The hill of difficulty
I have often wondered why John chose to keep a diary. What was its purpose and did he expect it to be read by others. On the latter point I suppose it would come down to a judgement on whether he ultimately intended to destroy it before his death. The last entry is in October 1842 and he died in March 1843.If It’s assumed that these last few months were a period of declining health, maybe following something like a stroke then he may have not had the ability to destroy the document. My preferred theory though is that he wanted a bit of immortality and the possibility of that stayed his hand. Throwing the whole thing on the fire would have required a very strong incentive after all the hundreds of hours that had been spent producing it. John mentions that the diary was written up periodically from much more details notes that he kept on a daily basis. His days were long and busy so these note making must have been a firmly entrenched habit. Something that formed part of everyday no matter how tired or hassled he was.
Besides achieving earthly immortality what else might have been his motivation for all the effort. I think the clue comes from when he began to write it. My guess would be that it was sometime after he got married. He begins using the present tense in his diary notes in July 1788 when he was twenty four years old with the birth of his second child James.
John Wesley preached in the neighbouring villages and towns but John’s diary does not actually make mention of this. He must have been influenced though by the stir that it produced. It was not until the end of the following year he became more formally involved in the local society.
On December 6th 1789 Johns wife “joined Jonathan White class and I, the next day David Long’s class for the first time in our lives”
Class members were provided with renewable class membership tickets. John kept the tickets for his wife and himself for the rest of his life. The ticket has survived all these years.
During that year John had heard one of the founders of Methodism John Wesley preach on four occasions. The first occasion was Bingley on April 27th. John Wesley wrote in his journal
-At Bingley on April 27th on 1 John 3,8. “I preached at Haworth Church in the morning, crowded sufficiently as was Bingley Church in the afternoon. But as very many could not get in Mr Wrigley preached to them in the street so that they did not come in vain. In the evening we went to Halifax”.
Our John gives this account
“In April this year 8 or 10 of us Methodists walked from Yeadon to Howarth 14 miles to hear Mr Wesley preach in the Parish Church there. It was on a Lords Day morning in spring and very pleasant. He preached from Numb 23,10”.
During the same year John also saw Wesley preach at Leeds, Otley and Yeadon from 1John 1.4, Math 7 24,25 and 1 Corin 6, 19, 20 and 2 Cor. 4.18 respectively”. John said about this experience of seeing John Wesley “I don’t know whether I love him or admire him most”.
So beginning with the birth of his second son James in July 1788 ,and the decision to become part of the core congregation of the Methodist Society in December 1789, and taking in firsthand experience of John Wesley’s preaching the period must have been a significant one for John.
There were also distressing events. Mary had a still born child towards the end of 1789. The event is recorded in one short dignified sentence “We had a boy still born” but the reality for them must have been wounding.
So if there is a clue here to why he began to keep a daily diary what is it? May be he saw himself on a journey. The imagery of a spiritual journey would have been familiar to anyone listening to a Methodist preacher. We all intuitively know that by writing something down, it forms more of a commitment and we become more likely to abide by it. Over-laid across this though is the habit of the autodidact. The instinct to be inquisitive, albeit sometime with a dodgy compass and foggy vision.
So an admixture of immortality hunger, and inquisitiveness charting. I would add one more thing. There is some solitariness in Johns’ life. Little mention is made of Mary and his friendships feel a little semi detached. There’s a lot of the square peg about him. Maybe he was also writing for company.
This is how the diary begins.
“By the Grace of God, Struggles Through Life’ written by an un-tutored (in literature) insignificant individual, John Yeadon of Yeadon, near Leeds Yorkshire.”
“Chapter 1 1764
The register from Guiseley church proves that I was born November 5th 1764. My father John Yeadon a Clothier had been married little more than2 year when I came into the world. My mother died when I was about seven months old, thus cut off in the flower of her age being about 22 years old. I never knew my mother. She died with me clasped in her arms crying O my child!”
When choosing something to head up this chapter, the Pilgrims Progress came to mind as it seemed to typify John’s view of the purpose of life. One episode in particular is a good fit.
John Bunyan’s Hill of Difficulty
“I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying”,
“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
The Third Stage
Pilgrim’s progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688)
This is a link to the song ‘He who would valiant be’ by John Bunyan sung in a traditional style.
The first part of the Pilgrims Progress was published in 1678, the second part a few years later. Although still well known today there have been times when it was the most widely read book after the bible. Most people in the late 18th and 19th centuries would have been at least aware of the story, many would have read the book or had parts read to them in Sunday School or at home. For John we have evidence of this from his diary…
In 1777, when he was about 13 years old John attended night school classes.
“I felt a pleasing delight at this time in learning to write at Night School’s from 8- 10 O’clock, which I practised for many winters for except one quarter that I went to Mr Hoyle at Guiseley School. I had no other help whatever.
So greatly did I thirst for universal knowledge at this age (13 years) that I should gladly have gone miles to borrow Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrims Progress, History of any kind, Geography? Having a bed and bedroom to myself, I commonly retired with a candle unknown to the family and read for hours after school times”.
Attending a Methodist chapel the in the 1960’s you would have thought that everyone had met John Bunyan. Illustrations from late Victorian editions of the book showing Christian’s climb were on the walls in the Sunday School Room. Sermons touched base with the best known bits. The Slough of Despond, Difficulty Hill, Valley of the shadow of death, Straight and narrow highway, and Vanity Fair. Maybe what was true of the 1960’s was also true of the 1780’s when John became involved with Methodism
My guess is that John’s mind would have been saturated with the imagery of the story and this framed how he saw his own life. The front page of the diary was headed ‘Struggles through life of John Yeadon.” I think he saw himself as a pilgrim.
Looking down one end of the telescope it seems entirely reasonable that an unschooled child living through the earliest years of the industrial revolution in a wretched village on the periphery of nowhere would know all about John Bunyan and the journey to the Celestial City. It seems probable because it happened. (If he didn’t know the words he certainly knew the tune).Swinging the telescope around and looking down the other end the scenario looks more like running into the broken points of the needle in the haystack. Then the fact that we know about JY is because he absorbed these ideas and they shaped how he lived and he felt the need to write about it.
Did Johns antecedents necessarily bring him to this point or was he an erratic, a random event at the periphery. With this we can go back to the chronology of his life, beginning with his antecedents..
In 1813 John wrote in his diary the following account of his ancestry.
“My Grandfather or my father’s father was Joshua Yeadon married to Eliz. Wilkinson. My other Grandfather or my mother’s father was another Joshua Yeadon married to Grace Holmes. My father was John Yeadon and my mother Hannah Yeadon before marriage. My two grandfathers and their wives must have been born about 1700 or upwards. My father and mother born 1741. My mother died 1765, my father died 1810”.
The first time I put together a family tree for my (surname) Yeadon family I was struck by how many of the surnames Holmes, Wilkinson and a dozen others were held by other children in my primary school classes at South View School in Yeadon. It was as if all these families had been living as an extended group numbering a couple of hundred people for at least the last three hundred years. Each generation the genetic cards were getting re-dealt. The current representatives of each surname were sat alongside each other at school desks unaware that they were only the most recent individuals to occupy that position.
The grandparents here are a link with the late 17th Century and the time of the restoration.
Things seem a little sad for Johns father John Senior. He was born in 1741 in the village. His occupation was clothier which just meant that he made cloth which at that time was mainly a home industry. Change was coming though. The first centralised factory was established in the locality in the 1780’s. John Senior married a Hannah Yeadon (not a lot of surnames in this history) when he was twenty one. They had their first and only child two years late in 1764. That was our John.
Hannah died when John (junior) was seven months old. That would have been around June 1765. John senior remained single for the next 20 years living with his mother and her second husband Thomas Denison. When John junior writes about his upbringing it is his grandmother and her husband that he is describing although he spent his very early years with an aunt.
John senior remarried in about 1782. This long delay seems odd at a time when it was not at all uncommon for people to be widowed early in life. People married again for practical reasons such as child care, and home making as much as anything else. John Senior is not much of a presence in Johns diary until the very end of his life.
John Senior died on the 2nd October 1810 at Yeadon. His son, John (Junior) made the following entry in his diary, “In September this year my father was taken worse. He had had tender health for 2 or 3 years before he died October 2nd at the age of 59 years. His disease was Asthma ending in a slight dropsy. I was with him when he departed this life. He had been long willing if not desirous of good men praying with him, which he did preaty (sic) often”.
Who knows what arrangements John senior made with his life. Not everything gets recorded in the parish register then or now.
Losing one’s mother so early in life is now rare but would have been far more common then when maternal mortality rates were much higher. Research by B.M. Dobbie( Med Hist. 1982 January; 26(1): 79–90 )in a number of Somerset Parishes shows that 3.67% of wives died within one year of marriage in the 17th and 18th centuries, The rate for the first five years of marriage was 10.19%. The comparable rates for men were 1.07 and 4.07% respectively. It is assumed that the difference in these rates is accounted for by gender specific issues the most common of which for women would have been pregnancy and childbirth. John’s diary does not tell us why Hannah died. She was a young woman no more than twenty two years old at the time of her death. It is tempting to link the cause with his birth. Maybe the effects of some post partum infection or haemorrhage weakening her health and ability to withstand other illness. There is no evidence for this though and the cause is more likely to be unrelated.
John’s parents had married at Guiseley on the 8th November 1762. Hannah would have been nineteen and her husband about twenty one. All of Hannah’s ancestors, in both the male and female lines for at least three generation back had been born in either Yeadon or Guiseley. In all probability, if records were available they would show consistency of residence over a much longer period as the population in the area seems remarkably settled and remained so until the 1960’s. The geographic horizon of most people, especially women was how far you could walk, there and back in one day. It extended to their own and neighbouring villages. Possibly a six mile radius excepting special events or the obligations of work. John mentions the local clothiers taking their produce on pack horse to the cloth marker near Leeds bridge several times a month.
My maternal grandmother born in 1903 mentioned once that she went the six or eight miles to the nearest cities of Bradford or Leeds a handful of times before the second world war. For most practical purposes, at least for women the edge of their geographical and social world was the village after next. Trains were too expensive she said and the tram when it came was half the price but travel was a little more than a fast walking pace.
The big shift came with the war and the 1950’s. Many more people got jobs in Leeds and Bradford. My generation who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s were the ones who went to higher education and moved away from the district. We tend to marry those individuals we encounter in the normal patterns of our days. For a twenty five year old in 2013 this can be a man or woman from the opposite end of the world with wholly different antecedents. The grandson of a Whitby fisherman marrying the daughter of a Taxi driver from Port Louie in Mauritius or a refugee from the conflict in Sudan.
John Senior and Hannah and most of those know to them would have married people whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents knew each other. Things were not so different in the 1960’s when a new girlfriend would be introduced by listing her close relatives and where they had lived and worked. The fact that they both had the surname Yeadon showed that their families had been linked to the place since at least the fifteenth century.
Medieval map of Yeadon
The Yeadon which would have been familiar to John in his early childhood, and which would have formed the physical and social world for many of its inhabitants.
This map shows the basic lay out of the town before the industrial revolution. This template was preserved during the years of rapid population growth in the late 18th and early 19th century and is still recognisable today. John lived near the intersection of the tracks at the centre of the map. Yeadon Dam or tarn as is called in this picture is just to the north east. The hill known as The Haw which is the highest point of the town is at the head of the vertical branch. The town is situated on the side of this hill. Its southern boundary is the River Aire which runs along the bottom map. The parish was centred on Guiseley which is the village one third down on the western edge of the drawing.
John junior spent the first three years of his life with an unnamed aunt before returning to live with his grandmother and her second husband Thomas Dennison. As far as I can see this was Thomas’s first marriage and he was 52 at the time. This new family which included John senior at least part of the time set up home on a small farm. We don’t know where it was other than it was in the village of Yeadon and a miles walk from Guiseley church. John junior makes mention of the distance because that was the walk each Sunday with his step-grandfather.
Thomas seems to have been the fatherly influence on John. There are many references to him in the diary. A couple of snippets sum him up.
“A good moral man of a patient spirit, kind to his neighbours, a rigid Church of England man”. John talks about Thomas’s strong dislike of Methodism. Apparently Thomas had opposed the introduction of Methodism into Yeadon. There was a family tradition that he had kept a “great Bull Dog”, and that as part of a mob had he had set the dog on an early Methodist evangelist Jonathan Maskers who was preaching at Yeadon in about 1750.
The bond between John and his step-grandfather is evident from this account of the latter’s death
“On March 9th my step grandfather was taken very poorly, very unwell indeed at which I was greatly troubled. Oh how I loved him. On Sunday 10 I read with him. Monday 11 no better, death is in good earnest, Tuesday 12 , I asked who should pray with him and I was glad to hear him say ‘any good man’. I got a good man Jonathan White a real Christian of the right stamp, a Methodist class leader. My grandfather loved to hear him. May we all three meet in heaven. He was aged 74 year”.
By that time John and most of the village had taken up with the Methodists. What goes around comes around!
John gives a few stories from his childhood. This part of the journal was written when he was an adult though and these colours the accounts. By that time he was fully immersed in Methodism and was a local preacher. He uses some of these incidents as a kind of retrospective evidence of God’s plan for him.
The first event though is straight forward and factual. Getting through the first five years of life was an achievement.
In 1770 John survived what appears to have been a severe episode of Smallpox-
“I was about 5 years old when the Smallpox visited me and many children died at that time. I just escaped with my life after lying in them (the Smallpox) two months and came out with a countenance spoiled forever. I can remember this event. Inoculation was unknown then at Yeadon in any shape”
The horror of the illness is graphically described in an article by a Dr. Barquet from Spain. “The symptoms of smallpox-or the speckled monster, as it was known in 18th-century England-appeared suddenly and included high fever, chills or rigors, cephalagia, characteristic dorsal-lumbar pain, myalgias, and prostration. Nausea and vomiting were also common. After 2 to 4 days, the fever relented and a rash appeared on the face and inside the eyes; the rash would subsequently cover the whole body. These maculopapular skin lesions evolved into vesicles and pustules and finally dried into scabs that fell off after 3 or 4 weeks. This sequence of events was characteristic for variola major…
The case-fatality rate associated with smallpox varied between 20% and 60% and left most survivors with disfiguring scars. Many persons went blind as a result of corneal infection. The case-fatality rate in the infant population was even higher; among children younger than 5 years of age in the 18th century, 80% of those in London and 98% of those in Berlin who developed the disease died.
(Dr. Barquet: Centr d’Assistencia Primaria Gracia, Institut Catala de la Salut and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain).
John was obviously very fortunate to have survived. Many years later John helped over many weeks nurse his grand-daughter (and my great-great grandmother) Isabel la Yeadon through the same illness. Throughout the 18th and well into the 19th century Smallpox and other infectious diseases cut a swath through the population of the town every few years. Children were especially vulnerable.
John’s education seems to have been a patchwork of experiences. Before national legislation in 1870 a child’s education would have been a mosaic of instruction provided by the church, parents, apprenticeships and local one room voluntary schools often run by a woman with some education . The ambition of any of these was limited. Presumably he aim was to provide a foundation of basic literacy numeracy, religious knowledge and vocational skills congruent with the subjects station in life Education for what was assumed to be, rather than for what the person could become.
As a young child John attended a school run by a Mistress Mary Webster somewhere in Yeadon. This would probably have been a small, privately operated school owned and conducted by Ms Webster. Many years afterwards, John remembered a comment made by her about a classmate John Dawson. “He (JD) would be a Parson” because his school work was so good. John mentions that he “envied the prophesy, and wished it my lot”. Maybe I’ve underestimated Ms Webster’s ambition for her students.
His education was almost brought to a halt in 1772, when he would have been about 8 years old, John describes a near drowning at Yeadon Tarn, or ‘Taren’ as he spells it. He describes it as a “large pond upon Yeadon Common”. The stretch of water is still known as the Tarn but many local people prefer to call it ‘The Dam’. Its boundary is now enclosed by rocks, a pathway and railings. John knew it though as a slight dip in the landscape just down from highest point in the village where water collected. It is believed to have given the village its name. Yeadon is thought to mean water on the hill. John gives an account of what happened to him there-
“It was common for people to bath there, and so had I many a time, but one day when about 8 or 9 years old, I went for that purpose I was near losing my life. There was none in but me and not one ashore could have helped me. I walked in too far before I was aware. So that when I stood upright there was water running in my mouth. I could not swim, and felt as if an invisible power drew me into the deeper waters. It was put into my mind not to plunge, I not having learned it anywhere. I stood a tip-toe, gained my turn round by inches got safe to shore with a glad heart”.
My daughter Ruby lives nearby. She together with other young mothers (just as her grandmother did) take a walk around the circuit of the Dam with their babies and natter. I like to think of slices of time in one place. I imagine over to the left, beyond most of the other members of our family who have been in the same place, the very young John on the point of his toes trying to keep his bottom lip above the lapping water!
Yeadon since the middle ages had been a wool town. The church owned much of the land in the area and used it for sheep. A woollen cloth manufacturing trade grew up in the village. In the late 18th century there was still almost entirely Independent operators, working from home who produced the cloth. The product accumulated until there was enough to justify taking it to the specialist market in Leed. Such producers were known as Clothiers. John’s father was such a Clothier who needed to visit Leeds Cloth Market on a regular basis. In 1774 a pony was purchased to help transport the cloth the 8 miles into Leeds where the market was located. Some of the care of this animal was given to John
We know something of what John might have seen at Leeds market from this description written by Daniel Defoe sixty years earlier in 1720. There were no major changes to the market site until the 1820’s so the description is probably accurate for John’s time.
The cloth market was located just north of Leeds bridge on the main thorough fare through the town and across the river Aire. John and his step-grandfather must have left Yeadon with their home produced cloth at around 4am as the market opened at 7am. This was signalled by a bell being run. Trestle tables lined both sides of the street, sometimes in double rows. The cloth was laid our upon these
Daniel Defoe gave this description, “The clothiers come early in the morning with their cloth; and as few clothiers bring more than one piece, the market being so frequent, they go into the inns and public houses with it, and there set it down”.
On the signal from the bell the Clothiers stepped forward from the Inns and place their length of cloth upon a table. Things then moved very quickly.
“As soon as the bell has done ringing, the merchants and factors, and buyers of all sorts, come down, and coming along the spaces between the rows of boards, they walk up the rows and down as their occasions direct. Some of them have their foreign letters of orders, with patterns sealed on them, in rows, in their hands; and with those they match colours , holding them to the cloths as they think they agree to: when they see any cloths to their colours, or that suit their occasions, they reach over to the clothier and whisper, and in the fewest words imaginable the price is stated; one asks, the other bids; and ’tis agree, or not agree, in a moment.
A second bell signalled the close of the market at 9am and it was all over.
The pony had other uses-
John writes …“The pony was a very lively, active turn” and “I had many falls from its back…..when I was about 12 years old some rough riders came to Yeadon and opened mine eyes respecting horsemanship. As soon as I saw their manners I intended to adopt them as well as I could. I had not practiced long before I could with ease ride standing upright many hundreds of yards to water and back”.
In 1778 when he would have been around fourteen John started work as a ‘Lin’ Weaver with his maternal grandfather who was in business for himself. John’s mother was Hannah Yeadon, who was christened on the 7th August 1743 at Guiseley. Her parents were Joshua Yeadon and Grace Holmes. We know from family history research that Hannah was their only child, and therefore John would have been their only grandchild and so especially precious. It would have been Joshua then that John worked for.
Joshua would have been aged about 64 years when he took his grandson on as a weaver and began his instruction in that occupation.
“It was near this time that I was set to close work. My Grandfather was a Lin Weaver, and he set me to his own business. I liked it very well and I think I may say without vanity I soon excelled, but while thus employed I did much to improve myself in reading and writing. I may almost say the little learning I had was self taught”.
So what was a ‘Lin Weaver’. The most obvious guess for ‘Lin’ would be that it was a contraction of ‘linen’ but i know of no local tradition of this industry in Yeadon although it did occur in Nidderdale TWENTY MILES AWAY. Presumably ‘Lin’ was a word for some industry in common use at the time, but has since become obsolete. I’ve not found it in dictionaries of historic trades so presumably it was a dialect word that has now lost its meaning..
Joshua was seeking to give his grandson a livelihood. Serving a form of apprenticeship and acquiring the knowledge of a trade separated one from the mass of unskilled (my father said that there is no such thing) or semi skilled workers. The pence or shillings that it added to weekly income gave a buffer against penury and a platform for future advancement. In the eyes of many of the people whom it affected, this was the most important social class distinction in society and fiercely protected through their unions and working agreements by those who benefitted from it.
For whatever reason John chose not to continue with this trade. In his lifetime he would see a transformation from hand-driven woollen cloth manufacture to a concentration of the process in great buildings, the size of cathedrals, powered first by moving water and then coal.
After some diversions John was to spend his working life in an allied trade which had the wonderful title of ‘slay and gear making’. In the 1841 census he was still described as this. According to an online dictionary of old occupational terms a ‘Slay-maker’ made the reeds or Slays (wooden pegs) used to separate the threads on the loom. It seems astonishing that John could have provided for a family of 13 people on the income from this occupation occasionally supplemented by a bit of sign painting.
One of John’s sons continued in the trade so it must have had some relevance at least until the middle of the 19th century.
John was now in his mi-teens. Writing about these years probably a decade later John perceived the hand of God at his elbow in the form of divine intervention. Your life was not just your own and it was shared with a God who from time to time intervened. The language gives both an insight into his mindset as an adult as well as the social world of the 1780’s in that place.
John writes, “I shall now without apology introduce two instances of what I call ‘Interpositions of Divine Providence”.
“I loved shooting to an extreme and one day about this time, I took the piece and went out, many children followed. I prepared my gun and took aim, but the fowl took wing. I forgot to let it down to half cock, perhaps the first and the last mistake in my life of this kind, covered it with my ??lap……and was returning. Many children were 8 or 10 yards before me. The piece went off, and lodged the shot in the earth about one yard behind them. The fire singed some of their legs. Did God direct the muzzle of the gun”?
“The second was as follows. I went into a neighbour’s barn; they ought to have been threshing but was gone out (?). They kept a gun always by them, some boys my own age was in the barn. I saw the gun, took it up and in a frolic took aim at the head of Joseph Cooper. Believed the gun was unloaded, put my finger on the trigger, cried “now I shall shoot you”. At this awful moment, sprang in and catched my arm the owner of the gun, and said it was charged. I think one or two seconds longer would have done the deed”.
There are too many Joseph Cooper’s living in the district to pinpoint what ultimately happened to our one (I’ve tried!) but I hope he lived a long and happy life and had many children and grandchildren! I also wonder how many times Joseph told he t story of how he was almost shot in the head by John Yeadon, and what use that information was put to by those who heard it. I like to think that events become seeds.
At around the age of sixteen years he had the religious experience that I have described on page13 of this booklet. His religious conviction whilst established waned in intensity over the next few years before becoming reignited in his mid twenties.
At this age the first indications of his energy and enthusiasms that were to characterise much of his life were making themselves apparent. Gumption would have been the 19th century term for what we call imitative plus energy and focus.
Gumption started out as a Scottish dialect word, and drifted down into the north of England in the early 19th century. It must have gone through Yeadon as John seems to have absorbed some measure of it. He was looking around for ways other than weaving that would keep him and potentially a wife and family, and he did not want to be employed by others. The following is from his diary in 1785
“Another man joined with me, and we bought eight pounds worth of printing type. Much time did I spend in this new employ. It was perhaps in the year1785 we undertook many small jobs but after all it would not answer in such a small village as Yeadon. We sold the types and made an end of this also”.
Interestingly it looks as if the staple industry of the town i.e. weaving was looked upon, at least if John’s view was representative, as one which would not provide sufficient income to marry. The form of production for woollen cloth at that time in the village, that is by hand, at home, and then transporting it on horseback to a highly competitive market cannot have provided more than a subsistence income. Dixon’s mill, the first proto mechanised cloth weaving mill opened in Yeadon in 1782. The death-knell for home production had sounded.
PHOTO: Dixon’s Mill. Situated on a hill known as The Steep in Yeadon. It was powered by a stream, presumably now diverted or buried. The date on the stone above the door is 1782.
In 1786 John gave up weaving-
“In the year 1786 I grew weary of weaving for having some thoughts of marriage I could not see how a family could be maintained by it. It was at this period that I began Slay and Geer making, self taught ”
Other irons were in the fire. At about the same time he took out a licence to work an auctioneer of books, but found that he was not suited to this trade and so let the licence expire after a time. More successfully he added ‘Sign Writing’ and general painting to his skills repertoire. This one stuck and he provided him with top-up funds for the rest of his life.
This diary entry gives an account of these two experiments-
I took a licence about this time proper for an auctioneer. I intended to sell little else but books. One motive might be I greatly wanted to see into the world of books. I accordingly auctioned books at Leeds, Bradford, Otley and various villages around. I added to this painting which I had long practiced on a small scale, such as furniture, signs, lettering and Gilding, Drawing etc. When the year was out for my licence, I never renewed them for I was tempted to say, and did say many things that hurt my conscience”.
He married Mary Dawson on the 18th October 1786 at Guiseley Parish Church. The witness was ‘Benjamin Dawson Clothier’.
John was 21 years old. He describes their courtship in his own way-
“I had not made Slay and Geers long before marriage for on October 11th this year I married Mary Dawson, daughter of Benjamin Dawson, Clothier, Yeadon. I had paid my addresses to Mary at times over several years. It was sometime before I could break from my companions and relish the state of wedlock.
John and Mary were to be married thirty eight years. John made the following entry in his diary when his wife died aged 59 years-
“I believe my wife was younger than me by 6 months. Our first acquaintance began about sixteen years of age, and still were not married until we were about 22 years of age, had 14 children and 11 are alive now 7 married and four unmarried there is now about 20 grandchildren”.
So where there had been two people there became eleven. Another son survived into his mid twenties but died of TB. A daughter died in infancy from some form of fever. The remaining child was still born. Despite their impoverishment John and Mary, and their off spring brought more than a hundred people into the world over the next three generations. A great many people in what is now the town of Yeadon have them in their family tree. Many more are scattered throughout the world.
All that it in the future though. For now John is twenty one years old. The year is 1786. He has a trade and a wife. He has the first links with Methodism which were to grow and shape his life. In the greater world there a fundamental change. America is independent and soon France will kill its king and then a lot more people but in doing so change the idea of what a person is. Technology is doing to objects what John and Mary did for population!
Harder to fix and measure are the opportunities for learning of all kinds available to people like John. Something was causing mindset’s to change though. It’s early days, but the world is also shifting here.
It is hard to be exact about how much formal education John had. From his account it looks to be intermittent at best and never full time If it was the weather we would describe it as periods of light drizzle followed by brief showers. In an age where it is assumed as minimum children receive fourteen years of full time education this looks like nothing at all. So in this very torturous analogy where we are comparing learning to rainfall, formal schooling would account for a fraction of the recorded precipitation we are about to see. Where did the rest come from?
The graph of his life is about to take a very sharp upturn. Something switched on.
THE FOLLOWING WBSITE IS DEVOTED TO THE LOCAL HISTORY OF THE AREA. PLEASE CHECK IT OUT IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BROWSE(100’S !) OF PHOTO’S OF THE PLACES MENTIONED IN THIS BLOG. http://www.aireboroughhistoricalsociety.co.uk/