Railway Staff at Kirkby Stephen in 1871
John Close - the self-styled 'Poet Close' - published books of articles and poetry, and lived in Kirkby Stephen at a house he named Poet’s Hall. After the station opened in 1861 he spent his time there waylaying passengers to buy his books and talking with staff. In the summer, Poet Close could be found at Bowness-on-Windermere where he persuaded tourists to purchase his wares. John’s poetry has not been credited with other great Lakeland Poets, seen by critics as doggerel. But his works are very useful in adding some colour to the local history of the period. This drawing of Kirkby Stephen Station (East) with staff was published in 1871 (drawn c1870) in Poet Close’s Grand Christmas Book priced at 3s.6d.
An attempt has been made to identify these early railway officials using the 1871 Census and other records..
- Cameron - This would appear to be the dress of a clerk however, there is no clerk named Cameron listed in the vicinity in 1871.
There are two other Cameron railway workers.
John Cameron Engine Driver b. 1821 Tansley, Scotland living in Stockton, Durham with his wife Mary and children Catherin, John and James, later children Jessie and Mary Ann. Mary is a widow in 1881.
Joseph Cameron Railway Fireman b. 1850 Kirkby Stephen son of a Cattle Dealer who is often away, Joseph later becomes an auctioneer and marries Jane from Kirkby Stephen.
- Murray – Is this David Murray, Engine Fitter b. 1825 Hutton, Durham, wife Hannah, children Joseph, Dinah and Thomas living in Middlesborough in 1871?
- Herd – Would appear to be a Porter, unidentified
- Moorhouse – Edward Moorhouse Porter b. 1813 Kirkby Stephen wife Margaret from Kirkby Stephen, children Mary, Jane, Ann and Margaret. Before being employed at the station Edward was a carrier. In 1881 Edward was Railway Foreman Porter but sadly Margaret had died.
- Taylor – Thomas Taylor b. 1832 Crackenthorpe wife Margaret from Kirkby Stephen children William and Robert. Thomas went on to be Sergeant of Police on the Railway and son Robert had a business mending sewing machines.
- Dobson – Benjamin Dobson Engine Driver b.1831 Aycliffe, Durham wife Jane children Alice, Benjamin, Jane and Mary. Benjamin lived and worked out of Kirkby Stephen.
- Braithwaite – John Winstell Braithwaite Booking Clerk b.1850 Kirkby Stephen and wife Sarah children Robert W, Elizabeth J, Margaret, Mary E, Isaac B, George E, Harriet A, John Wilfred, Harold, Edith Sarah, Mabel, Dora Gladys and Florence May. John’s father Robert was a Stonemason in Kirkby Stephen.
John became postmaster, bookseller and stationer and is remembered for writing Braithwaite’s Guides to Kirkby Stephen from 1884 as well as his interest in geology.
- Mr. Hogg – William Hogg, Stationmaster b.1832 West Auckland, Durham wife Sarah Annie Walker children Ada, Albert T, Charles W, Francis H and Ludy D.
Before becoming Stationmaster in Kirkby Stephen William was a Railway Guard working out of Barnard Castle where he met Sarah the daughter of a Draper.ii
William Hogg was appointed Deacon of the Congregational Church, Kirkby Stephen a ‘tower of strength for many years’ and his son Albert T became Rev. Hogg at Clifton Downs, Bristoliii
- Askew – Lancelot Askew, Booking Clerk b.1830 Kendal wife Mary children John, Mary and George.
Before this drawing was published Lancelot had already taken up his new position at Stationmaster at Appleby where he lived retiring in Clifford Street, eldest son John has a Stationer business. Interestingly, Lancelot son of a Shoemaker was a Schoolmaster in Kirkby Stephen where he met his wife before joining the railway.
- Slee – John Slee Telegraph Clerk b.1853 Kirkby Stephen had sadly died before this drawing was published having been buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery June 1870. It would appear that his brother Richard b.1856 Kirkby Stephen took up his position as Telegraph Clerk undoubtedly to help their mother already a widow, father Richard having been buried 1855.
To make this story even more tragic, son Richard dies March 1882 aged 26 years.iv
- Davison – Thomas Davidson Railway Clerk b.1854 Darlington lodges with George Hughes, a fellow Railway Clerk and his mother Jane Hughes.
- Hughes – George Soulby Hughes, Railway Clerk b. 1854 Barnard Castle lives in Kirkby Stephen with his widowed mother Jane from Darlington and lodger Thomas Davidson above. George’s father John William Hughes was a Platelayer from Barnard Castle.
- Dixon – Isaac B Dixon Railway Clerk b. 1848 Kirkby Stephen. Father James is a Wheelwright from Sedbergh and mother Elizabeth from Kirkby Stephen.
- Brunskill – John Brunskill, Railway Staff Porter b.1831 Brough. His brother William is a bus proprietor and brother Thomas, a Painter and Gilder. Father Jonathan had been a Plumber, Glazier and Painter.
John continues as a Railway Foreman Porter whilst his brother Thomas’ Painting and Decorating business employs many other family members including brother William.
- Poet Close – John Close b.1816 Gunnerside, Yorkshire wife Eliza (Early) children Jarvis William, Elizabeth, charles Musgrave,Edward Horatio and Henry Cecil. Son of a Butcher, Jarvis Close and Elizabeth (Harker) he trained and worked as a butcher in Kirkby Stephen with his father before starting his printing business in approx.1846. At the age of 16 John believed he had a talent for poetry and started printing fly-sheets of his verses which he sold at the markets, later progressing to books. John died aged 75 in 1891 and is buried in Kirkby Stephen Cemetery.
(i) British Census records 1851-1901, 1871 for the drawing.
(ii) Johnathan Walker dies 11 August 1862 aged 86 late of Barnard Castle
(iii) History of the Dales Congregational Churches by Thos. Whitehead
(iv) Wesleyan Burials 1843-1900