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Pease family collection of sketchbooks and exercise books

Call Number: MSS 6

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises sketchbooks, watercolors, and school exercise books. It documents the period of the Pease family's greatest fortunes in the 19th century. The collection sheds light on the changing customs of the family, as they rose to prominence in industry and politics. The exercise books record different practices and standards of education for boys and girls during this time. The drawings and sketchbooks document the Pease's financial prosperity, which allowed them to travel widely and live in grand homes in multiple locations. Items in the collection were mostly created by children and women of various generations. The material documents aspects of women's leisure life in the 19th century, especially their amateur artistic practice.


  • 1814-1909


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is the physical property of the Yale Center for British Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired 2009, Paul Mellon Fund.


The collection is arranged into two series: I. Sketchbooks and drawings; II. Exercise books.


3 Linear Feet (3 boxes + 2 oversize)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection comprises sketchbooks and exercise books belonging to the Pease family of Durham and Yorkshire Counties, England. The Peases were part of an important network of Quaker industrialists in the northeast of England, and established the nation's first railroad in 1825. Items in the collection date from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth century.

Biographical / Historical

The Pease family are remarkable as an example of a nineteenth century success story—success that sprung largely from their pivotal role in the development of English railroads over the course of the century. In the Victorian era, they became well established and rose to prosperity and prominence, taking part in politics and enjoying a rather lavish lifestyle. What makes the Pease family even more unique is that they were Quakers. This aspect of their identity affected their business decisions, their marriages, and their lifestyles as their fortunes rose, and the Peases’ changing relationship with their faith is described in many histories and memoirs about them. The Victorian era was the peak in the Peases’ fortune; the last years of the 19th century, as well as the beginning of the 20th, brought change and financial trouble.

Edward Pease, born in 1767, was to become known as “the father of the English Railways" for his role in founding the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. The S&D Railway, used primarily for the transportation of industrial cargo between various towns along the Tees river, was the first English steam railway. Edward's diaries, published by Alfred Edward Pease in 1907, offer an extensive personal and social history of the early to mid-nineteenth century. Some of the Pease diaries and other personal writings have been published, while others remain in the family, or are kept in local record offices in Durham County. The YCBA collection of Pease family material concerns the descendants of Edward Pease, including his son, Henry Pease (1807-1881), and his granddaughters, Emma and Jane Pease (who were the daughters of Joseph Pease, the first Quaker M.P.). The collection also contains material pertaining to the family of Edward's grandson, Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, the first Quaker Baronet, and his great-great grandson, Christopher York Pease, who was killed in the First World War.

Members of the family whose items appear in the YCBA archive:

“E. Gurney”= Emma Gurney (ca. 1800-1860): Wife of Joseph Pease. Daughter of Joseph Gurney, and member of a notable Quaker family in Northeastern England. Married Joseph Pease in 1826, uniting Gurney family fortune with the Pease name, thereby bringing the Peases into prominence in the area. Mother to five sons and four daughters: Jane, Joseph Whitwell, Emma, Rachel, Elizabeth, Edward, John Henry, Arthur, Francis Richard, Gurney (father to Katherine Pease Routledge, who later voyaged to Easter Island), Alfred, and Charles Pease. Joseph and Emma lived at Southend, an estate in Darlington that, while less ostentatious than the eventual homes of their sons, was still grand. The estate included a “long carriage drive lined with thick trees” (Van Tilburg, 13). Southend was the Pease family seat during the mid-nineteenth century years of success and rising fortunes.

Emma Gurney Pease (ca. 1830-d. 1895): Daughter of Joseph and Emma Pease (nee Gurney). Avid watercolorist and artist. In 1851, she toured the European continent with her family, a trip that inspired many drawings and watercolors. In 1853, she traveled to Scotland . She again traveled to Europe in 1874. She never married, and lived at Southend, the Darlington home of Joseph Pease. Described by Jo Anne Van Tilburg in Among Stone Giants in later life as:

Slender, with lovely skin, big eyes, and chiseled features. Bright and empathetic…she was efficient and practical with a quick, impatient manner that many people thought was pushy and sharp. Emma had no close friends but took an intellectual interest in women’s issues and Quaker philanthropy, using her fortune to support schools and health and to employ her formidable administrative talents. Emma thought clearly, read widely, wrote well, and had a keen sense of humor. She kept voluminous personal journals but left strict instructions for them to be burned after her death…Emma was devout, but her faith had a strong rational component. (Van Tilberg, 14).

Emma supported her niece Katherine in her passionate desire to go to college, when Katherine faced approbation and shock from her more immediate family members. She died on 2 July 1895, and was buried with her sister Jane.

Elizabeth Lucy Pease (1833-1881): Fourth and youngest daughter of Joseph and Emma Pease (nee Gurney). She married John Fowler (1826-1864), agricultural engineer, on 30 July 1857, in a sober and quiet Quaker ceremony, unlike the wedding of her sister Rachel in 1851. John’s brother William was the second husband of Rachel Pease. After having designed and manufactured an innovative steam plough during the late 1850s and early 1860s, John Fowler founded a new steam plough manufacturing business in Leeds, “John Fowler and Co.,” in 1863. William eventually loaned money to the struggling J. & J.W. Pease Bank in 1897. Elizabeth enjoyed a comfortable life during the apex of the Pease family fortunes in the 19th century. John Fowler died of tetanus after a fall from his horse in 1864.

Jane Gurney Pease (1827-1894): Daughter of Joseph and Emma Pease (nee Gurney). In 1851, she toured the European continent with her family, a trip that inspired many sketches and watercolors. Jane was considered eccentric and a spiritual visionary. According to Jo Anne Van Tilburg, family history had it that Jane had fallen in love while staying with her family at the Pease summer home, Cliffe House, in Marske-by-the-Sea. Jane’s beau was supposed to become the Church of England’s archdeacon of Cleveland, and her father, Joseph, refused to allow her to marry a non-Quaker (the prohibition against marrying outside of the Quaker faith would not be relaxed until the mid-nineteenth century). Jane submitted to her father’s judgment and ultimately never married. Like her sister Emma, she lived at Southend, in Darlington. Described by Jo Anne Van Tilburg in later life, Jane:

[preferred] seclusion and illusion. She spent her withdrawn days lying on a sofa, eating massive plates of teacakes and jam rolls and filling vast numbers of pages in her many journals with flowing script. She was preoccupied with food, filling a great emptiness inside with elaborate meals and teas prepared from heirloom Quaker recipes. Though she glided through the house with the appearance of a duchess, Jane had the heavy “Pease physique” and lethargic temperament later attributed to [her niece] Katherine. Jane had an aristocratic nose, a prominent beauty spot, a dreamy smile, and a ready laugh. She sought the companionship of young male “protégées” and charmed and flattered them shamelessly…[Jane] was a romantic who ‘saw the world through a veil of poetry.’ Jane had a rich repertoire of humorous and moralistic tales but also knew by heart the North Country’s terrifying ghost stories…Intensely bored by the limitations of her life choices, Jane’s brilliant mind turned inward. Her spiritual life grew increasingly rich and charismatic, and she blossomed from a storyteller into a remarkably gifted public speaker and Quaker visionary…As Aunt Jane grew older and her circle of visitors grew smaller, she led her life at Southend in a world of insular shadows that grew increasingly deeper and darker. She believed she could commune with the dead, especially Joseph Pease and her brothers…She saw their spirits walking on the paths and terraces of Southend, or sometimes lying snug in their graves and, she said, heard their voices. The family ghosts Jane conjured were constantly moving about, day and night, haunting Southend and deeply disturbing Emma. (Van Tilburg, 14-15)

Along with her sister Emma, Jane was a source of love, support, and stability for her nephews and nieces, among them Katherine Pease Routledge. Jane died on April 5, 1894 in Torquay. Her funeral was held in Darlington, with her coffin covered in flowers and plant sprigs from Southend. She was buried at the Quaker burial ground in Darlington.

Rachel Pease (1831-1912): Third daughter of Joseph and Emma Pease (nee Gurney). She Married Charles Albert Leatham of Wakefield in 1851, with great festivities accompanying the event. “There was…bell-ringing,…[a] brass band…flags were flown on the stations of the Stockton and Darlington railway, and…there were salvoes of artillery. The bride was attended to the meeting house by seven bridesmaids,” (Orde, 102). Leatham had established an engine works and iron foundry in Middlesbrough, along with Edgar Gilkes and Isaac Wilson, in 1843. Charles and Rachel had five daughters: Rachel Mary Leatham (b. 1852, m. 1874), Emma (b. 1853, m. 1875), Margaret (b. 1855, m. 1875), Elizabeth (b. 1856, m. 1880 to Leonard Pelly, d. 1930) and Jane (b. 1857, m. 1878), and apparently a son who died in infancy (“Male Leatham” in birth records from Darlington, 1858). 1851 census records show Charles and Rachel living at Southend, the estate of Rachel’s father Joseph, but later records made after Charles’s death show Rachel and her family, along with servants, a governess, nursemaid, and cook, living in their own household. Charles died in 1858 and Rachel later married William Fowler (1828-1905), her brother-in-law by her sister Elizabeth’s marriage, in 1875. William was one of five sons of John Fowler, a dedicated member of the Religious Society of Friends. According to the DNB, he rose to prominence as a politician and financier after a period of economic lows during the 1860s. William and two of his brothers took over John Fowler’s steam plough business after John’s death in 1864. Rachel Pease was William’s third wife. Census records show them living in London in 1901. They had no children together, although William had eight children from his first marriage to Rachel Howard.

Henry Pease (4 May 1807-1881): Fifth son of Edward Pease and Rachel Whitwell. Henry married Anna Fell on 25 February, 1835, with whom he fathered a son, Henry Fell Pease (1838-96). Anna died in 1839. Henry then married Mary Lloyd on 19 January 1859, and had three daughters and two sons with her (including Edward Lloyd Pease). In 1845, he purchased “Pierremont” house in Darlington, a showy, Gothic mansion, which he enlarged in 1873, with vast gardens and land. Henry served as a Quaker elder for many years. He gave up Quaker dress, but used plain speech until the 1860s. He refused to allow a piano in his home until old age, and never approved of dancing. He went to Russia in January 1854 as part of a failed Peace Society effort to persuade Emperor Nicholas against entering what would become the Crimean War. He served as MP for South Darlington from 1857 to 1865. In 1867, he visited Napoleon III as part of a Peace Society mission, but the society's request to hold a peace congress during the international exhibition in Paris was denied. Henry was primarily involved in the Darlington branch of the NE Railways, working as a promoter. He opened a railway line across Stainmoor in 1861, considered “the backbone of England.” Henry died 30 May 1881, during a London meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Edward Lloyd Pease (1861-1934): Son of Henry Pease. He was educated at Cambridge, where he was a strong athlete (primarily in rowing). Edward traveled around the world, visiting America, Australia, and Europe, before settling down to a business career in Durham County. An avid hunter, he became director of several family business concerns in the Durham area. In 1890 he married Helen Blanche Pease, with whom he had a daughter, Mary Cecelia Pease (1892-1975).

John Henry Pease (1836-1854): Son of Joseph and Emma Pease (nee Gurney). He appeared in the 1851 census, visiting Barclays’ household in Essex with his family. He died at age of 18.

Mary W. Pease (d. 1892): Married Joseph Whitwell Pease. A talented watercolorist, she made an important record of the family estate, Hutton Hall, in Guisborough, in her "Hutton Hall" album.

Sarah Charlotte Pease. (1858-1929): Second daughter of Joseph Whitwell Pease and his wife Mary Fox. In 1897, she married Howard Hodgkin, the relative of a banking partner of the Pease family, Thomas Hodgkin.

Francis Richard Pease (1844-1865?): Son of Joseph and Emma Pease (nee Gurney). There is a death record for a "Francis Richard Pease" in Middlesex County in 1865.

Helen Blanche Pease (1865-1951): Daughter of Joseph Whitwell and Mary Pease (nee Fox). She was a cousin to Beatrice Pease (of the “Portsmouth affair” family scandal), who was raised by Helen’s mother and father after the death of her own parents. She was cousin also to Katherine Pease Routledge, who would travel to Easter Island in the 1910s. Sister to Alfred Edward Pease. On 15 January 1890, she married her somewhat distant cousin, Edward Lloyd Pease. During her lifetime, she served as Justice of the Peace for Durham County.

Mary Cecelia Pease (1892-1975): Daughter of Helen Blanche Pease. Married Reginald J. Mounsey (1884-) in 1921. Reginald appears to have served in WWI, as part of the Durham Light Infantry. Listed in WWI Medal Rolls Index 1914-1920.


Pease, Edward. Diaries.

Pease, Sir Alfred. My Son Christopher
  • Kirby, M.W. Men of Business and Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Quaker Pease Dynasty of North-East England, 1700-1943. London: Allen & Unwin, 1984.
  • Mewburn, Francis. Larchfield Diary. London: Simpkin Marshall, 1876.
  • Orde, Anne. Religion, Business, and Society in North-East England: the Pease Family of Darlington in the Nineteenth Century. Stamford: Shaun Tyas, 2000.
  • Pease, Alfred Edward. My Son Christopher: Being the Story of the Childhood of Christopher York Pease. Middlesbrough: William Appleyard & Sons, 1919.
  • Pease, Edward. The diaries of Edward Pease, the father of English railways. London: Headley Brothers, 1907.
  • Pease, Joseph Gurney. A Wealth of Happiness and Many Bitter Trials: the Journals of Alfred Edward Pease, a Restless Man. York: William Sessions, 1992.
  • Van Tilburg, JoAnne. Among Stone Giants: the Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island. New York: Scribner, 2003.
Guide to the Pease Family Collection of Sketchbooks and Exercise Books
compiled by Fiona Robinson; edited by Francis Lapka
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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