Daniel Dickinson (1637-1699)

Daniel Dickinson of Streetgate (1637-1699)

Daniel Dickinson took the family fortunes a further step forward. If William could be credited with creating a social and political network, Daniel could be said to have amplified and particularised it. Trade with Ireland and the American colonies, enabled by marriage, provided the amplification. Social stratification, enabled by education, placed the family firmly at the top of the Cumbrian genteel middle class. But It would take another shot of money and entrepreneurship 100 years later to raise the family into minor squirearchy.

He was baptised 10th September 1637 in Lamplugh. He would have been too young to understand his father's treck off to Marston Moor in 1644, but would have remembered the fear and panic that defeat brought. As a young teenager, he would experience the upheavals caused by the Commonwealth and by the Society of Friends; in his early twenties, the restoration of the monarchy.

Like his father, he was a Cockermouth attorney. He was Steward to both John Lamplugh and Thomas Lamplugh. He was Seneschal to the manorial court. He was High Constable of Allerdale above Derwent.

His surviving diary and accounts in the 1680s/90s present an alpha male at the top of his game - powerful, wealthy and secure (at least by Cumbrian yeoman standards). He exudes toughness - not a man to be on the wrong side of in a negotiation - but also a dealer. You'll do something for him and he'll do something for you. And very much a defender of family, not just his own wife and children (suitably educated, nourished and protected) but also his siblings, uncles and aunts, and cousins. The end result - the first member of the family to be buried within the parish church of St Michael's in Lamplugh (two yards west of the Choir Door, as was his wife later).


The most interesting fact about Daniel is that he acted as a courier to take a message from Penrith to London (as it happened, in four days) in 1666.

The Participants


The three men providing authorisation were from Cumberland gentry families, far above Daniel. But why did they choose him, why the urgency, and how successful was he?

Daniel was born in the same year as Thomas Denton, and they died within a year of each other. Thomas was resident at Penrith, rather than Carlisle, on the fast road to London. Penrith is 25 miles from Cockermouth, where William Dickinson was an attorney. It is probable that Daniel made regular trips between the two towns on legal business (and on this occasion stayed at Penrith overnight - his journey started at 6am). In the process he might have built up a friendship with Thomas, or at least come across as reliable.

All the participants were from families that were actively Royalist in the Civil War, and punished for that role during the Commonwealth.

The worst of the Great Plague was over in London, and Charles II had returned there a month previously. This letter would, though, have been directed to a government official - and the most likely recipient was Joseph Williamson.

It seems, from looking at the participants, that Daniel was working for a government pro-Court party. Later on, perhaps, the strains of the Test Act, the Glorious Revolution, and local politics forced a parting of ways. By the late 1690s, the Dickinsons were in a Lamplugh-Fletcher-Nonconformist alliance against the Lowthers, fuelled by rival coal workings.

The delay at Newark


Daniel took the same route as the Lamplugh troop in the the Civil War, along the old drover's winter trail across the Pennines (now the A66), but then south (A66) rather than east (A67).

The rest of the journey was along the ancient Great North Road (now the A1/M1). His first overnight stop (28/29) was at Wetherby (which, at the height of its prosperity later, had more than 40 inns and alehouses). So he travelled  about 90 miles (145 Km) on the first day.

A stagecoach, at the height of its powers in the following century, could cover 60-70 miles in a day. A single horseman, using a similar system of horse post stages, could clearly travel a larger distance.

What is slightly odd is that the next day he only rode 60 miles (112 Km) to Newark (29/30) leaving a huge 140 miles (225 km) for London.  The secondary source quoted states that he only set out on the 1st May (in other words, the whole of the 30th spent in Newark). This may be a mistake (that I need to check out) but let's assume for the moment that it is right.

Why the early stop at Newark, leaving such a brutal ride on the 1st May?

A simple and practical answer may be that Daniel needed a rest, or that a fresh horse wasn't available, or that the weather was dreadful. A political answer may be that he was waiting for some other intelligence.

Newark is on the intersection of the Great North Road with the Fosse Way, an old Roman road running diagonally down to Exeter in the south-west. It's quite possible that he had been instructed to wait for a courier there, and then speed on to London.

Or there may have been a family interest. The 'Bell Inn' in Carlton-on-Trent in Newark was run by a William Dickinson (died 1681). It is possible, though very unlikely, that he was of the Streetgate family - after all, other Dickinsons would have travelled down this route to London. It's much more likely, though, that he was of the family that distantly produced Edmund Dickinson [ODNB], physician to Charles II from 1677. It was his coat of arms that the Streetgate Dickinsons assumed early in the eighteenth century.

Daniel arrived at London - possibly a sobering experience, more than decimated by plague and not yet the Great Fire. How he got back isn't recorded. Red How still has a book that he bought while in London.

Letter from William Carleton, Tho. Denton and William Musgrave ordering all keepers of post houses to give Daniel Dickinson a fresh horse on demand for his journey from Penrith to London, as he is on urgent business for the King, 27 April 1666

At Barrow there is a worn and soiled document authorising Daniel Dickinson to requisition horses in the course of a journey from Penrith to London “rideing post” - or carrying mail. The paper bearing three signatures and seals is addressed to all postmasters and suppliers of post-horses and is dated 27th April 1666. The document requires receipts to be obtained for the hire of the horse and the distance ridden, and the receipts written on the remainder of the sheet give us an exact account of the journey. Daniel ”came from Penrith at Six in the morning 28th April 1666” and “came to London between 11 and 12 at night the first May 1666”.  His tally was 209 miles (about 270 present day miles) in 20 stages during three days: hard riding! His route was (using modern words) along the A66 to Wetherby where he spent the first night, then down the A1 to Newark for the second night. After spending the 30th there he rode to London on 1st May. The total cost of hiring horses was £5.13s.3d

From an unpublished MS by Anne Russett (nee Dickinson), then owner of Streetgate

Sir William Carleton of Carleton Hall


It seems likely that this was the William Carleton in the letter. He was of an older generation than Thomas Denton below, and  had raised a regiment for the King in the Civil War.

He's first in the list, suggesting a senior status among the three, if not necessarily the active agent.

Thomas Denton (1637-1698) of Warnell Hall in Sebergham


Thomas Denton [ODNB] was from a gentry family.  His family were Royalist and his ancient home destroyed in the Civil War. He was educated at Queen's College, Oxford, and at Gray's Inn; and, in 1664, was appointed 'Recorder of Carlisle', in other words, a senior judge. He held other positions, including the stewardship of the royal honour of Penrith and Inglewood Forest. In 1666, he was living in Penrith.

William Musgrave


The junior member of the triumvirate. Sir Philip Musgrave of Edenhall [ODNB] was an integral part of Joseph Williamson's network, and helped ensure a Royal grip on Cumberland and Westmorland. In 1666, he was Governor of Carlisle. However, William isn't an obvious relative.

Sir Joseph Williamson


Joseph Williamson [ODNB] was the most able bureaucrat of his day. His father had been vicar of Bridekirk. His mother was from Brownrigg within the Manor of Lamplugh and Arlecdon (for which the Dickinsons were steward). His ability had been recognised in 1648 by Richard Tolson of Bridekirk, the local MP, who sent him to Westminster School and Queen's College, Oxford.  At the Restoration, he was given a post in government - from 1662 to 1674 he was in charge of the intelligence service (both internal and external - Vauxhall House was leased in 1675 - Vauxhall Cross is now home to MI6). That role included the newly established Post Office, where letters were routinely opened and copied for intelligence purposes.

Joseph became an MP in 1669, was knighted in 1672, and appointed a Secretary-of-State and member of the Privy Council in 1674.  The rest of his career had its ups-and-downs, but was spectacular in many ways. In the process he became very wealthy.

He rewarded former mentors and friends. One mentor, Richard Tolson, was made High Sheriff of Cumberland in 1667. One friend, Thomas Lamplugh, was made Archbishop of York in 1688. Queen's College, Oxford, received very substantial donations.