Born: Joseph Ritson was born in Stockton on 2nd October 1751. He was the son of Joseph Ritson, a farm worker, and Jane Gibson. He was one of nine children, but only five of them survived infancy.
Educated: He was taught by Rev. John Thompson of Stockton, who seems to have introduced Joseph to Latin. He became an articled clerk to John Stapylton Raisbeck, a Stockton solicitor. At this time, Ritson became fond of poetry and ancient history.
Married: In 1774 Joseph Ritson married Catherine Masterman, daughter of Thomas and Ann Masterman of Northallerton.
Family: Joseph and Catherine had no children. Two years after their marriage, Joseph was living alone in London. It has been suggested that his wife must have died young. Joseph Ritson took care of his sister’s son, Joseph Frank and eventually made him his heir. Ritson’s first job in London was for William Masterman, who may have been related to Catherine.
Home: In 1780 Joseph Ritson became a conveyancer in chambers in Gray’s Inn, London, where he spent the rest of his life.
Known for: Joseph Ritson was a Stockton-born solicitor who was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in 1789. His hobby was literary research and criticism. Everyday he walked from his chambers in London to the British Museum to study. Ritson was a prolific writer. He is best known in the North East for his collections of poetry and folk tales. These were published in “The Bishopric Garland” (1784), “The Yorkshire Garland” (1788) and “The Northumbrian Garland” (1793). Ritson also helped Walter Scott collect materials for his study of Scottish Border minstrelsy.
Died: Joseph Ritson died on 23rd September 1803 at Hoxton, London.
Further Information: “The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham” vol.III, Robert Surtees (1823)
“Joseph Ritson, a Critical Biography” H.A. Burd (1916)