George Symes Catcott

30 Feb 1739 - 19 Nov 1802

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Much more than Rowley's Nursemaid

George Symes Catcott played a hugely important part in the Chatterton story. He is, perhaps, the major reason Chatterton became known to a wider audience.

George was a bit of a manipulator who could clearly see the main chance when it came along. His correspondence with William Barrett and others, as well as some of his letters to the periodicals, show him as a man born with a well-greased stirring-stick in his left hand, although he would have preferred to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Unfortunately for George, that privilege passed to his older brother, the Reverend Alexander, vicar of Temple church (with its famous leaning tower), and author of A Treatise on the Deluge, which, by the way, includes a possible influence on Chatterton, a paraphrase of psalm 104, (written by their father Alexander Stopford Catcott, headmaster of the grammar school in Bristol).

George spent an inordinate amount of time writing about Chatterton (I know how that feels) and transcribing (and editing/amending) his works over and again; this was not an altruistic endeavour for he was actually maintaining a trade in transcriptions of  'Rowley's' works - good on you George! 

One of George's dearest wishes was to be remembered in after-times, and it seems to me that his wish has been granted, but in ways he could not possibly have imagined;  I hope to treat George as an important and main character in the Chatterton saga, rather than as a simpleton of a side-dish. So, all of George's manuscripts, his  letters and transcripts etc., will be uploaded to this website.  I will also add, when time allows, my own transcripts of some of his productions, this will facilitate ease of reading because some of his Mss. are quite faded. 

This is a big job, which is a little onerous and time consuming, but strangely enjoyable at the same time. 

Yere we goes then! Ooops, no we don't; I am putting this part of the project on hold, and  going back to uploading Mss., will return to this section anon.


Over The North Porch of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Is a large hexagonal room, once known as the Treasury House or the Muniment Room, but now known as Chatterton's Room.

It still holds various coffers, which once contained ancient archives belonging to the church.

This is where Chatterton claimed to have found the Rowley manuscripts.

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This little montage, pictures the famous meeting of  three great minds, George Symes Catcott, Samuel Johnson & James Boswell.

Note: The new Bristol Bridge, 1768, can be seen in the engraving

on the wall behind Catcott. (Montage courtesy of [QE!])

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 Said Catcott, 

To Boswell & Johnson.

This Much is True!

(Or is the chest an imposter?)

Six Locks the Chest had.

Warton states it was an Iron Chest.

Catcott confutes Warton;

'The Chest was made of wood.'

In Catcott's time it was in a

decayed and decrepit state.

Where is it now?


George Symes Catcott

Transcripts : Correspondence : Publications

Ms. Letter-Book B5342 (Chattertoniana M.S.)

Transcripts  Chatterton Works etc -  533 pages

Ms. Copy-Book B5343-4

Transcripts of 3 Chatterton Works

1.The Execution of Sir Charles Bawdin [Bristow Tragedy].

2. Battayle of Hastyinges

3. Englyshe Meatmorphosis

Ms. Copy-Book B5374 -

Transcripts of ???? Chatterton Works

1. The Whore of Babylon

2. The Exhibition

3. working here boss - - - - - - - - - -

Ms. Copy-Book B6489 - Transcripts of many Chatterton Works

1.The Execution of Sir Charles Bawdin [Bristow Tragedy]

2. Battayle of Hastyinges; 

3. Englyshe Meatmorphosis; 

4. Painter's Bill;

5. Songe to Ella Lorde of the Castle of Bristowe in Days of yore. 

Still working on this 09/05/2022

It will take a little while longer, so I have made the link above live and you can see it as it changes, as I work through it.

Catcott's layout is confusing but interesting. You would expect the flow of ink to be disturbed by copying but it is as if he is writing it from memory - which might account for the extra-antiquated spelling. 

Ms. Copy-Book B6490-

176 Manuscript pages. Transcripts of 20 works

To make it easy for us all I have transcribed Catcott's Contents list, complete with a link to every individual item.

This book is a joy to read; it will take you directly into 18th century Bristol during the time of the Chatterton worldwide phenomenon. It includes:

General Introduction to Rowley;

'Proofs' in favour of Rowley;

Correspondence with various people including Dr Milles, William Barrett, Dr Glyn, Lord Dacre, Dr Percy, Lord Camden, etc., and Transcripts of upwards of 20 works by Chatterton.

 This is just one of a number of Copy-books created by George Catcott.

A Descriptive Account of a Descent into Penpark-Hole

Catcott became a published author with this little booklet. Nothing to do with Chatterton but it does give you an insight into Catcott.

A Pious Meditation by John Whitson Alderman of the City of Bristol [with] An Account of the Author by the Mr. George Symes Catcott.

Published in 1789.

There is a memorial to Whitson in St Nicholas Church.

A Pious Meditation by John Whitson Alderman....[etc.] by the Late Mr. George Symes Catcott

Here we have George getting his wish to live in After-Times, with the posthumous publication in 1829 of his little book about John Whitson, which was originally published in 1789 (see above). Thanks to the Rev. John Eden editor of the volume.

George Catcott & Henry Burgum

Partners in Pewter

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A few of the pewter items made by Burgum & Catcott.

St Nicholas Church & the Pewter Plate

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Bristol Bridge & St Nicholas Church

George is famous for climbing the spire during its construction and placing a pewter plate, etched with his and his brothers details, within a cavity of the spire. It is still there waiting for the day it is rediscovered - it might be a while George!  George was very competitive, he paid 5 guineas to be the first person to cross the new Bristol bridge in 1768.

George Catcott v S. T. Coleridge

George was, for a time, a Bristol Librarian and became famous for a spat with Coleridge.

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