Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Ferguson, Richard Saul

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FERGUSON, RICHARD SAUL (1837–1900), antiquary, born on 28 July 1837, was the elder son of Joseph Ferguson (1794–1880) of Carlisle, by his wife Margaret (d. 2 Nov. 1841), daughter of Silas Saul of Carlisle. The family settled in Carlisle about 1700, and founded the cotton industry in the city. He was educated at Carlisle grammar school, entered Shrewsbury school in 1853, and was admitted at St. John's College, Cambridge, as a scholar on 14 March 1856. He graduated B.A. in 1860, M.A. in 1863, and LL.M. in 1874. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 11 Oct. 1858, and was called to the bar on 13 June 1862, when he commenced practice as an equity draughtsman and conveyancer, and joined the northern circuit. He was examiner of civil law for Cambridge University in 1868-9. His first, literary production was a series of articles upon 'EarlyCumberland and Westmorland Friends' in the 'Carlisle Journal,' a number of biographical sketches of leading quakers in the two counties. They were republished in book form in 1871 (London, 8vo), and were followed in the same year by 'Cumberland and Westmorland M.P.'s from the Restoration to the Reform Bill of 1867' (London, 8vo), a book containing a full political history of the counties. From January 1871 to June 1872 he travelled in Egypt, Australia, and America for the sake of his health, and on his return gave the public an account of his experiences in a series of letters in the 'Carlisle Patriot,' which were reprinted, with the addition of 'Leaves from a Theban Guide Book,' as 'Moss gathered by a Rolling Stone' (Carlisle, 1873, 8vo).

After his return he settled at Carlisle, and devoted himself to the study of local antiquities. He was fortunate in the companionship of several men of like tastes, including Michael Waistell Taylor [q. v.], Robert Harkness [q. v.], and Sir George Floyd Duckett. Already in 1866 he had assisted to found the Cumberland and Westmorland Archæological and Antiquarian Society, and from 1868 he edited the society's 'Transactions.' Under his guidance nearly the whole of Cumberland and Westmoreland were explored, and record made of castles, churches, houses, manuscripts, and old customs. On the death of Canon Simpson in 1886 Ferguson succeeded him as president of the society. His own especial period was that of the Roman occupation of Cumberland. Under his care the collection of Roman antiquities at the city museum at Tullie House became extensive and valuable.

Ferguson was made a magistrate of the county of Cumberland in 1872, and a member of the Carlisle city bench in 1881. In 1886 he was elected chairman of quarter sessions. He was elected a member of the Carlisle city council in 1878, and took advantage of his position to gain access to the ancient muniments of the city, many of which he published. In 1881-2 he was chosen mayor and was re-elected in the following year. He was a strong supporter of the city privileges, and when county councils were instituted in January 1889 and he was elected a member for Carlisle, he lost no opportunity of urging the rights of the city. He was one of the earliest promoters of the project by which Tullie House was appropriated for the use of the city and furnished with a museum, a public library, a school of science and art, and art galleries. Under his influence William Jackson was induced to bequeath to the city the Jackson library, a valuable collection of local literature. In recognition of his services the corporation conferred upon him the honorary freedom of the city in 1896.

In 1887 the bishop of Carlisle, Harvey Goodwin [q. v. Suppl.], appointed Ferguson chancellor of the diocese, an office which had not hitherto been held by a layman. Ferguson was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 1 March 1877, member of the Royal Archæological Institute about 1878 and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1880. In 1895 he was admitted an honorary member of the Glasgow Archæological Association. He was a vice-president of the Royal Archæological Institute and of the Surtees Society. Ferguson died at Carlisle on 3 March 1900, at his residence, 74 Lowther Street. In August 1867 he married, at Kew, Georgiana Fanny, eldest daughter of Spencer Shelley of Richmond House, Kew, principal clerk of the treasury, and granddaughter of Sir John Shelley, sixth baronet (d. 28 March 1852) He was separated from her in 1872, and divorced her in December 1877. By her he had one son, Spencer Charles Ferguson, now captain in the Northumberland fusiliers, and one daughter, Margaret Josephine, who married in 1896 the Rev. Frederick Luke Holland Millard, vicar of Aspatria. Ferguson's portrait, painted by Mr. Sephton, was presented to him by the corporation of Carlisle in 1896. A replica hangs in the vestibule of Tullie House.

Besides the works already mentioned Ferguson wrote, in conjunction with his brother, Charles John Ferguson, 'A Short Historical Account of Lanercost' (London, 1870, 8vo). He contributed:

  1. 'Carlisle' (London, 1889, 8vo) to the 'Diocesan Histories' of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
  2. 'A History of Cumberland' (London, 1890, 8vo) to Elliot Stock's 'Popular County Histories.'
  3. 'An Archæological Survey of Cumberland and Westmorland' (1893) to the 'Archæologia' of the Society of Antiquaries (vol. liii.)
  4. 'A History of Westmorland' (London, 1894, 8vo) to 'Popular County Histories.'
  5. 'Carlisle Cathedral' (London, 1898, 8vo) to 'English Cathedrals.'

He edited for the Cumberland and Westmoreland Archæological Society:

  1. 'Miscellany Accounts of the Diocese of Carlisle,' by William Nicolson [q. v.], 1877.
  2. 'Old Church Plate in the Diocese of Carlisle, with the Makers and Marks,' 1882.
  3. 'An Accompt of the most considerable Estates and Families in the County of Cumberland,' by John Denton, 1887 (Tract Series, No. 2).
  4. With W. Nanson, 'Some Municipal Records of the City of Carlisle,' 1887.
  5. 'Description of the County of Cumberland,' by Sir Daniel Fleming [q. v .] (Tract Series, No. 3).
  6. 'A cursory Relation of all the Antiquities and Familyes in Cumberland,' 1890 (Tract Series, No. 4).
  7. 'Account of the City and Diocese of Carlisle,' by Hugh Todd [q. v.], 1890 (Tract Series, No. 5).
  8. 'Notitia Ecclesiæ Cathedralis Carliolensis,' by Todd, 1892 (Tract Series, No. 6).
  9. 'A Boke off Recorde … concerning the Corporation of Kirkbiekendall … 1575,' 1892.
  10. 'Testamenta Karleolensia,' 1893.
  11. 'The Royal Chartes of the City of Carlisle,' 1894.

He contributed a biographical notice of Michael Waistell Taylor to that antiquary's 'Old Manorial Halls of Cumberland and Westmorland,' 1892, and a preface to Hugh Alexander Macpherson's 'Vertebrate Fauna of Lakeland,' 1892. He was a contributor to the 'Antiquary,' 'Reliquary,' and the 'Archæologia' of the Society of Antiquaries.

[Eagle, June 1900; Shrewsbury School Register, 1898, p. 112; Foster's Men at the Bar, 1885; Burke's Landed Gentry; Carlisle Journal, 6 March 1900.]

E. I. C.