Love’s young dream (Lowther Lawson)

Lowther Lawson’s youthful romance is my topical topic (!) for the weekend after Valentine’s Day. Because while it started out as a romantic story, the romance didn’t last much longer than a bunch of over-priced roses. (Personally, I think Valentine’s Day is the LEAST romantic day of the year, by the way).

Gretna Green

In 1833, 22-year old Jane Clapperton ran away from home with 23-year-old Lowther Lawson. To Gretna Green, where they married on November 27.

If that sounds wonderfully romantic, it actually seems to be  more a case of ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’.

Their daughter Agnes was baptised five months later, so if they’d not eloped, it seems likely Jane’s parents (at least) would have been pushing for them to marry anyway.

Within six years, they were living apart. And Lowther Lawson went on to establish a very complicated family tree!

‘I live at Drumburgh Castle’

We can’t know if they ever did live together really, . But for sure, in 1841, Jane and young Agnes are living with her parents at Burgh by Sands.

While Lowther Lawson is living with two older brothers, in Drumburgh. Not just any old place:

I live at Drumburgh Castle. My father was the lord’s bailiff there.

So he told an inquiry into fishing rights on the Solway, saying he himself began to act as bailiff in 1847.

Jumping forward to 1851, and Jane is still at Burgh, described as married, with her daughter.

Her husband, still living with his brothers, put his status down as ‘single’.

Alas, poor Jane

And that was kind of that for Jane. She was in Burgh in 1861, married – as was Agnes by then. Sadly, Agnes had died by 1871, leaving Jane looking after two of her children (the eldest isn’t to be found), and Agnes’ husband Josiah Hodgson farming nearby.

(In 1881, 1891. and 1901, Josiah Hodgson was sharing his home with a ‘housekeeper’ called Mary Jackson).

Another ‘housekeeper’

So, what was ‘unmarried’ Lowther Lawson up to?

Well, by 1871, he was the head of the household at Drumburgh Castle. And he, too, had a housekeeper.

Ann Skelton was 49 (Lowther Lawson 59), and a widow. And very obligingly, Lowther Lawson was accommodating three of her children.

Another absent husband

Ann Skelton’s life hadn’t been totally smooth till then, either.

Born Ann Wood, she married Josiah Skelton in 1848. They and two infant sons are living with her parents at Easton in 1851.

But in 1861, she is living in Port Carlisle, with five children and a domestic servant. While Josiah is nowhere to be found.

There’s no sign him after that, either – not on the census returns, and not in the death index.

Mr and er, ?MRS Lawson?

But by 1871 at Drumburgh Castle, Ann Skelton has with her… Ann Skelton, aged 9 (actually born 1863).

If that wasn’t odd enough, the 1881 census has:

117 St James’ Road, Cummersdale.

Lowther Lawson, 70;

Ann Lawson, wife, 60;

Ann Lawson, daughter, 19.

and visitor Jane Skelton, 24 (actually Ann’s daughter by Josiah).

Lowther’s ‘forgotten’ wife Jane may have died by then; Jeremiah Skelton may have died by then. But there is no sign of a marriage between Lowther Lawson and Ann. 

Lowther Lawson’s will

Lowther Lawson died in 1885. 

His will makes no mention of any of his grandchildren by his marriage to Jane Clapperton.

Instead, he leaves his estate to: ‘Ann Lawson Skelton, at present residing with me.’

That’s not Ann Wood/Skelton/maybe Lawson. That’s Ann Skelton born 1863. 

Either Lowther Lawson was being very generous to his favourite step-daughter, or, she was his child.

I imagine her mother had died between 1881-1885, but can’t see a match as Ann Skelton or Ann Lawson. But then that’s pretty much par for the course with the above lot!

Who was Ann Millican?

Lowther Lawson’s will has one final puzzle. If Ann Lawson Skelton should die without having children, her inheritance would transfer to Mrs Ann Millican of Mealrigg, and her children.

Mrs Ann Millican of Mealrigg looks to have been née Foster and born about 1847/8 in Cardewlees. No apparent link at all – except she called a child Lowther Lawson Millican in 1871, for some reason.