Born: June 1851, Manchester
Died: 28 July 1891, Bern, Switzerland
Born: 1858, Bowden, Chesire
Died: 1937 Windermere, Westmorland
'Like the Bronte sisters, Jessie and Caroline Fothergill were accomplished Victorian writers. Between them they wrote some twenty two novels as well as other short stories. But why, you may ask, are they highlighted on Rebels Lane? The answer can be read in the introduction to:
'A Bibliography of Jessie Fothergill' written by Jane Crisp of Queensland University.
Jessie Fothergill came fnom a long and respectable line of yeoman Quakers. Carr End, the farmhouse in Wensleydale Yorkshire, where her father Thomas grew up, had been inhabited by Fothergills since 1668; and the family had produced various men of note.
Jessies father learnt about the cotton trade at Rochdale before going into business with a friend in Manchester. His marriage with Anne Coultate, daughter of a Burnley medical man and a non-Quaker, forced him to leave the Society of Friends, but his nonconformist inheritance remained strong and had a considerable influence on his children, none of whom, as adults, stayed with the Established Church.
Anne Coultate is a daughter of my great, great, great grandparents, William Coultate and Judith Howarth and so sister of Dr WIlliam M Coultate who I have featured in other articles.
Jessie was by far the more prolific of the two sisters publishing 14 novels. It was her third novel, 'The First Violin' that shot her to fame, however, it is her later novels, 'Probation' and 'Kith and Kin' that have received the greatest critical acclaim. Her works are also now being rediscovered and Style magazine, published in Rochdale, in 2016 wrote:
'If Howarth has the Bronte sisters and Manchester has Elizabeth Gaskell, perhaps now is the time for Rochdale to take more pride in our own Victorian writer.'
The blue plaque can be found on the wall of Sladen Wood Mill on Todmorden Road.
To read the fascinating account of Helen C Black journeying to Manchester and interviewing Jessie click the button below.
Sadly, Jessie suffered greatly from a chronic respiratory illness for much of her life, having to frequently live away from home in more healthy climes. It was while so doing, living in Germany, that she wrote 'The First Violin'. Sadly, she passed away age just 40 while living in Berne, Switzaerland. She never married.
Whilst Jessie's life was cut short, her sister Caroline lived until she was 79, a life that is full of intrigue that I am still just beginning to discover! For what I have found so far, click on the button.
"There must have been something of the artist,"continues Jessie Fothergill, "and something also of the vagabond in me, for I quite well remember going home to this place for the first Christmas holidays after my father's death and being enchanted and delighted, despite the sorrow that overshadowed us, with the rough roads, the wild sweeping moors and fells, the dark stone walls, the strange, uncouth people, the out-of-the-worldness of it all. And the better I knew it the more I loved it, in its winter bleakness and its tempered but delightful summer warmth. I loved its gloom, its grey skies and green fields, the energy and the desperate earnestness of the people, who lived and worked there."
Excerpt from Helen C Black's interview with her and recorded in her book, 'Notable Women' (Worth reading in full)