chronology


 1832, Mar 17     Joseph Skipsey born in Percy Main, eighth child of Cuthbert and Isabella Skipsey    
 1832, Jul 8    Cuthbert Skipsey killed by George Weddell, a special constable during a dispute in Chirton relating to a miners' strike at Burdon Main Colliery
 1832, Jul 10 Inquest on Cuthbert Skipsey at the Rose Inn, Willington, returned a verdict of manslaughter
 1832, Aug Trial of George Weddell, who was convicted of the manslaughter of Cuthbert Skipsey and sentenced to 6 months' imprisonment
 1839 (appr)    Joseph Skipsey began work in Percy Main pit, initially as a "trapper", opening and closing the ventilation doors
 1841 census Joseph Skipsey living with his mother, Isabella, brother James(?) (aged 11) and sister Hannah (20?) in Percy Main (exact address not given).  Both boys listed as 'coalminer'.
 1840s An uncle lent 15-year-old Joseph some books, including Lindley Murray's Grammar.
 1849/50 Skipsey, aged 17, bought a copy of Shakespeare's plays.  "The book altered the aspect of the world to me" he said later.  
 1851 census Joseph Skipsey living with his mother, Isabella, at 51 Percy Main, his occupation given as 'coalminer'.
 1852 Skipsey travelled to London, walking most of the way, and found employment at the works connected to a London station.  He met Sarah Ann Fendley, later to become his wife.
 1850s Joseph and Sarah travelled to Coatbridge, where he worked as a miner, then to Pemberton Collieries (near Sunderland) before returning to Northumberland.
 1855, Jan 12 Birth of their first son, Cuthbert (1855-68) in Chirton
 1857, Jun 3 Birth of their second son, William (1857-60)
 1858, Sept 17 Newcastle Courant carried a review of 'Lyrics by JS, a coal miner'.  This is probably his first published work, though no copy of the first edition has survived 
 1859, Jan 28 Newcastle Courant report of a Burns night celebration at which, on the instigation of James Clepham (editor of the Gateshead Observer), it was agreed to purchase Skipsey's book of poems and send a copy to all the Mechanics' Institutes in the North.
 1859  Lyrics by Joseph Skipsey, second edition, published by Thomas Pigg & Co, Clayton Street, Newcastle.  (copies now in Newcastle City Library)
 1859 Through the offices of James Clephan, Skipsey took up employment as an under-store-keeper at the ironworks of Hawks, Crawshay & Co, Gateshead, where he stayed for over 4 years.
 1860, Jan 20 Birth of their first daughter, Elizabeth Ann Pringle Skipsey (known as Lizzie) at Bedlington
 1860, Sept 7 William Skipsey, aged 3, run over and killed by a train of runaway wagons on the Tyne Main Wagonway in Gateshead
 1860     Fifteen of Skipsey's poems included in A Poetical Souvenir, a national collection of work by contemporary poets published by Groombridge & Co, Paternoster Row, London EC
 1861 census Skipsey family (Joseph, Sarah, Cuthbert & Elizabeth) living at 3 Hawk's Cottages, Gateshead
 1862, Jan 16 Hartley Colliery disaster, 204 men and boys suffocated in the pit.  Skipsey wrote his poem 'The Hartley Calamity' which he read  at public meetings held to raise funds for the bereaved families.
 1862, Apr 27 Birth of their second daughter, Harriet (1862-8)
 1862 Publication of Skipsey's Poems, Songs and Ballads, by Hamilton & Co, Newcastle
 1863 Skipsey's friends secured him the job of assistant librarian at the Newcastle Literary and Philosphical Society.  The pay was not good (and he was more interested in reading the books than being a librarian!) and he soon returned to the pits
 1864 Publication of Skipsey's The Collier Lad and other Songs and Ballads, by J G Forster, Clayton Street, Newcastle
 1865, Aug 3 Birth of James Clephan Skipsey, their 5th child, named after Skipsey's earlier benefactor.  He survived only a few months, dying from a severe cold in January, 1866.
 1867, Jan 24 Birth of Emma Skipsey, their 6th child (died the following year).
 1868, Oct Three of the children died from scarlatina (scarlet fever): Cuthbert (on October 10, aged 13), Emma (on October 24, aged 21 months) and Harriet (on October 30, aged 6).  The Skipseys were left with only one child, Lizzie, aged 8.
 1868, Dec 28 Joseph and Sarah married in the parish church at Tynemouth.  (In his biography, Spence Watson says that they married in 1854, but the records from the church in Tynemouth clearly show the date given here.)
 1869 Birth of Joseph Skipsey (jnr) (1869-1943), their seventh child, in Newsham.
 1871 census Joseph and Sarah living at 67 North Newsham with their children Elizabeth (11) and Joseph (1) and a boarder, John Hagan (22) a miner.
 1871 A volume of Skipsey's Poems published by William Alder at Blyth.
 1872, Jun 14 Birth of Cuthbert Skipsey (1872-1938), their eighth and last child, in Cowpen.
 1878 Publication of A Book of Miscellaneous Lyrics, printed by George Richardson, Bedlington.  This is a major collection of 48 poems, dedicated to Robert Spence Watson and includes a short autobiographical introduction written by Skipsey at Backworth, August 1878.
 1878, Oct 29 Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote to Skipsey (addressed to 20 Percy Street, Backworth), complimenting him on his poetry.  
 1878, Nov 16 A Book of Miscellaneous Lyrics was reviewed in the Athenaeum by Theodore Watts, at the instigation of Rossetti.
 1879, Aug 25   Birth of Ralph Harrison, their first grandchild, to Lizzie and John Harrison, at West Holywell, Backworth
 1880 Skipsey went to London with Thomas Dixon, who introduced him to Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones (the Pre-Raphaelite painter) and others.  Dixon died shortly after the visit, on July 11.
 1880, Oct 5 Letter from E W Hamilton to inform Skipsey that "Mr Gladstone has directed that an annuity of £10 should be paid to you out of the Royal Charity Fund, as from May 1st last".  The annuity was awarded after a recommendation from Burne-Jones.
 1881 census Joseph and Sarah Skipsey living at 20 Northumberland Terrace, Backworth, with their children Joseph (11) and Cuthbert (8) and a grandniece, Jane Graham (6).
 1881  Publication of A Book of Lyrics, Songs, Ballads and Chants, New Edition, revised, by David Bogue, London.
 1882 Joseph and Sarah became joint caretakers of the Mill Lane Board School (also known as the Bentinck School) in Elswick, Newcastle.
 1883, Feb 6   Skipsey was elected an honorary member of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society.  Later in the year he delivered a lecture to the Society on The Poet as Seer.
 1884  Skipsey edited and wrote introductions for several volumes of the Canterbury Poets series, published by Walter Scott, Newcastle.  Skipsey's volumes are those on Blake (June), Coleridge (July), Shelley (Aug), Poe (Oct) and Burns (April 1885)
 1886, Jan Skipsey received a donation from the Royal Bounty of £50.  His annuity was raised to £25 a year.
 1886  Willie Reay published his Poems and Lyrics, dedicated to Skipsey.
 1886 Carols from the Coalfields published by Walter Scott.  It is reviewed in the Pall Mall Gazette by Oscar Wilde in Feb 1887.
 1888 Publication of Carols, Songs and Ballads.  This is a revised edition of Carols from the Coalfields.
 1888 Three of Skipsey's poems included in an anthology North-country Poets by William Andrews of Hull.
 1888, Sep Skipsey took up a new post as porter in Durham College of Science, Newcastle but, as Spence Watson described it, 'this too proved clearly not the place for him. ... it was quite impossible to have a College where the scientific men came to see the Principal and the artistic and literary men came to see the porter'.
 1889, May The Skipseys applied to be Custodians of Shakespeare's Birthplace.  The application was supported by Browning, Tennyson, Swinburne, D G Rossetti, William Morris, Oscar Wilde and many others.  They were appointed and took up the post in July.
 1891 census Joseph and Sarah Skipsey living at 17, Henley Street, Stratford, with Lucy Preston (17) a domestic servant.
 1891, Oct 31 Skipsey resigned his curatorship, officially pleading illness, but also somewhat disillusioned by the nature of the job.
 1892 Publication of Songs and Lyrics.
 1901 census Joseph and Sarah living at 243 Eastbourne Avenue, Gateshead with their son Joseph (31).  Joseph snr is described as 'living on own means'.  Joseph jnr was an accountant in a shipping office.
 1902, Aug 8 Death of Sarah Skipsey, aged 73.
 1902, Oct 21 Birth of Violet Skipsey, daughter of Joseph & Sarah's son, Cuthbert
 1903, Sep 3 Death of Joseph Skipsey, aged 71, at 5 Kells Gardens, Low Fell, Gateshead, the home of his son, Cuthbert.








Percy Main Pit, 1844















1861 census: Hawks' Cottages
Hartley Pit, 1862
Newcastle Lit & Phil





Thomas Dixon


The Bentinck Schools












1891 census, Stratford
Kells Gardens, Gateshead

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