The Tennyson family in Market Rasen
Market Rasen and the surrounding district has very strong links with the family of Alfred Lord Tennyson who was Poet Laureate from 1850 until his death in 1892. The Tennysons were prominent in Market Rasen in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
George Tennyson, born in 1750, was the grandfather of Alfred Lord Tennyson. George came from a prosperous family, his father being a doctor and his mother a woman of some wealth and social status. He became an attorney and set up a practice in Market Rasen in 1774. Soon afterwards he married Mary Turner of Caistor, the daughter of a prosperous landed family. In 1779 George and Mary lived in King Street in the house next to the vicarage (now number….) Also in King Street, just two doors away, lived George’s uncle, William Tennyson, who was also an attorney. George was a landowner in Market Rasen at the time of the enclosure of the parish 1779-80 and so appears on the Award. William’s signature is on the Enclosure Award document as one of the supervising attorneys.
The social standing of the family in Market Rasen society is reflected in the fact that they had a large covered pew in the parish church near the south door. There are two Tennyson’s buried in the churchyard.
George Tennyson did not stay in Market Rasen. After times in Lincoln and Grims
by, the family moved in 1801 to Tealby, four miles east of Market Rasen, and in 1833 they moved to Usselby, three miles north of Market Rasen. While at Tealby and Usselby, George continued his business in Market Rasen so travelled to the town regularly. So important a figure had he been in Market Rasen society that when he died in Usselby in 1835 the funeral procession to his burial at Tealby came via Market Rasen.
During these years there were a number of Tennysons living in Market Rasen. The daughter of William Tennyson, Dorothy, married Jonothan Conolly and for a time lived in George Street. Their son, John Conolly, was born there. He had a career in medicine and attained an international reputation for his pioneering of more humane treatment of the mentally insane.
The family connection with Alfred Lord Tennyson is an interesting one. George Tennyson and his wife Mary had four children, at least three of whom were born in Market Rasen but the family was not an ordinary one. The first child, Elizabeth, born in the mid 1770s was married in Market Rasen in 1798. The second, Mary, born in 1777, was sent to live with her grandmother in Caistor.
The third child, George Clayton was born in 1778 but he, too, was sent away to live with a relative in Holderness.
This may have been because he was a sickly child, probably epileptic and considered to have mental problems. Eventually, he trained for the Ministry and became a vicar. He married Elizabeth Fytche and they had twelve children one of whom was Alfred the poet, born when his father was vicar at Somersby near Horncastle, Lincolnshire. This was unusual as it would be expected that the elder son would inherit the family wealth, not inconsiderable when his father died in 1835. However, his father left his estate to his second son, Charles, who had been born in 1784. This probably points to the father being concerned about George Clayton’s mental health, concerns borne out in George Clayton’s later life when he turned to drink and showed a violent nature. One of his children, Edward, spent fifty seven years of his life in a mental institution in York. Another, Arthur, who was epileptic and an alcoholic, was institutionalised for a short period and another, Charles, was an opium addict. Alfred is known to have been fearful throughout his life that he would be afflicted in a similar way.