The society was formed in 1994 to bring together local people with an

interest in history.

Meetings are held from October to May at 7.30pm.

at The Church of St Lawrence in the Village


Annual membership is £15 or pay on each visit. Everyone welcome.


Information from Moira Kilkenny: e-mail: warkworthhistory@gmail.com


NEXT MEETING: Monday 9th April at 7.30pm



2017-18 Programme

Oct 2nd 2017Abraham Lincoln - The Great Emancipator
Anthony Atkinson
Nov 6th 2017Walking NewcastleThe Rt Hon  Baroness Joyce Quinn
Dec 4th 2017The Secrets of Coquet IslandDr Paul Morrison 
Jan 8th 2018The Bamburgh Ossary
Jessica Turner
Feb 5th 2018History of Picture Postcards
George Nairn
Mar 5th 2018Joseph Stalin
Prof. John Derry
Apr 9th 2018
Bede - More Than a Footnote in History Michael Thompson
May 8th 2017

AGM +  The Northumberland Elections 1826

Ian East 



Warkworth History Archive


 In 2000 Warkworth History Society invited local  people  to  donate, or lend for copying,  documentary  material  and  photographs for a    proposed millennium  exhibition  to depict  life in  and around the village  during the  twentieth  century. The response which  included  artefacts, costumes and uniforms as well as oral history, formed the basis of a fascinating exhibition staged in St Lawrence Church during August 2000.

Over the ensuing years more and more documents, letters and photographs were donated and more research carried out until, towards the end of 2007 Dr John West a noted historian and archivist agreed to catalogue the collection.

The resulting Archive Catalogue runs to over two hundred pages and references one hundred documents and fourteen hundred photographs held on compact disc. It is not merely a list but a synopsis of the material held. It provides a fascinating insight into past Village life, including: burgage structure, minutes of Parish Council meetings, records of the Victorian school, Court Leet and local Militia, Tithe and Enclosure records and plans, census records, details of Pageants, Flower Shows etc.

It was the intention to permanently display the materials collected, however this was found to be impractical due to lack of suitable premises within the village..

This extensive archive has therefore been deposited with the Northumberland Record Office at Woodhorn for safekeeping.

A copy of the Catalogue is still however held by the History Society and is available to view.


Warkworth Heritage Walks Book


 This book was researched and compiled by Warkworth History    Society  with the support of Amble Photographic Group, Warkworth    Walkers and members of the local community.  


 It contains 7 walks in and around the village together with  historical  notes and  detailed description of buildings and items  of interest.

 Copies are on sale at the Village Store.



Magna Carta Barons


 The Baron of Warkworth, John FitzRobert, was one of the  principal rebel barons who secured the charter from King John in  1215.

 At Runnymede, beside the Thames, the baronial army met King  John in June 1215 and there, 24 of their barons and the Mayor of  London were chosen to ensure the king kept his word. 20 of the 22 towns and villages that made up their chief manors in 1215 came together to form the Magna Carta Barons Association and celebrate 800 years of their communities history and the connection their barons had with a document that has become the foundation of the rights and liberties of much of the English speaking world and beyond.

A facsimile of the rare 1215 edition held by the British Library has been printed on parchment and after the June 2015 celebrations, it remains in Warkworth as a permanent reminder of its connection with Magna Carta for local residents, schoolchildren and visitors. It is on display at St Lawrence Church in the village.


Meeting Reports 2017- 2018 Programme

MARCH 2018

The snow fortunately cleared sufficiently to enable 55 hearty souls to attend the meeting to hear Chair Moira welcome one of the Societies favourite speakers Professor John Derry, who without the use of visual aids and notes took us through the life of Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvilli was born 18 December 1879 in Gori, Georgia (he changed his name to Stalin, meaning man of steel, in 1913). He grew up in poverty, his mother a washerwoman and father a cobbler. Throughout his life Stalin retained his Georgian accent and pronounced some Russian words badly: which anyone in his presence took care to also mispronounce in order to avoid the anger of the great leader!

Aged 16 Stalin was sent to study at the Russian Orthodox Church in Tiflis, the Georgian capital. However he lost interest in his studies when he joined the revolutionary movement and in 1899 was expelled after failing to turn up for his exams. His time was then spent raising money for the Bolshevik movement by any means, including bank robberies, murder, and abduction. He was described as a revolutionary without scruples.

Professor Derry took us through Stalin meeting Lenin, their involvement in the Russian Revolution, the toppling of the Tsar, then Lenin taking power and appointing Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party.

After Lenin’s death in 1924 Stalin became leader having first arranged to have Trotsky exiled.  

Stalin instigated various 5 year plans to modernise the country in order to compete economically and militarily with the Western powers. Individual farms were grouped together under State control in an attempt to improve output. This was initially resisted by the peasant farmers, resulting many being killed or deported.

Over the years Stalin became increasingly more paranoid and purged the Communist party and the army of anyone who might oppose him. Millions were sent to labour camps, with hundreds of thousands summarily killed. The lack of experienced army generals was to cause great difficulties during WW2. 

Professor Derry described the non-aggression pact with Germany and how this was ignored by Hitler, the Battle of Stalingrad, the subsequent part Stalin played in defeating Germany, followed by the aftermath which Churchill described as “an iron curtain falling over Europe”. Stalin’s death 5 March 1953 was mourned by some in the Soviet Union but was cheered by the millions affected by his reign of terror.


Professor Derry’s talk was informative, expertly presented and thoroughly well received. We look forward to his talk on the Iron Duke next March.


February 2018

Our speaker this month was George Nairn who gave a talk on the history of picture postcards. George’s interest in postcards began over 40 years ago. He is now a full time dealer and collector and has written/contributed to over 30 local history books.

The first picture postcard was sent in September 1894 and until 1902 it was illegal to include anything but the recipients address on the back. A card with writing around the picture on the front usually dates it to this period.  In 1902 the back of the card was divided to provide space for a message and the address. Cards were made from many materials including tin, leather and even peat!  Many messages were written in code or shorthand to keep them private, the angle of the stamp could also convey a message i.e. upside down meant “I love you” Postcards were 1 penny to buy and ½ penny to send up to 1918 when the cost of postage was increased.

Some of the best quality early cards were printed in Germany, as at the time they were leaders in the lithographic printing process.

The golden area of postcards was from 1900 - 1920.  Each town or village had a photographer and images would be taken using a plate camera to record all aspects of life in the area. George showed many slides of early postcards depicting not only scenic views but of church/chapel/school/WI events and outings, collieries/pitmen and poignant ones from WW1. If a disaster occurred the local photographer would be soon on the scene to record the event and postcards produced for sale the next day. One commemorating the West Stanley pit disaster included Keven Keegan’s grandfather.

Before the days of the telephone, postcards were often used as a means of communication. There were up to 3 post deliveries a day and a card could be sent in the morning asking someone to meet that same evening. Many cards were posted on Christmas Eve for delivery the next day!

One of George’s favourite card producers was Mr Johnson of Gateshead who produced around 16,000 cards between 1900 and the 1940s. The Abraham Brothers were famous for their photographs of the Lake District, and their former shop in Keswick is now the premises of George Fisher.

Georges entertaining and illuminating talk clearly illustrated how picture postcards and the story behind their messages provides a social history record of the time, unlike the text/Instagram/e mail methods of communication used today which are usually deleted or forgotten.


January 2018

At the first meeting of 2018 Chair Moira welcomed Jessica Turner from Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership to give a talk on The Bamburgh Ossuary and the Anglo Saxon Context.

Jessica began by explaining that an ossuary is a box, building  or site used as the final resting place for human skeletal remains used particularly where burial space is limited.

She then described that the first edition ordnance survey map of Bamburgh had included reference to a Danish burial site in the dunes south of the castle, which was generally thought to relate to Viking invasions of the area. However archaeological excavations of the site between 1998 and 2007 revealed this not to be the case. The graves found contained skeletons aligned east to west suggesting a Christian burial. In addition no Viking artefacts were found during the dig.

Jessica then outlined how Bamburgh got its name: how its importance grew when Oswald brought the two Northumbrian Kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira together under a single ruler and how Aiden arrived from Iona to spread Christianity.

Over 110 individual skeletons were excavated in the 1998-2007 dig and years of research by Bamburgh Research Project and Durham University generated a wealth of information about the people living in Bamburgh 1400 years ago. Analysis showed the cemetery was in use between 650– 700 AD, the individuals were well nourished and came from a wide area including Italy, Ireland, Scandinavia and Southern Spain. They were some of the earliest Christian converts and indicated how important Bamburgh must have been for them to have made the journey.

A final resting place was needed for the skeletons and the long unused second crypt of St Aidens Church in the village was considered to be appropriate particularly as some of them may have actually heard St Aiden preach. Each skeleton was encased in an individual zinc charnel box and at a committal ceremony on the 24th June 2016, they were finally laid to rest in the small crypt, secured behind a grill designed and made by local blacksmith and artist Stephen Lunn. Funding is now in place to enable the hugely important story of Bamburgh to be told through interactive technology and projection and make the important data recovered from the Anglo Saxon cemetery available to the public.

Jessica’s extremely informative and enthusiastically presented talk was thoroughly enjoyed by all.


December 2017

At our final meeting of the year we welcomed Dr Paul Morrison Head Warden at RSPB reserve on Coquet Island to give a talk on The Secrets of Coquet Island.

The earliest documentary reference is in AD684 when St Cuthbert met Elfled the Abbess of Whitby met on the Island, although it is presumed there was already a monastic establishment on the site when the meeting took place. Further monastic buildings were constructed in the 15th Century and ruins of these were adapted and the foundations used by Trinity House, when the lighthouse and keepers cottages were built in 1841. From the outside the remains of the monastic buildings are clearly visible as they are unpainted whereas the newer additions are painted white.  Paul showed a number of photographs showing how the Trinity House buildings had been incorporated, including the crypt with its 1 metre thick walls and a number of sealed up arched doorways.

One of the first lighthouse keepers was Grace Darling’s brother William. Keepers and their families living on the Island were mostly self-sufficient growing their own vegetables and using kelp as a natural fertiliser. Families had to leave in 1926 when the lighthouse was re designated. Three Keepers were employed on the Island, working 1 month on and 1 month off, with always someone on duty. In 1990 however, the lighthouse was automated and the last keeper left the Island on the 19th December that year. It was then converted to solar power in 2007.

The Island is owned by the Duke of Northumberland, being bought by his family in 1753. The Dukes family were the instigators of a Napoleonic gun battery, stones from which are still visible. The castellated appearance of the lighthouse mimics that of a castle: and the Dukes home in London, Syon House, is built from Coquet Island sandstone.

Paul ended his talk describing the RSPB work he and his team of volunteers do on the Island, including monitoring,  research, the provision of a suitable breeding habitat and ensuring the safety of visiting birds.

Pauls talk on both the history of the Island and on the current work carried out by him and the team of volunteers was both informative and entertaining and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.


November 2017 

Vice Chair Barry welcomed Rt. Hon. Baroness Joyce Quin to the November meeting to give a talk on “Walking Newcastle”.

Baroness Quin is Vice President of Newcastle Association of City Guides of which she has been a member for many years. This Association was started in the early 1960s by Counsellor FH Bell and now has approx. 50 active volunteer guides with a further 20 either retired and/or on the reserve list. Volunteers undergo an intensive 2 year training period which includes learning, shadowing trained guides and undertaking dummy tours before they are allowed to take a formal tour. Originally there were 4 tours available to the public but over the years the programme which runs from Easter to October, has been extended to include Gateshead and now also includes other areas within Tyne & Wear.

Baroness Quin advised that when walking around any City you should take note of street names as these provide an insight into the past history of the area, New Bridge Street for instance originally lead to a new bridge over the Ouseburn. City Guides are always keen to stress that Newcastle has been a major City during Roman and Norman times, the Middle Ages, when it was the fourth largest town in England: and the industrial revolution.

Baroness Quin then took us on a virtual walking tour of Newcastle starting at Greys Monument then down Grey Street, planned in the 19th Century; and said by Prime Minister William Gladstone to be “our best modern street”. Then to Mosley Street, the first street to be lit by gas in 1818 and also the first to be lit by electricity in 1880, Dean Street then The Side and the Quayside to the Castle Keep and Black Gate. Along the way Baroness Quinn told interesting stories of the people and buildings, including Earl Grey, Richard Grainger, John Dobson, Thomas Oliver, The Castle, Black Gate and the seven bridges crossing the Tyne.

Baroness Quin ended her talk with a number of anecdotes about Newcastle some true, some not true and some she originally thought were true but now has doubts as she has heard the same tale told on tours she has been on in other Cities.

Baroness Quin’s talk gave an insight into the City Guides approach to their role, followed by a very entertaining and informative virtual tour: all of which was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.


October 2017

Fifty members/visitors attended the first meeting of the 2017-18 programme where Chair Moira welcomed Anthony Atkinson to give a talk on Abraham Lincoln “The Great Emancipator”

Anthony took us through Abraham Lincoln’s early life, born in a one room log cabin at Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville Kentucky on February 12th 1809. Young Lincoln was an avid reader and mostly self-educated having only 1 year of formal schooling.

His first brush with politics came in 1832 when he failed to win a seat in the Illinois General Assembly, however he stood again two years later and at the age of 24 became the second youngest to be elected. He then began studying law using borrowed books and received his licence to practice in 1836. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar a year later and became a successful lawyer.

He had strong views on slavery but was not an Abolitionist as he knew it would make him unelectable. Lincoln entered the House of Representatives in 1846 and in November 1860 was elected 16th President of the United States, receiving very little support from the slaveholding States in the South.  Prior to his inaugural address in March 1861 seven States had seceded from the Union and Lincoln had received 130 assassination threats from 15 States.

Anthony then described the Civil War in which there were 625,000 deaths, more than all the other wars America has been involved in to date, including Iraq. In January 1863 as the war progressed, his moves to ending slavery included the Emancipation Proclamation. Later that year the battle at Gettysburg resulted in more than 51,000 casualties. It was decided to create a national soldiers cemetery on the site and Edward Everett was requested to deliver the main address with Lincoln asked to “give a few appropriate remarks”. His 280 words spoken at Gettysburg turned out to be one of the great speeches.  Lincoln was re-elected as President in November 1864, with the end of the war following five months later. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford Theatre by John Wilkes Booth a Southern sympathiser, on April 15th 1865.

Anthony’s much enjoyed talk, supplemented by slides, video and audio provided a clear description of how a man from humble origins who suffered many tragedies in his life, has come to be regarded as one of the great US Presidents. Many of the passages from his inspirational speeches are still relevant and often quoted today.


Meeting Reports 2016 - 2017 Programme

May 2017

This month was the Annual General Meeting of the Society, and Chair Moira Kilkenny gave her annual report which included a review of the relocation to St Lawrence Church, the 2016-17 programme and a reminder as to why Magna Carta, a facsimile copy of which is now located in the church porch, is significant to the church, to us as a village and to the governance of our country.

Treasurer Anne Cashmore reported that the Society finances remain in good order, with 55 members and meeting attendances averaging 36. The following officers were re-elected – Chair Moira Kilkenny, Treasurer Anne Cashmore: the following committee members were also re-elected, Richard Jackson, Barry Jones, Kathryn McLachlan and Les Purvis. Jill Wharton was elected to join the committee.

The programme for 2017-18 was distributed, details above.

Following the AGM Sandra Kerr gave an extremely interesting insight into the creation of the children’s  1970's television programme Bagpuss, voted in 2000 the best loved children’s programme of all time. Only 13 episodes were made and it was not particularly liked by the BBC as they thought it looked homemade and rough around the edges (which is was, but this actually gave it its charm). Sandra described how Oliver Postgate the creator gave her and partner John Faulkner a short brief which they then used to write the songs required to fit a particular story. Sandra sang a number of the songs while playing Autoharp, English Concertina, Guitar and spoons as accompaniment.  Sandra gave a delightful performance which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.


April 2017

Forty nine members/guests attended the April meeting where Chair Moira welcomed the return of one of the Societies favourite speakers, Professor John Derry to give a talk Field Marshall Montgomery “The Mystery of Monty”.

Professor Derry took us through the life of Bernard Montgomery to try to explain why he was such a difficult man becoming more so as he grew older.

He had a much disciplined upbringing particularly by his mother Maud and was a naughty and trying child. He later attended the Royal Military College Sandhurst from which he was almost expelled for being the ringleader in a serious case of bullying. He was only allowed to continue on the course after pleading from mother.

Professor Derry described how he dedicated his life to the army and was a fierce critic of colleagues and superiors, an arrogance that would continue throughout his life. Montgomery married Betty Carver in 1927 at the age of 40 and was a changed man. However Betty was bitten by an insect in 1937 and died of blood poisoning. This was a great emotional blow to Montgomery and he reverted to type, once again dedicating his life to the army. Professor Derry explained how Montgomery’s experiences in WW1 were used to great effect as Commander of the 8th Army in 1942, the important victory at El Alamein, and how he was fiercely critical of other Allied Commanders, particularly the Americans, throughout the rest of the War and thereafter.

Montgomery retired in 1958 and wrote his memoirs which caused uproar when they were published. He was politically insensitive and often made a fool of himself during debates in the House of Lords

When asked which three generals he admired most Montgomery replied “the other two would be Alexander the Great and Napoleon”. In his last years he was a lonely and unhappy man, keeping his distance from family and any remaining colleagues. Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein KG, GCB, DSO died on the 24th March 1976.

Professor Derry gave his talk in his inimitable style speaking for over an hour without the use of slides or reference to notes. We look forward to his return in March 2018


March 2017

At a very well attended March meeting Chair Moira welcomed back our speaker for the evening Freda Thompson to give a talk on Grace Horsley Darling “The Darling of the North”.

Freda took us through the lives of Robert and William Darling, Graces grandfather and father, how Grace was born on the 24th November 1815 at her grandparent’s small cottage in Bamburgh, her life on Brownsman Island and the move to Longstone Lighthouse in 1826.

On the night of 6th/7th September 1838, only Grace and her parents were in the lighthouse. Unable to sleep because of a terrible storm Grace saw the paddle steamer SS Forfarshire had struck Harcar Rock. She woke her father and they took out the twenty foot coble to rescue any survivors. Despite the wind, the sea swell and the spray and with great physical effort they reached the rock on which the 9 survivors were located. Knowing they couldn’t take them all, William helped a Mrs Dawson, together with an injured man and two crew members into the coble. They arrived safely back at Longstone and William returned with the crewmen to collect the remaining survivors.

The story of the rescue soon made the local newspapers and spread very quickly throughout the country. It captured the imagination of the public who declared Grace a heroine.

Grace received presents and gifts from admirers and Queen Victoria sent her £50. Letters were received requesting her signature, pieces of her dress, or locks of her hair. She received a fine watch from the Duke of Northumberland who became Grace’s guardian and managed her affairs through 3 appointed trustees.

Fame placed a great strain on Grace and she became ill and weak. After short stays at Wooler and Alnwick she was moved to her sister’s home in Bamburgh where she died of tuberculosis on the 20th October 1842.

Freda showed pictures of the prominent stone memorial to Grace Darling and the family grave in the churchyard of St Aidans Bamburgh.

Freda followed her talk with brief outlines of Lady Armstrong, Mo Molam, Josephine Butler, Ellen Wilkinson and Sarah Blackett.


February 2017

Forty-three members/guests attended the February meeting where Chair Moira welcomed our speaker Bill Bland to give a talk on The History of Ordnance Survey.

Bill began by describing his early childhood memories in Castleton Yorkshire where his fascination of Ordnance Survey maps began.

The origins of the Ordnance Survey can be traced back to the aftermath of the Jacobite rising. The army did not have a good map of the Scottish Highlands to enable them to locate the Jacobite dissenters, therefore in 1747 a military survey of the Highlands was carried out and a map with a scale of 1 inch to 1000 yards produced.

Bill illustrated through drawings and photographs the principles of triangulation, together with the basic equipment used in early land surveys, also reminding us of our weights and measure tables relating to yards, chains, furlongs and miles!.

The Principal Triangulation of Great Britain was carried out between 1783 and 1853 and led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey itself.

In 1791 the first great theodolite was developed by Jesse Ramsden and purchased at a cost of £373. 14 shillings. This enabled greater accuracy in surveying and work began mapping southern England using a 5 mile baseline on Houslow Heath (now the site of Heathrow Airport.

By 1801 the first 1 inch to the mile map of Kent was published and in 1810 a map of the Isle of Wight was published with the first recorded use of the Ordnance Survey name in its title. The last area to be surveyed and map published was Hexham and Allendale in 1872.

Maps continue to be updated and published today, however the equipment used has changed completely. Now Surveyors use electronic distance measuring equipment (EDM), auto levels, total stations and global positioning system (GPS).  This equipment enables survey work to be carried out quicker and with less chance of error. Bill demonstrated how Ordnance Survey maps are now available for download onto computers and tablets, making planning a walk easier and importantly letting you know at any time your exact location, providing of course your battery doesn’t run out!

Bills talk on Ordnance Survey from its origins to today was delivered in an informative and humorous manner demonstrating his passion for the subject.


January 2017

The first meeting of 2017 was held in St Lawrence Church, our new regular venue. Chair Moira welcomed our speaker Andrew Griffin to give a talk on The Brontes.

Andrew took us through the story starting with Patrick Brunty one of 10 children born in Ireland 1777. He changed his name to the more impressive sounding Bronte when he left his humble origins to attend St Johns College Cambridge. Patrick went through several curacies before arriving at Howarth in April 1820, with wife Maria and their 6 children Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Jane, all born between April 1814 and January 1820.

Andrew described the children’s upbringing and harsh life experiences which had a profound effect on the writing of Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

After the death of Maria aged 11 and Elizabeth aged 10, the surviving children created an imaginary world and produced their own tiny books using Branwell’s toy soldiers as inspiration.

In 1846 Charlotte, Emily and Anne financed the publication of their poems under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell in order to disguise that they were written by women.

Charlotte’s first novel The Professor was rejected by several publishing houses. The response she received however encouraged her to submit her next work Jane Eyre which was accepted. Anne’s Agnes Grey and Emily’s Withering Heights were published 2 months later. Only after Anne’s second novel The Tennent of Wildfell Hall was published did the authors reveal their true identities.

Barnwell died in 1848 aged 31, Emily died 3 months later aged 30. Anne died a year later in Scarborough aged 29.

Charlotte continued writing and her last novel Villette was published in 1853. She married her father’s curate Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854, his first proposal having been turned down. Her happiness didn’t last however as she died less than a year later.

Patrick Bronte lived on at Howarth Parsonage until his death in 1861 at the age of 84.

Andrews talk provided a fascinating insight into the bleakness of life at the time and its effect on the Bronte family.


December 2016

This month Chair Moira welcomed back our speaker Michael Thomson to give a talk on The Battle of Otterburn “Harry Hotspurs Big Night Out”

Michael began by telling the background story of why this battle in August 1388, which some historians believe to be relatively insignificant and merely one of many border skirmishes, was in fact one of the hardest battles ever fought.

In the time before artillery and big guns war was considered fun, an adventure and if you survived, an opportunity to get rich. The English and Scots Armies had a fearful reputation throughout Europe.

Using the chronicles of Jean Froissart a 14th Century Belgian writer, photographs of the area and drawings of the battlefield Michael brought to life the lead up to the battle, the battle itself and the characters involved, the Earl of Douglas and Henry Hotspur Percy.

The battle was fought in brutal hand to hand combat in pockets of 30 to 50 men, during which the Earl of Douglas was killed and Henry Percy captured for ransom.

The Scots are generally thought to have won the battle due to Henry Hotspur being too eager to engage the Scots before his full army arrived and not using his archers.

Michael considered however that all in all this “best battle ever” should be classed as a draw much to the astonishment of at least one Scot in the audience!


Chair Moira announced after this fascinating and interesting talk that in future all Society meetings will be held at the Church of St Lawrence in the Village


November 2016 

This month our speaker was Anthony Atkinson who gave a talk on Mary Eleanor Bowes – “The Heiress of the North”.

Anthony is a volunteer guide at Gibside National Trust property near Rowlands Gill, which was Mary Eleanor Bowes childhood home. He began by giving an insight into the property, including the Chapel, Orangery, Freedom Column, Crypt and the Hall which the Bowes family ruined in the 1950s by removing the floor and roof to avoid paying rates.

Anthony then went on to describe in detail the stranger than fiction life of Mary Eleanor Bowes. Born in February 1749, she became the wealthiest heiress in Britain if not Europe at the age of 11 when her father died leaving her his vast fortune. She had however been over indulged by her father and today would have been described as “spoilt rotten”.

Her wealth enabled her to encourage the attentions of many suitors. She married John Lyon in 1762 and in accordance with her fathers will; the family name was changed to Bowes Lyon. There were 5 children from the marriage, all born between 1768 and 1773. Mary though led a licentious life and had numerous affairs.

When her husband died in 1776 Mary regained her independence and her wealth. In 1777 she had the misfortune to meet Andrew Stoney who today would be described as a psychopath. Stoney duped her into marriage by staging a fake dual in defence of her honour with the editor of the Morning Post. When Stoney found out that she had made a prenuptial agreement to safeguard her wealth, he made her life a living hell through domestic, physical and mental abuse. She escaped from Stoney in 1785 and filed for divorce, a major event for a woman in those times. She was recaptured but eventually rescued and Stoney arrested. Following a very public trial which was the talk of London, Stoney was imprisoned. Mary spent the last 11 years of her life quietly with her pets and devoted housekeeper.  She died in May 1800 and buried in Poets Corner Westminster Abbey.

Anthony gave a very enjoyable and fascinating talk on the great, great, great, great grandmother of our Queen.



October 2016 

Our first meeting of the 2016-17 programme was well attended with 38 people coming along to hear The Kings Shilling – a History of Recruitment into the Red Coat Army presented in talk and music by Peter, Alan and Pauline Giles collectively known as Old English.

Peter set the tone for the evening by playing 2 marches on the Northumbrian Pipes. We were then told Recruitment Parties used many assets to encourage men to commit to the army, including music, alcohol and false promises. They focused their attention on fairs, race meetings and public houses, places where the type of men they were looking for would attend. The Recruitment Sergeant was the key person, usually a larger than life character full of tall stories and swagger, with the ability to sell the benefits of army life. There was also the promise of a cash bounty on joining.

Once joined up recruits found that army life wasn’t all as described, it was very hard life, promotion was bought rather than on merit and the regiment was run more like a private business.

A popular money making scheme was for men to desert, and then join up again to claim a new bounty.

Another force at the time was the Militia, which could be called upon to assist the regular army at times of emergency. Men were selected to serve from a list drawn up by the local Constable. The Parish List for Warkworth was shown. Persons such as Teachers and Priests were exempt but there were many ways of dodging being called up such as paying a sum of money for a substitute to take your place. Recruitment therefore fell on the very poorest people, who could least afford to be away from their job and family.

The Volunteer Corps was another military, body not unlike “Dads Army” of WW2, which was formed at the time when a French invasion was feared. Recruits were mostly middle class and bought their own uniform. An important aspect of the Volunteer Corps was that its recruits were exempt from service in the Militia.

The talk was interspersed with appropriate music and songs, many with choruses which were sung heartily. Old English provided a very informative and entertaining evening.








 Archived Reports

Oct 2015 - May 2016 Reports

Oct 2014 - May 2015 Reports

Oct 2013 - May 2014 Reports

Oct 2012 - Apr 2013 Reports