John Bowstead, held in wide esteem

John Bowstead (or Boustead) of Beck Bank Great Salkeld, was so respected that people from far an wide contributed to a memorial after his death. Though a Scottish judge probably didn’t contribute.

A Cumbrian character

Boustead belongs among those categorised as Cumbrian surnames, as it probably originated from Boustead Hill (from old English for ‘bull farm’). It also appears as Bowstead. And in the case of John of Beck Bank, Great Salkeld, both spellings can be found.

Given they used ‘John Bowstead’ on his memorial, I’ll go with that. Though the first reference I found to him was as John Boustead.

A man of many virtues

In May 1865, a long list of subscribers was published in relation to a memorial for John Bowstead of Beck Bank, “in esteem of his many virtues as a farmer, yeoman and kind neighbour”. 

I spotted the list because among the donors, Robert Graham Pears gave £1 5 shillings, and a Miss Pears of Penrith (possibly Emma??) gave 10 shillings.

The total at that point was more than £95 and naturally, I wondered who John Bowstead had been to merit this tribute.

By November 1865, the total had risen to more than £221. And Thomas Pears of the Lays, Farrington, had contributed two shillings and sixpence.

Thomas Pears, born in 1834 at Craggs, was the son of Christopher Pears and Elizabeth Bell and the 1C1R of RGP. On both the 1851 and 1861 censuses, he was recorded at Beck Bank, as a farm worker, then ploughman. He’d married (Mary Brunskill) in Ulverston in 1864, but naturally wanted to honour his former employer of at least a decade.

Who was John Bowstead?

John Bowstead was 62 when he died at Beck Bank, on March 25, 1865. He married Mary Lamb on Feb 16, 1828, in Langwathby. (Mary Bowstead died in 1857). They were at Beck Bank in 1841, with son Thomas, aged 5, and five male and two female servants.

Which turns out to be puzzling, as there should be other children, who I couldn’t find elsewhere either.

In 1832, according to the Carlisle Patriot, Miss Boustead, daughter of Thomas Boustead of Beck Bank, married Mr Wilson of Edenhall. The vicar was the Rev Hall.

Or not. The Westmorland Gazette identies her as Ann Bowstead, her husband as Joseph Wilson, her father as JOSEPH Bowstead, and the vicar as the Rev J Bowstead.

A sale of cattle in 1834 says Joseph Boustead is declining farming. An estate sale later that year refers to John Bowstead of Beck Bank.

Joseph Bowstead died in 1835, aged 77. Other references make it clear he was John Bowstead’s father. The Rev J Bowstead was either John’s Uncle John, or John’s brother James. Rev James Bowstead became Bishop of Sodor and Man (nothing to do with Thomas the Tank Engine!).

The first references I found to John Bowstead otherwise are:

1836. East Cumberland Agricultural Society annual show. John Boustead had three entries in the short-horn cattle classes, but didn’t do especially well.

1837 CARLISLE & CUMBERLAND BANK. BOUSTEAD, John, yeoman, Beck-bank, Penrith. That year, he voted (unsuccessfully) for Sir James Graham in the 1837 General Election

1844 British Farmer’s Magazine. JB officiated as vice-president of Penrith Agricultural Society’s annual ploughing match.

A curious toast

It seems to have been his role in Penrith Agricultural Society, and as cattle breeder, that made him something of a celebrity. He also seems to have done a lot for the poor of Great Salkeld.

However, one snippet that caught my eye was in January 1839, and a dinner at the Lion and Lamb, Penrith, to honour the 81st birthday of the Earl of Lonsdale.

There were toasts to the Earl. Then one to  ‘the health of Lord Lowther, trusting if possible he might prove a better man than his father.”

John Bowstead proposed the next toast, to the health of another branch of the house: Colonel Lowther. And might he prove a better man than his father.

These curiously-worded toasts were among a LOT of toasts that afternoon/evening. There were also a lot of songs. By the time it got to toasting ‘success to the Penrith and Carlisle Railroad,’ one can’t help thinking the guests were getting a little carried away with the occasion!

Robbery and forgery

There are many references to John Bowstead as a show judge, and breeder. He was also heavily involved in setting up the East Cumberland Agricultural Protection Society, in 1844.

A Carlisle Journal cutting he may not have cut out and kept was one in 1862: an account of a court case in Scotland, after he had been robbed of £2,520 (the contents of his pocket book) after attending a sheep fair (and then a pub).

A woman invited him to ‘some house’: he said he’d see her later. She followed him, then he went with her into a passage. He felt her ‘groping about my breast a good deal’. After she left, he realised his pocket book had gone.

The Lord Justice Clerk, passing sentence on Helen Clifford and accomplice James Jones, said John Bowstead had acted ‘like a very foolish fellow’.

Curiouser still is this notice a few days later:

£lO REWARD. WHEREAS some person, forging my name, has written a Letter to John Lord, Esq., of Rimley Park, Worcestershire, expressive of such ill-feeling towards Joseph Reay, farmer under John Lord, Esq., at Inglewood Bank, and towards John Lowthian, of Great Salkeld, agent to the said arm (sic), and has fabricated a tissue of falsehoods for the unmistakable purpose of leading the above-named parties into trouble, the above Reward will be given to any one who will give such information as will Lead to the conviction of the offender. – JOHN BOWSTEAD Beck Bank. January 28rd, 1862. 

Roughly a year later, he was injured in a gig accident, but soon seems to have been back to work.

Respected by all

After his death, The Inverness Courier paid tribute to him, as a regular attender as a sheep buyer at their great annual July market, ‘respected by all who came in contact with him’. It had already carried the death notice, recording it came ‘after a long and trying illness’.

The Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser and Penrith Literary Chronicle described him as a highly respected breeder of first-class shorthorn cattle, whose opinions on the breeding and rearing of stock was much valued across the two counties. He had held various unspecified parish and township offices, helping the poor and supporting the education of children at the village school.

John Bowstead was buried ‘in the family resting place’ at the village church: ‘The esteem in which Mr. Bowstead was held was so great and widespread that, in addition to the sorrowing relatives most near to him, many were present from different and distant parts of the country. Indeed there was so spontaneous a desire to show respect to the deceased in his various capacities that the Parish Church was all but filled… though only close relations were formally invited to the funeral. We do not enter upon the history of the deceased, that is indelibly graven in the hearts of those who knew him most and loved him best, his immediate relatives and the poor and perplexed of his own parish who, as to a village patriarch, would go to him with their troubles and their arbitrations.’

John Bowstead’s will was proved by sons Rev Joseph Bowstead, of Etherley, county Durham, and Thomas of Beck Bank (effects under £2,000).

Thomas was to marry just a few weeks later, in May 1865, in Edgaston, to Margaret Lister of that parish. The request ‘no cards’ was perhaps a reflection that the family were still in mourning.

In May 1865, John’s land (149 acres of ) was offered to let in parcels, and his herd of shorthorns (and other stock, including pure-bred Leicester and Lincoln sheep) sold off. upwards of 500 attended, from the two counties and beyond.

But what of the money raised for a memorial?

1865 Nov 3.The Bowstead Memorial. At a meeting of the committee the other day, it was decided to create a window in the church at Great Salkeld, to the memory of the late John Bowstead, of Beck Bank, and also to erect a marble monument, bearing a suitable inscription inside the sacred edifice.

The result is recorded in The Monumental Brasses of Cumberland and Westmorland (Lack, William; H. Martin Stuchfield; Philip Whittemore), which includes records for St Cuthbert’s, Great Salkeld.

It has the entry: John Bowstead ‘whose numerous friends erected this tablet, gave to the church three windows in the chancel, and founded in connection with the village school The Bowstead Memorial Medal, to be awarded annually’.

Also respected and mourned

There’s a footnote to the life of John Bowstead:  in December 1866, a further death at Beck Bank made the news. 

‘The Duchess of Lancaster — We regret to state that this justly-celebrated cow, the property of the Messrs. Bowstead, and so well known in the shorthorn world as the winner of many valuable prizes both in England and Scotland. died, at Beck Bank (her birthplace), on Thursday last, the 13th, from disease of the liver, counted with a general breaking up of the system.’