The rich and often violent history of Northumberland is well documented. Anyone who is interested in learning or reading more about it can find a free source of books available in PDF format at the website archive.org. Just about every book ever written about the county history is available there – free. Hodgsons County History, David Dippie Dixon, Sykes, Craster, McKenzie, Archaeologia Aeliana – all there to download.  Free.  Enough reading material to last for years. Add to that more obscure documents like the Pipe Rolls, Catholic Property Registers, Parish Registers and it is a veritable treasure trove of information.

Many of the books are academic in nature and can be hard going, but being in PDF format are searchable for names and locations. For those with just a passing interest, I recommend Sykes Historical Register: Remarkable Events, volumes 1 – 3. In chronological format, they cover the early medieval period up to about 1870.

Here are a few extracts. One relates to the well known Winters Gibbet near Elsdon. The others relate to the now unbelievable hysteria surrounding witches. It’s hard to believe the outrageous cruelty inflicted on innocent women in the mid 17th Century, despite the intervention of educated and secular people.  If you read Sykes, there are numerous matter of fact accounts of the execution of these wretched souls, as well as the almost daily occurrence of hideous executions for all manner of things we would consider trivial today. Hard, violent times indeed, that should be remembered for the lessons they can teach.

 

August 10 1792.

William Winter, Jane Clark, and Eleanor Clark, were executed at the Westgate, Newcastle, pursuant to their sentences, for the murder of an old woman, named Margaret Crozer, at Elsdon, in Northumberland. Winter was hung in chains on Whiskershields common. The bodies of the two unfortunate females were sent to the surgeons’ hall for dissection, and afterwards interred. The trial of Winter and his associates occupied the attention of the court for sixteen hours: Such had been the horrid depravity of William Winter, that he had not been at liberty six months together during the last eighteen years of his life. He had been convicted in 1784 of stealing an ass, and sent to the hulks on the Thames for seven years, from whence he was discharged on the 14th of August, 1791. His father and brother were hanged, August 6th, 1788. The father of the two females was hanged on the 14th of August, 1793.

Aug. 22 1792

Sylvanus Broadwater and Joseph Marshall, found guilty of stealing two horses, in the neighbourhood of Brampton, and Christopher Taylor, for setting fire to a malting at Bardon Mill, near Haltwhistle, and stealing a box containing 2G. in gold, also found guilty, were severally executed at Morpeth, pursuant to their sentences. Broadwater and Marshall persisted in their innocence as to any intention of stealing the horses, saying they only took them to ride part of the road. Taylor also said, he was innocent of the crime for which he was about to suffer.

Entries from 1649

‘So soon as the witch-finder had done in Newcastle and received his wages, he went into Northumberland, to try women there, where he got of some three pounds a piece ; but Henry Ogle, Esq., laid hold on him and required bond of him to answer the sessions, but he got away for Scotland, where he was apprehended and cast into prison, indicted, arraigned, and condemned, for such like villainy exercised in Scotland, and upon the gallows he confessed he had been the death of above 220 women in England and Scotland, for the gain of twenty shillings a-piece.’

 

‘At a private guild holden at Berwick, before the right worshipful, Andrew Crispe, esq., mayor, Mr. Stephen Jackson, alderman, and the rest of guild brethren, it was ” ordered according to the guild’s desire, that the man which tryeth the witches in Scotland shall be sent for, and satisfaction to be given him by the towne in defraying his charges, and in coming hither, and that the towne shall engage that no violence be offered him by any persons within the towne.”