Extracted Will of John Thirlewall

This is one of my mum’s favourite documents in the chest and she suggested that I Blog about it next. It is a most unusual document as it is sewn into the pages of a newspaper! It is a will of a gentleman called John Thirlewall of Newbegun (assume Newbiggin?, Northumberland) who died in 1699. The dates on the newspaper indicate that it was published in 1844. I do not know of any family connection with the Thirlewall family. Why it is in the chest, I have no idea, and quite probably will never know – however it does make for interesting reading! Attached is a scan of the original document together with my transcription (as far as possible the original punctuation, spelling, capitalisation have been copied). Just clock the link below.

Extracted will of John Thirlewall

Hot off the press! My mum has now discovered this: In 1711, a certain William Charlton was involved in a quarrel with Henry Widdrington of Buteland and the latter as killed. His body was taken to the church and buried by the door of the Charlton’s pew which would require Charlton to step over the grave every time he attended church. That he was put off entering church may have been no great sacrifice Source. A William Widdrington was one of the executors of John Thirlewall’s will! There must surely be some connection to my family of Charltons.

My Silver Surfing Mother has also discovered his family tree just click here

William Charlton b1801

I love this photograph. It is of William Charlton who was born in 1801 (he was baptised at Ebchester on the 12th April 1801). He is Esther’s Grandfather.

On the reverse of the photograph is printed:
Photographed by R. Von Dix. 10, Mount Pleasant, Consett

Someone has written in pencil on the back:
Wm. Charlton Farmer Rowley
Son William Charlton Ebchester

Was first on farm Blackhall Mill

Milkwellburn Farm (maybe he was visiting his son?)

Note to self:  Will have to research Blackhall Mill, it is about 2 miles north of Ebchester, Durham,

The Fatal Pleasure Trip

Within the chest are a number of newspaper cuttings. Several of which are poems or songs. This first one is from within the pages of his diary, unfortunately there is no date.

The Fatal Pleasure Trip



A boat had left the banks of Tyne,
Her snowy sails spread to the wind,
And gallant rides the stormy bar,
The port receding fast behind.

Tho’ strong the gale, the sky is fair,
The hardy crew are stout and brave,
And two are young who love to dare,
And joy to mount the swelling wave.

Yes, two are young, and one by love
Is held in sweet but willing thrall;
And seeks the briny flood to rove,
Obedient to his lady’s call.

What tho’ the gale be rising high,
What tho’ the billows higher swell,
They deem not danger hovers nigh,
While hands can guide with ready skill.

Onward they speed o’er crested foam.
Until the anxious lovers spies
His lady’s lonely seaward home,
Where Marsden Rock is seen to rise.

As soldiers who have braved the storm
Of battle, think of camp’s repose,
Till sudden rings the death alarm!
When rise their unexpected foes;

So the glad crew, who sought to land,
Where peace and joy, and beauty smiled,
Whi e losing of their bark command,
Were cast amid the breakers wild.

And wave on wave remorseless dashed
Upon the bark they strove to save,
Till one huge surging billow washed
Her struggling victims ‘neath the wave.

They rose again – bold swimmers strong –
They shrieked for aid, the land was near,
And some would spy them there ere long
They thought while wrestled hope with fear.

But oh! In vain the floods prevailed,
And three to bubbling death were borne,
And he beside his lover’s home
Was ever from his lover torn!

One, only one, remained to brave
The waters wild, who sought the shore,
And he who strove a friend to save,
Heard death in every billow’s roar!


But who is she, that maiden young,
Who, quite regardless of the danger,
Runs boldly ‘mid the waters strong,
To help ashore the fainting stranger?

He’s saved! But oh! That maiden pale
Hears from his lips a tale of sorrow!
Which, for to thrill her bosom’s care,
No vulgar arts need borrow.

It is enough to hear his name,
Her fancy cand the rest discover,
How strong devouring floods o’ercame
Her young and faithful lover.

It is enough, – in dark despair,
The torch of hope is plunged for ever;
The dream of life is fled, and ne’er
Can aught from woe her heart deliver

It is enough, the rocks reply,
While loud she shrieks in lamentation;
While anguish gleams from tearless eye,
And vainly whispers resignation.

Such wild emotions troubled swell,
Like sudden floods on peaceful river;
It is her throbbing heart’s farewell,
For him, the loved but lost for ever!

Newcastle-on-Tyne A.W.

Letter to the Duke of Northumberland from William Charlton. 17th November, 1821

This letter is written by a Mr William Charlton who is a tenant farmer on the Duke of Northumberland’s land. The Farm is called Broad Oak and is in the Parish of Ovingham, Northumberland. I know from my own family history research that Esther’s grandfather William Charlton was born at Broad Oak around 1800. It is unlikely that the letter was written by him as he would have been only 17 years old at the time, and in the letter he describes his large family (he didn’t marry until 1821).

His father was called John Charlton (Source: Williams marriage certificate to his second wife Elizabeth Wilkinso). William Charlton born in 25.02.1800 who was baptised in the Parish of Ebchester, on the 12th April 1800 whose father is John Charlton (labourer) and mother Hannah Armstrong (daughter of William Armstrong of the Parish of Ryton, Durham) and whose residence was Broad Oak, in the Parish of Ovingham. I have found no other William Charlton’s born at this residence at this time – perhaps this letter was written by John’s father? There was a William Charlton who had at least one child at Broad Oak at around the same time: Anne Charlton was born on the 12th May 1798 and was baptised at Ebchester on the 29th July 1798. Her father was William Charlton (born at Broad Oak, Ovingham) and mother Elizabeth Brown (second wife) native of Witton Le Wear. Was this John’s brother – or perhaps even father??

Curiously Esther’s Grandfather married Esther Wilkinson on the 17th November 1821 at Ryton Parish Church – the very day that this letter was written.

As we still have the letter, it was either never sent or this is a draft/copy of the one that was sent.

The transcript of the letter reads as follows. A copy of the original is attached to this post (just click the link below).

Letter to the Duke of Northumberland – 1821

NB. Where I have been unable to decipher the words I have used asterisks. Words written in italics are ones that I am either not sure of or are a definition of a previous word. However, as the original is attached you may be able to interpret the indecipherable!

To His Grace the Duke of Northumberland Etc. Etc. Etc

William Charlton of Broad Oaks

The ******** his *********

17th November 1821

My Lord Duke

I had the honour of addressing your Grace, on the subject of my existing agreement for the Farm at Broad Oak since which I am informed thro’ your Grace’s Commissioners that in order to obtain a release from any engagement, I must agree to pay half the difference between the present rent of £205 per annum, and the amount of the different progressive rents for the remainder of the term amounting to the sum of £546, 5, 0.

This, your Grace will perceive, is, in itself, no relief, for, supposing it was in my power to have such a sum as £546, 5, 0, it would, at the termination of the lease, amount to a sum nearly equivalent to the gradual payment of the progressive increase of rent and is, in effect, as ruinous to me, as enforcing the full performance of my agreement could be; from my circumstances independent of any other consideration the payment of such a sum would be impossible, without destroying the means of providing for myself and my family and I venture respectfully to draw your Grace’s attention to the following observations;

This farm is the first one I have held under your Grace, and consequently I am not in the situation of an individual who, having realised property in better times, from the favourable terms on which he held his farm, might fairly be called on to contribute a portion of that property to free himself from a ruinous lease.

That, although for the first four years the annual rental was £190, yet from the sums expended by me in improvements, I have never enjoyed any benefit, or advantage, from the farm, from the circumstance of the soil cleared, being of an inferior and sandy nature, perfectly distinct from what was contemplated and totally unfit for the growth of corn; and, in fact, in some years, the corn was not, in some places, even cut.

That, since I took the farm, my burthens (archaic form of the word burdens) have been increased to the amount of about £30 per annum, poors rate paid to the former tenants who have been driven to the necessity of seeking that relief.

That I have never realised more, than merely must be the charges against the farm, and now from the increase of Rent, and the depression of every description of agricultural produce, it is impossible for me to avoid that ruin, the approach of which, under such circumstances, is gradual, but certain.

The father of a large family, I am most anxious to retain the means of providing for their wants, and, as the unfortunate circumstances under which I am placed, has not arisen from want of industry, skill in husbandry, or proceeded from my own misconduct, I again venture to appeal to your Grace, and in praying that I may be released from my agreement, I feel confidence in the recollection of the line adopted by your Grace’s late noble father, as well as yourself, in not holding the individual answerable for events, or circumstances, human skill could not control.

I have the honour to be

My Lord Duke

Your Grace’s

Most obedient and most humble servant

William Charlton

William Henry Charlton

This somewhat imposing figure is William Henry Charlton (b1829 – 1896); Esther’s father and the author of the diaries. He is the son of William Charlton (b1801 – 1892) and Esther Wilkinson (b1795 – 1851).

The photograph was taken (I believe) when he ran the Station Hotel, Ebchester, Durham.

Leslie Caswell (My grandfather and Esther’s third son)

This is a photograph of Leslie Caswell (b.1906), the third child of Esther Elizabeth Charlton and Frederick Caswell. He looks a little like ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ doesn’t he?

In his butcher's garb

In his butcher’s garb

Family stories say that when he left school he got an apprenticeship to be an electrician at the Consett Iron Works.  However, his father Fred Caswell was regularly drunk. It became impossible to bring friends over, because they never knew how Fred would behave. One day Fred came home rather the worse for drink and Esther locked him out.  Bill and his brother Leslie helped ensure that Fred was put out of the house for good. He ended up at Lanchester Workhouse. This change in events meant that Fred was no longer running the butchers shop and reluctantly Leslie gave up his apprenticeship and took over the shop. That said he was a very good butcher and had the qualification of master butcher.


leslie caswell adult

He sadly died in 1973 in Consett, County Durham.

The Wedding of William Charlton to Margaret Hedley

Esther’s parents – William Charlton and Margaret Hedley (2nd wife) were married on the 9th March 1871 at Benfieldside (a Parish in the County of Durham). This is a photograph that was taken on their wedding day – they don’t looked too thrilled about it!

Esther’s Father – William Charlton

Esther’s father was William Charlton (b.1827, Broomfield, Durham) and his diary is in the chest. According to the 1881 census, he was a farmer at Milkwell Burn, Chopwell, Co. Durham. A farm of 32 acres! Esther (the chest’s owner), and William’s youngest child, were born in 1875 in Broomhill, Northumberland. So, somewhere between her birth and 1881, the family moved to Milkwell Burn. I wonder whether it was this move and consequent fresh start which triggered the desire to keep a diary?

1881 Census Entry for the Charlton Family
1881 Census Entry for the Charlton Family

Milkwell Burn was actually quite close to Broad Oak Farm where William was born. It seems that both plots of land at one time were owned by the Surtee’s family. The actual Milkwell Burn is a spring that runs into the Derwent from Chopwell.

The commmunity of Milkwell Burn was demolished in 1970. In 2010, the Durham Wildlife Trust purchased Milkwell Burn Wood from Gateshead Council. It is now an area famous for its wildlife.

Introducing Esther Elizabeth Charlton

Perhaps not the greatest photograph in the world, but it is the only one in the chest of the woman herself! The dog beside her is called Spey and she is outside of St. Ebba Church, Ebchester, Durham.

Esther Elizabeth CharltonEsther Elizabeth Charlton was born on the 19th November 1875 at Ebchester Hill, Durham. She was the daughter of Margaret (nee Hedley) and William Charlton. She had an elder brother called William Hedley Charlton (b. 21st June 1872, Broomhill Durham). But she was the second Esther Elizabeth Charlton of the family. Her father had been married previously, to an Elizabeth Braban. Together they had two daughters, Mary Ann (b. 1853 – d. 2.01.1860) and Esther Elizabeth (b. 25.04.1857 – d. 19.10.1858). Elizabeth (their mother) died tragically young in 1870. William Charlton married fairly soon after his wife’s death, on the 09 Mar 1871 at Benfieldside Parish Church, Durham.

Esther’s father died on the 9th October 1896 (Ebchester, Durham) a few years before she met and fell for Frederick Caswell and was disowned by her family when she fell pregnant pre-marriage to a man very much below their social standing (in their opinion – so the family stories say)! They married on the 25th March 1901 (Lanchester Parish Church, Durham) and Edith was born on the 6th November 1901 (Pleasant View, Duham). However, tragedy was to befall the family. Her elder brother William died from TB on the 1st September 1902.

Esther was very much the matriarch and was very much the head of the household. She set up her sons with butchers shops and her own husband likewise. I will come back to him in future blogs!! She appears to have given all of her children an inscribed black chest in which to store their personal affects. My own grandad’s (Leslie Caswell) was used to store the family Christmas decorations! But this blog relates to Esther’s Chest and the contents within. But I shall start telling that particular tale on another day.