The Tathams of County Durham
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Margaret Ashington Christopher (1801-1864)

Travel Diary, 1825

Travel Diary of Miss Margaret Ashington Christopher

County Durham, 29th October to 23rd December, 1825

Saturday, October 29th, 1825. — We commenced our journey with the expectation of it proving extremely pleasant, and with every minor satisfaction resulting from convenient arrangement. Our first day's progress to Cambridge, fifty-one miles from London. Tomorrow we shall see the colleges and chapels to advantage.
Breakfasted with Mr. Tatham [her father's 2x cousin, Rev. Ralph Tatham, 1776-1857; Fellow and afterwards Master of St. John's College; D.D. 1839; Vice-Chancellor 1839 & 1845] at St. John's College. The sight of so many ancient institutions devoted entirely to the grand pursuit of knowledge, the groups of students in their peculiar dress convey the idea that in Cambridge there really are men who live upon the intellectual part of character. But the circumstances of a kitchen, into which we peeped and where we were told that it was necessary to dress 840 lbs. of meat for one college dinner, went far towards destroying the illusion.
Immediately afterwards, we went to King's College Chapel. Sir Christopher Wren came annually to observe the beauty of its architecture. The service was confined to the prayers and was well performed. 'Decent — solemn — chaste.' The chanting was very beautiful. Nothing could exceed its pathos. The chord which formed the 'Amen' struck me very much. I thought of Tremaine's sensations at Orleans. I thought of Dr. Beattie's ideas of the truth, the infallibility of moral sentiment, and I think I felt the consistency and importance of religion. I hope I shall never forget Trinity Chapel, the wax lights, the four or five hundred gownsmen, the beautiful organ and impressive service.
We saw some good pictures at the museum and several curiosities. Queen Elizabeth's music book and the book written by Henry VIII which procured for him the title of 'Defender of the Faith' from the Pope, to whom it was presented. Cousin Henry [her 1x cousin, Rev. Henry Ashington, ~1803-1875; afterwards Rector of Brauncewell;  father of Lady Firth, wife of the Oxford Professor] accompanied us, and Mr. Temple Chevalier called in time to hand us to the carriage.

Rutland Arms, Newmarket. — We drove straight to the course. The assemblage of men, horses and carriages, fine air and a beautiful day made it as lively as possible. We proceeded later, with an excellent pair of horses to 'The Lamb', Ely. The entrance to the Cathedral struck us very much, and the specimens of Saxon and Norman architecture are very fine.

November 2nd, on Wednesday, fifth day. — Reached Peterborough. The moon rose at 9 p.m. and guided us through the dreary fens of Lincolnshire. Before breakfast we went to the Cathedral. Very beautiful. Mary Queen of Scots was buried here for twenty-five years, when her remains were removed by her son, James I, to Westminster Abbey. Catherine of Arragon lies here, but there are no monuments remaining. Cromwell destroyed them all.

Lincoln (White Hart). — The effect of the whole pleased me more than any Cathedral I have ever seen. We had the courage to ascend the great tower and see the mighty Tom of Lincoln. Nothing can exceed our pleasant style of proceeding on our journey. Our carriage is light and convenient (15 cwt.).
Papa met an old Admiral Woolley, who went with us to the Cathedral. He commanded the 'Arethusa' for six years.

York Minster. — The architecture is very striking, and the glass very fine. You cannot place yourself in any part of the Cathedral without obtaining some delightful perspective.

Thirsk, Saturday, 5th November (8th day). — We shall enter Stockton at about half past one. We received a letter at York, that all who knew us were glad to think that we were coming.
We were much delighted at the appearance of this same Stockton. The entrance was extremely favourable. A broad, handsome street. After drawing up at the 'Black Lion' we proceeded to our lodgings, which were within a few doors of my grandfather's [William Christopher, ~1734-1797; husband of Ann Tatham] spacious house, now occupied by the Neeshams. We found everything most comfortable.

Sunday, 6th. — Went to Church with Papa. We were shown into Mrs. Raisbeck's pew [prominent Stockton family; Margaret's great-grandmother was Alice Raisbeck wife of William Tatham]. Much pleased with the Church. Mrs. Raisbeck and Miss Jean Seton called. Went with Papa and Isabella to dine with Mrs. Wilkinson.

Monday, 7th (l0th day). — Miss Helen Seton and Mr. and Mrs. Anstey of Norton called. Mama went to pay visits and we remained at home to receive them. The Stapyltons, the Lumleys, and Miss Jean Seton called [Seton, Wilkinson, Anstey, Stapylton, Lumley: all prominent Co. Durham families with connections to the Christopher, Raisbeck & Tatham families]. She promises us a 'grand route' at her house, as an introduction to Stockton. I was much pleased with Mrs. G. S. Her countenance is an allegro.
Dr. Addie, a Scotch physician, called. He talked of the shrewd sense of his countrymen. He is very kind to the poor. And the rich are not very kind to him. He mentioned my grandpapa. The last time he saw papa was when he was a boy of twelve, called in to sing a song and blushing at the task. Miss Jean Seton possesses almost as much, and almost the same, originality as Walter Scott's old women heroines. Dr. Addie came in the evening to play cards and bore his paste-board misfortunes better than was usual with him.
Miss Kitching, our landlady, interests us very much. She is an excellent linguist, and well informed. Her grandmother was niece of the famous Lord Clarendon, and her grandfather, at one time, possessed a good income and owned Brook Street, Grosvenor Square. His family suffered the severest reverses of fortune from the attachment of their progenitors to the exiled Stuarts. Their estates were all confiscated. I feel very much for Miss Kitching in her situation.

Friday, 11th (14th day). — I am happy to find we are likely to stay here three weeks longer. We are to have a public ball on the 28th. Our engagements multiply. I like Mrs. Wilkinson more and more. Smallpox is prevalent in Stockton and smallpox conversation is abundantly disagreeable

Saturday, 12th (15th day). — Old Molly, a valuable old family servant, brought us some cream and an immense cake. She talked much of my aunt Caroline's 'lovesome face' and 'pretty songs'; of my uncle Henry, who 'was such a romantical man'; Isabella is pronounced to be like her grandfather, grandmother and her uncle Henry and her Aunt Caroline! As for me, they won't even say I am like Papa!
Mr. Brewster [the Durham historian] called. We were delighted to see a person so venerable, so excellent, and of whom we had heard so much. Miss Raisbeck, his niece, has lent us his works to read. Miss Jean Seton has kindly offered us a seat in her carriage, and she will chaperon us to Norton. A delightful house, a pleasant reception, an elegant dinner; a fine collection of prints and drawing-room table amusements; an organ played, and we sang, and gave great satisfaction to our host, old Mr. Anstey, who is fond of music, very animated and very witty. Another agreeable drive home. Miss Seton's chat is most entertaining. The fancy ball, after the York Festival (by some strange confusion of ideas) put her in mind of the Day of Judgment! Isabella's manner of singing makes her think of Madame Cavadori, and Madame Cavadori pleased her more than any other singer at the festival. Out of compliment to my father, I am asked to be god-mama to a little Appleby child, whom I am never likely to see again.
Paid visits to the Sleighs, Greys, Lambs and Neeshams whose dining-room paper is full of birds, the same that my Papa used to shoot at when a boy. Miss Neesham is quite a belle. Returned to lunch. Papa up the river shooting all the seals he can that there may be salmon for Stockton. Often and often in a dirty suit.
Called on the Stapyltons, Hoggs and Ansteys. Papa came home very much exhausted by walking many miles in the wind. He went to the river with the expectation of shooting all the seals in it, to promise the safe passage of salmon.
Mr. Burton-Fowler called, a very interesting old gentleman, upwards of ninety and possessed of immense wealth. He asserted religion to be a rule of conduct. I should certainly think that his had been under its influence. He was extremely polite to us, and seemed to regard us with interest as young people commencing the journey he was about to finish. At parting, he shook hands and blessed us.
Went again to Etton (the Suttons) to dinner. An elegant dinner and cheerful welcome. Met all the Stapylton family.

Wednesday, 16th. — A bank has been robbed in Stockton, and it is mentioned in the advertisement that there is a mysterious kind of gentleman at the Black Lion. This happens to be Maria Edgeworth's brother, who is here making scientific observations. Papa out hunting. After breakfast went in the carriage to Seaton for sea air.

Friday, 18th. 21st day. — Rose late. Practised the quadrilles for the benefit of the 'dashing route' which Miss Seton gives us to-night.

Saturday, 19th. 22nd day. — Last night we were exhibited as little lions in a small way. A sort of display I like very little indeed. We were reproved for appearing so late as a quarter past seven, among the 'belle assemblιe' of Miss Seton's well-lighted rooms. Papa was still later, being ship-wrecked and obliged to return in a post chaise. However, when he came, he had the courage and taste to dance a quadrille with the handsomest girl in the room (Miss A. Neesham). She will be a splendid woman. We were very much tired, sang many times, singing nearly every night in the week — sitting up late till twelve o'clock is too much work for any but post horses! The Miss Setons' entertainment was a very pretty one and they were determined to give papa the seven sorts of cakes of which he had boasted.
We dined again at Norton Vicarage with Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Anstey; Mr. Anstey handed me down. When singing afterwards, he was quite delighted, but looking over me took the extraordinary liberty of stopping me in the recitation of 'Idol mio' to make me perform a running passage that my judgment had taught me to omit. Though far from pleased at such a display of taste on his part, I went back again. It was as much as I could do to be amiable. We were dreadfully tired and could not persuade Papa to come away until late.
Went to church at Norton, heard a very good sermon from the Vicar (Rev. Christopher Anstey) and heard a good organ presented by him. The old gentleman is worth two or three thousand a year.

Tuesday, 26th (25th). — A dinner party at home. Maria Edgeworth's 'dear little brother William', the Hoggs, Mr. Greaves, the Cartwrights, etc. Conversation pleasant. In the evening the old story of singing until we were tired.

24th (27th). — Dined at Mrs. Anstey's to meet the Archdeacon of Durham Dr. Prosser, his niece Miss Parry, the Fabers, Mr. Brewster, the Cartwrights and others, all literary characters. Enjoyed pleasant conversation. My throat not quite well, sang 'Mai amante ' — this pleased very much — immediately afterwards 'Lasciami' — this gave great delight to all but ourselves. The Archdeacon was extremely polite, though eighty years of age, and seemed much gratified by the music, saying it was 'charming' and 'wonderfully performed'. Papa sang some of his best songs and never sung them better.

Friday, 25th (28th). — Papa, Mama and I dined with the Neeshams, meeting the John Brewsters, Mr Brewster Senior, the Cartwrights and Miss Jean Seton, Miss Lumley and the family party who are really very fine young people. Papa at dinner looked at the birds whose eyes he had been accustomed to aim at when a boy — a Chinese paper. No doubt he must have had pleasing and melancholy feelings on finding himself in his father's house, the scene of his childhood (now the large Stockton vicarage), where every room and even the staircase reminded him of many things. Papa is going to erect a monumental tablet to his Father at Norton to express his filial feelings and to atone for neglect of executors.

Sunday, 27th (30th). — The Miss Whitfields dined with us. I had been lamenting the want of superstitions in the North, not having heard of one ghost, upon which Miss W. mentioned two or three.

Monday, 28th (31st). — Making preparations for the Ball, for which we did not feel any very great inclination. However, at 8½ past we went. Mama, and Papa much pleased with our appearance. The Ball considered a good one — the music alarmingly boisterous, notwithstanding which we continued to spend a pleasant evening, to be amused and to be very much fatigued — the boards without any spring. There was quite enough dancing and a sufficient proportion of 'beaux et belles'. Mr. Marshal Robinson and Colonel Grey were good stewards.

Tuesday, 29th (32nd). — Mama called on the Miss Setons, who said kind things about us. Heard a prodigious ghost-story.

Wednesday, 30th (33rd). — Sang several trios for our own amusement with George [her brother aged 19, shortly off to join his Regt. in India], who has arrived from London. Dined at Mrs. George Sutton's. Went to Greatham Hall.

Thursday, 1st Dec. (34th). — We met with the kindest reception notwithstanding our want of punctuality which generally occurs after a hunting morning. Met Miss Brewster and Miss Alison, two ancient ladies, and Mr. Robert Stapylton. I admire him much for his domestic and affectionate feelings.

Friday, 2nd Dec. (35th). — After breakfast attended morning prayers in the Chapel in the grounds. After some morning amusements, walked down the avenue to see the harriers cross the fields. Papa and George amongst the hunters. Called on Miss Brewster at the Vicarage — went to the 'Hospital of God', an establishment for thirteen old aged men, of very ancient institution, being founded in the thirteenth century. Old Captain Willoughby, wearing silver buckles on his shoes, is one of the inhabitants. In his desire to be decently buried, he has purchased his coffin and has it cased in matting and standing up by his bed-side. He told us that it was a 'good bit of wood'.
Old Mr. Brewster has been very kind to us, he showed us several prints and curious foreign editions of Ariosto and Don Quixote. He also presented us with some of his own composition.
Mrs. and Miss Hogg, Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright, the two Mr. Gibsons and the Brewsters form the party. Papa left dinner exhausted and went to sleep up stairs. Hunting all day, duck shooting all night and hunting all the morning again is too much for the best constitution at forty-six. In the evening, music — a duet on the harp and piano, spoiled by an ad libitum flute (Mr. Gibson). Back to Stockton 5 miles, later in the evening.

Sunday, 4th (37th). — Dined at Mrs. Hogg's — Mr. Bayly, Colonel Maddison and several pleasant people. Mrs. Hogg particularly kind — made us drink Cocoa after dinner. Singing in the evening. 'Fiero incontro' made a sensation. George played on the flute.

Tuesday, 6th (39th). — Our party. 'Supperizing'. The evening succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectation. The gentlemen were so happy in the supper-room after the ladies' retirement that Isabella and myself divided the drawing-room party and had a little Concert downstairs. Did not go to bed until past two.

Wednesday, 7th. — Another supper at the Raisbecks', fireworks, etc. Did not go to bed till past two. The gentlemen determined to finish all the wine and riotous to a degree!

Thursday, 8th (41st). — To Mrs. Faber's. I am so over exerted I long for home and quiet. I am glad Papa has given up Edinburgh. Dressed and set forth in a post-chaise for Long Newton. Dinner had waited three-quarters of an hour! Now it is known to all travellers who cannot be happy without a complete welcome, that there is something awkward in entering a room full of guests looking pale and head-achey, if your want of punctuality procures for you only the very qualified greeting of 'Better late than never'! But Mr. and Mrs. Faber's good breeding did not allow our consciences too much opportunity! Music in the evening. Glad to retire to our comfortable bedroom. Made George our prisoner by admitting him to our dressing-room, where he was destined to sleep, and locking him up! Wherever we go we are certain of finding the most delightful bedrooms, good fires and every comfort.
The Vicarage has been compared to a small convent on the Rhine. This is a very irregular building, and immediately behind the Church. Mr. Faber I need not say is a very clever man, for his works have established this long since. Mrs. Faber is the clever animated wife of a clever man, they have two sons and no daughters.

Friday, 9th (42nd). — A pretty breakfast table. A working morning and a very pleasant one, for Mrs. Faber read to us in the most entertaining manner — delightful to pass some time with such a woman. My poor Mamma suffering from a severe cold. The Frys and Suttons to dinner. Played a duet with Mr. Faber on his harpsicord, the subject his own. Before we said goodbye, we were highly gratified by hearing that an invitation had been accepted for Isabella, myself and brother in the summer months, a great pleasure in thinking of this compliment.

Saturday, l0th December (43rd). — A wretched day of packing and insufficient time for doing it. A damp misty day. At five packed ourselves into the carriage and rolled away from bonnie Stockton, drawn by our 'gallant greys' towards Witton Castle. As we approached this venerable place, we were put into some fear for our safety by a dense fog and the propensity of the post boy to drive off the road and on to the greensward. Finally, Papa alighted and performed as an admirable link boy.
Having discovered a gate we thought ourselves near the Castle. George having previously disturbed the evening carousal of some cottagers, who proved to be quiet, honest tenants of Colonel Chaytor instead of banditti, a mortification to our highly raised imaginations. After groping on through quagmire, we were stopped at another gate which was altogether peremptory in refusing to admit us. Papa made a voyage of discovery and in our hopeless condition, we watched the deviations of his lamp until we lost it altogether. We heard the solemn tone of the castle clock sounding out its eleven hours, provokingly near, yet no castle could we see. We heard a waterfall, the kicks of the poor horses and the surmise of the postboy that we had come the wrong road. Just as this woeful moment appeared a light running as fast as a will o' the wisp. This proved to be a running footman, and the gate gave its extorted consent to admit us; we moved on, delighted with the idea of going to bed, and on nearer approach we perceived turrets and towers, and soon we really found ourselves within the walls.
Witton Castle was built about 1410 — has since been much altered and enlarged. We found the good Colonel [Colonel William Chaytor, M.P. for Sunderland, afterwards created a Baronet; the original of Sir Pitt Crawley in Thackeray's Vanity Fair.] expecting us; tea and cold meat in the dining-room; furniture in the simple magnificent style. The Colonel is most animated and contrives to make his guests feel welcome, telling the oddest anecdotes of himself and others in his own manner, which is irresistably comic.

Sunday, 11th (44th). — The Keeps and Walls opposite our bedroom window very pretty, covered with ivy. Breakfast and introductions to Mrs. Chaytor and Miss Pearson. In the North breakfast is always pretty. Isabella to Church, Mamma and myself remaining at home. A dinner in the ancient style of English hospitality. Some interesting conversation with Mrs. Chaytor, who like most wives and mothers has some very natural and serious anxieties. I can readily sympathize with her. The eldest son, born to a great fortune, has returned from College to exhibit himself as a fox-hunter, an excellent shot and an epicure.

Monday, 12th (45th). — Prepared to go in the carriage with Mrs. Chaytor to Raby Castle, Lord Darlington's [3rd Earl; afterwards Duke of Cleveland], 8 miles from Witton. We approached the fine old pile through a handsome park, well stocked with deer. We entered through the postern gate and on to the grand entrance which admitted us under its heavy portcullis to an inner Court — across this was the Hall right into which we drove. This has a fine effect, you alight opposite the grand state drawing-room entrance in a Gothic Hall supported by several pillars. At the time of the Prince Regent's visit and upon similar grand occasions, this hall is covered with crimson cloth and brilliantly lighted. It must have a magnificent appearance. It is calculated that they can make up between 68 and 70 beds at Raby.
There is a fine painting of the marriage of St. Catherine by Corregio in the small drawing-room, and a landscape of Poussin's, the rest of the pictures with the exception of a few, are dogs and horses. I very much admired the state drawing-room, which is a circular room painted and fitted up in the superb castle style with great consistency. A Chinese dining-room was fitted up out of compliment to the Prince's taste. The staircase is very inferior. The Museum is the ancient Baronial Hall where 700 Barons feasted together. There ought to be a grand staircase leading up from the Hall to this handsome apartment, hung with ancient armour and family pictures. We walked round the Castle and were all very much pleased. A Mr. R. to dinner. A very handsome and peculiar dinner — Miss Pearson was sensible and agreeable. A Bacchanalian riot in the dining-room, audible in the library. The gentlemen were disagreeable and very fatiguing. I should like to have said what I thought of it.

Wednesday, 14th (47th). — A working morning. Col. Chaytor obliged to leave us. Took Mr. R. with him. Mr. R. Surtees to dinner.

Thursday, 15th (48th). — Departure from Witton Castle and its hospitable hostess, whom together with her friend Miss Pearson, we leave with regret. I have examined every dark place in the Castle without finding anything mysterious.
Papa and Mama went off immediately to see Dorothy [her 1x cousin, Dorothy Christopher, now Mrs. Marsden; dau. of John Thomas Christopher and Dorothy Surtees] and brought her back to see us. We were delighted with our first meeting. Mr. Marsden [Thomas Marsden, 1791-1857, Proctor of the Ecclesiastical Courts] with much politeness proposed our going into the Cathedral, the bells ringing for evening service. He also took us around to show us the windings of the river as well as the favourite point from which views of the City and Cathedral are generally taken. We like him very much. We afterwards returned to the Inn [Waterloo Inn & Posting House, Old Elvet; later became the Royal County Hotel].
Dorothy plays very delightfully. Mr. Marsden is also musical and George's violin gave great satisfaction. We returned to our Inn not before midnight.

Friday, 16th (49th). — After breakfast and packing, went to see Mrs. Tatham [Ann (Meaburn) Smith, 1758-1847, widow of her grandmother's 1x cousin Rev. Ralph Tatham, who had died at the beginning of the year], then the Cathedral, which is a very pleasing specimen of Saxon architecture. The end of the Choir Gothic. I shall not forget the effect of entering the upper end of the Nave whilst they were chanting in the Choir. The light and music seeming to separate it from the rest of the Cathedral and indeed from the rest of the world. 'The world shut out'. It was very heavenly music.
Went on to Redworth Hall. Found Mrs. Robert Surtees a most pleasing and well-bred woman. After dinner talked much of Dorothy, Danby and Georgiana Christopher [nieces & nephew of Robert Surtees]. Dorothy was one of the family here for 3 years and was liked and admired by all who knew her.

Saturday, 17th (50th). — Another northern breakfast — set off for Croft and on to Stockton to the Black Lion Hotel. After unpacking the carriage went to dine with Mrs. Whitfield and enjoyed our dinner.

Sunday, 18th (51st). — Dined with our considerate and good friend Miss Raisbeck. Returned in the Chaise. Papa very unwell.

Monday, 19th (52nd). — It is really distressing to see Stockton after the bank failures. It is really a tragedy — I wish we had not returned.

Farewell to Stockton. 12 o'c. 19th December 1825. Thirsk and on to Boroughbridge. Met Blackburn and the horse on the road between the stages owing to some mistake. Papa rode on his new favourite to Wetherby giving us Blackburn (the groom) in exchange, which we had not bargained for.

Wetherby. Stopped for night. Had a hot supper and a most ridiculous waiter full of bends and bows. Papa recovered about 9 p.m. — found a piano.

The party, travelling on south by the Great North Road, reached home on 23 Dec 1825.

The diary is reproduced from 'The Family of Christopher and some others' , by Alfred Charles (Seton) Christopher (privately published; Exeter: Wm Pollard & Co, 1933). Its present whereabouts are not known.

The writer, Margaret Ashington Christopher, was born in Stepney on 20 Sep 1801, eldest of the 14 children of George Christopher (1779-1861), wine merchant, and his wife Isabella Frances Ashington (1781-1836). Four years after the tour of Co. Durham, on 14 May 1829, she married Dr John Bell, an army surgeon like her brother George. Her husband died on 20 Apr 1836 at Templemore, Co. Limerick, while serving with his regiment. There seem to have been no children. Little is known of Margaret after her husband's death, and she has not been traced in the 1841 or 1851 England census. The family tree done by her father in 1853 notes that she was then living at Heidelberg. In Apr 1861 she was back with her father and her sister Isabella at the family home, Morton House, in Chiswick Mall. She died there on 04 Oct 1864, aged 63, and was buried in the Christopher family vault at St Nicholas' church, Chiswick.

Linked toGeorge Christopher; Margaret Ashington Christopher

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