The Battle of Alnwick, 1093 & Rebellion of 1095

In my last blog we looked at the Battle of Carham in 1018 and the victory of the Scots over the Saxon Northumbrians. This resulted in the loss of Lothian to the Kingdom of Scotland (the territory between the Rivers Forth and Tweed).  The intervening seventy-five years between 1018 and the Battle of Alnwick in 1093 constituted some of the most rapid and tumultuous change ever experienced in our history.   I think it is important, albeit concisely, to summarise this transition before we discuss the subject of this blog.  I have focussed primarily on the events which took place in or that affected the north of England.

The realisation of Alfred the Great’s dream of a united, Saxon, England was first achieved in 927 in the reign of Alfred’s grandson Æthelstan (927–939).  However, Saxon hegemony was short lived, and in 1016 the fledgling kingdom was conquered by Danish invaders.  Cnut the Great and his successors ruled England along with Denmark and Norway as a powerful North Sea Empire until it came to an abrupt end in 1042 when Cnut the Great’s son Harthacnut died.  He was succeeded by his half-brother Edward.  Edward’s father was Æthelred the Unready (who ruled England until 1016) and his mother was Emma of Normandy, who married Cnut the Great after the death of Æthelred (yes, she married the man who invaded her husband’s kingdom).  Known to history as “the Confessor” owing to his piety, Edward was a Christian Saxon of the House of Wessex.  It looked as though Alfred’s vision would finally be fulfilled.  Alas, it was not to last. 

Across the English Channel, the Dukes of Normandy had established a powerful dynasty in north western France.  They were, however, vassals of the French Crown, following King Charles III granting the Duchy to a Viking named Rollo in 911.  By 1035 the Dukedom had passed to William II known as “the Bastard”.  Edward the Confessor had close links to Normandy through his mother (her father was Duke Richard the Fearless) and he spent a lot of time there throughout his life.  It may have been that Edward, who was childless, had discussed naming Duke William as his successor to the English crown when he visited England in 1051.  Following Edward’s death in January 1066 it seems the succession was far from clear.  William considered himself the rightful heir to the English throne but when the Witan gathered to choose who the next King of England should be, they chose the powerful English Earl, Harold Godwinson.  Harold was from a prominent Anglo Saxon family and he was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey soon after Edward’s death.  Upon hearing of this news, it can be presumed that William was not impressed, and he began to draw up his plans to invade England, take the throne by force of arms and earn his more noble soubriquet “The Conqueror”.

William was not the only one with designs on taking the crown by force.  Across the North Sea, Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, was invited by Harold Godwinson’s troublesome brother Tostig to invade England and take the throne.  Tostig was the Earl of Northumbria and as a result of his poor governance and general misbehaviour had been exiled by his brother.  Bent on revenge, he joined forces with Hardrada.  Shortly after landing in Yorkshire, the invading army was hastily met by King Harold and defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, just outside York, on 25th September 1066.  Both Hardrada and Tostig were killed in the battle.  Not long after this victory Harold heard that the Normans were preparing to invade the southern shore of his kingdom.  Force marching his army south, Harold met William three weeks later at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066.  It is safe to assume most readers will know the outcome of that particular battle.  William’s victory ended Saxon kingship and England was to be under Norman rule.

The Norman conquest of England amounted to a huge and rapid shift in power and William and his army brutally put down any resistance to the new regime.  Unlike the Viking invaders of two centuries earlier, the Normans did not want to settle their conquered lands.  England was seen by many Normans as a land to be exploited for the benefit of their continental possessions.  As such they wanted to subjugate the population but not replace them.  This allowed Danish and Saxon culture to survive although under the strict Norman yoke. 

To make up for their deficiency in numbers in a hostile land, the Normans imported the idea of castle building as a means of amplifying and projecting their power.  The Saxons had used fortified towns or burghs for defence, but nothing like this.  Norman castles were as offensive as they were defensive and were sited in strategically important places meant to dominate their conquered land.  Initially wooden structures, following the motte and bailey style, they were quickly rebuilt in stone.  They served as fortified homes for the local Norman lords as well as housing garrisons of loyal soldiers ready to sally forth to enforce their will.  It was the beginning of the feudal system in England.  In the North East, castles built in the early Norman (pre 1100) period include: Barnard Castle (1097), Newcastle (1080), Alnwick Castle (1096) and Durham Castle (1072).

William wanted men he trusted to maintain order and enforce his will.  He did this by granting large tracts of land to his Norman nobility.  Interestingly there is evidence of William showing clemency towards the pre-conquest aristocracy.  Edgar Ætheling, the last male of the House of Wessex, was named King by the Saxon Witan following the death of Harold in 1066, but he was never crowned.  Although uprisings in his name occurred regularly in the early years of Williams reign, the matter was ultimately resolved peacefully.

One example of where a native Saxon noble was executed by William was Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria.  Waltheof was the great grandson of Uhtred the Bold (no less) and was a troublesome subject for William.  He was too young to inherit the Earldom when his father, Siward, died in 1055 and this was the reason why Harold Godwinson’s brother Tostig had taken the position.  Following the Battle of Hastings Waltheof submitted to William but involved himself in a failed Danish invasion in 1070.  He was pardoned by William, allowed to marry the King’s niece and was made Earl of Northampton and Northumbria in 1072.  Following William’s instruction, it was Waltheof who began the construction of Durham Castle in 1072.  Despite all this, in 1075 Waltheof once again was embroiled in a rebellion of which he was one of the ring leaders.  This was the last straw for William and in 1076 he was executed.  He was replaced as Earl of Northumbria by the Norman William Walcher, the first Prince Bishop of Durham, who had been appointed in that role by William the Conqueror himself in 1071.

The King of Scotland at the time of the Norman conquest was Malcolm III, known as Canmore (Gaelic for “Great Chief”), who had reigned since 1058.  Malcolm acknowledged his new southern neighbour and, in the words of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle “became his man” (referring to Malcolm recognising William’s overlordship).  Malcolm even handed over his eldest son to William as a hostage and guarantee of his loyalty.  He was, however, a shrewd character and he had no intention of passing up the chance to expand his territory if an opportunity presented itself.  Unsurprisingly, peace between England and Scotland did not last and it was not long before Malcolm was raiding Northumbria. 

In 1079 Malcolm was allowed to pillage and plunder Northumbria for three weeks without opposition.  The man who should have resisted him was William Walcher.  As Prince Bishop, Walcher (who was also Earl of Northumbria by this time) enjoyed almost regal power in his territory.  Walcher was a Norman but he had a Saxon named Ligulf of Lumley, who was from an established Northumbrian family, as one of his councillors.  It may have been that Walcher decided not resist Malcom’s incursion or that he was incapable of organising resistance.  Whatever the reason it angered Ligulf and he was vocal in his criticism of the Bishop.  Two of Walcher’s men took matters into their own hands and they attacked Ligulf’s hall in the middle of the night, killing him and most of his household.  This caused uproar among the local Northumbrians and there was a real threat of rebellion.  To try and calm matters, Walcher agreed to meet with Ligulf’s kinsmen in Gateshead, bringing with him a substantial body of men for protection.  The Northumbrians presented Walcher with a list of the grievences which Walcher summarily dismissed.  Enraged, the Northumbrians attacked.  Walcher and his men fled to a nearby church, which was set on fire by the Northumbrians.  Escaping the flames, Walcher was captured and hacked to death by the mob. 

To deal with the Scots William sent his eldest son, Robert Curthose, north with an army to raid Lothian and Malcolm once more bent the knee and agreed to keep the peace.  It was probably at this time that Robert instructed the building of the castle at a strategic crossing point on the River Tyne called Monkchester.  After the new castle was built, Monkchester would imaginatively be renamed Newcastle upon Tyne. 

Artistic reconstruction of the Norman Castle at Newcastle upon Tyne by Judith Dobie – http://www.newcastlecastle.co.uk

To deal with the constant insurrection of his northern subjects, William’s response was brutal – in what became known collectively as the “Harrying of the North”. William had already waged a savage series of campaigns from the winter of 1069 and throughout the early 1070’s in Yorkshire.  Following his outrage at the death of his man Walcher, it was begun again with renewed vigour and he sent his bellicose half-brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux to lay waste to the lands between the Rivers Tees and Tweed.  His scorched earth tactics were implemented on a huge scale across the northern counties of England in what is now Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.  The destruction of land and property alongside the wholesale murder and displacement of people amounted to a genocide of the local Saxon and Danish population.  William did not just want to put down rebellion, he wanted to be sure that it could never happen again.  Records from Williams post conquest survey of his kingdom, the Domesday Book, show that around 75% of the population in the northern counties may have died or never returned.  It would take centuries for the north to recover, with some scholars postulating that the effects were not truly undone until the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century.  Writing around fifty years after William’s death, the monk and chronicler Orderic Vitalis, had this to say:

“The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty. This made a real change. To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of starvation.
I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.”

When William the Conqueror died in September 1087, he specified that his eldest son, Robert Curthose, should succeed him as Duke of Normandy, but not as King of England.  The Conqueror declared that his second surviving son, also named William (nicknamed Rufus, possibly due to a ruddy complexion), should be crowned as King William II of England.  Suffice to say that this did not sit well with Robert, who thought that that England was rightfully his to rule.  This caused a problem for those nobles who held lands in both Normandy and England as there was no clarity on who their leader truly was, and some decided to side with Robert.  Soon after he was crowned in 1088, a group of barons began a rebellion against William II with the goal of putting Robert on the throne.  To the north Malcolm III was biding his time and wisely decided not to intervene during the ensuing conflict.

One of the nobles who joined the rebellion was Geoffrey de Montbray, Bishop of Coutances.  He had accompanied the Conqueror in 1066, fighting alongside him at Hastings.  Geoffrey’s nephew, Robert de Mowbray (Mowbray was the anglicised version of Montbray), joined with his uncle.  The family name derives from Montbrai in Manche, Normandy. 

Whilst I am sure you found the above incredibly interesting, you may be wondering what all this has to do with the subject of this blog.  Well, it is important to set the scene and introduce Robert de Mowbray, as he is the pivotal figure of our story.

Robert de Mowbray had been appointed as Earl of Northumbria in 1086 and was the constable of Bamburgh Castle.  By all accounts, Robert was not a particularly likeable person. Orderic Vitalis tells us that he was “Powerful, rich, bold, fierce in war, haughty, he despised his equals and, swollen with vanity, disdained to obey his superiors. He was of great stature, strong, swarthy and hairy. Daring and crafty, stern and grim, he was given more to meditation than speech, and in conversation scarce ever smiled”. When the rebellion in 1088 ultimately failed, Robert was magnanimously pardoned by Rufus, who allowed him to retain his lands and title.

The Battle of Alnwick, 1093

At this time the border between the two Kingdoms was not fixed and the Scots’ regularly sought to exploit historical territorial claims in Northumbria and Cumbria.  Following over a decade of peace, Malcolm III sensed weakness following the Harrying of North and the conflict between William Rufus and Robert Curthose.  His ability to attack Cumbria was thwarted by the bolstering of English defences in the region and the construction of Carlisle Castle.  This in itself probably enraged Malcolm due to its proximity to his lands.  In response Malcolm invaded Northumbria, besieging Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne in 1091.  Malcolm’s incursion was enough to draw William II back from Normandy where he had been fighting his brother, Robert.  The English army chased the Scots back over the border and a short -lived truce was agreed.  However, following a meeting between the two kings in Gloucester in 1092, talks broke down and Malcolm returned to Scotland to prepare for war.

In November 1093 Malcolm once more invaded Northumbria and proceeded to besiege Alnwick.  As Earl of Northumbria it fell to Robert de Mowbray to organise the English response.  He did not have enough troops to engage the Scottish in open battle, so he prepared an ambush with a small number of his knights.  Malcolm had his army disbursed around Alnwick, which left him exposed.  He had encamped around ¾ of a mile to the north of Alnwick and on 13th November (St. Brice’s Day) the small English force managed to bypass the main Scottish army and attacked Malcolm’s personal guard. The ensuing attack caught Malcolm completely by surprise and both he and his son were killed.  Malcolm’s Cross, near Alnwick, is said to mark the spot where he fell.  The present cross was erected in 1774 by Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland.  It sits next to the base of an older medieval cross which has long since disappeared.  On its western face the new cross bears the inscription “MALCOLM III KING OF SCOTLAND BESIEGEING ALNWICK CASTLE WAS SLAIN HERE NOV. XIII AN MXCIII”.  On its eastern face it carries “MALCOLM’S CROSS DECAYED BY TIME RESTORED BY HIS DESCENDANT ELIZ. DUCHESS OF NORTHUMBERLAND MDCCLXXIV”.  It is an interesting point to note that the inscription on the cross suggests that Malcom besieged Alnwick Castle.  All the sources I can find point to the castle being first built in 1096.  If so, it is presumed that Malcolm may well have besieged the town and disrupted the early construction of it.  Leaderless, the Scottish army disbanded and a succession crisis for the Scottish crown ensued.

Malcolm’s Cross, Alnwick
1888 – 1913 OS Map Showing the Location of Battle
View to the south from Malcolm’s Cross towards Alnwick Castle
The cross erected in 1774
The base of the older medieval cross
OS route of a walk around the battlefield

Rebellion, 1095

Before the Battle of Alnwick in 1093 Robert’s uncle Geoffrey had died and he inherited his uncle’s estates making him one of the most powerful nobles in England.  In 1095 Robert expanded his power further when he married Matilda, who was the niece of Hugh d’Avranches, the first Earl of Chester. 

It perhaps reinforces Orderic Vitalis’ summation of Robert’s character that in 1095 he once again betrayed his King and joined a rebellion with the goal of usurping the throne in favour of a man named Stephen, Count of Aumale.  Stephen was a cousin of William Rufus and Robert Curthose.  The rebellion was lukewarm and most of the baronial support evaporated leaving Robert and his co-conspirator William of Eu exposed.  Matters came to a head when Robert confiscated a number of Norwegian vessels which were lying at anchor in the River Tyne.  Following complaints made to William Rufus by the Norwegian merchants, Robert was summoned by the King.  He refused to attend, and Rufus mustered an army to march north and confront him.  Mowbray retreated to his stronghold of Bamburgh Castle.  Rufus laid siege to the castle.  The fortress at Bamburgh had a reputation for its strength and taking it by force was no easy task.  William invested heavily in the attack and even built a temporary siege castle alongside the fortress calling it “Malvoisin” (Bad Neighbour).  At some point during the siege, Robert managed to escape and fled south leaving his wife Matilda to continue to resist.  He was pursued to Tynemouth, where, after being wounded in the leg, he was captured by the King’s men.  Robert was bought back to Bamburgh in chains.  Matilda still continued to hold out, only ending the siege when Rufus threatened to blind her husband. 

Following his capture, Robert had his lands and title forfeited and he was taken to Windsor Castle as a prisoner.  He remained incarcerated for many years “growing old without offspring” according to the chronicler Florence of Worcester.  He would eventually become a monk at St. Albans Abbey and died around 1125.  Whilst this may seem like an ignoble end it could have been worse.  When William of Eu was captured, he was castrated and blinded and other conspirators were put to death. 

Robert’s wife, Matilda, was granted a divorce from Robert on the grounds of consanguinity (claiming they were too closely related).  She went on to marry Nigel d’Aubigny.  Nigel divorced her in 1118 and went on to marry Gundred de Gournay, having a son with her, Roger, who inherited Robert’s lands.  Roger was told by the new King of England, Henry I to adopt the name Mowbray (even though he was no blood relation to Robert), founding the House of Mowbray.  Famous as Dukes of Norfolk the Mowbray family would go on to play an important role in British history.  Roger himself was a famous knight who died in the Holy Land during the Second Crusade at the Battle of Hattin.

The Battle of Carham – 1018

Carram (Carham) shown on Saxton’s 16th Century County Map of Northumberland

Every so often there is a pivotal event in history, a watershed moment, which has wide reaching cultural and socio-economic impact.  Normally, these events are widely known, almost to the point of cliché; Bosworth, Trafalgar, Waterloo, 1066 and all that.  It can be argued that the Battle of Carham was one of those events.  The battle was fought between the Kingdom of Scotland (Alba) and their allies against the Northumbrians (English).  Before the battle, the Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria extended from the River Tees to the River Forth (the southern part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, from the Tees to the Humber was under Danish control at this time).  After the Scottish victory, Lothian, the area between the River Forth and the River Tweed was annexed.  This shifted the border between the Kingdom of Scotland and Anglo Saxon England south, to roughly the line of the River Tweed.  It resulted in a huge expansion of Scottish territory and humbled the once mighty Kingdom of Northumbria.  The Scots held on to this new territory and, a couple of hundred years later, Alexander II signed the Treaty of York with Henry III of England, which officially defined the Scottish / English border which exists today.  But, without the victory of Scots at Carham, that border would probably look very different.  

The battle itself is shrouded in mystery.  The Dark Ages is so called because of the scarcity of surviving written evidence.  The Battle of Carham is definitely a casualty of this “darkness” and there are few primary sources to rely on.  Of those that survive, most were written over one hundred years after the events they describe.  Few agree on important matters such as the date of the battle, who the leaders were and exactly where it took place.  Most scholars, who have focussed their studies on the battle, are true detectives, piecing together the fragments to build a picture of what might have happened. 

The sources which historians can draw upon are few enough in number and content that they can be reproduced in full within this blog.  I have replicated the Latin and English translations of the following accounts of the battle, drawing heavily on the work of Neil McGuigan in his article The Battle of Carham: An Introduction, which is part of the wider collection of essays presented in the book: The Battle of Carham – a Thousand Years On (2018).

Roger of Howdens Chronica

Roger of Howden was a chronicler writing in the 12th Century.  He began to compile his Chronica, a general history of England from 732 to his own time, in around 1192.

The original Latin reference to the battle is simply:

Ingenus bellum inter Anglos et Scottos apud Carrum geritur

The English translation:

A massive battle between the English and the Scots is waged at Carham

Historia Regum

The Historia Regum is one of the most important surviving collections of sources for the history of the north of England in the 12th Century.  The copy, known as Manuscript 139, was bequeathed to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, by Matthew Parker in 1575.  It is attributed to Symeon of Durham and was written before the end of the 12th Century.  It was continued by John of Hexham and further added to with the History of Richard of Hexham.

The original Latin text relating to the Battle of Carham is as follows:

Igens bellum apud Carrum gestum est inter Scottos et Anglos, inter Huctredum filium Waldef comiten Northymbrorum et Malcolmum filium Cyneth regem Scottorum.  Cum quo fuit in bello Eugenius Calvus rex Clutinensium.

The English translation:

A massive battle was fought at Carham between the Scots and English, between Uhtred son of Waltheof earl of the Northumbrians and Mael Coluim son of Cinaed King of the Scots, with whom in battle was Owain the Bald king of the Clyde Folk.

Symeon of Durham’s Libellus de Exordio

The Libellus de exordio atque procursu istius, hoc est Dunhelmensis, ecclesie or Tract on the Origins and Progress of this the Church of Durham is, like elements of the Historia Regum, traditionally attributed to Symeon of Durham.  It was compiled in the early 12th Century and it documents the history of the Bishopric and Church of Durham and its predecessors at Lindisfarne and Chester-le-Street.  It is sometimes referred to as the Historia Dunelmensis ecclesiae.

The original Latin text relating to the Battle of Carham is as follows:

Anno Incarnationis Dominice mille duodeuicesimo, Cnut regnum, Anglorum disponente, Northanhymbrorum populis per triginta noctes cometa apparuit, que terribili presagio futuram prouincie cladem pre-monstrauit. Siquiden Paulo post (id est post triginta dies) uniuersus a flumine Tesa usque Twedam populus, dum contra infinitam Scottorum multitudinem apud Carrum dimicaret, pene totus cum natu maioribus suis interiit.  Episcopus audita populi sancti Cuthberti miseranda nece, alto cordis dolore attacus grauiter ingermuit, et ‘O me’, inquit, ‘miserum! Ut quid in hec tempora seruatus sum?’

The English translation:

In the year of our Lord 1018, while Cnut was ruling the Kingdom of the English, there appeared to the Northumbrian peoples a comet, which persisted for thirty nights, presaging in a terrible way the future devastation of the province.  For soon afterwards (that is after thirty days) the whole people between the river Tees and the river Tweed fought a battle at Carham against a countless multitude of Scots and almost all perished, including even their old folk.  When the bishop heard of the miserable death of the people of St. Cuthbert, he was stricken with deep sorrow of heart and sighed, saying “O why – wretched as I am – was I spared to see these times?”.

Annales Lindisfarnenses et Denelmenses

Another text attributed, in part to our friend Symeon of Durham was again written in the 12th Century.  It covers the period 532 – 1199 AD.

The original Latin text relating to the Battle of Carham is as follows:

Cometa late spargens flammas visa est per Northymbrian per XXX noctes. Transactis post hoc XXX diebus fuit Carrum illud famosum bellum inter Northanhymbros et Scottos, ubi pene totus sancti Cuthberti populus interiit, inter quos etiam XVIII sacerdotes, qui inconsulte se intermiscuerant bello; quo audito prescriptus episcopus dolorem et vitam morte finivit.

The English translation:

A comet spewing flames was seen across Northumbria for thirty nights.  When it passed after thirty days, the infamous battle of Carham was fought between the Northumbrians and Scots, where the entire populus of St Cuthbert met with the penalty of destruction, among them eighteen priests who had rashly got themselves involved in the fray; when he heard the news, the bishop, having ordered his affairs, ended his sadness and his life with death.

Dating the Battle

The Battle of Carham nicely follows my last blog on the Sieges of Durham in 1006 and 1040, as it sits in the middle of those events and involves many of the same historical figures…or does it.  You’ll have no doubt picked up on the fact that mention of Uhtred (The Bold) as the commander of the Northumbrian forces only occurs in one of the source texts discussed above (Historia Regum).  Uhtred had faced King Malcom II of Scotland previously at Durham in 1006.  On that occasion Uhtred defeated the Scots and put them to flight.

If you read my last blog (https://northeastlore.com/2020/11/30/the-siege-of-durham-1006/), Uhtred’s presence at the Battle of Carham in 1018 may strike you as problematic, given that he was killed after submitting to Cnut the Great in 1016.  As my title suggests, the modern scholarly consensus on the date of the battle seems to be hedged towards 1018.  This is on the basis that, of those sources which give a date, the only date given is 1018. 

Another fascinating piece of evidence, which has been used to corroborate the date of 1018, is the reference to the portentous astronomical event preceding the battle, described as a comet.  This is mentioned in both Libellus de Exordio and the Annales Lindisfarnenses et Denelmenses.  What is interesting, is that there is documentary evidence from other contemporary sources of a comet being seen in the night sky during the summer of 1018.  Multiple medieval accounts of the Battle of Vlaardingen, fought between the German Emperor and the Bishop of Utrecht against Count Dirk III of Holland, mention a comet in the same year.  There are also accounts as far away as China which record a comet during August 1018, with a tail 30 cubits long!  In a genius move, Clive Hallam-Baker, who is the Head of Research for the Carham 1018 Society (http://www.carham1018.org.uk/), contacted NASA, who provided him with examples of some of this documentary evidence.

Uhtred or No Uhtred?

So, if the Battle of Carham was fought in 1018 and Uhtred died in 1016, who else could have been in command of the Northumbrians?  The most logical choice is Uhtred’s brother, Eadwulf.  He was named as Uhtred’s successor in the Anglo-Norman era list of Northumbrian Earls.  Another source adds credibility to this argument.  In De Obsessione Dunelmi it is stated that Eadwulf, not Uhtred, was forced to give up Lothian to the Scots, which we know was a direct consequence of the battle.  It is interesting though that the same source, which covers the same time-period, does not mention the Battle of Carham at all.  Eadwulf was known as “Cudal” meaning cuttlefish or cowardly…could this have been an epithet given to him following his defeat?  Symeon of Durham describes him as “a very lazy and cowardly man”.  He died in the early 1020’s and was succeeded by Uhtred’s son Ealdred.

If we look at it from another angle and assume that the date of the battle was earlier, to allow Uhtred to not be dead, it perhaps adds to the reasons why Uhtred felt that there was no other course than to submit to Cnut (see my last blog for the full story).  Following defeat at Carham, Uhtred would have been significantly weakened without the means to resist Cnut invading Northumbria.  It is an interesting thought but, short of new historical sources coming to light, it is likely that we will never know for certain the date or if Uhtred fought in the battle or not.

The Location of Battle

The Battle of Carham Society has done some excellent work on researching potential battle sites.  Local memory had it that the battle was fought on the south side of the River Tweed, just to the east of Wark.  The earlier editions of Ordnance Survey mapping similarly put the location of the battle to the east of Wark (the date is sometimes 1018 and sometimes 1016). 

Site of the Battle on the 1888 – 1913 OS Map – Shown to the east of Wark

However, following the work done by members of the Society and archaeologists (Passmore and Waddington in their work, Managing Archaeological Landscapes in Northumberland) the site of the battle is now thought be further west, to the north of the settlement of Carham itself, on the banks of the River Tweed.  There are several lines of evidence to support this.  Carham was, at the time, an important ecclesiastical centre.  The settlement lies on the line of the Roman road linking Tweedmouth to Dere Street and it is likely that there was river crossing over the Tweed between Carham and Birgham (on 16th Century map by Saxton Birgham is called Long Bridgham).  All signs that this area was a cross roads and likely invasion route.  To the south of Carham is an area called Wallace Croft in relation to its use by William Wallace as an encampment for his invading army in 1296 (OS Six Inch, 1888 – 1913).  There is a weir or ford crossing the River Tweed, at the end of an ancient path which leads from Brigham Church, which could suggest the location of the former crossing.  Crossings can still be made at low water levels during the summer.  Interestingly, again on old OS mapping, a point on the river adjacent to this area is referred to as Bloody Breeks. Descriptive names such as this are commonly associated with battlefields (Bloody Meadow at Towton for instance).

1888 – 1913 OS Map with annotations

Interestingly on the older OS maps there is also reference to a battle fought in 833AD just to the south of Carham, in a place called Dunstan Wood.  John Leland (16th Century poet and antiquary) tells us that in the 33rd year of Ecbright (probably referring to King Ecgberht of Wessex 802 – 839) the Danes arrived at Lindisfarne and fought with the English at Carham where Eleven Bishops and two English Countes were slayne, and a great numbre of people.  Human bones have been known to arise from time to time in this area.

The Battle Itself

Unfortunately, no written account of the battle survives and all that can be made is an educated guess as to the number of combatants and their dispositions.  Despite the exaggeration of chroniclers of the time in relation to other battles, it is likely that the numbers engaged were not great, perhaps even counted in the hundreds.  The total population of England in 1066 has been estimated to be somewhere in the region of 2 – 2.5 million.  To put this into context, the current population of London is somewhere around 8.98 million.  It was no mean feat to muster a sizeable army in 1018.

The Battle of Carham, as a historical event, is worthy of wider acclaim.  I’ll be honest, for some reason, I’ve always avoided learning about this period in history but having read the wider context to prepare for these blogs I find it utterly fascinating.  Saxon Britain was a changeable political minefield, where fortunes ebbed and flowed like the tide that Cnut the Great tried to tame.

The Sieges of Durham – 1006 and 1040

The Siege of Durham – 1006

Foundations

It all starts with St. Cuthbert.  Cuthbert, as he was simply known before his posthumous canonisation, was born in around 634 in Dunbar, which was in the very north of the Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria.  He lived a holy life travelling and preaching as a monk and hermit known as the “Wonder Worker of Britain”.  He retired in 676 with the intention of living out his days in quiet contemplation off the wind swept Northumbrian Coast. 

In 684 he was elected to be Bishop of Hexham, much to his dismay.  He finally agreed to become a Bishop but only if he could do a swap with Eata, Bishop of Lindisfarne, so he could stay put.  He didn’t last long in the role and died in 687.  After his death numerous miracles were attributed to him and he was revered as a saint.  Apparently, when it was inspected 11 years after his death, his body remined fully intact with no signs of decay.  More notable for national acclaim was when Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, had a vision of St. Cuthbert in a dream which inspired and encouraged him in his struggle against the Danes.  This was perhaps later embellished as a metaphor for the unification of Saxon England with Alfred in the south and Cuthbert representing the north.  He would go on to become the most important medieval saint of Northern England and his “cult” would attract pilgrims from all over Christendom. 

He was buried on Lindisfarne in a decorated oak coffin but, in 875, following repeated Viking raids, the monks of Lindisfarne fled carrying the venerated St. Cuthbert’s remains with them.  The monks initially settled in Chester le Street.  In 994 King Æthelread II the Unready (meaning “poor council”) of England paid a Danegeld (protection money) to King Sweyne I (Forkbeard) of Denmark and King Olaf I of Norway in return for peace.  Aldhun, who was Bishop of Lindisfarne (in exile), decided that it was now safe for the monks to move back to Cuthbert’s original resting place.   However, legend has it that a monk, named Eadmer had a vision in which he was told by St. Cuthbert that his coffin should be taken to a place called Dun Holm.  Unfortunately, poor Eadmer had no idea where Dun Holm might be.  As luck would have it, the monks came across two local milk maids who were searching for their dun coloured cow.  They decided to follow them thinking that this was probably a sign from their cryptic saint.  Eventually, they found themselves on a wooded peninsular formed by a loop in the River Wear.  Apparently at this spot St. Cuthbert’s coffin stuck fast and could not be moved.  Satisfied that this was indeed divine providence, they decided to stay. 

A settlement had likely existed in the area since around 2000BC but the foundation of Dun Holm or Durham is associated with the arrival of St. Cuthbert.  Initially, a very simple wooden structure was erected to house the remains of St. Cuthbert in the spot where Durham Cathedral stands today.  A more permanent timber structure was then built, called the White Church, which was in turn rebuilt in stone between 998 and 1018.  The foundation of Durham is generally accepted as the date of the consecration of the White Church (which was to become Durham Cathedral) in 998.  Aldhun became the first Bishop of Durham.

At this time Northumbria was still divided.  Northern Northumbria was under Saxon influence with its base of power in Bamburgh.  Southern Northumbria, south of the River Tees was still very much under the influence of the Danes with their seat of power in York. This roughly followed the areas of the former Kingdoms of Bernicia (in the north) and Deira (in the south).

It’s important to start with the above as it highlights just how soon after its foundation that the inhabitants of Durham found themselves under attack.  Not by Vikings this time but by our neighbours to the north and perhaps a taste of things to come. 

Durham benefits from occupying a position with strong natural defences and may well have been chosen for this reason rather than a hard to manoeuvre coffin.  The loop of the River Wear surrounds the peninsular on three sides so an approach by land, without having to cross the river, is only possible from the north.  Coupled with this is that Durham occupies a prominent position on high ground with steep, wooded slopes going down to the river which would be difficult to negotiate for an attacking army.  It is likely that the settlement was fortified with a simple wooden palisade.

Uhtred the Bold

One man who was present at the time of Durham’s foundation was Uhtred, known to history as “the Bold”.  He was from an ancient Bernician family who ruled from the fortress of Bamburgh on Northumbrian coast.  He helped to clear the site of the new Cathedral and married Ecgfrida, the daughter of Bishop Aldhun.  If this is all sounding a bit familiar it is not surprising.  Bernard Cornwell took the historical figure of Uhtred the Bold as his inspiration for his leading character, Uhtred of Bebbenburg, in his Saxon Stories.  Played by Alexander Dreymon in the Netflix series The Last Kingdom, he is depicted as a complex character, born a Saxon but raised by Danes.  They are great stories and I love the series but there has definitely been a bit of artistic licence taken with the character, his deeds and historical timing.  Nevertheless, we should not let the truth get in the way of a good story!  As it happens, apparently Bernard Cornwell got the inspiration to write the Saxon Stories after learning he was a descendent of Uhtred the Bold!

We digress, back to the historical Uhtred and the Siege of Durham.

The Siege – 1006

The main historical source for this and subsequent events are De Obsessione Dunelmi (“On the Siege of Durham”) which was written in the late 11th or early 12th centuries (possibly in Fountains Abbey, possibly in Hexham, possibly in Sawley – it’s still up for debate).

In 1006, Malcom II of Scotland invaded Northumbria.  Malcom was born in around 954 and was crowned King of Scotland in 1005, ruling until his death in 1034.  It is thought that the invasion of Northumbria was an example of the rech rig (translated as “royal prey”), a customary raid by a new king to demonstrate his capabilities in war.

Malcom headed for the newly founded settlement of Durham and laid it under siege.  At the time, the Danes were raiding southern England and King Æthelred was unable to assist the Northumbrians.  Uhtred’s father, the elderly Ealdorman of Northumbria, Waltheof, was too old to fight and remained in his fortress of Bamburgh.  Similarly, Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York was also unable or unwilling to assist.  Uhtred took it on himself to raise an army of Northumbrians and Yorkshiremen.  We do not know the details of the ensuing battle to relieve the siege, but it resulted in the complete defeat of the invading Scottish army.  It is said that local women were paid the sum of one cow to wash the heads of the Scottish dead before they were displayed on spikes along the walls of Durham.  Malcom would be back, however.

Uhtred and England After the Siege

Following the victory Uhtred was rewarded by King Æthelred by being made Ealdorman of Bamburgh (even though his father was still alive!).  Æthelred then had Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York murdered allowing Uhtred to succeed to that position too which united northern and southern Northumbria under his governance.  This was a political move by Æthelred to bind Northumbria together under Saxon hegemony.

Following his rise to prominence Uhtred dismissed his wife Ecgfrida and married Sige who was the daughter of a man named Styr, a wealthy Danish citizen of York.  This seems to have been a political marriage, again to stabilise and unify Northumbria.  It came with a price though and a condition of the marriage was that Uhtred had to kill a man named Thurband the Hold, who was an enemy of Styr.  Thurband was a Danish nobleman.  His title “the Hold” denoted him as a land holder and was a somewhere in rank between a thegn and ealdorman in prominence.  His name is perhaps given to the region of Holderness on the North Yorkshire coast which he owned.  Seemingly Uhtred was unable to make good on assassinating Thurband with disastrous consequences as we shall see.   

In 1013, King Sweyne Forkbeard of Denmark, invaded England, forcing King Æthelred to flee to exile in Normandy.  Forkbeard was crowned King of England at Christmas 1013.  Probably seeing that there was no other option, Uhtred submitted to him.  Forkbeard did not last long however, and five weeks later he was dead.  This allowed Æthelred to return and resume his reign, and Uhtred submitted to him once more.  Perhaps as a reward or perhaps as a means of ensuring his loyalty Æthelred gave Uhtred his daughter, Ælfgifu’s hand in marriage.

Uhtred’s End

In 1016 England was invaded once more, by Forkbeards son Cnut with the help of his ally Eadric Streona, Ealdorman of Mercia.   Uhtred seemed to have served his King loyally and he went on campaign with Æthelred’s son Edmund Ironside to try and repel the invaders.  While he was away from his lands Cnut and his army invaded Northumbria and over the next few months, he conquered most of the rest of the England. To make matters worse Æthelred died in April 1016.  His son Edmund Ironside was declared King by the citizens of London, who were under siege by the Danes.  However, the Witan (the council who “elected” Anglo Saxon Kings), perhaps under some coercion, chose Cnut as king.

Around this time, Uhtred may have faced Malcom II of Scotland for a second time at the Battle of Carham.  The date for the battle and even the presence of Uhtred is contentious.  The date given for the battle by Symeon of Durham is 1018 but this is problematic, as we shall see following the events which are likely to have occurred in 1016.  We will go into more detail on the Battle of Carham in the next blog. 

The battle resulted in defeat for Uhtred and the Northumbrians and, in response to Cnut occupying Northumbria, he saw no other option than to submit.  He was invited to meet with Cnut who welcomed him to his hall.  After he was received by Cnut, Uhtred and forty of his men were ambushed by Thurband the Hold (the man Uhtred was meant to kill as a condition of his marriage to Sige).  Taken completely by surprise, and perhaps with the assistance of Uhtred’s own servant, Uhtred was murdered.  It is most probable that the order for Uhtred’s death came directly from Cnut to allow him to install a Dane and a man he trusted as Ealdorman of Northumbria,  Eiríkr Hákonarson,. 

De Obsessione Dunelmi describes Uhtred’s death as follows:

After King Æthelred’s death, when Cnut had laid hands upon the whole kingdom of England, he sent to the earl ordering him to come to him as his new lord. He did so, having accepted safe conduct for his journey and return. On the appointed day, he entered the king’s presence at Wiheal to discuss terms of peace; through the treachery of a powerful king’s thegn, Thurbrand, known as “Hold”, the king’s soldiers who had hidden behind a curtain spread across the width of the hall, suddenly sprang out in mail and slaughtered the earl and forty of his chief men who had entered with him.

The killing initiated a bloodfeud between Thurband’s family and the descendants of Uhtred that lasted for generations.  Uhtred’s eldest son Ealdred avenged his father and killed Thurband in around 1024.  Ealdred was then killed by Thurband’s son Carl and two of Carl’s sons were in turn killed by Ealdred’s grandson Earl Waltheof.  The book, Bloodfeud: Murder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England, by Richard Fletcher is well worth a read.

Saxons Defeated

Edmund Ironside, in a last ditch effort to defeat Cnut, raised an army in the south.  Following several inconclusive engagements Edmund was decisively defeated at the Battle of Assandun in October 1016.  Edmund died of wounds or was murdered, soon after in November.  This left the throne open to Cnut, known to history as Cnut the Great, who reigned in England until his death in 1035.  He would go on to become King of Denmark (1018) and Norway (1028) creating a North Sea empire.  He is perhaps most commonly remembered today as the king who thought he could command the tide.

The Second Siege – 1040

After his death in 1035, Cnut was succeeded by his son Harold Harefoot, who had a difficult reign before dying in 1040. He was never really legitimately King and his younger half brother Harthacnute had a stronger claim. When Harold died in 1040 his half brother had his body exhumed, beheaded and thrown in a fen. It was a different time.

Anyway, back north and the successor to Malcom II was spoiling for a fight. This was Duncan I, nicknamed An t-llgarach (the “diseased”) and was the historical bases for “King Duncan” in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.

Following the blood feud murder of Ealdred of Bamburgh in 1038 (by Carl, son of Thurband) Duncan sensed weakness in Northumbria and in 1039, he led a large Scottish army south. Ealdred was succeed as Ealdorman of Bamburgh by Uhtred’s other son Eadwulf. Remembering the disaster of the Battle of Carham the Northumbrians decided to retreat to their strongholds and not meet Duncan’s army in the field. Eadwulf took refuge in Durham and in 1040 Duncan laid siege to the City. Details of the siege are scarce but it clear that the Scots were defeated and Eadwulf ravaged Scottish lands in retaliation.

Eadwulf did not have long to bask in the glory of his victory and a year later, in 1041, he was betrayed and murdered by the new King Harthacnute.

The Battle of Corbridge, 918

#TheLastKingdom

Overview

Fans of the Bernard Cornwell Saxon Series of books and the popular Netflix adaptation “The Last Kingdom” will be well aware of the historical setting of the Battle of Corbridge.  It occurred around eight years after the Battle of Tettenhall (August 910) which was covered in the book “The Pagan Lord” and episode four of Season Four of The Last Kingdom. 

As with most events during this period, the records are scant and there is some debate on the exact date and location of the battle, the numbers involved and even if it was only one battle or two separate engagements.  What is known, based on references given in the Annals of Ulster and the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, is that a battle was fought between the Norse-Gael leader Ragnall ua Ímair and his allies against the forces of Constantine II, King of Alba (Scotland) and Ealdred I of Bamburgh. 

The description given in the Annals of Ulster suggests that the Norse-Gael army was divided into four columns.  The combined Scottish army managed to defeat the first three columns but was ambushed by the fourth.  It seems that, following some fierce fighting, the Scottish army managed to disengage in some order and the outcome was indecisive.

However, following the battle, the Vikings did not march north into Scotland and Ragnall was able to exploit the weakness of Northumbria and establish himself as de facto ruler of southern Northumbria, taking the City of York in 919 and proclaiming himself King.

The Battle Site

It is unknown exactly where the battle took place other than it was on the banks of the River Tyne around the area of Corbridge.

The British Isles in the 10th Century

Map showing England in the late 9th and early 10th Centuries

At the time of the Battle of Corbridge the British Isles was a splintered mosaic of separate Kingdoms.  Modern notions of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland did not yet exist (although soon would).  The Germanic Angles, Saxons and Jutes had settled in the British Isles between the 5th and 7th Centuries, following the decline of the Roman Empire, displacing native Celtic tribes and pushing them to the fringes of Cornwall, Wales, West Scotland, Ireland and the many islands along the west coast.  By the 9th Century, Anglo Saxon England (the collective name for the various Germanic settlers of the British Isles) was formed of several Kingdoms: Wessex in the Southwest, Kent, Sussex and Essex in the Southeast, East Anglia, Mercia from the Thames to the Midlands and Northumbria occupying the lands north of the River Humber up to the River Forth in Scotland.  In the 8th Century, Norse warriors known collectively as the Vikings began raiding the coast and rivers of the British Isles.  In the North East, raids on Lindisfarne and Jarrow are particularly well known.  This was followed by a concerted effort to settle in these newly won lands and they quickly carved out the lands known as “Dane Law”.  This separated and truncated the Anglo Saxon Kingdoms severely and effectively cut off and isolated Northumbria in the North.  Northumbria was further weakened under Viking and Scottish attacks and almost ceased to exist.  The Norse invaders were pagan, worshiping the panoply of Norse Gods.  The Christian Saxons feared and reviled them and took it upon themselves to rid the land of these heathens in a holy war.  It was a difficult task.  The Vikings were ruthless fighters and the Saxons, being fragmented, struggled to coordinate their efforts.  Alfred the Great (849 – 899) began the fight back and his son Edward the Elder and grandson Athelstan finally succeeded in neutralising the Viking threat and united the Anglo Saxon Kingdoms to form the fledgling Kingdom of England (Angle Land) in 924.  Saxon hegemony would not last long and in 142 years (in 1066) descendants of other Norse “Vikings”, the Normans, would succeed in invading England.

Who were the Norse-Gaels?

Often included under the blanket term “Vikings” (which can be misleading), the Norse-Gaels were a people of mixed Gaelic and Norse ancestry and culture who were descended from Vikings who settled in Ireland and Scotland.  Eventually the Viking roots would become ever more diluted, but they left a lasting influence on place names, especially in the Isle of Man and Outer Hebrides.  Norse-Gaelic surnames, such as MacIvor, MacAskill and MacCotter are vestiges of the Norse influence.

Map showing the heartlands of the Norse-Gaels

The Norse-Gaels dominated much of the Irish Sea, Scottish coastal regions and islands from the 9th to the 12th Centuries.  They founded the Kingdom of the Isles, the Kingdom of Dublin, The Lordship of Galloway (which is named after them) and briefly they ruled the Kingdom of York. 

The Ui Ímair (“the grandsons of Ímair” or Ivor the Boneless) were one of the greatest dynasties of the Viking age.  For a time, at their height, they were the most fearsome and wide-reaching power in the British Isles.

Ragnall ua Ímair (died 921) was a grandson of Ímair (Ivor) and probably grew up in Dublin.  He was likely expelled from Dublin in around 902 following attacks by the Kings of Leinster and Brega, which drove the Vikings out.  He is thought to have then moved to southern Scotland or the Isle of Mann before following his kinsman Sitric Cáech to attack and retake Dublin in 917.  Ragnall then left for England with aspirations to become King in Northumbria.  This led him to the Battle of Corbridge following which he did indeed proclaim himself King in York.  His rule was immediately challenged by a group of Christian Vikings who opposed his paganism.  Ragnall died in 921 and was succeeded by his kinsman Sitric Cáech.

What was the Kingdom of Alba?

The Kingdom of Alba refers to the Kingdom of Scotland between the deaths of Donald II in 900 and Alexander III in 1286.  The collapse of the Kingdom led directly to the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Constantine II (c900 – 943), who fought at the Battle of Corbridge, was the second king to be recognised as King of Alba.

Map showing the Kingdom of Alba

The Importance of Bamburgh

Bamburgh, known as Bebbanburg (named after the Saxon Queen Bebba) was an important settlement (perhaps the capital) of both the Kingdom of Bernicia and then the Kingdom of Northumbria (following the merging of Bernicia with Deira in the 7th Century).  Before the idea of “England” became a reality, the Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria were not united.  Following the defeat of Northumbrian forces by the Viking Great Heathen Army, at York in 867, the Kingdom of Northumbria was reduced to a rump state with most of their southern lands lost.  Bamburgh remained as a lonely outpost of Anglo Saxon Christianity surrounded by the Danes to the South and the Scottish Kingdoms to the West and North.  A fortress has existed on the site of Bamburgh Castle since Celtic times and, due to its elevated position and exploitation of natural defences, was all but impregnable before the age of gun powder. 

Who was Ealred of Bamburgh?  Following the deaths of Danes Eowils and Halfdan at the Battle of Tattenhall (910), Ealdred may have become ruler of what was left of Saxon Northumbria.  The Historia de Sancto Cuthberto states that Ealdred “was a friend of King Edward the Elder, as his father had been a favourite of Edwards father King Alfred the Great.”  Ealdred was driven from his lands by Ragnall ua Ímair sometime between 914 and 918.  He sought refuge at the court of Constantine II King of Scotland (Alba).  Following this he joined Constantine II to fight Ragnall at the Battle of Corbridge.  As the battle was inconclusive, Ealdred did not regain his former lands and in 927 he was one of the northern rulers to submit King Athelstan (Edward the Elders son).  He largely disappears from the sources after this and he is thought to have died sometime around 933.

Warfare in 10th Century Britain

Whilst we can’t know how the actual battle of Corbridge was fought, we can speculate. Battle in 10th Century Britain was a brutal and close quartered affair.  Most soldiers were not professionals but generally knew how to fight.  The shield wall was the most common battlefield tactic of the time, in which the two forces would form lines of locked shields before closing with the enemy to use short thrusting swords, axes and spears.  The two sides would slog it out pushing and shoving in unison until one side gave ground and broke the line.  Once a battle line was broken the army could easily be routed.

The fantasy depictions of this era, with warriors clad in studded, close fitting (and overly flattering) leather armour bedecked with a mass of fur around the shoulders is, alas, a myth (thanks Game of Thrones). As is the pointy helmet!

Shield Wall – The Last Kingdom

North East Victoria Cross Winners

This is a list of 25 soldiers and sailors from the north east who have received the highest award for bravery.  They are very interesting group of men who have showed supreme courage on the field of battle.  The list includes those who fought during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Defence of Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War, World War 1 and World War 2.  It’s worth clicking on the links to find out a bit more about them.  Information sources include Wikipedia, London Gazette Archive and VCOnline.

Richard Wallace Annand (1914 – 2004)

Place of birth: South Shields, Tyne and Wear

Unit:  Durham Light Infantry

Rank (at time of VC action): 2nd Lieutenant

Conflict:  World War 2

Citation

For most conspicuous gallantry on the 15th–16th May 1940, when the platoon under his command was on the south side of the River Dyle, astride a blown bridge. During the night a strong attack was beaten off, but about 11 a.m. the enemy again launched a violent attack and pushed forward a bridging party into the sunken bottom of the river. Second Lieutenant Annand attacked this party, but when ammunition ran out he went forward himself over open ground, with total disregard for enemy mortar and machine-gun fire. Reaching the top of the bridge, he drove out the party below, inflicting over twenty casualties with hand grenades. Having been wounded he rejoined his platoon, had his wound dressed, and then carried on in command.

Richard Annand’s platoon sergeant said later “Mr Annand came to me at platoon headquarters and asked for a box of grenades as they could hear Jerry trying to repair the bridge. Off he went and he sure must have given them a lovely time because it wasn’t a great while before he was back for more.

During the evening another attack was launched and again Second Lieutenant Annand went forward with hand grenades and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. When the order to withdraw was received, he withdrew his platoon, but learning on the way back that his batman was wounded and had been left behind, he returned at once to the former position and brought him back in a wheelbarrow, before losing consciousness as the result of wounds.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/richard-wallace-annand-vc/4585926096

 

William Wilson Allen (1843 – 1896)

Place of birth:  Kyloe, Northumberland

Unit: 24th Regiment of Foot

Rank (at time of VC action): Corporal

Conflict:  Anglo-Zulu War

Citation

On the night of 22nd-23rd January 1879 under the command of Lieutenants Chard of the Royal Engineers, and Bromhead of the 24th, Corporal Allen and another man, Private Frederick Hitch were heavily involved in keeping communication open between the hospital and the barricades. During this action, Allen was wounded in the left shoulder, and briefly left the front line to get treatment. Their actions had already helped the patients to be withdrawn from the hospital safely, and having had their wounds dressed, they returned to action. Unable to bear arms due to his wounds, Allen joined with Hitch in distributing ammunition boxes around to their comrades throughout the night.

Allen was recommended for the Victoria Cross and his citation alongside Hitch was published in the London Gazette on 2nd May 1879. He was presented with his medal later that year on 9th December by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. Later he served as a Sergeant Instructor with the 3rd Militia Battalion in Brecon and the 4th Volunteer Battalion in Monmouth.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/william-wilson-allen-vc/4585912685

 

Roland Boys Bradford (1892 – 1917)

Place of birth:  Witton Park, County Durham

Unit:  Durham Light Infantry

Rank (at time of VC action):  Lieutenant Colonel

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and good leadership in attack, whereby he saved the situation on the right flank of his Brigade and of the Division. Lieutenant-Colonel Bradford’s Battalion was in support. A leading Battalion having suffered very severe casualties, and the Commander wounded, its flank became dangerously exposed at close quarters to the enemy. Raked by machine-gun fire, the situation of the Battalion was critical. At the request of the wounded Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Bradford asked permission to command the exposed Battalion in addition to his own. Permission granted, he at once proceeded to the foremost lines. By his fearless energy under fire of all description, and his skilful leadership of the two Battalions, regardless of all danger, he succeeded in rallying the attack, captured and defended the objective, and so secured the flank.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/roland-b-bradford-vc/4585990673

 

George Nicholson Bradford (1887 – 1918)

Place of birth:  Witton Park, County Durham

Unit:  Royal Navy

Rank (at time of VC action):  Lieutenant Commander

Conflict:  Work War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous gallantry at Zeebrugge on the night of the 22nd–23rd April, 1918. This Officer was in command of the Naval Storming Parties embarked in Iris II. When Iris II proceeded alongside the Mole great difficulty was experienced in placing the parapet anchors owing to the motion of the ship. An attempt was made to land by the scaling ladders before the ship was secured. Lieutenant Claude E. K. Hawkings (late Erin) managed to get one ladder in position and actually reached the parapet, the ladder being crushed to pieces just as he stepped off it. This very gallant young officer was last seen defending himself with his revolver. He was killed on the parapet. Though securing the ship was not part of his duties, Lieut.-Commander Bradford climbed up the derrick, which carried a large parapet anchor and was rigged out over the port side; during this climb the ship was surging up and down and the derrick crashing on the Mole. Waiting his opportunity he jumped with the parapet anchor on to the Mole and placed it in position. Immediately after hooking on the parapet anchor Lieut.-Commander Bradford was riddled with bullets from machine guns and fell into the sea between the Mole and the ship. Attempts to recover his body failed. Lieut.-Commander Bradford’s action was one of absolute self-sacrifice; without a moment’s hesitation he went to certain death, recognising that in such action lay the only possible chance of securing Iris II and enabling her storming parties to land.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/george-n-bradford-vc/4585990490

 

Hugh Cairns (1896 – 1918)

Place of birth:  Ashington, Northumberland

Unit:  46th Battalion, CEF

Rank (at time of VC action):  Sergeant

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery before Valenciennes on 1st November, 1918, when a machine gun opened on his platoon. Without a moment’s hesitation Serjt. Hugh Cairns seized a Lewis gun and single-handed, in the face of direct fire, rushed the post, killed the crew of five, and captured the gun. Later, when the line was held up by machine-gun fire, he again rushed forward, killing 12 enemies and capturing 18 and two guns.

Subsequently, when the advance was held up by machine guns and field guns, although wounded, he led a small party to outflank them, killing many, forcing about 50 to surrender, and capturing all the guns. After consolidation, he went with a battle patrol to exploit Marly and forced 60 enemies to surrender. Whilst disarming this party he was severely wounded. Nevertheless, he opened fire and inflicted heavy losses. Finally, he was rushed by about 20 enemies and collapsed from weakness and loss of blood.

Throughout the operation, he showed the highest degree of valour, and his leadership greatly contributed to the success of the attack. He died on the 2nd November from wounds.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/hugh-cairns-vc/4586139444

 

Edward Colquhoun Charlton (1920 – 1945)

Place of birth:  Rowlands Gill, Gateshead

Unit:  Irish Guards

Rank (at time of VC action):  Guardsman
Conflict:  World War 2

Citation

In Germany on the morning of 21st April, 1945, Guardsman Charlton was co-driver in one tank of a troop which, with a platoon of infantry, seized the village of Wistedt. Shortly afterwards, the enemy attacked this position under cover of an artillery concentration and in great strength, comprising, as it later transpired, a battalion of the 15 Panzer Grenadiers supported by six self-propelled guns. All the tanks, including Guardsman Charlton’s, were hit; the infantry were hard pressed and in danger of being over-run.

Whereupon, entirely on his own initiative, Guardsman Charlton decided to counterattack the enemy. Quickly recovering the Browning from his damaged tank, he advanced up the road in full view of the enemy, firing the Browning from his hip. Such was the boldness of his attack and the intensity of his fire that he halted the leading enemy company, inflicting heavy casualties on them. This effort at the same time brought much needed relief to our own infantry.

For ten minutes Guardsman Charlton fired in this manner, until wounded in the left arm. Immediately, despite intense enemy fire, ‘he mounted his machine gun on a nearby fence, which he used to support his wounded left arm. He stood firing thus for a further ten minutes until he was again hit in the left arm which fell away shattered and useless.

Although twice wounded and suffering from Boss of blood, Guardsman Charlton again lifted his machine gun on to the fence, now having only one arm with which to fire and reload. Nevertheless, he still continued to inflict casualties on the enemy, until finally;” he was hit for the third time and collapsed. He died later of his wounds in enemy hands. The heroism and determination of this Guardsman in his self-imposed task were beyond all praise. Even his German captors were amazed at his valour.

Guardsman Charlton’s courageous and self-sacrificing action not only inflicted extremely heavy casualties on the enemy and retrieved his comrades from a desperate situation, but also enabled the position to be speedily recaptured.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/edward-c-charlton-vc/4586173202

 

George Bell Chicken (1833 – 1860)

Place of birth:  Wallsend, Tyne and Wear

Unit:  Indian Naval Brigade

Rank (at time of VC action):  Master (Civilian Volunteer)

Conflict:  Indian Mutiny

Citation

Indian Naval Brigade. For great gallantry on the 27th September, 1858, at Suhejnee, near Peroo, in having charged into the middle of a considerable number of the rebels, who were preparing to rally and open fire upon the scattered pursuers. They were surrounded on all sides, but, fighting desperately, Mr. Chicken succeeded in killing five before he was cut. down himself. He would have been cut to pieces, had not some of the men of the 1st Bengal Police and 3rd Seikh Irregular Cavalry, dashed into the crowd to his rescue/and routed it, after killing several of the Enemy.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/george-b-chicken-vc/4586181974

 

Joseph Henry Collin (1893 – 1918)

Place of birth:  Jarrow, Tyne and Wear

Unit:  King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Rank (at time of VC action):  2nd Lieutenant

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice in action. After offering a long and gallant resistance against heavy odds in the Keep held by his platoon, this officer, with only five of his men remaining, slowly withdrew in the face of superior numbers, contesting every inch of the ground. The enemy were pressing him hard with bombs and machine-gun fire from close range. Single-handed 2nd Lt. Collin attacked the machine gun and team. After firing his revolver into the enemy, he seized a Mills grenade and threw it into the hostile team, putting the gun out of action, killing four of the team and wounding two others. Observing a second hostile machine gun firing, he took a Lewis gun, and selecting a high point of vantage on the parapet whence he could engage the gun, he, unaided, kept the enemy at bay until he fell mortally wounded. The heroic self-sacrifice of 2nd Lt. Collin was a magnificent example to all.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/joseph-h-collin-vc/4586220820

 

Edward Cooper (1896 – 1985)

Place of birth:  Stockton-on-Tees

Unit:  King’s Royal Rifle Corps

Rank (at time of VC action):  Sergeant

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack. Enemy machine guns from a concrete blockhouse, 250 yards away, were holding up the advance of the battalion on his left, and were also causing heavy casualties to his own battalion. Sjt. Cooper, with four men, immediately rushed towards the blockhouse, though heavily fired on. About 100 yards distant he ordered his men to lie down and fire at the blockhouse. Finding this did not silence the machine guns, he immediately rushed forward straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in the blockhouse. The machine guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered. Seven machine guns and forty-five prisoners were captured in this blockhouse.

By this magnificent act of courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious check to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/edward-cooper-vc/4586242424

 

Fredrick William Dobson (1886 – 1935)

Place of birth:  Ovingham, Northumberland

Unit:  Coldstream Guards

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For conspicuous gallantry at Chavanne (Aisne) on the 28th of September, in bringing into cover on two occasions, under heavy fire, wounded men who were lying exposed in the open.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/frederick-w-dobson-vc/4586532870

 

Dennis Donnini (1925 – 1945)

Place of birth:  Easington Colliery, County Durham

Unit:  Royal Scots Fusiliers

Rank (at time of VC action):  Fusilier

Conflict:  World War 2

Citation

In North-West Europe on 18th January, 1945, a Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers supported by tanks was the leading Battalion in the assault of the German position between the Rivers Roer and Maas. This consisted of a broad belt of minefields and wire on the other side of a stream.

As the result of a thaw the armour was unable to cross the stream and the infantry had to continue the assault without the support of the tanks. Fusilier Donnini’s platoon was ordered to attack a small village.

As they left their trenches the platoon came under concentrated machine gun and rifle fire from the houses and Fusilier Donnini was hit by a bullet in the head. After a few minutes he recovered consciousness, charged down thirty yards of open road and threw a ‘grenade into the nearest window.

The enemy fled through the gardens of four houses, closely pursued by Fusilier Donnini and the survivors of his platoon. Under heavy fire at seventy yards range Fusilier Donnini and two companions crossed an open space and reached the cover of a wooden barn, thirty yards from the enemy trenches.

Fusilier Donnini, still bleeding profusely from his wound, went into the open under intense close range fire and carried one of his companions, who had been wounded, into the barn. Taking a Bren gun he again went into the open, firing as he went.

He was wounded a second time but recovered and went on firing until a third bullet hit a grenade which he was carrying and killed him.

The superb gallantry and self-sacrifice of Fusilier Donnini drew the enemy fire away from his companions on to himself. As the result of this, the platoon were able to capture the position, accounting for thirty Germans and two machine guns.

Throughout this action, fought from beginning to end at point blank range, the dash, determination and magnificent courage of Fusilier Donnini enabled his comrades to overcome an enemy more than twice their own number.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/dennis-donnini-vc/4586533050

 

Basil John Douglas Guy (1882 – 1956)

Place of birth:  Bishop Auckland

Unit:  Royal Navy

Rank (at time of VC action):  Midshipman (on board HMS Barfleur)

Conflict:  Boxer Rebellion

Citation

On 13th July 1900, during the attack on Tientsin City, a very heavy cross-fire was brought to bear on the Naval Brigade, and there were several casualties. Among those who fell was an able seaman (name not quoted here), shot about 50 yards short of cover. Mr. Guy stopped with him, and, after seeing what the injury was, attempted to lift him up and carry him in, but was not strong enough, so after binding up the wound Mr. Guy ran to get assistance. In the mean time, the remainder of the company had passed in under cover, and the entire fire from the city wall was concentrated on Mr. Guy and the other man. Shortly after Mr. Guy had got in under cover the stretchers came up, and again Mr. Guy dashed out and assisted in placing the wounded man on the stretcher and carrying him in. The wounded man was however shot dead just as he was being carried into safety. During the whole time, a very heavy fire had been brought to bear upon Mr. Guy, and the ground around him was absolutely ploughed up.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/basil-j-d-guy-vc/4586873567

 

Michael Wilson Heaviside (1880 – 1939)

Place of birth:  Durham

Unit:  Durham Light Infantry

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.

When the Battalion was holding a block in the line a wounded man was observed about 2 p.m. in a shell hole some sixty yards in advance of our block and about forty yards from the enemy line. He was making signals of distress and holding up an empty water bottle. Owing to snipers and machine gun fire it was impossible, during daylight, to send out a stretcher party. But Pte. Heaviside at once volunteered to carry water and food to the wounded man, despite the enemy fire.

This he succeeded in doing, and found the man to be badly wounded and nearly demented with thirst.

He had lain out for four days and three nights, and the arrival of the water undoubtedly saved his life.

Pte. Heaviside, who is a stretcher bearer, succeeded the same evening, with the assistance of two comrades, in rescuing the wounded man.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/michael-w-heaviside-vc/4586954510

 

Stanley Elton Hollis (1912 – 1972)

Place of birth:  Middlesbrough

Unit:  Green Howards

Rank (at time of VC action):  Warrant Officer Class II (Company Sergeant Major)

Conflict:  World War 2

Citation

In Normandy on 6 June 1944 Company Sergeant-Major Hollis went with his company commander to investigate two German pill-boxes which had been by-passed as the company moved inland from the beaches. “Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun into the first pill-box, He jumped on top of the pillbox, re-charged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans and taking the remainder prisoners.

Later the same day… C.S.M. Hollis pushed right forward to engage the [field] gun with a PIAT [anti-tank weapon] from a house at 50 yards range… He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house…In full view of, the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone…distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.

Wherever the fighting was heaviest…[he]…appeared, displaying the utmost gallantry… It was largely through his heroism and resource that the Company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier. ….he saved the lives of many of his men.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/stanley-e-hollis-vc/4587029527

 

James Bulmer Johnson (1889 – 1943)

Place of birth:  Widdrington, Northumberland

Unit:  The Northumberland Fusiliers

Rank (at time of VC action):  2nd Lieutenant

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty S.W. of Wez Macquart on the morning of 14th Oct, 1918, during operations by strong patrols.

He repelled frequent counter-attacks and for six hours under heavy fire he held back the enemy. When at length he was ordered to retire lie was the last to leave the advanced position, carrying a wounded man. Three times subsequently this officer returned and brought in badly wounded men under intense enemy machine-gun fire. His valour, cheerfulness and utter disregard of danger inspired all.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/james-b-johnson-vc/4587207236

 

Thomas Kenny (1882 – 1948)

Place of birth:  South Wingate, County Durham

Unit:  Durham Light Infantry

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the night of 4th November, 1915, near La Houssoie. When on patrol in a thick fog with Lieutenant Brown, 13th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, some Germans, who were lying out in a ditch in front of their parapet, opened fire and shot Lieutenant Brown through both thighs. Private Kenny, although heavily and repeatedly fired upon, crawled about for more than an hour with his wounded officer on his back, trying to find his way through the fog to our trenches. He refused more than once to go on alone, although told by Lieutenant Brown to do so. At last, when utterly exhausted, he came to a ditch which he recognised, placed Lieutenant Brown in it, and went to look for help. He found an officer and a few men of his battalion at a listening post, and after guiding them back, with their assistance Lieutenant Brown was brought in, although the Germans again opened heavy fire with rifles and machine-guns, and threw bombs at 30 yards distance. Private Kenny’s pluck, endurance and devotion to duty were beyond praise.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/thomas-kenny-vc/4587282599

 

Edward Lawson (1873 – 1955)

Place of birth:  Newcastle upon Tyne

Unit:  Gordon Highlanders

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  Tirah Campaign

Citation

The Gordon Highlanders. Private E. Lawson. During the attack on the Dargai Heights on the 20th October, 1897, Private Lawson carried Lieutenant K. Dingwall, the Gordon Highlanders (who was wounded and unable to move), out of a heavy fire, and subsequently returned and brought in Private McMillan, being himself wounded in two places.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/edward-lawson-vc/4587420089

 

John Aidan Liddell (1888 – 1915)

Place of birth:  Newcastle upon Tyne

Unit:  No.7 Squadron RFC

Rank (at time of VC action):  Captain

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on 31st July, 1915. When on a flying reconnaissance over Ostend-Bruges-Ghent he was severely wounded (his right thigh being broken), which caused momentary unconsciousness, but by a great effort he recovered partial control after his machine had dropped nearly 3,000 feet, and notwithstanding his collapsed state succeeded, although continually fired at, in completing his course, and brought the aeroplane into our lines— half an hour after he had been wounded.

The difficulties experienced by this Officer in saving his machine, and the life of his observer, cannot be readily expressed, but as the control wheel and throttle control were smashed, and also one of the undercarriage struts, it would seem incredible that he could have accomplished his task.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/john-a-liddell-vc/4587448524

 

George Allan Maling (1888 – 1929)

Place of Birth:  Bisphopwearmouth (Sunderland), Tyne and Wear

Unit:  Royal Army Medical Corps (Medical Officer in the Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade)

Rank (at time of VC action):  Temporary Lieutenant

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the heavy fighting near Fauquissart on 25th September, 1915. Lieutenant Maling worked incessantly with untiring energy from 6.15 a.m. on the 25th till 8 a.m. on the 26th, collecting and treating in the open under heavy shell fire more than 300 men. At about 11 a.m. on the 25th he was flung down and temporarily stunned by the bursting of a large high explosive shell, which wounded his only assistant and killed several of his patients. A second shell soon after covered him and his instruments with debris, but his high courage and zeal never failed him and he continued his gallant work single-handed.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/george-a-maling-vc/4587496416

 

William McNally (1894 – 1976)

Place of birth:  Murton, County Durham

Unit:  Green Howards

Rank (at time of VC action):  Sergeant

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery and skilful leading during the operations on the 27th October, 1918, across the Piave, when hie company was most seriously hindered in its advance by heavy machine-gun fire from the vicinity of some buildings on a flank. Utterly regardless of personal safety, he rushed the machine-gun post single-handed, killing the team and capturing the gun.

Later at Vazzola, on the 29th October, 1918, when his company, having crossed the Monticano River, came under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, Sjt. McNally immediately directed the fire of his platoon against the danger point, whilst he himself crept to the rear of the enemy position. Realising that a frontal attack would mean heavy losses, he, unaided, rushed the position, killing or putting to flight the garrison and capturing a machine gun.

On the same day, when holding a newly captured ditch, he was strongly counterattacked from both flanks. By his coolness and skill in controlling the fire of his party he frustrated the attack, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.

Throughout the whole operations his innumerable acts of gallantry set a high example to his men, and his leading was beyond all praise.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/william-mcnally-vc/4587619996

 

Robert Newell (1835 – 1858)

Place of birth:  Seaham, County Durham

Unit:  9th Lancers

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  Indian Mutiny

Citation

For conspicuous gallantry at Lucknow, on the 19th of March, 1858, in going to the assistance of a comrade whose horse had fallen on bad ground, and bringing him away, under a heavy fire of musketry from a large body of the enemy.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/robert-newell-vc/4587726073

 

Henry Howey Robson (1894 – 1964)

Place of birth:  South Shields, Tyne and Wear

Unit:  Royal Scots

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery near Kemmel on the 14th December, 1914, during an attack on the German position, when he left his trench under a very heavy fire and rescued a wounded Non-commissioned Officer, and subsequently for making an attempt to bring another wounded man into cover, whilst exposed to a severe fire: In this attempt he was at once wounded, but persevered in his efforts until rendered helpless by being shot a second time.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/henry-h-robson-vc/4588068486

 

Richard Been Stannard (1902 – 1977)

Place of birth:  Blyth, Northumberland

Unit:  Royal Navy

Rank (at time of VC action):  Lieutenant (on board HMS Arab)

Conflict:  World War 2

Citation

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant Richard Been Stannard, R.N.R., H.M.S. Arab, for outstanding valour and signal devotion to duty at Namsos. When enemy bombing attacks had set on fire many tons of hand grenades on Namsos wharf, with no shore water supply available, Lieutenant Stannard ran Arab’s bows against the wharf and held her there. Sending all but two of his crew aft, he then endeavoured for two hours to extinguish the fire with hoses from the forecastle. He persisted in this work till he had to give up the attempt as hopeless.

After helping other ships against air attacks, he placed his own damaged vessel under shelter of a cliff, landed his crew and those of two other trawlers, and established an armed camp. Here those off duty could rest while he attacked enemy aircraft which approached by day, and kept anti-submarine watch during the night.

When another trawler near-by was hit and set on fire by a bomb, he, with two others, boarded Arab and moved her 100 yards before the other vessel blew up. Finally, when leaving the fjord, he was attacked by a German bomber which ordered him to steer East or be sunk. He held on his course, reserved his fire till the enemy was within 800 yards, and then brought the aircraft down.

Throughout a period of five days Arab was subjected to 31 bombing attacks and the camp and Lewis gun positions ashore were repeatedly machine-gunned and bombed; yet the defensive position was so well planned that only one man was wounded.

Lieutenant Stannard ultimately brought his damaged ship back to an English port. His continuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy was magnificent, and his enterprise and resource not only caused losses to the Germans but saved his ship and many lives.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/richard-b-stannard-vc/4588279339

 

Adam Herbert Wakenshaw (1914 – 1942)

Place of birth:  Newcastle upon Tyne

Unit:  Durham Light Infantry

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  World War 2

Citation

On the 27th June, 1942, south of Mersa Matruh, Private Wakenshaw was a member of the crew of a 2-pounder anti-tank gun. An enemy tracked vehicle towing a light gun came within short range. The gun crew opened fire and succeeded in immobilising the enemy vehicle. Another mobile gun came into action, killed or seriously wounded the crew manning the 2-pounder, including Private Wakenshaw, and silenced the 2-pounder. Under intense fire, Private Wakenshaw crawled back to his gun. Although his left arm was blown off, he loaded the gun with one arm and fired five more rounds, setting the tractor on fire and damaging the light gun. A direct hit on the ammunition finally killed him and destroyed the gun. This act of conspicuous gallantry prevented the enemy from using their light gun on the infantry Company which was only 200 yards away. It was through the self sacrifice and courageous devotion to duty of this infantry anti-tank gunner that the Company was enabled to withdraw and to embus in safety.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/adam-h-wakenshaw-vc/4588398535

 

Thomas Young (1895 – 1966)

Place of birth:  Boldon, Tyne and Wear

Unit:  Durham Light Infantry

Rank (at time of VC action):  Private

Conflict:  World War 1

Citation

For most conspicuous bravery in face of the enemy when acting as a stretcher-bearer. He showed throughout the whole course of the operations a most magnificent example of courage and devotion to duty. On nine different occasions he went out in front of our line in broad daylight under heavy rifle, machine gun and shell fire which was directed on him, and brought back wounded to safety, those too badly wounded to be moved before dressing he dressed under this harassing fire, and carried them unaided to our lines and safety; he rescued and saved nine lives in this manner.

His untiring energy, coupled with an absolute disregard of personal danger, and the great skill he showed in dealing with casualties, is beyond all praise. For five days Pte. Young worked unceasingly, evacuating wounded from seemingly impossible places.

Find Out More

http://www.vconline.org.uk/thomas-young-vc/4588593615

 

Christmas Ideas!

I’ve shared so many beautiful images of our historic Northeast since starting this blog. All of them have been taken from old books I have collected. I liked some of them so much I wanted to make them into prints to have in my home. They came out so well I decided to make some available to buy on my Redbubble site. The feedback I’ve had so far has been great. I don’t make much money from it (putting it mildly!) but I think they make great wall art and wanted to share them. If you fancy having a look and maybe getting one as a Christmas present (!) please do so here……https://www.redbubble.com/people/morton82/portfolio?asc=u

Robert Surtees, Antiquarian 

Robert Surtees was born in Durham in 1773. He was educated at Kepier School in Houghton – le – Spring (founded by Bernard Gilpin in 1574 and still going strong although in more modern premises!) before attending Christ Church, Oxford. He studied law but never went on to practice law instead opting to become a celebrated English historian and antiquary of his native County Durham. He spent most of his adult life at Mainforth Hall, near Sedgefield (the building was demolished in 1964 – http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/houses/lh_countydurham_mainsforthhall_info_gallery.html). He married Anne Robinson or Herrington in 1807 and had no children.He will be most remembered for his encyclopaedic work The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, published in 1816. The four volume tome is a descriptive history of most of the historic County Durham compiled from original record preserved in public repositories and private collections. He began this gargantuan labour in 1804 and the final volume was published, posthumously in 1840.

Robert suffered from sustained ill health throughout much of his life. He complained of a cold in January 1834 and following complications he died on 13th February 1834 with his wife by his side. He was buried at Bishop Middleham churchyard.

I managed to get an early edition of the first volume a few years ago and I’ve shared a few photographs below which give a flavour of its contents (totally biased towards Sunderland!). The full four volumes can be read online here https://archive.org/details/historyantiquiti03surt along with many other digitised historical publications. Well worth a look!

The Siege and Capture of Newcastle

At this time 372 years a Covenanter army from Scotland under the command of Lord General Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven (spelt Lesley in the account below)and Lieutenant General James Livingstone, 1st Earl of Callander were storming Newcastle.  The City had been under siege since 15th August 1644.  The western half fell on 19th October and the commander of the Royalist garrison, Governor Sir John Marlay negotiated the surrender of the city on 21st October after retreating to the Castle Keep.  The fall of Newcastle to the forces of Parliament signalled the end of Royalist resistance in the North during the first phase of the English Civil War.

The following account of the siege and capture of Newcastle was published in March 1891 in the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend.

If you want to find out more about the siege check out some of the events which are being held at Newcastle Castle to mark the anniversary.

http://www.newcastlecastle.co.uk/

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siege-of-newcastle

One of the most important incidents in the great Civil War was the siege and sack of Newcastle by the Scots in 1644. The town was conspicuously loyal. The Scots Covenanters, who had been the first to declare openly against the unfortunate Charles, were the objects of mingled hatred and contempt there. The bulk of the gentlemen of Northumberland and Durham shared heartily in these feelings. When Charles visited Newcastle in May, 1639, on his march northward against the Scots, he was magnificently entertained by the Mayor and magistrates. “All the town,” writes Rushworth, “seemed but as one man against the Scots in case of an invasion.” The Mayor, Mr. Alexander Davidson, and the Town Clerk, Mr. Thomas Riddell (son of Sir Thomas Riddell, the Recorder), were knighted by his Majesty. The town had previously been fortified at the charge of the inhabitants, according to the practice of former times. There were 1,500 men able to bear arms in the town and suburbs, besides the trained bands, and it was expected that at least a thousand more would come from the outlying districts for their own safety. Further, there were a troop of 100 horse, consisting of Northumbrian gentlemen of good estates and fortunes, who, all gallantly mounted, went to warfare at their own charges, not putting the King to any expense for their maintenance.

Never on earth, perhaps, since the days of Gideon and Judas Maccabeus, did so pious an army take the field as that of the Scots Covenanters when they invaded England, under Alexander Lesley, afterwards Earl of Leven, in the month of August, 1640. At every captain’s tent-door colours were flying, with the Scots arms upon them, and this motto in golden letters, “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant.” There were daily sermons from their ministers, and prayers morning and evening, under the canopy of heaven, to which the men were called by tuck of drum; and, besides this, reading the Scriptures aloud, praying and psalm-singing were to be heard in every tent. Both in numbers and discipline the Scots were likewise superior to the English. The battle of Newburn, in which the Covenanters defeated and routed the Royalists, spread panic among the English soldiers. In a council of war held at Newcastle, at twelve o’clock the night after the defeat, it was determined that the place was untenable, and Lord Conway accordingly forth-with abandoned it, and marched south into Yorkshire, leaving all the royal stores and magazines collected there as a prize to the victors. The occupation of the town, which the Scots entered the next day, gave them military possession of both the two North-Eastern Counties. The inhabitants were panic-struck, and offered no sort of opposition; and the magistrates seem to have merely considered how to make the bast terms they could. At this time, writes Rushworth:

Newcastle and the coal mines, that has wont to employ 10,000 people all the year long, some working under ground, some above, and others upon the water in keels or lighters, now not a man to be seen, not a coal wrought, all absconding, being possessed with a fear that the Scots would give no quarter; 400 ships using to be here at a time in the river, not a ship durst come in; an hundred and odd coming to the mouth of the haven the day after the fight, and hearing the Scots had possessed Newcastle, returned all empty, and tradesmen in the town for some days kept their shops shut; many families gone, leaving their goods to the mercy of the Scots, who possessed themselves of such corn, cheese, beer, &c., as they found, giving the owners thereof, or some in their stead, some money in band and security for the rest, to be paid at four or six months’ end in money or corn; and if they refuse, said the Scots, such is the necessity of their army that they must take it without security rather than starve.

Durham was in like manner deserted and occupied. The bishop forsook his flock and fled. For four days After the fighting not one shop in the city was open. Not one house in ten had either man, woman, or child in it. And not one bit of bread was to be had for money, for the King’s army had eaten and drunk all up in their march into Yorkshire. At Darlington much the same state of things existed. His Majesty’s troops swept the whole land north of the Tees of comestibles before they left it to its fate. They also ordered all the upper mill-stones to be broken or buried, everything of a movable nature to be removed, and the cattle and sheep to be driven off. It was to little purpose that the inhabitants petitioned the King for relief, and represented that they and their posterity were likely to be “ruinated and undone.” The King could not help them, and the Scots might harry them to their heart’s content, without let or hindrance. And so it was that the Scots compelled Durham to pay them £350 a day, Northumberland £300 a day, and Newcastle £200 a day, besides furnishing them with great quantities of hay and straw. Between the two contending parties, then, the people were woefully tested.

Early in August, 1641, the Scots, having received from the English Parliament a large sum of money, or the promise of it, quitted Newcastle. A few days after their departure, the King passed through the town, journeying North to pacify the malcontents across the Border, whence (having neither pleased his friends nor conciliated his enemies) he returned by the same route in November. By this time civil war was seen to be inevitable, and both parties were anxious to secure possession of Newcastle. An order to this effect was issued by the House of Commons; but the Royalist party were in the ascendant upon Tyneside, and the order was disobeyed. William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle, being appointed governor of the town by the King, was warmly welcomed, and generously helped to put the district in an efficient state of defence. So highly gratified were the burgesses with both King and Earl that they lent his Majesty £700, and gave the Earl their honorary freedom.

In the month of January, 1644, another Scottish army, consisting of 18,000 foot and 3,000 horse, commanded by the same experienced general as before, crossed the Tweed to the assistance of Parliament in the midst of a severe storm. The King’s forces in Northumberland, under Sir Thomas Glenham, were very inferior in number, and their leaders laboured under the disadvantage of being of various ways of thinking. The Yorkshire gentlemen voted for devastating the country before the invaders, while the Northumbrians were naturally averse to seeing their estates laid waste, and proposed to return a conciliatory answer to the propositions of the Scots Commissioners. All agreed that it was impossible to meet the Soots in the field, and the result was that the King’s troops fell back, first over the Aln, and then over the Coquet, after some desultory skirmishes; and the Scots experienced no serious difficulty till they arrived under the walls of Newcastle, except such as bad roads and wretched weather occasioned.

General Lesley came before the town on Saturday, the 3rd of February, and summoned the place the same day. The Mayor and Corporation returned a resolute answer. In the evening the suburb of Sandgate, a poor place without the walls on the east side of the town, was set on fire to prevent the enemy from making his advances under cover. This was on Saturday night, and the suburb continued burning all Sunday and Monday. After three weeks’ waiting, seeing that the siege, or rather blockade, was likely to be a long and wearisome affair, Lesley determined to waste no more time. So he broke up his camp and marched to Heddon-on-the-Wall, leaving behind him only six regiments of foot and some troops of horse to hold the garrison in check. On the 28th of February the Scots crossed the Tyne, without opposition, at the three several fords of Ovingham, Bywell, and Eltringham. The next day they passed the Derwent at Ebchester, their foot crossing the river, which was both deep and rapid, being greatly flooded, in single file, over a bridge of trees. Two days afterwards they crossed the Wear, at the new bridge near Lumley, and on Monday, the 4th of March, they entered Sunderland. Marching and counter-marching up and down North Durham, with skirmishes at South Shields, Hylton, and other places filled up the time till the second week in August. Meanwhile, the battle of Marston Moor had completed the ruin of the King’s affairs in the North; and the surrender of York to the Parliamentarians left Newcastle the last bulwark of the Royal cause in this part of the kingdom. The Earl of Crawford and other Royalists had thrown themselves into the town. But General Lesley, having been joined by the Earl of Callendar, with a reserve army of 10,000 Scots, determined to make himself master of the place, and accordingly sat down before it on the 13th of August, beleaguering it on all sides.

The chief Scottish engineer, William Hunter, had formed a new kind of great guns, never before discovered, which were made purposely for this design, “above three-quarters of a yard long, or some a yard, that would carry a twelve-pound bullet, to do good execution at a good distance, and yet so formed that a horse might carry one of them.” The Scots also brought with them one hundred and twenty other great guns, and a train of ammunition, “very full and large.” We learn from “A True Impartial Relation of the Taking of Newcastle,” published by authority in 1644, and reprinted in 1825 as one of the Newcastle Typographical Society’s Tracts, that no fair means were unessayed to invite the townspeople for their own safety to surrender themselves “unto the Obedience of King and Parliament.” In a letter from “the Committee of both Kingdomes” to “the Mayor, Aldermen, Burgesses, and Common Councell of the towne,” the latter were adjured not to trust to rotten reeds and broken staves, which would suddenly bring the town to ruin, but to acquit themselves like rational men. Numerous copies of a letter from “a well-wisher to the Town” were cast over the walls, in order that they might come into the hands of the inhabitants, who were therein told that it was “no more wisdome, nor Honour, but extreame madnesse, any longer to hold out, when the danger was “present and certain,” and when all hopes of relief had failed them. But when all thece waves could nothing prevaile against the obstinacy of the Enemy, the Army having endured much hardship with patience, and the Mines and Batteries being in readinesse, it was resolved without loss of time to send in a peremptory summons. A courteous correspondence followed, in which the parties designated each other as “loving friends,” and both professed the utmost anxiety to shun the effusion off Christian blood. The result was the appointment, “after many shiftings and delays,” of three gentlemen, besides a secretary, to arrange with the Earl of Leven the terms of a treaty. Sir John Marley (the Mayor), Sir Nicholas Cole and Sir George Baker, Colonel Charles Brandling, Lieut-Colonel Thomas Davidson, and Captain Cuthbert Carr, late Sheriff of Newcastle, were named as hostages on the part of the town for the safety of the Scots Commissioners who went in to treat; and the trio accordingly went out to the Sandgate. But, as the “true and impartial relater” says, “the time appointed for Treaty was very improfitably spent.” The Newcastle gentlemen “would not suffer any propositions to be put in writ, but used high and intollerable expressions against the power of Parliament, and their own power to stand out, and nothing appertaining to the businesse of that meeting. And after three or foure houres’ debate, all they would resolve upon was to send out Propositions to the Lord General within two or three dayes, and in the meantime they declared that whatever should be the conditions of their agreement, they would onely give Hostages to render the Towne after twenty days, if reliefe came not.” Whereupon the Scottish Commissioners, finding themselves deluded and delayed by the governor, who was “void of all candor, and tyrannized so absolutely over the mindes and fortunes of the people that none durst expresse their inclinations to peace and happinesse,” were “forced to part and desert the Treaty, the Governor refusing to doe so much as seeke a continuation thereof while to-morrow.” He “evanished so farre in his owne conceit, that be thought the Army would have taken a summe of money, and have beene gone, and himselfe have been desired to be a Mediator betwixt the King and Parliament. But all hopes of accommodation failing, the Commissioners and the hostages were mutually returned; and thereupon orders were given to the whole Army, and at the sevarall Batteries, to be in a posture ready for action the next day, early in the morning, seeing all fair meanes were ineffectuall.”

Further delay was desired by the besieged, but Lesley refused to give it. Then Sir John Marley, in his own name alone, sent this imprudent message to the Scottish camp, addressed to Lord Sinclair:

My Lord, I have received divers Letters and Warrants subscribed by the name of Leven, but of late can hear of none that have seen such a man; besides, there is strong report he is dead; therefore, to remove all scruples, I desire our Drummer may deliver one letter to himself; thus wishing you could think on some other course to compose the differences of these sad distracted Kingdomes than by battering Newcastle, and annoying us who never wronged any of you; for if you seriously consider, you will find that these courses will aggravate and not moderate distempers; but I will referre all to your owne consciences, and rest Your friend, John Marley.

Sir John Marley’s foolish epistle bears date the 19th, and was probably written shortly after midnight on Friday, the 18th of October. Barely had the drummer who bore it returned to his place within the walls, when the final assault began.

During the siege, Lord Leven, with the forces immediately under him, beleaguering the west and north-west parts of the town, was quartered at Elswick, then a village about a mile west of Newcastle. Lord Sinclair’s regiment lay to the east, separated from the main body by Shieldfield Fort belonging to the town. The Earl of Callendar, with his division, was stationed at Gateshead, on the bridge, and at the glass-houses, below which he had thrown a bridge of “keill boats” over the river, for the passing and repassing of his forces, to both sides, and also for the use of the country people, who brought in daily provisions for the army. The bridge itself, being duly guarded by Lord Kenmoor’s regiment at both ends, and a strong sentry set at each of them, with two redoubts, had also there a “watery guard” of “keill boats,” tied with cable ropes from bank to bank, to secure it from any sudden surprise. The besiegers were domiciled on the Town Moor, Leazes, and elsewhere in huts composed of turf, clay, straw, and wattles. On the other hand, a round tower in the Castle Garth, called the Half-Moon Battery (on the site of which the Assize Courts were long afterwards built) was used by Sir John Marley to secure the Close and the Quayside; and the Castle, which had been suffered to fall into a very ruinous state since the union of the crowns, he put into good repair. The walls are described by William Lithgow, an eye-witness of the siege on the Scottish side, as being a great deal stronger than those of York, and “not unlike the walls of Avignon, but especially Jerusalem.” As for the inhabitants, he says, “the richest or better sort of them, as seven or eight common knights; aldermen, coal merchants, puddlers, and the like creatures,” were “altogether malignants, most of them being Papists, and the greater part of all irreligious Atheists; the vulgar condition being a mass of silly ignorants, living rather like to the Berdoans in Libya (wanting knowledge, conscience, and honesty) than like to well-disposed Christians, pliable to religion, civil order, or church discipline.”

On the morning of the 19th of October Lord Leven ordered his batteries to be opened all round the town. The besieged made a gallant defence, and the Scots suffered considerable loss, yet still they pressed on. After some hours’ desperate fighting at breaches which they had made near the White Friar’s Tower, and in the neighbourhood of Sandgate, the Scots forced an entry, made themselves masters of the gates of Newgate and Pilgrim Street, and, being joined by comrades who had entered at other breaches in the walls, effected the capture of the town.

The Milbank Manuscript adds several particulars of the defence from the Royalist side. “The Newgate Ward, which was under Captain Cuthbert Carr, was taken by the enemy, who entered at the White Fryer Tower and Sandgate, and encompassed (hem before and behind; and Pilgrim Street Gate was maintained by Captain George Errington, Lieutenant William Robson, and Ensign Thomas Swan, who fought and killed very many, they themselves not having one hurt, until they were encompassed by the enemy before and behind; and even then would not parley with the Scots who fought against them from without, but did capitulate with “Lieutenant-Colonel Sinclair, who loved and honoured them, and kept his agreement well with them, that not one of them was robbed of his clothes or money, nor were any of his men suffered to give any evil word; and it was the great blessing of God that all that time there was not one man slaine nor hurt, although that company consisted of nine score men, all tradesmen; and there were divers sallies made out at that gate, for it was the largest of all the gates of the town, it being barrocaded and shut up. And after they had surrendered, and the enemy was called over at that breach, they durst not approach, but shot at their friends that called them, and would not believe that the town was taken.”

Edward Man, Merchant Adventurer of Newcastle, was on the side of the Parliament, and was made Town Clerk after the capture (an office which he retained down to his death in 1654). On the day that the town was stormed and taken, he wrote off to a Member of Parliament, informing him of the fact. “The storm lasted,” said he, “two hours or thereabouts. It was very hott, and managed bravely on both parts, till the towne was over-mastered. I am happie God made me a spectator of the fall of those wicked men who were born to vacuate so famous a towne. The Maiors house, or some other adjoyning, are burning; yet my Lord Generall hath given order for the staying off the fire, if possible.”

The Scots wondered at their own moderation in the hour of their triumph. If there was some pillage, there might have been more. There would have been less if the ruling authorities could have had their own way. “Then began the whole armie,” writes Lithgow, “commanded and uncommanded (observing King David’s ancient rule that they who stayd with the baggage and they who fought in the field should share the booties alike) to plunder, I say, for twenty-foure houres time, being an act of parmission, although to no great purpose. And why? Because the common souldiers, being only able to plunder the common people (although they might have justly stretched their hands further), had for the greatest part of them small benefite,” getting little “excepting only household stuff, such as bedclothes, linens, tanned leather, calve skins, men and women’s apparel, pots, pans, and such like common things.” The store of victuals and ammunition within the town was found to be almost spent, so that they could not have holden out ten days longer, “unless the one half had devoured the other.” After the lapse of a day, further plundering was prohibited under pain of death; but the Scots are said in the meanwhile to have rifled the town’s hutch, and destroyed most of the deeds and documents belonging to the Corporation.

A news-sheet, entitled “Perfect Occurrences,” bears witness to the religious discretion observed by the soldiery: “They have not taken anything’ from any godly persons, men or women, that they finde never acted or carried themselves against the Parliament; and they do so piously that they show them all the respect that maybe.” Still, saints and sinners all suffered. “Looting” fell not only on the ungodly, but pretty impartially on all who had anything to lose. Even the globes of the Trinity House, terrestrial and celestial, were seized by warriors who would “make the best of both worlds,” and turned them into ten shillings the sum accepted for their ransom.

The ballad mongers were not behind in turning a penny by the sack of the town; and their candid rhymes confess that the pillagers were no respecters of persons.

Straightway to plundering we did fall,

Of great and small, for we were all

Most valiant that day;

And Jenny in her silken gown,

The best in town from foot to crown,

Was bonny and gay.

While Jenny flaunted in ill-gotten silk, there was Te Deums sung. Both sides claimed the favour of God. Lord Leven and his comrades went to church “to give thanks to God that He was pleased, even according to the words and wishes of their enemies, to prosper and bless His people, according to the justness of their cause.” Sir John Marley, the defeated commander, who had now cause to believe in Lord Leven’s presence without the evidence of a drummer, addressed his lordship on the 21st from the Castle, of which he still held possession. He desired that he and chose with him might have liberty to stay, or go out of the town, with His Excellency’s safe pass, to His Majesty’s next garrison not beleaguered, with their horses, pistols, and swords, and have fourteen days’ time to dispatch their journey, so many as pleased to go. “And truly, my Lord,” says he, “I am yet confident to receive so much favour from you as that you will take such care of me as that I shall receive no wrong from the ignoble spirits of the vulgar sort; for I doubt no other. I must confesse, I cannot keep it [the Castle] long from you; yet I am resolved, rather than to be a spectacle of misery and disgrace to any, I will bequeathe my soul to Him that gave it, and then referre my body to be a spectacle to your severity. But, upon the tearmes above-said, I will deliver it to you.” Upon his surrendering himself, he was almost torn to pieces by the mob; was committed to his house, under a strong guard, to protect him from the fury of the people; and, not being considered safe there, was cast, writes Lithgow, “into a dungeon within the Castle, where now that presumptuous Governor remaineth, till the hangman salute his neck with a blow of Strafford’s courtesy.” Parliament and Army were, however, more lenient. His life was spared, and he shared the exile of Charles and Clarendon, and lived to enjoy their Restoration.

Many were the companions-in-arms of Sir John Marley who suffered death in the defence of the town. Conspicuous among the fallen was Sir Alexander Davison, whose mansion was on the Sandhill, opposite the Exchange. Under its roof, in all probability, he received from the King, during his second mayoralty, the honour conferred upon him in 1639. At the siege, he fought on the walls as a lieutenant-colonel, with his son Joseph by his side as captain. Father and son were borne away wounded, and did not long survive the defeat of their cause. They died, and were buried in the church of St. Nicholas, the former being laid in his tomb on the 25th, and the latter on the 29th of October. On the llth of November, the eldest son of the fallen knight placed in St. Mary’s Porch a mural monument recording the manner of their death.

There is a tradition that the Scottish general threatened the Mayor, during the siege, that if the town was not instantly delivered up, he would direct his cannon so as to demolish the beautiful steeple of St. Nicholas. Sir John Marley thereupon promptly ordered the chief of the Scotch prisoners to be taken to the top of the tower, below the lantern, and returned Lord Leven an answer, that if the structure fell, it should not fall alone, as his countrymen were placed in it. And so St. Nicholas’ Church was saved.

Pandon Dene, Newcastle

The following is a description of Pandon Dene, published in the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore & Legend in February 1890.  In Medieval times, Newcastle was divided by several streams or burns flowing towards the River Tyne. Several of the roads have the term bridge in their names although no water is visible today. Examples are Barras Bridge, New Bridge Street, High Bridge and Low Bridge. They were often important sites for industry and settlement but hampered communications and development. As the town expanded they were filled in and now flow in culverts buried deep below the surface.

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To write of Pandon Dene is like writing of some departed friend. There is a tender melancholy associated with the place like that associated with the memory of the dead. And when we think of it as it once was gay with foliage and blossom and look upon its condition of today, buried far beneath a mass of ever accumulating rubbish, our melancholy is not unmingled with regret that so splendid a site for a public park should have been lost the city.

One of the old features of Newcastle, in which it differed from the flat monotony of many towns, was the number of its little valleys, each with its streamlet flowing down the midst, which graced it with so pleasing a variety of hill and dale, and added to the picturesqueness of its situation on the bold sloping banks of the Tyne. Of these little valleys one of the most lovely was that whose blotting out we now deplore. Through it flowed the Pandon or Bailey Burn rising near Chimney Mills, running between the Leazes and the Moor down to Barras Bridge then, after receiving its little tributary, Magdalene Burn, about opposite the end of Vine Lane, merrily turning the wheels of the various water mills which nestled down by its side amongst gardens and trees, until it flowed under the Stock Bridge and Burn Bank, and so joined old Father Tyne.

 

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Barras Bridge, Newcastle, about 1810 

 

It would take a very big book to contain the history of this little valley and its associations, and its historian might linger long and lovingly over many a spot within its watershed, of deepest interest to lovers of old Newcastle lore. He would have much to say of its two bridges now bridges only in name: of the Barras Bridge and of the contiguous hospitals of St. James and Mary Magdalene of the New Bridge and its building. We show in one of our illustrations a view of the former bridge when it was in reality a bridge. The picture is from a drawing made by the elder T. M. Richardson about 1810; and, rude as it is, a sufficiently good idea of the former beauty of the spot may be gathered from it. Two of our views show the other, the New Bridge, gracefully spanning the Pandon valley. One is from the north, taken from near the foot of the steps which used to lead down from Shieldfield at the end of the lane called “the Garden Tops.” It was painted by John Lumsden in 1821, and shows the old water corn mill, afterwards the Pear Tree Inn, the town in the middle distance, and the Windmill Hills at Gateshead beyond. The other (from a painting by James Dewar about 1833) is from the south, from near what was afterwards “New Pandon,” and gives us a view of the well-known Mustard Mill in the foreground. The roof of Picton House (now the Blyth and Tyne Railway Station) is seen, on the left, peeping over the parapet of the bridge.

 

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Pandon Dene, Newcastle, 1821

 

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The account of the mills of Pandon Dene would of itself form a goodly chapter in our imaginary historian’s book, and would carry the reader far back into the mists of antiquity; for the waters of the burn have turned mill wheels from time immemorial. As far back as 1460 we have recorded the proposed erection of one of these mills. On July 10th of the year named we find the Mayor and community of Newcastle devising to John Ward (formerly Mayor of the town, and founder of the Charity in Manor Chare known afterwards as Ward’s Almshouses), along with other lands, “a certain other parcel of waste land, of the trenches called the King’s Dykes outside the (Town) Wall, and land within the wall to the extent of forty-two ells in length, from the aforesaid gate (Pandon Gate) and along the wall, and in width the same as the King’s Dykes, to hold, etc., for the building and construction upon the said parcel of land, outside the wall, a dam for the mill, &c.” (Welford’s “Newcastle and Gateshead.”).

 

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View in Pandon Dene from drawing by R. Jobling

 

With this part of Pandon Dene is associated the memory of one of the old worthies of Newcastle, the opulent and munificent Roger Thornton, whose memorial brass is still extant and to be seen in All Saints’ Church. After his death in 1430, an inquisition was held to take account of his property, and in the record the name of Pandon frequently occurs in connection with gardens and orchards possessed by him in the vicinity of the Stock Bridge.

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In our own times, besides the two mills already mentioned, there was the Oatmeal Mill, higher up the valley on the left bank of the burn. It is seen in Mr. Jobling’s view on this page, which shows some of the old gardens in front of Lovaine Crescent, with the little houses in which many of the occupants lived, the mill house in the middle distance, and St. Thomas’s Church behind. Close by the mill was the cottage of Julia St. George, the famous actress, whose career is sketched elsewhere. We give also another very interesting view, showing Julia St. George’s house in the distance, with the footpath leading down by the burn side from near the end of Vine Lane. It is from a pencil drawing made by Mr. Ralph Hedley, after T. M. Richardson, and gives some idea of the old-time rural beauty of the Dene.

Some further idea of the charms of Pandon Dene may be gathered from the following verses which they inspired, and which appeared over the signature of Rosalinda in the Newcastle Magazine, Sept. 18th, 1776:

When cooling zephyrs wanton play,

Then off to Pandon Dene I stray;

When sore depressed with grief and woe,

Then from a busy world I go;

My mind is calm, my soul serene,

Beneath the bank in Pandon Dene.

 

The feather’d race around me sing,

They make the hills and valleys ring;

My sorrow flies, my grief is gone,

I warble with the tuneful throng:

 

All, all things wear a pleasing mien

Beneath the’bank in Pandon Dene.

 

At distance stands an ancient tower,

Which ruin threatens every hour;

I’m struck with reverence at the sight,

I pause and gaze in fond delight.

The antique walls do join the scene

And make more lovely Pandon Dene.

 

Above me stand the towering trees,

While here I feel the gentle breeze;

The water flows by chance around,

And green enamels all the ground,

Which gives new splendour to the scene

And adds a grace to Pandon Dene.

 

And when I mount the rising hill,

And then survey the purling rill,

My eye’s delighted; but I mourn

To think of winter’s quick return,

With withering winds and frost so keen,

I, sighing, leave the Pandon Dene.

 

O, spare for onre a female pen,

And lash licentious, wicked men,

Your conscious cheek need never glow

If you your talents thus bestow;

Scare fifteen summers have I seen,

Yet dare to sing of Pandon Dene.

Alas, poor Rosalinda! both you and the carping critics of your generation, whose wrath you so modestly deprecate, and whose “conscious cheek” you so tenderly seek to spare, are now laid low in the dust. Not you only, but even the sweet scenes which inspired your muse. Henceforth, all thoughts and memories of Pandon Dene shall be but as echoes from the depths of a buried past, gradually, on each repetition, growing fainter and more faint, until they die away into the utter silence of forgetfulness.