A senior relative of mine wrote this. It is quite long, but worth adding here for the benefit of posterity!
Here it is, unedited:
SAMUEL BAILEY COXON
Usworth Hall (originally Usworth Place) where my great grandfather lived for most of his life, was built in 1800. However he was born in Seaham Harbour when his father, Joseph Coxon, was employed by Lord Londonderry to construct a harbour there for seagoing vessels. Previously the little town had been known simply as Seaham with its stately home of the Milbankes where Lord Bryon had married Anabella Milbanke.
Lord Londonderry’s aim in trying to construct a harbour had been to allow his colliers to load and unload at a port that virtually belonged to him, thereby saving him the port dues levied on his ships at Sunderland and Hartlepool. It was considered an almost impossible task as the shafts had to be sunk through solid rock, and this had rarely been successfully attempted before. However Joseph’s father, another Samuel, my great great great grandfather had evidently once succeeded and was thereafter always known as “Sinker Sam.” All the Coxons appear to have been mining engineers and good ones and it was to Joseph that Lord Londonderry entrusted the task. His trust was not misplaced and the shaft was sunk and the harbour opened. This was to Londonderry’s huge delight. He subsequently boasted that he would “see the grass growing in the streets of Sunderland.” This, of course, never happened. In those thriving Victorian days there was trade enough for all.
Samuel Bailey followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and became a partner and associate of George Elliot, the “pit boy millionaire,” one of the north’s self made entrepreneurs. Among their many interests were several collieries, and in my great grandfather’s case, especially Usworth which the firm sank in 1845. He married Susannah Bell Noble in 1858 and by her had a family of no less than fifteenchildren. She died 1875, and though many children died relatively young, the widower was still left with a large brood to bring up. However his sister, Ann, who had also married a Noble was by this time herself a widow. She and her four children came to live in Usworth Hall where both families apparently co-existed very happily together.
The (surviving) Coxon family was composed of four boys and six girls. The eldest surviving child was my grandfather, George Elliot, named after the firm’s partner. Of the girls Rosalind, the delicate one, married an Allison, but died relatively early in her married life. Juliet and Kate, usually called Kitty, both went to finishing school in Belgian and were both converted to the Catholic faith. Juliet took the veil and eventually became Mother Superior in the Order of the Sacred Heart at Tal Bullot in Malta. It was an enclosed and strict Order. When her nephew, Noble Coxon, then only about nineteen, was on a Mediterranean cruise he called there but was only allowed to talk to her through a grille. Family photos that were sent her were returned. Kitty, for her part, became a nursing sister and went out to nurse in the Boer War. She was so seasick that she was medically advised that if she went home she should only do so by land. Consequently she never returned home, becoming matron of a military hospital and eventually marrying a George Golding. Another of Samuel Bailey’s children, again a Samuel, also settled in South Africa.
Previous to this Samuel Bailey had died. He was a relatively a young man, only 53. The family had booked a box, some say at the theatre, some at the Albert Hall and some at Olympia. He had evidently felt unwell earlier in the evening and had decided not to go but his favourite daughter, Kitty, sat on his knee and persuaded him to attend. He died during the performance.
His funeral at Usworth was quite a sumptuous affair, attended by many northern dignitaries, and with all the Victorian trappings considered proper for the occasion. However, despite his great talents in the mining world and the high esteem in which he had been held he was fundamentally a poor businessman. He was found at his death to have been virtually bankrupt. His young family had to leave Usworth Hall and make what future they could for themselves. For my grandfather, George Elliot, there was a temporary revival in his fortunes when his second wife, Dora Lumsden, became co-inheritor with her sister in the estate of Sir Edward Gourley, onetime Member of Parliament for Sunderland. It was at this time that Cleadon Towers was purchased and became the childhood home of my Mother, her brother and half sister. But the First World War and hard times intervened again.