In search of the Pearsons of Warkworth

Today we are in search of the ancestral haunts of the Pearson family. My great great grandmother Elizabeth Pearson gave her place of birth as Togston Barnes, which I have identified on my trusty OS map, so off we set so I can take a photograph. Finding what is now Togston Barnes Farm was not the problem. It was more the three German Shepherds and the warnings of possible dire fates should anyone trespass. Nor was I reassured by what I assume are the dogs’ names, Tinker, Lizzie and Rosie, carved on the gates. I decide that our best course of action might be to pretend we are lost, followed by a hasty retreat. This is not Chris’ modus operandi and he winds down the window, that would be the window on my side of the car, to talk to the lady who has come out to investigate why the dogs are pacing threateningly and barking quite a lot. She a great deal friendlier than the dogs and the signage, not that that would be difficult. She tells us that there is a lack of grazing in the area because insufficient top soil was put back following open cast mining in the area. It seems likely that the Pearsons lived in cottages attached to the farm rather than the farm itself but who knows.

We move on to the nearby coastal town of Amble where Isabella Pearson, mother of Elizabeth, lived with her children when she was widowed. Chris enjoys looking at the harbour and we see some moulds for fibre glass boats. There are many sea birds in the estuary of the River Coquet and I spot an eider duck. I try to photograph some typical Amble cottages, such as Isabella might have inhabited. Unfortunately it is recycling day and I have trouble finding any that do not have bright blue bins outside. I have a cursory but unsuccessful look for a welly selling shop to solve the leaking shoe problem. Difficult to retain dry feet when looking round churchyards.

Next stop is Warkworth, just up the road. We look round the church then visit Warkworth Castle, originally built c. 1200 by Roger Fitz Roger but later the home of the Percy family who made many additions including the impressive tower and the Lion Gate. Warkworth was the first market town to declare for James, the Old Pretender, during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.

Lion Gate, Warkworth Castle

Finally we move on to Alnwick, the ‘big town’ where Isabella Eadington and John Pearson married in 1809. On Martha’s recommendation I visit Barter Books, a wonderful emporium in the old railway station. There is a distinct lack of parking and we are not in a designated parking space so Chris elects to stay in the car. Apart from the books, the atmosphere is great and there are opportunities to sit in front of  the open fire with a coffee and read. The shop owners were responsible for re-popularising the wartime ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ slogan that has now caught on. The church was locked but we wander round the town and then home via food shopping. I manage to escape the book shop without parting with any money so I risk the antiques centre. I am obviously feeling restrained as I don’t buy anything there either.

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