Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Francis Mewburn. (Solicitor for the Stockton and Darlington Railway / Author

Francis Mewburn.

“A form erect and manly; the body
Fit emblem of his rectitude of mind.
His hair, now bleach’d as white as winter’s snow,
After a life of honest industry,
Reminds us that his days are nearly done 5
On earth; yet will his influence survive
When he is dust, and many wish to tread
In his sure footsteps; for a well-spent life
Is never lived in vain.”

‘Peter Proletarius’ (George Markham Tweddell)
[Bards & Authors, p. 105]

This was written as a poetic introduction to a chapter in Tweddell's Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham 1972 on Francis Mewburn.
You can download the original book free on this page of the Tweddell Hub. You'll find the chapter on Francis Mewburn in the book.

Tweddell also writes about him in his book The History of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and its various Branches. - which you can download free on this page of the Tweddell Hub

Francis Mewburn (bio) from

"Mewburn was born at Bishop Middleham in 1785, he was said to be the legal brains behind the S&D Railway. He was also credited as being ‘Chief Bailiff’, which was a Mayoral position and which ceased on his death in 1867. Mewburn and Raisbeck were joint solicitors on the S&D project, but in 1828 Raisbeck resigned. Mewburn was not flattered by a remark made by Joseph Pease, when he told him he had the heart of a chicken; his family motto was ‘Festina Lente’, hasten with caution. Mewburn attended school at Ormsby near Middlesbrough, then later he was articled to a solicitor at Durham; he moved to Darlington in 1809 and it was here he began his law business. He married the daughter of Mr. Smales, Elizabeth, in 1813; they had a rather large family of girls and lived in a large house at the junction of Larchfield Street, and Coniscliffe Road, Darlington. St. Augustine's Church Hall is on this location in the present day. The house was originally owned by the Backhouse family and named by them ‘Paradise’, this was quickly changed by Mewburn. By the time the railway was progressing, in 1818, his solicitor practice was flourishing, this was when the population was around 5000. Francis attended St. Cuthbert’s Church, his family not being Quakers, and in the present day a window is dedicated in his honour. This window features St. Andrew and St. Barnabas; he was born and died on their feast days. For all he was not a Quaker he was chosen to assist Edward Pease and Jonathan Backhouse in the litigation leading to the birth of the S&D Railway. He also attended ‘The Holy Trinity Church’, in Woodland road and here again there is a plaque erected in his honour.

As stated, Mewburn became chief Bailiff of Darlington being the Bishop of Durham’s, representative. In 1846 Mewburn died of Bright’s disease, (kidney disease). The position of Bailiff ceased when Darlington became a Borough in 1868. Mewburn performed many duties one being the laying of the foundation stone for Skerne Bridge, in 1824 (on the back of a £5 note). He also started the Blackwell Bridge, in 1832. Mewburn was best known however for the legalities of the S&D Railways, and it was October 27th 1829 that he presided at a dinner at the Croft Spa Hotel, to celebrate the opening of the Croft branch.

He predicted that Darlington people would be able to leave Darlington any morning attend an opera at London in the evening and be home again by breakfast time, but breakfast should have read tea time.The well-attended inaugural meeting concluded, and the people, having full confidence in these respectable people, appointed a 40 strong management committee, made up from those prepared to subscribe £500 to the project." Read more here

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