I should say that these photos weren't particularly valued by my Mum. When I was sorting out her house, they were in the damp stone outhouse in the garden, in rotting cardboard boxes and covered in black smuts. I think they must have been inside something she bought at an auction, a writing box, perhaps, and she wasn't that interested in them but kept them anyway. But they weren't family photos, just random images from who knows where. Mum lived in Richmond, Yorkshire.
So the idea was to find out, if possible, who Kate Dobson was. In the photo, Kate looked as though she was in her early thirties, I thought, so I searched on the Ancestry website for Kate Dobsons living in or near to Darlington (where the photo was taken) and born around 1845. It didn't take too long to identify her as Kate Mary Ann Dobson, born in late 1853. That makes her actually only twenty-four in the photo. I think she looks a little careworn for her age, don't you?
What else could I find out about Kate Dobson? She was christened Kate, rather than Catherine, which seems relatively unusual. Her full name, as you can see, was Kate Mary Ann Dobson. She was born in Leyburn in Wensleydale, a lovely little Dales town not far from Richmond.
Kate's paternal grandfather was Matthew Dobson, a 'landed proprietor' born in 1774 and resident of Grange Hall, Heighington, near Darlington, where his family had lived since at least 1628. Grange Hall was registered as a non-conformist place of worship in February 1780 so the family were almost certainly non-conformists. In August 1810 Matthew married Martha Stapylton, a native of Leyburn, and they moved to Grove House, in Grove Square, just off the main marketplace. That house was built in 1757 and is still there today. It's a bed & breakfast place now. Matthew and Martha had eight children and Matthew doesn't seem to have had to work, probably living instead from the income from his 'land and houses'.
|The way into Leyburn marketplace from Grove Square around the end of the 19th century|
But there was a major falling out between Ralph and his siblings over their inheritance from their mother. The Yorkshire Post carried a long and detailed account of a court case heard in Lincoln's Inn in December 1868. It's so complicated that I can't understand it properly but it comes down to Ralph being accused of stealing his mother's will (and, possibly, destroying it?), so that he could inherit half of her property rather than having to take only a one-sixth share. He was accused of being 'a villain and a perjurer' by the lawyer representing two of his sisters. He said, in court, that 'up to the present time he had lived respected in the neighbourhood in which he was born [...] and he was now charged with a deliberate fraud upon his aged mother, with a view to injure his sisters and deprive them of their just rights. If, therefore, the jury decided against him, he would go forth from the court a disgraced, ruined, perjured man.' Unfortunately it took the jury just fifteen minutes to decide against him.
Kate Dobson was fifteen when this calamity struck the family, and who knows what effect it had on her. Both she and the youngest child of the family, Maria Margaret (born 1859) remained unmarried and they seem to have become inseparable. They continued to live at home for many years until, eventually, in the 1891 census (when Kate was 38) the two sisters had moved to Richmond (my home town) and were lodging at Clyde House at the top of Frenchgate. Kate was earning a little money as a music teacher and Maria was listed as a 'fancy wool worker'. I'm not sure how much money there was in that. Their next door neighbour was a widow, Jane Whitelock, who was 81 in 1891 and seems to have been supporting two daughters and two granddaughters on the income from running a lodging house. Perhaps this inspired the two sisters for, by the next census, in 1901, they had set themselves up as lodging house keepers at 30 Maison Dieu, Richmond, right opposite the house I grew up in.
|30 Maison Dieu, Richmond, Yorkshire|
Kate and her sister Maria are buried together in Darlington West cemetery. Kate died in 1933 and Maria in 1936, both spinsters. When I discovered that they shared the same gravestone, I felt sad that they had only had each other for most of their adult lives and also in death.
That's all I've been able to discover about Kate Mary Ann Dobson -- oh, apart from the fact that Kate trained as a first aider in 1891. If anyone is researching her as part of their family tree, they're welcome to copy her photo. As they lived opposite the house I grew up in (and, actually, that tall red-brick house partly visible in the photo above was my great-grandmother's house where my mum spent most of her childhood), Kate and Maria feel like neighbours now. I had no idea when I pulled Kate's photo at random out of the drawer that she would have lived so nearby.