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Mark Littlefair Howarth 1808 - 1879

I found this article about my Great Great Great Grandfather Mark Howarth just thought I would share it with anyone interested

Mark Littlefair Howarth

  • ·                     MARK LITTLEFAIR HOWARTH - A SUNDERLAND TEMPERANCE REFORMER
  • ·                      
  •  Article taken from the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle Supplement - Saturday December 8th 1888

Sunderland by the sea commonly known as the East End has been the birthplace of many men of mark, who from the humblest origin, have, by sheer tact and force of character, found themselves occupying foremost places in the estimation of their fellow townsmen. It's proximity to the Barracks had then as now its influence upon the inhabitants, more especially upon the weaker sex, who have always held in high estimation the fine, dashing young warriors, in their showy accoutrements.

A soldiers sweetheart. About the year 1806 a handsome daughter of the Littlefair family, residing in Silver Street, was courted by Private Howarth, of the Royal Artillery then quartered in Sunderland. Although not approved of by her family, yet he became her accepted lover. When the regiment moved to Woolwich she was broken hearted and having made up her mind to have him at all hazards 'for better of worse' she soon found means, with other girls similarly influenced, to leave her home in Sunderland. How she fared will be best understood by Mark Littlefair's own words, which stand thus in a printed card dated 1862: 53 years ago, a poor drunken soldier left his wife, who had a baby in arms, in the Barrack Square at Woolwich; and being left in a state of destitution, she had to travel home to Sunderland the best way she could. Time and changes went on, the child grew up to manhood; he alas! became a drunkard, and went on sadly, but was stopped in his course, and became a staunch advocate of the temperance cause, and delivered a lecture in the square of Woolwich Barracks, where he and his mother had been so abandoned.

The deserted wife. This was the time of war, and soldier's wives were seldom considered. The date of Mark's brith was found by the register at Woolwich to have been on the 19th July 1808. Like a hero of a woman as she was, the mother 'buckled' to and brought up her boy in her mother's home under the name of 'Littlefair', as the cruel fathers name was most unpopular with the family. The soldier met with the fate of those who take the sword, and when Mark's sons were well grown they took their grandfather's name of Howarth from the marriage register at Woolwich.

Evils of the Glass Trade. Mark would doubtless, serve his apprenticeship with Messrs Fenwick at the Bridge Bottle Works, Sunderland after which he removed to the Tyne, and eventually returned as one of the leading men to work at Featherstonehaugh's Bottle works at Deptford on the Wear. The tyramical and almost brutal customs of the bottle trade were here boldly opposed by Marks go ahead persistency and he happily lived to see the whole of the 'footings', penalties and fines (which were of a degrading character) abolished forever. To give an idea of the iniquitous imposts for obtaining drink, I need only mention the 'footings' paid by an apprentice were 11s9d to commence in the works, 14s9d after learning the first branch, and 21s at the comletion of is apprenticeship. If seen speaking to a young woman the apprentice was fined 1s6d; when called at church the would be Benedict had to pay 1s6d and 3s when married; also 1s6d for 'wetting te heed of the bairn' and if none appeared in two years, a fine of 1sd was levied. If a man's wife came with his dinner to the works for the first time, she was made to pay 1s6d. There was much cunning exercised to get a bride to come, often cruely sending word that her man had got injured, and so on; any sort of dodging to obtain 'lashings of beer'. The glassmen of that date seemed to take it for granted that to be long-winded, they should be able to quaff off a pint 'at a blow'. When a boy in Newcastle, I have watched these browny men standing half-dressed, with the sweat pouring off them, drinking from black goblets made of bottle glass, opposite the Stone Cellars public house, where Sir Matthew White Ridley;s glasshouse was then situated, only a few paces east of the Glasshouse Bridge over the Ouseburn.

Early Temperance Advocacy My first introduction to ' Mark Littlefair' would be about the year 1848 at Bill Quay. I had been sent there by Mr Thomas BOAG to address a temperance meeting with him, and I arrived just as he had finished washing himself, outside the cottage door. As he emptied the slops over the bank side in a summary manner, he shouted cheerily, 'Aaw'll be ready in a jiffy, ma young friend' And so he was. We proceeded down to the water side and crossed the river in a ferryboat to St Peter's. The meeting was to be held at the Hen's Nest Tree, a Primitive Methodist chapel or school, stuck up on the side of the hill. We found the place so packed with people as to make it a work of some patience to reach the pulpit end, where the choir  were fiddling away to a regular lilting 'up and down' Ranter's tune. Marky, I soon found was quite at home in the meeting. He had a fine powerful frame, with great muscular development, and energetic action, which he exerted to such an extent as to make the sweat boil out of him. Being a bottlemaker, he had , I think, got so used to the 'sweating system' that, while speaking, he invariably kept mopping his face with his colored handkerchief.

Father Kelly His chief coadjutor at this time was Father Kell, the Roman Catholic priest at the Felling, whose powerful aid enabled Mark to visit the homes of the drunkards. 'The father' has even been known  to clear the public houses with his cudgel of the wilder idlers or wastrels who spent the money wanted for their children's bread. During a sudden snow storm in which he was overtaken while returning from a meeting at High Heworth, he found a man lying drunk and helpless on the highway, almost covered with snow. Being of a powerful build, he carried this man in his armss about a mile to the nearest cottage, where he got him restored to animation by warmth and kindness. The next day he visited him at home, and induced him to sign te pledge, which he faithfully kept, eventually becoming a prosperous and another helper in the cause of temperance.

An ally and a convert. On Sunday, the nondescript meetings on Quayside, Newcastle had a powerful attraction for Mr Howarth, and his loud telling voice often came in good stead to quell the din set up in concert by the enraged tipplers. Once he was rescued by a Sandgate fish wife, who rushed into the crowd, striking the first man she encountered a violent blow on the head, and crying, 'There's ower monny 'o ye meddlin' 'wi the man tryin' te de gud'. This lady settled the delinquents as she threatened to 'skelp their gobs' if they said another word. Bob Henderson, the pugilist and great bull dog fighter, was eventually won over by the determined solicitude Mark had for his welfare. Mark almost dragged him to a place of worship, and afterwards induced him to sign the pledge, thus relinguishing for ever the 'fancy' and the 'talent'. When he sold his dogs, poor Bob had 'a good cry' as it seemed parting with his most faithful companions. Bob became an enthusiastic temperance missionary.

Agent to Mr Edward Backhouse Jnr For many years Mr Backhouse paid a salary to Mr Howarth as his agent, temperance missionary and dispenser of his charities, and he was deservedly held in great esteem by his employer. Indeed, his name became, singular to say, a household word in the very region of his boyhood (born at Woolwich). The police cells, with their captured Saturday night bacchanalians, were not forgotten on a Sunday. In one year no fewer than 150 visits were paid to the police cells by Mr Stansfield Wilson and Mr Mark L Howarth. 116 pledges were taken and 500 useful and entertaining tracts disturbuted to the prisoners. This work he continued for many years - in fact, nearly up to his decease. Many girls, beguiled from comfortable, happy homes, were induced by him to enter the Sinyrna Home, the Branding Home and the Durham Penitentiary. From statistics published, not a few were reclaimed by their friends, and others entered into domestic service, where they were watched over with anxious solicitude.

Christmas Beef in the Hat Case. Every Christmas, Mr Howarth was thoroughly prepared, throug the liberality of the society of Friends and many shopkeepers and merchants to make the old men, women and bairns among the poor residents about 'the Town End' as happy as possible. Pieces of beef, port and mutton, with presents of spice loaf, tea and sugar suitable for the recipients were distributed from his headquarters in the Hat Case, which was on such occasions a veritable wizards store containing all manner of good things. The proceedings were wound up at the New Years Eve tea party and fellow workers, to sing to and otherwise entertain the company. I must not omit to mention the name of councillor Weiner, a naturalised German who such occasions was always honourably spoken of by Mark for his princely liberality to the poor of his adopted town and country. His name will always be remembered for his liberality and kind heartedness to the sick and aged.

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    Response: Empower Network
    Great Site, Stick to the fantastic job. Thank you!

Reader Comments (2)

Uncanny resemblance John, you could easily be twins!

I am doing course investigating WW1 memorials in South Hylton, Co Durham and have found a relative of M-L-H, Thomas Littlefair Howarth who died in the war.

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