John Close was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Gunnerside, Yorkshire just over the Swaledale border, on 11 August 1816, parents Jarvis Close and Elizabeth Harker.
John worked with his father learning butchery whilst he wrote poetry in his spare time. At the age of 16 John published fly-sheets of his verses to sell in markets and obviously encouraged went on to write more epic works.
The first detailed census of 1841 records John in Kirkby Stephen living with his parents and younger sister by 3 years, Ann.
In 1842 aged 26 John published The Book of the Chronicles: Winter Evening Tales of Westmorland which contains works about the surrounding area and includes his poem Here’s Kirkby Stephen – “Little-Town”.
John then styles himself “Poet Close” and establishes his printing business at his house and shop “Poet’s Hall”, situated in what is now south High Street. His prolific publications included his annual "Christmas Book". In addition to his verses and stories which reviewed the year's events in the district and therefore contain much biographical information on the inhabitants of the district as well as on his own family and relations.
When the Kirkby Stephen East Station opened in 1861 Poet Close spent hours at the station selling his books to passengers as they embarked or changed trains and in the summer John sets up his stall at Lake Windermere boat landing stage where he writes of their local colour and gentry capturing the early tourists.
Not everyone thought John’s verses were appropriate and in 1859 he was taken to court in Liverpool for libel concerning remarks made about a lady of the Kirkby Stephen area resulting in £300 damages being awarded against him. Poet Close would flatter the gentry and aristocracy receiving patronage for his trouble. Lords Lonsdale and Carlisle used their influence to secure him a Civil List Pension from the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston in 1860 but when it was discovered that his ‘poetry’ was not up to the standard of other Lakeland Poets, the pension was stopped. He was however given £100 compensation from the Royal Bounty by Lord Palmerston. After this John wrote continually of his pension injustice enlisting and printing various letters of support.
John and his wife Eliza Early were married in 1858 at Brough-under-Stainmore a had three sons Charles Musgrave, Edward Horatio and Henry Cecil and one daughter Elizabeth.
Poet John Close died 15 February 1891 and is buried at grave C423 Kirkby Stephen Cemetery.
For further Close family information see www.closeancestry.com