The Revd George Lewthwaite (1868-1941)
Family background and early years
George Lewthwaite was born in 1868 at Broadgate, Thwaites, Millom, Cumbria, the third son of George Lewthwaite (1839-1912), JP, by his wife Margaret (1840-1924), the fifth and youngest child of Christopher Atkinson (1808-1851) then of Cleveley, near Garstang, land agent and wood-bailiff, whose family came from Ivy Tree, Blawith. Her parents died young and she was brought up by her bachelor uncle Dr William Atkinson (1800-1855) of Broughton-in-Furness. On his death the doctor set up a trust in Margaret’s favour, the main asset of which was the family farm at Ivy Tree, Blawith. She and her husband chose to be buried at Blawith many years later, rather than with the rest of the Lewthwaites of Broadgate who were buried in St Anne’s churchyard at Thwaites.
George Lewthwaite senior was himself the third son of John Lewthwaite (1792-1863), JP, DL. of Broadgate who had built Broadgate, a substantial Regency villa, in 1819, opposite Old Broadgate, where the family had settled in 1642. However, in the 1860’s both his father and eldest brother had died, his elder brother was an unmarried clergyman in Lincolnshire and George found himself a trustee, with a local clergyman, of the 2,000 acre Broadgate estate for his nephew William Lewthwaite (1853-1928) until the later attained 21. This arrangement meant that George senior was allowed to live at Broadgate with his young family but would never inherit.
Young George was the fifth child of his parents and another six children were to follow. Their father was an impoverished country gentleman living on a small private income. In 1874 the family had to move out of Broadgate so that the heir, now 21, and his widowed mother could take over. There may have been some bad blood in this situation as by then the estate was in financial difficulties probably due to bad management by the trustees but also because by then there was a severe agricultural depression.
It appears that George senior and his ever growing family decided, or were persuaded, to leave the area and, with the financial help of a cousin, the Revd George Lewthwaite (1818-1893) junior of Adel, near Leeds, a 17th Century farmhouse with a hundred acres was purchased. This was Littlebank, Rathmel, near Settle in the North Riding of Yorkshire, where the family lived until the end of the century. The main attraction of moving to this area was because Giggleswick School was nearby, and young George and his six brothers could attend as day-boys at this ancient grammar school (later a public school) and obtain a good education at little or no expense.
Young George entered Giggleswick School in September 1877, when he was nine. What previous education he had is not known. He remained at the school for ten years, joined at different times by his brothers. Whilst there he decided to follow his uncle, the Revd Joseph Lewthwaite (1834-1886) and several other relations, in taking Holy Orders and seems to have spent time at Adel, a family living, where his namesake was the curate and where his great uncle, yet another Revd George Lewthwaite (1772-1854) had been the Rector from 1809 until his death.
In 1887 young George entered Keble College, Oxford, which had only been completed in 1882. He studied theology and three years later obtained his BA, never converting it into an MA. His churchmanship was of the traditional variety, neither particularly high nor low, and his modest aim was to be a country parson.
The 1891 census reveals George as a resident assistant master at the Crossley and Porter Orphan Home and School at Skircoat, Halifax but this was probably a temporary job as between 1892/3 he attended Lincoln Theological College, where he obtained a pass. Meanwhile he was gathering testimonials with a view to entering the priesthood. The original testimonials are now housed at Lincolnshire Archives Office, The Castle, Lincoln. The then Rector of Adel, the Revd C. H. Owen, wrote that ‘Mr George Lewthwaite is well known to me and I can speak most highly of him in every way…….I know nothing against his character and consider him a fit candidate for Holy Orders’. His tutor, the distinguished Oxford theologian Canon Walter Lock, a future professor, prolific Anglican writer and later Warden of Keble College, gives a more revealing reference; ‘Mr Lewthwaite was my pupil whilst an undergraduate during the years 1887-1890. He always bore a high character in College and made a real effort while here to prepare himself for ordination. He was not in any way a leading or striking man but he was quiet, hardworking and conscientious, a good passman who took his pass school with ease in the three years and used his spare time to attend extra lectures on Theology. I should look forward with much hopefulness to his doing much useful work in Holy Orders’.
Armed with these testimonials George Lewthwaite had no problem in persuading Bishop Edward King of Lincoln to ordain him deacon in 1893 and priest in 1894.
His clerical career
Between 1893 and 1916 George held various clerical appointments in the diocese of Lincoln. From 1893 he was a curate at Barton-upon-Humber, once an important port but by then an attractive market town where there were two churches, St Peter’s with its famous Saxon tower and the nearby 14th Century church of St Mary’s, and with a population of about 4,350. In 1896 he became a curate in the more important market town of Gainsborough, with a similar population. However, George was apparently not happy in an urban environment and in October 1898 the Gainsborough Parish Magazine announced that ‘Mr Lewthwaite is leaving Gainsborough to take charge of the parish of Adel near Leeds where he was brought up and whose benefice is in the gift of his family. He feels that the care of a country village is more in accordance with his nature and tastes than the continuous strain of a town parish and his approaching marriage makes it advisable for him to seek a home’. In November 1898 the parish magazine reported that after a quiet marriage, at any rate for a time, the couple left for Adel, ‘Mr Lewthwaite is much beloved there and was warmly welcomed.’ George was not going to Adel as its Rector or curate but on an informal basis perhaps pending some other appointment and he never held the family living of Adel.
Instead, in 1899, he was appointed Vicar of Elsham, near Brigg, in North Lincolnshire by the patron, Sir Francis Astley Corbett, Bt. of Elsham Hall, whose wife was a daughter of the Earl of Yarborough of nearby Brockelsby Hall. The Earl had a private pack of foxhounds called the Brockelsby with which George’s wife (see below) had hunted in her youth. The village had a population of about 400 with a stipend of £200 p.a. plus a late Victorian Vicarage, where they employed three female servants. It must have been a remote place, a closed village where almost everyone on the land for the squire on his estate and with a thriving Wesleyan Chapel. In 1911, after twelve years in post, the squire appointed George Lewthwaite as Vicar of the neighbouring village of Worlaby and he had to resign Elsham. This was modest promotion because the population was about 500 and apart from a rather more attractive Vicarage the stipend rose to £390 p.a., with 12 acres of glebe land to let out. Apart from caring for his parish he was a good golfer and founded the Elsham Golf Club, which still thrives today. He resigned the living in 1916, left Lincolnshire and settled with his family at East Lodge, Lillington Road, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, a fashionable spa town a world away from his previous remote surroundings. He was 48 and for the next five years held no ecclesiastical appointment, the reason for which has remained something of a mystery.
The Stott Park estate, Finsthwaite, Cumbria (then North Lancashire)
There could have been various reasons why George Lewthwaite and his family changed their life-style in mid-life and moved to Leamington, but the most likely one follows from his inheritance of the Stott Park estate, near the western side of Lake Windermere in 1914, when he suddenly became a rich man. His distant cousin, Miss Frances Jane Lewthwaite (1836-1914) of Stott Park was a granddaughter of John Lewthwaite (1771-1849), Town Clerk of Lancaster who retired to his wife’s property after his dismissal from office in 1821. Francis Jane was the last of the Lewthwaites of Finsthwaite and a keen churchwoman. Without telling George she made him her heir and he inherited Stott park, a 17th century farmhouse which had been gentrified by adding a Georgian façade, an estate of some forty acres including a farm, together with investments then worth some £10,500 ( in today’s money about £580,000). At 48 George need no longer be burdened with a parish and he and his wife perhaps felt the need of a more civilized and social life. Or it may be that he was stressed out or ill and needed time to recover in a more relaxing environment.
Marriage and family
In 1898 George had married, at Morton-by-Gainsborough, Mrs (Robena) Mary Marshall (1864-1948), the widow of Henry John Marshall,(1866-1894) and only daughter of Samuel Kelsey junior (18---1909) JP, CC. of Holly House, Morton-by-Gainsborough. Mary, as she was always called, had married her first husband in 1890 but he died four years later of an infection aged 27. An engineer he was a son of Henry Dickenson Marshall, Managing Director of the large engineering and agricultural machinery company of Marshall, Sons and Co .Ltd of Gainsborough. Her father Samuel Kelsey, a third generation miller, was also a director of Marshalls and he made sure that both his son Thomas and his daughter Mary married into the Marshall family. By her first husband Mary had one son Henry, later a Lieutenant Colonel in the Lincolnshire Regiment.
The Revd George Lewthwaite and his wife had four children, three boys and a girl, George Kelsey Lewthwaite (1899-1969), John Gilfrid Lewthwaite (1901-1997), Charles Aubrey Elsham Lewthwaite (1903-1985) and (Ethel) Mary Robena Lewthwaite (1909-1987) who married in 1936(William) John (known as Robin) Cockerill, later a Colonel in H.M.’s Army, and had two children The three brothers, who were all Warwickshire farmers, each married and left descendants.
The middle years
In 1921 the Revd George Lewthwaite resumed his clerical career, but only took on two minor appointments. The first was as Rector of the small village of Honiley, near Kenilworth and the second was as private chaplain to the Dugdale family of Wroxall Abbey. However, in 1923, he resigned both these appointments when the patron Mrs Katharine Heber-Percy of Guy’s Cliffe, Warwick, a granddaughter of the 6th Duke of Northumberland (1810-1890), presented him to the living of Old Milverton, a small parish between Leamington Spa and Warwick with a population of about 200 and a stipend of £290 p.a. He also acted as private chaplain to the Heber-Percy family. Here he remained for thirteen years until his retirement at the age of 70 in 1938, a much loved country parson notable for his gardening skills.
The last years
Retirement consisted of living in private hotels, first in Leamington and then in Grantham, Lincolnshire with no talk of occupying Stott Park, Finsthwaite, the only house George ever owned. This had always been let out and, in 1939, he sold the estate to the YMCA for £2,750.
In the following year, a few months after the beginning of World War 11, he was called out of retirement to look after the parish of Allington, near Grantham, when he lived at Allington Hall, the home of the Welby family, but on the 10th July 1941 he died aged 72 and was buried in the churchyard (m.i.). His widow died at Pillerton Hersey on the 10th February 1948 aged 81 and was buried in Old Milverton churchyard. (m.i.).
- Burke’s Peerage and Burke’s Landed Gentry, various editions.
- Fox-Davies, Armorial Families
- Gainsborough Parish Magazine 1898
- Giggleswick School Register
- Lincolnshire Archives, The Castle, Lincoln
- Lincolnshire Directories, various dates
- Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1921/22
- Family information (the author is a grandson of the Revd George Lewthwaite)