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Voices from a Trunk - The Lost Lives of the Quaker Eddisons


Voices From a Trunk

The Lost Lives of the Quaker Eddisons 1805-1867

Sara Woodall

A CHANCE DISCOVERY of a trunk of documents by author Sara Woodall opened up a window onto the rapidly expanding cities of Leeds and London in the nineteenth century. Cholera epidemics, Luddite disruptions, hopeless medical interventions, the birth of the railways, a discovery of a murder, the mystery of an ancestor believed to be the unknown great-great grandfather of renowned inventor Thomas Alva Edison, an unsettling great Quaker bank crash and travel in America newly recovering from the Civil War - all were intertwined with the painful life of  Leeds lawyer Edwin Eddison.


"An extraordinary piece of research and book production, covering a vast range of social religious and medical history, in America and Australia as well as Britain." - Richard Seebohm  (Brussels Representative of the Quaker Council for European Affairs)


"Sara Woodall has an eye for the telling detail that brings alive the whole. Her prose throughout sparkles, added to which she has a good eye for anecdote.  Anyone interested in the social fabric of the 18th and 19th centuries, and, more specifically, Quaker existence, will find this book an invaluable guide." - Marius Kociejowski, (poet and author of  Gods Zoo, Artists, Exiles and Londoners.  etc) 


"It is a quite different book to anything I have read before and I became completely absorbed, and now have a very enriched view of the second half of the nineteenth century." - Anne Ullman (author of "Wood Engravings of Tirzah Ravilious")


"A fascinating read from start to finish, 'Voices from a Trunk' spans the continents and generations. Elegantly written and carefully researched." - Edward Stileman 


"This book is an extraordinary work of love and art bringing together the history of the author's family in contemporary England and America, from letters, documents and paintings that record the lives, deaths and especially illnesses of her forebears. I enjoyed the book from beginning to end and it is quite different from any other book that I have read. It is written clearly and with sensitivity, and despite the difficulty of the subject, the continuing tales of the family run like a thread though the different chapters." - Professor Sir Roy Calne  FRS  (surgeon)


"Sara Woodall has written a book both full of charm and at the same time with a wealth of very extensive information on the lives of the Eddison family a prominent Quaker family in the 19th century." - Lucilla van den Bogaerde


"This book is entertainingly written, generously illustrated, and manages to be both scholarly and a page turner. Highly recommended. When she came across a trunk full of old documents in her grandparents’ attic, the author of this book quickly realised its significance. It was a comprehensive collection of Georgian and Victorian diaries and records telling the fascinating story of her Eddison ancestors. It is the tale of an enterprising and successful family, originally from a Quaker background, who were actively involved in key moments of the Industrial Revolution. As well as providing a fascinating insight into the momentous events of their public and private lives as they occurred, it includes a vivid description of a trip to North America just after the Civil War." - Brian Turnbull


"It is a fascinating account and I congratulate you on persevering with the record and bringing it to life in the way that you have so successfully done." - Sir David Walker,  (Chairman of Barclays Bank)


Format: 6" x 9" perfect bound paperback, color cover and interior, printed on permanent paper in the United States
Pages 294, including Acknowledgments, Family Tree, Prologue, twenty chapters of text, Bibliography, Index and About the Author.
Illustrations: 173, including period photographs, engravings, newspaper images, etchings and Eddison/Edison family trees
ISBN 10: 1-939995-16-7
ISBN 13: 978-1-939995-16-2
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 2016031061
Price: $28.95 (Bulk order rates are available upon request)

View entire book jacket image by clicking here

Table of Contents

 Acknowledgements ix

 Family tree xii

 Prologue xv


1 Anonymous  Portraits1

Edith Eddison – St Gregory’s House, Bedale, Yorkshire – Ghosts in the attics – Discovery of  Abraham Booth’s letters – The Black Trunk of  documents.

2 Opening the  Boxes 6

Francis Eddison’s library – W. H. Auden’s marriage – Attic ephemera – The curious ‘Pain’ document dated 1829.

3 Living with  Pain13

Writing the Pain document 1829 – Visit to the acerbic Mr Abernethy –
Dr Thackrah and his work influencing the Factory Act 1833 – Mr Abernethy’s humiliating diagnosis – A present day diagnosis.

4 The Birthplace of Edwin  Eddison22

George Eddison (c. 1682–1759) At Gateford House – Quaker influence, The Rodes family and William Penn – Eddison connections travel to New Jersey 1677 – 
Arthur Young’s description of John Eddison’s farming methods – John Eddison’s suicide – History of Gateford – Henry’s eviction 1860 – Benjamin Eddison and Shireoaks Hall.

5 Childhood – First Episode of  Pain45

Edwin’s Birth 1805 – His father’s sudden death – Tatham’s Quaker School, Leeds – First mention of pain – Eruption of Tambora Volcano 1815 – Fourteen year-old Edwin decides on a legal career.

6 Earlier Eddisons and  Connections to Thomas Alva Edison62

Early Eddisons of Adel 1537 – Matthew Boyes takes the first printing press to America 1636 – Hannah Boyes marries Dynnis Edison 1659 – John Eddison
1658-1728, oil-miller of Bedale and Farnley –  Eddison connections travel to America 1677 – Possible link to Thomas Alva Edison.

7 Strong and Damp  Quakers79

Pencil drawing of George Fox – Thomas Aldam ‘The First Friend’ 1616 – 1660 Yorkshire Quakers arrested 1661 – Quaker education: Emphasis on science, disapproval of the arts – Medical Eddisons – Quaker Tathams – Society of Friends in decline 1860.

8 The  Booths96

John Eddison marries Ann Booth 1799 – Rev Abraham Booth’s sermon on slavery – Smallpox scourge – History of the stocking business – The Luddite Rebellion – Riots in Nottingham 1811 – Death of Robert Booth 1812.

9 A Murder in  Australia112

Coronation of George IV 1820 – Edwin’s need for money – Worries over Henry –  Visit to Cousin George Eddison at Steam Hall – Banking crisis 1825 – Battered Ship’s diary 1830.

10 A Year in  London129

Edwin arrives in London 1826 – Visits relations – Faints at a medical lecture given by Sir Astley Cooper – Keats, a medical student – Body snatchers – Georgian eating habits – Edwin admitted as an attorney 1827.

11 Founding the  Railways141

The Quakers, Edward Pease and Jonathan Backhouse raise money – Mewburn their lawyer finds error in the Parliamentary Bill 1821 – George Stephenson arrives at Pease’s house – Grand opening of the Stockton and Darlington Rail Road 1825 – Note of a conversation with Stephenson – First death on the railways, 1830.

12 Eddison  Bigamy148

Edwin sets up house in Leeds 1828 – He rages at Cousin Benjamin’s bigamy – Uncle Benjamin sits for his portrait – Edwin suffers more illness – Use of leeches
in medicine.

13 Romance and  Riots160

Mary Eddison’s nervous breakdown  – Edwin’s marriage 1830 – The Adel Estate – The Tatham brothers’ lead-pipe business in Philadelphia 1840 – Portrait of Uncle Benjamin by William Poole 1831 – Birth and death of Hugo 1831 – Violence in Nottingham 1831.

14 Mary Eddison’s Little Red  Diary171

Mary’s engagement to John Dougill 1831 – Cholera 1832 – Mary nurses
Uncle Benjamin – Death of Benjamin – Mary marries John 1833 – Birth
of Jane Dougill 1841.

15 Queen  Victoria182

Queen Victoria’s coronation – Death of Edwin’s son Alfred 1839 – Invitation to Buckingham Palace – Letter about the portraits – Ann Eddison’s death and funeral 1845 – Henry takes over Gateford – Queen Victoria opens Leeds Town Hall 1858.

16 Climbing Boys and Sad Sale  at Gateford194

The suffering of child chimney sweeps – Peter Hall agent for the Climbing Boys Society at Wimpole Hall – Edwin appeals against a case in York – Henry fails to cope at Gateford – Sale of Gateford herd 1857 – Edwin’s children at Quaker schools – His eldest son joins John Fowler & Co. Leeds – Francis Eddison annoys Thomas Hardy.

17 Death of Edwin’s Brother  Booth and the Adoption of Bicycles201

The dying Booth Eddison and his family travel to Madeira, 1859 – His childhood, education and medical career – Visit to Dr Gully – Booth dies in Madeira – His granddaughter Vera marries Sir Harold Bowden, whose firm made Raleigh bicycles.

18 Two Weddings and a  Doctorate213

Robert Eddison visits America 1856 – Hannah Eddison marries Rev. Charles Middleton 1862 – Charles angers his in-laws – Robert Eddison marries his cousin Anna Tatham – Anna is awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Leeds University.

19 Bank  Crash225

Overend and Gurney Bank crashes 1866 – Edwin’s connection to the
Overends – History of Overend and Gurney Bank – Reasons for the crash – Partners found not guilty.

20 Doomed Trip to  America233

The Adel Estate – America after the Civil War 1866 – Tatham shot towers and lead-pipe business – Freed slaves – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother – Ann Eddison inherits Toothill Hall – Fenians attempt to conquer Canada: Edwin’s last illness – The race home – Death of Edwin.

 Illustration Acknowledgements261





About the Author

Sara Woodall, author of "Voices From A Trunk"

SARA WOODALL was born in Thirsk, Yorkshire, England. She was a teacher before concentrating on portrait painting. Later, in Cambridge, she was a partner with David and Lida Kindersley at Cardozo Kindersley Editions. In 1995 she set up her own book business and was asked to select books for 10 Downing Street, the home of the British Prime Minister, to give as gifts to visiting heads of state. She is married and lives outside of Cambridge. 

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