Saturday, 6 February 2010

Ord's History


Cleveland Historian


The publication in 1972 of a reduced facsimile edition of Ord's "History of Cleveland" revived interest in one of the more popular volumes of local history published in the nineteenth century. An excellent introduction to this new edition by the late Mr.Robert Wood sets out the origin and publication of the work. Summing up, he concluded that "The History can be described as a wonderful example of Victorian journalism".
The popularity was due in some measure to the numerous illustrations, particularly when it was first published in parts: many people only bought the parts dealing with their parish.

An earlier work on Cleveland by the Rev.John Graves, published in 1808, gave Ord the opportunity to update the history of Cleveland. Ord’s own work, published in 1846, was out of date in the decade following his death in 1853.

Family background

Richard Ord, father of the Cleveland historian, was born at Brawith, near Knayton, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. His baptism is recorded in the register at Leake Parish Church:

"1783 - Jan. 7th - Richard Ord,
son of Richard and Mary,
(North Riding of Yorkshire County Records Office, Northallerton)

Richard’s wife Ann (nee Walker) was a descendant of Dame Walker and John Walker Ord dismisses the tradition that she was a mere village school dame. A footnote on pp.545/546 of the History states that she "was the daughter of the wealthiest farmer in the neighbourhood; and her husband, a respectable yeoman of the first class, resided at Marton Grange". In short Mary Walker's connection with James Cook "...then a mere lad, tended the stock, took the horses to water and ran, errands for the family; and in return for such services the good old lady, finding h~ an intelligent, active youth, was pleased to teach him his alphabet and reading" .

It is perhaps probable that Richard's background made it possible for him to set up as a tanner and currier in Guisborough in 1809 was twenty-six years of age. This was the commencement of a success story.

The Census Return of 1851 records him as a master tanner and currier, employing four men in the tannery, thirteen curriers, in addition to which, as the tenant-farmer of seventy-five acres, he employed four labourers.

His family life was marred by bereavements. His wife Ann died in 1855. Previous to this, five of his children had been buried in the churchyard.
A curious feature is the belated entry of Ann Ord's burial in the Guisborough Parish Registers.
The entry was made in the burial register for the month of July and recorded 5 June as the actual date of her burial. Did she die away from home?

Although Richard Ord was not a native of Guisborough, he became so closely identified with parish affairs that when he died at the age of ninety-six in 1819 he was described as 'one of Guisborough's most honoured and respected inhabitants". It was also stated that his trading activities had extended beyond Cleveland "throughout England, Scotland and Ireland" .

For over twenty years he was Vice-Chairman of the Guisborough Board of Guardians and associated with the most important public bodies in the district. As a Liberal he had proved to be "a great support to the local party in the stirring times of reform agitation". (The Whitby Gazette)

A tantalising reference in a local newspaper (The Daily Exchange, 13/8/1897. Middlesbrough Public Library) stated that the late Mr Richard Ord, JP, kept a diary of all events relating to Guisborough”. Unfortunately this has not come to light.

In 1901 the local branch of the family ended with the death of Richard's son, Charles Ovington Ord. The day of the tannery was over and the sole relic was the existence of a currier's workshop where leather was sold. The tannery was on the site behind the present supermarket (Hintons) No.15 Westgate, running down to the beckside. The frontage was a substantial dwellinghouse, the residence of the Ord family. After the closure of the tannery the site and some of the premises were converted into a laundry. When the laundry moved to new premises in Northgate the Empire Cinema was erected. This was razed in 1976 when Hintons took over.

Charles Ovington Ord (got his will) buried in lead coffin. A character. A barrister. Did not practise. Left s estate to Poynters &c, &c (Executor Mr Trevor). Had he Richard Ord’s Diary?
Made Benny Beeton drunk and sent him over the road to the Chemist Fairburn. Staggered into shop and pulled down iron stove-pipe. Also the road-sweeper who was given a “strong” doctored drink by Charles Ovington Ord. Sweeper’s mate took him home in a barrow.
Stone from old tanyard “slid into place” over Plantin Beck (Bakehouse Square).
CO Ord and Barney Buckworth. Crowd at door. Soot bags. CO pulled out his yellow handkerchief (Liberal) and saved himself.

The above from Ernie Pattison, plumber, Bakehouse Square. 1 May 1960.
E Pattison’s Grandfather (Wright) had foot blown off Gunpowder Plot Night.

JOHN WALKER ORD, son of Richard and Ann Ord, was born 5 March 1811 at Guisborough and baptised in the Parish Church on 5 April.

His education commenced at the local Grammar School, a joint foundation of almshouses and school, erected in 1561. Situated on the verge of the churchyard it had a picturesque setting with the east end of the priory dominating the scene. In later years the schoolmaster was criticised for neglect and personal absenteeism and it is interesting to note that John Walker Ord spoke up for his former master, recalling no doubt his own years at the school. Memories of his schooldays were later romanticised in verse.

After leaving the grammar school Ord went to a boarding school at Sowerby near Thirsk. At the age of eighteen he went to Edinburgh to study medicine. (Baines 1823 Directory lists a boarding school a mile and a half s.of Thirsk. Prop: Thos. Gibbons)

Unfortunately he did not complete his studies. Information concerning his departure from Edinburgh may be found in a book written by another local historian (The Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham. George Markham Tweddell. 1872.):“I am sorry to have it to record that the subject of this memoir was plucked on presenting himself for examination. I know that many of his friends have conceived that his libelling of the magnates of the university had much to do with his rejection; and it is probable enough that he was doomed to feel that he had made enemies of those who could have served him as friends ...But I candidly confess that I fear literature too much engrossed our author's brain to allow him to pay proper attention to those studies necessary to prepare him for a physician”. This memoir refers to the libels as "ephemeral pasquinades" and dramatises the affair by stating that Ord and his fellow-student fled and were outlawed. This escapade must have upset his parents, in particular his father who had the tradesman's natural ambition to lift his offspring out of trade into one of the professions. (Ord's brother Charles Ovington Ord became a barrister. 1816-1901). The fact that Dr.Knox, the notorious anatomist, came down from Edinburgh to persuade Ord to resume his studies, points to this. He was unsuccessful. It is unlikely that he was alienated from his family at this time whilst there was a possibility of returning to Edinburgh. A decade later Ord referred to "the narrowness of my circumstances and meanness of fortune”. In 1834 Ord and Knox enjoyed "a principally pedestrian tour through a part of Holland and South Wales". This suggests that he was still supported by his parents.

Ord's literary inclination had attracted him to two poets: James Hogg, styled "The Ettrick Shepherd" and Thomas Campbell. Other literary acquaintances included the Countess of Blessington and John Wilson, the latter better known to readers of Blackwood's Magazine as "Christopher North". Ord's close association with the Wilson family and his desire to win the affection of one of the daughters resulted in a sad disappointment: he saw her married to another. Tweddell (see footnote on p.4) refers to a letter by Ord declaring his intention to be married by the twenty-one.
Ord had hoped to do what Professor Wilson had done: wooed and won a wealthy English lady. This was Tweddell’s summing up. All things considered Ord’s departure from Edinburgh is not surprising.

By this time Ord’s first poem was published, "A Vision of the Moon” (1829), described by Professor John Wilson as “full of fancy, feeling and imagination".

A more ambitious work was published in two volumes in 1833/34: "England - A Historical Poem" John Wilson’s comment, quoted above, applies to this work, which contains padding in the form of footnotes.

In 1836 Ord embarked on his journalistic career. Matthew Milton, his fellow culprit at Edinburgh, joined him in launching a threepenny weekly in London: "The Metropolitan Journal of Literature, the Fine Arts, etc.". Its motto was "Eyes to the Blind, Ears for the Deaf, Limbs for the Maimed", a clinical claim which in Tweddell’s words, "...appeared for sixteen Saturdays and left the blind, the deaf and the maimed to shift for themselves".

Undeterred by this failure, they secured the joint editorship of a new Tory weekly newspaper entitled "The Metropolitan Conservative Journal”. In 1838 this weekly was buttressed by “The Church of England Gazette”, whose editor personified bigotry, with the result that Ord left London in 1839 to take up the post of manager at "The Tory Beacon" in Sunderland. This appears to have been an attempt to revive a declining circulation, and the doubtful expedient of changing the title to "The Northern Times" did not induce Ord to settle down in Sunderland.

Mr.Wood’s introduction to the 1972 facsimile edition of Ord’s “History of Cleveland" includes an interesting account of the circumstances leading up to Ord's decision to commence his major work. To this may be added Tweddell’s prospectus for his own projected History of Cleveland (1862): "It is now eighteen years since the author announced his intention of publishing a History in cheap form. Finding however, that the late Mr.John Walker Ord was undertaking to write one, the author of the present work(see footnote* p.4) determined to suspend his project for some years, rather than interfere with the labours of a literary friend. But Mr.Ord’s History (which was published at a price beyond the reach of the bulk of the population) being now out of print, this obstacle no longer exists".

Ord's History was published in part form at 2/6d. per part, 1844-46.

Tweddell's History was originally intended to consist of twelve parts at one shilling each, but his printer became insolvent. Tweddell had told Ord that he was wrong to issue the History so soon: "...he ought to have devoted two or three years at the least to collecting materials for the book; and that then he would have found it quite sufficient labour to have moulded them into shape, to have added such fresh information as is always turning up and to have corrected the printer's proofs; but that he was then attempting too much to be done creditably with safety to his own brain".

Ord rejected the advice, saying "You are quite wrong, friend Tweddell; when I know a thing has to be done, I set to work and do it; but if I can take my own time, why then I do take my own time and it is never accomplished.

A few years later Ord admitted that the advice had been sound counsel: "You were right, friend Tweddell, though I did not believe at the time ...You were the only one that gave me that advice; I did not accept it; but I wish to God that I had; but it is too late now!"

His next book "Remarks on the Sympathetic Condition existing between the Body and the Mind, especially during Disease" revealed a morbid interest in lunacy. This may have been a spin-off from his medical studies or an earlier manifestation. He had used his poem "England” as a means of dealing with the subject. Tweddell’s comment on this was "I wish I had space to give 'Queen Philippa' entire, because it contains the most complete description of every phase of lunacy which I know of" may have had the benefit of hindsight, but there is a prophetic conclusion attached to these publications.

In 1841 "The Bard and Minor Poems" was published, followed in 1845 by "Rural Sketches and Poems, chiefly relating to Cleveland".

Considering that these were published during his engagement with the History it is likely that he was working against the clock, possibly hoping to bolster his finances. His sojourn at Lady Phillips home, Middle Hill in Worcestershire, resulted in his dedication of Rural Sketches to her “in gratitude for hospitalities”. Sir Thomas Phillips likewise received recognition in the preface to Ord's History: "... I am especially indebted for the use of his vast and magnificent library, and for his personal assistance and hospitality”.

By the time the History was published in 1846 Ord was thirty-five years of age. Tweddell describes him as "very tall and of a commanding a public speaker he was remarkably eloquent and animated. In private life he was so meek and mild in his manners that one had some difficulty in comprehending that it was really the same man who wrote such strong articles".

He had the distinction of being included in the Dictionary of National Biography", but his work was down graded. Described as "a topographer, poet and journalist". "This work is written in a fulsome style. The author was unfit for such a great work; he was not an antiquary". Two qualities are noteworthy in the History – his affection for Cleveland in general and for his birthplace, also for his awareness of the contemporary scene.

His sad decline and the awful isolation of his death in the city where he had started as a student of medicine twenty-four years earlier, evoke our compassion.

W.H. Burnett, author of "Old Cleveland", 1886, attributes Ord's dissolution thus: "To make matters worse, he became too frequent a patron of that enemy which the Bard of Avon tells us men put into their mouths to steal away their brains. It seems that Ord sometimes stayed overnight at Stokesley with the Braithwaite family, who were afraid that he might wander out in the night”. The inevitable comment – "His friends found it necessary to place him under restraint".

All this points to an estrangement in the family, which may account for Richard Ord's refusal to Tweddell's request for biographical information: "I cannot but express my very deep regret that his nearest relatives should, from some cause or other have thought it fit to refuse me even the slightest materials towards his biography".

John Walker Ord died on 29 August 1853, aged 42, at Morningside Asylum, Edinburgh, and was buried in the churchyard at Guisborough.

In a poem "Home Revisited" published in Tait's Magazine, 1840, he expressed a desire to be buried within the shade of the east window of the Priory –
"And, 'mid this vale of my kinsfolk, my comrades –
Here, where the loved and cherish'd repose –
Here, where the abbey salutes the last sunbeams,
Grant me a grave".

An obelisk marks the grave where he was reunited with his mother and younger members of the family. It was twenty-six years later when his father was interred close by.

W.D. Brelstaff


Poem- "A Vision of the Moon"
Tweddell says this was Ord's first production, written at Guisborough on New Year's Day. Professor John Wilson (Christopher North) of Edinburgh described it "full of fancy, feeling and imagination." An accurate summary of all Ord's poems.
"England: a Historical Poem"
Volume I, 1834; volume II, 1835. Over 500 pages. Bound as a single volume in ~[iddlesbrough Public Library. Some padding: historical footnotes on Guisborough.
“Some remarks on the Sympathetic Condition existing between the Body and the Mind, especially during Disease”
Unusual subject for a young man of 25. Prophetic in view of his tragic decease. Was it connected with his study of medicine, or was it arising from out of his family background? His mother, Ann Ord, was buried on 5 June 1855, but was not entered in the Guisborough Parish Register until July. Did she die elsewhere? Or was it accidentally omitted from the register at the time of her burial?
"The Bard and Minor Poems "
Collected and edited by John Lodge.
Dedicated to Prince Albert.
"Rural Sketches and Poems. chiefly relating: to Cleveland"
Dedicated to Lady Phillips of Middle Hill, Worcestershire, "in gratitude for hospitalities."
"The History and-Antiquities of Cleveland. comprising: the Wapentakes of East and West Langbaurgh North Riding County of York"
Issued in parts 1844. Completed 1846.
Ord edited a poem “Roseberry Topping” by Thomas Pierson, first published 1783
Dedicated by Ord to Thomas Jennett, Esq, three years Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees. "Affectionately dedicated by his attached friend, John Walker Ord."
"The Bible Oracles"
Unfinished manuscript.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John, it's Trevor here. I've been working with
    Paul Tweddell on a site and archives of George Markham Tweddell
    we've also published his collected poetry on line - the poetry link is at the top of the page. Be interested to have a chat about your father's research. Trev