Watson, John (1725-1783) (DNB00)

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WATSON, JOHN (1725–1783), antiquary, son of Legh Watson of Lyme Handley in the parish of Prestbury, Cheshire, by his wife Hester, daughter of John Yates of Swinton, Lancashire, was born at Lyme Handley 26 March 1725, and educated at the grammar schools of Eccles, Wigan and Manchester. He matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, 8 April 1742, graduating B.A. 1745 and M.A. 1748. On 27 June 1746 he was elected to a Cheshire fellowship of his college, and in the following December took holy orders and entered on the curacy of Runcorn, Cheshire, but removed three months afterwards to Ardwick, Manchester, where he was also tutor to the sons of Samuel Birch. From 1750 to 1754 he was curate of Halifax, Yorkshire, and in September of the latter year was presented to the perpetual curacy of Ripponden in Halifax parish. On 17 Aug. 1766 he was inducted to the rectory of Miningsby, Lincolnshire, which he resigned on 2 Aug. 1769 on being promoted to the valuable rectory of Stockport, Cheshire. It is believed that he owed this preferment to being ‘a fierce whig of the plus quam Hoadleian pattern.’ He was elected F.S.A. in 1759, and contributed six papers on Roman and other antiquities to ‘Archæologia.’ His two important works were ‘The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax,’ 1775, 4to, a second edition of which was commenced in 1869 by F. A. Leyland, but left unfinished; and ‘Memoirs of the Ancient Earls of Warren and Surrey and their Descendants,’ Warrington, 1782, 2 vols. 4to. The latter, a beautifully printed and illustrated book, was a vain attempt to prove that Watson's patron, Sir George Warren, was entitled to the earldom of Warenne and Surrey. Two earlier editions, limited to six and fifteen copies respectively, were printed in 1776 and 1779. He also published four pamphlets between 1751 and 1764, one of them criticising the ‘absurdities’ of the Moravian hymn-book. He made extensive manuscript collections relating to local history, particularly of Cheshire, which are still preserved, and have been found of great value by Ormerod, Earwaker, and other antiquaries. Gilbert Wakefield, who was Watson's curate at Stockport and married his niece, describes him as one of the hardest students he ever knew, and a most agreeable man, ‘by no means destitute of poetical fancy, had written some good songs, and was possessed of a most copious collection of bons mots, facetious stories, &c, copied out with uncommon accuracy and neatness.’ In the ‘Palatine Note-book’ (i. 24) is an account of a visit paid to Watson in 1780 by Thomas Barritt [q. v.]

He died at Stockport on 14 March 1783. He was twice married: first, on 1 June 1752, to Susanna, daughter of Samuel Allon, vicar of Sandbach, Cheshire; secondly, on 11 July 1761, to Ann, daughter of James Jacques of Leeds. He left one son by the first wife, and a son and daughter by the second.

Good portraits of Watson are given in his ‘Halifax’ and ‘Warren and Surrey.’ The latter is reproduced in Earwaker's ‘East Cheshire.’

[Watson's Halifax, p. 523; Smith's Manchester School Register (Chetham Soc.), i. 12; Earwaker's East Cheshire, i. 397; J. G. Nichols in the Herald and Genealogist, 1871; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict. xxxi. 226; Heginbotham's Stockport; Wakefield's Memoirs, 1804, i. 159.]

C. W. S.