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This article was originally written for the on-line Pharos course on Wills & Admons which I completed in July 2013 - hence its rather formal tone. I believe that the research undertaken points to a real possibility that Revd John had a rather more intimate relationship with his housekeeper Hannah Ratson than we had previously supposed! I hope you find it interesting, and welcome your views.
Sue Mastel -
(you can click on most of the images to enlarge them)
I obtained the Will of Reverend John Adamthwaite of Winton, Westmorland, (proved 1839), some years ago, and although some of his bequests were puzzling, it was not until the discovery of a notice in the Brisbane Courier published over 40 years after his death (see left), searching for two beneficiaries of Rev John’s will – John BELL and Anne or Mary Anne BELL – that I resolved to identify the BELLs and RATSONs.
In 1819, Reverend John had inherited a sizeable legacy from another Rev John Adamthwaite of Baddesley Ensor. Rev John junior had used his inheritance to purchase a manor house at Waitby (possibly to run another academy?) but this was sold shortly before his death. Certain events in Rev. John’s life had made me see him as a bit of a buffoon: including a scurrilous poem called ‘Ode to a Hat’ which was published by the poet Thomas Moore (following the Reverend’s much mocked switches of allegiance in the Westmorland Elections of 1826) which contained the verse …
“Who knows but thou mayst deck the pate
Of that famed Doctor Ad-mthw--te
(The reverend rat, whom we saw stand
On his hind-legs in Westmoreland),
Who changed so quick from blue to yellow,
And would from yellow back to blue,
And back again, convenient fellow,
If’t were his interest so to do.”
Rev John ran the Academy in Winton for many years, the advertisements for which sound as if it was not the sort of place any caring parent would wish to send their son. (You can read more about the various Reverends Adamthwaite who ran such academies in the article 'Seven Reverends')
To understand the rest of this story, you need to read the abstract of Rev John’s will here - I found his bequests to so many family members a pleasant surprise, but his generosity to his housekeeper Hannah RATSON and the wife and children of a John BELL from Scotland was curious. Hoping to find out more about the BELL family, I also obtained a copy of Hannah RATSON’s will and the Death Duty records for both of them, as well as seeking out census and parish records to try to find a connection.
Hannah Ratson did not die for another 39 years - but her will also revealed some surprises:
Abstract of Will of Hannah Ratson, spinster, grocer of Burns House Winton died 24 dec 1878 aged 78 years .
To daughter Mary Ann Bell alias Ratson – 19 guineas
To sister Mary Ratson - £40
To niece Mary Foott, wife of Malachi Foott – 19 guineas
To charwoman Sarah Bland - £1
Wearing apparel to be divided between niece Mary Foott, daughter Mary Ann Bell and sister Mary Ratson
Bedstead and bedding to nephew John Fothergill
To Executors £5 to be divided between them
To Executors £50 and half the residue and remainder of property after debts, funeral and testamentary expenses and legacies given, upon Trust to apply the interest or principal or both for use and benefit of nephew John Fothergill or his heirs/assigns
Other half of residue to sister Mary Ratson
Michael Morland and Thomas Howgill both of Winton, yeoman to be Executors
In a codicil written the same day, she added the following
Lodger Thomas Sayer to take away his own furniture before the sale of my house and also to have any bedding he choose
Written 3 March 1871, Witnessed by Thomas Gibson, MD, Kirkby Stephen, Albert Ramsden, assist to Dr Gibson, Kirkby Stephen
Proved at Carlisle 15 feb 1879 (Under £300)
So Hannah Ratson had a daughter named Mary Ann, known as Mary Ann BELL …. Clearly these BELLs also needed further investigation.
Next, I tackled the Death Duty Records for both Rev John and Hannah Ratson. The record for Rev John had obviously been revisited regularly between 1839 and 1880 until the taxes were finally paid, but many of the notes are illegible (click on the image on the left to view page one of this record).
The initial legacies were paid in 1844 after the sale of various real estate, but following Hannah Ratson’s death when Burns House was to be sold, there were obviously problems contacting some of the BELL children. There was a note dated 1879 saying the 'two of the parties went to Australia 28 years ago’ (resulting in authorisation of the advert in the Brisbane Courier which had first raised my curiosity).
The Death Duty record for Hannah Ratson was very straightforward by comparison (see below) and merely confirmed the bequests – all of which appear to have been made as duty was paid. So had Hannah’s daughter Mary Ann Bell (alias Ratson has been crossed out) been traced? I have not been able to locate her in any censuses after 1851 under the surname RATSON or BELL, though she may have married.
Continue to the final page of this story, which includes family tree charts for the ADAMTHWAITEs, the RATSONs and the BELLS, and some conclusions.
This is an old photo of the building in Winton where Revd John ran his Academy from about 1818-1839