Brewis Diaries

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Consists of fifteen diaries of William Brewis of Mitford, and two items of contemporary published material relating to the diaries.

There is one diary for every year between January 1833 and January 1850, aside from 1835, 1836 and 1844. These provide a first-hand account of rural life in the Morpeth and Ponteland districts, as Brewis describes visits to hiring fairs and markets, current sale prices for crops and animals, and farms available to rent. He also regularly observes weather conditions, which were unusually severe between 1837 and 1855 due to the advance of Icelandic glaciers, and their effect on the growing seasons and harvests. Brewis remarks on how his farm is affected by a ‘distemper’ amongst the livestock, similar in nature to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, as well as his own illness during the outbreak of influenza in 1837.

Brewis documents dining with leading members of the community and gives an insight into the relationships between farmers, local landowners and businesses in the area. His diaries make note of events in the local community including the execution of Ralph Joyce, a 24 year old man charged with the murder of his own father who was hung in Morpeth gaol in 1846.

Like many other farmers of the time, Brewis took a keen interest in national and international news. In his diaries he notes and makes frequent comments on national political and societal events. These include the death of King William IV, whom Brewis was fond of, and the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, whom Brewis often criticised. There are also entries on Chartism and the Chartist rising in Newport led by John Frost, as well as notes on India and the war against the Sikhs in April 1846.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Brewis (1778-1850), the son of Thomas and Margaret Brewis, was a tenant farmer in Mitford in the mid-nineteenth century.He had 9 siblings; 7 brothers and 2 sisters, and remained unmarried.

He was also an active member in the local community and undertook the roles of an Overseer for the Poor and a High Constable for the West Division of Morpeth.

He died of Pleuro-Pneumonia on 31st January at the age of 71.

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Archivist's Note

This catalogue was created by Rachel Hill, Special Collections Assistant, at Newcastle University Special Collections, in 2013.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make published use of any material from Newcastle University's Special Collections must be sought in writing from the Special Collections Librarian (email: lib-specenq@ncl.ac.uk) and from the copyright owner if appropriate. The library will assist where possible with the identification of copyright owners, but the responsibility to obtain copyright clearance rests with the user.