Dorothy Foster and the Dixon family

Dorothy Foster was a descendant of the Dixon family. The two brothers Jeremiah Dixon and George Dixon (Junior) were the sons of George Dixon (1701-1755), a Cockfield Coal owner, and his wife Mary Hunter. We give details of George Dixon (Junior) and Jeremiah Dixon below, taken from the book by Ian Gomersall, Cockfield Matters: A Village History and Guide (1988).

George Dixon (Junior) (1731-1796) married Sarah Raylton and they had a son, George Dixon III (1760-1842). He married Rachel Coates and they had a son George Dixon IV (1794-1869). He married Grace Greenwell and they had a daughter Mary Amy Dixon (1849-1914) who married William Flintoff (1876-1903). William and Mary Flintoff had a daughter Elizabeth Flintoff (born 1896) who married Thomas Sydney Foster (born 1903). Sydney and Elizabeth Foster were Dorothy Foster's parents.

George Dixon (junior).

George Dixon (junior) was born on 18 November 1731. When he was a young man he went to London where he worked for some time as a china painter at the Chelsea Pottery Works. He returned to Cockfield and worked at his father's colliery. He married Sarah Raylton his first cousin on 13 September 1753 and they had at least two children. On his father's death in 1755 he inherited the family home in Cockfield.

He was an ingenious and inventive man and was one of the first to realise the potentialities for illuminating purposes that lay in coal. He also manufactured coal tar and pitch in Cockfield supplying it to the shipyards in Sunderland until 1783 when he discontinued it because of heavy transport costs. His other interests included mathematics, mineralogy. painting and engraving. he died on 29 September 1785 and was buried at Raby. Sarah died on 18th April 1796.

Jeremiah Dixon.

Jeremiah was born on 27 August 1733. He had a natural aptitude for mathematics and this was recognised by the Royal Society when it selected him to travel to Sumatra with Charles Mason of the Royal Observatory to observe the Transit of Venus. They set off in 1761 but very shortly after leaving England their ship was engaged in action with a French frigate. Their ship was badly damaged and had to return to Plymouth for a refit. They set sail again shortly afterwards but when it became clear they would not reach Sumatra in time they stopped at the Cape of Good Hope where they observed the Transit.

In 1763 Mason and Dixon were sent to North America to define the limits between the provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania. The existing limits had been a matter of dispute for almost a hundred years. The line that Mason and Dixon surveyed and laid down is known by their surnames. They were also instructed to define the boundaries between Maryland and Delaware and this they did finishing in 1767. Many of the granite stones and markers placed by Mason and Dixon along the boundaries of their two surveys are still in position today.

In 1769 the Royal Society sent Dixon to the island of Mammerfest in Norway to observe the Transit of Venus once again. Dixon was unmarried and spent the remaining years of his life at Cockfield where he died on 22 January 1779 at the age of 45 years. He was buried at Staindrop (in the Quaker burial ground).

Last Updated September 2021