Mode of Instruction proposed by Dr Bell and Mr Lancaster. His efforts in this direction afterwards bore good fruit. His renewal of the suggestion in July 1808 led to the foundation of the Royal Jubilee School in 1810, providing a little free primary education for the poor. The 1812 report of the Lit. and Phil. describes him as "an excellent member." He was also treasurer of the Temperance Society in Newcastle.11

Of Spring Gardens, a beer tankard was made for him in 1807, which was later converted to a coffee jug by his daughter Ann in 1858, she regarding it as "a better use"; the coffee jug survives in the family.12

On 28th April 1808 the bark-mill, with two haystacks, in Isaac Richardson's tanyard near the White Cross, were consumed by fire.13

In 1809 he bought out the skinning and fell-mongering business (a fell-monger was a dealer in skins and hides) of Joseph Arrundale, on Gallowgate. On the 5th June 1810 he made a codicil to his will: having acquired additional real estate since 1805, this was also to be included; trustees were to have £100 each; he now left £1000 to Margaret Unthank, and to his cousin Ann Richardson, daughter of his late Uncle Henry of Stockton, £50 p.a. for life. George was empowered to give a suitable little charitable donation.14

He made several sea voyages for the benefit of his health, suffering a long illness prior to his death: the last of these voyages was to Plymouth, but growing considerably worse he returned, and just lived to reach the Wear where he was met by his near kindred and died peacefully at Sunderland, on board the Derwent in the midst of them; it was Tuesday the 24th October 1810. The day previous, realising his weakness, he said to his brother John that he was "not afraid to die, but felt resigned to the Divine will," adding that "all things in this world had greatly faded in his view," having been brought to trust only in the mercy of God for salvation. His body was buried at Newcastle on the 28th. He left his young family and the business under the care of his brother George, who carried it on and administered the estate until his sons were able to relieve him. Of Newcastle upon Tyne, his will was proved in the Prerogative Court of York on the 23rd June 1811.15

Isaac Richardson was the eldest child of [O4] John and [O15] Margaret Richardson.15


1 TNA: RG 6/1245; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris

2 Boyce (1889): 70

3 Emma R. Pumphrey in John William Steel (1899) A Historical Sketch of the Society of Friends 'in Scorn called Quakers' in Newcastle & Gateshead 1653–1898. London & Newcastle, Headley Bros. : 121; George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle

4 Richardson (1850)

5 anon. [possibly Frank Richardson], no date [probably. c. 1968] 'A Brief Account of Progress in the Making of Leather'

6 RG 6/226, /527, /628; Emma R. Pumphrey in Steel (1899): 121-3; Richardson (1850); Steel (1899)

7 Richardson (1850); Mitchell's Directory of Newcastle and Gateshead, 1801; Benwell Community Project (1978) The Making of a Ruling Class. Newcastle; Dictionary of Quaker Biography; Newcastle Chronicle; widow's death certificate

8 RG 6/527

9 Tyne & Wear Archives Service DX 885/1/28

10 Minutes of Newcastle Preparative Meeting 1761–1814, TWAS MF 167, 168 & 191 (from September 1806 my coverage is not comprehensive)

11 Emma R. Pumphrey, loc. cit.; RG 6/156-7 & 160; Book of extracts copied by E. Spence Watson

12 information from Ian Richardson, 2022

13 'Historical events: 1783–1825', Historical Account of Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Including the Borough of Gateshead (1827), pp. 66-88.

14 Benwell Community Project (1978) :15; TWAS DX 885/1/28

15 Emma R. Pumphrey, loc. cit.; Newcastle Chronicle; RG 6/228; TWAS DX 885/1/28; Prerogative & Exchequer Courts Of York Probate Index

16 RG 6/1245; Boyce (1889)


John Richardson was born on the 1st June 1733, at Bog Hall, Whitby.1

Being the oldest son, and probably his services being needed by his father, a very small share of school learning fell to his lot. He continued to be employed in his father's business until he was about 25 years of age; his first attempt in business on his own account was in keeping a shop for the sale of meal, flour, &c., in Whitby; but this was pursued only a few months. About the year 1759 he came into the north, in search of a place to fix his abode in. On arriving in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, having to pass through Gateshead, and probably having a little knowledge of John Stead, he enquired for his house, seeking for lodgings. As he crossed the field in front of the house, he found their daughter Margaret standing at the door, and on his making the enquiry, she invited him in; and it was finally agreed that he should take up his quarters there for the night.2

Of Sighill, he married [O15] Margaret Stead on the 24th January 1760, at Newcastle meeting house. After the marriage, he took a small farm at Seghill East New Houses, near Cramlington, about seven miles from Newcastle. Their children were: [O3] Isaac (1761–1810), Margaret (1763–1829), John (1765–1842), Isabel (1768–1874), William (1771–1842), George (1773–1862), Elizabeth (1777–1820), and Henry (1778–1834). The first three were born at Seghill East new house, and the rest at Low Lights; all births were registered by Newcastle Monthly Meeting. He remained on this farm about six years; but corn (during part of the time) selling extremely low—about six shillings per boll of two Winchester bushels—he could not make the business answer for the proper support of his family.3

Around 1765 he removed to Pew Dean tannery, Low Lights—on the Tyne near North Shields—which he planted, as an additional tannery in the family business. When the family moved to Low Lights, one horse carried the family. He had his eldest son Isaac on the horse before him, his wife on a pillion seat behind him. His coat, probably still one of his mother's spinning, had long and capacious pockets. In one of these pockets was snugly ensconced a little John, and in another a little Margaret.4

He pursued the tannery business with much industry and good judgment; yet the tanning being subject to great fluctuations, he had for many years to wade through great straits and difficulties, and habits of great frugality were maintained; and as some of his sons grew up to manhood, some of them became very helpful to him. By exercising great caution in the management of his concerns, and enlarging his business only as his capital increased, without borrowing much money of others, he was enabled to maintain an honourable course, and was remarkable for his uprightness and integrity in all his dealings. He tanned hides and calfskins principally, but also tanned some sealskins, brought by the whalers, who at that date sailed to the northern seas from the port of Whitby. For many years, he laboured diligently in his tanyard, amongst his men, at the pits or in the drying sheds. He made good leather, and had a free demand for it. He was thoroughly industrious in his habits—sometimes exerting himself almost to the injury of his health, until his outward circumstances became more easy.5

He had no associates, except a little occasional social intercourse amongst Friends; yet he was well esteemed by his neighbours. He did not wholly refrain from the use of strong drink, that not being customary at that period. He frequently offered it, with other food, as a refreshment to his customers, to whom he was kind and open. But on such occasions he observed strict moderation, and in his own habits he was rather abstemious.6

Nearly four years after his wife's death, he married again, taking as his second wife Jane Nickle or Nichols; the wedding took place at Newcastle on the 16th June 1785. John and Jane had two children: Aaron (1786–1811), and Joseph (1791–1848).7

Shortly after his remarriage, on the 2nd July 1785, he was first recorded as a minister. He continued in the capacity about 14 years. He had long taken much delight in reading the Holy Scriptures; often when sitting in the kitchen amongst his children and servants would he turn to his Bible, and read audibly for a considerable time together in the precious volume—the effect was believed to have been very salutary on the minds of his household. Much more of the dialect peculiar to the locality in which the early portion of his life was spent, was perceptible, than was the case afterwards, when, becoming more accustomed to speak in the public assemblies, many of the defects in pronunciation were corrected. He was an upright but humble man, who appeared in the ministry rather late in life; his "Communications were acceptable, being often delivered in great Tenderness and accompanied with the Savour of Truth." "I well remember the tenderness, humility, and simplicity of his manner. There was a greater depth of instruction in his communications than was at that time the case with many others. He was of a deeply contemplative turn of mind, and frequently drew instruction from natural things in a manner peculiarly impressive and appropriate." He "maintained through life the strictest integrity, which, combined with true meekness and industry, gained him the esteem of all who knew him."8

He didn't travel much, but several times attended Yearly Meeting in London. In 1796 he attended the Circular Yearly Meeting at Carlisle, in which he had good service. He attended his own monthly and quarterly meetings with great diligence—and was often very useful in the exercise of the discipline, having a living concern for the prosperity of truth, and an honest zeal that corrupt and disorderly spirits should not go unreproved.9

In 1796 he was distrained for church rates.10

Having, at a certain time, during the latter part of his life, some hay to sell, an officer in the army came to buy it. On John naming the price, the officer urged him to charge 10/– per ton more, saying it was very common in sales to the government. John Richardson steadily refused the proposal.11

He kept a most vigilant guard over his children, that they might be preserved from corrupt associates; and as most of them were chiefly educated in the common day schools of the neighbourhood, this was no easy task. The extent of knowledge on general subjects which he acquired was remarkable. He appeared to read very few books, except the Scriptures and Friends' books, and generally the weekly newspaper; yet in argument, on most subjects which came up in the course of conversation with his elder sons, particularly Isaac and William (who read more largely), he was fully a match. He had a remarkable knowledge of the human frame (he himself, incidentally, stood 6'2" without his socks), and of the mode of treatment proper for many of the maladies to which our bodies are subject. Having been a farmer, he had a good knowledge of the proper management of horses and cattle, and in his latter years he took great pleasure in the management of milk cows. He had a considerable knowledge in shipping affairs, though he forbore ever having property in them, having an aversion to any of his children being drawn into that line of obtaining a livelihood, well knowing the moral corruption to which seamen are exposed.12

In May 1799, a tanner of North Shields, he was a witness at his daughter's wedding there.13

In September the same year John Richardson himself recorded of his leather business: "We sell our dingle hides at 24d.; backs at 25d.; and skins at 30d. per pound, and cannot serve our customers so fast as they want them. I never knew leather so scarce as at present." By reason of the high price of leather, at the time when his stock in trade was sold off after his death (being, in some articles, about treble the price 50 years later) the produce was greater than he himself had anticipated, which proved a seasonable aid to his children.14

He attended the yearly meeting for the last time in the year 1798, both going and returning by sea. The sea-sickness appeared on this occasion to have an injurious effect on his stomach and bowels which he never quite recovered from; yet he continued able to get abroad occasionally until near the close of 1799, when feeling his strength gradually give way, he became fully persuaded that his end was approaching.15

He made his will on the 29th January 1800:


I John Richardson of Lowlights in the parish of Tynemouth and county of Northumberland Tanner being of sound mind and memory do make and declare this to be my last Will and Testament in manner following

I give and bequeath unto my dear Wife Jane all my Houshold goods and fifty pounds to be paid to her by my Executors hereinafter named within one month after my decease. I direct that my Executors herein after named shall dispose of or sell all my stock in Trade and all my other effects of what kind soever to the best advantage and collect all my debts due to me (except such as are due to me from my children) and after paying my funeral expences and all other just Debts my will is that they shall divide the whole amount or net produce of my Estate (which is all personal) amongst my children share and share alike as tenants in common and not joint tenants (subject to an annuity aftermentioned) namely Isaac Margret John William George Elizabeth Henry Aaron and Joseph—such of my children as I have given or lent sums of money to shall have all such sums of money so given or lent accounted and reckoned to them as a part of their shares and if it appear that any one or more of them have received more money given or lent than their share amounts I direct the overplus money in the hands of such one or more of my children shall be paid to my executors who shall secure from each of the shares of my children an Annuity of Twelve pounds per Annum making up the sum of one hundred and eight pounds which they shall pay to my dear wife Jane in half yearly or quarterly payments during the term of her natural Life—The shares due to my sons Aaron and Joseph I direct my Executors to put out on legal Interest and good security till they each arrive at the age of Twenty-one years and that the interest arising from each of their shares over and above what will pay their share of the annuity to be paid their mother shall be applied to their education and maintenance as may appear needful—And my will further is that if any one or more of my children should die before me without Issue or if either or both my sons Aaron and Joseph should die before they attain the age of twenty one years then I direct the share or shares of such child or children so dying shall be equally divided amongst my other surviving children share and share alike—I desire that my two youngest sons Aaron and Joseph shall continue to live with their mother until put to bussiness and be under her care jointly with my executors—I appoint my three eldest sons Isaac John and William Trustees for my sons Aaron and Joseph and I also appoint them my executors to execute and fulfill this my Will and I hope they will do justly in this and all their undertakings which they know was always the will of their careful Father——

Written and signed this twenty ninth day of the first month one thousand eight hundred—

signature of John Richardson

[Witness: Isaac Richardson]16

For twelve months or more, he had rarely spoken in ministry. On one occasion, at Newcastle, standing up in the gallery, and noticing this fact, and intimating that in his apprehension it was so in Divine ordering, he in a peculiarly weighty manner declared that his faith, hope, and confidence in God were as strong as ever. He was ill for three months before his death. About three weeks before his close, delirium came on; after which he had but few and short lucid intervals, the power of speech also failing. He died at Pew Dean Tannery, Low Lights, on the 29th March 1800, and was interred in the Friends' burial ground on the 2nd.17

His will was proved at Durham on the 12th April 1800, his personal estate being valued at under £10,000 (£321,700 at 2005 values).18

John Richardson was the eldest child of [O5] Isaac and [O8] Isabel Richardson.19


1 TNA: RG 6/1094; George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle: 45; Edward H. Milligan (2007) Biographical Dictionary of Quakers in Commerce and Industry, York.

2 Richardson (1850) :45

3 RG 6/626, /1011, /1245; Richardson (1850); Dictionary of Quaker Biography (Friends' House Library, typescript); digest of Durham Quaker marriages: index

4 RG 6/1245; Richardson (1850) ; Oliver M. Ashford (1985) Prophet—Or Professor? The Life and Work of Lewis Fry Richardson. Bristol: Adam Hilger; Dictionary of Quaker Biography; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris : 66; anon. [possibly Frank Richardson], no date [probably. c. 1968] 'A Brief Account of Progress in the Making of Leather'

5 RG 6/626; Richardson (1850) :48 & 53, Tyne & Wear Archives Service 161/433

6 Richardson (1850) :53

7 Richardson (1850) :49; RG 6/348; TWAS Acc. 1570/2–4 described him as a tanner of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1787

8 George Richardson (1864) Journal of the Gospel Labours of George Richardson. London: Alfred Bennett; Richardson, op. cit.: 51; Newcastle Advertiser & General Weekly Post 5 Apr 1800

9 Richardson (1864); Richardson (1850): 51

10 Richardson (1850) : 86

11 Richardson (1850)

12 Richardson (1850) : 53-5 & 71

13 RG 6/527, /1245; TWAS Acc. 1570/5 described him as of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1798

14 Richardson (1850) : 84-5

15 RG 6/1245; Richardson (1850) : 59; Richardson (1864); Dictionary of Quaker Biography; Newcastle Advertiser & General Weekly Post 1800-04-05; testimony, in minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 167 & 168

16 Durham original wills DPRI/1/1800/R5

17 RG 6/1245; Richardson (1850) : 59; Richardson (1864); Dictionary of Quaker Biography; Newcastle Advertiser & General Weekly Post, and Newcastle Courant, 1800-04-05; testimony, in minutes of Newcastle Monthly Meeting, TWAS MF 167 & 168

18 Durham original wills DPRI/1/1800/R5

19 Boyce (1889)


Isaac Richardson was born on the 18th December 1707, at Ayton, Yorkshire.1

He was of a lively disposition; yet the pious counsel and useful advice which he received from his mother remained with him, often springing up in his mind in a manner, which, being accompanied with a precious visitation of divine love, softening his heart, tended in a good degree to preserve him from evil. Being placed as an apprentice at Stockton-on-Tees, he was often drawn to seek religious retirement, and "was favoured with many precious openings into the mysteries of the Lord's kingdom"; and as he yielded to the manifestations of religious duty, he witnessed many of these mysteries to be further unfolded and confirmed in his own experience. Being accustomed to associate with a few young men of the same religious profession, he had enjoyment in it, so long as they were of innocent, circumspect conversation; but when some of them began to frequent public houses, it became a cause of great trouble and uneasiness to him, and a concern came upon him to attempt to admonish them. He took an opportunity when they were all together, and addressed them in a serious manner, to the following purport: "Lads," said he, "we are between lads and men, and between winning and losing: if we continue in this course of life, it will be our ruin." Which words had so much weight with them, that at that time they made no reply; but they not forsaking their evil course of life, he felt he must refrain their company.2

From the hospitable home at Langbarugh, he married [O8] Isabel Vasie, on the 13th February 1732, at the meeting house in Ayton Village. He settled at Boghall, on the outskirts of Whitby, as a tanner. The Boghall tannery was in effect a subsidiary to the Ayton tannery. Their children were: [O4] John (1733–1800), Elizabeth (1735–1773), Mary (1737–1823), Isaac (1738/9–1791), Henry (1740–1808), William (1742–1809), Isabel (1744–1823) and Aaron (1747/8–1780). All but the last two were born at Boghall; Isabel and Aaron were born at New Tan House.3

As early as 1736 his name appears on the minutes of the meetings of ministers and elders; he was to be an acceptable minister for 44 years.4

About 1742 the family removed to New Tan House, probably in response to their growing numbers. There he continued his trade, working at tanning hides, calfskins, and sealskins brought into Whitby by local whalers.5

During the Seven Years War his windows were three times broken and other damage was done to his home. This was caused by the fact that he did not illumine his windows at times of public rejoicing over victories.6

He had intimate acquaintance with John Walker, of Whitby (to whom James Cook was apprenticed), whose son John had considerable property near North Shields—this enabled him to arrange for [O4] John Richardson to plant a tannery on part of Walker's property.7

Most of his time, after his marriage, he was of a weakly constitution, but careful and industrious according to his ability, and very careful to keep all his concerns within the bounds and limits of truth. He was careful to instruct his family in the principles of Christianity, and inure them to industry and necessary care, and (in the words of Isabel, his wife) "while under our immediate direction, in exemplary plainness in every respect, he enforcing his advice by his [own] example: so that I think I can justly say of him, that he was a man fearing God and hating covetousness. He was very exemplary in attending meetings for worship and discipline, both on first days and on other days of the week, and honestly concerned therein: having experienced a walking in the strait and narrow way, he was often favoured with a clear discerning of the various states of the people. Where he found honesty, sincerity, and simplicity, he had a fatherly care for such; but where he discovered unsoundness of principle [though under a high profession], or undue liberty in practice, he found it his duty to deal in great plainness with such."8

In 1761 he paid a religious visit to London, despite his weak constitution. In 1769 he paid a religious visit to the several meetings in the county of York, which was satisfactorily accomplished. A tanner of Whitby, he made his will on the 28th December 1770. In 1771 he was present at the wedding of his son William at Scarborough. That year he visited Friends in county Durham; and in 1776, with his wife, paid a second visit to Friends in London and places adjacent, as also to the meetings in Norfolk. These meetings were also much to their satisfaction. In 1779 he paid a visit to Friends in Northumberland, Cumberland, and part of Westmorland. There is reason to believe that these his religious labours were performed to the instruction and comfort of Friends, as well as to the relief and peace of his own mind.9

After a short illness, during which his understanding remained clear so long as he had strength to speak, he died of a fever, on the 10th September 1780, and was buried on the 13th at the Friends' burial ground near Whitby. A large company of friends and neighbours attended his funeral.10

Isaac Richardson was the youngest son of [O6] William and [O7] Elizabeth Richardson.11


1 Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris; Dictionary of Quaker Biography (Friends' House Library, typescript)

2 George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle : 24-5

3 Boyce (1889) : 13; Richardson (1850); anon. [possibly Frank Richardson], no date [probably. c. 1968] 'A Brief Account of Progress in the Making of Leather'

4 Richardson (1850); Dictionary of Quaker Biography

5 Richardson (1850); Boyce (1889) : 263; catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; 'A Brief Account . . .'


7 Richardson (1850): 47-8

8 Richardson (1850): 26-7

9 RG 6/1351 f0, /1404 f0; DQB; Catalogue of Tyne & Wear Archives Service; Richardson (1850): 25-6; TWAS Acc. 1441/1

10 TNA: RG 6/760, /1122; Richardson (1850); Boyce (1889)

11 Richardson (1850); Boyce (1889); RG 6/757, /903, /1013, /1092, /1362


William Richardson was born around 1660, and raised in the Church of England.1

He married [O9] Elizabeth Wilson on the 31st July 1684, at Lythe Church, near Whitby. Their children were: Mary (1684–1718), Elizabeth (? – 1715), Rachel (1690 – before 1759), Ann (? – 1697/8), Rebecca (? – 1762), Sarah (? – after 1745), John (1698–1786), William (c. 1700 – 1794), Martha (1703–1717), Hannah (1705–1769), [O5] Isaac (1707–1780), and Lydia (1710–1802). They settled at Great Ayton, in Cleveland, where William was engaged in the business of farming, and helping himself over bad seasons by combining his farming operations with the tanning of skins and hides. His tanning operations were purely local, as the poor roads made transportation difficult, with the result that the tanning of sole leather and the dressing of sheepskins and hides for the local shoemakers and curriers marked the limit of his tanning activities. The tannery buildings survived until at least the 20th century.2

After their marriage William and Elizabeth became convinced of their duty to be joined in communion with the Society of Friends. "They esteemed the favour of God of more importance to them than the friendship of the world." William was present at the wedding of his brother John at Stokesley, Yorkshire, on the 12th April 1691, signing as a witness immediately after the couple's own signatures.3

The couple did not interfere much with each other's business, knowing that they need not one bid the other to do their best; yet they advised with each other in affairs of moment, William often evincing a high esteem of his wife's judgment.4

When William saw their family had become very large, he felt desirous to aid their means of livelihood by adding maltmaking to his tanning business. He therefore built a malt-kiln, and provided the other conveniences for carrying on that business, for which his tannery was conveniently situated. He had not much capital, but could easily borrow as much as he needed. But though things thus looked, for a time, very promising of advantage, this malt trade was soon overturned; for Elizabeth thought it her duty to advise her husband to let go that prospect of profit, though it seemed considerable, and necessary to bring up so great a family. She feared moral danger to their sons, in the contact with ale-houses that malting would necessitate. Now William believed that what she advised was to be done, if he intended to do well; so, as nothing less than making all things useless for malt-making would do, the drying place for malt was made into a dwelling house—the chamber where the barley was, a bark chamber—the lead cistern was taken to tan leather in—the malt chamber, to lay corn in—and as chambers at that time were not so plentiful amongst farmers as they later became, and there happening that year to be a very plentiful crop of wheat, and the price very low, the farmers pressed on William to buy their wheat, as they knew he had a great family, and good chambers to store it in. He bought freely, at about 2/– the bushel, of exceeding good quality, as much as his chamber would hold, which proved well; for at the next harvest the weather was so wet that much was wasted, and the quality bad of much that was saved, and the price rose to 7/– the bushel. This was regarded as a providential blessing upon their faithful obedience to manifested duty. "But it appears there was a care that earthly prosperity should not unduly elate, any more than the world's frowns cast down."5

It happened, very remarkably, that suddenly things took an unfavourable turn for the tanning trade, which involved the family in trouble and perplexity, that being their only visible means for a livelihood. A duty was laid upon leather; and the government required an oath to be taken on entering leather, when taken out of the pit to dry. At the request of some Friends, the government had granted a form of affirmation, in lieu of an oath, with which many Friends were dissatisfied, and which William took once or twice, but became uneasy with; and the more he considered it, the worse he liked it. This soon became a close trial. It appeared as if either the command of Christ must be broken, or he must leave off the tanning trade; as it appeared as if, in a little time, all the stock they had would be taken away for fines, on account of their not submitting to the law.6

Around 1696/1699 he was the author of an undated broadside, 'A letter. I having writ to the collector, to desire he would be pleased to desist from fining me any more; he answered, that he could not; but said, he expected an order to seize upon all the leather I had. . . .' ; it concerns seizure of his leather products for his refusal to take an oath required by the Leather Act, as amended in 1696.7

What made things more trying was that the justices and officers upbraided Friends for not accepting the form of affirmation which the government had granted. William was brought before the justices time after time; to whom it became manifest that it was only for fear of offending God that he suffered; for the officers several times declared that they believed that William did not attempt to defraud the king, as they were persuaded some who swore did. The case now began to affect the thoughtful part of the neighbours, as William was well esteemed by all classes. Another thing that increased their trial was that they had some money borrowed, at six per cent, which was a common rate then; for as the little they had to begin the world with increased, their trade increased also, so that they were still in debt; and though none appeared to have any fear of losing by them, yet it increased their trial in his time of suffering, for the fines were repeated from time to time, for which their leather was taken away, until about one-third of what they possessed of their own was gone. Thus things looked so hard, that had there not been a willingness wrought in their minds to offer all up, casting their care upon God alone, they would not have been able to sustain the trial. They had some thoughts of giving up the trade, fearing lest they should fall short of paying their just debts; but Elizabeth retained her confidence that a resolution would be found. Through this case of suffering, with many others of like nature, being pressed on the attention of those in power—both by Friends themselves and by many persons of influence who observed the hardship of their case, the government and legislature were induced so to alter and modify the Affirmation Act, that Friends got much relief.8

Thus the Richardson family was relieved from this oppression. Now their outward affairs so prospered, that in a few years they had more of this world's wealth than they had ever possessed before.9

William Richardson died on the 29th June 1740, and was buried in the Friends' burying-ground at Ayton on 1 July.10

William Richardson was probably the eldest known child of [O7] Thomas and [O8] ____ Richardson.11


1 George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris

2 Boyce (1889); John W. Steel (1905) Early Friends in the North. London: Headley; W. Pearson Thistlethwaite (1979) Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting, (1665–1966); Tyne & Wear Archives Service 161/433; Richardson (1850); anon. [possibly Frank Richardson], no date [probably. c. 1968] 'A Brief Account of Progress in the Making of Leather'

3 Richardson, op. cit.: 1

4 Richardson, op. cit.: 2

5 Richardson, op. cit.: 13-7; Dictionary of Quaker Biography

6 Richardson, op. cit.: 13-7

7 LSF catalogue, online

8 Richardson, op. cit.: 13-7; DQB; Oliver M. Ashford (1985) Prophet—Or Professor? The Life and Work of Lewis Fry Richardson. Bristol: Adam Hilger

9 Richardson, op. cit.: 13-7

10 TNA: RG 6/1092, /1283

11 Ian Pearce 'The Richardson family', 2009; Pearce's article also suggests that William was the son of a Christopher Richardson, but this may be a simple internal error, contradicted elsewhere in the article.


Thomas Richardson married [O8] ____ ____. Their children were: [O6] William (c. 1660–1740), John (1666–1735), and Elizabeth (1676–1719).1

In 1673 he was taxed on one hearth, at Great Ayton, Yorkshire.2


1–2 Ian Pearce 'The Richardson family', 2009


O8. ____ RICHARDSON born ____

____ ____ married [O7] Thomas Richardson. Their children were: [O6] William (c. 1660–1740), John (1666–1735), and Elizabeth (1676–1719).1


1 Ian Pearce 'The Richardson family', 2009


Elizabeth Wilson's parents were members of the Anglican church.1

She married [O6] William Richardson on the 31st July 1684, at Lythe Church, near Whitby. After their marriage they were convinced as members of the Society of Friends. Their children were: Mary (1684–1718), Elizabeth (? – 1715), Rachel (1690 – before 1759), Ann (? – 1697/8), Rebecca (? – 1762), Sarah (? – after 1745), John (1698–1786), William (c. 1700 – 1794), Martha (1703–1717), Hannah (1705–1769), [O5] Isaac (1707–1780), and Lydia (1710–1802).2

Among her children she talked of the rod more often than she used it, and when she did always explained the necessity for it, which often had the effect desired, without stripes, by producing submission. She sought to lead the children to take pleasure in their books, and in doing little turns that were innocent, though but of little service, to keep their minds from running out after things that would bring them into danger of doing wrong, or of learning bad words. They were not allowed to play on the First Day of the week; nor at all at games of hazard, though it might only be for a pin or a cherry-stone; as this tends both to promote the pride of rivalship and a spirit of covetousness. They were taught to labour justly and honestly with their hands, to get a living.3

She rarely laughed. She remarked that "We do not read that Christ was seen to laugh, but he was at times seen to weep. After laughter comes sadness." Yet she was often remarkably cheerful.4

She became a minister in the Society of Friends, and was helpful in that service.5

Elizabeth and William did not interfere much with each other's business, knowing that they need not one bid the other to do their best; yet they advised with each other in affairs of moment, William often evincing a high esteem of his wife's judgment.6

The faithfulness, dedication, and foresight of this exemplary woman were shown remarkably in the manner in which she dissuaded William from expanding his tanning business by taking up maltmaking. She said to William, "If these lads live, and if this malt trade be kept on, they likely may be sent to ale-houses with malt; and if they should get a habit of drinking, what will all we can get signify? Let us part with it. I have no fear but that Providence will provide for us and them, if we do as we ought; so let us be content with the tanning trade."7

Her son John Richardson recalled one incident demonstrative of her character:


I cannot forget one individual in particular, what high looks he had, when he came to take away leather to answer the fines for not swearing. My mother being near, he directed his speech to her, upbraiding her, and saying that we would neither obey magistrates nor Christ. "What!" says he, "there are but two sacraments, and you deny them both." But a few words from her, calmly spoken with an innocent look, put him to silence; though, with the officer of excise, he evinced a covetous disposition.8

She died at Ayton, Yorkshire, and was buried in the Friends' burying-ground there on 16 May 1719.9


1 Dictionary of Quaker Biography (Friends' House Library, typescript); the Lythe parish register transcript has the baptism of an Elizabeth Wilson, daughter of William Wilson of Hyleathes, on the 9th February 1667/8, which could be this Elizabeth.

2 "England Marriages, 1538–1973," database, FamilySearch, William Richardson and Elizabeth Willson, 31 Jul 1684; citing Lythe, York, reference index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City, FHL microfilm 0908916 IT 1; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris; George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle; Dictionary of Quaker Biography

3 Richardson, op. cit.: 10

4 Richardson, op. cit.: 9


6 Richardson, op. cit.: 2

7 Richardson, op. cit.: 13

8 Richardson, op. cit.: 13-7

9 TNA: RG 6/1092


Isabel Vasie was born at Whitby on the 29th July 1704. On a sampler made by her in 1715 she spelled her own name "Isbell".1

She married [O5] Isaac Richardson on the 13th April 1732. The marriage took place from the hospitable home of Langbarugh, and was solemnized at the meeting house in Ayton Village. On their marriage the small house at Ayton in which Isaac's parents had lived was settled upon Isabel. To ensure the legality of the document, John Richardson, of Langbarugh, signed it as heir-at-law to his father. The couple settled at Boghall, near Whitby, and afterwards removed to New Tan House, about 1742. Their children were: [O4] John (1733–1800), Elizabeth (1735–1773), Mary (1737–1823), Isaac (1738/9–1791), Henry (1740–1808), William (1742–1809), Isabel (1744–1823) and Aaron (1747/8–1780). All but the last two were born at Boghall; Isabel and Aaron were born at New Tan House.2

Isabel was a valuable minister for about 50 years from 1739. In 1749 she obtained a certificate, in company with Sarah Helm, "to visit the meetings in Bishoprick and Northumberland, and where else their said concern may lead them." In 1753 she obtained another certificate, but the return of it only is found, without specifying what places were visited. In 1755 she obtained a certificate "to visit Friends in their meetings in the Counties of Durham, Northumberland, Lancashire, Westmorland, and Cumberland, or elsewhere, as the Lord may please to draw her." On the 7th October 1755 she returned the said certificate (3 months after its issue), signifying in writing, "That her visit was, through the goodness of Providence, to mutual satisfaction." In 1762 she received a certificate "to visit Friends in their meetings at Bristol, and some other of the south-west parts of England, as it may please the Lord to draw her." On returning the certificate, she stated that "her visit had been to good satisfaction and comfort." In 1766, with Isaac, she went on a religious visit to Friends in London, and places adjacent; and in Norfolk. In some of those services, she and her husband travelled together on double horse, according to the custom of travelling at that period.3

In 1771 she was present at the wedding of her son William at Scarborough. Her children described her as a peculiarly excellent character—of great energy, and very industrious habits: rising early to accomplish her domestic engagements, so as to prepare her family for the diligent attendance of meetings (there were at that time two week-day meetings kept up at Whitby). Her industry and management were such, that much of their clothing was of home manufacture. Her son John never had a coat of bought cloth, until the period of his marriage. She was of a weighty serious deportment; and at times endeavoured to sustain the office of peace maker amongst her friends and relatives.4

She has been described as "a most peaceable woman," and she seems to have possessed the strength and firmness which is sometimes found in persons of that type of character. She passed her declining years in much peace and tranquillity, frequently having one or other of her grandchildren residing with her.5

She died on the 9th May 1789, and was buried on the 12th in the Friends' burial ground, near Whitby.6

Isabel Vasie was the youngest child of [O11] Henry and [O14] Mary Vasie.7


1 TNA: RG 6/1094; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris: 256; George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle—which spells her surname with a Z

2 Boyce (1889): 13; Richardson (1850)

3 Richardson (1850)

4 RG 6/1351 f0, /1404 f0; Richardson (1850): 28-9

5 Richardson (1850): 29; Boyce (1889): 16

6 RG 6/759, /901, /1122

7 Richardson (1850); Boyce (1889): 256


Henry Vasie of Whitby married, first, Alice Grundle, on the 6th May 1685, at Whitby Friends' meeting house. Alice dying in 1686/7, he married, secondly, [O14] Mary Mackridge on the 18th April 1688, also at Whitby meeting house. Their children were: Thomas (1689–1739/40), Christopher (1691–1692), Sarah (1693–1735), Mary (1695 – after 1733/4), Lydia (1697–1774), Henry (1699 – before 1726), Margery (1700–1785), Richard (1702 – after 1726), and [O10] Isabel (1704–1789). In 1696 he was a witness at the marriage of (his brother) Richard Vasie and Elizabeth Lotherington, at Whitby. Described as a shipwright of Whitby, he married, thirdly, Grace Slee, on the 3rd July 1706, at Scarborough meeting house.1

Again described as a shipwright of Whitby, in 1717 he was present at the marriage of his daughter Sarah. A ship-owner and shipbuilder in Whitby, he owned a ship called Henry, of which in 1726 his son Richard was master.2

He made his will on the 15th May 1726, "being sick and infirm of body". By its terms he divided his property equally between his eight children. His body was buried at Whitby on the 24th May 1726. His will was proved in the Exchequer Court of York (Cleveland) on the 3rd June 1726.3

Henry Vasie was a son of [O12] ____ and [O13] ____ Vasie.4


1 TNA: RG 6/1094, /1351, /1404; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris;

2 RG 6/1351Boyce (1889); George Richardson (1850) The Annals of the Cleveland Richardsons. Newcastle

3 RG 6/1094; Boyce (1889); Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York Probate Index, 1688–1858, 79/124

4 RG 6/1351

O12. ____ VASIE

____ Vasie married [O13] ____ ____. Their children were [O11] Henry (? – 1726) and Richard (? – before 1718). The Vasie family have been said to be of noble origin.1

1 TNA: RG 6/1351; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris

O13. ____ VASIE born ____

____ ____ married [O12] ____ Vasie. Their children were [O11] Henry (? – 1726) and Richard (? – before 1718). 1

1 TNA: RG 6/1351


Mary Mackridge of Whitby married [O9] Henry Vasie on the 18th April 1688, at Whitby Friends' meeting house. Their children were: Thomas (1689–1739/40), Christopher (1691–1692), Sarah (1693–1735), Mary (1695 – after 1733/4), Lydia (1697–1774), Henry (1699 – before 1726), Margery (1700–1785), Richard (1702 – after 1726), and [O8] Isabel (1704–1789). In 1696 she was a witness at the marriage of (her brother-in-law) Richard Vasie and Elizabeth Lotherington, at Whitby.1

She died in 1704, probably in childbirth, as her body was interred at Whitby on the 8th August that year, just two days after Isabel's birth.2

Mary Mackridge was a daughter of [O15] ____ and [O16] ____ Mackridge.3



1 TNA: RG 6/1094, /1351; Anne Ogden Boyce (1889) Records of a Quaker Family: The Richardsons of Cleveland. London: Samuel Harris;

2 RG 6/1094Boyce (1889): 256

3 RG 6/1094


____ Mackridge married [O15] ____ ____. Their children were [O14] Mary (? – 1704) and Sarah (? – ?).1

1 TNA: RG 6/1094

O16. ____ MACKRIDGE born ____

____ ____ married [O15]) ____ Mackridge. Their children were [O14] Mary (? – 1704) and Sarah (? – ?).1

1 TNA: RG 6/1094

Suggestions for further research

Tyne & Wear Archives have extensive Richardson-related material, that I have not had the time to examine. All looks very relevant indeed.

It's not entirely clear who the father was, of [O6] William Richardson. My text relies on a single source, which itself is secondary; this source itself appears to name two different fathers. Someone with access to local records may be able to confirm which is the more likely. Whether it will then be possible to trace the line any further remains to be seen. This Richardson line is a prime example of how fortunate we are to have Quaker ancestry, as it's so thoroughly documented from 1660 onwards.

Another longstanding problem is the birth/baptism and parentage of [O11] Henry Vasie. If there's any truth in the noble origin claimed for him, this could prove an interesting line.


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