Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Atkinson, John Christopher

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ATKINSON, JOHN CHRISTOPHER (1814–1900), author and antiquary, born in 1814 at Goldhanger in Essex, where his father was then curate, was the son of John Atkinson and the grandson of Christopher Atkinson (d. 18 March 1795), fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was educated at Kelvedon in Essex, and admitted as a sizar to St. John's College, Cambridge, on 2 May 1834, graduating B.A. in 1838. He was ordained deacon in 1841 as curate of Brockhampton in Herefordshire, and priest in 1842. He afterwards held a curacy in Scarborough. In 1847 he became domestic chaplain to Sir William Henry Dawnay, seventh viscount Downe, who in the same year presented him to the vicarage of Danby, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, which he held till his death.

Atkinson was an ideal antiquary, endowed with a love of nature as well as a taste for study. His parish was in the rudest part of Yorkshire, and on his arrival he found that clerical duties had been almost neglected. He set himself to learn the history of his parish cure and to gain the friendship of his parishioners, and in both objects he succeeded. By constant intercourse with the people he acquired a unique knowledge of local legends and customs. In 1867 he prepared for the Philological Society 'A Glossary of the Dialect of the Hundred of Lonsdale,' which was published in the society's 'Transactions.' This was followed next year by 'A Glossary of the Cleveland Dialect' (London, 4to), to which, at the instance of the English Dialect Society, he made 'Additions' in 1876. In 1872 he published the first volume of 'The History of Cleveland, Ancient and Modern,' London, 4to. A fragment of the second volume appeared in 1877, but it was not completed. By far his best known work, however, was the charming collection of local legends and traditions which he published in 1891, with the title 'Forty Years in a Moorland Parish.' This work, which reached a second edition in the same year, has been compared to Gilbert White's 'Natural History of Selborne,' and perhaps still more closely resembles Hugh Miller's 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland.' Besides these more serious compilations Atkinson was the author of several delightful books for children. In 1887 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from Durham University, and in 1891 he was installed in the prebend of Holme in York Cathedral. In 1898 he received a grant of 100l. a year from the civil list.

Atkinson died at The Vicarage, Danby, on 31 March 1900. He was thrice married: first, at Scarborough on 11 Dec. 1849, to Jane Hill (d. 2 April 1860), eldest daughter of John Hill Coulson of Scarborough; secondly, on 1 Feb. 1862, at Frome Selwood, to Georgina Mary, eldest daughter of Barlow Slade of North House, Frome; and thirdly, on 28 April 1884 at Arncliff church, to Helen Georgina, eldest daughter of Douglas Brown, Q. C., of Arncliff Hall, Northallerton. He had thirteen children. Besides the works already mentioned he was the author of:

  1. 'The Walks, Talks, Travels, and Exploits of two Schoolboys,' London, 1859, 12mo; new edit. 1892.
  2. 'Play-hours and Half-holidays; or, Further Experiences of two Schoolboys,' London, 1860, 8vo; new edit. 1892.
  3. 'Sketches in Natural History; with an Essay on Reason and Instinct,' London, 1861, 12mo; new edit. 1865.
  4. 'British Birds' Eggs and Nests popularly described,' London, 1861, 8vo; new edit. 1898.
  5. 'Stanton Grange; or. At a Private Tutor's,' London, 1864, 8vo.
  6. 'Lost; or What came of a Slip from "Honour Bright,"' London, 1870, 12mo.
  7. 'The Last of the Giant Killers,' London, 1891, 8vo; new edit. 1893.
  8. 'Scenes in Fairy-land,' London, 1892, 8vo.

He edited:

  1. 'Cartularium Abbathiæ de Whiteby' (Surtees Soc), 1879, 2 vols. 8vo.
  2. 'Quarter Sessions Records' (North Riding Record Soc), 1883-92, 9 vols. 8vo.
  3. 'Lonsdale Glossary: Furness Coucher Book' (Chetham Soc), 1886-7, 3 vols. 4to.
  4. 'Cartularium Abbathiæ de Rievalle' (Surtees Soc), 1859, 8vo.

He also contributed many papers to various archæological societies, and in 1872 assisted Hensleigh Wedgwood [q. v.] to revise his 'Dictionary of English Etymology.'

[Times, 3 April 1900; Athenaeum, 7 April 1900; Guardian, 11 April 1900; The Eagle (Cambridge), June 1900; Men and Women of the Time, 1895; Sunday Mag. 1894, pp. 113-120; Supplement to Allibone's Diet, of Engl. Lit.; Crockford's Clerical Direct.]

E. I. C.