Beside genealogical information, most of the early life of Elizabeth Cole and George Tweddell comes from Horsfall Turner’sYorkshire Genealogist. One winter’s evening around 1889, when the couple were well into their 60s, Turner interviewed them for a contribution to his second volume. What he teased out from them at the time has become the basis of much of what is known of their lives, what they had brought to the marriage and how their lifetime collaboration allowed them to overcome the many setbacks they encountered.
Elizabeth was born on 2nd January 1824, the daughter of Thomas Cole (1787-1867) who was 34 years parish clerk of Stokesley in North Yorkshire and renowned for being the last person to toll the town’s curfew bell. He also ran a business in the town as a painter, decorator and gilder (i.e. a picture framer) although his private love was landscape painting. None survive although a few portraits do, including an early one c.1810. Obviously Thomas’ official position in the town confirmed his competence in writing and there is some evidence that an ability to write had been in the family for some time. During the 18th century another Thomas Cole of Newby (†1772), who was most likely his grandfather, held the post as parish clerk and sexton in Seamer (5 miles north of Stokesley), the parish in which Newby was situated and, by tradition, the Cole family’s place of origin. Elizabeth Cole had at least one other source of literary inspiration during her childhood for she formed a friendship with the child literary prodigy, Elizabeth Georgiana Ayre, acclaimed for her 1842 book Wild Flowers or the produce of Uncultivated Genius, a copy of which she gave to Elizabeth Cole shortly after the latter’s marriage: “Presented to Miss Cole as a small token of esteem from her affectionate friend, the Author, April 12th/43”. The quality of the two women’s friendship might be reflected in an article Miss Ayre submitted for publication in George’s Tweddell’s Miscellany in 1844 when she wrote: “When called upon to advise our friend, we should deal faithfully with him, and he will esteem us more; but should our candour offend him, we should not be disheartened, but should remember that he who is an enemy to truth is unworthy of our friendship.”
Elizabeth Cole’s mother was born Elizabeth Walker (1783-1873) in Thirsk, was orphaned at the age of 12 and brought to Stokesley with her brother William (1873-c1855) by the neighbour, ‘Old Mrs Butterwick’ (fl. 1780-1810) who had adopted them.