Treasure trove of work by celebrated Teesdale poet discovered in old box
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
A LOCKDOWN clear-out has led to the discovery of a treasure trove of handwritten poetry by a celebrated Teesdale bard.
Richard Abbot was born in Burton-in-Kendal, Westmorland, in 1818, but lived most of his adult life in Teesdale, first at Cockfield and then Evenwood.
When he became the manager of a limestone quarry he moved to Forcett, where he spent the rest of his life.
Four collections of his poetry were published between 1868 and 1901 as he became a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a regular correspondent in the Teesdale Mercury.
Copies of his books – The Pen, The Press and The Sword, The Wanderer, War and War Canto – are in the British Library but rarely appear on the open market.
However, while sorting through old family paperwork – untouched for more than 40 years – during lockdown, Rosemarie Robinson made a fascinating discovery – a boxful of handwritten poems, songs and letters by the poet.
Mrs Robinson, 63, of Exelby, in North Yorkshire, said: “I don’t know how my family ended up with this but it’s amazing that it has survived this long.”
The handwritten notes include a complete list of the poet’s work, including songs and plays. There were also letters to newspaper editors and draft copies of poems addressed to his granddaughters.
“The box came from my mother,” she added. “She kept everything and was always romanticising our family history, so you never knew how much was true. At one point she had me believing we were related to Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty. But she would be tickled pink to know that we were related to a Teesdale bard.”
The clue to the family connection was the discovery of a poem addressed to “my dear granddaughter Abbess Edith Eleanor on her 18th birthday”.
She lived at Forcett with her grandfather and later went on to marry James Parks.
Mrs Robinson added: “He had a sister Maude – my great aunt. She had a huge trunk of paperwork and that got handed to my mother and they never threw anything out.
“When my mother died, I got the box and it was just put in one of the farm buildings. It’s surprising it has survived as my brother tends to incinerate everything.
“When we moved, it came too. I threatened to just close my eyes and get rid of it, but my husband persuaded me to take a look first and I couldn’t believe what I found – it’s all in such good condition.”
There are also several printed pamphlets, one of which is dedicated to another Teesdale poet, Richard Watson.
Mrs Robinson intends to donate the collection to an archive to ensure more people will be able to see his works.