The Tathams of County Durham
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Ralph Tatham (1778-1857)

from History of St. John's College, Cambridge



Born at Barton in Whittingham, Northumb.; admitted pensioner 2 May 1796 aet. 17; foundation scholar 1796; B.A. 1800 as 12th wrangler; M.A. 1803; B.D. 1811; D.D. by mandate 1839.

10 Nov 1809 he was elected public orator, defeating Rob. Walpole of Trinity, the traveller, editor of Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, by 20 votes, 152 to 132, (Cambr. Chron. 18 Nov.; Cooper's Annals, IV. 492; Gunnings Reminiscences, II. 249). He was well qualified for this office by his singular dignity of person and courtesy of manner. "He brought forth butter", said the wags, "in a lordly dish". Opie's portrait of Dr. Sam. Forster of Norwich (a full length, in a gown), in the college hall, bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Tatham. He resigned the oratorship in 1836, and 4 Febr. 1836 Christopher Wordsworth [...] was elected [...] (Cooper, ibid. 599).

"Dr. Tatham was tutor to Chas. Fox Townshend, who was a student of St. John's College, and died there in 1817 aet. 17 [incorrect; died Grosvenor Place, London, 01 Apr 1817, aged 21], being buried in the ante-chapel. In consequence of this he appears to have been presented by the marq. Townshend to the valuable rectory of Colkirk, co. Norf." (Charles Yate, Notes of the Lives of Eminent Persons connected with St. John's College, Cambridge, MS, 1838-1860). He held Colkirk with Stibbard from 10 Febr. [1816] to his death, which occurred 19 Jan. 1857 aet. 78 (Cambr. Chron. 24 Jan.). His remains were placed in the hall 23 Jan. and on the 24th were carried round two of the courts of the college, preceded by the choir, and after a choral service deposited with his brother's in a vault in the antechapel.

25 Oct. 1853 queen Victoria and prince Albert visited St. John's, "where every preparation was made to receive her with due respect, the courts and passages being lined with crimson cloth, and refreshments prepared in the hall for the royal party" (Charles Yate, ibid.).

In Sept. 1860 a stained glass window. "The raising of Lazarus", by Wailes of Newcastle, was placed in the chapel, N. side, by the family, in memory of Dr. Tatham. As the window was not suitable to the new chapel, the family replaced it by two windows, also by Wailes, to be placed in the new antechapel N. transept N. side. [possibly the first window was reinstalled in Colkirk Church]

The name and family have been very constant to the lady Margaret. Out of 23 Tathams in the printed graduati (1659-1856) one only is of another college than Christ's or St. John's. See pedigree in Surtees, Durham. I. 187. The "family, I am informed, was previously settled at Sandbach, Cheshire" (Charles Yate, ibid.). [see Curtis p. 1a regarding this error]

The father, Ra. Tatham of St. John's B.A. 1776, was of Bishopton Durham and died there Jan. 1825 after a very long illness (Cambr. Chron. 14 Jan. 1825; Quarterly Theol. Rev. I. 602 a; Christ. Remembr. VII. 127). His widow, Ann last surviving daughter of Meaburn Smith esq., formerly of Morton house Durham, died at Colkirk rectory 9 Oct 1847 (Camb. Chron. 16 Oct. 1847). One Ra. T., probably the same, was appointed to Addingham vicarage Cumb. by the dean and chapter of Carlisle in 1806 (Clerical Guide 1822).

A brother Tho. Tatham of St. John's B.A. 1806, M.A. 1809, master of Haydonbridge school Northumberland (Cambr. Chron. 11 Nov. 1809; Carlisle's Grammar Schools II. 243); died at Colkirk Rectory 24 Mar. 1850 (Cambr. Chron. 30 Mar. 1850; Gent. Mag. June 1850, 678).

Another brother, Wm., was born 8 June 1787, entered as a pensioner on Wood's side 19 Febr. 1806; B.A.; 1810 as sen. op.; M.A. 1813, B.D. 1821. Presented by the college to Gt. Oakley in 1833 (Cambr. Chron. 26 July); died at his rooms in college 28 Aug 1834 aet 47 (ibid 4 Sept., where it is said 29, but on the stone 5 cal Sept.) and was interred in the ante-chapel.

[History of the College of St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge. By Thomas Baker; edited by John E. B. Mayor. Cambridge University Press, 1869; pp. 1105-6. ]

Owner/SourceThomas Baker
Linked toRalph Tatham

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