Ploughing, pulled down houses, closed churches and a vote for reports to the Board of Health

It is the turn of the Hogg family today so we set off for Morpeth via a couple of very small places. We then drive in to Morpeth which is a very interesting town. Councils in Morpeth and the surrounding areas appear to have acquired a job lot of begonias so the town is looking very attractive. Someone or other’s law states that every house in which my ancestors lived has subsequently been demolished and in this case, are now an old people’s home and Morrison’s car park. We do have some luck with 42 Newgate Street. Chris is inside number 44 asking where number 42 is just as I spot the number on the door of 42; good job I sent him to recee. Many of the shops have old photographs in their window, together with information about previous occupants. Unfortunately most of these do not go back before the C20th.

We call in at Morpeth Tourist Information Centre where they are playing some jolly Northumbrian pipe music. This may not be such a good idea as they sell numerous fragile items and I just hope no one starts dancing some kind of reel. The assistant tells us that they have only just set up again, having evacuated as a precaution during last week’s floods but apart from one closed bridge, there is no obvious evidence of flooding in the town. Many of the old Morpeth streets have alleys or courts hidden behind them and I manage to pick up a book about these that looks very interesting. Apparently the medieval ploughing strips correspond with the later burgage plots and what are now the frontages of the shops in the historic streets. An oxen-pulled plough creates a strip five and a half yards wide and many of the shops are this width. The book also contains several old maps that will be useful. It also has extracts from the Report to the General Board of Health in the mid nineteenth century, when the Hoggs were here. Needless to say they mostly lived in the poorest streets. This is the stuff from which family histories are made.

I have checked carefully and St. Mary’s church, ‘the best C14th church in Northumberland’, is allegedly open today, that would be allegedly. I am already a bit annoyed that they haven’t responded to my enquiry concerning the burial places of my ancestors. Now I am even more annoyed that I can’t get in the church. The churchyard is huge and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of system with, for example, burials from a certain period in one place. I don’t believe that there are any surviving relevant gravestones but had they answered by enquiry I might have been able to find the burial plots of four of my ancestors. I do find the grave of suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, who threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby. The railings round  the grave have been decorated with suffragette coloured ribbons.

We return to the van in good time, so I can start writing up all this family history before I forget.


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