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Simon Morgan, The Journals of John Deakin Heaton and the ‘Heaton Map Project’

2015 August 3
by lucinda matthews-jones

Simon Morgan is the Principal Lecturer in History at Leeds Beckett University.  He is the author of A Victorian Woman’s Place: Public Culture in the Nineteenth Century (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007), and co-editor with Professor Anthony Howe of the Letters of Richard Cobden, the fourth and final volume of which will be published in August 2015 by Oxford University Press.  He is currently working on a monograph entitled Personality and Popular Politics, 1815-1867: Heroes, Champions and Celebrities in the Age of Reform.  Find him on Twitter @s_jmorgan or contact him via email: s.j.morgan@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.

The journals of Dr John Deakin Heaton of Leeds comprise of seven closely written volumes, put together from a daily diary (now lost) and completed by his wife, Fanny.  They provide a meticulous and sometimes dryly amusing account of Heaton’s public and medical career and the development of Leeds over much of the nineteenth century.[1]  However, while Heaton was locally well-known in his own lifetime, being the subject of a biography by Thomas Wemyss Reid, he is now largely forgotten. [2]  Although he exercised a significant influence over his native town, being one of the chief promoters of the Leeds Town Hall, and identified by Asa Briggs and (more recently) Tristram Hunt M.P. as one of the exemplars of the middle-classes’ ‘elusive civic pride’, Heaton’s contribution to civic life was usually low key.[3]  He was the committee man par excellence, who offered himself for public election only once, for the new Leeds School Board in 1870, and only after he had done his best to avoid a contest. As a result he is more or less unknown in his native city today, although his sister Ellen, feminist, correspondent of John Ruskin and patron of Dante Gabrielle Rossetti, has done rather better and until recently was listed as one of a number of ‘Leeds Heroes’ on an interactive display at Leeds City Museum. [4]

The journals have been used by a handful of scholars, and are a great source for the activities of Heaton’s wife and sister as well as his own public and domestic life. [5]  However, the aim of the Heaton Map Project, a collaboration between the Leeds Beckett University Centre for Culture and the Arts, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society and the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield, is to bring Heaton and his journals to a wider audience.   This map-based app, sponsored by Leeds Beckett’s Centre for Culture and the Arts, has allowed us to achieve these goals while taking an innovative approach to urban heritage by using modern technology to blend the traditional ‘walking tour’ of historic sites and buildings with forms of historical evidence usually buried in archives, accessible only to the few.  Each point of the Heaton map is therefore accompanied by some specific contextual information on that site, but also an account of Heaton’s relationship to it, usually including a brief extract from the journal.   The contextual information is fleshed out with suggestions for further reading, and also links to other websites such as Leodis or workhouses.org, which contain relevant visual or written material.  It was also felt important to connect the map to present day Leeds.  Some of the societies and institutions Heaton was involved in, the Phil and Lit, the Medico-Chirurgical Society, Medical School and Church Institute, still exist; in other instances, organisations which reflect the Heatons’ ethos of public service and philanthropy, such as the St George’s Crypt charity or Swarthmore Education Centre, have come to occupy sites associated with the Heatons.  Where appropriate, links have been provided to the websites of these organisations.

The core of the map is a mobile walking-tour, leading from the former site of the Leeds Medical School on East Parade, up to the Leeds Grammar School buildings, then back down to finish at the Leeds Library on Commercial Street.  Here we have had to work within the limitations of Google Maps, which only allows 10 sites to be joined in a linear route, and where the route itself is determined by the location of those 10 sites.  These limitations might have given the chosen 10 something of an arbitrary quality, but priority was accorded to sites where there extant buildings or, failing that, they made part of a coherent and satisfying walking tour, which also took people close to other sites on the map.  Other sites have been dotted in around these, with the potential for further sites to be added as research on Heaton progresses.  The map is therefore a work in progress and we hope that users will return to it over time.  It is also hoped to develop alternative routes relating to specific themes such as education or medicine.


[1]An overview of the journals, with extensive extracts, may be found in B. Payne and D. Payne, ‘Extracts from the journals of John Deakin Heaton, M.D., of Claremont, Leeds’, Publications of the Thoresby Society, 53, pt 2 (1971), 93–153.

[2]Thomas Wemyss Reid, A Memoir of J.D. Heaton, M.D. (1863).

[3]Asa Briggs, Victorian Cities (London: Oddhams, 1963), pp. 159-65; the quotation is from Tristram Hunt, ‘Heaton, John Deakin (1817–1880)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2006; online edn, May 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/94166, accessed 1 June 2015].

[4]For Ellen, Dianne Sachko Macleod, ‘Heaton, Ellen (1816–1894)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/62814, accessed 1 June 2015]

[5]John Tosh, A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); Simon Morgan, A Victorian Woman’s Place: Public Culture in the Nineteenth Century (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007).

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