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South Tyne Yeomen: Henry Ridley and Thomas Moor


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


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

Mid-eighteenth century Alston was also part of British history as John Wesley preached there in 1748 (and again twenty years later), and Alston Moor is covered with non-conformist chapels.


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


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

An 1823 map giving a good impression of the remoteness of the road going north from Alston through Kirkhaugh

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


Joseph's will describes him as of Featherstone, a village in the next parish, a few miles north of Kirkhaugh; but Kirkhaugh was where he was buried and where he baptised his children; and his burial entry describes him as a farmer from Lintley (part of Kirkhaugh), as does Jane's marriage entry, so it seems reasonable to see that as his home village. This is confirmed by two entries in 1800/2 where he is said to be a farmer from Lintley in one and an husbandman from Barhaugh in the other. (Note 3) His will names ten surviving children, most of them being farmers or married to farmers, but there appeared to be enough money and land to keep them all in a living. There were several people in the Kirkhaugh area named Joseph Lee, so one treads carefully, but 'our' Joseph certainly married Mary Maughan in 1758 in Whitfield, a few miles to the east of the South Tyne valley. It was Mary's home parish, while Joseph was describes as 'of Kirkhaugh'.


Mary was, herself, from a well-off family. Her brother John had left Jane's children £190 between them (about £16k at 2017 values), so Jane and Joseph's children would have had a comfortable childhood with few of the worries that others nearby faced. Their daughter, Jane, was therefore quite a catch for Henry Ridley when he married her in 1799. Unsurprisingly he, too, had some money. His father's will, leaving almost £300 to his children, described him (Henry's father) as a farmer, although his burial entry says he was a thatcher. Perhaps he was both, but either way he almost certainly employed others to help him. Henry, however, was neither. As the third son he couldn't expect to inherit any family land, so he became a mason. After their marriage he and Jane lived in Windy Hall which was slightly outside Kirkhaugh with impressive views over the valley. It was presumably rented from the Featherstonehaugh family, the most important family in the area, as they certainly owned it fifteen years later. Within two or three years, though, they had moved five miles up the valley to Ash Holme in Lambley, close to the main route linking Newcastle to Carlisle and with easy access to Haltwhistle and Brampton. At least five other children were born here, but some time between the birth of their youngest child in 1812 and 1829 when he is listed in the local directory as a farmer, the family had moved to Castle Carrock, a few miles to the west across the border into Cumberland. The church there was rebuilt in 1828, so perhaps the Ridleys witnessed its birth, although the new church still only held 15o worshippers. Henry was, by 1841, a well established farmer, running over 100 acres with the help of his third son, Matthew. Why did they move? Was this the only place Henry could find a farm once he had decided not to continue as a mason (Note 4). What is certain is that three of his sons went on to become farmers, with only the youngest, Jonathan, becoming a carpenter/cartwright.


As Henry became older, he continued as a farmer, but Matthew took over more and more of the running of the farm. When he, Matthew, married, his wife (Ann) lived with him on the farm and that is where they had their children. Both Henry and Jane lived into their eighties, dying of nothing more sinister than 'old age'having, presumably, enjoyed being close to their four grandchildren. Had they lived another year they would also have seen Matthew's youngest child, Thomas, who would grow up to be the mayor of Carlisle but, as literate and reasonably wealthy citizens, they had laid the groundwork for his eventual success.



Windy Hall - home to Henry and Jane Ridley


Joseph Lee's burial and his daughter Jane's marriage a couple of lines apart in the bishop's transcripts

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


Knarsdale Hall

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Thomas and Fanny married in 1806, having their first child shortly afterwards in Knarsdale, but then moving a few miles west into Cumberland. Thomas was now styled 'husbandman'<ref> This was his description in Robert Teasdale's will of 1818</ref> which, in earlier times, would have been one rank further down the social ladder than 'yoeman' but the terms were often interchangeable in the 19th century. He spent his working life in the villages of Hesket, Armathwaite and Ainstable, all essentially the same parish, where emplyed a number of men to work on his farm. One such was Richard Hope who, in 1824, was sentenced to one month's hard labour in Carlisle gaol for stealing some hay-grass. If this seems harsh, it was made clear that he was being used as an example to others as it was appranetly common for colliers to put a little into their own carts at the end of the day, and Pope was known to have taken some in the middle of the day.



The road into Armathwaite in 1758


Thomas Moor's notice asking for claims when he closed his farm in 1857

The Moors were now living a comfortable family life.  A few years previously, in 1818, Fanny's uncle, Robert Teasdale, had died without children and left all his siblings and their children generous gifts. In Fanny's case that was £150 <ref> About £6000 in today's prices </ref> and Thomas' business interests were growing. In 1841 four of his children were still living at home, and his daughter Frances was near enough that her son culd spend time at hia grandparents house. He was a farmer, but may already have been dealing in timber as well, as this was his main source of income ten years later.


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


Thomas Moor contributing 10s to the cost of the local rifle brigade


1. A number of 18th and 19th century mines can still be seen in the parish

2. One of Jane Lee's brothers, William, may well have been a manager in a lead ore mine 

3. These descriptions appear in the baptismal entries for Henry and Jane Ridley's eldest two children, where the mother's father is also named. Confusingly there is another Joseph Lee described as 'of Barhaugh', so it is difficult to tell hem apart 

4. The only evidence we have that Henry was a mason are the baptismal entries for hie eldest two children </ref>.

5. The history of Northumberland by John Hodgson; 1819 onwards

6. Two years earlier, Henry's father had also left a will in which he described his daughter and son-in-law as 'of Knarsdale Hall' so whether the house passed from mone to another; or they both lived there at the same time, isn't known

7. Thomas' will was written in 1797, so John must have died by then; but we can't tell how long before that </ref>

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