Washburn Celebrities

There are several nationally famous people associated with the Washburn Valley. These include:

  • The Fairfax family of Roundheads who lived at Scow Hall. Edward Fairfax (circa 1580 – 1635) was a translator who in 1600 translated Tasso’s ‘Jerusalem Delivered’, for which he is best known. It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I of England. He also wrote a treatise on Demonology, in which he was a devout believer.
  • JMW Turner who during many lengthy stays at Farnley Hall was inspired by and painted Farnley Hall and the Washburn Valley
  • George Eliot who modelled one of the characters in Scenes from Clerical Life on a Vicar who later became the Vicar of Fewston, Rev John Gwyther. 



Tomb of Rev John Gwyther at Fewston Church

However the most significant but possibly the least acknowledged Washburn Celebrity is Robert Collyer.

Robert Collyer 1823 – 1912

Collyer’s origins were humble: he was born to parents who met as orphan apprentices at Westhouse Mill and christened in Fewston Church in 1824, but his death was reported on the front page of the New York Times.In his extraordinary life, this blacksmith and self-taught local preacher emigrated to the United States in 1850. He was such a charismatic preacher that in 1859 he was appointed Minister at a church in Chicago without any formal qualifications, and twenty years later was called as Pastor to the largest Unitarian church in New York. He served as an officer in the U.S. Sanitary Commission on Civil War battlefields, and returned to England on several occasions to preach and lecture in Leeds, Manchester and London. In 1892 he opened the Robinson Library here in Timble. In 1907 Robert Collyer was awarded an honorary D.Litt at the University of Leeds. He died in 1912.

And finally…

You can find the above information more graphically displayed in our permanent exhibition in Fewston Church, which is always open; and there is even more detail in the attached Interpretation Plan which we had to produce when we approached the Heritage Lottery Fund for our main grant.

Click here for the Interpretation Plan


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