Castles n stuff ganseys Genealogy History

Desperately Seeking J. Slade.

I’m not sure what it is about graffiti that I love so much.

Here’s some photos we took at Brougham Castle, Cumbria, when we went up to Woolfest.

Graffiti was so stylish in the 19thC....
Graffiti was so stylish in the 19thC....

And what about this?

Did this man do gravestones as a day job?
Did this man do gravestones as a day job?

And rather incredibly, from a sheltered spot, in pencil from almost exactly 110 years ago:

Pencil marks under window lintel
Pencil marks under window lintel

The genealogist in me wants to look for ‘J. Slade’. Could he be the John Slade, born Whitehaven, Cumberland in 1823?  According to the 1881 Census, he was a ship’s carpenter (there’s a bloke who could carve accurately!) Or maybe his brother, James Slade, born Whitehaven, 1829, according to 1871 Census, ‘hosier and draper’..? Surely not their brother, Joseph Slade, born 1825, who according to the 1871 Census, was the rather grandly titled “Superintendent Circulation Dept, General Post Office”..?  Nah.  It’s not the sock selling J Slade or the postal one.  Got to be ship’s carpenter!

These are the J Slades I can find for Cumberland on the IGI for a date that looks about right (mid 19thC) for that graffiti.  Who knows!  I have researched many people – some of whom have had hundreds of acres, even owned entire villages – and not had a monument, gravestone, nothing left behind to say they ever lived.  These olden day Banksies – they have left their mark.

And then there is ‘W. Waterson’.  Again, working on the assumption he is mid 19thC and Cumbrian (and he could be earlier, and from anywhere), the IGI gives us two William Watersons. One born Whitehaven, in 1828. T’other born Carlisle, 1834.  According to the 1851 Census, the first was a coal miner. On the same Census, the second is a ‘Mariner’s son’. In 1841, I found him as a child with his parents and father was also William, and still a mariner, so it is possible the graffiti is his, also.  I can’t find the second William Waterson in subsequent Censuses – could be he follwoed his dad’s trade and went to sea. If my money was anywhere – it would be on the mariner or son.

As for Pencilwoman, Ada Graves, 1899… working on the assumption you might be quite young to want to have a good old vandalise… I looked for Cumbrian Ada Graves assuming it was a maiden name, around the 1870s. I found one in the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, living at Rickergate, Carlisle with her father, William Graves, a stone quarry owner (makes you wonder what her interest was in that pile of old stones, eh!) Ada would have been 21 in 1899, when the graffiti was written. According to the 1901 Census, Ada was born in Lazonby. In the 1891 and 1901 Census she was motherless but in 1881, her father was still in Lazonby, a ‘farmer and stone merchant’ and Ada’s mother, Annie, was still alive. We can’t be sure if she is our lady of the pencil graffiti but it is an intriguing possibility.

The gansey equivalent of carving a name is, of course, this:

Name Writ In Wool

Gansey of Pinknesss tag.
Gansey of Pinkness's 'tag'.

Re. leaving a mark…

This weekend we spent Saturday at Haworth. (Or ‘Bronte Land’ to give it its Tourist Board title).  My eldest suggested we should sex up the Brontes by making a video game (“How Many Siblings Can You Infect With TB Before Dying Yourself….”)  Can you tell he has a lot of siblings?

I never get bored of that little house, and the fascinating (to me) exhibits which some prat in the early 20thC described as a heap of ‘junk’. But in a sense the Brontes are amongst the early ‘clebs’ of Eng Lit.  Byron woke up to find himself famous, the day after he published ‘Childe Harold’.  They didn’t wake up to find themselves anything much, except for Charlotte, who outlived them all and did live long enough to realise her fame.

I never get bored of Haworth, never will. We went quite late in the afternoon, on impulse (we had meant to go to Wetherby but for some reason decided to detour to Haworth instead).  The old West Riding has a grim sort of grandeur. I have no pics for you as we go so often we forgot the camera.

The 9 year old was deeply impressed by the current exhibition about Branwell,  ‘Sex, Drugs and Literature’ – that made him think literature may even be a little bit cool. Well done, Branwell, mate.   I have always felt an affinity for poor Branwell.  Not just because of his spectacular failure in life (going to London to sign up at the Royal Academy but getting sidetracked in Holborn by sawdust n spit pubs, bare knuckle fighting, boozing, and betting always seemed perfectly understandable to me). But also as he died on Sunday Sept 24th, 1848. And I was born on a Sunday September 24th. Although not quite 1848. I have been distracted myself  by similar before now. It is easily done.

Branwell was also up in Cumbria for a time and I have chased his putative offspring in the 1841 Census which was interesting. It is an annoying fact of life that anyone you really want to track down in the 19thC will ONLY be on the 1841 Census (or miss being on it by a week). And that is the rubbish census that just tells you if they’re born in county, Y or N.



Writer, crafter, textile historian, machine knitter, handspinner and dyer.

2 replies on “Desperately Seeking J. Slade.”

It makes you wonder whether some of the Graffiti from our era would survive a few hundred years into the future! I don’t think they’d understand some of the tags though, they’re not the sort of thing you can easily search a census for!


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