Yeoman and husbandmen in South Tyne

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Background

An 1823 map giving a good impression of the remoteness of the road going north from Alston through Kirkhaugh
The South Tyne Trail in the south-west corner of Northumberland, now a popular walking and cycling route, follows the old railway line up the valley for thirteen miles from Alston in the south to Haltwhistle further north. The villages along the line - Kirkhaugh, Lintley, Slaggyford, Knarsdale, Eals, Lambley, Featherstone - are not only the stations on the old line, but also where the Lees, Ridleys, Moors and Coulthards had lived for generations until our story starts in the eighteenth century. The railway opened in 1852 and, despite being condemned by Beeching, remained open until 1976 because there was no all-weather road connecting the communities as an alternative transport link. If that was the case in 1976, then the position before the railway opened was much worse: Knarsdale was described as late as 1863 as a 'wild and mountainous tract' so would have been even more cut off a hundred years earlier. For part of its journey the road up the valley followed the Maiden Way, built by the Romans in the second century to join Epiacum, the centre of the lead and silver mining in the area, to Hadrian's Wall. [1] The Romans had mined in the area and mining remained an important industry in the 18th century: as well as the copper and lead mines, limestone had been quarried and burned for centuries [2] with miners often sleeping at the mines rather than walk several miles back home. The London Lead Company, the largest in the country and run by the Quakers, had a centre at Alston; but nearly all the Lees, Ridleys, Moors and Coulthards were not miners [3], but were fairly large fish in this tiny pond, owning land, influencing local affairs, marrying into the local landed gentry and, despite the unhelpful terrain, showing that farming could be successful.

Thw two ends of the valley were very different in character. In 1790 the travel writer Hutchinson described Haltwhistle as a 'pleasant village in a lofty situation commanding a fine prospect of the valley through which the Tyne meanders' despite his having to wade across a deep ford as the ferryman couldn't be found. However, he thought Alston 'a mountainous, barren and inhospitable country inhabited by miners'. Haltwhistle, much lower down than Alston, lay on the main road from Newcastle to Carlisle, so enjoyed the benefits of the passing trade. It was four or five miles north-east of Lambley; but ten to the west of Lambley was Brampton, so good towns were accessible within a day by packhorse. Both towns lay close to Hadrian'a Wall and suffered cross border raids from Scotland over the years. In fact, in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie used Brampton as his base when attacking Carlisle, and six men were later hanged in the town for their part in the rebellion. Mid-eighteenth century Alston was also part of British history as John Wesley preached there in 1748 (and again twenty years later), and Alston Moor is ocovered with non-conformist chapels.

Although national events were taking place at either end of the valley, poor communication probably meant that the families in the valley took little notice of what went on; farming and mining in such conditions lad to close-knit communities that had little time for the wider issues.

Henry Ridley (1771 - 1853) and Jane Lee (1773 - 1854)

Joseph Lee wrote his will in April 1799 leaving most of his money to his sons, but giving £30 to each of his unmarried daughters and only £5 to his married daughters. He died in July and the will was proved on 27th November 1799. A few days before the will was proved, Jane, one of the unmarried daughters, married Henry Ridley. No doubt there was sadness that her father could not be at the wedding - or perhaps he hadn't approved and the couple had waited for him to die before tying the knot - but her timing had made her £25 better off!

Joseph Lee's burial and his daughter Jane's marriage a couple of lines apart in the bishop's transcripts
Joseph's will describes him as of Featherstone, a village in the next parish, a few miles north of Kirkhaugh; but Kirkhaugh was where he was buried and where he baptised his children; and his burial entry describes him as a farmer from Lintley (part of Kirkhaugh), as does Jane's marriage entry, so it seems reasonable to see that as his home village. This is confirmed by two entries in 1800/2 where he is said to be a farmer from Lintley in one and an husbandman from Barhaugh in the other[4] His will names ten surviving children, most of them being farmers or married to farmers, but there appeared to be enough money and land to keep them all in a living. There were several people in the Kirkhaugh area named Joseph Lee, so one treads carefully, but 'our' Joseph certainly married Mary Maughan in 1758 in Whitfield, a few miles to the east of the South Tyne valley. It was Mary's home parish, while Joseph was describes as 'of Kirkhaugh'.

(To be continued)


Thomas Moor (1787 - 1861) and Frances Coulthard (1787 - 1870)

The Moor(e)s were yeoman farmers and presumably amongst those becoming richer following land enclosure and the improvements in agriculture, with large houses being built on the profits. One of those houses was Knarsdale Hall, originally the seat of the lord of the manor but described in about 1820 as a gentleman's place of the 17th century now and for a long time since occupied by the farmer of the adjoining grounds... The garden walls have lost their trimness, the malt kilns and the brewhouse are gone [5] That farming family may have been the Moores as, in 1801, Henry Moore was described as 'of Knarsdale Hall' in his brother's will [6].
Knarsdale Hall

When Thomas Moore died in 1799, he described himself as of Softley, a hamlet about a mile north-west of Knarsdale village, but in the parish. In his will he mentions nearly all of his twelve children and, in particular he names the children of his eldest son, John, who had died at least two years earlier:[7]

I also give devise and bequeath unto the sons and daughters of my late son John Moor of Barns deceased (that is to say) Thomas, John, Mary, Jane and Elizabeth the sum of seven pounds each to be paid by my executor when and as soon as they shall respectively attain the age of sixteen years. But if it should happen that any of them should die before they should arrive at age, as aforesaid then the part or share of him, her or them so dying shall be equally divided to an amongst the other or others of them share and share alike.

Thomas, the eldest, was only twelve, so his mother, Jane, had been left with five young children to bring up; but she never re-married, so appeared not to be short of money. Of her husband, John, we know nothing; but, as the eldest son it is reasonable to assume he was destined to run the family farms which were now left to his brother Joseph. One of the witnesses to the will was John Coulthard, another yeoman farmer, who had recently been involved in a court case for not tithing his potatoes, and was from the same family as the twelve year old Thomas Moor's future wife, Frances Coulthard. Frances' family came from Knarsdale as well, although she was actually born in Kirkhaugh, the parish immediately to the south of Knarsdale and the most south-westerly point in Westmoreland where it touches Cumberland. Kirkhaugh, too, had Roman connections and the Maiden Way ran down its western border. Frances was the youngest of five surviving children, with ages so spread out that John, the eldest, was nearly twenty years older than her and, like her future husband, Thomas Moor, Frances also lost her father when she was still a young child; but her mother's family - the Teasdales - appear to have been fairly wealthy so, again, money was not an issue.

In 1799 John Moor's brother, Joseph, also died, and John's children were again possible beneficiaries in a relative's will:

And to all the rest, residue and remainder of my effects whatsoever and of what nature, kind and quality soever I give, devise and bequeath unto my illegitimate son Henry now living at Knarsdale Hall aforesaid with my brother Henry Moor when he shall arrive at the age of twenty one years, But if he shall happen to die before he arrive at such age without issue of his body lawfully begotten In such case I give unto the five children of my late brother John Moor of Barns Row in the said Parish of Knarsdale and in the said County of Northumberland the sum of thirty pounds each when they shall respectively arrive at he age of twenty one years. But if any of them should happen to die before they shall arrive at such age without lawfully issue of his, her or their body or bodies then the part or share of him, her or them so dying shall go to and be equally divided amongst the survivor or survivors

When Joseph's widow wrote her will in 1808, there was no mention of Henry; but whether that was because he had died (so passing his inheritance on to John's children) or because he was not Mary's son, is not known. Her reaction to his will, when their legitimate daughters had to give way to his illegitimate son, will never be known; but his decision would have been considered normal by most.

Thomas and Fanny married in 1806, having their first child shortly afterwards in Knarsdale, but then moving a few miles west into Cumberland. Thomas was now styled 'husbandman'[8] which, in earlier times, would have been one rank further down the social ladder than 'yoeman' but the terms were often interchangeable in the 19th century. He spent his working life in the villages of Hesket, Armathwaite and Ainstable, all essentially the same parish, where emplyed a number of men to work on his farm. One such was Richard Hope who, in 1824, was sentenced to one month's hard labour in Carlisle gaol for stealing some hay-grass. If this seems harsh, it was made clear that he was being used as an example to others as it was appranetly common for colliers to put a little into their own carts at the end of the day, and Pope was known to have taken some in the middle of the day.

The Moors were now living a comfortable family life. A few years previously, in 1818, Fanny's uncle, Robert Teasdale, had died without children and left all his siblings and their children generous gifts. In Fanny's case that was £150 [9] and Thomas' business interests were growing. In 1841 four of his children were still living at home, and his daughter Frances was near enough that her son culd spend time at hia grandparents house. He was a farmer, but may already have been dealing in timber as well, as this was his main source of income ten years later.

The road into Armathwaite in 1758
Thomas Moor contributing 10s to the cost of the local rifle brigade
Thomas' notice asking for clams when he closed down his own farm in 1857
In about 1856, when Thomas was nearly seventy, he and Fanny sold off their farming business and moved to How Mill, near Hayton, to be close to their son, Thomas, who had a farm and a timber business, as well as a saw mill and a corn mill. Thomas senior was lame from an accident, and had to use crutches, but still got up at 6am every morning, in summer and winter, to help his son with some of the paperwork and pay the workers[10]. Thomas and Fanny had a cottage just north of the railway line, while their son's house was on the south side, a short walk away. In September 1861, when Thomas was seventy-five, he was crossing the railway on his way home when he was hit by a coal train and killed instantly. A goods train had stopped at the station but, as it was pulling out, its noise stopped Thomas from hearing the sound of the train coming in the other direction. A railway shed also stopped him from being able to see down the line, so he was totally unaware of the second train and was run over by ten carriages. The railway company was sued by the Moors who claimed negligence but, although the jury found them guilty of not running the line as they should, they also decided that Thomas had contributed to his own death, so the case was lost on a majority. When he died, Thomas and Frances had been looking after their grandson, John Smith, son of their daughter Jane. Jane had married and moved to Gateshead in 1848, but her husband had died shortly after John's birth, so she had moved back to be with her parents in Ainstable. Now, ten years later, not only had she also died, but John, still only twelve, had lost his third 'parent' in tragic circumstances.

References

  1. The remains of Epiacum can still be visited.
  2. A number of 18th and 19th century mines can still be seen in the parish
  3. One of Jane Lee's brothers, William, may well have been a manager in a lead ore mine
  4. These descriptions appear in the baptismal entries for Henry and Jane Ridley's eldest two children, where the mother's father is also named. Confusingly there is another Joseph Lee described as 'of barhaugh', so it is difficult to tell hem apart
  5. The history of Northumberland by John Hodgson; 1819 onwards
  6. Two years earlier, Henry's father had also left a will in which he described his daughter and son-in-law as 'of Knarsdale Hall' so whether the house passed from mone to another; or they both lived there at the same time, isn't known
  7. Thomas' will was written in 1797, so John must have died by then; but we can't tell how long before that
  8. This was his description in Robert Teasdale's will of 1818
  9. About £6000 in today's prices
  10. Most of these details come from the inquest