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© copyright Kevin Quick

Joseph Stevenson (1806 - 1895), historian, archivist and priest

Significant events in Joseph's life are outlined below:

  • 27th November 1806 born at Berwick upon Tweed. Joseph was the eldest son of the surgeon Robert Stevenson and his wife Elizabeth Wilson. He also had two sisters
  • Attended Witton-le-Wear grammar school (attached to Durham cathedral)
  • Attended Glasgow University, but without taking a degree
  • 1829 returned to Berwick upon Tweed to pursue a vocation for the Church of Scotland
  • 1831 began his literary and antiquarian pursuits
  • 1831 moved to London where he obtained a post at the British Museum
  • 19th September 1831 returned to Glasgow to marry Mary Ann Craig, daughter of John Craig of Mount Florida. The couple were later to have a son and two daughters
  • 1832 published a glossary of Old English
  • He made contact with a number of leading historians including Patrick Fraser Tyler and joined a number of learned societies
  • 1834 appointed subcommissioner of the public records and started work on a new edition of Thomas Rymer's Foedera
  • During his time in London he switched from the Church of Scotland to the Church of England
  • 1839 his son Robert died and Joseph resigned from the record commission and moved to Dundee to study theology at the university
  • 1841 received his licentiate. He was ordained for the Anglican ministry, and appointed librarian and keeper of the records to the dean and chapter. Joseph spent the next seven years cataloguing the charters and deeds in the treasury
  • Given honorary MA
  • 1847 appointed as a curate to St Giles, Durham
  • January 1849 to 1862 appointed to the living at Leighton Buzzard. During this time he funded a curate, rebuilt the vicarage, and restored the church following lightning strike. During the repair of the church, Joseph accepted the offer of dissenting ministers to use their chapels until repair was completed. During this time he also held a night school at which he taught. During this time he continued his interest in the world of scholarship. His plans to publish or calendaring the national records did not proceed very far, but in 1856 he made representations to the Government which led to the beginning of the celebarted Rolls Series, of which he was made one of the editors.
  • 1862 Stevenson resigned his living
  • 1863 he converted to the Roman Catholic Church being received at Farm Street Church, London. As a result of how this change was viewed at that time, Joseph felt obliged to resign as a calendarer, but remained editor of the Rolls series. The Historical Manuscripts Commission continued to frequently employ him.
  • Moved to Selly Park, Birmingham
  • 11th July 1869 his wife died
  • 1872 entered the priesthood after studying at Oscott
  • 1872 was awarded a pension by W. E. Gladstone for services rendered to scholarship
  • Spent four years on a commission to search the Vatican archives for material of interest to English speaking historians.
  • 1877 applied to join successively the Franciscans and then the Jesuits, but was rebuffed both times in view of his age
  • 14th September 1877 with the help of a fellow scholar, John Morris, Stevenson was admitted by the Jesuits to the noviciate at Manresa House, Roehampton
  • 1878 briefly stayed in Oxford and subsequently, until the end of his life, at the 'House of Writers' - Farm Street, Mayfair, London
  • 1892 joined a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne
  • 1893 University of St Andrew granted Stevenson an honorary degree of doctor of laws
  • 8th February 1895 died at Farm Street, Mayfair, London. He was buried in the cemetery of St Thomas's Church, Fulham