Earwaker, John Parsons (DNB01)

EARWAKER, JOHN PARSONS (1847–1895), antiquary, son of John Earwaker, was born at Cheetham Hill, Manchester, on 22 April 1847. His father, a Hampshire man, had settled at Manchester some years before that date as a merchant, and was an intimate friend of Richard Cobden. Educated at first at a private school at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, he afterwards went to a school in Germany, and subsequently studied at Owens College, Manchester, where he took prizes in natural science. Thence he went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, but obtaining a scholarship at Merton College, Oxford, he matriculated there in November 1868, and graduated B.A. in 1872 and M.A. in 1876. He at one time intended to go to the bar, and in 1869 entered at the Middle Temple. He was, however, never called. At Oxford he remained until 1874, having obtained a few pupils there. His early studies were in the direction of zoology and geology; but he became warmly interested in historical and antiquarian studies, and acquired a remarkably extensive acquaintance with ancient English manuscripts. He was elected honorary secretary of the Oxford Archaeological Society, and acted as deputy-keeper of the Ashmolean museum in 1873-4, during the residence of the keeper, John Henry Parker [q. v.], in Rome. In January 1873 he was elected F.S.A. After his marriage in 1875 he resided at Withington, near Manchester, and in 1881 removed to Pensarn, near Abergele, North Wales, devoting himself to literature and archaeology as a profession. In the local affairs of Pensarn he took an active part as chairman of the local board, and in other ways.

In April 1875 he began the publication in the 'Manchester Courier' of a series of 'Local Gleanings relating to Lancashire and Cheshire,' which was continued until January 1878, and then republished in two volumes. It was followed in 1878-80 by a periodical entitled 'Local Gleanings: an Archæological and Historical Magazine,' of which one volume was completed. The first volume of his 'East Cheshire, Past and Present; or a History of the Hundred of Macclesfield' was published in 1877, and the second in 1881. These large and important volumes show the author's grasp and lucid arrangement of facts, and his thoroughness in proving every statement by reference to original authorities. In 1882 the corporation of Manchester resolved to print the 'Court Leet Records of the Manor of Manchester,' ranging from 1552 to 1846, and Earwaker was engaged as editor. The work, with full annotations, extended to twelve royal octavo volumes, the first of which was printed in 1884, and the last in 1890. It was supplemented by ' The Constables' Accounts of the Manor of Manchester, from 1612 to 1647 and from 1743 to 1776,' 3 vols. 1891-2. Earwaker was often occupied in. the arrangement of public and family muniments. Thus he put the Congleton corporation records into admirable order, and some of his work on family papers resulted in interesting printed monographs, as in his 'Agecroft Hall, near Manchester, and the Old Deeds and Charters relating to it.' There was probably no other man who possessed so great a knowledge of the genealogy of the two counties of Chester and Lancaster, and his stores were freely open to those working in similar directions.

He was one of the founders and honorary secretary of the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, and a member of the councils of the Chetham Society, the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, the Chester Archaeological Society, and the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. To the publications of these societies he was an industrious contributor, and he was an occasional writer in the 'Athenæum,' 'Notes and Queries,' and other journals.

Earwaker died on 29 Jan. 1895 at Pensarn, and was buried in the old churchyard of Abergele. He married, on 1 June 1875, Juliet, daughter of John George Bergman of 'Colinshays,' Bruton, Somerset, and Teignmouth, and by her had three sons and three daughters. Mrs. Earwaker illustrated her husband's 'East Cheshire' and several other works.

His large library of printed books and manuscripts, including a vast number of transcripts of original documents, was divided after his death; the Cheshire portion being purchased by the late Duke of Westminster, and presented by him to the Chester Museum; and the Lancashire portion being acquired by Mr. William Farrer of Marton, near Skipton. A catalogue of the library was printed in 1895.

His works, in addition to those already mentioned, and besides a considerable number of papers written for antiquarian societies, were as follows:

  1. 'Index to the Wills and Inventories at Chester from 1545 to 1760,' Record Society, 1879-92, 7 vols.
  2. 'Lancashire and Cheshire Wills and Inventories,' Chetham Society, 1884-93, 2 vols.
  3. 'A Lancashire Pedigree Case; or a History of the various Trials for the Recovery of the Harrison Estates from 1873 to 1886,' 1887.
  4. 'The Recent Discoveries of Roman Remains found in repairing the North Wall of the City of Chester,' a series of papers by various writers, edited by Earwaker, 1888.
  5. 'History of the Ancient Parish of Sandbach,' 1890, 4to.
  6. 'The Cheshire Sheaf,' new series, reprinted from the 'Chester Courant,' 1891.
  7. 'History of the Church and Parish of St. Mary-on-the-Hill, Chester,' completed by Dr. R. H. Morris, 1898.

He had in contemplation at the time of his death a history of the county of Lancaster upon an unusually extended scale.

[Manchester Guardian, 31 Jan. 1895; Journal of the Chester Architectural &c. Society, new series, v. 317; Transactions Lane, and Cheshire Antiq. Society, xiii. 143 (portrait); Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; Furnivall's Child Marriages &c. in the Diocese of Chester, 1897; personal knowledge.]

C. W. S.