Gleaning Teaming Brains 9

The debtors prison at York Castle. Did John's son Joseph spend time here?

The debtors prison at York Castle. Did John’s son Joseph spend time here?

This is a well known boundary marker in John's home town of Yeadon. He attended a ceremony to mark its repair.

This is a well known boundary marker in John’s home town of Yeadon. He attended a ceremony to mark its repair.

John in his seventies walked over this ridge and into Otley (and back) on a very hot day.

John in his seventies walked over this ridge and into Otley (and back) on a very hot day.

This is most likely the track John walked along to Otley on that very hot day.

This is most likely the track John walked along to Otley on that very hot day.

Mary Ann is the granddaughter who was given the book of poetry by John. She married at age seventeen. A few months later she died in childbirth

Mary Ann is the granddaughter who was given the book of poetry by John. She married at age seventeen. A few months later she died in childbirth

Isabella survived Smallpox and went on to have a family. She appears in every census up until and including 1901

Isabella survived Smallpox and went on to have a family. She appears in every census up until and including 1901

She shows the Methodist Missionary and his family shortly before they emigrated to America.

She shows the Methodist Missionary and his family shortly before they emigrated to America.

John living with family is near the bottom of the left column. His son Joseph is at the bottom of the right hand column

John living with family is near the bottom of the left column. His son Joseph is at the bottom of the right hand column

The Seasons by

The Seasons by

The photo shows higgldy pogldy network of streets and courts around the old town. The pattern was essentially the same a hundred years earlier

The photo shows higgldy pogldy network of streets and courts around the old town. The pattern was essentially the same a hundred years earlier

Hoping for a happy ending

John Yeadon
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

John Newton (1725- 1807)

Over the last decade I have come to know something about roughly four hundred of my ancestors. Most its just the basics. Parents, birth, marriage, children and then death. I know enough to fill two paragraphs for maybe a hundred of them. Fifteen or twenty have given me more than a thousand  words.

 Somebody is having some fun with this though. The parts of these people that made it into history are probably not the bits that they might have hoped or expected. There are exceptions. One ancestor came to a bad end through involvement in the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ rebellion in the time of Henry VIII. I suppose he might have guessed that bit would survive, and he might have taken pride in it (or cursed his own stupidity for not staying at home instead).

For most though its randomness. They went to work one day in 1911 and somebody was messing around with a camera and took a picture of a group of him and workmates. That photo was looked at occasionally and then less frequently. The owner died but the person sorting out their possessions did not throw the picture away. For a moment it touched an emotion and it felt wrong to destroy such a thing. It was maybe put into a box in the attic until years later its was someone else’s job to sort out possessions. They notice the photo,  with a name and date on the back and donate it to a local history group who place it on a website. Local elderly people recognise the individual and make comments. An on-line bit-story of our subject then accumulates. Maybe somebody else checks the website and takes that bit-history and includes it into something else. Maybe a blog or a family history. Every so often randomness goes large. A writer picks up the account and reworks it into fiction (My mother said that the likes of DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy and Dickens were just reworking from stories they lived or borrowed).  Going to work one day in 1911 and posing with a group of friends somehow got captured and transported forward in time.  For some this might be all that remains of them after seventy years of life. Most of us don’t even know the names of our great-grandparents let alone anyone who went before.

Thinking on the ultimate fate of all our lived time and effort is chilling. Learning and our experiences are encoded in neuro-chemical networks. Sifting, using, re-remembering and reworking select what is retained and what is lost. Learning and memories laid out like the layers of a highly integrated, interconnected onion. All that lived time reflected in a few pounds of organised chemistry and biology. At the moment of our death it is all lost. The memory degrades along with the substance. The organisation which gave it life is lost. We then only exist in the memories of others or in the things we have produced.

Thinking on that, puts you in a quandary. If its all going to become an organic soup in the end what’s the point of doing anything? Well for me there is each lived moment and the possibility for happiness, the altruistic urge and the wish for immortality in products or memories.

Well that’s how it feels for me and maybe for others who do not have religious faith.

John Yeadon saw things differently. He was in one room, preparing to go into the next where some part of him would have eternal life.

“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.


When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun”.


These lines from ‘Amazing Grace’  by John Newton written a generation and a bit earlier have for me said it better than anything else.


So we are back with John in 1832. John is fearful of death, hoping for eternal life and anxious as to the fate of his disabled daughter Hannah. He seems tired of life. We left him at age sixt eight on these words “I have gone on this last 3 ½ years the same as 3 ½ years previous doing a little. I feel old and helpless”.


There is silence again from the diary until 1835 when John would have been seventy. Then without explanation it starts over. The entries are as frequent as ten years previously, but the perspective has shifted. He is now an observer and commentator on the actions of others, when previously he had written from a position at the centre of events. Nether the less something of his spark is back. There is still a lot of talk of failing health, and coming mortality but he is also back to taking an interest in what is going on. I particularly like some of his comments about the life of the chapel and visiting preachers.


On Sunday the 12th June 1835, John wrote=


“I heard Robinson preach at 2 ½ pm to several hundred odd lads in Yeadon New Chapel. They made a collection for the chapel of 5 or 6 pounds”.


A week later

“Heard Morley at 10am. He came 20 minutes too late or beyond his appointment. A great failure in my opinion. 2 Epis. Tim 1;2”.


On the 10th July

“Heard a stranger from Leeds at 2pm instead of Josh Dawson who is on the plan. Text Matt. A fair specimen” (!)


Here is a critical comment from 1836-

“James Lee preaching is too smooth and fine, so is Robinson in my opinion. If they go to the conscience , they soon preach it off again. It is not pointed and cannot stick”.


Best of all is John’s note for the 27th November.

“Mr Robinson our superintendent stopped the society after preaching tonight and gave them a long lecture on their loose behaviour and amongst other sharp things he called the women strumpets. I doubt (?) he is going to break up the Methodist Society at Yeadon”.


I would have loved to have been there and especially to have heard the comments of the listeners afterwards.


Hailey’s comet had come around in 1835.

“Saw Hailey’s comet for the first time yester night, October 10th near Charles Waine (possibly a well known local landmark, now forgotten). I also saw it the night after namely Sunday October 11th with a tail… and again on Wednesday 21st. It is going rapidly towards the sun”.

This was the view of Haley’s in Cork, Ireland in 1835. These people seem more enthused than John.


 This was the only comment John made about the event. Was he not impressed or had age made him jaded.


Possibly he was feeling the effects of deteriorating health. On the 25th October describes his symptoms-


“I had a hard stroke of my old complaint yesterday about 9 O’clock (swimming in my head). It throws the whole body and spirits out of order. I have heard no preaching all this day. I do expect it will finish me at some of these strokes. The effects do not pass off in much less than a week. Yet glory be to God and the lamb”.


Three days later we get this comment.


“I feel the effects of my Saturday night stroke very plain this morning at 10 O’clock, but I strive not to lay down on my bed much. Smooking tobacco and close reading are enemies to my complaint. Smooking I learned with great difficulty at 35 years old. Reading I have delighted in from a child”.


Yes I can see that smoking would not do it much good but hat was this condition?. Was it the beginnings of Tinnitus or possibly Ménière’s disease. There is no doubt that he had the former which is the experience of noises such as ringing in the ear. This is clearly described for later years in the diary.  Ménière’s is a condition where in addition to those symptoms you may also get progressive deafness and problems with balance. I have known people unable to walk across a room because of such symptoms.  Again John frequently mentions difficulties with hearing which was one of the factosr that caused him to stand down from his preaching role.  A third possibility is that he was experiencing minor Strokes (possibly what we would now call Transient Ischaemic Attacks). In any event there is no mention of consulting with a doctor. I suppose the expense of that meant it was only done for children or if there was expectation of fatality. Of course there was nothing useful they could have done probably in this case. The  weight of symptoms waxed and waned but from now onwards never left him. They were something which he had to live with or around.


Other sadnesses were on the horizon. By the spring of 1836 there was some concerns that he might have to give up hi home and move in with one of his daughters. As things happened he was to stay in the house where he had lived for most of his life for another year but he was having a hard time of it. It seems that the landlord wanted him out. Reasons not given. He was struggling with rent but most of all there was anxiety about Hannah s future. Her mental disability was of course life long and the additional Epilepsy was at that time effectively untreatable. Very frequent or prolonged seizures would have added to her difficulties. Mention is not made of this though so maybe they dissipated over time or just happened when she was acutely ill with the Smallpox.


This was John’s view at the time-

“I have been more than 40 year in this house and now I must leave it and go somewhere I know not where.  I am not able to keep Hannah no nor myself. Lord help thou me, as for Hannah some of her brothers or sisters must take her with or with out Parish pay. I have kept her from birth until now 46 ½ years. That is her age now. Hannah’s mental faculties were hurt in having the Smallpox and score of convulsion fits. She is not all there”.


 Making allowance for the modes of expression at the time,  John’s worries about Hannah will feel very familiar to modern parents whose adult children have a Learning Disability. John’s fear of course that like many other people who needed long term care Hannah would end up in the Union Workhouse. These institutions would have been very much in the news. A radical piece of legislation, the Poor Law Amendment Act had been passed in 1834. A moral panic about the laxity and generosity of the previous system of parish relief had led to an ideologically driven root and branch reorganisation of the system grounded on one simple test. For most people in order to receive assistance they would have to reside in a workhouse, The conditions were to be made so unpleasant that only the most desperate (and therefore those truly in need) would consider applying for aid. There are stories of these institutions be managed by boards of zealots who sought to apply this principle at the extreme.

John would have of course have known this from his work at Carlton Poor House, and the prospect of Hannah being subject to such harsh treatment must have been very worrying. The mentally disabled always formed a major portion of the residents of these institutions. Presumably for most life would have been pretty mean and miserable. (add in photo of disabled work house residents).


Some things didn’t change though. John had high expectations of his physical abilities even at 71 he still felt up to walking on very rough ground over the  Chevin ( a steep ridge) into the local market town of Otley. The distance would not have been so far (possibly an eight mile round trip)  but few local people half his age would do it for pleasure now. Fewer still on the hottest of days.



The modern view from ‘Surprise View’ at East Chevin, out over the market town of Otley.  This is the steep ridge the seventy one year old John walked over.


“Monday July 4th 1836. Walked to Otley. An extremely hot day. Set off at 9 morn (sic). Got to Otley about 11am resting most of 20 times- by East Carlton.”


The mention of the route suggests that he may have used an old cattle drove track known as Millers Lane which leads off from the road through East Carlton and over the ridge into Otley. I hope he did because this is a beautiful walk and the views out over the valley into Otley are spectacular. Its steep and rutted at the best of times, and with tumbling water running down from the hill side after heavy rains. Its an old drove road shaped by centuries of cattle being driven to market in the town.




Millers Lane. East Chevin. Possibly the route John took on his walk from Yeadon to Otley in July 1836. Otley is to the left and Yeadon over the rising ground to the right. The track would have been wider and its surface more broken by heavier use when John walked along it.



Going to Otley was the downhill bit. Rough on the ankles and knees but less so on the heart and lungs. Coming back was different.


“Set off again about 2 O’clock  pm up the steep of Shiven (modern day Chevin). Landed at home after 4 O’clock after resting many a time. No more to Otley for ever unless I ride. It is more than a year since I saw Otley before. Three of us dined at John Reads. I observed at dinner I had nearly arrived at 72 years and William Read was turned 72, and John was 60 which made we three 200 years old or better”.


Using old directories we can confirm some of what John recorded about his trip to Otley. John Read was an Inn Keeper at Kirkgate in Otley. In the 1841 census his age was given as 60years (ages were rounded  up or down by the enumerator). William presumably his brother in also recorded and the ages match. The same document tells us as well that the name of John’s pub was The Red Lion. I don’t know why but it gives me great satisfaction when its possible to delve back into these records and learn more about the people who figure in Johns writing. I could tell you the name of the street William lived on but then I would never get my anorak off.


My children will echo this. A year a two ago I was walking through Otley with my daughters and their children. We neared a traffic junction. I launched into the story about Johns visit to Otley and the meal at the Red Lion. My intention was to use the place to add drama to the story. Hoping it would be remembered by at least one of those with me. They were distracted though and paying my account no attention. This enraged me and I marched off. After thirty minutes of separate walking around the town we made our individual ways back to the carpark and drove in angry silence back to Yeadon (I think I might have lightened things by putting some tunes on the CD player). Why were the family so inattentive to my story told at the traffic junction? Unnoticed by me a car waiting at the lights had caught fire and flames were pushing out of the back of the vehicle near the exhaust. I had been so intent on my John Yeadon story that Id not noticed. Maybe a ghost of John Yeadon who hangs about the junction was behind it all and having a much needed laugh.


I also like our John’s use of the phrase ‘landed at home’. I thought that was something that just my parents said. Its nice to know such things have a long ancestry. I’m guessing it comes from the obvious source, stepping off a ship and ‘landing’  in port. Yeadon’s 80 odd mile from the sea but words have legs.

At seventy two John is struggling to make ends meet. He never retired in the modern sense, but rather gradually gave up doing things as his health prevented him from doing them. He had never been well off; not least because of the very large family that he had to support. The diary tells  of difficulty in paying the basics despite help from his family and the Methodist Society.


“Sunday November 22nd. It was my rent night yester night Nov. 21. I struggled very hard to get it up, and I did and sent it by Jacob. God be praised for it”. Jacob was his youngest child.

John had not written himself off though. At 72 years, John was still looking around for ways of earning his living, or at least adding to it. In the following passage, he seems to be writing down his thoughts-

Wednesday Nov. 30th“This to me has been a long month and a very wet, rainy, misty month. Unwholesome but it ends today- Could I teach a school for a living, could I make press paper pictures to sell. I am too dull of hearing to teach a school”. I agree about with him about November. Its an awful month and one we could do without. Probably December as well.

It is not really clear at this time from where his money is coming from. He had been short the whole of his life so it is unlikely that he would have had savings. I suppose he could have still been producing his ‘Gears and slays’ . There is no mention of this in the diary but in the 1841 census that is given as his occupation. His family is likely to have helped at least in kind if not in cash. All seemed to be living a close to hand to mouth existence. Even the son who was a grocer had debt problems. He still had to find his rent each month and provide for Hannah and himself. Or maybe he was skimping all along to put small amounts aside for Hannah

Its not clear if its the actions of individual chapel members or of the he Methodist Society in Yeadon but some help did come from that direction periodically. Early December must have been particularly difficult.

“Dec. 3rd. A gift when least expected and when much needed. The Lord be praised and the Donner (? Donor) also by WK- 10s-0”.

Does that mean  the money was given by WK or that it was passed on from a donor by WK

WK is most likely William Kenyon who was a Class Leader, lay preacher and otherwise prominent in the life of the chapel. He was to be the bringer of help again and again.

I think that November is an awful month. Johns seems to have had the same kind of feelings about it, that is it brought out morbid reflection. On his birthday, the November 5th just past in 1836 he wrote his ‘Dying Testimony’. A good part is a reflection upon the possibilities for him after death. He generally felt despite his faults and failings that there were possibilities through grace to for eternal life, and in the right place. I am not belittling this. For John this was what all of earthly life was about, and maybe he is right. He was as anxious about this journey as I would be to be fired off from a rocket at the moon. He saw it as stepping out of this world into the next and it filled a lot of his thoughts.

Being very unwell, I desire to leave this as my dying testimony to my relatives and friends for I think I shall be called away suddenly not having any opportunity of leaving such a testimony at the time, then let this be received as the language of my dying moments of my principles and expereinece.

I fully expect, if through grace I should continue to the end, to be admitted to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but this foundation of my hope is not built upon anything I can do, or have done; my best deeds will not bear Divine inspection, If I place my Salvation on such an issue there would be found sin enough in my most holy performances, to exclude me from the Kingdom of Heaven. My best deeds have been mingled with impurity , and I will beg of the father of mercies pardon for all the sins which have attended my prayer’s and my preaching. Yet I have good hope through grace and the foundation on which I stand is, faith in the lord Jesus Christ, faith in the blood of the lord Jesus Christ and faith in the righteousness of the lord Jesus Christ.

Signed this day November 5th 1936, being my birth day, I am now through Gods mercy 72 years of age, but I do not expect living over this winter.

John Yeadon Snr”

 I have included here his practical instructions from the same document for direction of his funeral. The pages containing his full will are missing from the original archived diary, but other references show that Hannah, his disabled daughter was to be the main beneficiary-

“You will see at page 92 of this book how my will is concerning Hannah that she take all that I leave at my death.

Unfortunately page 92 has not come down to us. Probably it was taken out by those responcible for settling his affairs at the time of his death.

Most of the rest of the passage gives directions for how he wanted his funeral to be organised-

“I leave in charge to all my children to make a very plain funeral for me after my death, no pomp, no pride, no show, but all peace and harmony”

He asked that all his children attend in order of age with their partners and children. He obviously took pleasure from the thought of the size of the very large family. He made the following request regarding details of the funeral-

“My grave and one for Hannah is next to M. Leycocke, mine in the middle and Hannah’s east of mine which makes us that row of 3. There will be 13 graves to dispose of still. Silence to be kept all the way not one word spoken. I have said nothing about eating and drinking, you may use your pleasure in that. Let all things be done decently and in order. As for getting black you cannot, nor do I desire you should. I am till death your loving father. John Yeadon Sr. Remember Hannah for good, all of you. November 5th 1836”.

The man had vision. He has bought up a great big section of the chapel graveyard for him and all his family, and their partners.

The last sentence, about Hannah says most of all.











These are a group of women in a workhouse in Kent. Amongst them are people who probably had a Learning Disability. John was afraid that this would be Hannah’s future.

Despite all of this he was still more than six years from his death. Each year must have been a surprise.

John begins the diary for 1837, by recording that he heard a J. Preston preach on the 1st January. This was presumably John Preston, a very well known local preacher who had turned to religion after experiencing a vision whilst in a public house in Apperley Bridge (haven’t we all.) He preached in local dialect, and drew upon parables of things familiar to a mill working/farm poaching congregation. His services were always well attended. John Preston was the preacher you rolled out when you wanted a big crowd. 

Was this year, 1837 a better year for John. There seems overall to be busier and more engaged with things, whether those events be good or bad.

On February 6 he eventually moved out of the house he had lived in for over 40 years, and went to live with his daughter Nanney and her husband John Rawnsley. He wrote on the 5th February-

“I intend beginning to flitt (move) or remove to Nancy’s my daughters, who married John Rawnsley, the 6th February 1837. Yes tomorrow. I think it will take me all next week to get settled”.

It is not known for sure where they were living but it was possibly South Street, next to Parkinson’s Buildings which was midway along the street in the direction of Sandy Way. That at least was the family address in the 1841 and 1851 census.




A map of Yeadon in 1847. The community had grown considerably during Johns lifetime. The economy of the town had been transformed from one of small scale farmers and independent Clothiers.  A this point but also increasingly over the next fifty years most men and many women spent their working days employed by someone else in large, industrial scale enterprises housed in great cathedrals of industry. They were not quiet places though. Levels of deafness in communities like Yeadon were such that it was close to being a normal state of affairs amongst the older groups of workers as a consequence of the machine noise. John never really gives us an exact idea of  where he lived.  From scraps of information scattered through the diary  I suspect he lived within a hundred metres of Ivegate, which is one of the main thoroughfares of the town.  We know for sure though that John lived on South Street with family members in 1837. This is not identified on this map and it no longer exists. Nor is it mentioned on maps from later years. It can be inferred from the 1841 census and it geographic name that it is to the south of the town and close to Sandy Way/ Ivegate area of the town. That would place it somewhere along the road which branches off from a junction and ends at a building called ‘Croft House’ towards the bottom of the map. The house though would have been nearer the busier end of the street. Most of this family would have been living within a few hundred metres. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel is one of the few named buildings. It dominated the life of the community in a way which is hard to appreciate now


It was to be a temporary move though. In November of this year John mentions after living with Nanney’s family, he was with his daughter Ruth for four weeks before moving in with his eldest son Joseph and his extremely large family. Its not entirely clear but he seems to have made the last move by October and it might have been as early as March. The more I try and work these sequences out the more I’m baffled. In all probability he moved often and may of even have been on a kind of rotation going from sofa to sofa.

Joseph his son was a grocer near what is now the Town Hall or possibly Sandy Way which is a short distance away.  In this year he was forty three years old and had ten children living at home. Another five had left home or were yet to be born (the last in his late forties). Now God love the man he is going to take on his ailing father as well; together with his severely disabled sister. Broad shoulders in deed.

The accounts came in at the end of the year-

“Sunday December 11th 1837. “Our Joseph, Joseph Yeadon my son was obliged to submit to go to York castle for debt. He left home at 10 O’clock AM for his journey and I suppose would be safely lodged there this day before night at 7 O’clock. May the good lord be with him, and with his numerous family for ever.”


The Debtors Prison at York Castle built in 1705.The three classes of debtors were housed in different accommodation. All had to pay a charge on admission and discharge for their keep The poorest class resided with the criminal felons in lower levels of the building. Did John Yeadon’s son Joseph spend some time here.

It is not clear from the diary if Joseph is attending a trial there or had previously been tried locally and was to be detained at York. The law on such things at the time allowed for indefinite imprisonment until the amounts owed were repaid. The diary does not mention imprisonment for Joseph but it also does not say anything else about the putcome of the trip to York.

As a child Charles Dickens witnessed his father going off to  the Marshalsea debtors prison in London.

Imprisonment for debt was only abolished in 1869 although those who could pay but wouldn’t could be held for six weeks.

 Dickens used what he had seen of his own fathers experience in his books Pickwick Papers and Little Dorrit. As a consequence of this fathers incarceration, at age twelve he was forced to leave school and get a job in a factory to support himself. This is an audio link to a lecture on the National Archive Website about Dickens direct and fictional accounts of debtors prisons


In regard to Joseph what ever the sequence of events, it is not hard to see where the debts came from but he would have been less of a man if he had been tighter with his money.

In the spring of 1837, Isabella who was Joseph’s daughter and John’s granddaughter had a severe form of Smallpox.  Isabella is my Great, great grandmother. Although as we shall see came close to dying, she did survive and went on to live for another seventy years. She died in died in 1907 just fifty years before I was born. An aunt had very clear memories of her daughter Cora who is my Great-grandmother. Thinking on this, then the penny drops. If this young girl Isabella, had not survived this dreadful episode then a whole chain of people;  probably well over a hundred by now, would never have lived. Of course I am one of them. Because I’m here I know the outcome but following John’s narrative of Isabella’s illness still reads like a drama for me.

John was living close by so was able to give a first had account of  Isabella’s illness. I have quoted at length from is account because it gives a graphic account of the effects of one kind of Smallpox. John has an eye for detail.

“Tuesday morning 28th March 1837. Joseph’s girl, Isabella began in the Smallpox. She is about 15 years old. It is March 28th. I saw her on the 30th for the first time, they are coming out- no doubt she got the contagion by lying at James Slater’s who had buried his wife and child lately of the Smallpox.

Friday 31st at 5 o’clock pm. I hope Isabella easy night. I say hope she will not have a great load. God grant it if it is consistent with his will.

Saturday April 1st. Tonight she seemed to be free from fever. Sat up a little. The Good Lord save Isabella.

Lords Day April 2nd……..Isabella on Sunday 2nd. I saw her in the afternoon. She had a greater load of pox than I expected. Lord save her if consistent with thy righteous will. Amen.

Monday April 3rd. Isabella has no alarming symptoms that I can find, nor fever. It will be the 8th day from sickening tomorrow.

Tuesday April 4th. This is the 8th day from sickening. A full load there certainly is but no symptoms that I can disapprove of in such a load. I mean Isabella Yeadon April 4th 1837. Glory be to God for it.

Wednesday April 5th. Isabella is at the height in her Smallpox, a full load indeed, but symptoms moderate so far. Her Grandfather JY.

Thursday April 6th. Isabella had a good day but sore. Glory be to God and Lamb.

Friday 7. Isabella Pox turned white a day or two back. This day they are turned yellow, they are full plump and ripe. This is the 11day since beginning.

Saturday 8th April. Isabella no worse. Tho passing the crisis 4 O’clock PM. This is the 12th day since first sickening. J.Y. her grandfather.

Sunday April 9. Isabella is turned the height of Small Pox. They are the wet kind and full of mater. The Good Lord has heard prayer and answered so far for Isabella. God be for-ever praised for so doing. Let it be for thy glory my God.

Monday 10. Isabella Pox runs much. They had much to do in shifting her this morning so stiff and Barked (?) on. John Denison girl 20 years old died this morning about 4 o’clock of the same Small Pox. Isabella symptoms continue the same only she has passed the height and great hopes are entertained of her perfect recovery. Lord grant it for her own sake, for her family and for thy own glory. 7 o’clock Monday night.

Tuesday 11th . This is the 15th day since Isabella first sickness for the Small Pox. She can now feel the pox stinck, they run very much indeed and there is abundance of mater. The swelling is subsiding in proportion as they run. I still hope that she will be spared a little longer in this world of trouble and sorrow. I write as an old man. Isabella has seen little of either yet but. I will now take my leave of this subject for this day 3 O’clock PM Tuesday. Her Grandfather.

Wednesday April 12th. This is the 16th day since Isabella began. It was on Easter Tuesday in the morning. She has been greatly favoured by a Good God. One is taken and another is left.. They are burying John Denison daughter now while I am writing this. Praise God for thus sparing even Glory. April 13th. Isabella is mending. Cannot sit up too much yet but today for the first time sat up for more than an hour and a half. She is better and better. Praise God.

Friday April 14th. This is the 18th day since Isabella first sickened for the Small Pox, and now I hope she is out of danger from them Praise God and the Lamb and the Holy Ghost my Triune God.

April 15th Saturday. I shall now dismiss writing any more on Isabella and her Small Pox, but not dismiss a truly thankful Spirit for what God has done for her in carrying her haply through them thus far, Praise God”.

After this close shave with death, Isabella lived for another seventy years. Her parents  Joseph Yeadon and his wife Mary, had her in about 1822. Isabella married twice, firstly to Samuel Marshall who was my great, great-grandfather and after his death in 1857, to a Joseph Wilkinson.

 She is mentioned in seven censuses so we know something about her life. This survivor of Smallpox had at least six homes during these years but all were within three hundred yards of where she was born. The last one at Harper Rock now overlooks the towns Morrison’s supermarket. She had just four children with her two husbands. These were Jane who was born in 1849. The second born was Cora a year later. She was to become my Great-grandmother but took her time getting around to it. She was unmarried and living at home until she was almost forty. She then married the widower Thomas Wilkinson in 1889 who brought with him six children and a drinking problem. They had just one child together, Ida my grandmother in 1890. The last of the children from her first marriage was a boy, Thompson. The only child of her marriage to her second husband Joseph Wilkinson was a boy called Johnson. He was living with his mother in the 1901 census record. I think Isabella died in 1907 but this is based upon an assumption about a probable mistake on a death certification. If correct that would make her 85 years old. A good age for her but maybe, courtesy of the Smallpox not a good complexion.

Isabella and her family in the 1851 census. She is with her first husband Samuel. The two sisters Jane(aged 2 years) and Cora (forty months) are also shown. Two lodgers, named Yeadon and presumably extended family members are living with them. The men are working as ‘Clothiers; which was the name for skilled, often independent workers in the local textile industry. The probability at this date though is that they were employed. The family and lodgers are living at what was known even then as ‘Old Sandy Way’.


Returning to John’s diary, most of the notes for 1838 are about John’s money and health problems.

The following entry is a little unclear but it seems to show that Johns and his daughter Hannah were now living at his daughter Nanny’s house. Money is tight, but things were made easier because of an actual, and an expected Poor Law payment to assist with Hannah’s care. 

“Saturday April 7th Town Pay of Thomas Smith 4s 0d remains due to me having laid it down. This sometime back I have been much tried, but on this morning Nanney received 2s 0d toward 6s belonging Hannah”.

This is interesting because if it was a payment made by the poor law guardians of the town for Hannah, it shows that at times they were able to show judgement and assist with the support of disabled people without insisting upon condition of residence in the workhouse. These look to be one off hardship payments though, rather than regular support. The fear would have always been there for John though that it would only take the whim of a poor law bureaucrat to change Hannahs fate.

There was also help from family. John’s third son Benjamin lived at Idle near Bradford. He was also a Slay and Geer maker. Presumably he had moved away from Yeadon to avoid competition with his father. Periodically he would send over a daughter to visit John

Sunday April 8th Mary Ann our Benj. Eldest daughter from Idle came to see me today for which I thank them”. She would have been fifteen at the time.

Mary Ann’s visits seem to have been fairly regular. John makes the following note later in the diary-“She brought a gift of 5 shillings from her father”. In return John gave her a book called “Thompson’s (sic)Seasons…” to keep for his sakes”.



This is an earlier print of the book of poetry by James Thomson that John gave to his niece Mary Ann. First published in 1730, the Seasons is one long poem, written in blank verse, 5550 lines long. Its about the succession of the seasons, diversity of nature , the increasing intelligence and sensibility of men and the power of God. The Scottish Borders where Thomson grew up features a good deal. It is not an easy read for anyone.

This link takes you to the full text of the book.

Were people more intelligent in the past or just greater powers of concentration. Maybe they were just more serious minded. In any event John was expecting a great deal of his fifteen year old niece. Did she keep it and pass it onto her children? Id like to think so.

A few days after writing the above lines some more information came my way about Mary Ann which I find unsettling despite it all happening so long ago toa  person I was only aware of from a few words in Johns diary. If Id have left it there it would have been alight, but now through my curiosity  (and the resulting incomplete information) I’m left worrying about Mary Ann, and about a book she used to have.

I do know that she got married. It was on the 23rd September 1839 to a Thomas Booth, who like his father was a ‘Delver’ (wonderful job title). This probably meant that he worked in a local quarry prising out and moving slabs of rock. She was seventeen years old and he all of nineteen. They lived in the same community as both sets of parents, that Is the equally wonderfully named township of Idle on the edge of Bradford. Mary Ann was able to sign the register, Thomas not. She then disappears. Various Thomas Booths of corresponding ages are living around Idle Delving and wool manufacturing but non of them married to a Mary Ann or even a Mary. A family history enthusiast says that she died in 1847 when she would have been about twenty five years old. That’s the part that upset me. What would have been the most likely cause of death? Child birth would be in the top five possibilities. I’ve not been able to verify for sure though that she did die in 1847 but that does not mean that she didn’t! So I’m now left worrying what happened to Mary Ann and the book that John gave to her when she was fifteen years old for being a good granddaughter.

Since writing the above I’ve spent many hours trying to sort this out. This is what I’m fairly sure of knowing at the moment. I believe that Mary almost certainly died in Childbirth in January 1840. The child Rachel survived and was brought up by her father Thomas. She was named for her grandmother, which I’m guessing is what Mary Ann had said she wanted,

In 1841 father and daughter are both living with Thomas’s parents. Ten years later he has remarried and is living with his new family including Rachel who is now 11 years old. She subsequently became a ‘Worsted Drawer’ and then later a servant to a woolen manufacturer, and then a textile worker again. She did not marry until she was almost in her mid thirties, but she then had four children in quick succession, all girls. The first was named Mary.

Rachel lived on to her seventies sharing a house with three of her grown up daughters. Mary the first born and her grandmothers namesake married in 1901 when she was twenty seven and had a family of her own.

So the fifteen year old girl Mary Ann who was given the poetry book by Grandfather John Yeadon died in (or soon after) childbirth two years later. She had a daughter though and that daughter had four daughters. I’m hoping that the book survived and was kept by one of them.

…and that’s what results from a rainy Sunday afternoon!

John was always looking around for ways to get some cash in hand and presumably contribute to the upkeep of Hannah and himself. In turn it looks that some of his children might have been making that task easier for him albeit indirectly. James another son might have paid a little over the odds for the watch and chain in this deal-

Friday April 13th. “Sold my watch and chain today to James my son for £3-0-0. Received the money. I bought it new of Blackborough Otley  on March 26th 1824. No 6454 for £4-8-0”.

John uses the colloquial terms for illnesses. ‘Costiveness’ was the early 19th century name for constipation. If we had not known that we could have guessed by the contents of Johns home made treatment-    

May 7th: “I am habitually Costive this 2 or 3 years back, made a medicine to obviate costiveness for my own use as under.

Castor Oil 1oz

Gum Water Sweetened 1oz

Spirits Nitre ¼ oz

I added 2oz of water.

Mix, take half a Meat Spoonful any time”

Reading the next entry, as someone in the 21st century it seems incredible that a chapel Sunday school and its treat for the children could be so popular.

“Whit Monday June 4th. Sunday School scholars had their Potation, fine bread and tea. We have two chapels and two school houses at Upper Yeadon. Thank God. Room plenty and 7 or 8 hundred Sunday Scholar”s.

A ‘Potation’ was part children’s picnic, part route march. Many had their origins or were just created copies of sometime ancient annual rituals. The mass of children would walk to all corners of the township in turn and possibly have a short ceremony of some kind each (not always so serious or formal). Then they would head back to a congregation point and have their picnic. In some communities this perambulation would have been led by a Church of England priest, but the established church had not woken up to the fact that these new industrial towns existed. The Methodist Church was faster on its feet and inserted itself.

 Even allowing for the great strength of Methodism in the town and the youthful skew of the population at the time, these numbers seem more than impressive. I don’t disbelieve John though. The chance of free and possibly fancy foods might have brought in some temporary (for the day) Sunday scholars.

June looks to have been a busy month for parties-

“Thursday June 28th 1838: Queen Victoria to be crowned this very day morning at 6 O’clock. I wrote this and we had public rejoicing and music and feasting at Yeadon in the afternoon”.

The Summer could also bring wide spread out breaks of infectious diseases. Many who attended these celebrations would not have survived the following months. Yeadon had a Typhus Fever outbreak in August. These were not uncommon at the time. Epidemics we now associate with communities living with the most insanitary conditions, visited this community on a regular basis, and would continue to do so until municipalities acted on water supplies and sanitation later in the century.

John wrote this piece about his son in laws experiences-

August 9th Lords Day: “John Rawnsley where I now live is poorly. Took his bed on the 6th August, was bled the 7th of Aug. By Dr. Thompson, is very unwell. This morning the 9th August, the doctor ordered a blister behind the neck. It was applied at 8 O’clock at night and taken off at 8 in the morning of August 10th had not risen well- but the doctor pronounced him much better”.

Tuesday August 11th. “John is much the same. Wednesday August 12th had a bad night with vomiting until this morning confined to his bed day and night, 12 O’clock noon- and so he continued both Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday 14th Dr ordered sweating powders and says he is mending daily. Saturday Aug 15 he has had the worst night that is past, that he ever had and bad this morning. 11 O’clock the  Dr came to visit him and sent him an 8 ounce bottle of a Julip. Had more rest than usual. It is now Sunday noon Aug 16. He has kept his bed day and night now for 11 days”.

Monday August 19th. “Dr has visited John this morn says his complaint is not at height yet, but ordered him another bottle of Julip. This is the 12th day of keeping his bed. It is now named Typhus Fever for the first time. It may be so for the fever is amongst their neighbours.

Tuesday 18 is his 13th day.

Wednesday 19th. This is John 14th day. The crisis and the fever is abated. Better on Thursday 20th. This is Friday morning the 21 had a good night”.

Yeadon Feast Sunday Aug 23rd. “The doctor comes everyday and now pronounces Johns out of all danger from his fever in which he has been 18 days”.

It is interesting that the doctor came everyday once the patient was getting better! It must have been a frustrating job, being a doctor at that time when you really had not much idea of what was going on and all you could really provide was palliative care until either the condition ran its course and ended or the patient died.











These were the things causing all the trouble. Typhoid fever is caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria . That’s not the same bacteria that causes food poisoning but its related to it. Most often the bacteria is passed on through contaminated faeces getting into food or water. It spreads fast in communities that have poor levels of sanitation.

Nowadays in England there are only about 350 cases a year and these are usually the result of visits to south or south east Asia. But these same conditions would have been present in Yeadon before the great municipal public health revolution; beginning in the 1840’s but not really being effective until the Public Health Act of 1875 made it compulsory for local authorities to take action on contaminated water supplies, poor sanitation and slum clearance.

The first symptoms that Johns son-in-law would have experienced would have been a gradual rise in temperature eventually getting passed 40C, awful pain in his guts, extreme diarrhoea  or constipation and a dull headache. As things progressed a raging fever would come and go, he would be breathless and might also experienced hallucinations. He would have had internal bleeding but if he had not got better, by the third week he may well have fallen prey to a secondary infection which would have ruptured his intestines and produced a catastrophic infection in the abdomen and a death from the resulting sepsis.

As a society we have forgotten what it is like to experience life threatening epidemics such as this every few years where it would be expected that at least each extended family member might lose somebody and certainly neighbours in your court, yard, alley or street would also die.

 Now a days you start off with these awful symptoms but then you normally get better because somebody gives you antibiotics. That was not on the menu in 1838.

(Info rewritten from NHS choices website).

John started the New Year 1839, like many of us do one hundred and seventy years later. He looked at how he could live more cheaply (maybe in both senses of the word).


“Tuesday January 1st 1839. JY

What is the expense of my board for 7 days or 1 week?

I believe it is 3s 6d per week as detailed below

                                                           S  d

Wheat Bread                                        7

New Milk 7 pints                                 7

Rice 8 ounce                                         1 ½

Oat cake to my dinners                       /

*Shambles meat 8 oz                            3 ½

Butter 3 ounce                                      3

Sugar 1 lb                                               3

Potatoes 4 lb                                          2

Coffee 1 ounce                                       1 ½

Tobacco 2 ounce                                    7

Coals 2 baskets in winter                     7

Besides all other little expenses. Now in which of these can do less or abridge myself?

Rawden Coles per week  5

Candles pr ? Week  3 ½ “

*The term for a butchers shop.

John is man living frugally in a mill town very far away from any where which might be considered cosmopolitan but he has four items on that list which have travelled from the far corners of the world to end up on his table. Just guessing the sugar would have come from the Caribbean, rice from any number of places but all a few thousand miles away, tobacco and coffee most likely from America.

Surprisingly tea is absent. By this time it was widely available in England and the price had dropped to make it generally affordable. Seven pints of milk seems a lot, but its nourishing but would not make up for the absence of any kind of fresh fruit or vegetables. He may not have done a regular costing for these though as they would have only been available seasonally. I don’t know why he differentiated Coals from Rawden ‘Coles’ except possibly they were of a different quality. Rawden or Rawdon as it is now spelt is a neighbouring village

On the same day, he added in a page summarising the details of his children, and the number of grandchildren they had produced! That number was forty seven but there were more still to arrive. It’s a wonderful document really, and John must have felt proud at the legacy he was leaving. The daughters are listed under their married names.




This table showing all of his living children, ages and numbers of children was written by John on New Years Day 1839. The image is copied from his diary but has been tinted to give greater clarity. The information is transcribed below


                               Tuesday January 1st 1839.  New Year Day

                                   On my Family John Yeadon Sr.


                                      Aged 74 years two months




When Born



The age of my children today


James Yeadon

Aug 7 1788


49 and 5 months


Hanh Yeadon

Oct 1 1790


47 and 9 months


M. Fieldhouse

May 5th 1792


46 and 8 months


Joseph Yeadon

December 22nd 1793


45 years


Nany Rawnsley

July 26th 1795


43 and 5 months


Benj. Yeadon

April 4th 1797


41 and 9 months


Bety Murgatroyd

June 1799


39 and 6 months


Ruth Claughton

Feby 1802


35 and 10 months


Sam Yeadon

Aug 1804


33 and 5 months


Martha Fieldhouse

May 1806


32 and 7 months


Jacob Yeadon

Jan 22 1808


31 nearly


Almost all the entries in 1839 are quotes from religious texts, accounts of services at the chapel or short mentions of the weather and such. Things which probably don’t now hold much interest.

More mention is made of the books that he had been reading, and gives some a short review. These accounts always surprise me in that they seem to show someone of very little formal education reading widely and fairly deeply. He is also seventy four years old. Maybe this is a reflection of a 21st century prejudice which underestimates the ability of native intelligence coupled with an enquiring mind to drive an individual’s learning far beyond what one might expect from his situation. I have quoted from one of Johns little book notes here which illustrates my point-

“I am reading the history of China by……the missionary printed in 1838 near 600 pages Octavo. The Chinese take a census of the number of inhabitants every year and their number at present 300,060,000 souls. Yes more than 3 hundred million or one third of all the inhabitants of our world”.

During the following year (1840) John‘ s health seems fragile. He gives an account of being ill with a chest and ear infection combo, and falling in the street. Before antibiotics any infection was a much more serious matter and could drag on for many weeks or longer. infections of the ear where particularly painful  and often left serious scarring and occasionally deafness.

This episode sounds particularly bad-

“Lords Day January 5th. I have been very poorley all November and December by a could and cough fallen on my lungs and this last 3 or 4 weeks afflicted with a pain in my right ear. Gathered and burst it. Discharged dark brown matter and I was easyer. I can get to no means of Grace, which makes against me”.

It sounds like John found some means of bursting the abscess in his ear! Give thanks for antibiotics.

For a time during the first quarter of the year John lists the books that he is reading. He is getting though one every 7- 10 days, and these are really quiet scholarly works of theology and travel. For each one he gives the number of pages and some brief comment.

“Wednesday Feby 12th. Saw and read’  Memoirs of the life and labours of R. Morrison D.D. by his widow. Vol 8/ Printed in 1839. Pages 1100”.in Caffery (?) in Africa. Pages 500”.

“Thursday Feby20th Read Capt Ross Voyage of 4 years to North Pole – also Mr Hays ‘Missionary travels in Caffrey (?) in Africa. Pages 500. Also Also Christian records by Sims Printed in 1836. Size (?). Pages 351. Price 3.6.”.

It is mostly in these later years where; occasionally he gives an account of his reading habits. The number of books he gets through is astonishing. I suspect that this activity would have been one of a lifetime. Its not something you take up for the first time in your seventies. Even allowing for less time to read in earlier years that still adds up to a scholarly life albeit it one done at odd moments and at the extreme ends of the days. An obvious question is where did he get these books from. He did not have money to buy these them. I’m guessing that there was some kind of library attached to the chapel. Novels would not have had a place there (not that many as such were being written at the time) but works which tended to edify and uplift the reader would have.

When did John stop being a preacher? It is not a clear cut event.  He says a few times in the early 1830’s that he had preached for the very last time on some particular date and place for it only to be contradicted a few pages later. He certainly was not active in the role after these years but he still dips his foot in the water every now and again but mostly at prayer meetings held at friends houses. This was probably just taking the lead with prayer. He was no longer on the chapel plan and conducting services. Taking a very rough figure then John seems to have have spent at least forty years of his life as an official, then less than official preacher,  and it continued until about the age of seventy despite his apparent frailty and loss of hearing.

There was to be one last occasion though, if he realised it or not-

May 24 Lords Day. I ventured to speak to the people to go forward from Exodus 14,15. I have not spoken before this 6 years (he is not counting the private house meetings)- and chooses to do it at 12 O’ Clock at noon today and loose them at 1 not to interfere with any other ordinance, Yea and the Lord was present and precious, eternal Glory be to my Triune God..”

He preached for an hour and then let the congregation go so as not to interfere with a new man, having his preaching trial  at 2pm. The text was “And the Lord said unto Moses, wherefore though criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” I don’t know that this passage had any special significance for John, except its to do with leaving a place.

“At 2 0’Clock heard a Whitaker French is our new chapel, a man on trial- Godliness is profitable for all things having the promise &c 1 Tim 4 S”

The full quote is “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come”.

And (for John) that’s it. All done.

On March 8th 1840, John gives the following information-

“The revival amongst the Wesleyans at Yeadon continues to Thursday from February 1st, being 37 days in which 221 souls professes to be justified – today a Love Feast was held in the new chapel- and also one in the old chapel at the same hour (1 ½ pm) and also preaching in the new school where there could not have been fewer than 2000 souls present in all”.

These numbers remain astonishing. The population for the town calculated nine years earlier was 2761 people. Even allowing for growth in the intervening years and some of these people attending from neighbouring villages I cannot imagine a system of belief having such a considerable hold on a community. It looks like the Methodist Society was Yeadons equivalent of the Chinese Communist Party but without the compulsion

On June 14th 1840 John mentioned a man named John Newsom visiting Yeadon in an official Methodist Society capacity.

“The visitor said that he was to stop at Yeadon 3 months as a Leeds Home Missionary and they would pay all his expenses”.

Presumably this involved working to draw yet even more people into the local Methodist Church. We know a little more about who this man was and what was to become of him. Firstly we have some information from the 1841 census. He and his large family are living eight miles away on Wellington Lane in Leeds. From other sources we will come to in a minutes I know this his father is a woollen cloth manufacturer and John is listed as working in that trade. From the same source we know that son Kendrik was at this time working as an office boy and messenger. Both presumably working for grandfather.

This is where we take a big leap. Information which might have never been discovered or which might have taken months (years) of research or some incredible bit of luck to find can now happen in moment because of the internet it you chose the right search terms. I did and immediately came across an extract from a book of biographical sketches written in 1889 In Illinois, USA. The main subject of the five page document is John Newsom’s son Kendrick, but incidentally we learn about John and his father John Newsom Senior. The latter as well as being a cloth manufacturer had been a devout member of the Episcopal Church.  He died in 1832 nine years before John Juniors Big Leap. Presumably he left the business to one of his children but we don’t know which one. Possibly an older bother or less likely sister. John Junior is described in the census as a ‘Cloth drawer’ in the  census but we don’t get told if he was owner as well.

Following his encounter with John Yeadon he caught a ship at Liverpool, ‘The Kensington’ and sailed to America with his family. Arriving at New York five weeks later he then headed straight for Edwards County Ill., where he was a local preacher for six years. This was all presumably prearranged otherwise it would seem odd to make such a direct journey to somewhere so specifically off the beaten track and take over as a preacher. After these six years he  then moved to a place called Council Hill Township, Ill. where he preached in the local Primitive Methodist Church until 1850 when he would have been fifty four years old. He then made another leap and bought a 200 acre farm, but continued preaching in his spare time. Its always good to diversify though and together with his son Kendrick (and another son) he got involved in the lead smelting business which prospered. Kendrick bought up land in various places, accumulated even greater wealth and then became a benefactor and elder for his community (hence the biography). Meanwhile John Junior continued to run the farm at Council hill until he died aged sixty five years in 1858. The small age discrepancy from the 1841 census is accounted for by the practice of rounding ages up to the next five.

In the intervening years he had not been idle. Some time between 1841 and 1858 he acquired the title of reverend. This was most likely through some form of programme with the Methodist Society in Illinois, but no less a major achievement. He also was a prominent supporter of the Republican Party in the area (the same state as Abe Lincoln) and campaigned for abolition of slavery. It would be interesting to know if he met the future president. One sadness along the way though. Johns wife had died shortly after they had arrived in America aged only forty seven years.

I’m impressed with John Newsom. A the age of forty four when most people have formed a truce with their life ambitions he took off to what would have felt like the far side of the world. He then deposited himself in a random spot half way across that continent and prospered. In the last seventeen years he had entirely reinvented his himself. Apart from thoughts of his wife he would have had many reasons to quietly smile to himself. Why couldn’t our John. John Yeadon have done something like this. Undoubtedly  John Newsom would have started out with a pot of money from the family business and that would certainly have helped (I like to imagine him deciding that rather than work under an older brother he would cash in his chips and beggar off).They both had large families but granted JY’s was twice as big. Both issues are of course more than pertinent but I also think that there is another one pushing in the other direction. John Yeadon for whatever reason(imagination, spirit, guts) could not take the last (very big) leap. That move is the one that makes all the difference. This has relevance also for Rowland Kitchen.

I only know about John Newsom because he had some kind of encounter with our John in 1841 when the former was acting as a ‘Home Missionary’ in Yeadon. Our John is unlikely to have heard of what happened to the visitor but I would bet that he would have wondered about his own life and the choices that he did not make. By 1841 though that was all academic for John Y who was now an old man living on the breadline.

On July 15th John Yeadon began receiving what was the equivalent of outdoor (i.e. not in the Workhouse) Poor Law relief payments.

“Wednesday received my first shilling from my town this day or rather this night, now is my 76 years  of age- Lord Jesus help thou me.”

In a sense John was fortunate. Proper workhouse facilities had not yet been developed for the locality as they were supposed to have been by the 1832 Poor Law Reform Act.. The old poor house at Carlton was too small to accommodate many people. Other small ones further afield would also have been too small other than to take local inhabitants. The new large ‘union workhouse’ at Otley was not to open until 1873, forty years after the passage of the act which was designed to end support to people like John. Maybe the local poor law commissioners had the decency to delay things as long as possible.


One of the first entries for 1841, is to record a dream that he had about his wife who had died more than 17 years earlier-

 “It was either on the 9th or 10th January at night that I dreamed as followeth.

Me and my wife were standing on the causeway near Joseph Adkinson old shop looking westward was saw something very remarkable in the western horizon. Very soon we saw 2 vessels coming direct towards us both abreast, as smooth and as swift as a swallow flies in 2 minutes they were at us as they both stopped exact before us about 15 yards south of us they appeared to us about the size of 2 pots pints, The moment they stopped they began to lower downwards and before they reached the earth I awoke and behold it was a dream “

“My reflections on the above my wife has been dead over 17 years when this happened. It never struck me once, that she was dead. These 2 vessels as I think represented one me and other my wife. They were made of clay so were we. These vessels were intelligent or else why stop before our eyes. So were we. These vessels fell towards the centre of gravity so have some of us, and did not appear to inform the living to make ready for the same exit(?)

 Joseph Adkinson was a butcher, and listed in the trade directories. I have not been able to identify where his shop was situated.

This is the last of the detailed notes in Johns diary for that year. The other, very numerous entries all relate to books that he was reading and to attendance at chapel services. He is still occasionally attending prayer meetings where he is called upon to take a lead but he is aware that his increasing deafness is impacting upon his capabilities.

The only detailed census record we have for John, is that provided in 1841. The previous census in 1811, 1821 and 1831 were local accounts and do not provide sufficient information to confirm his identity. There are a number of ‘ John Yeadons’.The level of analysis is on categories of information and total numbers in each rather than upon individuals and their families. In 1841 the focus changes to describing families.




John is fourth from the bottom on the left side in this extract from the 1841 census. He is living with his daughter Nanny and her husband John Rawnsley on South Street in Yeadon. His age is given as 75, when in fact he is 76 years. Despite his age an occupation of Geer maker is given so he may still possibly have been working at this. His son Joseph and his family are a few houses away. His occupation is given as ‘Shopkeeper’. Most of his children are listed over the page.

The year 1842 was to be the last one for which John kept a diary. The following entry seems to show that he had something on his mind from the beginning of the year, and it was unsettling him. Whatever the issue was had the consequence of him moving and going to live with his son Joseph and his family.

 Feby. 14th. “I left John and Nancy’s and came to live in Joseph’s parlour. I have been much tossed and perplexed in body and mind this last 6 weeks. I hope now as soon as I get settled at Joseph’s to find better days”.

It is difficult to track in John’s diary which of his children he is living with. Here though there is precise information. For some reason he is moving from a two person house hold (John and Nanny or Nancy) to one which is very overcrowded, and where he will be sleeping in the parlour. Clearly something has gone wrong at Nanny’s house.

Feby. 21st Monday. “A great meeting at 2 0’clock today for the whole parish on Yeadon Green where near 2000 attended to desire a repeal of the Corn Laws- trade is nearly over”.

 The Yeadon Green was probably the area at the bottom of the hill, which is known as The Steep. The great national political campaign for repeal of the (market restricting) Corn Laws was felt even in Yeadon. This legislation may have benefited rural farming interests but it led to very high food staple food prices for urbanised industrial workers such as those at Yeadon.

John was in receipt of assistance from the Poor Law Authorities during the last years of his life, which would indicate that he had a fairly significant level of infirmity. This does not mean that the payments were regular, more likely are one off hardship payments. The assessment would have needed to demonstrate that he was incapable of any productive work for him to receive any payment. The following entry reflects the importance of the person holding the office of Overseer of the Poor. On a day to day basis it would have been him who made the routine decisions about relief payments. John mentions his increasing deafness but there was probably other health concerns as well

April 3rd 1842: David Long our late Overseer of the Poor of Yeadon goes out of office now, and David Illingworth succeeds him. I got 3s 6d off him yesterday, April 2nd for the first time”.

Johns diary is now coming towards its last pages. He was to livefor another year but his diary ends six months before that.

One of the last these entries concerns a Yeadon man (possibly an in-law) migrating to America. Such a decision must have been extraordinary and irrevocable as in effect they were detaching themselves from family and friends for ever. One person for reasons we don’t know makes a decision to leave what we might imagine is a small backwater industrial town and take himself possibly alone half way around the world to a place he cannot have known much about. The reference to the note back to the people in Yeadon from the emigrant and his family is rather nice.

Monday May 16th: A letter came this morning from John Fieldhouse at New York in America. It is 9 weeks since he left Liverpool with 500 passengers. Landed safe in about 6 weeks in New York- and in 3 weeks more we have got his letter”.

I have made some attempts to discover what happened to this John but as yet have not been successful. I hope it went well for him and for any future children. They will have heard stories of the place their father came from but may have not understood just how brave he was.

Most of the rest of the entries for 1842 are mentions of numerous  books that John has read, or short quotes from Scripture. The last substantive entry is for Tuesday 9th August-

“Glory, Glory, Glory Yes Eternal Glory to be given to my Trune God. He loves me still and on Saturday night August 6th last at 10 or 10 ½ at night he came and told me so, what me a sinner?, yes this man receiveth sinners, what deaf sinners?, yes all sinners in the world upon their repentance and believing his gospel…… pilgrimage is near concluding, do I love God? Yes and God loves me through Jesus”.

The very last entry was on Saturday October 1st and is brief-

“Still living. I have had a good week. Glory”.

John died on the 28th March 1843 and was buried at Guiseley aged seventy eight years. His death certificate is brief. The cause of death is ‘old age’. His son Benjamin (the one with a teenage daughter who visited and got a book) was present. The entry for place is unreadable.


John Newton again-

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.















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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

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