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Samuel Weddell 1819 - 1879

Samuel was another of our wealthier gardeners, variously earning a living as drawing master, proprietor of a private boarding school, maltster and trader in spirits. The Weddells had their garden for at least thirty years and after Samuel's death his widow Mary Ann kept it on in her own right. She is the only 19th century female tenant we have so far found.

Samuel is born in 1820 in Tooting, on what was then the outskirts of London, the elder son of John Weddell, a gentleman farmer, and his wife Mary. Samuel's younger brother, John, settles in Lillington, Warwickshire and the family seems to have strong links with the Midlands.


We do not know where Samuel studied art, or indeed anything much about his early years. In the 1841 census we find him in Newark-upon-Trent working as a maltster and corn broker. Three months later, on 21 July, he marries Mary Ann Curtis in nearby Norwell. The early years of the couple's marriage are marked by tragedy, with the loss of their first two children in infancy. Perhaps the move to Stamford in 1845 is the chance to make a new start. Samuel's opening of a small, private school in Broad Street coincides with the safe arrival of son Samuel junior, followed by seven siblings, six of whom also survive into adulthood. Investigating the family's history is complicated by the fact that all five of their daughters have variants on the names Mary and Elizabeth. 

Samuel's first advertisement in the Mercury is uncharacteristically brief - he is probably having to keep costs down at the start of this venture. 



            - By Mr WEDDELL


Board and English Instruction: £18.0s p a

Daily ditto and ditto          £10.0s

Ditto pupils                   £ 0.15 p qtr

Drawing                        £ 0.10 ditto

     NB References of high character(1)

Within six months many flourishes have been added to the curriculum; Latin, French and dancing are available for additional fees and parents are advised that 'The Comparative Multiplication Tables by Mr W are now ready and may be had of the publisher, Mr T B Sharpe, 16 Skinner Street, Snowhill, London, and of all respectable booksellers. Price One Penny.'(1) 

The following year Samuel begins offering private lessons in oils, and in 1847 he emphasises not only his kind and positive educational methods but also his availability to teach the new art technique of Persian painting:


BROAD-STREET ACADEMY, STAMFORD. MR WEDDELL respectfully informs his friends and the public that Scholastic Duty will be resumed in his Establishment on July 22nd. It is Mr W's study to lead his Pupils to feel an interest in learning, its utility being recommended by kind treatment, and every solicitude is manifested to combine Scholastic advantages with the comforts of home. Mr W still continues his semi-annual distribution of Prizes, many of which were awarded during the past Half-year, as the emulation excited in his Pupils by them induces them to learn without the use of harsh or compulsory measures.


PERSIAN PAINTING. A previous knowledge of Drawing not absolutely requisite to enable any one to study this new and easy style of Painting. Mr Weddell will be happy, during the hours not appointed to Scholastic Duty, to give Instruction in it, and undertakes to teach any one the process in Three Lessons of one hour each. Terms, One Guinea.'(1)

Broad Street, Stamford

Anyone could set up a school in Victorian England - no qualifications were needed and there was no regulation. Stamford alone had 28 small, private 'academies' in 1846. 

In his Travels Through England in 1782, German traveller Karl Phillip Moritz described a learning academy similar in many respects to Samuel's:

'I have seen the regulation of one seminary of learning, here called an academy. Of these places of education, there is a prodigious number in London, though, notwithstanding their pompous names, they are in reality nothing more than small schools set up by private persons, for children and young people.

[I became] acquainted with a Dr G – who keeps an academy for the education of twelve young people, which number is never exceeded, and the same plan has been adopted and followed by many others, both here and elsewhere.'

Whilst Samuel's point of difference is his art classes, his fees are unusually low. For example, the Rev George Austen, father of novelist Jane, ran a small boarding school to augment his clerical income, charging £35 per boarder per term. Samuel's fees probably reflect his lack of a university education and we can assume that the students' food and accommodation is of the plainest.

Victorian schoolmaster
The Victorian schoolmaster

Samuel seems to make at least a reasonable living from the school, extending its curriculum over the following few years. In 1850 he advertises: 

'THE course of Instruction pursued in this Establishment is the Analytical and Synthetical, with brief explanatory lectures, and comprises Ancient and Modern History, Writing Plain and Ornamental, Geography illustrated by large Maps, Arithmetic, Mental Calculations, Invoices, English Grammar and Composition, Construction of Maps, Use of the Globes, Mensuration, Practical Land-surveying, Algebra, Logarithms, Drawing both Architectural and from Nature, Classics, &c. Every attention is given to the Commercial Department so as to prepare youth for the pursuits of business. French by Mons Lasegue, author of some well known Educational Works.'(1)

By 1851 the family is living separate to the school's Broad Street premises, Samuel having purchased No 6 Rock Terrace from Miss Charlotte Twopenny, where he holds art classes for ladies on Tuesday afternoons and gentlemen on Thursday evenings. The media include chalk, pencil, water colours and oils using 'models, copies and nature.' Given the Victorian middle classes' interest in drawing and painting this is probably an increasingly profitable sideline for Samuel. In the 1851 census we also learn that eldest son, Samuel junior, is staying or possibly even living with his paternal grandmother and uncle in Lillington, Warwickshire.


A few months later on 12 December Samuel (listed not as schoolmaster, but gentleman) is elected assessor for All Saints Ward 'in the room of the late Mr Thomas Pilkington; and Mr John Burton of Adelaide Street, was appointed deputy, to act in case of illness of Mr Weddell.' (1)

Rock Terrace was built in 1841 by Richard Newcomb, a self-made man from Grantham who moved to Stamford, bought the Mercury, was elected mayor and set about transforming the previously run-down Scotgate with his building projects. Rock Terrace, comprising ten imposing houses, sat opposite Newcomb's own residence, Rock House. 


Rock Terrace, Scotgate, Stamford
Rock Terrace, Scotgate (2)

Perhaps the move to Rock Terrace puts more financial pressure on Samuel than he had bargained for, as in January 1853 he sets off on a money-making venture to Australia. Samuel is to be gone for more than a year, leaving Mary Ann at home with a baby, five older children and no certainty she will ever see him again. We first learn of Samuel's travels from the Mercury of 21 January 1853:


'[It is]a few days since Mr Weddell left this place with a cargo of merchandise of various descriptions (principally boots and shoes), by disposing of which, it is said, he means to realise a handsome sum in Australia.'(1)

Unassisted passengers (those who were not emigrating and paid full price for their fare) did not have to be logged by the ship's captain and Samuel's records of passage have not been found. That August we learn letters confirming safe arrival have been received from Samuel and from the son of William Scholes, landlord of the Black Swan Inn, Broad Street, who travelled together, and on 10 February 1854 the Mercury publishes the following: 


A letter has just been received from Mr E Burbank, formerly a clerk in the Stamford, Spalding, and Boston Bank at Stamford, who emigrated to Australia in August, 1852. It is dated "Back Creek, Victoria, Oct 6, 1853." He says, " We have seen a good many ups and downs since landing in this colony, but now hope to get settled. I have bought about 22 acres of land on the river Coliban, within two miles of here: it is as pretty a place as any one could desire to possess. It was a very lucky purchase for me. I am busy preparing the ground for receiving about 3,000 cabbage plants, and intend having 6,000 this season; which, with the produce of other seeds, will realise a good deal of money as prices range now. Cabbages are sold at 2s 6d each at the diggings, and other vegetables in proportion. Close by the river is a rock, a most romantic place, commanding a fine view: upon the side of this rock I shall build a house, so as to be ready for us next winter.


I have heard from Mr Jas Bullimore: he has bought a section (80 acres) of land near Adelaide: both he and his wife write in good spirits. I have seen Mr Weddell, from Stamford: he was at Melbourne: he has been half over the colony: he looks well, but the Stamfordians would scarcely know him, for he follows the fashion sporting an immense beard and moustache. He and Wm Roberts (son of Mrs Roberts, of Scotgate, Stamford) called at my place yesterday, on their way to the diggings: they are in partnership in the grog trade with Geo Simpson (son of Mrs Simpson, of the Coach and Horses inn, St Martin's, Stamford), and young Scoles (son of Mr Wm Scoles, of the Black Swan inn, Broad-street, Stamford) cooks for them."'(1)


The city of Melbourne, drawn by Nathaniel Whittock from official surveys and from sketches taken in 1854 by G Teale Esqr of Melbourne, when Samuel himself was there.

'Grog' was a naval term originally referring to a rum and water mixture. In the Australian context it was used to describe diluted, adulterated and sub-standard rum. In the early decades of the Australian colonies 'grog' was often the only alcoholic beverage available to the working classes. Eventually in Australia the word 'grog' came to be used as a slang term for any alcoholic drink.

Samuel seems to have returned by the late summer of 1854, and presumably in profit, for we find the family and re-opened school moving to more prestigious premises on Stamford High Street. That September Mary Ann, listed as of St John's ward, pays a subscription of £1.10s towards the creation of the new town cemetery. Two years later the Mercury reports: 'Mr Weddell, schoolmaster, of Stamford, has undertaken to give a gratuitous lecture this evening to working men on Australia and Australian life. Mr W has had practical experiences of the colony, and will no doubt relate some very fascinating reminiscences.'(1) Whether he still has the immense beard and moustache we do not know.  

In 1864 Samuel is involved in another cultural activity; one which results in a blunt ticking-off from the organisers:

'The Penny Readings at the Assembly-room, Stamford, again drew an immense audience on Friday evening last. Mr Weddell was the first to commence with sketches of some the most humourous incidents in Pickwick: he was followed by the Rev G H Hedges, who selected for his portion of the entertainment Tennyson’s Death of Arthur; and the series was wound up by Mr D E Simpson with extracts from Jacob Faithful, which he gave with appropriate animation. The usual performances by Mr Layton and others varied the amusement. To continue the popularity of these readings the managers must stipulate for judicious brevity on the part of the readers. The gentlemen themselves are often warm upon their topic, and they are apt to think that every one else is as deeply interested in it; but half audience usually consists of young people, who become impatient as

Mr. Pickwick

Watercolour of Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers by 'Kyd' circa 1889

the time is prolonged, and the chairman sometimes finds it difficult to keep them in order.' Nottingham Journal 20 February 1864(1)



Thieves and Swindlers


In 1855 we find the first of several references to the Weddell's Waterfurlong Garden when a Hugh Fox is convicted of stealing gooseberries from it. Nine years later another theft is reported: 'One night last week the gardens of Mr Jones, dentist, and Mr Weddell, schoolmaster, off the Tinwell Road, were robbed of a quantity of peas and other fruit, and some cabbages were wilfully destroyed.' Stamford Mercury 2 September 1864(1).

The mid 1860s sees the Weddell family involved in a number of legal cases. In January 1863 son John appears as a witness in an (unsuccessful) prosecution for theft when two books are stolen from his employer, Richard Newcomb, who owns a book shop in Stamford 

High Street. The case had been investigated by another of our gardeners, Sergt John Harrison. The following January Samuel serves as foreman of the jury following the death in an horrendous boiler explosion of 20 year old Arthur Barston at Miss Elizabeth Collins's seminary in St Mary's Place. Miss Collins's young cook, Charlotte Billing, was seriously injured and taken to the infirmary with fractures of the thigh, internal injuries and burns. The jury returns a verdict of accidental death on Arthur Barston and, in a kind act of charity, Samuel requests that the jurors' fees be donated to Miss Billing. 

In September 1866 Samuel is called as a witness in a high-profile Nottingham fraud case that catches press attention across the country. 

'ATTEMPT AT SWINDLING BY A COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER. AT the Borough Police Court on Saturday, Allen Gray, who said he was a commercial traveller, living in Carlisle, was charged with attempting to obtain £100 under false pretences from Mr Sibcy, of Stamford. Prisoner denied the charge. It seemed that on the 25th ult an advertisement appeared in one of the Nottingham daily papers as follows:—" Wanted a traveller for wines and spirits in Nottingham and district; salary and commission liberal. Address: Agent, Post-office, Newcastle-on-Tyne". Prosecutor, on seeing the advertisement, dispatched a letter, and in the course of a few days he received an answer from the firm of Messrs Gray, Son, and Riddell, who were represented to be wine and spirit merchants, carrying on business at 8, Parkside-street, Edinburgh. The letter was signed by Riddell, who stated the terms he and his partners were willing to give him, and specifying that they should require £100 as a security.


The prosecutor sought the advice of Mr Weddell, schoolmaster, of Stamford, and it was thought that he might do well to accept the engagement. Letters passed between him and the firm, and on the 8th instant he received one from Riddell, in which he remarked that his cashier (the prisoner) would be in Nottingham on Friday to ratify the engagement and to receive the £100 as agreed upon. Previous to the day he was announced to arrive Mr Weddell put himself in communication with the Chief Constable of Edinburgh, and Messrs Oliver and Boyd, publishers, in order, if possible, to ascertain whether they knew anything of the firm. However, none of them did know, and wrote to Mr Weddell to that effect. The circumstance aroused his suspicion. On the 13th inst prisoner, who was then in Nottingham, wrote to Mr Sibcy at Stamford, and said that Messrs Gray, Son, and Riddell had given him instructions to engage him, and that if he would call upon him at the Royal Hotel, in Lister Gate, at one o'clock on the following day, he would do so at once. Prosecutor and Mr Weddell consented to see him, and at one o'clock they were in conversation with him in the smoke room of the Royal Hotel. They talked about the business, and prisoner produced a number of bottles containing samples of wines and spirits, and requested Mr Sibcy to write down the prices of them. Prisoner then prepared an agreement respecting the engagement, and Mr Weddell took out of his pocket a blank cheque, and probably would have drawn it out for £100 had not something transpired that did not seem right.


Mr Freeman, chief constable, came into the room, and after questioning the prisoner, felt convinced that he was a swindler, and had him removed to the police station. Mr Freeman, before this, had seen the prosecutor and Mr Weddell, and it was at their desire that he visited the hotel. The chief constable charged prisoner with attempting to obtain the £100 in a fraudulent manner, and he replied, " If there is any-thing wrong, l am the sufferer; I was engaged by the firm as cashier." Mr Freeman, in his evidence, said that applications of a similar character to the above had been made by persons living in the town, and that the engagers had wanted them to deposit money as security. — Prisoner in defence said he had not attempted on any account to get the money improperly. As regarded the firm, he knew nothing about it beyond seeing Mr Riddell at the Standard Dining-rooms, in Edinburgh, a short time since, aad he there engaged him as their cashier. He engaged him at 30s per week, aad told him to engage Mr Sibcy, to whom, he said, he had written about his becoming a traveller for the firm. Acting on those instructions he had tried to effect the engagement. He had not been in trouble before, and he was quite willing for either the chief constable or the police to make any enquiries about him they thought proper. — The bench remanded him.' The newspaper coverage prompted concern by both the Glasgow and Birmingham police forces that Gray might be one and the same as a fraudster going by the name of Thomas Henry Davidson and the investigation was widened.(1)  

By June 1867, at the age of 48, Samuel is in a position to retire, having sold his premises to Mr J Etchells, who intends setting up a Classical, Commercial and (intriguingly, given Stamford's land-locked geography) Naval School. Samuel and Mary Ann move their family to 29 Austin Street, where the parents remain for the rest of their lives.


Whether Samuel teaches his sons in his own school is unclear, but certainly all go on to do well in life. Eldest son Samuel junior becomes manager of Curtis's Implement & Iron Works in Retford, presumably a firm in his mother's family. After serving his apprenticeship with Richard Newcomb, son John moves to London where he works as a stationer. Arthur trains as a pharmaceutical 

chemist, settling in Colchester, whilst the family's academic star, William, has a short but meteoric career in medicine before dying of pneumonia at the age of 38. William had qualified in London and Paris, first working in Stamford and then moving to Sheffield.


Samuel and Mary Ann's daughters are also well-educated for the era. Maria works as a governess before marrying and settling in Cheshire, Mary Ann junior also works as a governess, but sadly dies at 23, whilst poor little Eliza is only 13 when she dies away from home at boarding school in Leek, Staffordshire. Youngest daughter Mary Elizabeth is academically and musically gifted and perhaps it is Eliza's death that persuades Mary Elizabeth's 

parents to educate her close to home, for in 1878 she receives commendations from Stamford's Browne's School for Girls for history and general good work.


On 15 February 1879 Samuel dies at home in Austin Street at the age of 59. Two years later the 1881 census shows Mary Ann still living there with youngest daughter, Mary Elizabeth, and one general servant. Mary Elizabeth's musical talents are fostered by Mr Carnell, organist at All Saints church, and in 1881 she travels to Hampstead to sit the Cambridge University Higher Local Examination in music.  


Meanwhile, two further thefts in the 1880s show Mary Ann takes over her late husband's tenancy of the family's Waterfurlong garden. Both cases involve apples; in September 1882 Henry Wade and John Hewardine are apprehended by PC Matthew Lightfoot (another of the gardeners) and in 1885 a large quantity of apples is scrumped from the Weddell garden. 

In the 1891 census we find the Weddells in what is to be their last year in Austin Street, with Mary Elizabeth working both as a teacher and as organist at St John's church and sister Maria's son Herbert Wilkins living with them, presumably in order to attend school in Stamford. Mary Ann dies on 14 October 1892 and two years later Mary Elizabeth marries Stamford-born Frederic Jones and settles with him in south London. We find a record in the Mercury of 11 April 1894 of a parting gift:

'On Monday the Rector of St John's, on behalf of the congregation, presented Miss Weddell, who had been many years organist at the church, with a handsome timepiece as a memorial of the long and friendly connection between the congregation of St John's and herself. It bore the inscription,

"Presented to Miss Weddell by her friends at St John's, Stamford."'(1)

With Mary Elizabeth's departure the last of the Weddell family is scattered away from Stamford and a long era in the life of one garden comes to an end.


(1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.

(2)Courtesy of Lincolnshire Museums Service


Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

Austin Street, Stamford
Austin Street, Stamford © Travis Vinicombe

The organ above in St John's church is not only played by Mary Elizabeth, but also the instrument on which the young Malcolm Sargent was taught. Sargent's father 

Harry followed in Mary Elizabeth's footsteps as church organist. Although St John's was not the wealthiest of Stamford's churches, it was the only one to have a three-manual organ, built in the 1870s. 

'Scrumpers' by Henry Towneley Green 1863
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