Posts Tagged ‘Hartsop Hall’

“Oh Lord, I’m killed, he has stabbed me.”

On 26 February 1836 a twenty-two year old Cumberland lead miner called John Greenwell stepped ashore in the Australian penal colony of Sydney from the convict ship Susan. The voyage had taken 114 days and there had been a serious outbreak of scurvy which had taken the lives of several convicts. John knew he would never return to England as he was a convicted murderer. At his trial for murder in Appleby in Westmorland John was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, but at the last minute this was commuted to transportation to Australia for life. And who had John killed? The answer is that he had repeatedly stabbed Thomas Grisdale of Patterdale, the son of local Hartsop Hall farmer Robert Grisdale, and Thomas had died of his wounds within the hour.

Before I tell the full story of Thomas Grisdale’s murder let us say something of the circumstances. John Greenwell was a lead miner in the Greenside ‘silver-lead’ mine in Patterdale. He had been born in 1814 in another lead mining village – Alston in Cumberland – but the Greenside mine was flourishing and miners like John came from all over to work there. The miners lived in appalling conditions in the mine ‘lodging shops’.

Greenside Lead Mine in Patterdale

Greenside Lead Mine in Patterdale

Before there was a smelting mill at Greenside ‘the metal, after being washed, was put into bag holding about 1 cwt. each. The whole was carted to Penrith, where it was met by a string of horses and carts and conveyed to Alston, where it was smelted, and eventually from there put on the market’. The miners only got paid twice a year; they had to go to the Angel Inn in Penrith ‘where the agent (Mr. Errington) attended to pay the men’.

The miners, some accompanied by their wives, used to walk into Penrith. Others came by boat to Pooley, there being no ‘ Raven ‘ or ‘ Lady of the Lake ‘ in those days; whilst others came in carts — conveyances, or light carts as they were called, being very scarce in the country at that time.

From there they would head back to Patterdale to settle their bills in the mine’s ‘shop’ and of course to spend a lot in the local inns.

Mr. Cant’s shop on Patterdale miners’ pay day used to be like a fair, almost all the miners being supplied with provisions by him throughout the six months, their ‘better halves’ putting in an appearance on pay days to straighten up their shop bill.

It was after one of these pay days that John Greenwell and some of his mining friends were drinking in the White Lion Inn in Patterdale ‘Township’.

Patterdale Township circa 1900. The White Lion is on the left

Patterdale Township circa 1900. The White Lion is on the left

The later Rector of Patterdale, the Rev W. P. Morris, wrote in The Records of Patterdale in 1903:

These pay visits continued until the year 1835, when a serious misfortune took place at Patterdale amongst some of the miners. It was always surmised that there was a little jealousy amongst the natives, and a parishioner was stabbed to death. The sad affair took place on a Sunday night (March 8th, 1835), when two miners, one named Joseph Bainbridge and the other Greenwell, both natives of Alston, had been down into what is termed the ‘Township’ (in the White Lion Inn), and whilst there had got into a quarrel with some of the residents. After dark they started for the mines, and whilst traversing one of the lanes leading out of Patterdale, they went into the dyke to cut themselves each a thick stick to provide weapons of defence should their assailants trouble them again. While in the hedge someone approached, and Greenwell, thinking it was one of their opponents, rushed out at him and stabbed him in the abdomen with the clasp-knife he was using. He turned out not to be a miner at all, but a young parishioner returning to his home. The two miners were tried at Appleby Spring Assizes in the year 1836 (actually 1835). Bainbridge was acquitted and Greenwell was sentenced to death, but was reprieved and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Greenwell was a quiet young man about 20 years of age, of light build, and bore an excellent character. Bainbridge was a powerful fellow, a kind-hearted chap, but rather rough in his manner, and somewhat quarrelsome when he had any drink. After his release he went into Durham to work in the coal pits, and I have heard my brother John, who lived at Hartlepool, say that he was one of the best coal hewers in the county. After the affair the officials thought it prudent and more safe to pay the men at the mines and not bring them into Penrith, hence the abandonment of Patterdale pay days at Penrith.

The White Lion Inn (left) in about 1900

The White Lion Inn (left) in about 1900

But is this what really happened? It was not. There are many reports describing the trial and the testimony of the witnesses called. Here is just one published in 1836 in The Annual Register… of the year 1835. It gives the full story.

13 March – Murder – Appleby – John Greenwell was indicted for the willful murder of Thomas Grisdale at Patterdale on the 8th March. George Greenhill disposed that on the Sunday preceding he and the deceased went to the White Lion public-house in Patterdale. There were many persons in the house, and among them a young man named Bainbridge and the prisoner Greenwell. There was a great deal of noise, but the deceased was very quiet and took no part in it. Greenwell quarrelled with a man named Rothey, and they had a little fight or scuffle for about five minutes. They both went down on the floor. The deceased lifted them up, and seemed desirous to part them. After they had got up, Bainbridge and the prisoner Greenwell said they would fight any two men in the dale. The deceased said very good-naturedly, that if it was day-light he would take both of them, and he would then in the house, if anybody would see fair play. After this Bainbridge and Greenwell became so troublesome, that the landlord put them out. In the course of a little time the latter returned, and was again thrust out, but in these matters the deceased did not interfere. In the mean time the witness and two lads went out of the house with the deceased. Soon after, they saw Bainbridge call Greenwell to the end of the house, and they procured each a stick, about a yard long, and a little thicker than a walking stick. They came running towards these three, who ran out of their way for some distance, when the deceased, having not retreated awhile, said, “I have not melt (meddled) with them, why should I run away?” and stopped. The witness ran on about twenty yards further, and then stopped also. On turning his head, he saw the prisoner Greenwell run up to the deceased, and make a push at his belly, and then at his breast near the neck. The deceased seized the prisoner by the collar and pushed him away, and then put one hand to his belly, and the other to his breast, saying, “Oh Lord, I’m killed, he has stabbed me.” Witness and his companions then ran up to him, and the prisoner ran away. They soon after found the prisoner lying besides the wood, and told him to get up and go before them to the King’s Arms public-house in Patterdale. Being afraid of him, they told him to throw away what he had, and he threw a pipe from his pocket. They followed him, and he was taken into custody. The next morning a knife was found at the place where the prisoner had lain down, which was bloody. It appeared in subsequent evidence that the knife belonged to Bainbridge, but had been borrowed by the prisoner just before the commission of the fatal deed. A surgeon was sent for to the deceased, who was taken to the White Lion, where he died in three quarters of an hour. John Chapman and Thomas Chapman, two witnesses who were with Greenhill, corroborated his testimony, which also confirmed as to several points by other witnesses, without varying the general features of the case. The surgeon stated that either of the wounds was sufficient to cause death, and he could not state which was in fact the cause of the death as distinct from the other. In summing up the evidence the learned Judge defined the distinction between murder and manslaughter upon provocation, and put before them all the circumstances in the case which had any tendency to justify the more merciful conclusion; but after a short retirement the jury found the prisoner Guilty of wilful murder. Sentence of death was then pronounced upon the prisoner, and the execution ordered to take place the following Monday.

Obviously the Judge was somewhat sympathetic toward Greenwell and before the coming Monday he was reprieved and sentenced to life in penal servitude in Australia.

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

Thomas’s Hartsop Hall ‘respectable’ farming family was devastated, their son was only twenty-seven. He was, reported the Kendal Mercury, ‘… sober in his habits… extensively known and greatly esteemed’. They buried him in Patterdale Churchyard, ‘close to where the old church stood’, on March 12th, 1835, erecting a tombstone which reads:

To the memory of Thomas, son of Robert and Elizabeth Grisdale of Hartsop Hall, who was brutally murdered by an unprovoked assassin on the evening of Sunday, March 8th, 1835, aged 27 years.

It continues:

 By man’s worst crime he fell and not his own, Belov’d he lived and dying left a name, With which his parents mark this votive stone, The grief is theirs, th’ assassin bears the shame. Better to sleep tho’ in an early grave, Than like the murder’r Cain exist a banished slave.

Patterdale Church in1805

Patterdale Church in1805

For more about the family see The Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop and From Matterdale to Alberta – the story of the English past of one Canadian Grisdale family and Robert Grisdale’s Escape. And what of John Greenwell, the ‘murder’r Cain’, who would lead his life like a ‘banished slave’? After his reprieve from death, John would have first spent some time in prison in Westmorland before being sent to a hellish Prison Hulk anchored at Woolwich outside London (see here for a Grisdale-related story of Prison Hulks). The surgeon of the convict ship Susan, Thomas Galloway, kept a Medical Journal from 12 September 1835 to 26 February 1836. He tells us ‘of the three hundred convicts embarked, 200 were taken on board at Woolwich and 100 at Sheerness’, before departing from Portsmouth for Australia on 16 October 1835 –  it arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney) on 7 February 1836 with 294 male prisoners aboard.

Early convict ship like the Susan

Early convict ship like the Susan

Galloway tells both of the scurvy and that: ‘There were several men who had very recently been in Hospital for various illnesses and who concealed this at the time of the surgeon’s examination because of their desire to proceed to New South Wales. Also several old and very infirm men who had to be kept entirely on the Hospital Provision. Ophthalmia was not confined to the prisoners and several of the seamen were also affected as well as Officers of the Guard.’ As well as the 294 male convicts:

A detachment of the 28th Regiment arrived by the prison ship Susan. They were Landed at the dock yard in Sydney on Friday afternoon 12th February and marched to the barracks. The band did not meet them as was usual on such occasions. Some of the 28th who arrived on the Susan included Captain George Symons, Private James Flanagan, Private John Mooney, Private Henry Gunter, Private William Gollett, Private Walter Williams. Other convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included the Charles Kerr, Westmoreland,  Marquis of Huntley,  Norfolk, Backwell, England, John Barry, Waterloo, Moffatt, Strathfieldsaye, Portsea and Lady McNaughten.

But the convicts would have had a different welcome. First an ‘indent’ was taken so that if they escaped they could be identified. John Greenwell is described as 22, 5ft 7.5 inches, of ‘ruddy’ complexion, brown hair, with eyes ‘hazel and inflamed’. He had : ‘Hairy mole right ear, mole under left ear, ears pierced for rings, mole above right elbow, three scars back little finger right hand, and three on thumb, scar cap of left knee.’ Pretty much like all Australians then! I know only a little about what happened to John, suffice it to say that in 1848 after twelve years of penal servitude he was granted a ‘conditional pardon’ by the governor of New South Wales Sir Charles Fitz Roy. He was free to stay and work at his trade in Australia but could never return to Britain. As a miner did he go off to the new gold ‘diggings’, we don’t know. And here I will end except for one thing. The two old photographs of the White Lion Inn in Patterdale where Thomas Grisdale was murdered were taken by Patterdale photographer Joseph Lowe around 1900. They are the oldest photographs of Patterdale and Joseph’s wife was Jessie Grisdale, the great granddaughter of Robert Grisdale of Hartsop Hall, murdered Thomas’s father! See Death and photographs in Patterdale.

John Greenwell's Conditional Pardon NSW 1848

John Greenwell’s Conditional Pardon NSW 1848

One probably rather cold day in October 1911 a large Grisdale family were walking the last few miles from the railway station in Okotoks near Calgary in Alberta to meet father Robert who had been working on a cousin’s ranch since the spring. The family consisted of Nancy, Robert’s wife, and his eight children. News of the family’s arrival in Canada from England hadn’t yet reached Robert and when two of his sons, Robert (Bob) and Thomas (Tom), ran ahead of the others and rounded a corner of a large barn, father Robert was surprised to say the least. His grandson Bill said that his father Tom ‘would never forget the look on his father’s face’.

Okotoks Railway Station

Okotoks Railway Station in 1909

I’ll return at the end to say just a little about the family’s life in Canada, where a veritable clan of descendents still live. But here I’d mostly like to say something about the family before it took the big decision to emigrate and why it had done so. I’ll tell something too of the family’s deeper history.

Robert, who was so surprised by his family’s arrival, was born in 1867 in Benson Hall in Scalthwaiterigg in Westmorland in England, the first of four children of a young but up-and-coming farmer called Richard Grisdale and his wife Agnes Martindale. He was baptized Robert Edward – Robert after so many of his ancestors and Edward after his maternal grandfather Edward Martindale. The imposing Benson Hall, where Robert was born, was the farming home of the Martindales. Today it is a listed building.  I’m afraid I don’t yet have a photograph so here’s how it’s described in the Listed Buildings Report, you can skip this bit if you want:

Possible pele tower at Benson Hall. The present building of C17 and C18 date appears to contain an earlier tower within the existing building. Farmhouse. Probably C16 with C18 and C19 extensions.

Stone rubble with slate roofs. West facade of 3 storeys and 3 bays, 2nd and 3rd bays are C18. Windows have flat arches and are sashed with vertical glazing barns and horns; 1st bay of ground floor has small light. Possible loop to 2nd floor. Entrance to 2nd bay has C20 door. Gable-end stacks.

North return has sashed windows and attic windows. South return has blocked entrance and 2 windows, the 1st former entrance, under dripcourse, to ground floor. East elevation has projection to north end under catslide roof and with canted angle. Round-headed stair window has small-paned fixed glazing with top intersecting glazing bars. Large single-storey gabled C19 extension.

Interior has thick wall, the original east wall to 1st bay, with entrance passage through, which has draw bar holes to former external entrance. Oval holes in floors above passage have iron grilles in timber frames and rectangular hole in attic floor, probably for hoisting purposes. Spiral stair opens off passage. Vaulted chamber to ground floor. Stair has open string; upper flight has 2 turned balusters to the tread, and balustrading to 2nd floor. 6-fielded-panel doors with H-L hinges and drop handles.

Room to 1st floor has entrance to spiral stair and closet with opening to small chamber in floor, possibly priest hide, cased beams, dado rail and cornice, fireplace has eared architrave, lattice frieze and dentilled cornice; similar room has later partition. Attic, not inspected, has moulded beams with run out stops, probably C16, and access down ladder to chamber in north-east angle, said to be cock pit but possible priest hide or storage space.

Shortly after Robert’s birth, his father Richard somehow managed to get the tenancy of a 700 acre farm called Barrowfield in not too distant Underbarrow, just west of Kendal. More children were born there: Jane 1869, Thomas 1871 and John 1873.

Barrowfield Farm

Barrowfield Farm

Richard was still in his twenties as his family grew and things looked promising. After all although all his ancestors had been farmers none had had a farm as large as 700 acres. But tragedy was soon to strike. In 1876 Richard Grisdale died aged just twenty-nine. The cause of Richard’s death I have yet to ascertain. So Agnes was left with four young children and certainly couldn’t stay at Barrowfield Farm any longer. I am sure Richard’s premature death profoundly altered the whole subsequent history of the family, to which I will return.

Boredale Head farm

Boredale Head farm

Let’s go back a bit, even a lot, because of course these Grisdales, like almost if not all others, hailed from Matterdale and more specifically from Dowthwaite Head farm (see here). In a previous article I told of how an earlier Robert Grisdale (born in 1705 in Dockray, Matterdale) had moved from Matterdale, married Johnby girl Esther Gatesgarth, and in about 1738 taken the tenancy of Boredale Head farm in Martindale in Westmorland, which lies on the other side of Ullswater from Matterdale (see here). I also told of how some of his sons moved to farm and run an inn in nearby Patterdale and Hartsop in the 1770s. One of these sons was Thomas Grisdale (1746-1813). I’m sorry there are and will be so many Roberts and Thomases!

Probably in 1774 Thomas took over Caudale Beck farm on the shores of the small lake called Brothers Water near Hartsop. After his death there in 1813 one of his nephews took the farm. But two of Thomas’s sons, Robert (1782-1861) and George (1789-1864), who were both born at Caudale Beck farm, went to farm at the next-door but more imposing Hartsop Hall, probably in about 1809. George eventually moved on to farm elsewhere in Patterdale, but Robert kept the tenancy of Hartsop Hall until his death in 1861, being helped in the early years by his large family.

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Hartsop-born Robert had married Elizabeth Jackson in Martindale in 1807; their children were: Thomas 1808, John 1809, Elizabeth 1811, Robert 1815, Jane 1817 and Mary 1820, all except Thomas born in Hartsop. Thomas the first child was born in Martindale at the former Grisdale farm called Boredale Head (or Dale Head for short). It seems clear to me that what happened is that sometime in his youth Robert went back to work on Boredale Head farm where Elizabeth Jackson’s parents John and Elizabeth Jackson were now the tenants; we find the Jackson family there in 1787 in the Constable’s census of Westmorland, including young Elizabeth herself. There Robert met Elizabeth and they married and had their first child in Martindale in 1808 before moving back to Hartsop. We don’t know a great deal about the life of Robert Grisdale Senior of Hartsop Hall, just two things might be of interest. In 1903, the Rev W. P. Morris, the Rector of Patterdale wrote in The Records of Patterdale:

Robert Grisdale, the then farmer (of Hartsop Hall), was one night riding home on horseback from Cockermouth when he was accosted by two of them (a gang of robbers) when coming through Dockray. He at once perceived what their intentions were, but he showed them his pistol and galloped home in safety. It was not considered safe for any person to be out when darkness had set in. The gang consisted of four men, who went about wearing masks and carrying rifles and pistols.

On another occasion:

There is a right of way through the house. It was into this house that the notorious gang of burglars attempted to enter with the intention of murdering the whole family. These desperadoes were the terror not only of the neighbourhood of Patterdale, but also in and about Penrith.

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

I gave a fuller version of this story in an article called Robert Grisdale’s Escape (see here). Another aspect of his life that is I think worth mentioning is that while he was the farmer at Hartsop Hall the Patterdale Hunt kept its fox-hounds there. The Rev. W. P. Morris also wrote:

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were two packs of foxhounds in the neighbourhood — one at Patterdale, and the other at Matterdale. The masters of both packs were very proud of their respective charges, and great jealousy existed between the huntsmen. There was, therefore, great rivalry between the two villages. It is said of a gentleman now dead that on one occasion he saw the hounds coming in full cry in the direction of his own house, with reynard before them. He enquired whose hounds they were. “Patterdale,” was the reply. “Then I join you,” and good sport they had.

Years ago the Patterdale hounds had their abode at Hartsop, and they were afterwards removed to near Patterdale Hall, where they remained until about thirty years ago. In or about the year 1871 the two packs became one, and were placed together in the kennels at Grassthwaite How.

The last master of the hounds before amalgamation was John Gelderd, and his predecessors were John Grisdale and John Walton…

Given that the pack ‘had their abode’ at Hartsop Hall, I guess Robert Grisdale Senior was one of the huntsmen. Note that John Grisdale (his son) was one of the last masters of the Patterdale hounds before amalgamation with Matterdale in 1871.

Staying with the fox hunting stories, as I said the fourth child of Robert of Hartsop Hall was also confusingly called Robert; he was born in 1815, probably in the Hall. He grew to maturity when the Patterdale fox-hounds were based there. It seems he achieved some renown as a huntsman because in about 1880, long after he had moved to farm at Yoad Pott farm in Selside (which I will tell about), the Patterdale fox hunt came to Selside to cheer him up. A poem was written to ‘celebrate’ this rural event. It was republished in the Horse and Hound in 1940 and I thank a Canadian Grisdale for sending it to me:

 Tis of Selside famed fox chase I’m going to relate

In the year 1880 that well known date

When to cheer Robert Grisdale of fox hunting fame

To Yoadpot, the fox hounds from Patterdale came

Joe Bowman the huntsman, that glorious morn

Aroused the gay start with his shrill bugle horn

Far famed was our huntsman, far-famed was his pack

Nor beauty nor music nor speech did they lack

You’ll always find him just the same

At Grasmere sports you’ll hear his name

His Mardale Hunts will live in fame

Away my lads away.

So Robert Grisdale, born and brought up at Hartsop Hall, was far-famed as a huntsman and ‘far-famed was his pack’, ‘at Grasmere sports you’ll hear his name, his Mardale Hunts will live in fame’. How did the famed huntsman Robert Grisdale move away from the environs of Ullswater, where the family had been from at least the late 1400s, to ‘faraway’ Selside just north of the Westmorland county town of Kendal? (I mean faraway by English not Canadian standards.)

Lake District Fox Hunting

Lake District Fox Hunting

In 1846, aged thirty, Robert had married Jane Ward in Selside chapel. Jane’s father, Richard Ward, was at the time of Jane’s marriage a farmer at Forest Hall farm in Fawcett Forest, Westmorland, i.e. in Selside. Maybe with Richard Ward’s help Robert Grisdale as able to get the tenancy of Yoad Pot farm, where the Patterdale fox hounds visited him in 1880. Perhaps Robert and Jane’s marriage was a bit of a shotgun affair? They were married on 11 June 1846 and their first child Richard, named after Jane’s father, was born a few weeks later on 19 July 1846 at the Ward family farm, Forest Hall. Nine more children followed over the next twenty-four years.

Map showing Yoad Pot, a few miles NNE of Kendal (at the top)

Map showing Yoad Pot, a few miles NNE of Kendal (at the top)

I’m trying to stay with the direct ancestry of Canadian emigrant (or immigrant if you’re Canadian) Robert Edward Grisdale, because this Richard Grisdale was Robert Edward’s father. If I considered brothers and sisters of all these Grisdales we’d soon be all over the place and all over the world!

Richard Grisdale and Agnes Martindale

Richard Grisdale and Agnes Martindale

Richard and his many siblings grew up at Yoad Pott farm (now spelt Yoad Pot); but in 1867, aged 21, he married Agnes Martindale in Kendal parish church. Agnes’s father, as I mentioned at the start, was the yeoman tenant farmer of Benson Hall and this is where Richard and Agnes’s first son Robert Edward was born in 1867. Now we come full circle to where we began. It’s not a thing I usually do but I’ll repeat what I said earlier.

Shortly after Robert’s birth his father Richard somehow managed to get the tenancy of a 700 acre farm called Barrowfield in not too distant Underbarrow, just west of Kendal. More children were born there: Jane 1869, Thomas 1871 and John 1873. Richard was still in his twenties as his family grew and things looked promising. After all although all his ancestors had been farmers none had had a farm as large as 700 acres. But tragedy was soon to strike. In 1876 Richard Grisdale died aged just twenty-nine. The cause of Richard’s death I have yet to ascertain. So Agnes was left with four young children and certainly couldn’t stay at Barrowfield Farm any longer.

What was widow Agnes to do? She sent her eldest child, our Robert Edward, to live back to Benson Hall where he was born in Benson Hall with her brother Robert Sinkinson Martindale and his wife Agnes and their family. Here we find him in 1881. Agnes herself moved from Yoad Pott to the nearby resort town of Bowness-on-Windermere with her children Jane and Jane and opened a ‘lodging house’ in Craig Walk – what we might perhaps call today a ‘bed and breakfast’ or even a hotel. Son Thomas, who was born in 1871, went elsewhere, but he stayed in the area because he was still working as a ‘servant’ in Scalthwaiterigg in 1891.

But widow Agnes Grisdale (nee Martindale), Robert Grisdale’s mother, soon remarried. In 1882 she married carpenter William Abel Jeffrey in Windermere. William was nine years her junior. They continued to live in Craig Walk in Bowness with Jane and John Grisdale and had three children together before Agnes’s death in 1897.

The next we hear of Canadian immigrant Robert Edward is in May 1891 when he married Nancy Bewley in Skelsmergh  church near Scalthwaiterigg. Between 1892 and 1909 eight children were born in Bowness to Robert and Nancy, all of whom survived and made it to Canada. They were: Jennie 1892, Annie 1894, Agnes 1897, Robert Edward 1899, Thomas Bewley 1901, John/Jack 1904, Nancy 1906 and Jessie 1909. The Bewley family originally came from Beck Grains near Uldale in Cumberland (where Nancy was born), but by the later 1800s had moved slightly south to Low House Head on Dunmail Raise near Wythburn.

Robert Edward Grisdale as a Carter/Carrier in Westmorland

At the time of his marriage to Nancy Bewley in 1891 Robert was still working as ‘farm servant’ on his uncle Robert Martindale’s farm at Benson Hall in Scalthwaiterigg. We can probably therefore surmise that since the age of 8 when his father died Robert had been brought up with his uncle’s family. He no doubt met Nancy Bewley nearby because the Bewley family had recently moved to the area. But the young couple soon moved to Bowness-on-Windermere to live in Craig Walk, the same street where Robert’s remarried mother Agnes was living with William Jeffrey and Robert’s siblings and two (soon to be three) new half-sisters.

But very soon after Robert struck out on his own. He became a self-employed ‘carter and carrier’, a profession he would continue until his move to Canada in 1911. In 1901 the family were living in Craig Walk in Bowness but sometime thereafter they moved to 2 North Terrace in the same town where we find them on  2 April 1911, Robert being called a ‘general carrier’.

Photo for dad - house (1)

2 North Terrace, Bowness

But only a few weeks after the 1911 UK census had been taken on 10 May ‘Horseman’ Robert Grisdale was on board the British-built Canadian Pacific Railroad steamship Monmouth in Avonmouth (Bristol) bound for Montreal. How had this come about? The family story is that Robert had found it well-nigh impossible to support a family including a wife and eight children as a self-employed ‘carrier’. Bill Grisdale, one of Robert’s Canadian grandsons told a Canadian newspaper:

They were starving; my grandfather couldn’t look after the wife and kids. He had a livery stable, but the word is in the family that they just couldn’t live.

 

 

George Hoadley

George Hoadley

By 1911 Robert was forty-three years old and he needed to find another way to support his family. What seems to have happened is that he was offered a chance by a Wetheral-born cousin called George Hoadley who had emigrated to Canada in 1890 and was now an established rancher outside Okotoks in Alberta. His ranch was called Wetheral, named after his place of birth in Cumberland, and he would go on to be a successful Alberta politician (see here).

The family story goes that Robert sold his carting business and George Hoadley paid for his passage to Canada in return for accompanying some horses to be brought from England to George’s ranch in Alberta – hence Robert description as ‘Horseman’ in the manifest of the steamship Monmouth. Remember Robert, like so many of his ancestors, was in some way a ‘horseman’.

So Robert went to Canada without his family and after he arrived in Montreal in late May 1911 he no doubt guided the horses by train to cousin George Hoadley’s ranch near Okotoks, where he started to work. But how to get his family to join him? Again the family story is that his brother John (who by now was living in York working as a ‘Ladies Tailor Costumer (sic) & Fur Dealer’) agreed to lend the money for the passage of his brother’s family to Canada.

r e grisdale family

The family in about 1910 before their emigration to Canada

And thus it was that in October 1911 Nancy Grisdale and her eight children made the trip from Bowness in Westmorland to the great imperial port of Liverpool and on the 6th of October boarded the steamship Corsican bound for Montreal, where they all safely arrived on 12 October after a journey of only six days. They gave their destination as Okotoks in Alberta.

Steamship Corsican in 1911

Steamship Corsican in 1911

We’re on the final straight here. I won’t be presumptuous enough to tell the story of this Grisdale family in Canada. In 2011, the 100th anniversary of the family’s arrival, many of Robert and Nancy’s descendants gathered in Okotoks to celebrate. They wrote and published a book called Just Another Milefrom The Lake District to Okotoks and Beyond, telling many family stories. Referring to Nancy and the children’s arrival in Canada the books says:

From Montreal they travelled by train to Calgary Alberta arriving Oct. 16, 1911.  Robert had not yet received the letter telling him of their arrival date so when they go off the train in Calgary, he was not there to meet them.  It was later learned that Senator Patrick Burns had noticed Nancy and her brood of eight children.  He then treated them all to hot chocolate and saw them off on the correct train to Okotoks.  Again arriving in Okotoks Robert was not there to meet them.  Upon making enquiries as to where they could find him Nancy was told to follow the track as he could be found just another mile west.  The entire family with all their baggage walked up the track to the Hoadley Ranch.  Robert (Bob) Jr. would recall years later telling the story of how he and his brother Tom ran ahead of the rest to a big barn and as they ran around the corner of the barn they ran right into their father.  They said they would never forget the look on their father’s face.

IMG_1081 (1)

The second Grisdale house in Okotoks

Hence the name of the book “Just Another Mile….”. A report in the Calgary Herald tells of how ‘the family suffered that first winter on the unforgiving prairies, with “hardly enough woollens to go around,” but how, like so many other tenacious pioneers back then, they stuck it out and established themselves as pillars of the community’. Robert’s grandson Ted (Edward), born in Okotoks in 1932, said that the family lived at the farm (George Hoadley’s) for a short period before eventually moving to Okotoks where Robert and Nancy lived and worked for the rest of their lives. He added:

He (Robert) did an awful lot, he had a shop where he made windows and doors and he did a lot of finishing stuff. He worked in the lumber yard for a time in Okotoks and had several different jobs.

And then:

When I was growing up, I couldn’t stand on a street corner in Okotoks without bumping into another Grisdale.

And here I will leave the family; anyone interested in finding out more about the family’s Canadian history can visit the family’s website: http://grisdale2011.wordpress.com/. I am grateful to the family for their help and many of the pictures.

001 (7)

The family in Alberta circa 1920

 

The Monmouth on which Robert Grisdale 'Horseman' travelled to Canada

The Monmouth on which Robert Grisdale ‘Horseman’ travelled to Canada

Another view of Barrowfield Farm where Robert Edward spent his early tears

Another view of Barrowfield Farm where Robert Edward spent his early tears

Lying just south of Ullswater is the village of Patterdale, and just south of that you reach Hartsop, before climbing the long hill to Kirkstone Pass. Throughout the nineteenth century there was a large Grisdale yeoman farming family in Patterdale and Hartsop, whose descendants have spread all over the world. I have long wanted to say something about the family but didn’t know how to start. So I’ll start once again with William Wordsworth.

Written in March while resting on the bridge at the foot of Brothers Water

The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green fields sleep in the sun;
The oldest and the youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow has retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the hill;
The plowboy is whooping—anon—anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

William Wordsworth, 1802

Brothers Water

Brothers Water

William and Dorothy Wordsworth visited Hartsop in April 1802.  Their experiences of visiting in spring are recorded in the poem above, ‘Written in March while resting on the bridge at the foot of Brothers Water’. As one critic commented, William obviously decided that March rather than April was more appropriate for the theme of spring! Dorothy Wordsworth described the people at work around Hartsop, ploughing, harrowing and sowing and spreading manure on the fields using pitchforks.   She also made reference to the ‘hundreds of cattle in the vale’. They then walked on past Hartsop Hall where William composed another poem to describe the crags looking up from Dovedale:

Unimaginable sight!

Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf,

Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,

Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,

Molten together, and composing thus,

Each lost in each, that marvellous array.

Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge

Fantastic pomp of structure without name,

In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped.

Right in the midst. An object like a throne

Three years later, in November 1805, Dorothy Wordsworth once again walked over the Kirkstone Pass and down into Hartsop.  ‘She remarked on the beauty of the fields below Brothers Water.  “First seen like a lake, tinged by the reflection of yellow clouds.  I mistook them for the water; but soon we saw the lake itself gleaming with a steely brightness; then as we descended appeared the brown oaks, and the birches of lovely yellow and, when we came still nearer to the valley, the cottages and the lovely old Hall of Hartsop with its long roof and elegant chimneys”’

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

As William and Dorothy looked around Brothers Water they would have seen only two farms lying just south of the lake: Hartsop Hall (which they walked past) and Caudale Beck Farm; this is likely where they saw ‘the oldest and the youngest’ at work. Both these farms belonged to members of the Grisdale family throughout much of the nineteenth century. When Wordsworth composed his poem the yeoman farmer at Caudale Beck Farm was without any doubt Thomas Grisdale (1746-1813) who arrived there probably in about 1774 when he married. It was his family no doubt that Wordsworth referred to as ‘the oldest and the youngest’ at work.

Thomas’s son Robert (1782-1861) would later become the farmer at the more imposing Hartsop Hall. His other sons John and George would also become yeoman farmers in an around Hartsop.

The Wordsworths were of course Romantics. A slightly different, and rather condescending, view of the hamlet of Hartsop itself, which lies at the northern end of Brothers’ Water, was given by the intrepid traveller Celia Fiennes when she passed through Hartsop in 1698. She described the farming tenements:

Here I came to villages of sad little huts made up of drye walls, only stones piled together and the roofs of some slatt; there seemed to be little or noe tunnells for their chimneys and have no morter or plaister within or without; for the most part I tooke them at first sight for a sort of houses or barns to fodder cattle in, not thinking them to be dwelling houses, they being scattering houses here one there another, in some places there be 20 or 30 together; it must needs be very cold dwellings but it shews the lazyness of the people; indeed here and there was a house plaster’d’, but there is sad entertainment – that sort of clap bread and butter and cheese and a cup of beer all one can have…

Caudale Beck farmhouse

Caudale Beck farmhouse

About a century later in 1790 Joseph Budworth described Hartsop as he descended from Kirkstone Pass:

We see at the bottom of the road part of Bridder Water (Brothers Water), which looks as if embayed in mountains, with trees and copse woods on its margin, giving it the appearance of a fish pond in a large garden…  On entering the vale of Hartsop, we have a full command of Bridder Water, this small dale though not clothed with good grass, is prettily wooded, and is beneath a semi-circular mountain with misshapen interstices, forked like lightning, but which are effects of conveyers of torrents; hanging proudly over the valley, as if to deter any inhabitants from fixing there and I did but observe one house.

I will come back to the Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop later, but first let’s go back a little, back one generation.

Robert Grisdale was born in Dockray in Matterdale in 1705, the seventh child of farmer Thomas Grisdale and his wife Mary Brownrigg, who had farmed both at Crookwath and Old Mills. Before that Thomas’s father, another Robert, had also farmed at Crookwath and his father, yet another Robert, came of course from the cradle of the Matterdale Grisdales, Dowthwaite Head.

Having no doubt worked on the family farm as a young man, Robert married Esther Gatesgarth from Johnby in St Andrew’s Church in Greystoke in 1735. Whether Robert had already moved from Matterdale when he married we don’t know, but by 1738 the family had moved and were the tenants of Boredale Head Farm (sometimes called Dale Head) in the remote valley of Boredale – midway between Martindale and Patterdale, to the east of Lake Ullswater.

Boredale Head farm

Boredale Head farm

Robert and Esther weren’t the first Grisdales to move from the west of Ullswater, where we find Matterdale, to the lake’s eastern parishes of Patterdale and Martindale, and they wouldn’t be the last. But they were the family who were to stay longest in the area and are the ancestors of many Grisdales today in the UK, North America and Australia.

As they farmed the rocky soil in Boredale, Robert and Esther had four children: Robert 1738, John 1741, Elizabeth 1744 and Thomas 1746, all born at Boredale Head Farm and all christened in Martindale’s tiny chapel.

The number of descendants of these four children is truly enormous and they spread not only all over England (such as to Lancashire and Liverpool) but also around the world: to Canada and Australia and elsewhere. Here I will focus on just a few who first remained in Martindale but then moved to farm in Patterdale and Hartsop.

Boredale

Boredale

The first son Robert (born in Boredale Head in 1738) married Elizabeth (Betty) Park in Grasmere in 1774. He became an Innkeeper in Hartsop (he and his family were already there in 1787 and he  most probably came in the 1770s) and died in Hartsop in 1817. One of his sons was called John Grisdale (1774-1854). He married Dorothy Harrison in Patterdale in 1805 and at some point took over the tenancy of Caudale Beck farm on the shore of Brothers Water in Hartsop. But when John died his son, also called John (born in about 1811), seems to have disappeared or died and thus couldn’t follow his father as the farmer at Caudale Beck.

Actually this John (1774) wasn’t the first of the family to farm at Caudale Beck in Hartsop. His uncle Thomas Grisdale (born in 1746 to Robert Grisdale and Esther Gatesgarth) was already the ‘yeoman’ farmer there in 1787 and had probably taken the tenancy in 1774 when he married local Patterdale girl Jane Atkinson. Eight Grisdale children were born at Caudale Beck Farm between 1775 and 1793, but not all survived. Thomas died at Caudale Beck in 1813. His son John (born 1775) married Dorothy Jackson in Patterdale in 1807 and went on to farm at Beckstones farm near Patterdale until his death in 1851. Thomas’s other son Robert, who was born at Caudale Beck in 1782 and had initially gone back to farm in Martindale but sometime in the 1810s he became the tenant farmer at the more imposing Hartsop Hall,  literally just across the field from Caudale Beck and adjoining the road as it starts its long climb to Kirkstone Pass. I wrote a little about this Robert Grisdale and one of his adventures here.

I know this array of John, Thomas and Robert Grisdales is bewildering, and I haven’t even mentioned the Georges, or the women! If anyone would like better explanations of the people involved and their relationships they can contact me or look at my Ancestry tree. I will probably write more about some individuals in the future.

Basically what we see here is various members of the family of Robert Grisdale and his wife Esther Gatesgarth first living and working on the family farm at Boredale Head in Martindale and then moving to in the 1770s to Patterdale and Hartsop, to farm at Caudale Beck, Beckstones and Hartsop Hall. Some of the family are still in the area.

Painting of Beckstones Farm, Patterdale

Painting of Beckstones Farm, Patterdale

When the Wordsworths made their visits to Hartsop and observed the scene around Brothers Water the ploughboy whooping and ‘the oldest and the youngest at work’ on the shore of the lake were most likely the family of Thomas Grisdale of Caudale Beck farm.

Of course the Wordsworths were ‘Romantics’ and life in Hartsop was hard for the farmers and others. When James Clarke visited Hartsop in around 1787 he concentrated on the decline of the community at Glenridding north of Hartsop after the arrival of the lead miners. He writes:

It is unlikely that Hartsop witnessed the same influx of miners given the lack of miners’ cottages in the village.  Miners working in Hartsop appear to have walked from Patterdale each day.

A Hartsop cottage

A Hartsop cottage

One of this Grisdale family ended up a miner in the mines Clarke saw; I might tell his story another time.

One writer wrote this:

While the sight of tenants going about their work may have appeared romantic to visitors and poets, it is clear that farming was difficult in Hartsop.   It is clear that there was little good arable land.  A survey of Hartsop and the southern part of Patterdale made in 1839 recorded the existence of some 300 acres of arable land, although how much of this was regularly under the plough is not known.  A further 920 aces were classed as meadow by the survey made in 1839, although much of this is likely to have been of poor quality.  An earlier account of the meadow land belonging to Hartsop Hall Farm in 1823 (when Robert Grisdale was the farmer) described it as being of little worth, adding that the ‘the chief part of it wants draining, and the sheep pastures too dry and rocky’.

MAP

In the early nineteenth-century Hartsop Hall in Patterdale was owned by the Earl of Lonsdale but farmed by yeoman Robert Grisdale, whose family had made the short trip from Dockray in Matterdale to the Patterdale area about a hundred years before. The hall ‘is a very old building’ and ‘was once the seat of a distinguished family, whose arms at one time were to be seen above the doorway’. In 1903, the Rev W. P. Morris, the Rector of Patterdale, wrote: ‘The Lancasters of Sockbridge, one of whom was Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, held the lands round about Hartsop in the early part of the seventeenth-century. Sir John Lowther acquired the property by marriage, and his descendant, the present Earl of Lonsdale, is now lord of the manor of Hartsop.’ Morris continues:

There is a right of way through the house. It was into this house that the notorious gang of burglars attempted to enter with the intention of murdering the whole family. These desperadoes were the terror not only of the neighbourhood of Patterdale, but also in and about Penrith.

Hartsop Hall, Patterdale

Hartsop Hall, Patterdale

No more information is given regarding the gang’s ‘intention of murdering the whole family’, but Morris adds: ‘Robert Grisdale, the then farmer, was one night riding home on horseback from Cockermouth when he was accosted by two of them when coming through Dockray. He at once perceived what their intentions were, but he showed them his pistol and galloped home in safety. It was not considered safe for any person to be out when darkness had set in. The gang consisted of four men, who went about wearing masks and carrying rifles and pistols.’

Morris briefly tells of how the gang was caught, but there is a much fuller and more colourful account given in 1894 by William Furness in his History of Penrith from the Earliest Record to the Present Time. I will quote it in full:

‘A notorious gang of highwaymen and burglars infested the neighbourhood in the early years of the century, and were the terror of the country people, especially those of the villages west and south of Penrith. The names were John Woof, (Woof was taught to thieve by his mother, who put him through a staircase window, at Melkinthorpe, to rob a poor old woman of a few shilling she had saved.) Melkinthorpe; William Armstrong, Eamont Bridge; John Little alias Sowerby, Clifton Dykes; and William Tweddle, Penrith. Woof was a small farmer, Armstrong a labourer, Sowerby a swill maker, and Tweedle a labourer. For eighteen months prior to their arrest scarcely a Tuesday passed but some person, returning from Penrith market, was robbed, and in some instances left bleeding and senseless on the highway, for these scoundrels were not deterred from employing any ruffianly violence to secure their object. They went so far, in one case at least, as to dig a grave beforehand for their intended victim. This was done in Bessy Ghyll Wood, near Thrimby, for a farmer, who was attending Shap fair, and was expected to have a good sum of money with him, as a result of his sales. They had stretched a wire across the road just high enough to drag a rider from his horse, and lay waiting for their victim. Not appearing about the time that they had calculated he should, they went off in search of him. In the meantime, the farmer had providentially remembered that he had a call to make at Little Strickland, and therefore turned off the main road at Shap Beck Gate, to gain his home and make his call on the way. He had barely made his call when he found the attentions of several men were being paid him. Guessing who these individuals were, he put spurs to his steed to widen the distance between himself and his pursuers, that he might have time to open the gates that lay between him and Sheriff Park farm house. The fold gate was gained, but his pursuers were almost upon him, when a lucky idea entered his head and was instantly acted upon. He called for help, which was at one replied to, and his pursuers stopped short; he opened the gate, roused the household, and was safe. Little did these desperadoes think that the farmer both called for help and replied to the call – but in a changed voice.

Burglaries also were of common occurrence, and were carried out by masked men armed with swords and pistols.

Dockray - where Robert's family came from and where he met the robbers

Dockray – where Robert’s family came from and where he met the robbers

Under these circumstances it was considered unsafe for any man, known to have money upon him, to be out after nightfall. The occupants of houses in lonely and secluded places feared to retire to rest, unless they had a good staff of servants and plenty of defensive weapons. Least the burglars should surprise them in the night. No wonder then that the whole district was terror stricken, and that the country people hurried home form market before darkness and robbers overtook them. A relative of the writer, living at Gowbarrow Hall, had been to the Market, at Penrith, and was returning, on horseback, in the evening, when he was accosted by four men, near to Tynefield, who demanded his “money or his life”. Finding one man at this horses bridle, one on each side of him, and one on the look-out, he quietly handed up his pocket book, and was allowed to proceed, after being asked if he knew them, and made a promise that he would not follow them nor prosecute them at the imminent peril of being shot. Thinking they might be disappointed with the contents of the book, as he had only part of his cash in it, and that they might pursue and murder him in the road home, he turned in at the Bee Hive Inn, Eamont Bridge, and ordered stabling for his horse for the night, and a bed for himself, and comfortably placed himself in a cosy seat in the chimney corner. He had not been long there when amongst those who dropped in he recognised one of his assailants, who not recognising the person in the corner seat, forthwith began to tell of the latest robbery by the brutal gang of masked robbers. This ruse was adopted by the whole four, at their various resorts, to throw off suspicion from themselves, and to get to know what the public opinion of the robbers was. A price was put upon the robbers, and advertisements proclaimed the reward for their apprehension, but to no effect.

The alarm in Penrith was so great that the inhabitants voluntarily revived the “Watch and Ward” to guard the town, as in the days of border warfare. A list of names was published of householders who were willing to act, and everyone on the list served in turn, except a few gentlemen and few women householders, who obtained substitutes at 2s.6d. per night. The watchers were four each night and their rendezvous was the Ship marketing room. Each watchman, while on duty, was supplied with a rattle, and armed with a bludgeon.

Old Penrith

Old Penrith

The detection and apprehension of the gang was due Mt T Robinson, of Kings Meaburn, who had been robbed by them and beaten on the highway, but recognised one of the gang as William Tweddle, who was immediately arrested, at Penrith, and lodged in the House of Correction. This member of the gang, fearing the consequences to his own neck, turned King’s evidence and disclosed the whole proceedings of the gang. This led to the immediate arrest of Woof and Armstrong, (As Armstrong was being taken to the House of Correction, he was seen by an acquaintance named Mary Bowerbank, who accosted him thus: “I’se sorry to see thee theer, Will.” He replied: “I’ll sune clear mesel, Mary, me lass.” This incident shows how little he was suspected by neighbours and acquaintances.) But Sowerby, hearing of Tweddle’s apprehension and confession, escaped to Newcastle, where he was subsequently arrested, passing himself off as John Smith. Sowerby, Woof, and Armstrong were committed to the Assizes at Carlisle held in August 1820.

The charges against these men were numerous, but the only one they were tried upon for “burglarously breaking and entering the house of John Wilson, of Soulby, in the parish of Dacre, about ten o’clock on the night of 22ndDecember, 1819, and taking therefrom five notes of the value of £1. Or one guinea each, and four webs of cloth, the property of the said John Wilson.” Mr Rain, who acted for the prosecution, having briefly stated the case to the jury, proceeded to call witnesses. The first was Margaret Wilson, who stated that she was “wife of John Wilson; lived at Soulby, a lone house about a quarter of the mile from all others. A man came to the house on the night of 22ndDecember, and asked his way to Mark’s; others came after, and made a noise’ this was about ten o’clock. She asked what they wanted, and they said the £100 which her husband had got form the bank at Penrith, the day before. She said it was not there; they said it was, and would have it, and if she did not immediately open the door they would blow her brains out. She begged of them not to be so rough; said her daughter would give them what money they had out of the window; they replied they would not have it that way, and if they did not open the door it would be worse for them, as they knew how to get in. Witness’s husband went down, thinking it would be better, as they could make no resistance. She then opened the door. When four men rushed in; three had on smock-frocks, the fourth had on a coloured overcoat; two had pistols, two swords, and they all wore masks, but could not say what kind they were. They then asked for money, and her daughter gave them her husband’s pocket book, which contained five notes. They asked for the £100; she said her husband had left it at Penrith. They asked for the keys, and got them, and her daughter Mary went upstairs with two of them, and the other drove the family up. Her daughter did not see any of them, as she was ill in bed, but the servant saw them. Two of them searched the drawers and took 20s. in silver; they then went into another room where a chest was standing locked. They ordered her to open it, or they would break it open. They then took out three webs of linen cloth, three of tow, and one of line; then they proceeded to the servant’s room, searched her box, and took out what silver there was – 7s, or 8s. They asked her what she had been doing thirty years, to have no more than that. They took her umbrella, and went downstairs, and asked for four bottles of rum. She said she had none, and then asked if she had no liquor; she said, perhaps a little gin, and went into the parlour to get it, when two men followed her. When she took out the gin, the two reached over and took two bottles of wine and another took the gin. They then went in to the kitchen and asked for ale; she went to bring a bottle, when one of them followed her, and took another. They then demanded bread and cheese, and got it. Previous to their departure, one of them presented a sword to her breast, and drew it across her neck, as an obligation of an oath that they had got all there was in the house, and said if she would give them more money they would give back the webs; but she again said they had got all that came from Penrith. One of them asked her daughter if she knew them; to which she replied, she did not know whether she had seen them before; and he added, ‘No! and I hope you never will again.’ One of them said, on going away: ‘Go night, Mrs Wilson; we know you well enough.’ They ordered the family no to leave the house till morning. She found that two of the doors were fastened also. They made endeavours to get out, but could not, and it was eight o’clock in the morning when they were let out by a servant man.”

William Tweddle was then called, and corroborated Mrs Wilson’s evidence as to the robbery, He further said he “had known Armstrong since they were boys, Little about two years, and Woof since a boy, but the last two or three years in particular. Remembered going to Wilson’s. Armstrong proposed it, as it was likely house to get money. Woof had no mask, but the rest had black ones. Woof had nothing to disguise his face with his coat. After leaving the Wilson’s they went to Little’s house, at Clifton Dykes, where, with the assistance of Little’s wife, the booty was equally divided. He gave the information after being apprehended for stopping Thomas Robinson, of King’s Meaburn.”

James Anderson, constable, Penrith, stated that “in consequence of the information he got from Tweedle, he went to the house where Woof got his meat, and in a box, which the mistress of the house said was his, he found some pieces of cloth, one of which was marked with the words ‘John Wilson: 47 yards.’”

Several other witnesses gave corroborative evidence, after which the judge summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The judge, in sentencing them to death, held out no hope of mercy.

Carlisle English Gate and Old Gaol

Carlisle English Gate and Old Gaol

They occupied one cell, between the condemnation and execution, and their behaviour during these days was of a shocking character. The execution – the last at the old gaol – took place on Saturday September 2nd, 1820, at the south angle of the gaol. Even at the gallows they behaved unseemly, and one of them spat in the face of the executioner. (The librarian at the Free Library, Mr John Stuart, witnesses their execution, and distinctly remembers it, though he was but a lad at the time, and witnessed the scene from his father’s shoulder.)

Tweedle was transported to Van Diemen’s Land, and eventually joined a gang of desperados, and is said to have come to a violent end. (The story of Tweedle runs thus: Having got clear away into the bush he joined a gang of freebooters. Some time afterwards, in their leisure time, the gang were recounting their deeds which expatriated them from the old country, and Tweedle was called upon for his story. After recounting his exploits which his comrades, he told of their capture and the execution of three of this gang, whilst he escaped hanging, and was transported, because he turned King’s evidence. “Traitor,” cried the whole gang, and the captain said “since he had escaped his just deserts at home, and they could not tolerate a traitor amongst them, he must suffer the traitor’s doom.” Then the gang seized him and hanged him on the nearest tree.)

Bound For Van Diemen's Land

Bound For Van Diemen’s Land

Armstrong’s sister witnessed the execution, and afterwards begged the body of her brother, which she placed in a cart she had provided for the purpose, and brought it to Barton to bury. The malefactor’s body was exhibited, by the sister, at the public houses between Carlisle and Penrith, to anyone who would pay a penny for the sight, which hundreds did. It is said that when the body was buried in Barton Churchyard, a gap was made in the wall to let the procession into the churchyard, as it could not be permitted to enter by the gate. This act speaks of the superstition of the age.’

In the early nineteenth-century Hartsop Hall in Patterdale was owned by the Earl of Lonsdale but farmed by yeoman Robert Grisdale, whose family had made the short trip from Dockray in Matterdale to the Patterdale area about a hundred years before. The hall ‘is a very old building’ and ‘was once the seat of a distinguished family, whose arms at one time were to be seen above the doorway’. In 1903, the Rev W. P. Morris, the Rector of Patterdale, wrote: ‘The Lancasters of Sockbridge, one of whom was Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, held the lands round about Hartsop in the early part of the seventeenth-century. Sir John Lowther acquired the property by marriage, and his descendant, the present Earl of Lonsdale, is now lord of the manor of Hartsop.’ Morris continues:

There is a right of way through the house. It was into this house that the notorious gang of burglars attempted to enter with the intention of murdering the whole family. These desperadoes were the terror not only of the neighbourhood of Patterdale, but also in and about Penrith.

Hartsop Hall, Patterdale

Hartsop Hall, Patterdale

No more information is given regarding the gang’s ‘intention of murdering the whole family’, but Morris adds: ‘Robert Grisdale, the then farmer, was one night riding home on horseback from Cockermouth when he was accosted by two of them when coming through Dockray. He at once perceived what their intentions were, but he showed them his pistol and galloped home in safety. It was not considered safe for any person to be out when darkness had set in. The gang consisted of four men, who went about wearing masks and carrying rifles and pistols.’

Morris briefly tells of how the gang was caught, but there is a much fuller and more colourful account given in 1894 by William Furness in his History of Penrith from the Earliest Record to the Present Time. I will quote it in full:

‘A notorious gang of highwaymen and burglars infested the neighbourhood in the early years of the century, and were the terror of the country people, especially those of the villages west and south of Penrith. The names were John Woof, (Woof was taught to thieve by his mother, who put him through a staircase window, at Melkinthorpe, to rob a poor old woman of a few shilling she had saved.) Melkinthorpe; William Armstrong, Eamont Bridge; John Little alias Sowerby, Clifton Dykes; and William Tweddle, Penrith. Woof was a small farmer, Armstrong a labourer, Sowerby a swill maker, and Tweedle a labourer. For eighteen months prior to their arrest scarcely a Tuesday passed but some person, returning from Penrith market, was robbed, and in some instances left bleeding and senseless on the highway, for these scoundrels were not deterred from employing any ruffianly violence to secure their object. They went so far, in one case at least, as to dig a grave beforehand for their intended victim. This was done in Bessy Ghyll Wood, near Thrimby, for a farmer, who was attending Shap fair, and was expected to have a good sum of money with him, as a result of his sales. They had stretched a wire across the road just high enough to drag a rider from his horse, and lay waiting for their victim. Not appearing about the time that they had calculated he should, they went off in search of him. In the meantime, the farmer had providentially remembered that he had a call to make at Little Strickland, and therefore turned off the main road at Shap Beck Gate, to gain his home and make his call on the way. He had barely made his call when he found the attentions of several men were being paid him. Guessing who these individuals were, he put spurs to his steed to widen the distance between himself and his pursuers, that he might have time to open the gates that lay between him and Sheriff Park farm house. The fold gate was gained, but his pursuers were almost upon him, when a lucky idea entered his head and was instantly acted upon. He called for help, which was at one replied to, and his pursuers stopped short; he opened the gate, roused the household, and was safe. Little did these desperadoes think that the farmer both called for help and replied to the call – but in a changed voice.

Burglaries also were of common occurrence, and were carried out by masked men armed with swords and pistols.

Dockray - where Robert's family came from and where he met the robbers

Dockray – where Robert’s family came from and where he met the robbers

Under these circumstances it was considered unsafe for any man, known to have money upon him, to be out after nightfall. The occupants of houses in lonely and secluded places feared to retire to rest, unless they had a good staff of servants and plenty of defensive weapons. Least the burglars should surprise them in the night. No wonder then that the whole district was terror stricken, and that the country people hurried home form market before darkness and robbers overtook them. A relative of the writer, living at Gowbarrow Hall, had been to the Market, at Penrith, and was returning, on horseback, in the evening, when he was accosted by four men, near to Tynefield, who demanded his “money or his life”. Finding one man at this horses bridle, one on each side of him, and one on the look-out, he quietly handed up his pocket book, and was allowed to proceed, after being asked if he knew them, and made a promise that he would not follow them nor prosecute them at the imminent peril of being shot. Thinking they might be disappointed with the contents of the book, as he had only part of his cash in it, and that they might pursue and murder him in the road home, he turned in at the Bee Hive Inn, Eamont Bridge, and ordered stabling for his horse for the night, and a bed for himself, and comfortably placed himself in a cosy seat in the chimney corner. He had not been long there when amongst those who dropped in he recognised one of his assailants, who not recognising the person in the corner seat, forthwith began to tell of the latest robbery by the brutal gang of masked robbers. This ruse was adopted by the whole four, at their various resorts, to throw off suspicion from themselves, and to get to know what the public opinion of the robbers was. A price was put upon the robbers, and advertisements proclaimed the reward for their apprehension, but to no effect.

The alarm in Penrith was so great that the inhabitants voluntarily revived the “Watch and Ward” to guard the town, as in the days of border warfare. A list of names was published of householders who were willing to act, and everyone on the list served in turn, except a few gentlemen and few women householders, who obtained substitutes at 2s.6d. per night. The watchers were four each night and their rendezvous was the Ship marketing room. Each watchman, while on duty, was supplied with a rattle, and armed with a bludgeon.

Old Penrith

Old Penrith

The detection and apprehension of the gang was due Mt T Robinson, of Kings Meaburn, who had been robbed by them and beaten on the highway, but recognised one of the gang as William Tweddle, who was immediately arrested, at Penrith, and lodged in the House of Correction. This member of the gang, fearing the consequences to his own neck, turned King’s evidence and disclosed the whole proceedings of the gang. This led to the immediate arrest of Woof and Armstrong, (As Armstrong was being taken to the House of Correction, he was seen by an acquaintance named Mary Bowerbank, who accosted him thus: “I’se sorry to see thee theer, Will.” He replied: “I’ll sune clear mesel, Mary, me lass.” This incident shows how little he was suspected by neighbours and acquaintances.) But Sowerby, hearing of Tweddle’s apprehension and confession, escaped to Newcastle, where he was subsequently arrested, passing himself off as John Smith. Sowerby, Woof, and Armstrong were committed to the Assizes at Carlisle held in August 1820.

The charges against these men were numerous, but the only one they were tried upon for “burglarously breaking and entering the house of John Wilson, of Soulby, in the parish of Dacre, about ten o’clock on the night of 22ndDecember, 1819, and taking therefrom five notes of the value of £1. Or one guinea each, and four webs of cloth, the property of the said John Wilson.” Mr Rain, who acted for the prosecution, having briefly stated the case to the jury, proceeded to call witnesses. The first was Margaret Wilson, who stated that she was “wife of John Wilson; lived at Soulby, a lone house about a quarter of the mile from all others. A man came to the house on the night of 22ndDecember, and asked his way to Mark’s; others came after, and made a noise’ this was about ten o’clock. She asked what they wanted, and they said the £100 which her husband had got form the bank at Penrith, the day before. She said it was not there; they said it was, and would have it, and if she did not immediately open the door they would blow her brains out. She begged of them not to be so rough; said her daughter would give them what money they had out of the window; they replied they would not have it that way, and if they did not open the door it would be worse for them, as they knew how to get in. Witness’s husband went down, thinking it would be better, as they could make no resistance. She then opened the door. When four men rushed in; three had on smock-frocks, the fourth had on a coloured overcoat; two had pistols, two swords, and they all wore masks, but could not say what kind they were. They then asked for money, and her daughter gave them her husband’s pocket book, which contained five notes. They asked for the £100; she said her husband had left it at Penrith. They asked for the keys, and got them, and her daughter Mary went upstairs with two of them, and the other drove the family up. Her daughter did not see any of them, as she was ill in bed, but the servant saw them. Two of them searched the drawers and took 20s. in silver; they then went into another room where a chest was standing locked. They ordered her to open it, or they would break it open. They then took out three webs of linen cloth, three of tow, and one of line; then they proceeded to the servant’s room, searched her box, and took out what silver there was – 7s, or 8s. They asked her what she had been doing thirty years, to have no more than that. They took her umbrella, and went downstairs, and asked for four bottles of rum. She said she had none, and then asked if she had no liquor; she said, perhaps a little gin, and went into the parlour to get it, when two men followed her. When she took out the gin, the two reached over and took two bottles of wine and another took the gin. They then went in to the kitchen and asked for ale; she went to bring a bottle, when one of them followed her, and took another. They then demanded bread and cheese, and got it. Previous to their departure, one of them presented a sword to her breast, and drew it across her neck, as an obligation of an oath that they had got all there was in the house, and said if she would give them more money they would give back the webs; but she again said they had got all that came from Penrith. One of them asked her daughter if she knew them; to which she replied, she did not know whether she had seen them before; and he added, ‘No! and I hope you never will again.’ One of them said, on going away: ‘Go night, Mrs Wilson; we know you well enough.’ They ordered the family no to leave the house till morning. She found that two of the doors were fastened also. They made endeavours to get out, but could not, and it was eight o’clock in the morning when they were let out by a servant man.”

William Tweddle was then called, and corroborated Mrs Wilson’s evidence as to the robbery, He further said he “had known Armstrong since they were boys, Little about two years, and Woof since a boy, but the last two or three years in particular. Remembered going to Wilson’s. Armstrong proposed it, as it was likely house to get money. Woof had no mask, but the rest had black ones. Woof had nothing to disguise his face with his coat. After leaving the Wilson’s they went to Little’s house, at Clifton Dykes, where, with the assistance of Little’s wife, the booty was equally divided. He gave the information after being apprehended for stopping Thomas Robinson, of King’s Meaburn.”

James Anderson, constable, Penrith, stated that “in consequence of the information he got from Tweedle, he went to the house where Woof got his meat, and in a box, which the mistress of the house said was his, he found some pieces of cloth, one of which was marked with the words ‘John Wilson: 47 yards.’”

Several other witnesses gave corroborative evidence, after which the judge summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The judge, in sentencing them to death, held out no hope of mercy.

Carlisle English Gate and Old Gaol

Carlisle English Gate and Old Gaol

They occupied one cell, between the condemnation and execution, and their behaviour during these days was of a shocking character. The execution – the last at the old gaol – took place on Saturday September 2nd, 1820, at the south angle of the gaol. Even at the gallows they behaved unseemly, and one of them spat in the face of the executioner. (The librarian at the Free Library, Mr John Stuart, witnesses their execution, and distinctly remembers it, though he was but a lad at the time, and witnessed the scene from his father’s shoulder.)

Tweedle was transported to Van Diemen’s Land, and eventually joined a gang of desperados, and is said to have come to a violent end. (The story of Tweedle runs thus: Having got clear away into the bush he joined a gang of freebooters. Some time afterwards, in their leisure time, the gang were recounting their deeds which expatriated them from the old country, and Tweedle was called upon for his story. After recounting his exploits which his comrades, he told of their capture and the execution of three of this gang, whilst he escaped hanging, and was transported, because he turned King’s evidence. “Traitor,” cried the whole gang, and the captain said “since he had escaped his just deserts at home, and they could not tolerate a traitor amongst them, he must suffer the traitor’s doom.” Then the gang seized him and hanged him on the nearest tree.)

Bound For Van Diemen's Land

Bound For Van Diemen’s Land

Armstrong’s sister witnessed the execution, and afterwards begged the body of her brother, which she placed in a cart she had provided for the purpose, and brought it to Barton to bury. The malefactor’s body was exhibited, by the sister, at the public houses between Carlisle and Penrith, to anyone who would pay a penny for the sight, which hundreds did. It is said that when the body was buried in Barton Churchyard, a gap was made in the wall to let the procession into the churchyard, as it could not be permitted to enter by the gate. This act speaks of the superstition of the age.’