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Charles Waterton's Life and Family
Edmund Waterton, Brief History
Edmund Waterton Pages
• 1  Edmund Brief History • 2 Deeping Waterton • 3 Deeping St. James Gallery
• 4 Descendants of Edmund Waterton • 5 Ring Collection - Illustrated London News • 6 Ring Collection - Wakefield Museum
A BRIEF HISTORY OF EDMUND WATERTON, only child of Charles and Anne Waterton

Click to enlarge.Edmund Waterton (1830 - 1887). Knight of the Supreme Order of Christ; Knight of Malta; Papal Privy Chamberlain; Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

He was born on 7th April 1830 at Walton Hall. His young mother, Anne, died just 21 days after the birth at the age of 18 years. She died of puerperal fever. Also known as childbed fever, puerperal fever claimed the lives of many women at childbirth. The infection - most commonly the bacteria staphylococcus and streptococcus - was often carried on the dirty hands and medical instruments of doctors and midwives.

Edmund was educated at Stonyhurst College from 1841 to 1850.

On the death of Charles Waterton, the effects of his 'mismanagement of money, in any and every form' (4) and his 'apparent recklessness in the matters of land purchase' (7) became apparent and Edmund became financially embarrassed.

Unlike his father, Edmund was not interested in the world of nature. Sadly, Charles Waterton's good work was not carried on by his son; Edmund held shooting parties in the park to help pay off his debts, but not enough cash was raised to stem the tide of unhappy creditors.

Edmund's stewardship of Walton Hall was brief, his financial mismanagement led to a petition for bankruptcy in 1870. A passage in the London Gazette of that year said he must present himself at the London Bankruptcy Court "for examination and to produce thereat a statement of his affairs, as required by statute." Edmund, who had moved to Ostend in Belgium, was adjudged bankrupt in September 1871 and pawned his collection of rings (see Collector of Rings below). The court records show that his bankruptcy was annulled in 1879 after Edmund, who was still in Belgium, made an earlier application to pay "two shillings in the pound in discharge of debts owing to his creditors".

However, that was not before Walton Hall, where 14 generations of Watertons had lived, had been sold in 1877 to the chemical and soap works owner, Edward Simpson (1843 - 1914), son of Edward Thornhill Simpson, the old adversary of Charles Waterton. However, the Simpsons were unable to take possession of the hall because it had been leased to Edward Hailstone.

The hall was sold for a huge £114,000. For an illustration of the relative value of the sale price in 2010 click here. The value reflected the presence of coal reserves beneath the estate but, the coal was much broken and the two coal mines proposed failed. Had they been successful, Walton could have become a large mining village.

For a while, at least, Edmund was in some affluence. In 1879, he purchased a house, Deeping Waterton Hall, in Deeping St. James, near Market Deeping, Lincolnshire. He viewed Deeping St. James as having long established links with the Waterton family. The house later became known as the Old Manor House in the ownership of the Xaverian Brothers, although the separate chapel remained as Waterton property.

Edmund died on 22nd July 1887, at the early age of 57 years. He was buried in the Waterton Chapel at Deeping Waterton Hall, Deeping St. James. Later he was reinterred in the cemetery of the Priory Church in Deeping St. James.

Edmund's Obituary as published in The Tablet, the International Catholic News Weekly, Page 27, 30th July 1887.

Some information, albeit incomplete, regarding the descendants of Edmund, may be found here.


Edmund was a noted antiquary and he assembled a collection of De Imitatione Christi. The collection now consists of 1,014 editions. The core collection, assembled by Edmund Waterton, was purchased by the Library of the British Museum in 1895. Other editions of the work have been added to this collection from elsewhere in the Library, or acquired in later years. For more information visit the British Library at http://www.bl.uk/.

Click to enlarge.Edmund the author
1879 saw the publication of Edmund Waterton's Pietas Mariana Britannica. A History of English Devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God, with a Catalogue of Shrines, Sanctuaries, Offerings, Bequests, and Other Memorials of the Piety of Our Forefathers.

This was the first edition of the book.

Modern reprints may be available on eBay.co.uk and AbeBooks.co.uk, etc. Also available online at the Internet Archive. [accessed 30 Dec 2017]

The book does not contain many illustrations, here are some of them.
■ Ivory statue of English work, circa 1280. Formerly in the possession of the nuns of Sion House (frontispiece).
■ Panel from the tomb of Lady Montacute in Oxford Cathedral.
■ From the window of St. Margaret's Church, Oxford.

█ Edmund also corresponded with The Tablet, the International Catholic Weekly on religious topics. Click here to read some of his letters (PDF).

Click to read more.Collector of Rings
Edmund was a collector of finger-rings, episcopal, posey and cardinal, etc. Several of his notes and essays, such as Dactyliotheca Watertoniana : a descriptive catalogue of the finger-rings in the collection of Mrs. Waterton [manuscript], on the subject are held at the The Victoria and Albert Museum - National Art Library.

■ Read the article about Edmund's collection of rings in the Illustrated London News 17 Jan 1863.

Edmund Waterton pawned his collection of expensive rings to pay off his debts. In 2015, by agreement with the Victoria & Albert Museum, part of the collection was temporarily returned to Wakefield and put on display at the city's museum until June 2016.

A few pictures of the collection.

■ Find out more about Squire Charles Waterton's extraordinary world at Wakefield Museum. (Link accessed 16 Jan 2018.)

■ See "Rare rings pawned by aristocrat's son returned after 144 years" published by the Wakefield Express. (Link accessed 21st December 2015.)

■ See also Richard Bell's blog about Edmund Waterton - The Papal Ringmaster, At Home With the Watertons, and more, on Wild Yorkshire. (Link accessed 16 Jan 2018.)


He married twice:

20th August 1862 - Margaret Alicia Josephine Ennis, second daughter of Sir John Ennis, Bt. (baronet), of Ballinahown Court, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, by whom he had two sons and four daughters. Margaret died in Cannes, France, on Boxing Day, 26th December 1879. She was buried in the Waterton Chapel, Deeping St. James. (3)
Later, she was reinterred, along with Edmund at the Priory Church in Deeping St. James.

15th November 1881 - Ellen Mercer, only child of John and Ellen Mercer of Alston Hall near Preston, by whom he had two daughters. Ellen survived him by many years and died on 10th January 1909. She is buried in the Mercer Vault at Alston Lane, near Grimsargh. (3)

■ Click here for descendants of Edmund Waterton.

Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Edinburgh

Holyrood MadonnaThe Holryrood Madonna, carved wood, probably late 16th century was the gift of Edmund Waterton in 1869, from an auction at the London house of the 4th Earl of Abercorn.

Alleged to have once been in Holyrood Palace. Edmund bought it from a Peterborough dealer. Holy Rood is Scots for 'Holy Cross'. King David the First of Scots founded the Abbey in 1128.
David I (c.1084 – 24 May 1153), Prince of the Cumbrians from 1113 to 1124 and later King of the Scots from 1124 to 1153. The youngest son of Malcolm III and Margaret of Wessex.

In due course a royal residence was established and eventually became today's Holyrood Palace.

■ Read more about this church at http://sacredheartedinburgh.org/. [site accessed 02 Jan 2018]

■ Read more about King David I at David I of Scotland (Wikipedia).
[site accessed 02 Jan 2018]

Click to enlargeThe Wakefield Cross. All that is left of the original cross, that is the shaft reaching from the base to the crosspiece, is now in the museum of St. Mary's Abbey in York. It was erected in the churchyard of Wakefield after the conquest of Deira [5] by the Norsemen, probably about the year A.D. 940. The cross remained standing until the Reformation, but in an age of religious intolerance and unreasoned prejudice, it suffered grevous mutilation. Much later, in 1862, what was left of it was discovered serving as a doorstep in a shop in Wakefield, whence it was rescued by Mr. Edmund Waterton, and in 1870 removed to York. This replica was presented in 1933 to Wakefield Cathedral by member of Wakefield Historical Society [6].

In his book (4) Richard Hobson recounts how the cross was rescued from its ignoble use. Describing a walk through Walton Park, the good doctor writes:
"Passing along an avenue in the wood ....... you come rather suddenly to a termination of this avenue, where the road bifurcates. ...... This is the spot where the road divides into two parts, one path slightly diverging to the left, towards the fish-trap reservoir, whilst the other, turning at right angles, leads to the lovely and charming grotto.
Here, at this junction of the roads, you come to an ancient stone cross, meriting observation. This curious remnant of Saxon art was, some time ago, accidentally discovered in the neighbouring town of Wakefield, where it had, from time immemorial, been in constant use, having formed an humble door step, in one of the ancient houses in that town once called 'merry Wakefield'. No one appeared to be able to afford any information how this cross came to be put to such ignoble use. After many applications, possession was at length obtained of this beautiful specimen of the old Saxon crosses, now so extremely rare in England."

The Cathedral Church of All Saints
There is more about the Wakefield Cross on this site's Wakefield Cathedral page.

1. Sandal Magna, a Yorkshire Parish and its People, Mary Ingham and Brenda Andrassy, 1978.
2. Charles Waterton, Traveller and Conservationist, Julia Blackburn, The Bodley Head, London, 1989.
3. Letters of Charles Waterton, edited with notes by R.A. Irwin, Rockliff, London, 1955.
4. Charles Waterton: His Home, Habits and Handiwork, by Richard Hobson, 1866, Whittaker & Co.; and John Smith, Leeds.
5. Deira was an Anglian kingdom founded in AD 559 from the earlier Celtic region of the same name. It stretched from the Humber to the Tees. It became part of Northumbria. [return to text]
6. Notice in Wakefield Cathedral. [return to text]
7. John Goodchild, writing in Worthies of Wakefield, edited by Kate Taylor. Wakefield Historical Publications; First Edition edition (2004).

More reference sources are shown on the Links page.

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