JANE GURNEY PEASE died unmarried at the age of 67, and at the end of her funeral, after all the other mourners had left the graveside, an elderly Anglican clergyman stood bareheaded in silence looking down on the coffin.

Perhaps for him – perhaps for them both – it was the end of a forbidden love story that seems appropriate for the Valentine’s edition of Memories.

After being lost in his thoughts, the clergyman slipped quietly away from the graveyard in Darlington’s Skinnergate and, rather than as was customary join everyone else at the Peases’ nearby family home of Southend, he departed on his own.

The Northern Echo: Jane Gurney Pease (1827-1894). Picture courtesy of the Darlington Centre for Local StudiesJane Gurney Pease. Picture courtesy of the Darlington Centre for Local Studies

The lady he was mourning had been born in 1827. She was the eldest child of Joseph Pease, whose statue stands in the centre of High Row, and his wife Emma Gurney, from a Norwich family of Quaker bankers.

Jane died in 1894, and was regarded as the last of the true Quakers, deeply committed to her simple faith and the last to wear the traditional bonnet.

“She was of a somewhat retiring disposition, and was not much known beyond her own family and the society of which she was a member,” said The Northern Echo in its obituary a few days before the funeral.

The Northern Echo: Cliff House in Marske-by-the-Sea, looking towards Huntcliff and Saltburn. Henry Pease was staying with his brother, Joseph, when he had the idea to create a railway resort at SaltburnCliff House at Marske, looking down the cliff towards Saltburn, was Joseph Pease's seaside home

But half-a-century earlier, Jane had been a “dreamy maiden of 17”. She had gone to her father’s holiday home of Cliff House at Marske-by-the-Sea, and there she had met a local Anglican vicar with whom she had fallen in love.


However, “marrying out” – choosing a partner outside the Quaker faith – was forbidden. Last week, we told of Jane’s cousin, Elizabeth, who three weeks after laying the foundation stone of the Mechanics Institute in Skinnergate in 1853 had married a highly regarded professor of astronomy who happened to be a Presbyterian. This meant Elizabeth had “married out” and so was “disowned” by the Darlington Quakers and she lived the rest of her life in Edinburgh.

The Northern Echo: Joseph PeaseJoseph Pease, whose statue stands in Darlington's High Row

When dreamy Jane told her father in 1847 that she wished to marry her Anglican vicar, he refused to allow her, threatening to disown her for marrying out. Even when it was pointed out that her vicar had prospects of promotion, Joseph wouldn’t budge – the vicar was an Anglican, and that was that.

Unlike Elizabeth, Jane gave in to her father, and obediently returned to the

“Jane was forced to give up her heart’s desire and the young couple went their separate ways, but she never loved another and he never forgot her,” says Dr Jo Anne Van Tilburg, of California university in her book about another of the Pease women, Katherine, who struggled to find love and a fulfilling life in such stultifying circumstances.

Indeed, Katherine had seen her aunt Jane fading into sad spinsterhood in the Southend mansion and used her as inspiration – although Katherine also failed to find conventional Quaker love, she broke free from Darlington in 1903, and escaped to Easter Island, 8,420 miles away, where she became a world expert on the secrets of the famous carved heads which dominate the island.

The Northern Echo: Southend is now Duncan Bannatyne's hotel off Grange Road in Darlington. It was the home of Joseph Pease and his eldest daughter, JaneSouthend is now Duncan Bannatyne's hotel off Grange Road in Darlington. It was the home of Joseph Pease and his eldest daughter, Jane

For Jane, though, there was no way out. Darlington historian Ted Lickrish says: “Regretfully, Jane submitted to her father’s demands and spent her withdrawn days lying on a sofa, eating massive plates of teacakes and jam rolls.

“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.

“Intensely bored by the limitations of her life choices, Jane's brilliant mind turned inward. She 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.”

Several of the late Victorian Quakers developed mental health problems, probably because the faith’s policy of “marrying in” had meant their interconnected parents had been fishing in a very limited genepool. Jane heard the voices of the dead, especially of her father; she saw them lying snug in their graves or wintessed them walking along the fluorspar paths of Southend.

For the sake of her health, she spent the winters away from the harsh climate of Darlington, and she died in Torquay, where the family had another home.

Her body was brought back on the train for burial, the Southend gardener laid “a large number of primroses, sprigs of cypress, and ivy leaves” on her coffin, according to the Echo, and her family walked with her on her last journey to the grave.

“On the day of Jane’s funeral, the elderly clergyman became transformed, in Katherine’s eyes, into a youthful and romantic lover saying a last, adoring farewell to his dream of the past,” says Dr Van Tilburg in her book about Easter Island called Among Stone Giants.

The Northern Echo: Janer Gurney Pease's headstone in the Friends' burial ground off Skinnergate. Picture courtesy of Ted LickrishJane Gurney Pease's headstone in the Friends' burial ground off Skinnergate. Picture courtesy of Ted Lickrish

The Echo’s funeral report carried a long list of the mourners: the MPs, the mayors, the Peases, the Backhouses, from her brother, Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, to her neighbour, Sir Henry Havelock-Allan of Blackwell Grange.

Another name stands out: “The Venerable Archdeacon Yeoman (Marske).”

Henry Walker Yeoman was born in Whitby in 1816, so he was 11 years older than Jane. He was the Anglican vicar of Marske from 1840 until 1850, exactly the period that Jane was conducting her clandestine seaside romance.

He had prospects: he became the rural dean of Guisborough and then Middlesbrough, and then, in 1882, the Archdeacon of Cleveland, an ancient post dating back to 1128 when it was held by Hugh the Chanter.

He never married and died three years after Jane in 1897.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, is it possible to say that he was the clergyman who lingered sadly at her graveside thinking of a love that was unfulfilled and never forgotten?

  • With many thanks to Ted Lickrish and Mandy Fay