A Small Village in Northumbria

Northumbria is one of the most fascinating regions of Britain as it is on the border of Scotland, and has a coast ono the North Sea so has a long maritime tradition as well as being the subject of many raids and invasions. This is from Highways & Byways of Northumbria: 

Longhoughton, now a small agricultural village, but a place of importance in the Middle Ages. In 1569 it had no fewer than 47 copyholders. … Thirty of them were the old Bondagia, for which we have no equivalent word although the word “Bondager”, now meaning female out-worker is probably derived form it. These holdings are described a containing a house and a husband land of 30 acres of arable, meadow or pastureland and paying the lord 30 shillings yearly. In Longhoughton at a very early period, the villan’s services on the baron’s land had been commuted to a money payment – a great stride from the times when he had to work a certain number of days on the lord’s demesne. The remaining 17 holders, called “cottagia” had a croft or garden and a selion of land with a rent varying from 2s 2d to 3s 4d. The selion varied in different parts of the county, but here it was a ridge of from half an acre to an acre and a half. The names of the small proprietors are given in the Elizabethan survey..

In those early days a weekly market was held and tradition points out where the market cross stood. Round it every corpse was carried before burial. The cross, after being lost for many years was found in a smugglers’ cave, and now crowns the east wall of the church which was probably built soon after the Conquest. It shows early Norman work, but its most noticeable feature is the strong Early English tower, with walls 5 feet thick which was erected for defence as well as for religious purposes, as there was no pele tower i the vicinity In 1567 Longhaughton church was still a refuge for the inhabitants against scottish marauders. Clarkson’s survey says: “The Church and staple is very great strength, that the poor tenant have to draw to in the of warre; wherefore it is ever needful the same be for that and other causes kepid in good reparations “..

The Register kept by the Rev. George Duncan from 1696 to 1719 … He seems to have been a very irascible parson but the characters of the villagers are stamped with true Northumbrian aberrations and pieties. The vicar spares neither dead nor living in is comments, which are sometimes in English , sometimes in Latin…. “Henry Elder… an ingenious smith of an ancient race of Longhaughton.”

“Married 1706 Thomas story (a very brutish and wicked fellow) herd of Sharplee”

Another herd is even worse, married in the same year: “William Morton’s a gross ignorant and wicked herd of Scrabbles” Another herd is “very wicked and obstinate, hardened.” This plays havoc with the illusion entertained by literary people of the blameless pastoral lives led by the man of the crook as he follows in solitary ways his bleating flock! In a later register is a relief to this dark picture to know that in 1723 he buried Barbara, the serious good wife of Jaes gustard, an old and godhead. Another custard was also “a knowing good man”. Nicholas Davison is “a serious and religious herd”. In 1711 he buries “Mary the wife of a very honest herd and an old and long oatmeal maker”. Believe in darker powers is evinced when he records the burial of “Jinie, wife of William Grey, a quack and warlock doctor “. The fishers of Boulmer and Seaton get very bad characters. They are all very ignorant, obstinate, profane careless and brutish people. At their marriages these arms are employed, but he notes at the burial of a bachelor, “George Grey, an old innocent and fortunate fisher.” He shows a natural elation when a dissenter is brought to reason, no doubt by his own efforts. “Buried John Egden, a very dissenter in his life, and yet.. very good charitable man; he was she years before his death brought to be a sincere member of the Church.” and his wife is called “the good widow of the good dissenter.”

But dissenters are badly treated indeed by the vicar. A webster of Longhaughton is called “a wicked knave and a dissenter”, and a dissenting herd is called “a tergiversate Janus whig”. Dissenters in Northumberland are still jeeringly called whigs.

The cross found in the smuggler’s cave has echoes of many items from churches that were hidden from Tudor authorities trying to stamp out Popish practices. It may have been hidden to save it from destruction.


2 thoughts on “A Small Village in Northumbria

  1. Sometimes you actually got a minister such as Abdias Assheton at Slaidburn Yorks (now Lancs) who actively encourgaed his congregation to damage such things; i e to promoted iconoclasm from his pulpit


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