James Pearson of Staindrop History of County Durham in England has recently written to the CHN blogger and brought to his attention information about the English origins and connections of John Hawdon of Elderslie.
John Hawdon arrived in New South Wales with his family and servants in 1828. He took a six year lease on John Oxley’s former grant of Elderslie and became a colonial identity. He later took up a grant in the Moruya area of the New South Wales South Coast and built Kiora homestead in 1836
The village of Wackerfield in County Durham, England
John Hawdon of Elderslie was born in the village of Wackerfield. The village is also known as Wakefield or Walkerfield in Country Durham. According to James Pearson the accent in the north-east reduces this pronunciation to ‘Wackerfield’ and it appears on maps under either spelling.
James Pearson writes that Wackerfield sits on the slope of Keverstone bank just above Raby Castle and the ground begins to descend, though not steeply, towards the river Tees. It looks flat area in places and is located on the ‘spine’ of England. The area is on the eastern side of the north Pennine range so areas of moorland.
Raby Castle websites states:
Built for the mighty dynasty of the Nevills, this great fortress stands proud and defiant, its history rolling back almost a thousand years. King Cnut (also known as Canute II the Great) owned the Estate, then known as ‘Rabi’ (derived from ‘Ra’, Danish for a boundary, and ‘Bi’, a settlement or dwelling) in the early 11th Century. The Viking King and self appointed ‘Emperor of the North’ may well have built a manor house here, but it was the Nevills who built the 14th century castle which still stands today.
Raby Castle was the property of the Nevill family and royal connections until 1569 when they led a rebellion against Elizabeth I for which hundreds were executed in the north, a number from every village and town. It then became the property of the Vane family who were prominent in the English Civil War.
Raby Castle websites states that:
Raby Castle, the private home of Lord Barnard, sits at the heart of the Raby Estate, which spreads across Teesdale, County Durham and Northumbria. Agriculture is an important source of income for the Estate. As well as the Estate’s own Home Farm in Raby Park, there are many tenanted farms and a large number of houses and cottages in villages around Teesdale, many are whitewashed farmsteads and houses where families have been tenants for several generations.
Raby Estates have several residential properties and agricultural holdings which become available from time to time. Houses owned by Raby can be found in many Teesdale villages near Barnard Castle and Darlington such as Staindrop, Piercebridge, Wackerfield and Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Wackerield Hall in the main building in the village and there are a number of outbuildings.
Next to the Hall is a row of 4 cottages and, according to James Pearson, this is about the extent of the village. There are only one or two other isolated cottages
Today they produce a lot of hay in this area, and during harvest period tractor and trailer loads of baled hay come through the village.
The Hawdon family of Wackerfield
John Hawdon, the father of John of Elderslie, was a yeoman farm. A yeoman farmer between the 14th and 18th century as a farmer who owned land. The social rank of the yeoman was between the land owning gentry and labourer
John Hawdon of Wackerfield was born in 1770, son of John Hawdon and Mary Watson. He married Elizabeth Hunt of Gainford, a village about three miles away, in 1798. John’s children included sons John (b.1801), Joseph and William (b.1812), who stayed on the family farm.
John was a ‘Cornet’ (2nd Lieutenant) in Staindrop Gentlemen and Yeomanry (1798—1815), raised by John Ingram which was renamed as the Staindrop Troop of Volunteer Cavalry, disbanded in 1815. The was cavalry raised in 1798 in the face of a threatened Napoleonic invasion. John was promoted to a lieutenant and eventually served as captain of the troop.
The Durham Light Infantry Museum Collection website states:
The Staindrop Gentlemen and Yeomanry was raised in 1798 by John Ingram of Staindrop, with a strength of 54 officers and men. In 1803, the Regiment changed its name to the Staindrop Volunteer Cavalry. It survived until 1815, when it became part of the Durham Yeomanry. This is a rare surviving example of Napoleonic Volunteer cavalry uniform from County Durham.
John Hawdon of Wackerfield died in 1845.
John of Elderslie’s parents are buried in the churchyard in Wackerfield and there is a gravestone.
John Hawdon, grandfather of John of Elderslie, was born in the parish in 1742 son of Christopher and Ann Hawdon. Christopher was born in 1710 in the same parish.
The Hawdon farm in County Durham
John Hawdon’s farm was 520 acres and is still a working farm with the original farmhouse. It was primarily concerned with breeding and growing sheep.
John Hawdon, (b.1770) was a member of the Staindrop Farmer’s Club where they discussed the latest developments in farming and other issues. In 1862 John felt that the steam plough and threshing machine would be a great improvement for farming. John was quite an expert on raising sheep and presented a paper at the Club on the issue in 1863. In 1865 John spoke the Club on the subject of fattening sheep during the summer months.
On the death of John Hawdon (1770-1845) in 1845 his third son William Watson Hawdon was in possession of the farm.
Brother William (1812-1879) stayed and farmed at Wackerfield. William married and had several sons, one was an engineer, another was a director of ironworks, and one died young aged 16yrs.
When William Watson Hawdon died in 1879 aged 67yrs, he had no son in the farming business to follow him.
William’s widow left the farm and moved into Ormuz house on the village green and died there in 1891.
James Pearson came across a speech their father John Hawdon (1770-1845) gave to the Staindrop Farmers Club in 1844 and he was discussing the breeds of sheep and what is best for the local area.
Today the farm has some sheep, dairy farming and some cropping.
John of Elderslie
John Hawdon of Elderslie did duties in the Staindrop Volunteer Cavalry before coming out to New South Wales.
John’s younger brother Joseph Hawdon followed his elder brother, John, out to Australia. He too had an eventful life eventually moving to New Zealand where he became famous as an outlander.
Brother Joseph had died in 1871 in New Zealand, and brother John of Elderslie was the surviving brother. John of Eldersle returned to England in the late 1870s.
James Pearson located an interesting newspaper article about John of Elderslie’s return to England. The local newspaper reported the visit and John’s return to New South Wales in 1880.
In the course of a few days Mr John Hawdon, of Wackerfield, will sail for the antipodes, and the last link of a family long associated with agricultural pursuits in this neighbourhood will be severed. Mr Hawdon’s family for centuries have farmed at Walkerfield, and the name is familiar in most market towns in the north. At a period contemporaneous with the reign of Queen Elisabeth the farm at Wackerfield belonged to the Hawdons, the property subsequently having been purchased by one of the lords of Raby, and the farm being now held by the Duke of Cleveland. The lot of the farmer has been beset with difficulties during the past few years. The English agriculturist has had to cope with foreign competition. Bad trade has long depressed all industries, and, what is even more significant to the farmer, bad crops for a succession of years have been reaped. There is every prospect, however, this season, that good crops will uniformly be gathered. Let us venture a hope that in his new home Mr Hawdon may prosper, and that he may soon be surrounded by as many friends as now regret his departure from these shores.
S G P Ward (1962), ‘Faithful: The Story of The Durham Light Infantry’ provides an overview of the Napoleonic Volunteers in County Durham.