Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brand, John (1744-1806)

BRAND, JOHN (1744–1806), antiquary and topographer, was born on 19 Aug. 1744 at Washington, in the county of Durham, where his father, Alexander Brand, was parish clerk. His mother dying immediately after his birth, and his father having married again, he was taken, when a child, under the protection of his maternal uncle, Anthony Wheatley, cordwainer, residing in Back Row, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,to whom he was bound apprentice on 4 Sept. 1758. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in that town under the direction of the Rev. Hugh Moises, where he acquired a taste for classical studies; and after leaving the school he was so indefatigable in the acquisition of learning as to secure the esteem and friendship of his former master, Mr. Moises, who interested some opulent friends in his behalf and assisted in sending him to Oxford. He was entered at Lincoln College, and graduated B. A. in 1775. Previously to this he had been ordained to the curacy of Bolam in Northumberland; in June 1773 he was appointed curate of St. Andrew's, Newcastle; on 6 Oct. 1774 he was presented to the perpetual curacy of Cramlington, a chapel of ease to St. Nicholas at Newcastle, from which town it is distant about eight miles. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries 29 May 1777. In 1778 he was appointed under-usher of the grammar school at Newcastle (Brand, Hist. of Newcastle, i. 99), but he does not appear to have held that situation very long. In 1784 he was presented by his early friend and patron, the Duke of Northumberland, to the rectory of the united parishes of St. Mary-at-Hill and St. Mary Hubbard, in the city of London; and two years later he was appointed one of the duke's domestic chaplains.

In 1784 he was elected resident secretary to the Society of Antiquaries, and was annually re-elected to that office until his death, which took place very suddenly in his rectory house on 11 Sept. 1806. He was buried in the chancel of his church.

We are told that 'his manners, somewhat repulsive to a stranger, became easy on closer acquaintance; and he loved to communicate to men of literary and antiquarian taste the result of his researches on any subject in which they might require information. Many of his books were supplied with portraits drawn by himself in a style not inferior to the originals, of which they were at the same time perfect imitations' (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, ix. 653). Brand, it may be added, was never married. There is a small silhouette likeness of him in the frontispiece to his 'History of Newcastle.' An account of some of the rarer tracts in his library, which was sold by auction in 1807-8, is given in Dibdin's 'Bibliomania,' 605-611.

His works are:

  1. A poem 'On Illicit Love. Written among the ruins of Godstow Nunnery, near Oxford,' Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1775, 4to, pp. 20. Godstow was the burial-place of Fair Rosamond, the paramour of Henry II.
  2. 'Observations on Popular Antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne's "Antiquitates Vulgares," with Addenda to every chapter of that work; as also an Appendix, containing such articles on the subject as have been omitted by that author,' London, 1777, 8vo. Brand left an immense mass of manuscript collections for the augmentation of this work. These were purchased by some booksellers and placed in the hands of Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Ellis, who incorporated them in a new edition published at London in 2 vols. 1813, 4to, under the title of 'Observations on Popular Antiquities: chiefly illustrating the origin of our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions.' Among the printed books in the British Museum is a copy of this edition with numerous interleaved additions; and in the manuscript department there is another copy annotated by the Rev. Joseph Hunter, F.S.A. (Addit. MSS. 24544, 24545). Other editions appeared in Knight's 'Miscellanies,' 3 vols. London, 1841-2, 4to, and in Bohn's 'Antiquarian Library,' 3 vols. London, 1849. This work contains much interesting information, but the author takes no general view of his subject; his desultory collections are made with little care, and the notes and text are frequently at variance with each other. Mr. William Carew Hazlitt made an attempt to remedy some of these defects in his new edition, entitled 'Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, comprising notices of the movable and immovable feasts, customs, superstitions, and amusements, past and present,' 3 vols. London, 1870, 8vo.
  3. 'The History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne,' 2 vols. London, 1789, 4to; a very elaborate work, embellished with views of the public buildings, engraved by Fittler at a cost of 500l. An index, compiled by William Dodd, treasurer to the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, was printed by that society in 1881.
  4. Papers in the 'Archæologia,' vols. viii. x. xiii. xiv. xv. 5. 'Letters to Mr. Ralph Beilby of Newcastle-upon-Tyne,' Newcastle, 1825, 8vo.

[MSS. Addit. 6391, ff. 36, 45, 99, 144, 146, 182, 237; 22838, ff. 61, 77, 82, 86; 22901, ff. 51, 135; 26776, ff. 103, 105; Brand's Newcastle, i. 99, 196, 323; Cat. of Oxford Graduates (1851), 80; MS. Egerton, 2372 f. 180, 2374 ff. 283, 285, 2425; European Mag. 1. 247; Gent. Mag. lxxvi. (ii.) 881, lxxxii. (i.) 239; Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) i. 67; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. ed. Bohn, i. 254; Malcolm's Lives of Topographers and Antiquaries; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. ii. 435, 660, iii. 648, vi. 300; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. viii. 695, 696, 739, ix. 651-653; Quarterly Review, xi. 259; Reuss's Register of Authors, i. 131, Supp. 46; Richardson's Local Historian's Table-Book (Historical division), i. 156, iii. 59; Sykes's Local Records, (1824) 227.]

T. C.