MILLICAN DALTON, PROFESSOR OF ADVENTURE FROM NENTHEAD
Recently (that’s Summer 2016) there was a play at Alston Town Hall about Millican Dalton, the self-styled ‘Professor of Adventure’, which prompted this bit of investigation.
The Dalton family lived in a house somewhere between Foulard and Donks Villa, now The Beeches, in Nenthead. Given the status of the family, the house might have been Wellgill Villa. William and Frances had seven children, beginning with William Tinniswood, born in 1854, and John James born in 1856. Their first daughter, Lucy Millican Dalton, was born in 1857. Joseph Crosby followed in 1858. Sadly, Lucy died in 1860 aged only 2½. Another daughter, Elizabeth Crosby was born in 1865, then, on 20th April 1867 Millican arrived and finally Henry George in 1868.
William was a Quaker but whether his whole family were isn’t known. Whatever the case, his three eldest sons went to be among the 34 boys and 30 girls boarding at the Quaker school at Woodside near Wigton, to the west of Carlisle. Millican would have been sure to follow but sadly his father died on 6th October 1874, aged 49, when Millican was only 7 years old. It would seem that the company had sent William to ‘The Grove’ at Ilkley in Yorkshire, where he was diagnosed with a heart disease and died after two-week illness. He was brought home to be buried in buried in Alston Cemetery.
The family had relatives already living in the south of England, and since there was nothing to keep Frances Dalton in Nenthead she moved with her children to Hornsey in Middlesex. In 1881 Millican was 13 years old and at school with his younger brother, Henry. His two oldest brothers had left home, but Joseph was still there and working as an insurance clerk.
In 1891 the Daltons were living in Stamford Hill, Hackney, by which time Millican and Henry had both left school to become insurance clerks. This life obviously was too stifling for Millican and in the 1901 census, at the age of 33, although he was single and still working as an insurance clerk, we find his address as “Tent”, Esperanca, North Weald, Essex. His next door neighbour must have been a kindred spirit because he also lived in a tent.
Some time during the next ten years Millican moved back home to live with his 78 year old mother and his brother Henry in a 7 roomed house in Walthamstow, Essex. In the 1911 census Henry was still an insurance clerk, but Millican was self employed, working as – and wait for it – a “Dealer in Adventures” and a “Conductor of Tourist and Camping Parties.” So at the age of 43+ he was no spring chicken or an impetuous youth when he upped sticks and moved to the Lake District to live in a cave and become the ‘Professor of Adventure.’