The Weddells of Stowell Street, Newcastle

grateful thanks for contributions from Wilfred Brennan, Celie O'Neill, Jan Inglis and Maxine Smallwood-Weddell

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In compiling a history of the Rooney family I learned that the father of my great-grandmother Janet Rooney (nee Weddell) had the unusual name of Newton. Or so I thought. When I decided to investigate its origins I found that it was far from unusual - and discovered no fewer than thirteen Newton Weddells - all interrelated. The following is a brief account of them and their contemporaries. The story is complicated, and readers will find the family tree essential. To assist the reader I have identified each of the various Newtons by a superscript; these appear not in chronological order, but in the order in which they emerged during the research.

(Note: the name "Newton Weddle" also crops up in 19th-century US records on a number of occasions, but there does not appear to be any link to the UK.)

The parish register of St. Nicholas, Newcastle, records that Thomas Weddell, son of John and Elizabeth, was christened there on 9th June 1746. It also records that the family were non-conformist. This is probably the same Thomas Waddell (sic), who on 5th May 1782 married Elizabeth Newton in St John's. Some eight years later the baptismal register for St John's records the birth of a son to Thomas and Elizabeth on 2nd April 1790, who was christened on 30th May 1790. His parents named him Newton after his mother's surname, and in doing so started a family custom which endured into the twentieth century. In this account he will be referred to as Newton1. Christened on the same day was a daughter - Isabella, who was possibly a twin.

It seems unlikely that Newton1 was Thomas and Elizabeth's first child, given the gap of eight years since their marriage, and it is possible that they had a number of previous children who died in infancy. Further children were christened at St John's, including Alice Weddel (sic) - 8th June 1794, and Thomas Weddle (sic) - on 26th July.

The variation in spelling of the surname is not unusual. For example, another Thomas and Elizabeth living in Wooler at the same time had five different spellings for the christening of only four children - Waddle, Wodell, Wadelss, Wadel and Waddell!

The next appearance of Newton1 in St John's register is on 2nd June 1811, when he married Isabella Guthrie. A son, James, was christened not in St John's, but in Castle Garth Presbyterian Church, on 1st November 1813. A daughter, Elenor, was also christened there - on 27th February 1815. This is not surprising in view of the previous indication of non-conformist tendencies.

The records of the Incorporated Company of Tanners* reveal that a "Thomas Newton Weddell" was admitted as a Freeman of the City of Newcastle in 1812. This is almost certainly Newton1, who by that time would have been 22 years old - an appropriate age for admission. He progressed in seniority within the society; the "History, Directory and Gazeteer of Northumberland and Durham" published in 1827 by Wm. Parson and Wm. White lists him as a steward of the fraternity, along with E. Story, R. Youll and I. Watson. On 19th of November that same year his second son James was apprenticed to one James Walton, a slater and tiler of Newcastle upon Tyne. His indenture reveals that the term was to be seven years, and during this period James was bound, among other things, not to waste his Master's property, haunt Taverns, Inns or Alehouses, play at Cards, Dice, Tables, or any other unlawful Games, and not to contract Matrimony. In exchange for these undertakings he would receive wages of four shillings per week, rising to seven shillings by the end of his term, and full board and lodgings.

* The Tanners were one of the twelve Incorporated Companies of Freemen known as "Mysteries," who had the privilege of sending two representatives to the election of the Town Mayor. They also had the right to make their sons freemen, and to exercise "stintage," i.e. grazing rights upon the Town Moor. In earlier days they performed "English Mysteries" or "Miracle Plays" on the feast of Corpus Christi. Some of these performances were considered "indelicate" as they portrayed Adam and Eve in an actual state of nudity.

We jump forward in time now to 1841, and the first detailed Census taken in England and Wales. Newton1 was now aged 50, and living with Isabella at 41, Stowell Street - not far from the Tanners Hall. The census confirms his occupation as a tanner, and lists six children still living at home - James (25)*, Newton2 (20), Mary and Ann (15), William (14) and Elizabeth (9). The occupations of James and Newton2 were slater and joiner respectively.

* James's age as recorded is clearly an error.

James and Newton2 also turn up in the records of the Incorporated Company of Tanners, being admitted as Freemen in 1835 and 1844 respectively. The records also list the admission of a "Thomas, son of Newton" in 1831. This is evidently the eldest son of Newton1, who was born in 1812, though no christening record has been found for him. He is an important figure in this history, as he was the father of Newton3, my own great-great-grandfather.

Newton3 Weddell was born in Newcastle - in 1835. His mother Margaret (nee Atkinson) was born in County Durham in 1813. He had a sister, Joanne, who was also born in Newcastle, in 1840. In 1841 the family were living in Darlington; Joanne does not appear on the census record, but there is a daughter Frances, aged 1. This may have been the same sister, referred to by another of her baptismal names. Their stay in Darlington was short; in 1846 they were living in Hamburg, where a son, Thomas C, was born. By 1851 they had returned from Germany and were living in Leith, at Restalrig Back Court. Thomas, now 39, was employed as an Engine Driver, and Newton3, was working as a moulder. Also living at the same address was Newton2, with his wife Janet (nee Deans - born in Edinburgh in 1821), and their 8-month old infant son Newton4, christened on 29th September 1850. Newton2 and Janet had married on 22nd November 1849.

Meanwhile, back in Newcastle, both Newton1 and James turn up in the Census of 1851. By this time Elizabeth was the only child still living at home with her parents. James had married Hannah Coulthard, the daughter of George Coulthard, a "refiner", on 2nd August 1841 at St John's Church. In the census Hannah is named "Ann", but she is consistently named Hannah in the parish register of Andrews which records the christening of their children - Martha (8th December 1841), Isabella* (27th September 1843), Catherine (27th September 1844), Isabella (25th April 1847) and Newton5 (6th May 1849).

* Evidently this Isabella died in infancy and a subsequent child was given the same name.

The Post Office Directory of 1858 lists a Newton Weddell, cow keeper, living at 21, Stowell Street. During the same year Newton3 was admitted as a Freeman on 31st May, however his place of residence at the time is not noted. In the 1861 census of Newcastle Newton1 and Isabella are missing, having died in 1858 and 1859 respectively. James and Ann however were still living in Stowell Street - at No. 21, but of their children only Isabella and Newton5 were still living with them. James's occupation was "cow keeper". Evidently he had taken over his father's business on his death.

Also recorded in the 1861 census is Thomas Weddell, aged 49, living at 18 Stowell Street with his wife Margret (sic) and son Thomas C. aged 15. Both father and son are described as "Engine Fitters". The birthplace of the son is given as "Altona Holstein". Altona is now a suburb of Hamburg, but at that time it was a separate city, in fact the second largest city of Denmark, within whose borders lay the province of Holstein. It became part of Prussia in 1866 after the Danish-Prussian War.

Newton3 is missing from the 1861 Census of Newcastle, because he was then living in Scotland. He had married Janet Walker at Bonnington, near Leith, on 16th May 1860, and their first child, Grace, was born there in 1863. Janet was the daughter of Andrew Walker (born 1817), a dock porter, and his wife Grace (nee Mitchell - born 1818), who lived at 15 Couper Street, North Leith. Newton3 and Janet had moved to Newcastle by the time their next child, Thomas, was born in 1865, and their third, Janet, my great-grandmother, was also born there - at 3, Stowell Street, on 8th June 1867. On her birth certificate her father's occupation is given as Engine Wright. The family then moved to Jarrow, and their fourth child, Newton6, was born in Stanley Street in 1869. They were still there for the 1871 census, which records 'Newton Waddle', fitter, living at 28, Stanley Street. This was a notoriously poor area of the town, largely populated by Irish immigrants living in overcrowded lodging houses, which suggests that they had fallen on hard times. If this were so it was merely a temporary reversal of fortunes, as by the birth of Andrew on 28th April 1871 they had moved to 26 Ernest Street, and Newton3 was working as an engine fitter.

Newton3 WeddellJanet Walker

In the 1871 census James is listed as a widower, living at 11, Darn Crook. He had reverted to his earlier occupation of slater. Newton5 was living with him, and was employed as a butcher. Ward's Directory of Newcastle for 1874 also lists him as a butcher - in St Andrew's Street, which was the new name given to Darn Crook.

Thomas is also present in the 1871 census - living at 21, Stowell Street (James's former address). His son, Thomas C. was also living with him, and this time the Census records his birthplace as Hamburg (since by this time Altona had ceased to exist as a city). Both were still employed as engine fitters.

By 1881 Newton3 and Janet had moved to more salubrious accommodation at 5, Maud Street. Sadly, Newton6 may have died in childhood, as he does not appear in the record. The family was by then complete. In addition to Grace, now apprenticed to a dressmaker, Thomas, working as a pupil teacher, and Janet, three further children had been born - Andrew (1871), James (1874) and Margaret (1876). Newton3 is missing from this record - he was a marine engineer and is likely to have been working away from home.

Thomas and Thomas C. were still sharing a household at 21 Stowell Street in 1881. Thomas's profession was once again listed as "Engine Driver", though it is unlikely he was still working in this capacity. Thomas C. was still unmarried and employed as an engine fitter. Once again the census enumerator had difficulty with his birthplace, recording it as "Hamburg Altona". Interestingly, three adjacent households in the census had the address "Weddell's Court".

People moved around a great deal in the 19th century, and Kelly's Directory for 1886 has Newton5 listed as Newton Weddell, butcher, 81 Corbridge St, Byker.

Thomas WeddellMargaret Weddell

The Census record for the Jarrow Weddells in 1891 is very similar to the 1881 entry, however Grace does not appear as she had died in the Spring of 1886. She had married William Dickison in 1883, and had borne him a son, Thomas, in 1884. Thomas Weddell had qualified as a schoolmaster, and Andrew and James were apprenticed as a printer and joiner respectively. Once again Newton3 was absent.

In 1892 Thomas left the family home in Jarrow to marry Rhoda Rutherford, a widow, nee Valentine, who had a son George from her first marriage. They set up home in Gateshead, at 12 Fourth Street, and their first child was born in June of the following year. They named him Newton13. Sadly the child lived only two months before dying on 24th August 1893. He was to be the first of three infant deaths associated with the name of Newton Weddell.

Newton3continued to live at 5, Maud Street, Jarrow, rising to become a Chief Engineer in the shipyards, however by the time of the 1901 Census he had retired. Of their children, only Andrew, James and Margaret were still living at home. Newton3 died of heart disease on 7th October 1903 and was buried in Jarrow cemetery. Janet, his daughter, married John Rooney on 8th February 1893. After the death of John's mother in 1908 they occupied Lake House Farm until 1925, when they moved to Tweed Street, (and named their home Newton House). Janet died there on 31st January 1926.

Four Generations - circa 1919
Janet Weddell (nee Walker) : Wilfred Brennan : Margaret Brennan (nee Rooney) : Janet Rooney (nee Weddell)
(note Janet Rooney's brooch - this family heirloom also appears in the previous picture of her mother)

The family had left 5 Maud Street by 1910, as it was then occupied by one George Robertson. The owner of the house however was the youngest child Margaret Weddell. Perhaps the same considerations which had prompted Elizabeth Rooney to leave the bulk of her wealth to her unmarried daughters also applied in this case? In any event Margaret later became Mrs Brayfield and survived well into her nineties, dying at Barnard Castle circa 1972. Thomas lived at a variety of addresses in Gateshead, and died there some time during the 1940's. He was survived by his wife, Rhoda, who died in Bensham Hospital on 24th December 1948. Andrew's first child, a son, was born in the summer of 1903. He too was named Newton8. Sadly he took ill with pneumonia and died at 3, Lake Terrace, Jarrow, on Christmas Eve that same year. Andrew left Tyneside and went to live in Plumstead, near London. After the death of his first wife from TB he married Margaret Rogerson from Croft Terrace in Jarrow. They had a daughter Gwen who married and lived in Liverpool and a number of other children.

What of the other branch of the family?

Newton5 was also admitted as a Freeman of Newcastle, on 5th January 1870. He later moved to Byker, where he appears in the 1881 census with his wife Jane Ann aged 31 and children Newton7 aged 6, Hannah aged 2 and Elizabeth aged 7 months living at 20 Dunns Terrace. His profession was recorded as Labourer (shipping). Newton5 and Jane Ann were to have ten children in total, of whom five died in childhood - James William (1873-1878), Thomas (1876-1877), Jane (1882-1883), Ellen (1887-1890) and Jane Ann (1893-1893). These sad events were meticulously recorded by Newton5 in the Family Bible. For us, who live in an age when childhood mortality is a relatively rare event, it is hard to imagine the heartache that the parents must have suffered.

By the time of the 1891 Census James Weddell was living alone at Days Buildings, off Maling Street, his occupation being a "slater (Asst worker)". It is hard to imagine a man of 76 crawling over roofs! Newton5 was living at 100, Kirk Street, Byker. His second child, Newton7 was apprenticed as a fitter/turner. Newton5 was no longer employed as a butcher and his occupation is instead recorded as a general labourer. A further four children were living at home - Hannah (b. 24/7/1878), Elizabeth (12/8/1880), William Lowrey (8/11/1885) and Mary (24/11/1889).

Despite his perilous occupation James survived to die a natural death, at 75, Byker Bank on 17th February 1892. Newton5 was with him at the end and registered his death.

On June 5th 1897 Newton7 married Sarah Blair, the daughter of John Blair, a labourer, at St Anthony's Church in Byker. He continued the family tradition by naming his son, born on 25th June 1899, Newton9. Sadly this Newton also died in childhood, in 1904. His gravestone was still visible in Heaton Cemetery in 1996, but appears now to have disappeared. Newton7 and Sarah had another two children we are aware of - John Arthur (b. 1902) and Olive (Dodds) (b. 1907). Both of these emigrated to Australia where their descendants still live. John Arthur married Ida Latimer and their second child was named Philip Newton Weddell (Newton11).

In the 1901 Census Newton5 and Jane were recorded as living at 102 Janet Street, Byker. Newton5 was now working as a bricklayer. Three children were still living at home; Elizabeth (named Lizzie in the Census) - employed as a dressmaker, William L - employed as an apprentice bricklayer, and Mary.

Newton7's sister Elizabeth emigrated to Australia, settling in Brisbane where she married Bill Charlton. Their first child (b. 11/11/1908) was named Newton Weddell Charlton - we will refer to him as Newton10. He in turn married Evelyn Reid with whom he had five children, the fourth of which was also named Newton Weddell Charlton (Newton12) He appears to have been the last member of the family to bear the name Newton Weddell.

Jane, the wife of Newton5, died in 1912, and the picture below shows her husband with the two daughters who were still living at home, Hannah on the left and Mary on the right. The picture, which bears the message; "For Bill, Wishing you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, from your loving father and sisters," presumably dates from Christmas 1912, as all the subjects are dressed in mourning attire. "Bill" i.e. William Lowrey Weddell, had emigrated to Australia in 1912. He joined the Australian Army and served as a corporal in the Light Horse Field Ambulance in the Middle East during World War I. At the end of the war, he returned to Australia to be demobilized.


Newton5 Weddell with daughters Hannah and Mary

Newton7Weddell - c.a 1900

Sarah Weddell (nee Blair) with children John Arthur and Olive - c.a 1918


Newton7Weddell and Sarah - c.a. 1950

Mary married John Affleck Inglis, a clerk living at 30 Walker Road. Their second child was named Lesley Newton Inglis, bringing the total number of family members to bear this Christian name up to 14. There may be more - number 14 was brought to my notice eleven years after this history was first published!

Newton5 built up a business as a house repairer, based at 143, Harbottle Street, Newcastle. He died on 21st February 1921 at the home of his daughter Mary. His son William returned from Australia on hearing of his father's illness, and after his father's death he tried to persuade his sister Hannah to return to Australia with him. She was unwilling to emigrate, so he took over his father's building business and remained in England for the rest of his life. He was a member of the Freemasons, and the picture below shows him wearing the regalia of the Heaton (Newcastle) Lodge. He was still living at 143 Harbottle Street when Ward's Directory ceased publication in 1940.

John and Mary Inglis and son John in 1931

William Lowrey Weddell in 1935

John Inglis started a herbalist's business c.a. 1924, based at 30, Walker Road. The business must have been successful, as by 1934 the family was living at 36, Cardigan Terrace, Heaton, an altogether more salubrious neighbourhood. John Affleck Inglis died in 1945. Following the death of his father, John Alexander Inglis carried on the business until 1950, when he emigrated to Australia with his mother. They stayed initially with Newton7 who was living in Brisbane, and who died there on 17th October 1954.

Patrick Brennan
Rowlands Gill
October 1996
revised September 2005
revised November 2006

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