John Hodgson's Life
Gateshead— Neville's Cross, a poem — Presented to the Living of Jarrow with Heworth — C. Ellison, Esq. — Ancient History of Jarrow — Duties and Emoluments of Jarrow and Heworth — Creation, a poem — A painter — History of the River Tyne and the Roman Wall.
In the summer of 1806, after having resided at Lanchester for nearly two years and a half, John Hodgson, the subject of our memoir, became Curate of Gateshead under Dr. Prosser, at that time its rector, prebendary, and afterwards Archdeacon of Durham. Of Dr. Prosser in after years Hodgson had little to say, except that he made his curates wear a hat of a peculiar kind at visitations. Hodgson kept his hat to the last, as a curiosity. He leaves the vale of Lanchester, however, with considerable regret. With the two principal families then resident in the parish, the Whites and Greenwells, he had lived upon amicable terms. But his connection with such friends was severed by a distance of eight or ten miles only ; and after his departure it appears to have undergone no interruption. The Whites, in particular, ever afterwards considered him as a friend of their house, and invariably, as is proved by their letters, communicated to him their joys or their sorrows ; until Woodlands passed into the possession of another family, and they themselves became scattered residents in other and distant localities. The estate has passed into other hands. Much of the timber planted by the first Mr. White, having gained its growth, has been cut down ; and the land upon which it grew, having been greatly benefited by the improving process it had undergone, is now devoted to pasture and tillage. Woodlands, however, still retains many beauties.
Proofs are not wanting that Hodgson was duly estimated by his Lanchester friends, and his welfare an object of their anxiety.
Soon after his departure from that valley, Mr. Walker, the incumbent of the parish church, died; and, such was the feeling of the people in Hodgson's favour, after his connection with them had ceased, that they unanimously joined in a petition to the Bishop of Durham, its patron, for his appointment to the vacant benefice. The petition however was not attended with success, and the unsuccessful candidate has preserved a letter from his kind old friend Mr. Stopford of Sedgefield, at that time perpetual curate of Kyloe and Lowick, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, consoling with him on his disappointment. There is something very pleasing in the letters of this gentlemanly man. Others will present themselves to our notice hereafter.
“I do not forget you. I am not unmindful of you. My daily prayers and wishes are for your health, prosperity, and peace, as well as for the health, prosperity, and peace of all other friends and relations who justly merit my esteem and love. I easily foresaw that the application of the parishioners of Lanchester in your favour would avail nothing, but rather the contrary. But be not grieved at your disappointment. Be not anxious about such things. Conscientiously discharge your ministerial duties, and leave the rest to the disposal of an all-wise, good, and gracious Providence. I beg to recommend to your notice my son Theophilus, the bearer of this. I hope you will have frequent- opportunities of seeing him and giving him good counsel and advice, which to young persons, in such a place as Newcastle, is highly necessary. Your sincere friend, W. Stopford.”
The duties of the parish of Gateshead were of a most laborious kind. The population in 1801 was 8,597, and there was at that time, I believe, no chapel of ease to assist in accommodating so many people. But Hodgson was no longer a schoolmaster; and therefore his leisure hours, few though they were, were at his own disposal. Here too was a new field for his inquisitive mind, and here he converted to a good use the opportunities which were thrown in his way for acquiring sound practical knowledge in the various departments of science in which he took a delight. If during his residence at Lanchester, he formed his first acquaintance with the Great Northern coal-field under such limited circumstances as that neighbourhood afforded, here he became located in the very centre of mining operations, surrounded by pits in full working, and so abundant in produce as to encourage their owners in sparing no Expense in working them in the most scientific way. Here also, in other respects, he found the human mind in the greatest activity. Enterprise and commerce, with all their remunerative concomitants, were flourishing on both sides of the Tyne, and elaborate machinery for almost every variety of purpose was in full exercise, giving employment to thou- sands. Here then was a wide field for a mind like his, taking nothing upon credit, but investigating with eye and thought every thing connected with science or adventure which fell in his way, and suffering no opportunity of gaining practical information to pass away unheeded. The only literary employment in which he appears to have been actually engaged, during his residence in Gateshead, was the publication of the poems written at Lanchester, of which we have already spoken. To the painful discharge of his clerical duties and to the acquisition of useful information he appears to have devoted his energetic mind with constancy and patience — with success we may hope in the one, under the blessing of the Almighty; the fruits of the other were not long in making themselves manifest.
Hodgson's Journal during his residence at Gateshead, if it de- serves the name, is of a very miscellaneous nature, and kept apparently with no great regularity. It comprises notices of his various public and private ministrations as a clergyman, his sermons, visits to the sick, distribution of charity money, &c. &c. Many entries are made in short-hand of a peculiar character, in all probability of his own invention. It contains also a few notes of his personal expenses. Entries of a more general nature are neither numerous nor important. He became, it appears, a member of the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle, attended lectures there, gained the acquaintance of Mr. Adamson, his future colleague as secretary of the Antiquarian Society, and received much notice from his own parishioners. The following memoranda are perhaps worthy of being brought to light as specimens of the entries which the book contains :
“To write a poem for the benefit of Newcastle Infirmary on Charity — to make it chiefly didactive, but intersperse it with moral tales and enliven it with anecdotes.”
“I went to-day with Mr, Ornsby of Darlington, an excellent scholar, to George Gray's room. He was painting a half- sized picture of Bruce the schoolmaster. On observing that he did not put his name to all his pieces, I said ' But it is not a matter of moment, they will always be recognized/ — He seemed pleased, and said, ' An artistes style is like a hand- writing, peculiar and easily known.
“April 16 (1808). Dr. Prosser was collated to the Archdeaconry of Durham.”
“May 5. Thursday. Went to Durham, under an expectation of dining in residence with Dr. Prosser (his late rector). But, though I had been pressed to go over, any day I was at liberty, I was not invited to dinner, or next to not invited : Perhaps, my dear, Mr. Hodgson will stop and dine with us this evening.”
The Journal also contains a notice that the sum of £114. I6s. had been collected in the parish of (Gateshead (chiefly by Hodgson's means) for the benefit of the widows and children of numerous poor fishermen belonging to Newbiggin and Blyth in Northumberland, who had lost their lives at sea in a storm. He had soon to undertake a similar task at home and in his own parish, under circumstances of a more painful kind. It has been said above that Hodgson did not engage in any literary work whilst he resided at Gateshead, but a little book has been preserved, which from its hand-writing induces me to alter my opinion. It contains the beginning of a poem, in blank verse, on the subject of the Battle of Neville's Cross, near Durham, extending to upwards of 200 lines, written with considerable spirit; and also numerous historical notes and extracts from printed authorities on the same subject, together with memoranda for his own guidance in the management of the poem. An alphabetical list is prefixed of persons engaged in the battle on both sides, and the plan is laid down for a poem as it appears of considerable length. It has been already said that what is written is in the most unfinished state, but we may venture to give by way of specimen a single extract, which is spirited and poetical.
The Scottish king is addressing his nobles, and exhorting them to make an inroad into England
-shall Scotland’s thanes
Still tributary live, still hear the cries
That widows and that orphans for revenge
Morning and evening through our wasted towns
Unceasing utter, and in scabbards still
Suffer their Swords to slumber ? She who held
All Europe's states in tribute, and her sway
0’er Asia's plains extended, and compell'd
The tawny Moor her prowess to obey,
Never by guile or force could bind in chains
The sons of Caledonia; and shall we
Tamely submit to see the sacred soil
That fed our fathers, and through countless years
Has been the abode of liberty and peace,
Held in subjection by a king whose realm
Neither in bounds nor beauty of its fields
Surpasses ours ? What shall we say, my thanes;
Shall we unsheath our swords and freedom seize,
Or let them slumber, and continue slaves ?
Upon the cession of Dr. Prosser Mr. Phillpotta, now Bishop of Exeter, was collated to the vacant benefice ; and with him Hodgson was making the necessary arrangements respecting his curacy when he received the following letter from Cuthbert Ellison, Esq. of Hebburn Hall, near Gateshead:
“Dear Sir, Hebburn Hall, May 23 (1808).
If your engagements will allow you to breakfast with me to- morrow morning at nine o'clock I wish to see you on particular business. I am yours truly
Rev. Mr. Hodgson.
The Journal above referred to explains this particular business. Hodgson is no longer a stipendiary curate, but the incumbent of one of the most ancient and famous parishes in the whole North of England ; the representative of a college of holy men who from Jarrow and her sister establishment of Monkwearmouth shed the light of learning, sacred and secular, over the widely extending kingdom of Northumbria.
May 15. Monday. At Mr. Harvey's. Evening. Mr. Glover (curate of Jarrow with Heworth) died. Mr. Willis gave me some expectations of obtaining the curacy of Jarrow and Heworth.
May 17. Mr. Robinson curate of Boldon died suddenly in his way from Hebburn Hall. May 22. Mr. Barras's. Mr. Akenhead's. Mr. Willis. Strong encouragement to hope
May 24. Breakfasted with Mr. Ellison, and had the living of Jarrow offered me, without any solicitation, or ever being, but once, in Mr. Ellison's company before. Dined with him in the evening. My obligations are great to Mr. Dodd, Mr. Ellison's steward, but especially to Mr. Willis (his solicitor). Wrote to my mother, Mr. Stopford, Mr. Phillpotts, Mr. J. Bawes, Mr. White, Jan., Mr. Greenwell (both Lanchester friends), Mr Marshall.
This is the commencement of a series of acts of kindness extending over many years which Hodgson received at the hands of Mr. Ellison, for whom, and his family, he entertained the most sincere feelings of respect and gratitude to his dying day. In turning over an immense mass of correspondence for these pages I have been much struck with the way in which Mr. Ellison writes to him on all occasions ; treating him not merely as his parish priest, but as a friendly adviser on- many important occasions, and almost as a member of his own family. To anticipate in some measure the course of time, as a specimen of the delicate and gentlemanly way in which Mr. Ellison was in the habit of conferring a favour upon him, when he knew it' was needed, the following letter is here presented to the reader. Hodgson in this year was slowly recovering from a most severe illness, and Jarrow with Heworth could not afford to pay the bills of wine-merchants.
“Dear Sir, Hebburn Hall, 8th Jan. 1821.
I will not fail to forward the letters I received from you to-day, and I am very sorry for the cause which prevents me from shaking hands with you before I emigrate. Will you do me the favour to accept of 6 doz. of port wine, of the year 1807, for which I have not a sufficiently rapid consumption.
Yours very truly,
On the 1st June following the Bishop of Durham wrote as follows :
Rev Sir, Mongewell, 1 June, 1808.
Nothing can be more honourable to Mr. Ellison, more flattering to you, or more satisfactory to me, than the motives which have induced him to give you such a proof of his favourable opinion. That Mr. Ellison was at that time a representative of Newcastle in Parliament, and his franks were of great use to Hodgson in his literary correspondence. you will answer his laudable purposes in the appointment by an exemplary discharge of all the duties which it imposes, is not with me matter of doubt. I have given directions for preparing your licence, which, when signed, shall be forwarded to Mr. Burrell.* I am with much regard your sincere friend and brother *'
* Mr. Burrll's fees for licence, &o. amounted to 101. 28. Sd. To pay this sum, among others, Hodgson borrowed 60^. of his friend Mr. Robert Akenhead, out of which he pays 271. for a mare and 8/. for a gold watch.
His old friend Mr. Stopford also writes in terms of congratulation.
Dear Sir, Kyloe, May 26, 1808
Yesterday evening my son, on his return from Belford, left here a letter from you, which conveys to us the pleasing intelligence of your unsolicited, and consequently unexpected, promotion. We all greatly rejoiced, and we heartily congratulate you on the pleasing event.
I am an entire stranger to Mr. Ellison, but I must always esteem the man who has penetration to discern, and generosity to reward, modest, unassuming merit.
I now entertain a pleasing hope that in a little time you will have leisure and opportunity of paying us a visit. We shall be all very glad to see you. Please inform us by a few lines when we may expect you.
We hope you frequently see Theophilus. We commend him to your friendship and protection. We understand he has been some time unwell; we hope to receive a favourable account of him when you write. " I pray God to bless you ; and am your sincere friend and humble servant,
When Mr. Hodgson's private pursuits and line of reading in his leisure hours are considered, he cannot but be considered as having been fortunate in obtaining this preferment ; although the income of the curacy afforded an inadequate compensation for the spiritual services of so painstaking a man. If Lanchester had been robbed of its rights by the strong arm of the Dissolution, so had the church of which he now becomes the incumbent.
Jarrow had been in times of old a mother church, fiunous for its antiquity, and renowned as a seat of piety and learning in the Saxon period; and Heworth had been an unendowed chapel within the limits of its jurisdicdon. But ancient endowments had been sacrilegeously set aside, and Hodgson found his preferment in point of emolument, population and all other circumstances considered, the poorest of the poor. But upon this subject more will be said after few words shall have been devoted to the early history of the parish.
If Mr. Hodgson found at Lanchester a Roman camp, for the amusement of his leisure hours, he finds at Jarrow, not only a station of that people, of a lower class it must be admitted than that of Lanchester, but also a church boasting, and with no empty boast, of having been founded in the Saxon times, and pregnant with ecclesiastical associations of learning and piety and academical renown. The position of Jarrow, on the very verge of the Tyne, where that noble river combines with the sea at high tide in forming a large estuary, now called Jarrow Slake, led, without question, to the settlement upon that precise spot of both the Roman and the Saxon. The sea, and security, were both within reach, when danger approached on the side of the land, and such a situation was in consequence not to be neglected.
The Roman remains at Jarrow, which Hodgson studied deeply from year to year, consist of traces of a road extending from the camp at Lanchester to the mouth of the Tyne, by way of Urpeth, Gateshead Fell, the modern Wrekenton, and Jarrow itself, to South Shields, where altars have been found, one of which is at the present time preserved in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Durham. In a communication to the society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, written in 1822 (Arch. iEHian. ii. 123), Hodgson proves this road to be a branch of the ancient Wrekendyke, and when requested by the builder of a village on the line of the road, near Gateshead, to give a name to the new settlement, he called it by the appropriate name of Wrekenton, which it will now always retain. But further : during the progress of certain repairs in Jarrow church, in 1782, two Roman monuments, or inscribed stones, were found in the walls; and two square pavements of Roman brick were observed in the earth when the road was altered near Jarrow Row. Besides, the whole ground to the north of the church has been ascertained to contain a series of foundations bearing every character of Roman masonry — and further stilly in addition to these Roman indicia^ as Leland would have called them, a regular line of masonry has been traced from east to west (parallel to the wall of the church-yard), till it terminated in the site of a round-tower, near the south-west angle of the cemetery, and on this very spot was found a silver coin of the emperor Aulus Vitellius.*
To come down to Saxon times: — the monastical church of Jarrow (we may be indulged in giving a few particulars of its origin and subsequent history) was founded in the year 681 by Benedict Biscop, a Saxon of noble birth, who had held office in the court of Oswy King of Northumbria, and who, at the early age of 25, had abjured the world and had become an ecclesiastic. Jarrow was the second of his monastic foundations. The church of St. Peter at Wearmouth (afterwards Monkwearmouth) had been the first, in the year 675. An inscription upon stone, of unquestionable antiquity and in good preservation in the church records the dedication or consecration of Jarrow in the year 685, and soon afterwards, until their destruction by the Danes, the two establishments appear to have been united in one fraternity, with the education of youth as one of its principal objects. It is recorded by Bede that at one time there were not fewer than 600 scholars receiving their education at Jarrow or Wearmouth. " But Jarrow (we quote from Surtees, p. 69) derives its principal honours from its connection with the Venerable Bede. An ancient and not an improbable tradition fixes the birth-place of Bede to the small hamlet of Monkton, nearly adjoining Jarrow. Bede himself states, generally, that he was born within the jurisdiction of St. Peter and Paul, that he entered the monastery
These notes are chiefly extracted from Surtees, ii. o8, &c. ; see also Hodgson ^s own account of Roman Jarrow in the Hist, of Northumb. vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 230. In a letter to myself, on the 31st of March, 1832, he says — ''Jarrow has much that is very curious about it. The name is derived from the old Saxon and Danish term Gyr, a carr or marsh subject to be flooded. The Isle of Ely had the same name; and in contradiction to this was called ** Suth Gyrvy.*' The inscribed Roman stones mentioned above fell into Hodgson's hands upon the death of Brand, and he gave them to Mr. Ellison. They are now at Hebburn Hall
at seven years of age in 684, was ordained deacon at nineteen by John Bishop of Hexham in 696, and received the full order of priesthood j&om the same prelate in his thirtieth year (707). ' From the date of my attaining the priesthood, until this ray fifty-ninth year, I have never ceased to compile annotations and glosses on the Holy Scripture, for the edifying of myself and my brethren !' In another passage he adds that he spent his whole life, from childhood to age, within his own monastery. To these naked dates, and to this simple and authentic account, little can be added; but the sequestered habits of Bede may demand the attention of those who, blind to native talent and home-bred worth, despise all learning and undervalue all accomplishment which is not tinctured with the flavour of a foreign growth. The lamp of learning trimmed by the hand of a simple monastic, who never passed the limits of his Northumbrian province, irradiated from the cell of Jarrow the Saxon realm of England with a clear and steady light; and when Bede died, History reversed her torch, and quenched it in deep night.
But Jarrow and her sister of Wearmouth were, in the year 867, along with similar religious institutions on the eastern coast, laid waste by a band of invading and plundering Danes; and, after having been for a long time unoccupied, became by the gift of Walcher Bishop of Durham, in 1075, the property and residence of a few Benedictine monks, who had migrated from Winchelcumbe to the North of England, and who eventually, in 1083, were removed to Durham, to constitute the germ of that afterwards splendidly endowed Benedictine convent. The Winchelcumbe monks, however, were no sooner settled at Durham than, mindful of the historic fame and sanctity of the two churches which they had so lately occupied, they established a few members of their body in the churches of Jarrow and Wearmouth, which now became separate but dependent fraternities, obeying in all things the will of the church of Durham, of which they were offsets, removeable at pleasure, but with fixed sources of income, of the receipt and expenditure of which an annual ac- count was to be rendered at home. The two churches, therefore, became cells, as they were called; and so they continued till the Dissolution. Many of the annual account-rolls here spoken of, and numerous inventories of the ecclesiastical furniture, goods, &c. of the two cells, extending from 1303 to the Dissolution, have lately been made public by the Surtees Society, and much light has consequently been thrown upon their history and domestic economy during that period.
Of architectural interest the church of Jarrow has much to boast of peculiar to itself. There is over its chancel-arch the unique and memorable historical inscription in 685, above spoken of, and numerous fragments of the original Saxon fabric are pre- served in the second structure, which mainly belongs to the early Norman period of the Winchelcumbe settlers in 1075, The tower is very characteristic of that early style, and there are ex- tensive remains of monastic buildings of the same date upon the brow of the hill on the south and west of the church.
These few notices may suffice with respect to the church of Jarrow, with which Mr. Hodgson becomes connected as its minister, a place with everything to excite and keep alive his historical and antiquarian zeal. The Roman, the Saxon, the Dane, and the Benedictine monk of Durham, all figure before him ; each with his own national feelings and characteristics, but all of them belonging to the great family of man : and that he at one time meditated a detailed history of the place in all its bearings, appears from the following note by Mr. Surtees (ii. p. 67): '* I am the less anxious to give a more detailed account of this interesting spot, both because I feel it impossible to collect, from its present mutilated state, any certain account of its original appearance, and because I am aware that the subject is turning in the mind of a genuine antiquary who has every local advantage.'^ To the subject of this contemplated history we shall return by and by.
It is in general, however, easier to write books than to find means for sending them forth to the world. The income of Jarrow was barely sufficient to procure the ordinary necessaries of life for its incumbent. And here again we may have recourse to somewhat of history to account for the present poverty of such an ancient church.
To the monks of Jarrow, the convent of Durham had appropriated the tithes of the townships of Jarrow and Heworth (strictly so called), together with the responsibility of providing for the due performance of parochial service in both places^ re- serving to themselves the tithes of the other numerous townships within the parish : that these duties were duly performed by the monks may not be doubted; but, as the annual revenue of the cell of Jarrow did not at the Dissolution amount to 200Z., it was dis- solved by the first spoliatory statute, and in consequence its revenues (the above tithes included) fell away for ever from the church into the hands of the Crown or its grantees, and until recent times, under the operation of Queen Anne's Bounty, and other charitable aids, the emoluments of the curacy consisted only of a pension of ten marks (61, 13«. 4A) per annum, payable by the lay impropriators (the owners of what had belonged to the monks, and which had in their time been devoted to sacred purposes), together with the surplice fees. The population of Jarrow and Heworth amounted in 1811, three years after the commencement of Hodgson's incumbency, to 6,303 souls. The income at that time, from all sources, was not more than £116 per annum. There was no glebe house, and the distance between the church and its chapel was four and a quarter miles, and the circuit of the parish was considerable; so that a horse was required, and yet Hodgson could only afford to keep a horse for the first two or three years of his incumbency, afterwards he borrowed or walked. But it may be convenient to anticipate here somewhat of the subsequent history of the parish in point of its emoluments. Things had not long continued in this state of poverty before Hodgson made an effort to procure an augmentation to his benefice fi:om the fund of Queen Anne's Bounty, but difficulties presented themselves, and for a while he gave up his attempt in despair. In 1815 however he was more fortunate; Jarrow was in that year augmented with £500., 200/. being contributed by Lord Crewels trustees, and 300/ by Queen Anne's Bounty. In 1818 another sum of 5001. was raised, lOOL being contributed by the Pyncombe trustees, lOOZ. by Hodgson himself, and 300/. by parliamentary grant. In 1819 again Hodgson succeeded in obtaining from the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty two additional allotments of 200/. each. This sum of 1,400Z. in all was afterwards laid out in the purchase of a small farm called Lough House, in the parish of Stamfordham, for the benefit of the living.
From the commencement of Mr. Hodgson's incumbency, divine service was performed in the morning or afternoon at Jarrow and He worth on alternate Sundays ; but, as he resided at He worth, this latter place had always an evening service, in addition to that in the morning or afternoon, according to its turn ; so that, over and above his other ministerial functions, such as reading prayers thrice, baptisms, marriages, funerals, &c.* which were generally very numerous, Hodgson preached three sermons every Sunday.
That's a wonderful man, that Mr. Hodgson,; said a gentleman one evening in Durham, in a crowded room, whilst looking on and talking over a whist table. ** Yell hardly believe it, but he has the churches of Heworth and Jarrow, and he has so many duties every Sunday, of one kind or another, that he's never done; and yet after all he gives a second, evening service at Heworth; but he is sometimes so tired that he can only read the exhortation and confession before he begins his sermon." That's very wrong, spoke a reverend personage, " very wrong. Sir; quite contrary to the canons.^' " The canons," replied the first speaker, "the canons, did you say ? Why as to the canons, just that snapping the forefinger and thumb of his right hand with such a noise that there was an instant silence in the room ; "the canons, you know, my Lord, say a clergyman is not to play at cards, and there you are, a bishop, with the ace of trumps in your hand.; The bishop was the chaplain of 1802, by whom poor Hodgson had been rejected in his examination for Holy Orders, and the gentleman, who is happily still alive, was a privileged person in the habit of telling plain truths in a way peculiar to himself, a man who has not unfrequently said a good thing, and, with all his peculiarities, has done many a kind one.
In the year 1809, after he had resided a year at He worth, Hodgson began another poem, with the exalted title of '* The Creation,^' in which however, he made but little progress.
* A portion of land was enclosed within the chapel yard and consecrated as an additional burial-ground for the chapelry of Heworth, in Sept. 1808, a few weeks after the commencement of Mr. Hodgson's incumbency.
Eight closely-written pages in octavo contain the whole of his labours on this high theme, before the design was abandoned. Some of the lines, which appear to be in a finished state, are harmonious and full of character. One extract may suffice.
At this time also, Hodgson began to draw landscape scenery^ buildings, (fee. in water colours. A few of his endeavours in this way are contained in the volume intended to have been occupied by his poem on the Creation ; but they are of a very humble character. In 1810 he attempted a picture in oils of Pliny the Elder, contemplating the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which was tossing about in his house till 1 84 1, when he bestowed upon it a &ame. This picture will be mentioned hereafter.