Richard Sutton (1782-1851)

Richard Sutton, the son of Richard Sutton (?-1796) and Ellen Baxter, was born in Thornton-in-Lonsdale in 1782 and baptised at St Oswalds church on June 7th. The parish records state he is the son of Richard Sutton of Westhouses.

Here is a map of the area, whilst Thornton-in-Lonsdale is not identified, it is one mile west of Ingleton and nine miles from Dent.

The family must have gone over the hill to Dent in around 1782. On Tuesday, 4th September 2012 my sister Sue and I, along with our partners, drove over the old road from St Oswalds to Dent. Here is a compilation of photographs. The views were absolutely stunning.

According to local historian, Diane Elphick, who wrote WESTHOUSES: The Suttons for Sedbergh Historian, 2003, the Suttons were farming Gastackbeck in Deepdale between 1782 and 1786, so they must have moved there before Richard was one year old. Richard's sister, Jane, was baptised in Dent in March 1786.

Here is a map of Deepdale showing farms and houses that were no longer there (or had been renamed) by 1901; it's likely Gastabeck (1. on the drawing) was high on the fell and quite isolated.

In order to understand more about what life was like for people living in this part of Yorkshire at this time you can access The rural life of England, William Howitt, published in 1838, free on-line - you will have to register. The section about Dentdale is in Chapter III: Nooks of the World: Life in the Dales of Lancashire and Yorkshire, pages 277-321.

The family were back in Thornton-in-Lonsdale by 1796 as Richard's father died that year and was buried there on 5th March. As Diane Elphick notes, it is possible the family remained in Deepdale for some part of the decade 1786-1796 before going back to Thornton.

In the same year that Richard senior died, his widow, Ellen, seems to have moved to Sykefold, Kirkthwaite. We know this because according to Dent records Jane, Richard's sister, was indentured for seven years to Thomas Robinson of Thornton in May 1796; the record states that Jane is the daughter of Ellen Sutton of Sykefold, widow. This means that Jane was aged ten years old when she was indentured. Here is a photograph of Sykefold, which isn't far from West House:

One can only assume that Ellen was a servant and perhaps moved there to be near her son, Richard who was probably already in service at West House which had only recently been built and was owned by the wealthy Sill family.

But what does this say about Ellen's attitudes or feelings towards her daughter who was left in Thornton at ten years of age (and who died at 17 years when her indenture was completed)?

The Sill Family

The Sill family owned lots of property in the area and as the Sutton family becomes entwined with the Sill family, a short detour is appropriate.

Briefly, according to Diane Elphick, the Sills made their money from hosiery - the area of Dent was well known for its 'knitters' - see above link to The rural life of England.

Edmund Sill (1721-1806) married Elizabeth Clough (1764-1807) and they had four children, Edmund (1764-1797), Ann (1766-1835), John (1767-1803) and James (1770-1805).

The Sills inherited Providence, a sugar plantation in Jamaica with about 200 slaves, from Edmund's brother, John Sill (1724-1774) 'Gentleman from Jamaica'. Here is a photo of a monument to John Sill set up in St Andrew's church, Dent:

On receipt of the inheritance the Sill family had West House built; Sykefold House is very close to West House, as the following map shows:

The Rural Life of England

The reason why we know Richard was in service at West House is that he can be identified in passages from 'The rural life of England' by William Howitt, first published in 1838, but which had several editions. About twenty pages are devoted to stories about the Yorkshire Dales and Dentdale in particular. Here is the full extract that concerns Richard:

There was a story ringing through one of the dales when we were there, which if half of it were true, was bad enough; and that we might arrive at as much truth as possible, we visited and conversed with those who were apparently likeliest to know it.

It was said, and this too by those who had been in daily intercourse with the parties - that a very wealthy widow lady, who seemed to have been of weak intellect, or at least so unaccustomed to the world, and matters of business, as to become an easy prey to any clever and designing fellow, had entrusted the management of her affairs to a lawyer of a neighbouring town.

That this lawyer twenty years ago made her will, in which he had appointed himself one of the executors, and a gentleman of high character, living at a great distance, the other. That he had left in the will ten per cent, on the accumulations of her income to the executors, besides five hundred pounds each for the trouble of their office.

That a man brought up in the house of the lady, was left £5000. That from the original making of the will, it appeared never to have been read over again at any time to the lady; but that she had frequently dictated or written in pencil her instructions for its alteration in many particulars, which instructions or alterations at the final reading of the will after her decease nowhere appeared.

That from the time the will was made till that of her death, twenty years, her lawyer-executor had continually tormented her with the fear of poverty. He had told her that her income did not meet her expenses; and through these representations had induced her to curtail her charities, and to lay down her carriage.

This, however, did not suffice, and his representations made the poor lady miserable with the constant fear of coming poverty. In an agony of feeling on this subject, she one day sent her confidential servant to the lawyer to order him to sell her West Indian property. The lawyer said, "tell your mistress from me, that her West Indian property is not worth a farthing." This the servant, whom we took the trouble of seeing, confirmed to us.

The poor woman, haunted with the fear of poverty, at length took to her bed and a few days before her death, when, indeed, her recovery was hopeless, her lawyer appeared at her bedside and astounded her with the news, that so far from poverty, her West Indian property was very large, and her income had actually accumulated in the funds to the sum of £80,000! and the hypocritical monster, with a refinement of cruelty perhaps ever paralleled, humbly asked her, "how she would wish it disposed of?"

The previous progress of the poor lady's illness, and this overwhelming intelligence, rendered any present disposal impossible. She was thrown into the most fearful distress of mind, - and continually exclaiming, "O! please God that I might recover, how different things should be!" died on the third day.

When the will was read, the man who had £5000 left him twenty years ago, found it left him still; and yet this man had for years lost the good opinion of the lady, by his misconduct, and had not been permitted to come into her presence for two years. This was a striking proof that her will had not of late years been adapted to her altered mind.

This man, who first came into the lady's house as a shoe-black, or some such thing, and had on one occasion for his misconduct, the alternative offered him either to quit her service, or be carried up to the top of the neighbouring fell, on the back of a man and down again, while he was flogged by another, and was of so base a nature that he had chosen the flagellation, and continuance in a family where he was regarded with contempt - this man had now actually purchased the lady's house of the executors, and lived in it!

We walked past it, and naturally regarding it with a good deal of curiosity, a ludicrous scene occurred. I suppose, being strangers and I having a moreen bag in my hand, it was inferred from our particular observation of the place, that I was a lawyer, come down on the behalf of some dissatisfied expectant, to inquire into the case.

However that might be, we presently saw the man's wife, a very common-looking person, and appearing wonderfully out of place as the mistress of such a house, peeping at us from the windows, first on one side of the house, and then on the other, and at the same time attempting to screen herself from view by partly unclosing the shutters, and placing herself behind them. Soon after, her daughter too came with stealthy steps, out of the back-door, crept cautiously round the house, and posted herself behind a bush to watch us; nor had we advanced far from the place, when the man himself came hurrying along and went past us with very black and inquisitive looks.

We were told that on the will being read, the other executor being now present, was not more amazed at the fact of his becoming, unknown to himself, so greatly benefited by it, than he was at the general details of it.

He inquired of the lawyer if the will had been read to the lady from time to time, in order to see whether it might require some alteration, and being told by him that it had not, he seemed filled with the utmost astonishment and indignation, and abruptly said to him - "Why, there is nothing but damnation for you!" and with that proceeded in such piercing terms to show to the lawyer the cruelty and wickedness of his conduct, that the man trembled through every joint.

It was added that the lawyer "never looked up afterwards," but was in the greatest distress of mind, and daily wasted away. That when the tenants of the property, some time afterwards went to pay their rents, they found him propped up in bed with bolsters and pillows, a most pitiable object; his inkhorn stitched into the bed-quilt by him, and yet his trembling hand scarcely able to direct his pen into it.

That such was the effect of fear, and the visitings of conscience on his superstitious mind, that he drank the water which dropped from the church-roof in rainy weather, in the hope it would do him good!

This is a most extraordinary story, but we found one of these quiet dales ringing with it from end to end, and this was the account given by most trust-worthy people, who knew the parties well, and one of whom was the lady's confidential servant.

The language used is flowery and hyperbolic, as if Howitt is writing a farce! Points are exaggerated to try to make the story sound true but, in fact, this method totally undermines belief. It sounds like tittle-tattle. But what is sad is that there is clearly some truth there and it reflects and spreads the gossip.

Everyone in Dentdale and the surrounding area would have known who Howitt was talking about even though he didn't name them, i.e. Ann Sill (the so-called 'widow' who was in fact a spinster), James Davis, a solicitor from Sedbergh, Adam Sedgwick, the 'gentleman of high character' and my ancestor, Richard Sutton, the 'man brought up in the house.'

If it is true that Howitt and his wife actually saw Ellen Sutton and her daughter, as well as Richard Sutton, and they responded as he describes, then it is hardly surprising they would react like this given a) strangers were looking at them and their home and b) they would be very sensitive and possibly under siege if the entire area was gossiping about Richard's inheritance and the family moving into West House.

According to Christopher Heywood, Yorkshire Slavery in Wuthering Heights, Review of English Studies, volume 37 issue 150, Howitt got his information from Ann Mason, who was Ann Sill's house keeper in 1831. Howitt collected his information in 1837 when he and his wife visited the Yorkshire Dales. One would assume there would have been jealousy amongst the servants at Richard's significant inheritance, which could account for animosity towards Richard.

Howitt uses the gossip that Richard had been banned from seeing Ann Sill for two years to 'prove' that the story about the will being unchanged is true. However, we know that in 1831 Ann made a codicil to amend the will - if she felt so bad about Richard surely she would have amended it again?

Indeed, this second codicil, signed on 28th November 1831 is concerned purely with selling a second estate in Jamaica called Potosi. The will states:

'the Plantation or Estate called Potosi and which was recently purchased of and conveyed to me by Mr FRANCIS WATT and others to ADAM SEDGWICK and JAMES DAVIS the two Trustees named in my said Will'

I have recently had correspondence with Rachel Lang, Project Administrator for University College of London's Legacies of British Slave Ownership project who informed me that the Potosi estate was still owned by the heirs of Samuel Hurlock in 1831.

This means that Ann Sill must have only purchased the estate in 1831; buying an estate in Jamaica runs contrary to the claim of William Howitt that James Davis "continually tormented Ann Sill with the fear of poverty [which] induced her to curtail her charities, and to lay down her carriage."

Francis Stacey tells us, in WESTHOUSES: The Sills, Sedbergh Historian, 2003, that Adam Sedgwick, the renown and respected gentleman and scholar who was the other executor, had publicly praised James Davis, for "frequently and honourably exercising his professional skills," something he would be unlikely to do if the story were true. Stacey also points out that Adam Sedgwick had been left to deal with all the complexities of Ann's estates in Dentdale and Jamaica as James Davis became very ill and died at the age of 78.

With regard to the punishment Richard chose rather than leave the service of the Sill family; firstly, as Diane Elphick points out in WESTHOUSES: The Suttons, Sedbergh Historian, 2003, this is likely to have happened to Richard when he was a boy (it is unlikely a man would carry another man up and down the fell to be flogged); secondly, his decision to take the punishment and keep his job would probably have endeared him to the family. In any event, if the family regarded Richard with contempt at any point when he worked for them, surely they would just have sacked him?

Here is a photograph of one of the fells taken from St Andrews churchyard:

When Richard married Ellen Constantine on 17th May 1804 in Dent, James Sill, Ann Sill's brother, was a witness. James, however, died the following year leaving Ann the remaining member of the immediate family. Ann made her will in 1808, she died in June 1835.

Here is a modern photograph of St Andrews church in Dent where Richard and Eleanor got married, and where all of their children were later christened:

Rigg End

From 1804 to 1835, Richard, Elinor (or Ellen or Eleanor as she was sometimes called) and their family lived at Rigg End, a hill farm not too far from West House as can be seen on the above map. This was owned by the Sill family. Here is an old photograph of Rigg End:

Indeed, the Sill family owned and lived at Rigg End before 1804 when the Suttons moved in; the Sills were also here when Richard, his sister Jane and parents Richard and Ellen (Baxter) were farming Gastabeck, which is one of the nearby farms; as noted, it is possible they were neighbours for four years.

William Howitt, in The rural life of England, describes how the area was divided into small neighbourhoods:

"As might be supposed, the inhabitants of one dale form a little community or clan where everyone is known to the rest, and where a great degree of sociality and familiarity prevails: but the whole dale sub-divides again into neighbourhoods, where a stronger espirit du corps exists. The dales are singularly marked by lines of ravines and streams, which run down the sides of the fells from the bogs and springs on the heights. These lines are commonly fringed on the lower slopes by alders and other water-loving trees. The smaller streams are called sike, the larger gills, and the largest, being those which run along the dale, becks. The space from gill to gill generally constitutes a neighbourhood, or if that space is small, it may include two or three gills. Within this boundary they feel it a duty, established by time and immemorial usage, to perform all offices of good neighbourhood, and especially that of association together." Howitt then goes on to describe how all the women of the neighbourhood come together whenever there is a birth, to support the woman giving birth."

If we accept Howitt's description then it likely that the elder Richard and his family would have been part of the same neighbourhood as the Sill family for quite some time; this could explain why Ellen Sutton returned to the area after her husband's death, and why the Sill family took in Richard junior.

It is understandable, then, that Richard and his new wife would move into, and rent, Rigg End. By this time, Edmund Sill junior had died in 1797; his brother John, who had been a lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment, died in 1803, James died in 1805; this left Ann living at West House with her elderly parents.

According to the Land Tax register, Richard Sutton rented Riggend from 1804-1831 and also Dyke Hall from the Sills; the two were combined in 1819. (The list has a gap from 1831 until 1892). During this period, Ellen gave birth to eleven or twelve children:

  • Richard was born in 1804 and died the same year;
  • Robert was born in 1805 and died in 1806;
  • Richard was born in 1807;
  • Elisabeth (Betty) was born in 1810;
  • Ellen was born in 1812 but died when she was 16 in 1828;
  • Robert was born in 1814;
  • Jane was born in 1817 but died when she was 24 in 1841;
  • James was born in 1820;
  • John was born in 1823;
  • Mary was born in 1825 but died at 9 years of age in 1834;
  • William was born in 1828; and
  • Thomas was born in 1831 but died in 1848 when he was 17 years old.
All of the children, except Elisabeth (Betty), are recorded as being christened in St Andrews church (by either Adam Sedgwick's father, who was the vicar there from 1768 -1822 or by Adam's brother who was vicar from 1822-1859), whereas there is no mention of Elizabeth/Betty in the church or parish records. This could raise doubt as to whether Elisabeth (Betty) Sutton is the daughter of Richard and Ellen or whether she could be an illegitimate daughter of Richard Sutton with another woman; if this is the case we do not know who her mother is. There is no confusion in Richard's will that Betty is his daughter: he makes it clear that he is leaving some of his estate to the 'two natural children of my daughter Betty.'

Here are some recent photographs of Rigg End, taken in September 2012:

and here is one of Dyke Hall Lane:

Inheritance

In 1835 Richard inherited Rigg End, as well as Dyke Hall (Dyke Hall no longer exists; according to Diane Elphick, it was a farm house); you will recall Richard had been renting both Rigg End and Dyke Hall from Ann Sill for at least 27 years (but more likely 31 years). He also inherited one tenth of the residue from Ann Sill. There were many other relatives and friends who inherited property and money from Ann. At the time of her death, Ann owned eleven Dentdale farms and a plantation in Jamaica. Richard Sutton was one of the main beneficiaries.

The following inscription, regarding Ann, is part of a monument to the Sill family in St Andrew's Church, Dent:

"When the ear heard her, then it blessed her and when the eye saw her it gave witness to her because she delivered the poor that cried and the fatherless and him that had none to help."

I thought it might have been Richard who had the quote about Ann added but I now think it more likely, as Diane Elphick noted, that Ann herself had the inscription made, certainly it looks like that. But even so, this is how she wanted to be remembered and she could have been referring to the support she had given to Richard (fatherless). Here is a photograph of the monument:

West House was left to one of Ann's relatives, Spencer Flexney esq., who lived in London. He sold it to Richard Sutton for £5,000 (Indenture dated August 11th, 1835) who became the owner of the houses including West House, Smithy Fold, and of the coachhouses, stables, barns, gardens, orchards, various enclosures and woods.

Here is a photo of West House (bottom, left) and the surrounding houses in Dentdale:

And here is another old photograph of West House (now Whernside Manor) as well as one of Smithy Fold from outside West House and one taken from inside West House, as well as one of the entrance hall at West House:

Thanks to Jerry and Elaine Johnson for permission to take the photos and for a very welcome cup of tea.

Whernside Manor has just gone on the market (May 2013).

In order to buy West House, Richard borrowed money from James Davis, the solicitor and executor of Ann's will, at 4.5% interest.

It seems likely that when Richard bought West House his original plans were probably to rent it out, as the following advertisement, which was placed in both the Westmoreland Gazette and the Lancaster Gazette suggest:

Thanks to British Newspaper Archive

However, as the adverts were placed in these newspapers twice, and Richard and his family moved into West House in about 1836, either he was unable to rent out the property or he might have rented it out for six months and then the family moved in. We simply do not know.

Conservatism

Richard was a respected member of the local conservative party, as the following article from the Westmorland Gazette, 4th November 1837, suggests:

CONSERVATIVE DINNER AT SEDBERGH
On Monday, the 23 ult., 76 electors of the Dent district partook of a dinner at the house of Mr. Roger Jackson, the King's Arms Inn, in celebration of the cause of Conservatism, Thomas Fawcett, Esq., of Gate, President, Mr. Upton of Akay House, Vice-President. The cloth being withdrawn the following toasts were proposed by the Chairman, and drank with the usual honors.

The Queen.

Song - God save the Queen, by the company, standing, led by Mr. Eastham, solicitor, Kirby Lonsdale.

The Queen Dowager and the rest of the Royal Family.

The Church.

The Rev. JAMES BOUSTEAD, in returning thanks, observed that it had been said that the Church was in danger, but he could not believe such to be the case when so many persons had come from distant parts of the country, in spite of the elements, to attend upon the present occasion.

The Army and the Navy.

Song - Rule Britannia by Mr. EASTHAM.

Lord Harewood (Lord Lieutenant of the County).

JAMES FARRER, Esq., of Clapham Lodge, in the West Riding, who, in the true spirit of Conservatism, favoured the meeting with his attendance, now rose and proposed the House of Lords, in an animated and powerful speech, commenting upon the high importance of that dignified, unflinching, and uncompromising body of men as the bulwark of the best interest of the nation. Mr Farrer concluded by proposing the health of the Honourable John Stuart Wortley, whose determination was to again come forward and offer himself as a representative for the West Riding, and from the small minority in which he was at the last election (namely, about 400), he, Mr. Farrer, had no doubt of his success. Mr Wortley had a high claim to the support of the electors of the West Rising of the country amongst whom he had spent a great deal of money, and to whose interest his father had lived a life of great importance. In concluding, Mr. Farrer, humorously observed he understood it was customary to have a large attendance upon funeral dinners, and he was inclined to think the present was the funeral dinner of the Radicals (great cheering). Drank with three times three.

Song - The Banners of Blue by Mr. EASTHAM.

Toast - The Conservatives of Dent District.

Mr. BOUSTEAD of Settleback Hall, returned thanks.

Song - Take a Bumper and Try by Mr. W. V. Adamthwaite.

Toast - The Farmers of the Dent District.

Mr. Stewart, of Moss House, returned thanks.

Song - The Farmer by Mr. EASTHAM.

Toast - The glorious minority of 1195.

Mr. EASTHAM, the active Conservative solicitor in the district, then addressed the meeting, and took a comprehensive view of the relative strength of the two parties, from which it would evidently appear the Blues were gradually gaining ground, and he had not the least doubt they would succeed upon the next election. Mr. Eastham concluded a long and able speech by complimenting Mr. Farrer for his indefatigable exertions in the Conservative cause, and proposed his health, which was drank with three times three.

Mr. FARRER returned thanks in an interesting speech, and said the time had arrived when they must either stand or fall, and concluded by drinking the health of the Chairman, Thomas Fawcett, Esq., with three times three.

The CHAIRMAN returned thanks in a pithy speech, in the course of which he gave the company some humorous but, at the same time, laudable and salutary advice, namely that those in the company who had sons or nephews should give them votes, and those who had daughters or nieces should look after them and see whose company they kept, and take care they married no one but a Conservative. Mr. Fawcett gave the health of the Vice-President. Three times three.

Mr. UPTON returned thanks in a neat and effective speech.

Song - To-morrow, by Mr. Watson, solicitor.

Toast - The health of Mr. Richard Sutton, three times three.

Mr. SUTTON returned thanks.

Toast - The health of Mr. Watson, as Deputy Sheriff.

Mr. WATSON returned thanks.

Toast - The Conservatives of Ireland.

Song - The Man at Mr. Grundy's, by Mr. Thomas Kendal.

This is the first Conservative dinner which has been held at Sedbergh, but it is intended to be held annually. Such meetings are calculated to give impulse to the exertion of electors, to bind them in one common interest, and in social compact, in the good cause of Conservatism.

The Company separated at a seasonable hour highly pleased with the proceedings of the meeting, and in hopes to live to enjoy each other's company upon the next similar occasion. Great credit is due to Mr. Roger Jackson for his exertions in making the provision, it was sumptuous and abundant, consisting of every variety of the season.

It is also worth noting that comments by Thomas Fawcett with reference to looking after their daughters and nieces is clearly a reference to the the fight for women's emancipation.

Richard Sutton, and his son James Sutton, are referred to in an article published in the Westmoreland Gazette, 30th September 1843. The Reform Act of 1832 gave power of voting to those in lower social and economic scale extending the right to vote to any man owning a household worth ten pounds. Within this context, the Gazette reported the findings of a meeting for the revision of voters list.

The Revising Barrister's Court was held at the Kings Arms, Sedbergh. Both the Conservatives and the Whig Radicals were challenging decisions made about names on the voting list. One of the objections came from the Whigs against a claim by Richard and James Sutton in respect to dwelling house and premises at Gibbs Hall. It seems both Richard and James had twice been struck off the voting list as a result of testimonies from parties who knew nothing of the value of the property but swore it was not worth more than four pounds. The Conservatives produced various witness statements who said the property was worth more than four pound per annum. The Whigs produced some witnesses who said it was not worth this amount. These included the Rev. John Sedgwick, who let a nearby property for three pounds p.a. which was much larger but not new. Rev Sedwick declined to give an opinion on comparison of value. The Barrister found in favour of the Conservatives.

Diane Elphick has noted that Richard, with his sons James and Richard, were on the Dent register of electors and supported the Tories in the 1848 election, i.e. the party of tradition, church and protectionism.

After the Inheritance

In 1841 Richard, who is now 60, his wife Ellen, 55, and sons John 15, William 14, Thomas 9, and grand-sons Richard 13, and Robert 7, the two illegitimate sons of Elisabeth Betty Sutton (now married to Thomas Parker - see James Sutton below), live at West House together with Margaret Gaythwaite, a 15-year old servant, (Margaret later marries John Sutton in 1844 when they are both 21 years old); John Moor, who is 60 years old and an agricultural labourer; and Sarah Atkinson, who is 15 years old. I assume Sarah was probably Ellen Sutton's relative as her mother's maiden name was Atkinson.

James Taylor, farmer, and his wife and others occupied Westhouse Farm; whilst William Matthews, clergyman and his wife Constancia and their children, lived at Smithy Fold, presumably renting this from Richard Sutton.

Richard's occupation is a farmer and he is clearly a farmer and landowner of some substance given that he is amongst some 24 landowners who called a public meeting with the purpose of requesting the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales to enquire into and settle the boundaries of Dent, as publicised in the Westmoreland Gazette on 26th September and 4th October 1840.

Indeed, according to the same newspaper, 9th November 1844, Richard was one of the founding committee members of the Sedbergh Agricultural Association. The Association included Sedbergh, Dent and Garsdale.

Whilst owning a lot of property, Richard was either experiencing financial problems or wanting to sort out his finances because West House, the nearby dwelling house (Smithy Fold) and West House Farm were advertised as for sale by auction by Mr. Myles Baynes at the Bull and Dog Inn, Sedbergh, on 12th October 1849. Clearly the property did not sell as it was again up for auction two years later.

In the 1851 census, Richard, now aged 69 years, is listed as a landed proprietor and still lives at West House with his wife, Ellen, 66, his grand-daughter, Jane Kilburn, aged 10; his grand-son Robert, aged 17 who is a watch-maker; and a servant, Mary Hornby aged 17 years. That is a big house for so few people - understandable, then, that he wanted to sell it. Perhaps he wanted rid of the stresses of owning property and was all for a quiet life for the rest of his days?

Richard dies on 5th August 1851, the obituary in the Lancaster Gazette of 9th August 1851 reads: Sedbergh - On Tuesday last, aged 70, after a short but severe illness, Mr. Richard Sutton of West House, in Dent near Sedbergh - much and deservedly respected by all who knew him.

In his will, Richard is called a yeoman; his executors were, Thomas Fawcett of Sedbergh, John Boustead of Settlebeck and John Atkinson of Scales near Ingleton. He left goods at under £1,500; and several properties as well as stocks. The Beneficiaries were his wife, Ellen, sons, Robert, Richard, James, John, William; his grand-daughter, Jane Kilburn; and his daughter Betty Parker and her two 'natural' sons, Richard and Thomas Sutton. Diane Elphick suggests that this Thomas is in fact Robert (Betty Sutton's son) who may have changed his name to Thomas to commemorate Richard and Ellen's son Thomas who had died in 1848 but who would have been a similar age.

Richard's substantial property was auctioned at the Bull and Dog in Sedbergh on 13th September; by the Trustees of his will. It included the following:
Lot 1: West House,with Gardens, Orchard, Pleasure Ground, Coach House, Harness Room, Stable and Cow House; Dwelling House (Smithy Fold), West House Farm and land;
Lot 2: Rigg End and Dyke Hall (and land, etc);
Lot 3: Cow Fold
Lot 4: Dwelling house in Dent
Lot 5: Two dwelling houses in Dent.

They were sold to William Thompson of Underley Hall in 1852 for £7,764.12s.

By 1892 West House and other Sill/Sutton farms and much of Deepdale and Upper Dentdale were owned by the Earl of Bective.

My understanding (but I'm not a solicitor) of Richard's will is that he left instructions to his executers to first pay off any just debts whether due upon mortgage or otherwise and his funerary expenses then to to invest the money raised by the sale (and any other monies) and the annual income to go to his wife as long as she lives or does not remarry. On the death of his wife, Richard bequethed his trustees to invest £250 for his grand daughter, Jane Kilburn, the proceeds of which were to pay for her maintenance and education and on reaching 21 years of age she should inherit the £250 for her own Use and Benefit.

The remainder was to be divided into six lots, five for each of his sons. From the sixth lot, £200 was to be given equally to his daughter, Betty's, two natural sons, Richard, shoemaker, now residing in the United States of America and Thomas (i.e. Robert) of Kirby Lonsdale, watchmaker. The remainder to be invested and the annual proceeds going to his daughter Betty Parker, "for and during the term of her Natural Life free from the Control, Debts or Engagements of her present or any future husband." After her death, the stocks, funds and securities were to be converted to money and divided equally between all of Betty's other children. Now that, to me, sounds like an astute man!

Before I move onto what happened to Eleanor and Richard's descendants, I want to refer to an article published the Westmorland Gazette on 18th June 1853. It is a report of a court case between Baynes v. Fawcett, one of Richard's Trustees. It is worth noting that a common labourer would earn about about 3s 9d per week, so 20s would be just over a month's wage.

Mr. PEARSON stated the case. The Plaintiff was administrator of the estate of Myles Baynes, late of Dent, and, as such, sought to recover the sum of 20/- claimed to be due from the defendents, as the executors of the late Mr. Richard Sutton of Dent.

The statute of limitations was pleaded in bar of the action. Plaintiff produced the book of account kept by the late Mr Baynes, and showed two entries of loans to Mr Sutton, one in 1842 of 20/., and another in 1851 of 20/-. Whether the first sum of 20/- had been repaid or not, witness could not say; but he was not suing for that. After Myles Baynes' death, witness saw Mr. Sutton on the subject of this debt. Sutton admitted that he owed 20/-, and stated that he had given no note or acknowledgement in writing for it, but that it would be found in entered in Myles Baynes' book.

Sutton died soon after this interview. His executors were willing to pay the money, but the persons interested in his estate objected. The book was put in. The entry of the loan in 1851 was one of seven similar entries of sums lent to various persons, all bearing the same date.

Six of the seven loans were on promissory note. The notes had all been got in, and were now laid before the Court. They all bore date in February 1851. The plain inference from these facts, as Mr. Pearson contended, was that the loan to Sutton took place at the same time. Mr. EASTHAM, for defendants, contended that the entry of 1851 was merely a re-entry of the transaction of 1842. It was, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, reasonable to presume that the deceased was at Candlemas, 1851, taking stock, as it were, of what he was worth, and that he put down, as part of the assets, the sum of 20/- lent in 1842. That it was not, in fact, a new transaction, but a re-entry of an old account, and as there was no proof of payment of it, or any acknowledgement in writing within six years, the claim was barred.

His HONOUR, however, took a different view, and considered the inferences the other way too strong to be rebutted. Six of the eight loans entered as of Candlemas, 1851, had been clearly proved to have taken place at that time, and, in the absence of any proof to the contrary as to the other two, it was fair to assume that they were also transactions of the date they were representing themselves to be. It was altogether a question of inferences, and he thought the defendants, acting as executors, were quite justified in requiring, for their own protection, the judgment of a Court of Law before paying the demand.

Verdict for the plaintiff.

In the 1861 census, Eleanor, aged 75, is living with her grand-daughter Jane Kilburn who is 20, at Pinfold, Dent. Pinfold is no longer there. The census tells us Eleanor is a 'fund-holder' (an annual income from investment).

Eleanor dies on 24th November 1863, she is 78 years old. She is buried on 27th November and shares a grave with Richard in St Andrew's churchyard, Dent. The epitaph reads: Sacred to the Memory of the late Richard Sutton of West House in Dent who died August 5th 1851 in his 70th year Also of Ellen his wife who died November 24th 1863 aged 78 years.

Here is a plan of Dent grave yard; our grave is number 62:

Her will, which states effects under £200 is granted to her son, Richard Sutton of Hornby. It must have been about this time, then, that both Richard and the rest of his siblings, inherited the money from their father.

Richard and Eleanor's Descendents

Richard Sutton (1807-1881)

Elisabeth Betty (1810):

Betty marries Thomas Parker on 22nd October 1836; her two illegitimate sons, Richard and Robert (who becomes Thomas) are brought up with their grand-parents in West House.

In 1841, Betty is living with her husband Thomas, at Burtons in Dent. Thomas is 30 years old and is a farmer. Betty is also 30. They have two children, James 3 and Mary 2. Her brother, James, who is now 20, is also living with them.

Betty, Thomas and their family remain at Burtons. By 1851 their son, James, is now 13 and Mary 11; they have been joined by further siblings, Eleen 9, Jane 7, William 5, and Margaret 2. All were born in Dent.

In 1861 the family are still at Burtons, Thomas is now 49 with 79 acres; Betty is 50. Their daughter, Eleanor, is 19 and unmarried; Margaret is 11, Elizabeth 9, and their grand daughter, Elizabeth Alice aged 5 months is also living with them.

The following year, 1871, Thomas now has 18 acres. Ellen remains unmarried at 27 and Alice, their grand daughter is 10 years old. Jane, who is also their grand daughter, is 9 and Thomas their grandson is 5.

The family remain at Burtons for at least two more decades: in 1881; Elizabeth has stayed at home, unmarried; their grand son Thomas is now 15; Mary, grand daughter is 3 and James another grand child is 1.

In 1891 Thomas and Betty are now 80 and 81 respectively. Elizabeth is still single and 39; Mary is 13 and James 11.

When Betty's illegitimate son, Richard Sutton (1829) marries Isabella Allen in 1850 in Dent it says on his marriage certificate that Robert Waller is his father. In the 1841 census, Robert Waller, who is 35 and a farmer, lives with his wife Betty and family just down the road from Betty and Thomas at Peacock Hill. Gosh, a bit close for comfort!

I think Burtons is now Parkers Cottage which is a holiday cottage, and here is a photo:

Betty's eldest, illegitimate son Richard Sutton (1829-1883) emigrates to Canada. Betty's second illegitimate son, Robert (also known as Thomas) marries Margaret Yeomans from Whitehaven and they have five children: Richard Yeomans Sutton 1860-1911); Margaret W Sutton (1863-?); Annie A (1866-?); Robert J. (1868-?); and Minnie Ellen (1872-?). The family live in Whitehaven where Robert is a watchmaker and jeweller. Robert dies in 1903 leaving just over nine thousand pounds to his wife.

Robert Sutton (1814-1863)

Jane Sutton (1817)

Jane marries Alexander Kilburn in 1840 and has a daughter, Jane, born the same year. In the 1841 census she is living in Dent with her husband who is 30 years old and is a butcher, their daughter Jane, who is four months old, and Edward Kilburn who is six years old and is, presumably, from a previous marriage. Jane dies in 1841.

Their daughter, Jane Kilburn, is living with her grandma, Ellen Sutton, in the 1851 census at West House; she is still with her grandma in 1861, living at Pinfold, Dent. Jane marries John Metcalfe on 28th March 1866 in Dent. But I am guessing the marriage isn't a happy one as in 1871 Jane is a housekeeper at 64 Hillary Street, West Leeds. She works for a John Smith who is an ironmonger and employes five men.

In 1881 Jane is 40 years old (and she is still down as being married) living with her cousin, Elizabeth Smith (who was born in Kirby Malham), her husband, Thomas Smith, their children, Mary E 11, Kate 9, Clara 7, all of whom were born in Colne, Lancashire, as well as Lucy Batty, Thomas Smith's sister-in-law, and his brother, John Smith, an ironmonger. They are living at 9 Imperial Terrace, Blackpool, running a lodging house. Jane is housekeeper.

Ten years later, in 1891, Jane is still living with John Smith, as his housekeeper, but they have moved back to Leeds, at 22 Cavendish Row. Jane is now down as a widow and John Smith is single. They also have a general servant, Alice M. Bennett who is from London.

Now I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like there is some fibbing going on. It sounds rather like Jane is actually with John Smith, given that she was his housekeeper in 1871!

I'm afraid that's as far as I can get with Jane.

James Sutton (1820)

whom you will recall was living with his sister/half-sister Betty and her family in Dent in 1841, married Jane Pinch (who lived next door with her family) in 1842. By 1851 they were living at Gibbs Hall, James is 30 and still a joiner, his wife Jane is 33 and is a stocking knitter; they have a son, Richard, who is 9 years old. Gibbs Hall is a tiny hamlet of five cottages on the Cowgill Road, about a mile east of Dent village. His neighbours include a farmer, blacksmith, another joiner and a chairmaker.

James and his wife live at Gibbs Hall for many years until James dies on 4th May 1898 and is buried on 7th May. His burial is noted in Dent Parish Magazine, along with notice of the death of his only son, Richard of Village Street, Liverpool who died on May 25th aged 56 years. Here is a notice about James' will published in the London Gazette, November 11, 1898:

Diane Elphick informs me that whilst transcribing snippets from some old Parish Magazines, the following extract from a series of articles in 1903 about the Sidesmen of Dent came up:

'It used to be the custom - and I think the custom must have existed for centuries - for the Sidesmen to be "sworn in" before a surrogate after their election. An instance of this was given in the Parish Magazine of November. The custom continued until about the middle of last century, the late Mr. James Sutton, of Gibs Hall, being the last survivor of those who were sworn in. It is possible that the custom was discontinued because the powers and duties of the Sidesmen have been so much diminished by legislation in modern times.'

In Old Yorkshire Dales, 1967, Arthur Raistrick tells us in the final chapter entitled "Dentdale - the remote dale," that Dent had been a Crown manor from 1629 to 1670 when it was "transferred to freeholds and the Twenty Four Sidesmen of Dent took over the Lordship. It is thought that 'sidesmen' is a corruption of 'synodsmen', co-opted and not elected."

It is worth pointing out that Mary Howitt, the wife of William Howitt, wrote the famous poem The Spider and the Fly as well as a novel, Hope on, Hope Ever published in 1840 which was based on the story of a family who lived at Gibbs Hall.

Gibbs Hall is now a ruin but here is a drawing of it from W.H. Thompson's Sedbergh, Garsdale and Dent: Peeps at the Past History, published in 1892:

John Sutton (1823)

In 1851, John Sutton is now 27, and living at Low Green, Middleton, Westmoreland, with his wife, Margaret (nee Gaythwaite) and their two children, Richard, 5 and Ellen, 3. Both children were born at Middleton. John dies the following year when he is 29 years old, here is the notice from the local paper,

In his will he left his household furniture, etc., and monies and securities to his wife, Margaret as well as £100 to his eldest son, Richard, and his gun 'and desire that it may be carefully preserved and unused until' his son reaches the age of 21.

I am guessing that their two children die because I have found Margaret in the 1861 census. She is the cook at Casterton School for Clergymen's daughters. But there is no sign of her children. The school was founded by Rev Carus Wilson and moved from Cowan Bridge in 1833. Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily Bronte attended the school when it was in Cowan Bridge in 1824. The following year Maria and then Elizabeth die from tuberculosis and Charlotte and Emily are removed from the school. This is just another amazing coincidence.

In 1871 Margaret is still in service and is a cook for Lt. Col. William Clay, his wife Jane and their children at The Slopes, Wallasey, Cheshire. I cannot find Margaret after this date.

William Sutton (1828-1896)

The Dentdale Brontë Trail

We haven't quite finished with Richard's story yet because there is one further 'legend' to examine and that is the suggestion, by Kim Lyon in her booklet, The Dentdale Brontë Trail, 1985, that Richard Sutton's story was used as a role model for the character Heathcliff in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

Kim Lyon makes the claim on page 6 that Edmund Sill, on his return from a visit to Liverpool, brought back an orphan boy who was called Richard Sutton, born at Westhouses, Thornton in Lonsdale in 1781. She adds, "It is not known the year in which his adoption occurred, only that Edmund must have collected the child on his homeward journey from the metropolis, thus giving rise to the theory that the child was a Liverpool orphan." This is part of the basis for the argument that Richard Sutton was used as a model for Emily Brontë's Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

However, as Diane Elphick has noted, there is no evidence that the Sill family adopted Richard; it could be simply that they hired him as a servant (although there is no evidence of him being indentured as his sister, Jane, was). Given that Jane was indentured when she was ten years old in 1796, which is when Richard's father dies, it is likely that Richard, too, entered the service of the Sill family at the same time, perhaps as a 'shoe black'.

Kim Lyon later says, page 8, "At Rigg End, Richard Sutton, now the nearest to a male relative . . . ran her [Ann Sill's] estates and acted as overseer, no doubt keeping on the pack of trained hunting dogs that the Sill brothers had introduced . . ." There is no evidence, that I am aware of, to show Richard was the Sill estate manager nor that they had a pack of trained hunting dogs.

Since writing this I have found evidence to substantiate the first part of this statement: When Richard's eldest son married his second wife, Mary Beetham in 1867 he states that his father was a "steward." There is also evidence that Robert Sutton had a dog (but nothing says it was a trained hunting dog), Westmorland Gazette, 22nd June 1839 which tells the story of Robert's dog worrying sheep: Robert Sutton.

A couple of paragraphs later, Kim Lyon continues,

"Ann had an enigmatic relationship with Richard Sutton. His character was not of a very high moral standing in other people's eyes. He had so displeased Ann that, on one occasion, she'd had him flogged and during the last two years of her life she had not permitted him into her presence at all!! Yet her last Will and Testament proves her fondness for him. The first document of 1808, written a year after the death of her mother, leaves him High Rigg End plus one twentieth of her accumulated income. The codicil of 1809, which totally revokes other bequests to friends and relatives, ups Richard's share of the percentage of the accumulated income to one tenth, and she also adds to his property in leaving him Dyke Hall. Perhaps, as he had been adopted by her father, she felt some responsibility towards his future . . ."

I am assuming Kim is basing her judgement on what William Howitt says which is little more than local gossip. As I pointed out earlier, it is likely Richard was flogged when he was a boy; and we only have Howitt's say so, supposedly based on interviews with reliable witnesses (servants who may have had a vested interest in making Richard seem bad if they had been taken out of the will or not been included?) that he was not allowed in the presence of Ann Sill for the last two years of her life. If any reference to Howitt's story is omitted and we look purely at the facts, the relationship between Richard Sutton and the Sill family appears to be consistently good.

Kim Lyon acknowledges her reliance on William Howitt:

"Richard Sutton's progress in life is a strange tale. According to Howitt's 'Rural History of England', he was taken into Ann's house 'as a shoe black or some such thing'. It was also Howitt who recorded him as having been flogged. He also notes that Richard was of a 'base' nature. It would seem, then, that Richard Sutton was taken into the Sill household and treated little better than a servant, indeed one might go so far as to say, little better than a slave. This, too, was so with 'Heathcliff'".

As I have already noted, it is likely that Richard was, indeed a servant in the Sill house. However, it would seem that Kim Lyon takes Howitt (or his informants) at his word by expanding on Richard's so-called 'base' nature by suggesting that Richard Sutton had either seduced or raped his own wife's sister:

"After the death of John Sill, brother to Ann, Sutton married an Eleanor Constantine. The witness to the marriage was James Sill. This was in 1804, and a succession of offspring appeared. On May 3rd 1829, another Richard Sutton was born, but the mother was not Eleanor, it was Betty Constantine. A second bastard son was born to Betty in 1834. Betty resided at Rigg End, along with the Suttons and her kin Eleanor. There seemed to be no change to the status quo after Richard's seduction of Betty, who must have been related to his own wife. This seduction/rape or whatever it was cannot have pleased Ann Sill too much. Neither did Heathcliff's' seduction of 'Isabella' please 'Catherine'"

Kim Lyon is confusing the data: Betty Constantine was the sister of Eleanor Constantine. Their parents were Robert Constantine and Elizabeth Atkinson who married in Hawes in 1782 which is where their daughters, Eleanor (1785) and Betty (1789) were baptised. The records tell us that Betty, 'spinster of Cage' died at the age of 17 years in 1806, which means that she could not have been the Betty Kim Lyon talks about. But what we do know is that Richard Sutton's daughter, Betty, had two illegitimate sons, Richard (1829) and Robert aka Thomas (1834).

Here is the Sutton-Constantine family tree developed by Diane Elphick:

We do not know whether Betty Sutton was the illegitimate daughter of Richard Sutton and another woman or whether she was the legitimate daughter of Richard Sutton and his wife Ellen. However, it is clear from Richard Sutton's will that Richard (1829) and Robert aka Thomas (1834) were the 'natural' or illegitimate sons of his daughter, Betty Sutton. According to the records, when Betty's son Richard (1829) got married to Isabella Allen in Dent in 1850 it was stated his father was Robert Waller. This again puts pay to the suggestion that Richard was the son of Richard Sutton.

It is bad enough that William Howitt in The rural life of England, published in 1838, gives Richard Sutton a bad name, calling him 'base' but for Kim Lyon to be publishing in 1985 to make up the story that Richard Sutton seduced or raped his sister-in-law, when it not true, is appalling. On behalf of my ancestor, I strongly object.

Kim Lyon then goes on to try and make a link between the Constantine family and Jamaica:

"The Constantine clan were not of Dent. As well as Eleanor and Betty, there was another Betty at Cage Farm. She is in the Dent registers as dying in 1806. In 1823, an Elizabeth Constantine died at Rigg End aged 77 years, and in 1828 Robert Constantine died in Dent Town aged 79. It is possible that Elizabeth and Robert were the parents of Eleanor. She was 30 when she married Richard Sutton. It is therefore possible that Betty was her daughter, or she could have been a sister. Where this family came from is a mystery. Constantine is not a Dent name. It is a Jamaican name . . ."

As Diane Elphick notes in her article, WESTHOUSES: The Suttons, the name Constantine is not uncommon in the Hawes area or other parts of the Yorkshire Dales.

As mentioned, our Constantine family moved to Dentdale to occupy the farmhouse Cage in 1792. Here is a modern photograph of Cage; it is currently being renovated:

Eleanor's father, Robert, stayed at Cage until he moved to High Nunhouse between 1819 and 1821 (Dent Land Tax). As Diane also suggests, it is likely that Richard and Eleanor looked after Eleanor's mother at Rigg End where she died in 1823; Robert, Eleanor's father, died in 1827 when he was 79. Furthermore, Eleanor must have been about 19 years old when she married Richard Sutton: the census of 1841 puts her age at 55 and in 1851 as 66. If she had been 30 when she married, as Kim Lyon suggests, this would mean that she was aged 57 years when her youngest son, Thomas, was born in 1831.

Kim Lyon states on page 14 that "Lots were drawn by the Suttons for the contents of West House, which were divided among the servants. . . The furniture, which, according to the codicil of 1808, should have gone to the Kirkby Lonsdale relations, went among the servants! It was no wonder that fresh scandal was spread abroad." This statement is not substantiated by Ann Sill's original will of 1808 which stated:

"I give and bequeath all my Household Goods and Furniture to and equally among My Servant CATHARINE BURTON, JANE MIDDLETON of Vicarage in Dent, Spinster, The said BARBARA FOXCROFT and ELEANOR or NELLY, the Wife of the said RICHARD SUTTON my Farmer or such of them as are living at my death, only should the said ELEANOR or NELLY SUTTON die before me her Husband to have and enjoy her Share thereof."

The only alteration to this part of the original will made by the first codicil on 28th February 1809 was to revoke Jane Middleton with her share being distributed between the others identified above. Barbaraa Foxcroft and her father were one of the inheritors to receive 10% of the residue money.

What the above extract suggests is that Ann Sill was also fond of Eleanor (Ellen/Nelly) Sutton, Richard's wife. Furthermore, Ann included Richard's son, Richard, in the will (even though he was only about one years old at the time):

"I give and bequeath all my Printed Books to and equally among THOMAS, ADAM, JOHN and JAMES, Sons of the said Reverend RICHARD SEDGWICK, The said JAMES DAVIS, RICHARD SUTTON Junior, Son of the before named RICHARD SUTTON and RALPH, HARRISON and WILLIAM, Sons of the said RICHARD ALDERSON or such of them as are living at my death"

This clearly indicates, to me at least, that Ann was close to the whole Sutton family, not just Richard.

Richard Sutton Role Model for Heathcliff?

To return to the question of whether Richard Sutton was one of Emily Brontë's role models for Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights:

I am inclined to agree with Diane Elphick who suggests it is possible that the story, and Dentdale, were used in part for both Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

It is likely that the Brontë sisters were aware of the so-called scandal from reading Howitt and possibly hearing other aspects of the story from contacts who knew Dentdale families via links with clergy families. For example, Adam Sedgwick's father and brother were ministers at St Andrew's church, Dent, during this period and officiated at the christenings and most of the burials of the Sutton children, so would have known the family well; and remember the clergyman William Matthews was renting a house from Richard Sutton in the 1841 census.

It is highly likely that both Emily and Charlotte had a keen interest in the area as it is close to Cowan Bridge where, as children, they attended the Clergy Daughter's School; this certainly appears to be the basis for the part of Jane Eyre when she attends school and her best friend, Helen, dies of consumption as, indeed, Charlotte and Emily's two sisters did.

But the Richard Sutton story is probably just one of many stories used by the Brontë sisters.

It is hard to believe that Richard Sutton was like Heathcliff, although Kim Lyon has a damn good attempt to make us believe this. I leave you with some questions:

If Richard Sutton was so 'base' is it likely he would have ensured that all of his children were beneficiaries under his will, including the two 'natural' children of Betty Sutton?

Is it likely he would have had such a long marriage and sired so many children?

Is it likely he would have looked after his mother-in-law?

Is it likely he would have simply given William and Mary Howitt a very inquisitive and black look when they were trespassing on his land and snooping around?

No, I think he would have taken a page out of Wuthering Heights and had the dogs set on them!

A Regular Black, The Hidden Wuthering Heights, the Myth Continues

I attended a screening of the above documentary, directed by Adam Low, edited by Joanna Crickmay, executive producer Cassandra Pybus and produced by Martin Rosenbaum, at the Brontë Society meeting in Haworth on 10th June 2012. I have to say, I enjoyed the film very much, both at the event and since, as I bought a copy and have watched it again.

I do not have a problem with most of the content of the film, the main purpose of which is to suggest that Heathcliff may have been a black slave. I don't have any problem with this suggestion, nor the suggestion put forward in the debate following the screening, that Heathcliff might have been Irish. The reality is that Heathcliff wasn't a real person. And I don't want to get into this whole literary debate. What I do want to challenge is what Kim Lyon and others say in the film.

Someone in the film said there were about 30 slaves at West House - what evidence is there for this assertion? An advert for one runaway slave does not equal 30.

What evidence is there that Richard Sutton was badly treated by the Sill family as a child apart from Howitt's assertion that for a misdemeanour Richard chose to accept a beating than leave the Sill house?

Where is the evidence that Richard Sutton was in love with Ann Sill, who was 14 years older than him and Richard married Eleanor Constantine when he was 21?

What evidence is there that Richard Sutton was black?

What evidence is there that Richard Sutton wasn't "a very nice man" apart from Howitt suggesting he was of 'base' character based on gossip?

What evidence is there that the Sills were "very evil people?"

All of these assertions were made in the film, predominantly by Kim Lyon.

It is my belief that there is no evidence for this apart from what Howitt says in The rural life of England and I have already suggested that his retelling of the gossip that was going around Dentdale when he visited in 1837 was grossly exaggerated.

It is bad enough that Kim Lyon makes unfounded assertions about Richard Sutton in her self published booklet The Dentdale Brontë Trail, 1985, but this film has taken these unfounded assertions and exaggerated them even more. The urban myth is becoming a so-called truth that is being touted around universities across the world! Isn't it time some academic got to grips with this and challenged the myth once and for all?

In the documentary much is made of old photographs as a way of 'proving' there were lots black people who lived in Dent. In fact, after the film was shown at the Brontë Society AGM, a member of the audience came up to speak to me. She said she was from Dent. She disputed one of the photographs used in the film, which supposedly was the Dent Hope Band; in fact, she said it was a Hope Band from elsewhere, not Dent.

I would remind readers that we do have a photograph of William Sutton, Richard's youngest son. I am no expert on facial features but it does not look to me like William's father was black:

PROOF: My half-sister in Canada has just had a DNA test (August 2016) and the results show that she is 100% European - so this puts an end to the myth that Richard Sutton was black.

I would like to thank Diane Elphick and Elspeth Griffiths for information and help, and acknowledge the Sedbergh & District Historian for use of photographs and maps.

Here is a series of photographs of Dent and Dentdale taken in 2011: