The Wordsworth Connection


At the Duke Street end of St. Nicholas Gardens, on the Church Street Side (that is to say the North East Corner, (gravestone 1Row North 5) there is the gravestone to Richard Wordsworth and his wife, Mary.

Richard (3) was a cousin of the poet, William Wordsworth- he died on 5th October 1816 aged 64 and was buried the following day. His younger wife Mary (nee Scott) died at Longdale Cottage, St Bees on 11th February 1825 aged 66.

The story starts with his grandfather-another Richard (1)- he was born in 1690 and died on 25th June 1760. He lies beneath the chancel of Barton Church (Ullswater). Richard (1) was born at Normanton, Yorkshire, and was Steward and Land Agent to the Lowther Estates from 1723 to 1738 (also Clerk of the Peace for Westmorland 1745-1750). He married Mary Robinson (1700-3rd September 1773) of Appleby (at Lowther on 25th May 1732) and bought Sockbridge House (built 1699 by Reginald and Elizabeth Dodson, and now renamed Wordsworth House) to be close to his employer at Sockbridge Hall. At the time of the Jacobite Rising in 1745 Richard (1) was the Receiver General of the County of Westmorland. He had to take refuge for a time somewhere in Patterdale with the County’s money.

Mary Wordsworth (nee Robinson) died at Whitehaven and is buried in an unknown grave at St Nicholas’-no surviving gravestone.

Richard (1) and Mary had 4 children- Richard (2) 25th February 1733-1794, Mary (1735-1761), Ann (1734-1787) and John (1) (1741-1783). Ann married Thomas Myers (curate and schoolmaster of Barton, later Vicar of Croglin and Vicar of Lazonby)). Their younger son was John (1). In 1765 Richard (1)’s wife transferred Sockbridge House to John (1), who was also Steward to Sir James Lowther, but living at Cockermouth. John (1) and his wife Ann (nee Cookson) had five children- Richard (3), William, John (2), Dorothy and Christopher.

Ann Wordsworth (nee Cookson) died of pneumonia in 1778. After Ann’s death Dorothy went to live with relatives in Halifax and William (the poet) and Richard (3) went to Hawkshead Grammar School in 1779. 

John (2) 1772-1805 was a seaman on the East India Ship Earl of Abergavenny. This ship, the largest in their fleet, was launched at Harwich in 1789. He served on the 18 month maiden voyage to India and China, when she brought back to England a general cargo including cotton, tea and silver. He started as a 5th mate but was captain from 2nd January 1801. On 1st February 1805 the ship set sail from Portsmouth on her 5th voyage. In heavy weather she stayed close to shore and struck the Shambles bank off Portland Bill. Although she cleared the bank she was badly damaged and sank off Weymouth within sight of land with the loss of nearly 300 lives, including the Captain. His body was recovered on 20th March and buried at Wyke Regis- see also the Whitehaven News of 7th April 2005.

Richard (2) joined HM Customs at Whitehaven in 1762 and was Collector of the Customs at Whitehaven from 1778 to his death in 1794. He died at the house of his eldest son, Richard (3) at Branthwaite on 18th June 1794. He is buried at St Nicholas’ in an unknown grave with no surviving gravestone. His wife, Elizabeth (nee Favell) died at Ulverston on 1st March 1808 aged 78 and is buried with her husband. They lived at Woodhouse and Catherine Street and had stables in George Street. Richard (2) was a member of the Whitehaven Scientific Association and was one of the subscribers to the fund to defend the town after the John Paul Jones raid.

They had 9 children, Richard (3) 23rd September 1752-1816, John (3) 1754-1819, James 1757-1840 (died at Reading), Favell (1760-1783, died at Calcutta), Elizabeth (1761-1834, became Barker), Mary (1766-1799, became Smith ), Dorothy (1768-1841, became Nicholson), Ann (1771-1841, married 3 times finally a Coombe) and Robinson (1775-1856, died at Uxbridge served 45 years in HM Customs).

Richard (3) and Mary had 13 children-4 sons and 9 daughters. Their eldest child, Richard (4) 10/2/1777-30/5/1796 died at St Helena. Their second child Jane (1778-1779) is buried at St Nicholas’in an unknown grave. Their 4th child, Joseph (18/8/1782-1832) served with the East India Company from 1799-1807 ending his career as a Commander. He never married and is buried at St Nicholas’ in an unknown grave. Their 8th child Jane 1790-1809 died at Catgill Hall, Egremont. Although buried at Egremont she is commemorated on the family gravestone at St Nicholas’ as is Richard (4). Their 5th child, John, died in infancy in 1784 but they also named their 11th child John (1798-1820). He was a midshipman in the Royal Navy on the Rosario and was lost at sea on 12th August 1820 and is commemorated on the family gravestone. Ann, their 7th child, 1788-1828 married and became Ritson. Although she is buried at Brigham she is also commemorated on the family gravestone.

When John (1) died before Christmas 1783 (he lost his way while returning home from being Coroner at Millom and had to spend a night outside in mid-winter) ‘Wicked Jimmy’, Sir James Lowther refused to recognise the considerable debts he owed to his Steward’s estate so the children were sent to live with relatives. The legal cause was pursued by Richard (3), who inherited Sockbridge House, and it was settled by Sir William, “the good earl”. From Richard (3) the house was passed to his son- John (3) with William and Christopher as trustees, and the house remained in the family until 1920.

There is a memorial stone to John (3) and separate stones to each of his wives in the Winder Chapel of Barton Church.

He had married Ann Gale of Whitehaven (born 3rd January 1759 and died 5th August 1815) first. Her memorial stone at Barton Church is interesting. The inscription after the dates is:

“A disposition eminently benevolent, lively affections, regulated by a sound judgement and tempered with the gentlest manners, endeared her to numerous friends and procured for her general love & esteem. It is needless to dwell upon the care & fidelity with which she discharged her conjugal duties, this is too well & tenderly remembered by the survivor; but it may be useful to record the patience with which she endured a severe trial & it is consolatory to express a hope that she is now enduring the reward of her long suffering.”

Following the death of Ann he married Elizabeth Littledale at St. Nicholas’ Church, Whitehaven on 21st October 1816. She died on 6th June 1863 and is buried at Walton-on-the-Hill Parish Church, Liverpool. This is believed to refer to St. Mary’s as diocesan lists now show three churches at Walton (St. Mary, St. Aidan and St. Nathanael) but St. Mary’s is the ancient church. She is also commemorated on the family memorial (reference D5d) at the base of the North staircase at St. James Church, Whitehaven.

John (3) died on 2nd September 1819 ageed 64. He was a Captain with the East India Company and died of yellow fever on the ship Atlantic, which had sailed from Whitehaven,

See also the 2 part essay by Donald P Sewell in the Whitehaven News of 9th and 16th April 1970 for far more detail on the Wordsworth family in Whitehaven.

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