In her letters to her brother Albert, Emily Jackson makes only passing mention of her father, William Askew Jackson (WAJ), none of which are good. Research has revealed much about the character of one of Darlington’s forgotten rogues. Her letters were all sent with regards from herself and her mother, but never from her father. Instead she alludes to his drunkenness and lazy lifestyle. Could this have contributed to the financial crisis with which the family were struggling?

William Askew Jackson’s backround

WAJ was born in Skelton near Guisborough in Yorkshire in around 1836 where he had at least one brother and came from a farming family. At the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Atkinson (nee Shields) in 1857 his occupation was given as ‘draper’. Elizabeth’s father was an inn keeper and he may have helped WAJ move into the business. Whatever route he took, pubs and alcohol seem to have suited him much better than either farming or drapery had.

The Queens Head or The QuaysFor some time he was the landlord of the Three Blue Bells Inn in Blackwellgate, Darlington (later the Falchion and now Avalon), but on February 22nd 1870 the Northern Echo recorded him as running the Queen’s Head in Tubwell Row. Today the Queen’s Head still stands, having recently been re-branded as The Quays.

In the 1871 census WAJ is listed as living at the Queen’s Head together with his wife, Elizabeth  and their young family, Albert, William, Emily, their baby Kate, and three servants.

Their youngest child, Kate, died aged 4, in the first quarter of 1875. WAJ became an ale and spirits merchant in 1880 and by the time of the 1881 census the family had moved into 39 Victoria Road, where they continued to have a domestic servant.

Cracks begin to appear in the family finances

Advertisement from the Northern EchoHe ran his wine, spirit and Burton ale merchant business from 36 High Row, now part of the site occupied by the Yorkshire Bank. An advertisement from the Northern Echo of December 29th 1884 proclaims his extensive stock of champagnes, liqueurs, scotch whiskies, port, stout, ales and lager beer.

Everything would appear to be going well for the family. They had moved up in the world, from ‘living above the shop’ to a substantial house in a newly built terrace on Victoria Road. However there is evidence that cracks may have already begun to appear in the families finances.

The Newcastle Weekly Courant of July 25th 1884 reported the court case heard by Durham Assizes in which WAJ successfully sued Christopher Sambers of the Fleece Inn in Darlington for slander. Their paths had crossed in the County Hotel in Croft – already public houses were beginning to be a theme in WAJ’s life. Sambers had “called him a coward and a low blackguard”, and said that “of every shilling he had in his pocket, nine pence did not belong to him”. WAJ was awarded £12 10s plus costs, the equivalent of around £1,200 today. It would be interesting to find out how much of his windfall found its was into the hostelries of Darlington. We may never know the truth, but future events would suggest that the unfortunate Christopher Sambers may have had a point.

On September 10th 1887 the Northern Echo announced that a receiving order had been made by a creditor against William Askew Jackson. A public examination was set for September 28th but by then WAJ would be long gone.

A Darlington Debtor’s Adventures

Premisis to Let advertismentReports of his bankruptcy were widespread, reaching as far as the Liverpool Mercury of September 14th. His business premises on High Row were soon advertised as being available to let, with a listing appearing in the Northern Echo of October 11th 1887.

On October 27th 1887 the Northern Echo carried the story of “An Absentee Bankrupt”. WAJ had failed to appear, for the third time, at Stockton Bankruptcy Court. On the first occasion a medical certificate had been produced to account for his absence, but no attempt at an explanation had been received on either the second or third occasion. He was to remain at large until June the following year when the Newcastle Courant of June 22nd 1888 announced that he had finally been apprehended in Darlington. Once is custody he was sent to Durham Gaol to await his examination in Stockton on July 4th.

So where had he been for the previous year, and what had caused his bankruptcy? The Northern Echo of July 5th 1888 thankfully reported all of the details, under the headline “A Darlington Debtor’s Adventures – Singular Evidence“.

The creditors who had triggered the bankruptcy were the Tadcaster Brewery Company and Ind, Coope & Company. WAJ was represented by Edward Wooler, who incidentally had been the contact given in the advertisement for enquiries regarding the lease on his former business address.

WAJ insisted on making his submission in person and seems to have enjoyed playing to the gallery. When asked why he had failed to appear at court the previous year he explained that he had intended to, but he had slept in a damp bed in Hawes resulting in him being taken ill in Appleby, preventing his attendance. However his explanation quickly began to unravel.

He said that he had left Darlington on October 19th for Hawes, to ask a friend to lend him money. The Court Registrar pointed out that this was the day that he should have been in court, so the damp bed must have come after that. WAJ’s simple reply ‘Yes’ was met by laughter from the gallery.

Emily Moorcock InnHaving been unsuccessful in obtaining the money, he spent the night of Sunday 23rd October at the Moorcock Inn, near Hawes Junction (see photograph to the left), then moved on for two nights at a temperance hotel in Kirkby Stephen where a doctor had provided him with some medicine. The following night, he said, he had intended for go to Carlisle to get a Turkish bath (more laughter) but had been taken ill on route and had to stay in another temperance hotel in Appleby.

He had quickly moved on to the King’s Head in Appleby, to get things such as “soap and better attendance”. The Registrar suggested that he may also have made the move in order to get something to drink – “And hot bottles, etc” he replied, to further laughter.

From Appleby he moved on to call on an old friend who ran an inn in Bowes, before continuing to Barnard Castle where he found, unfortunately, that his first choice of accommodation, the temperance hotel, was full. Instead he had to spend a few nights at the King’s Head.

By now two weeks had passed since he had left Darlington. He claimed that he had not known that there was a warrant out against him, but now the news caught up with him. He hired a trap which took him as far as Piercebridge, from where he walked to Dalton-on-Tees, where he stayed the night. In a state of confusion, rather than return home the following day, instead he caught the train from Dalton Junction to York where he stayed at the temperance hotel in the square (more laughter from the court). The Registrar wanted to know what he had been up to in York – was not it true that he had enjoyed a dinner party with friends at the Station Hotel? No, replied WAJ, he had eaten no more than six ounces while he was in York and his only drink had been a small whisky and soda at the White Swan.

Still desperate to obtain funds to pay his creditors he explained that he had moved on from York to Retford and onward to visit a friend named Walker who ran an inn in Tucksford (Tuxford?). Here he stayed for five or six weeks, being treated by a doctor for chronic bronchitis, resulting in a bill of 7s 6d.

Just before Christmas he moved on to the Tontine Inn in Sheffield and then to the Reindeer in Doncaster, returning to his own home in Darlington to spend Christmas with his family. By February he was off on his travels once again, this time staying in Liverpool until he had returned to Darlington in June. He was arrested the day after his return although, he said, he had been intending to give himself up.

“What did this little jaunt of yours cost you – or, rather your creditors?” asked the Registrar. “It did not cost me much, sir; I hadn’t it to spend” replied WAJ, but the Registrar had done his homework:

The Comet in Hurworth PlaceWAJ had borrowed £3 from his mother; £3 from the Masonic Society in Liverpool; £2 for a Mr Jackson (no relation); £2 10s twice from his brother in Guisborough; £10 from Mr Garrett at the Comet Hotel in Croft (see picture to the right); £2 from the lodge; and as WAJ admitted, the treasurer had also twice given his 10s out of his own pocket. There had also been other sums given by his brother masons in Liverpool, perhaps £3 or £4 in total.

Attention then turned to the size of his debt, which amounted to £4,856 14s 4d. To start his business he had used £100 of his own money, and had raised a further £500 from mortgages on some houses. When asked what assets he now had he answered “nothing in the world”. Interestingly for our story the court heard that his wife’s trustees had a second mortgage of £485 on a house in Victoria Road as security for money that she had lent him many years before. The court ordered WAJ to supply a profit and loss account showing all sales and purchases over the last year, together with a cash account, to explain where £1000 of goods had gone, for which payment was still due. Edward Wooler pointed out that his client would not be able to produce this while in gaol but the Registrar insisted upon it, saying that it would be his own fault if he could not produce the accounts by the next examination.

Things had not gone well for WAJ. Not only had his excuse for missing his previous court dates been dismissed, his outstanding debts had been shown to have increased and he now had to gather his evidence for the next examination while in gaol. But things were about to get even worse.

The Newcastle Weekly Courant of July 20th 1888 reported on his next court appearance. He had not been able to provide the accounts that had been demanded because, he said, the governor would not permit his books to be taken into the gaol. The court then heard that he had committed perjury. While he had been at home over Christmas he had dictated a number of letters which his daughter Emily had been made to send. In one sent to the Tadcaster Tower Brewery Company Emily has written “We have arrived at the conclusion that at present he has left England”. Grasping at straws WAJ attempted to explain this, saying that “she must have meant that I was going to leave England”. Emily’s letter continued “I may also inform you, in confidence, that he has very good, almost certain expectations from an uncle – in fact there are only four of them for his immense wealth”. The report concluded with the Registrar’s comment – “the uncle with the three balls above his door”. We can only imaging how Emily felt at being dragged into his web of lies.

Ind Coope advertisementOn July 26th 1888 the Northern Echo reported the events of his next court appearance. This time he had been able to produce some accounts. Any money that he had received had been used to pay off debts to his solicitor, Mr Clayhills. In August 1880 WAJ had been appointed purchasing agent for Ind, Coope & Co’s beer in Darlington, with a complex arrangement. In 1885 he had become the firms travelling salesman on a salary of £25 plus commission.

He was already heavily in debt to the company for goods supplied to him, and over the next three years these debts gradually grew. The company seem to have allowed this situation to continue on the basis of reassurances that he had made relating to seven houses in Darlington, twelve properties that he owned in Middlesbrough and various other plots of land and buildings which he had “all unencumbered absolutely”. “Oh, that was a mistake” he said. His assets were really in a life insurance policy which must be worth something by now. In fact he had to admit that the Middlesbrough properties actually belonged to his wife, Elizabeth.

He had been trying to get a further loan of £800 from the company. To underwrite this he told them that he had prepared a fresh will, leaving enough to Ind, Coope & Co. to cover all of his debts. “A will! What, were you going to die?” exclaimed the Registrar, to laughter from the audience. He went on, reading from WAJ’s letter to the company – “I am going into our hospital to-night to undergo an operation. I am worse, having now totally lost my speech, and I have a fresh will prepared leaving Messers Ind, Coope & Co. what will cover all my indebtedness to them”. Had he gone into hospital? No, he responded, he had gone to see Dr McCarthy instead. “It was a monetary operation that you needed”, said the Registrar. “Yes; it would have done me the most good” replied WAJ wistfully.

The case continued, with an explanation of the complex arrangement that WAJ had for payment from the brewery. Edward Wooler, who had a second mortgage on WAJ’s property as security to cover his costs, had attempted to recover unpaid wages and expenses from the brewery on his behalf, but had found that as no written agreement existed he was unable to obtain settlement for his client. WAJ seems to have justified his debt to the brewery on the basis of this unpaid amount in an affidavit to the Superior Court in June 1887.

WAJ’s next court appearance was set for August 8th 1888 but so far no record has been found of the outcome of his case.

WAJ in later life

What is know however is that by the time of the 1891 census he was living back with his family, now at 5 Arden Street, just around the corner from Victoria Road, and he was described as a ‘traveller’, though interesting his wife Elizabeth was identified as the head of the household. In her letters written in the late 1890’s Emily describes his all day drinking sessions and the fear that she and her mother had for him, threatening to call in a policeman if he returned home drunk on one occasion. When the financial position of the family was at its worst she blamed the “idle man” that they had to keep for their problems and also detailed the trips to the pawn broker to pay off his debts.

But WAJ had still not finished bringing disgrace to his long suffering family. On June 1st 1899 the Northern Echo reported the case of a Heighington farmer, Mr Joseph Miller Sayer who had been granted a divorce from his wife, Henrietta Sayer, on the grounds of adultery with none other than William Askew Jackson. When challenged by PC Richard Hinde as WAJ left her house at 3 am, Henrietta asked him not to mention it to anyone. Hinde replied that everyone already knew about it, to which she said that she did not care because he was a widower, which must have gone down very well with his wife Elizabeth.

Somehow his family continued to put up with his behaviour. In the 1901 census WAJ, Elizabeth and Emily were all still sharing a house, this time at 47 Victoria Road, which is now part of the Darlington Bedding Centre building. By the time of the 1911 census WAJ, then aged 72, was living as a lodger at 40 Archer Street in Darlington. He was a widower, Elizabeth having died in 1903. The census also recorded that he had 2 living children and that 5 of his children had died, revealing more tragedy in the life of the family.

Following the death of her mother Emily had finally started a new life as a housekeeper in Landbeach near Cambridge. Her brother Albert had also died in 1903 but the 1911 census shows that he had two children. Emily’s second brother Will was still alive, although no trace of him has yet been found.

If you are able to add anything to the story please email history@aboutdarlington.co.uk or leave a comment below.


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