John Dickinson (1672-1755)


John Dickinson of Streetgate (1672-1755)

Very brief intro. It may be extended but probably won't.

John Dickinson was the first Dickinson to be described as 'Mr' in the Lamplugh register. He was manager of the Lamplugh coal operation at Parton in the 1690s; and Steward to Thomas Lamplugh (who became MP for Cockermouth). He relinquished his stewardship, sometime before 1732, to his brother-in-law John Dickinson of Woodend.

He may not have been as powerful as his father or grandfather; but he had the education, expectations and social contacts to lay claim to 'gentility', especially in an environment and time where such claims were becoming almost commonplace.

That said, 'gentility' was a fragile thing. He qualified on basic education - he was educated not only in Latin but also in Greek (the latter increasingly becoming the hallmark of a true gentleman). He also had studied surveying and gauging with Anthony Pallin of Whitehaven - a necessary education for minor gentry who might act as Stewards for those more landed, or act as arbiters in enclosure disputes.

But he only had four properties - Streetgate, Havercroft, Whillimoor Head and Mockerkin (he was able to remedy this slightly by purchasing Todhole) - and no 'jewel' properties (ownership of which, however delapidated, were ancient signs of 'you've got there').

John attempted to remedy this social inconvenience by two direct strategies. The first was simple blag - exaggerate your social status. He adopted ('assumed', 'stole') the crest and arms of Edmund Dickinson, physician to Charles II, no likely relative. By 1704 he was using the crest as his armorial seal, and the arms as a whole were used for his church memorial (as in this blog). My understanding (which may be wrong) is that, when challenged by the College of Arms in the 20th century as the family needed the arms for official duties, the College gave in and authenticated the usage (after all, the family firm 'Hill Dickinson' were then one of the country's more powerful solicitors).

The second strategy turned out badly. John decided to make his younger son Richard the rector of Lamplugh. The rectory would provide a good income and augment family power and status, or so it seemed. John paid £200 to Lamplugh Hall for the right to present the rector on a vacancy within a term of 21 years. Unfortunately, the existing rector, Thomas Jefferson, just wouldn't die; and buried John in 1755. Richard paid a further £500 in 1767 and became rector in 1768. This did not go well - he was not popular nor an asset to the family.

After the high-paced achievements of his father and grandfather, John's time as custodian of the family fortune can seem quite languid. This is partly because the early death of his son and heir, Daniel, in 1742 created a hiatus. With John coming into his seventies, he might have expected the drive to come from the next generation. When he died in his eighties, his grandson John, the next owner of Streetgate, was only 21.

John was buried two yards northwest of the chapel door in St Michael's, Lamplugh.