Jane — A Liberal Lady of Settle

Catherine Vaughan-Williams
 JOURNAL 
 2022 
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

A small, dark red book, recently donated to the Museum of North Craven Life, was found to be an account of day-to-day expenses spanning some twenty years. The fly leaf is inscribed in a well-formed hand, “Jane Creighton 1842” (Fig 1); the first entry, on January 17th 1842, recorded the cost, of one shilling, of the book itself.

But who was Jane Creighton? Close examination of the nature of her expenditure and the complexities of her family relationships have revealed an independent woman of comfortable means. What follows summarises some of the findings of this on-going study.

In June 1841 Jane, in her early thirties, was living in Settle with John Moffat, an erstwhile partner in the Craven Bank, and his wife Mary [1]. When John Moffat died in December that year, he left £2000 (about £250,000 today) and his estate at Monk Coniston to his “cousin Jane Creighton now living with me” [2,3]. Other properties were to pass to her after his wife’s death. Jane had had expectations – she now had financial security and independence.

Also with the Moffats in 1841 was 85-year-old John Armstrong who proved to be Jane’s grandfather and John Moffat’s uncle [4]. He had been a dyer in Kendal and trustee for the Presbyterian Chapel where, in November 1805, his daughter, Jane, married James Creighton, probably a tailor [5,6]. Elizabeth Creighton arrived a year later but cannot be traced further [7]. Scarcely two years on, James, only 25 years old, died [8]; Jane was born a fortnight later, on February 2nd 1809, and baptised on April 2nd [9].

When and why the family moved to Settle is uncertain but John Armstrong was established in the town by 1812 [10]. His son, classical assistant at Giggleswick school in 1806 and Usher in 1810, died there in 1814 [11,12]. Shortly afterwards, tragedy struck the family again, firstly with the death of the elder Jane Creighton and, five months later, of her mother, Elizabeth Armstrong [13,14]. Both were buried with John Jr. at St Alkelda’s.

The orphaned, six-year-old Jane and her bereaved grandfather were, possibly, already living with John Moffat when, in 1817, he married Mary, daughter of the late Settle surgeon, James Hall, and Jane acquired a mother figure and probably a more homely abode [15].

Her early years are undocumented. As with most middle-class girls, her schooling was probably at home. Encouraged by John Moffat, as reflected in his bequest to her of his library, prints and engravings and writing desk, Jane became a well-educated woman with the accomplishments expected of a lady [16].

After John Moffat’s death, she continued to live with Mary Moffat, each November contributing £26 towards her keep. Initially, her greatest expenditure was on highly fashionable, fine clothes such as alpaca and balzarine dresses, or materials to be made up by local dressmakers, and on accoutrements - an ottoman scarf, velvet bonnet, silk parasol. More modest expenditure was on bonnet ribbons, material for her own sewing of undergarments and laces for her stays. Her watch and jewellery often required repair.

Her spending was not entirely self-indulgent. Innumerable, small monetary gifts - “2d to a boy”,“2s to a blind woman”, the cost of a child’s visit to the seaside, half a year’s schooling for two children - in addition to annual subscriptions “to the poor” and to the Blanket Club were, perhaps, a continuation of an earlier lifestyle supported by “Uncle Moffat”. Later, as her income increased, so did her generosity.

Mary Moffat died in Nov 1846. Her will enabled Jane to rent her house and furniture for two years before they were sold [17]. This Jane did, for £48 p.a. She also acquired John Moffat’s Settle properties at this time and her accounts began to reflect her new responsibilities, from payment of property tax and costs associated with tenancies or caretaking of empty houses, to tradesmen’s bills for repairs and wages for her two servants. Keeping up with the times, in September 1854, she even bought a washing machine.

Her Coniston property, Bankground, comprised farm, tannery and cottages on the shore of the lake (Fig 2) and several acres on Grisedale High Moor, all tenanted. Jane’s first, arduous journey to Bankground, by coach and boat, was in July 1842 (Fig 3). Thereafter, she reviewed her Coniston property each summer, lodging for a month at the farm or the Waterhead Inn, and building friendships with her neighbours, notably the Misses Beever, well-known botanists, and Miss Harriet Rigbye, an accomplished landscape painter, later close friends of Ruskin [18].

In 1848, Jane’s newly found affluence enabled two major investments – the purchase of Moffat’s house, for £650, and the building of a grand villa, Lane Head, at Monk Coniston (Fig 4), reputedly for Dr Robert Bywater, known to Jane for many years [19,20]. Although noting payment of income tax (at 7d in the pound), income from her properties was recorded elsewhere.

Above all, Jane’s accounts reveal a woman with a love of life, active and curious about all around her. She read widely, subscribing to several news and current affairs publications and to the town’s library. She bought numerous books on subjects as diverse as European literature, architecture, the Crimean war, and life in contemporary Russia as well as contemporary novels [21].

Love of the arts led her to The London Exhibition in 1851 and the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester in 1857; she bought (?commissioned) a painting of Bankground from the renowned landscape artist, Lindsey Aspland, and frequently added to her collection of engravings and prints. When photography arrived, she bought a stereoscope and stereoscopic photographs of Giggleswick school and even commissioned a photograph of her house. After visiting relatives in Scotland, she had photographs sent to her from Dumfries – possibly portraits.

Musical appreciation was not lacking. She bought copious music to play on her piano and attended a variety of concerts in Settle and beyond. In 1856, she spent a month in York, expressly to hear the last concert given by Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale”, one of the greatest sopranos of the day [22]. On a lighter note, she ensured she had tickets when a circus visited and never missed the Settle Fair [23].

Travels, by coach and later by train, took her around Britain, visiting friends and relatives. Annual visits were made to her Uncle William Armstrong in Manchester, to her great aunt, Jane Waugh and great uncle, James Armstrong, in Canonbie, and, of course, Monk Coniston. From time to time she visited ‘cousins’ (Moffat nieces and nephews) in Cockermouth, Alnwick and Harewood, and friends in Shropshire, Leamington, Leeds and Ackworth.

She climbed Lakeland fells, explored Yorkshire dales and caves, the ruins of Bolton Abbey and the cities of Chester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. Many of these visits were combined with serious shopping – more fine clothes and jewellery, silver, even furniture, and smaller additions to her home. In between, there were many other shopping expeditions to Skipton and Leeds. In 1849 she travelled all the way to Paris where she spent a month sightseeing with recently married friends, the Hepworths of Ackworth.

At home, her social circle, of similarly educated and financially privileged families, included neighbours, Giles and Mary Redmayne, the Birkbecks and Stansfields and, further afield, visits requiring hire of fly, phaeton or carriage, the Prestons at Mearbeck, the Geldards at Cappleside, the Redmaynes at Taitlands in Stainforth and the Misses Edmondson of Graysgarth.

Reciprocal visits would explain purchases, catalogued in startling detail after 1858, of large quantities of food, a “quart of brandy” on one occasion and “a gallon of gin and half gallon of whisky” on another– she had once subscribed to the Temperance Society! On payment of a shilling for the key, she took guests to the pleasure grounds on Castleberg, the crag above the town, where she may well have played as a child, or even up the path to its summit to enjoy the fine views [24]. To friends and family further afield she wrote numerous letters, as evidenced by frequent purchases of writing paper, letter stamps and sealing wax.

A keen gardener, she grew fruit and vegetables, albeit helped by a gardener who brought in “sweepings from the road” as fertiliser or loads of bones for the vinery. She bought powder and shot, presumably for the gardener’s use, to control pests and “drugs to kill caterpillars”. Her efforts were rewarded by many successful entries at the Horicultural Society’s shows. She also kept poultry, bred golden pheasants and frequented the North Craven Agricultural show.

Jane clearly enjoyed life to the full but, socially aware and no doubt appreciative of how different her life might have been without John Moffat and all he stood for, her benevolence seems to have been unlimited. She responded to many appeals for funds - for a new hearse, church organ and town clock in Settle, for a new parsonage at Chapel-le-Dale, for a new bridge at Cappleside, for the Irish stricken by the potato famine – and continued to help the disadvantaged - “a child’s clothes and shoes”, “a shilling to Tibby’s blind grandson”, for “a school treat”. When the Royal Artillery, returning from Crimea, was stationed in Settle, she treated them to bread, cheese and beer. The extraordinarily named Royal Albert Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles and the Royal Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitutes were among many charities to which she lent her support, as was the Yorkshire Society for the Deaf and Dumb. She supported many religious societies and the church at Giggleswick and at Settle, having a pew at each, and contributed to the Settle organist’s salary.

A strong belief in the value of education is reflected in Jane’s annual subscriptions to Settle’s schools, for girls and for infants as well as for boys, and towards the building of new schools at Chapel-le-Dale and at Holme Coutram, near Wigton (which she later visited) and she paid for books and fireworks for the boys at Giggleswick school where the head master, Dr Butterton and his family were close friends.

Her last entry, on November 25th 1862, filled the book, but Jane lived for a further fifteen years, her life probably continuing in similar manner. Her generosity never waned – after funding further buildings at Lane Head in 1866 she provided a grand “topping off” supper for the work force and newspapers reported her continued support of a variety of charities. But, strangely, her will, drawn up 1871, made no charitable bequests [25,26]. Instead, she bequeathed almost her entire estate, valued at £16,000 (approx. £1.4 million today), to the Rev. Starkie whom she had probably befriended when he arrived in Stainforth as a curate in 1865; they were clearly firm friends [27].

Jane died on August 9th 1877 and was buried alongside her Armstrong family at St Alkelda’s. Her grave is marked with a simple stone which bears the inscription:

THIS HEADSTONE IS ERECTED
BY THE REV. H. A. STARKIE,
AS A TOKEN OF HIS ESTEEM.

References

  1. 1841Census, HO107, 1320, 23, 6.
  2. Death Certificate.
  3. Public Records Office 1842, PROB 11/1964.
  4. Canonbie Parish Records.
  5. Lancaster Gazette, December 27 1817.
  6. Monthly Magazine, March 1st 1809, vol 27, p204. - death of Mr James Creighton of Kendal age 25; Lancaster Gazette, January 21 1809 - death of John Creighton tailor of Kendal, age 25, each flanked by identical reports.
  7. Presbyterian Meeting Records, E&W Non-conformist Records, RG4, 2896.
  8. Ibid: Burial January 19th 1809.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Settle Land Tax Assessments 1812, West Yorkshire Archive Service.
  11. Bell, Edward Allen, 1912, A History of Giggleswick School 1499-1912, Leeds, Richard Jackson.
  12. January 28th 1814, MI.
  13. June 28th 1815, MI.
  14. November 2nd 1815, MI.
  15. Lancaster Gazette, December 27 1817.
  16. Jane Austen, 1813, Pride and Prejudice: “music, singing, dancing, languages”, “something in her air and manner of walking, tone of voice …”. London, T.Egerton.
  17. Borthwick Institute for Archives, BIA17184266.
  18. Westmorland Gazette, 29 September 1821, 20 August 1821.
  19. Collingwood, W G, 1897, Book of Coniston, Kendal, Titus Wilson.
  20. Indenture December 16th 1848, in private hands.
  21. W G Collingwood, op cit.
  22. Henry Hallam 1839, Introduction to the Literature of Europe during the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries, John Murray, London.
  23. Yorkshire Herald, April 12th 1856.
  24. Mike Dash, Pablo Fanque’s Fair, Smithsonian Magazine, September 8th 2011; Gloria Lotha 2019, History of Circuses, Wild Animal Acts, van Amburgh, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021.
  25. Speight, Harry (1892), The Craven and North West Yorkshire Highlands, Elliot Stock, London.
  26. Ulverston Mirror, March 24th 1866.
  27. National Probate Office, 1918, folio 1777.

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