Each year the last weekend of January is time for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) annual Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s a time when we’re all encouraged to go and count the birds we see – maybe in your garden, from a balcony or window, or in a local park, and submit the results online. The initiative helps monitor the bird population in the UK.
There’s lots of opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife in the North East of England, and our archives and rare books reflect people’s interest with the natural world across history. One example of these is this fabulous bird illustrations from our Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive.
Joseph Crawhall II (1821-1896) was a businessman, artist and patron of the arts. His artistic achievements including wood engraving, watercolours and contributions to Punch magazine. The pursuits of himself and his family contributed to the thriving cultural environment of 19th Century Newcastle.
However, the illustrations we’re highlighting here were not created by Joseph. They are pages from illustrated diaries and sketchbooks attributed to his brother, George Edward Crawhall (1821-1896). This generation of Crawhall siblings were all artists – George and Joseph but also brother Thomas and their sister Jane. George’s legacy is not as celebrated as his brother Joseph’s, but he also contributed to some of Joseph’s most famous works, including the Compleatest Angling Booke, for which George contributed the trout tail which features at the end.
These diaries/sketchbooks reveal George’s travel in England and Scotland between 1867 and the 1890s. Many of the images depict scenes from the North East, such as the image below of a coot and moorhen fighting in Brandling Park – just around the corner from the Philip Robinson Library, home to Newcastle University’s Special Collections and Archives.
The diaries record many of scenes of hunting and fishing, alongside natural history studies. Birds feature heavily, although frequently under the gaze of armed hunters.
The beautiful circular designs featured in this blog post each showcase a different bird native to the UK, and were likely intended to appear on decorative plates.
Will you see any of these birds in this year’s Birdwatch?
You can read more about the Big Garden Birdwatch and sign up to participate on the RSPB’s website.
You can read more about the fascinating Crawhall family history and their relationship with the North East in this blog.
‘The accompanying letter from the late John Hodgson, the Historian of Northumberland, to Mr. Thomas Sopwith having only been partially answered, induced me to prosecute further enquiry into our family history, & the result of such enquiry, with the authorities will be found in this volume’.
Joseph Crawhall II is perhaps best-known as a wood engraver of idiosyncratic illustrations which adorned books published by, among other, local printer Andrew Reid and London-based Andrew Tuer at his Leadenhall Press in London.
With a great interest in local history, folklore, and traditions, Crawhall seized upon the opportunity to research his own family after reading clergyman and antiquary John Hodgson’s queries to local mining engineer Thomas Sopwith, for whom he was carrying out family history. Crawhall, with both the time and resources to do so, began gathering together a large selection of family historical material. This is now referred to as the Crawhall Genealogical Scrapbook (JCII-8).
The c.150-page volume is a treasure trove of family history collected by Crawhall. Its contents include notes and family trees transcribed by Crawhall, sketches and paintings of family members, family photographs, newspaper cuttings, sale catalogues, letters. The historical material is drawn from a range of sources including Hodgson’s extensively-researched History of Northumberland, where the Crawhall family is traced back to the Twelfth Century (where the name is spelled ‘Crauden’, ‘Craweden’, or ‘Crawenden’). The 16th Century Crawhaws lived at Crawhall near Thorngrafton in Northumberland and were responsible for governorship of the Middle Marches “From Hexhamshire to the Water of Irdin (Irthing) on both sides of the Tyne”, near Hawteswell (Haltwhistle).
The majority of the material traces the history of the Crawhalls after the family was established in Allendale, Northumberland. Joseph II’s grandfather, Thomas was a lead mining agent, and married Ann Bownas in 1771. Their son, Joseph Crawhall I, (born in 1791) was apprenticed at a Newcastle ropery to learn the trade and eventually bought the St. Anne’s Ropery near the Newcastle Quayside. The company earned a commendation at the 1852 Great Exhibition for ‘Improved Patent Rope Machinery’.
A shrewd business man, Joseph I held shares in the family’s lead mine at Rotherhope, near Allendale and, in his spare time, was a keen amateur artist. He eventually became mayor and sheriff of Newcastle. Joseph I lived (and died) at Stagshaw House, near Corbridge, with his wife Margaret.
Joseph II was born at West House, St. Anthony’s, Newcastle, on 16th May 1821 and quite early on exhibited a talent for art which he was able to pursue throughout his life. An adept, skilful draughtsman and watercolourist with a distinctly Northumbrian sense of humour, he is now best-known for his wood engravings in the chapbook style.
His work was not restricted to paper – a certificate in the scrapbook was awarded to Crawhall for commended work in an 1873 exhibition of paintings on china for the Art-Pottery Galleries in London.
More information about the Genealogical Scrapbook and other Crawhall items can be found in our collections.
On 4th February 2013 archaeological experts from the University of Leicester announced to the world that “beyond reasonable doubt” they had uncovered the bones of Richard III. Richard was 32 years old when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 by the forces of Henry VII. As this verse from Joseph Crawhall describes, Richard was “knock’t on the head” and the skeleton bears evidence of eight injuries to the skull. He was the last English king to die in battle and with his death came the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, giving rise to the House of Tudor.
The skeleton also provides evidence of scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – but no hunched back or withered arm as William Shakespeare and Tudor historians like Thomas More would have you believe.
Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire but spent many of his formative years at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale and it was in the North of England, as President of the Council of the North, that he earned respect as a protector against the Scottish raids and as a just keeper of the peace. On the death of their father in 1461, Richard’s brother became Edward IV and created Richard Duke of Gloucester. When Richard’s brother, Edward IV died, Richard was made protector of his two young nephews: Edward and Richard. Accusations of illegitimacy mounted against the boys and Richard III was crowned King in July 1483 whilst the boys, who had been lodged in the Tower of London, mysteriously vanished. Rumour would have us believe that Richard murdered the princes: “Poor Edward the fifth was, young, kill’d in bed, By his Uncle, Third Richard”, as Crawhall puts it.
Richard was said to have been buried under the choir of Greyfriar’s Church in Leicester but the building had been demolished in the 16th Century. It was by analysing maps that the location of the church was identified, where a car park stands today. Descendants of Richard, who provided DNA samples for comparison, were traced using historic records and documents. This demonstrates the continued relevance of primary sources and other historic materials.
Whether you admire Richard as a brave military leader (he remained on the battlefield while several of his men defected) and the person who introduced an early form of legal aid (the Court of Requests), or whether you believe the Tudor propaganda, it must be remembered that the period of the Wars of the Roses was particularly brutal and that people were governed by a different moral code. Richard’s Council of the North improved economic conditions in the North and he also banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books.
Richard will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.
If you are interested in reading contemporary accounts of Richard and this period, you might refer to the Paston Letters (White (Robert) Collection, W942.04 PAS) and to the account by Robert Fabyan, both of which are held in Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections.