Fascinating history of a local family

Newbiggin's old Wesleyan chapel.
Newbiggin's old Wesleyan chapel.

On August 30, 1830, Mary Ann Murray married Teasdale Colledge, mariner, at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, Middlesex. St Dunstan’s was a seaman’s church, but it’s odd that they weren’t married in the North East, where they came from, so they may have eloped.

Two children, Thomas and Mary Anne, were born in South Shields, then four more in Gateshead. They moved to North Shields in about 1848 where Joseph, the youngest, was born. Seven in all, and perhaps others that didn’t survive.

Mrs Colledge was a formidable woman. The captain was at home in Nile Street for the 1851 census, but died in 1854. She was a lodging house-keeper in Church Street in 1858 and a ‘shopwoman’ in 1861.

They were Methodists. The children went to Sunday school, and did well. Thomas became a grocer, Mary Ann a teacher, Joshua a tailor, William assistant to Mr William Brown, grocer, druggist and stationer in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, and George apprentice to a dyer. Jane probably stayed at home and helped mother.

William lived in his employer’s family in Main Street. Mr. Brown was himself a Wesleyan, and this probably weighed heavily in Mrs Colledge’s decision to go to Newbiggin.

In 1871 they were in Wansbeck Square. Mrs Colledge was 65, Mary Ann, milliner, 38, Jane, 30, and William, assistant chemist, 27. That three of the children were still at home in their late twenties and thirties points to a well-regulated family.

Unfortunately, I have never been able to find Main Street or Wansbeck Square. Can any reader help?

Newbiggin brought the family into the orbit of the Morpeth Herald. The Herald of December 15, 1866, advertises a Christmas Day tea meeting under the auspices of the Presbyterian and Wesleyan Sunday Schools. Tickets from W. Brown, R. Dent and others. Public meeting in the Presbyterian chapel afterwards, including an address by Mr W. Colledge of Newbiggin, on ‘Christian Union’. Mr William Brown took the chair.

Examinations for Methodist local preachers then were not like today’s examinations. The Herald of March 30, 1867, says: ‘Messrs. W.R. Colledge, chemist, W. Buddles, joiner, and C. Downie, draper, &c., passed a successful and creditable examination in theology, and in the peculiar tenets of the Methodist Church, before a court of clerical and lay gentlemen ... (and) were afterwards admitted as fully accredited local preachers. ... The present chapel (at Newbiggin) is much too small, and ill adapted for public worship.’

In May 1868, Mr Brown moved to new premises at 3 Wansbeck Square, and at the same time Mary Ann advertised her business at No. 4: ‘Newbiggin-by-the-sea, Miss Colledge, Begs to intimate to the Ladies of Newbiggin and the Neighbourhood that she has commenced the millinery and dressmaking business, and trusts by carefully executing all Orders, to merit a share of their patronage. Ladies’ own materials made up.’

She was Secretary of the Ladies’ Sewing Circle, and she and Jane (‘the Misses Colledge’) served tea at Wesleyan Methodist events.

On December 21, 1872, Jane Osborne Colledge married William Dent, both of Newbiggin, at the Wesleyan Chapel in Manchester Street – again presumably reflecting the smallness of the chapel at Newbiggin.

Under the Pharmacy Act, 1868, anyone selling poisons had to be registered with the Pharmaceutical Society. People like Mr Brown (and, incidentally, Charles the Widdrington radical) could do so on the strength of experience.

Assistants could only qualify by examination, with those employed for three years before 1868 taking a modified one. In April 1873 the Herald reported that: ‘Mr W.R. Colledge, assistant to Mr Brown, chemist, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, passed successfully in the modified examination, held in Edinburgh, on Tuesday last.’

He was elected an Associate of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and a few years later had his own business as a chemist and grocer. He became acquainted with James Fergusson, the Secretary of the Morpeth Mechanics’ Institute. They were both keen naturalists and microscopists.

Thomas became a ship’s chandler in North Shields. George entered the Methodist ministry and went out to Queensland, to be followed later by Joseph, William, Mary Ann and Mrs Colledge.

The Brisbane Courier of December 21, 1886, carries the following announcement: ‘On the 20th December, at South Brisbane in her 82nd year, Mary Ann, relict of Captain Colledge, late of North Shields, Northumberland and mother of W.R. Colledge, Brisbane, and G.M. Colledge, Toowong.’

She had done well. Three of her boys, George, Joseph and William, had remarkable careers.

We now look at Joseph’s. He went into insurance and became an agent for the Prudential.

The Herald reports him giving an address at a meeting in the chapel at Newbiggin on Christmas Day 1868, when he was about 20.

He married and went with his young wife to Kertch, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, working as a ship-broker with his father-in-law, and was appointed Vice-Consul there. Their son was born at Kertch in 1871.

He came home on leave and lived at Deptford with his wife, Laura, and their three children. The Morpeth Herald of May 10, 1884, reported: ‘The first meeting of creditors in the bankruptcy of Mr Colledge, formerly British Vice-Consul at Kertch ... (He) stated that his salary as vice-consul was paid up to September 29th. He was suspended on November 16th, his salary between those dates being disputed. He hoped to make a claim against the Globe for damages, and should fix the sum at £25,000.’

The Globe published an agency telegram, alleging that Joseph was involved in wrecking ships for their cargoes.

The steamship Dora Tully, Tyne-built and owned, which stranded in the Kertch Straits, was at the centre of the allegations. Joseph sued them for defamation.

After that, he joined George in Australia, and eventually became the Brisbane manager of J. Dunn & Co., flour millers. He gave lectures to local societies, preached, and was a director of the YMCA. He took the chair at a lecture on ‘Notable Hospital Nurses’, when he ‘bore testimony to the self-denying labours of the hospital nurses during the Russo-Turkish war, of which he was an eye-witness.’

During a downturn in 1893, Joseph took a leading role in discussions about accepting the notes of banks that had been suspended. In 1895, he and a local minister mediated in a dispute between the Brisbane boot and shoe manufacturers and the men’s union. He was a founder of the Manchester Queensland Produce Distribution Company.

It exported frozen produce direct through the Manchester Ship Canal, bypassing London and getting better prices for Queenslanders. He toured northern Queensland to obtain consignments of meat and dairy produce, and in 1896 went to Manchester to open the Queensland Depot there.

He became an agent in London for Mount Usher Gold Mines, and a director in 1897, and held similar positions in other mining companies.

He died suddenly in April 1900, at 11 Sarre Road, a respectable suburban street in north London. The Brisbane Courier reported that: ‘Mr Colledge had been at business up to the last day of his life, active and apparently robust.’