Have the various ogee-headed lights been abstracted from the principal windows ? "Immediately over the arch of the south doorway are two escutcheons.—Traces of a cross patée, doubtless for the Knights of St. John, may be seen on one, and a quarterly coat on the other. It is not improbable that this may have been the coat of Widdrington, an ancient family in the neighbourhood. In Willement's Roll, temp. Ric. II, we find Monsr. Gerrard de Wythryngton bearing Quarterly, argent and gales, a bendlet sable. Considering the perished state of the escutcheon, the bendlet may very likely have disappeared." (Woodman.)

"The piscina remains in the south-east angle. There remains in the chapel a corbel or truss rudely carved in oak, which may have been intended to represent the mitred head of a bishop, or possibly an angel, with a fillet round the forehead ornamented in front with a cross. [St. Gabriel ?] Of the roof, now wholly fallen, a few strong oak rafters remained in 1853, supporting thatch. The original roof may have been of higher pitch. Human bones have been occasionally found, and a grave-slab with a cross flory now forms the threshold of the door leading from the courtyard into a stable. In one of the windows the upper portion of a stone coffin may be seen, placed in a cavity in the wall." (Ibid.)

"Both joists and boards having a reed run along their angles." (Ibid.)
"In one of the upper chambers an old partition remains, consisting of oak planks set in grooves at the top and bottom. The edges of the planks are reeded on the face. They measure about 6 inches broad and 3 inches thick, and are placed 4 inches apart, the intervening spaces being filled up with clay and straw." (Woodman.)
" There is also access to this floor by stone stain from the court " (Ibid.)
"The windows of the upper floor opening towards the west are now flush with the wall, being of comparatively modem construction, but originally they appear to have rested on corbels projecting about 12 inches." (Ibid.)
" The principal entrance was by an arched gateway into the court on the north side. The dwelling-house is of two stories and has been divided into three apartments on each floor. On the ground floor is a passage with a low arched doorway, and there are four mullioned windows, two of three lights and the others of two lights each.." (Woodman.)
A remarkable document. " Frater Robertus Grosthette quondam magister et custos domus hospitalis Sancti Johannis de Chiburne—Priori et monachis de Insula, totam illam quietam clamacionern quam Adam filius Roberti Templeman tenens noster de Houburne feeit eisdem—de communa cujusdam petariae.—Presens scriptum sigilli domus de Chiburne impressione roboravi. Hiis testibus Fratre Johanne de Crauinne tunc preceptore de Chiburne—Alano et Roberto tunc clericis de Chiburn et allis— Seal, a cross." (Raine's No. .Dm. App. 116, from Durham Treasury, ij. j. Special., H. iij. )
History of Northumberland, Part II. Vol.ii.p.246. Hodgson thus notices briefly the ancient buildings at Low Chibburn, frequently, as he states, a residence of the dowager ladies, or of junior branches of the Widdrington family. "The old mansion house of Low Chibburn has been defended by a moat and barmkin; it is a massive old-fashioned stone building, with a chimney like a huge buttress projecting from the South gable. I see no ground to believe that the building now occupied as a barn here was ever a chapel belonging to the established Church, either in Papal times or since the Reformation, as some have supposed."
This will is preserved Consistory Court of Durham, and is dated 28th April 1593. The testator sets his mark only, in lieu of a signature. The goods at Berwick were valued at 53l. 11s. 2d.
Originalia Roll, 7 Edw. VI. part 2 in the Public Records Office.
Ministers' Accounts 4 and 5 Edward VI., amongst the records of the late Court of Augmentations, now at the rolls office, Chibburn and Temple Thornton, it deserves observation here occur under the head of "Percella possessionum nuper preceptor' Montis Saneti Johannis Baptiste in comitatu Eboracum." This connection with the Preceptory of Mount St. John, in Yorkshire, founded by Algernon Percy in the reign of Henry I., may probably explain the omission of any mention of Chibburn in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, under Northumberland, but various sums from rents, &c, in the county occur in that record under Yorkshire. See "Commanderia Montis Saneti Johannis," Valour Eccl., vol. v. p. 91
The original of this compotus has never been published, and it will be given hereafter, with some additional notices relating to the possessions of the Hospitalers, &c. in Northumberland.
The term occurred in the inventory of effects of Roger de Mortimer, at Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire, printed in this journal, vol xv p 369, where two peacocks even appear to have died in morina.
Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. iii. p. 540.
Histore de la Marine Française, by Eugene Sue, vol. iv. p. 295.
Ibid. vol. iii. p. 188.
Ibid. vol. iii. p. 185.
Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. iii. p. 174.
Ibid. vol. iii. p. 152-3.
Ibid. p. 627.
Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. ii. p. 435.
Notes and Queries, ii. series, vol. ii. p. 223.
Proc. Soc. Ant. of Newcastle, vol. iv. p. 150.
MSS. of J. J. Hope Johnstone, esq., of Annandale, Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rept. app. ix. p. 57.
MSS. of the Duke of Portland, Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rept., app. ii. p. 471.
Il y a plusieurs armateurs Français sur les costes d'Écosse qui ont pris depuis peu quarante deux bastiments Hollandois occupez à la pesche du harang, prés de Montrosse. Ils ont coulé les bastiments à fond et mis à terre les matelots.' De Londres le 24 Aoust, 1691. Recueil des nouvelles ordinaires et extraordinaires, etc., 1691.
'1692-3. Druridge, Widdrington, and Chibburn. Damaged by fire and by the French. Loss estimated at £6,000.' W. A. Bewes Church Briefs (1896).
Richer in his Vie de Jean Bart, p. 118, improves on this number. According to this author Bart burnt 'environ cinq cents maisons.'
Mémoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. i. p. 317.
London Gazette, July 23-27, and Gazette de France, August 25th, 1691, p. 639.
Mémoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. i. p. 317.
London Gazette, July 23-27, 1691. Quoted by T. P. Armstrong in Notes and Queries, 9 ser. iv. p. 152 ; also Gazette de France, August 25th, 1691, p. 639.
Mémoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. i. p. 315.
Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. ii. p. 435. Capt. Jas. Wishart, commander of the Mary galley, in a letter dated July 23rd. 1691, gives the strength of Bart's squadron as seven men-of-war, one fire-ship, and twelve privateers (Cal. of State Papers (Dom.), 1690-1, p.458). and Burchett reduces this number somewhat, 'About this time fifteen or sixteen Privateers got out of Dunkirk, and ranging along the northern coast, under the command of Monsieur Du Bart, landed in Northumberland, and there they burnt a House of Lord Widdrington's and did some other mischief.'—Remarkable Transactions at Sea (1720), book iv. e. vii. p. 444.
Cal. of State Papers (Dom.), 1690-1, p. 458.
Luttrell's A Brief historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. ii. p. 152-3.
Mémoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. i.
Luttrell's A Brief historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. ii. p. 270.
Ibid. p. 458.
Cal. State Papers (Dom.), 1690-1, p. 465.
Mémoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. i.
Cal. of State Papers (Dom.), 1690-1, p. 455.
Mémoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. i.
Cal. of State Papers (Dom.), 1690-1, p. 457.
'Passing by the Dutch squadron that were to block them up.'—Luttrell, vol. ii. p. 268.
Parl. Hist. of England, vol. v, p. 657.
Letter from M. Patoulet, Governor of Dunkirk, to A. M. de Villermont, dated Dunkirk, the 26th (?16th) July, 1691 :—' En accusant Monsieur la réception de la lettre que vous m'avez fait l'honneur de m'écrire je vous donnerai avis du passage de l'escadre de M. Bart, cette nuit à travers de trente sept vaisseaux des ennemis, dont dix-huit ou vingt lui donnent à présent chasse, et, je crois, assez inutilement. M. Bart a été prés de quinze jours dans la rade sans que les ennemis aient jugé à propos de venir l'attaquer; les vaisseaux de son escadre n'étant que de quarante pièces de canon (les plus forts) ils sont sortis du port le boutefeu à la main.'—Histoire de la Marine Française, by Eugène Sue, vol. iv. p. 290.
Cal. of State Papers (Dom.), 1690-1. p. 456.
Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. ii. p.265.
Burchett's Remarkable Transactions at Sea (1720), book iv. chap. vii. pp. 440-1.
Memoires du Comte de Forbin, vol. 1.
Recueil des nourelles ordinaires et extraordinaires, relations et récits des choses avenues tant en ce royaume qu'ailleurs pendant l'année 1691.
Description Historique de Dunkerque, by Pierre Faulconnier, 1730. Book viii. p. 101 ; and also Jean Bart, by Adolphe Badin. Paris, 1882, p. 111.
Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, front September 1678 to April 1714, vol. ii. p. 253, and London Gazette for July 6th, 1691.
March 12, 1690-91. Sir Ralph Delavall is sail'd from the buoy in the Nore with a squadron of 15 men of war., and is ordered to cruise off Dunkirk to prevent a squadron of French men of war that are there from joining the Brest fleet. Luttrell's A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vol. ii. p. 194. May, 1691. Sir Ralph Delavall continues with his squadron to block up Dunkirk. Ibid. p. 224.
History of England, vol. iv. pp. 292-3.
Ten years after this Nova Taxatio represented nearly all the rectories in Northumberland as worthless, being wasted and wholly destroyed. In 1322 the clergy of Durham appealed to the pope their being taxed according to the old taxation, because, as their proctor represented, the fruits ecclesiastical of the said diocese were so greatly reduced, as well by the hostile incursions, burnings, plunderings, and devastations of the Scots, as by contributions for the common advantage, which were so notorious and manifest as to need no verification.
At Thornton the Chaplain who had no board had 62s a year. The statutes 39 Edw. c. 8. enacts that if any secular man in the realm pay any more than five marks to any priest yearly in money or other things to the value, or if he shall pay to such priest retained to abide at his table above 2 marks, 1l. 6s. 8d., for his gown and other necessaries (his table to be accommodated 40s) he shall pay to the king fully as much as he paid to the priest.
The Preceptor and brethren had a yearly allowance for dress, and this appears invariable throughout the Preceptories. It consisted of 1l. for a robe, 6s. 8d. for a mantle, 8s. for other necessaries : amounting in all to 1l.14s. 8d. The allowance at Chibburn was, therefore, for two patrons only.
See Mr. Kemble's explanation of this item of income, called also Confraria, or Collecta,' Introduction to the Hospitalers in England', pub. Camden Soc., p. xxx. It was a voluntary contribution, collected from the neighbourhood, in the various churches, originally levied, probably, by Virtue of some papal bull for a particular purpose.
The Knights Hospitalers in England: edited by the Rev. L. B. Larking. Printed for the Camden Society. 1857. The portion relating to the "Bajulia de Chibburn,'' will be found at pp. 52, 53.
In the Treasury at Durham is preserved a grant to the monks of Holy Island by Robert Grosthette formerly Master and keeper of the House of the hospital of St John at Chibburn. It is witnessed by Brother John de Craninne the Preceptor of Chibburn, Alan and Robert, clerks of the same place, and others. The smaller houses of the Hospitalers were usually denominated Commanderies, and their heads Commanders, but they used the designation Preceptories and Preceptors in like manner as the knights of the Temple.
This article was written by William Woodman, F.S.A, Newcastle, Town Clerk of Morpeth, and was originally published in The Archaeological Journal, volume XVII, 1860.
There remain in the chapel a corbel or truss rudely carved in oak, which may have intended to represent the mitred head of a bishop, or possibly an angel, with a fillet round the forehead ornamented in front with a cross. Of the roof, now wholly fallen, a few strong oak rafters remained in 1853, supporting thatch. The original roof may have been of higher pitch.
 It is remarkable that there is no fireplace on the ground floor, but a recess or closet is cut out of the solid base of the chimney within the room apparently in modern times. There is no flue.
Mr Parker alludes to this feature, observing that the corbels were possibly introduced for the purpose of attacking assailants who were beneath. This is however questionable.
A short account of this interesting building has been given in Mr. J. H. Parker's Domestic Architecture in England, vol. ii., Fourteenth Century, p.197, with a ground-plan of the buildings and a view of the chapel. The author, whose authority in subjects of this nature few will fail to recognise, speaks of the Preceptory of Chibburn as "now existing almost as it was left by the brethren," and from the mouldings, &c., he concludes that the buildings, which were reported in 1338 to be in bad condition, were rebuilt at the end of the fourteenth century. A somewhat different opinion has, however, been advanced in a paper read before the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, whilst the Memoir given above was in the press. It is alleged that great part of the buildings are later than the Reformation, and that the curious arrangement of the upper chamber in the chapel, noticed by Mr. Parker, and described in the account here given, is altogether a secondary adaptation, in no manner connected with the original arrangements of the chapel. This communication will probably appear in the Archaeologia Aeliana.

Low Chibburn Preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers and The Dower House,
Widdrington, Northumberland.

    Chibburn Preceptory and Dower House sit in open farmland about a mile east-north-east from Widdrington Village, i.e. halfway between the village and the coast at Druridge Bay. Access is provided by a marked public right of way footpath from the coast, with the latter part across open fields. Note this includes crossing several stiles.
    The ruins on this site divide into two separate periods and functions; a pre dissolution Preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers and a post dissolution ‘dower’ dwelling house, built later which also utilised the abandoned Preceptory buildings.
Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John.
    Established approximately 1023 in Jerusalem as a Christian religious order caring for the poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land. Gradually the Hospitallers established a military wing, becoming defenders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem similar and allied to the Knights Templar, but differed by also maintaining their humanitarian role. To finance their exploits in the Holy Land the Knights Hospitallers received many gifts of land and estates in England to be worked to generate revenue.
Chibburn Preceptory (<1313-1540s)
(Preceptory = headquarters)
    The precise date of the establishment of the Hospitallers’ Chibburn manor is unknown, although the date recognised as the first mention in the surviving records is 1313. For over two hundred years the manor performed its dual functions of raising revenue for the order and caring for the poor and sick. The location of the estate, on the pilgrims’ route to Lindisfarne, was likely to have been of significance - probably being an important staging post. The Preceptory was defended by a circular moat 100 yards in diameter, access being via a gatehouse to the north perimeter, these defences are now unfortunately destroyed.
   The Preceptory was lost to the Hospitallers at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and in 1553 the land was granted to Sir John Widdrington.
Dower House. (16c-)
(Dower House =separate building to house the widow of an estate to allow the male heir to take over the main dwelling and the estate management from his late father)
    Probably built by Sir John Widdrington, the dower house is a massive additional building also connected to and utilising the Preceptory buildings, the whole structure forming a square enclosing a small courtyard. Today the only significant remains are the main dower house and Preceptory chapel forming an angle of one half of the square - of the other sides only a small amount of masonry remains.
French Raid 1691
    During the war with France the French naval hero Jean Bart evaded an English patrol at Dunkirk and sailed immediately up the east coast to attack shipping at Newcastle. Finding no ships he continued north - sighting Widdrington Castle he landed at Druridge Bay. Jean Bart and his men then moved rapidly inland pillaging Widdrington village and the castle. On his return to his vessel he stopped at Chibburn and put the buildings to the torch.
 (Click the thumbnails for a larger image)
Preceptory Chapel
Chibburn Preceptory Chapel Near intact wall, facing southeast Remainder of walls of the other buildings to the north east corner, with the Chapel behind Doorway facing southeast Remnant of Chapel doorway, northwest facing wall
Chapel windows, northwest facing wall Arms over doorway (see text below, probably St John on the left and Widdrington on the right.) Piscina and Aumbry in southeast corner Chapel interior main doorway
Courtyard side of Dower house (faces northeast) with corner of Chapel WW2 firing loop built into Chapel wall      
Dower House
West facing wall South west corner showing chapel Gable end facing north west    
Interior south end Part buried fireplace south end Interior of main room north end Doorway, kitchen/passage to courtyard Kitchen and 1st floor fireplaces north end of the building
Above two images: A pair of water colours of the site painted in the 1930s by Graham Noble, a descendant of Sir Andrew Noble.

Note: What follows are two papers on Chibburn from 1860/1; the first (1) by Woodman makes the error of assuming the buildings are all of the same age, and thus has difficulty in interpreting the later modifications made to the chapel. The second paper by Wilson (2) , notes the errors in Woodman's paper and offers the now accepted correct interpretation of the structures. Bearing this in mind, both papers taken together offer considerable insight into the history of Chibburn Preceptory and the Dower House. A third paper from 1899 (Tomlinson) (3) on the 1691 French raid on Widdrington is included to complete our 'Chibburn Story'.



        Almost in the centre of the crescent formed by Druridge Bay on the coast of Northumberland, upon flat ground about half a mile from the sea, stands a partly ruinous structure evidently of some antiquity. This was once a Preceptory of the Knights of St. John. The buildings now remaining are curious, as affording an example probably of the oldest house in Northumberland, as distinguished from a pele-tower or a castle ; and they have not been injured by modern alterations or attempts at restoration. N

Ground Plan
(the scale is in 10 feet intervals)

    The building has been defended by a moat, enclosing an area of about 100 yards in diameter ; the walls are of stone, and the roof had been originally covered with freestone slates. The buildings, as will be seen in the accompanying ground-plan, formed a parallelogram, having a courtyard (A) in the middle ; on the west side is the dwelling-house (B) ; the chapel (C) occupies the entire south side, and various offices have been on the north and east. The principal entrance was by an arched gateway (D) into the court on the north side. The dwelling house B) is of two stories, and has been divided into three apartments on each floor. On the ground floor is a passage (E) with a low arched doorway, and there are four mullioned windows, two of three lights and the others of two lights each ; the stairs leading to the upper floor are constructed of solid blocks of wood ; the ceiling of the ground floor is formed merely by the oak joists and boards of the floors of the apartments above, both joists and boards having a reed run along their angles, and the under surface of the boards was planed
smooth, and left without any plaster. The windows of the upper floor opening towards the west are now flush with the
wall, being of comparatively modern construction, but originally they appear to have rested on corbels projecting about twelve inches, and this arrangement may have served, it is supposed, for some purpose of defence.
    There is also access to this floor by stone stairs (F) from the court. In each apartment is a spacious fireplace deeply recessed, having the lintel formed of a very largo stone, with a releaving arch above. In one of the upper chambers an old partition remains, consisting of oak planks set in grooves at the top and bottom. The edges of the planks are reeded on the face ; they measure about five inches broad and three inches thick, and are placed four inches apart, the intervening spaces being filled up with clay and straw.

Fig I, Jamb of east window. Fig II, String Course of south side of chapel.  Fig III, Jamb of chapel door.

The southern or external wall of the chapel (C) had probably undergone many alterations before it ceased to be used as a place of worship. The external details are shown in the accompanying sketch of the elevation. At the east end (G), which some have supposed more modern than the rest, is a pointed window of four lights (sec section of jamb, fig. I) ; on the south side were two large square-headed windows, possibly more modern than the western part of the building ; and at about mid-height there is a string-course (see section, fig. II), which rose over the large windows and fell at the doorway.
Fig IV.
There have apparently been two entrances, one on the north side (H) by a pointed arch with mouldings (see section of door jamb, fig. III), and the other on the south (I), a plain pointed doorway with a dripstone.
On each side of the latter door there is an ogee window widely splayed and square-headed in the inside ; above and
a little to the west of the doorway is a double ogee window with dripstone above ; a cornice ran along beneath the roof. (See section, fig. 4). Immediately over the arch of the south doorway there are two escutcheons ; the charges are nearly obliterated, but traces of a cross patee, doubtless for the Knights of St. John, may be seen on one, and a quarterly coat on the other. It is not improbable that this may have been the coat of Widdrington, an ancient in the neighbourhood.
In Willement's Roll, temp. Richard II., we find "Monsr. Gerrard de Wythryngton" bearing quarterly argent and gules a bendlet sable. Considering the perished state of the escutcheon the bendlet may very likely have disappeared. The east end (G) has an oblique buttress at the S.E. angle, and possibly a similar buttress may have existed at its other angle. In the chapel a peculiarity deserves notice; there is a floor nearly on a level with of that the upper rooms and communicating with them ; the upper chamber so formed had a fireplace in a massive chimney which is built from the ground, projecting on the outside near the entrance door (H). N The floor does not extend to the east window, but about two-thirds of the entire length from the west end. This chamber probably opened at the east end into the chapel, and was doubtless used by the principal inmates of the house at the time of divine service. Another example of such an arrangement may be noticed in the chapel in
Warkworth Castle. The piscina remains in south east angle ;
N human bones have been occasionally found, and a grave-slab
with a cross flory now forms the threshold of the door leading from the courtyard into a stable. This slab is of greater width at the head than at the foot ; the head of the cross carved upon it is pierced in the centre with a large curvilinear lozenge. In one of the windows the upper portion of a stone coffin may be seen, placed in a cavity in the wall.

Sketch of Chibburn Preceptory

 Such being the character of the ancient remains still existing at Chibburn, curiosity is excited to learn some details of their history. No evidence has been found to show at what period or by whom the establishment was originally founded, possibly by the Fitzwilliams, the tenants in capite under the crown, or by the Widdringtons, who held under them in the twelfth century. The defaced escutcheon, before noticed, existing over the principal doorway into the chapel, might indeed give some colour to the supposition that the family last named were the founders.
   The earliest mention of the house of Chibburn which has been discovered is contained in the Return made to the following mandate to inquire into the goods of the Hospitalers, in the year 1313, and preserved in the Register of Bishop Kellaw, at Durham. It was issued in pursuance of letters from the Nuncio, Arnaldo, Cardinal of St. Prisca, sent by Clement V. to reconcile Edward II. to the barons, and persuade him to grant the Templars' lands to the knights of St. John : to this the Return of the Bishop is subjoined.


     Petrus de Dene, canonicus Eboracensis, venerabilis patris domini Willielmi, Dei gratia Eboracensis Archiepiscopi, Anglie Primatis, ipso extra suam agente diocesim vicarius generalis, et Johannes de Nassington officialis curie Eboracensis ejusdem ecclesie canonicus, venerabili in Christo patri domino Ricardo, Dei gratia Dunelmensi Episcopo, salutem cum reverencia et honore debitis tanto patri.

     Mandatuni dicti venerabilis patris Arcbiepiscopi Eboracensis recepimus in hec verba ; Willielnius, permissione divina Eboracensis Archiepiscopus, Anglie Primas, dilectis filiis Magistris Petro de Dene, nobis extra nostrum diocesim ageutibus vicario nostro generali, et Johanni de Nassington officiali nostro Eboracensi, salutem, gratiam, et benedictionem. Literam quamdam venerabilis patris, domini Arnaldi, Dei gratia titulorum (?) Sancte Prisce presbiteri Cardinalis, una cum quibusdam aliis suis literis, recepimus, tenorem qui sequitur continentem ; si temporalitas Hospitalariorum civitatura diocesios et provincie vestre in prestatione decime cujusque reperiatur apud vos, officiales vestros, vel eorum officiales estimata et taxata, quod diligenter ex causa volumus per vos perquiri eam ; vel, si non reperiatur, valorem et existimacionem communem redditunin et proventuum ipsius temporalitatis singillatim, prout Prior generalis et singuli preceptores habent et tenent in singulis civitatibus diocesios (et ?) vestre provincie, per vos, alium, vel alios, informacione, prout vobis videbitur, caucius et secrecius  facienla, nobis per latorem presencium vel alium, quam cicius poteritis, transmittatis. Datum London, ij. Kalendis Julii. Super contentis igitur in litera domini Cardinalis predieta inquiratis, absque more dispendio, cum omni qua poteritis diligentia, veritatem certificantes nos indilate super hiis que inveneritis in premissis per vestras clausas literas harum seriem contineutes. Valete. Datum apud Walmesford, vj. Nonis Julii, Anno gratie Mo. ccco. xiijo. Quocirca reverende paternitati vestre, cum ea reverencia qua decet, auctoritate nobis in hac parte demandata injungimuis et mandamus, quatenus dictum mandatum, juxta vim, formam, et cffectum ejusdem per vestras civitatem et diocosim secrecius et caucius quo poteritis executioni celeri demandetis ; et quod feceritis et invenoritis in premissis nos, quamcicius commode poteritis, reddatis plenius certiores per vestras clausas literas harum scriem continentes. Datum apud Eboracum, sub siyillo officialitatis curie Eboracensis quo ambo utimur in hac parte, Nonis Julii, Anno gratio Mo ccco. tercio decimo.

    Nos igitur, de bonis temporalibus predictorum Hospitalariorum inquiri diligencius et caucius quo potuimus facientes, per remissa nobis certificatoria inveninuis, quod dicti Hospitalarii habent in Archidiaconatu Northumbrie domum de Chipburn ; que cum minutis ad eam pertinentibus ad decem libras annis communibus estimatur. Conservet vos altissimus et semper dirigat in honorem. Datum apud Stoketon, xxx. die Julii.


    At this time, when the Hospitalers had not acquired the lands of the Templars, it appears by the foregoing document that Chibburn belonged to the Knights of St. John, therefore it must have been originally granted to them.
    We occasionally find a Preceptor of Chibburn appearing as a witness to some ancient deed.
N A recent discovery at Malta has thrown light upon the history of this place. A few years since alterations were making at the house of the Knights of St. John in that island, and on removing some plaster a place of deposit in the wall was found containing a considerable number of documents relating to the order. Among these was a volume thus entitled—"Extenta terrarumet tenementorum Hospitalis sancti Johannis Jerusalem in Anglia, facta per Phillippum de Thame, cjusdem Hospitalis in Anglia Priorem, anno domini millesinio trescentescimo tricesimo octavo." The volume is bound in parchment, and on the cover, in the handwriting of the sixteenth century, is inscribed,—"Liber in quo per minutum exprimuntur reditus Prioratus Hospitalis Sancti Johannis Hierosolimitani in Anglia et omnium ipsius Comondarum, secundum valorem currentem anno 1338, codemque modo exprimuntur aliqua bona ordinis
Templarioriun que ordini Sancti Johannis Hierosolimitani post extinctionem dicti ordinis Tcmplariorum fuerunt adjudicata.
Qui liber confectus ex ordinatione fratris Phillippi Thame tunc temporis ipsius Prioratus Anglie Prioris."
    The Rev. Lambert B. Larking, during a visit to Malta in 1839, copied this record, and kindly sent me an extract of so much of it as relates to Chibburn. In this remarkable document, being the Report of the Prior to the Grand Master Elyan de Villanova, we have a survey prepared by the Hospitalers themselves, in all probability that the Grand Master of the Order might have a complete account of their lands recently acquired, as well as those they had previously possessed. The entire record has subsequently been printed by the Camden Society, under the editorial care of Mr. Larking, with a most valuable historical introduction by the late Mr. Kemble.
     From this account we learn that in 1338 three of the Hospitalers resided at Chibburn, viz., brother John de Bilton the Preceptor, brother John Dacombe the Chaplain, and brother Simon Dengayne. It must not be supposed, however, that these were the sole occupants of the Preceptory, as they would have a numerous train of servants. The gross income amounted to 23l. 18s. 8d., and was derived from various sources. The manor-house (maneriuin) was ruinous, but the herbage was worth 6s. ; 190 acres of land, at 4d. per acre, were worth 63s. 4d. ; 8 acres of meadow, at 2s. per. acre, 16s. The rents of assise in times of peace amounted to 20 marks, or 13l. 6s. 8d., but at that time on account of the war with the Scots 110s. could scarce be collected. The annual collection (fraria)
N made in the churches ad voluntatem, by reason of the war yielded only 12½ marks and not more, because the bailiwick (hajulia) was in the march of Scotland. The profits of the courts were 10s. per annum. The pasture of cows and sheep of two years old (bidentes) was worth 40s. ; and lastly for rents (firmis) and mills 66s. 8d. a year was received.
    Of this income the expenses (reprise) of the house, namely, for the Preceptor, two brothers, with others of the household, and for those who came there for hospitality, were, for bread for a year 25 quarters, at 3s per quarter, 75s. ; malt
for ale, 28 quarters, at 2s. per quarter, 56s. ; for expenses of the kitchen, as for flesh, fish, and other things, 1s. 6d. per
week, 78s ; for robes, mantles, and other necessaries for the Preceptor and one of his brethren (confratris sui), 3l, 9s. 4d.
N The stipend of the Chaplain N was 15s. per annum. The chamberlain (camerarius) had 10s. a year ; the head stableman
(palefridarius) 5s. a year, and a helper (pagettus) 3s. ; the salary of the laundress was 12d. ; a certain seneschal or steward had 6s. 8d. a year (defendendo negotin domus), and a clerk for collecting the confraria, 13s. 4d. In addition to these payments, William do Wyrkelee, a pensioner, received 20s. a year for his life, according to a deed of the chapter. All the expenses and payments amounted to 17l. 13s. 4d., and a balance of 6l. 6s. 8d. remained to be paid to the treasurer for defraying the common charges (pro oneribus supportandis), and no more, because the land was destroyed and often plundered in consequence of the war with Scotland, From this we learn the great injury sustained by the wars with Scotland, which will readily be believed when it is considered that the date of the survey is in the reign of Edward III. after the battle of Halidon Hill, and before the battle of Neville's cross.
     We learn from this account that the gross income of the Preceptory in 1338 was 23l. 18s. 8d. Those who have not been accustomed to consider the changes in the value of money during the last five centuries will be at first disposed to look
upon its possessions as contemptible. But the real importance of the Preceptory and the value of property and labour in Northumberland at that period may be advantageously illustrated by an almost contemporaneous record. It must be remembered that the account which we have cited was prepared by the brethren themselves, and presents but a brief report. In the accounts of the Hospitalers' lands, taken by Prior Philip de Thame in 1338, already cited, we have a return of the house at Temple Thornton, in Northumberland, which had formerly belonged to the Templars, and was then in the possession of the Hospitalers ; its revenues amounted only to 16l. 5s. By the report, however, of the Sheriff of Northumberland, to whom the custody of the Templars' lands appears to have been entrusted, subsequently to their being seized into the king's hands in January, 1308, the income and expenditure of Temple Thornton are shown to have been very considerable. The Sheriff's compotus, preserved among the Templars' Rolls, and extending from November, 1308, to March, 1309, not only enables us to appreciate the importance and revenues of that establishment, and the extensive nature of its agricultural operations, but affords much curious and minute information regarding the internal management of the house, and also as to the rate of wages, the prices of provisions, and the husbandry in Northumberland at the commencement of the fourteenth century. This document has not been published, and as it places before us a remarkable illustration of the economy and general condition of establishments such as that at Chibburn, to which this memoir specially relates, it has been thought of sufficient interest to justify our placing before our readers the following detailed abstract of its contents.
    It appears in these accounts of the Sheriff, Guychard Charon, that, besides rents of assise in Thornton and many other places in Northumberland and Durham, the rents of mills and breweries, the receipts for days' works due from tenants in summer and autumn, which appear to have been farmed out in lieu of being rendered on their own lands, he had received divers sums of money for the rent of a dove-house, the proceeds from the sale of turves, and from hens and eggs received as rents of assize ; also for wheat, rye, meslin, barley, barley and oats mixed, and oats, hastily sold for fear of a raid by the Scots ; also for cattle, sheep, goats, and swine sold ; for geese, hides, sheepskins, and wool. The sum total of receipts is 94l. 2s. 7d. As regards the prices of different kinds of live stock here enumerated, it appears that 3 oxen sold for 12s. ; 3 cows, 3 calves, and 6 barren cows sold for 76s. 8d. ; 3 bullocks sold for 27s., and a bull for 10s. ; 232 sheep of different kinds sold for 11l. 13s., averaging 1s per head ; 88 lambs sold for 1l. 6s. 8d., being 3½d, per head ; 8 goats sold for 6s. 8d. ; and 21 swine for 28s. For 71 hens was received 5s. 8d. ; 580 eggs produced 2s. 5d., being at the rate of 20 for a penny ; and 6
geese sold for 1s. 6d. 184 fleeces, weighing 17 stone 1 lb., produced 4l. 5s. 5d., being at the rate of 5s. per stone. The
Scots were not the only occasion of losses, since we find that a murrain must have been very prevalent; 6 oxen, 170
sheep of different kinds, and 3 pigs appear to have died in morina, an expression which is remarkable, as being frequently used without mortuus or any equivalent word. Occasionally it is de morina. The familiar use of so elliptical a phrase
may suggest how very frequent such epidemics must have been among cattle.
    We shall find the expenditure not less interesting than the receipts. The Sheriff accounts for wheat for sowing bought at 6s. 8d. per quarter, and oats at 2s. 6d. ; for rye and meslin for livery to the household at 6s. 8d. per quarter ; also for oats bought for meal for porridge for the servants, for oats bought in the sheaf fur oxen (boves) and cows, and for oats bought for provender for the oxen (affri) in sowing time. He also accounts for ploughs and harrows ; for digging turves to burn in winter ; for ointment for the sheep ; for wages of a man taking care of lambs in the early part of the year at a halfpenny per day ; and for washing and shearing sheep. The rates of wages appear to have been as follows. For weeding 37 acres of wheat and 10½ acres of oats, one halfpenny per acre; for mowing, making, and carrying 21 acres of hay 13s 1d.; for reaping, gathering, and binding, 37 acres of wheat and 101½ acres of oats, at 7d. per acre for the wheat, and 6d. for the oats ; for the wages of a man overlooking the reapers, for 30 days, at 2d. per day ; for the wages of six ploughmen, one cowherd, one shepherd, and a man keeping house and making porridge, for the whole year, 40s.; for the wages of a swineherd for sixteen weeks 12d.; and for the wages of two men harrowing in seed time for 31 days, as well in winter as in Lent, 5s. 2d. For two bushels of salt bought for the porridge of the servants a payment was made of 10d. ; for threshing and winnowing 21 quarters of wheat, rye and meslin, 8 quarters of barley, and 44 quarters of oats. 8s. 6d. ; and for the wages of a man having charge of the Manor during the time of the account, at three halfpence per day, 39s. 4½d. The total expenses, including costs incurred in respect of the custody of three Templars, and carrying them to York, amounted to 56l. 10s. 7¾d.
    It may be remarked that the account is kept in a very business-like manner, as, in addition to the receipts and expenses, we find a stock account showing how stock had been disposed of, and what remained. The remarkable difference in the productive return in 1308 as compared with the account in 1338 published by Mr. Larking, amounting only to 16l. 5s., would seem to show how very variable were prices, owing doubtless to the unsettled state of the Northern Borders ; and, when it is considered that the extent of the Preceptory of Thornton was one-third less than that of Chibburn, the gross income of which was stated at 23l. I8s. 8d. at that period, we may possibly form a more correct notion of the value of Chibburn, at that earlier time.
    Great as is the apparent difference between the prices of produce and the rate of wages at the period of the account and in our own times, one cannot but be struck with the similarity of the proportion of the different kinds of produce to each other then and now. We also find that the course of agriculture in an age esteemed rude was not materially different from that at present pursued. The land was ploughed and harrowed, the corn was sown at autumn and spring, it was weeded and bound in sheaves, the hay was harvested, and the sheep were salved to protect them from the cold and wet of winter, washed and shorn, just as at this day. The servants appear to have been fed almost entirely upon bread and oatmeal, they consumed neither beef nor mutton.
    We find little more of Chibburn until the Dissolution. The possessions of the Hospitalers were surrendered to the Crown in 1540, and from the Ministers' Accounts in the Augmentation Office we learn that in 1550 the manor of Chibburn was worth 4l. per annum, besides the stipend of the chaplain performing divine service there.
N The value was much less than it had been 200 years earlier, but it must be observed that in the terrier of 1338 all the lands attached to Chibburn were included, while in the Ministers' Accounts the value of Chibburn is set out separately, and other possessions are named in the Ministers' Accounts which were probably held by the Preceptor of Chibburn. There are lands at Ulgham, at North Seaton, Newbiggin, Ellington, Felton, Chevington, and Morwick. In 1553 the manor of Chibburn, described as parcel of the possessions of the preceptory of Mount St. John, in Yorkshire, was granted to Sir John "Widdrington and Cuthbert Musgrave. N In 1593, Hector "Widdrington, the natural son of Sir John Widdrington, and described as one of the constables of horsemen of Berwick-upon-Tweed, by his will left all his corn at Chibburn to two of his servants, and he must have had a residence there, as in the inventory of his goods we find, besides a long list of chattels, armour, furniture and clothes at Berwick, the following household effects at Chibburn, — " Imprimis, one Flanders chist ; Item, in the same chist, iiij. table clothes, &c. Item, one basin and ewer, and iij. pewter dishes, v. saucers, syx porringers, and three broken candlesticks ; Item, one quishinge of arras worke, and two pec' of nedell worke for quishings ; Item, one cros-bowe and a racke." N The total value of these ellects at Chibburn was 4l. 9s. 2d.
Before two centuries had passed, the manor of Chibburn was again the property of the Crown by the attainder of William, the fourth Lord Widdrington, for rebellion in 1715. In the survey for the Crown in 1717, the only trace of the former owners is that two fields are called St. John's Flatt meadow and St. John's pasture. The Widdrington estates were sold to the York Building Company, and, on the wreck of that body, they were purchased by Sir George Warren, Bart.  In a survey made for him in 1768, it is said,—"The mansion House at Lower Chibburn is the remains of a religious house; the walls and timber are extraordinary good, but the slate is much out of repair ; it has never been pointed nor any of the rooms ceiled ; the slate ought to be taken off, dressed over, and what it falls short made up with new. The tenants make themselves conveniences for stables, &c., out of what were formerly a chapel and parlours."
    A century has not passed away since the date of the last survey, and several persons descendants of the occupants at that period now reside upon the lands, yet tradition has failed to preserve the least remembrance of the purpose to which the buildings were originally devoted, so much so indeed that the late Mr. Hodgson, the learned historian of Northumberland, doubted whether they had ever been connected with any religious establishment.
The manor of Chibburn is now the property of Lord Vernon, and it were much to be desired that the interesting character
of the remains which have been described should be brought under his notice, and that he might be induced to preserve one of the most curious relics of domestic architecture of its class now existing in the North of England.
    On a future occasion it is proposed to give, as a sequel to the foregoing account, some of the documents, hitherto unpublished, with such further notices as may be brought to light, relating to the possessions of the Hospitalers and the Templars in Northumberland.


    Mr. Wilson also presented detailed views and elevations of this interesting building, and read some " new notes" thereon. A previous paper, alluded to by Mr. Wilson, was read by Mr. Woodman, at the Newcastle Congress of the Archaeological Institute, and, since the reading of Mr. Wilson's, has been published in 17 Arch. Journal, 35. Mr. Woodman observes that the establishment was possibly founded by the Fitz-Williams, the tenants in chief, or by the Widdringtons, who held under them in the twelfth century, and whose arms may be intended by a defaced quarterly escutcheon over the chapel doorway. He then cites the following evidences :-1. Bishop Kellaw's return (in his Register) of the Hospitaliers' goods in 1313, before the acquisition of the Templars' lands. The house of Chipburn was then worth 10l. yearly. 2. The document mentioned by Mr. Wilson, and printed by Dr. Raine, viz., a grant by Robert Grosthette, formerly
master and keeper of the house of the hospital of St. John at Chibburn. It is witnessed by brother John de Crauinne, the preceptor of Chibburn, Alan and Robert, clerks, of the same place, and others.
N 3. The Hospitallers' rental in England, in 1338, (published by the Camden Society), wherein, under " bajulia (bailiwick) de Chiburn," we find that brother John de Bilton the preceptor, brother John Dacombe the chaplain, and brother Simon Dengayne, and some enumerated servants of the household, resided at Chibburn. The manor-house was ruinous, and Mr Parker attributes the present buildings to a period immediately succeeding. That this is the date of the chapel is admitted on all hands. 4. The crown minister's account, in 1540, after the Dissolution, mentioning the manor of Chibburn as parcel of the possessions of the late preceptory of Mount St. John, in Yorkshire, and the chaplain performing divine service there. 5. The grant of the manor to Sir John Widdrington and Cuthbert Musgrave in 1553. 6. The will and inventory in 1593 of Hector Widdrington, a constable of horsemen of Berwick, and natural son of Sir John ; his chattels at Berwick were worth 55l. 11s. 2d. ; and he had corn at Chibburn, with diverse household chattels, worth 4l. 9s. 2d. 7. The survey for the crown in 1717, after the attainder of Lord Widdrington. Two of the fields are called St. John's-flatt-meadow and St. John's-pasture. 8. A survey made for Sir George Warren, bart., a subsequent owner, in 1768.
 "The mansion house at Low Chibburn is the remains of a religious house. The walls and timber are extraordinary good, but the slate is much out of repair. It has never been pointed, nor any of the rooms coiled. The slate ought to be taken off, dressed over, and what it falls short made up with new. The tenants make themselves conveniences for stables, &c., out of what were formerly a chapel and parlours." The manor is now Lord Vernon's.
   Mr. Wilson's paper is printed below.
   Having undertaken, with the sanction of the Venerable Archdeacon of Lindisfarne, the task of surveying and delineating every church in his archdeaconry, my investigations led me to Warkworth, where the courtesy of the vicar introduced me to what he considered a most interesting but somewhat enigmatical ruin in his neighbourhood—Chibburn. The great archaeological interest I found the remains to possess, on attentive examination, induced me to return for three successive days, and to make a most careful delineation of every part of the buildings, stone by stone, which drawings I have now the honour to present to the Society. I have made no research for historical accounts of the place, as I learned that a paper, yet unpublished, had been read by one of the members of the Society ; but I see, among the copies of charters printed in Raine's North Durham, a document mentioning the original building as the Hospital of St. John de Chibburn.
     All mention of Chibburn, in any of the works on Northumberland, is bare and scanty always ; and more than once incorrect. Mackenzie merely says Chibburn is a very old strong building, which has been moated round ; and the rivulet which passes it could easily be diverted into the ditch in times of danger." Hodgson goes so far as to say : — " It is a massive old-fashioned stone building, with a chimney like a huge buttress projecting from its south gable. I see no ground to believe that the building, now occupied as a barn here, was ever a chapel belonging to the established church, either in papal times, or since the Reformation, as some have supposed." But, in Turner's valuable book on Domestic Architecture, the subject is treated at greater length. Finding that the conclusions drawn in this more modem and important notice are not quite correct, and knowing also, that the opinions expressed in it are likely to be consulted for ultimate decision in any contested point, I deemed it would not be uninteresting to the Society to hear the evidence of the stones themselves.
  The passage referred to is as follows : — "But the preceptory of the Hospitaliers, at Chibburn, existing now almost as it was left by the brethren, affords too curious and interesting a subject to be passed over.. . . The building formed a hollow square, into which there was one gateway ;
N and in all probability all the entrances to the building were from the court yard. The principal dwelling-house, which was at the west end, is still almost perfect. It is a long, low building of two stories, having external chimneys at the south end, and others in the centre. The windows on the second floor were built with corbels, probably to attack assailants who were beneath. N Internally, we find the partition of oak plank placed in a groove at top and bottom, with a narrow reed ornament on the face three inches in thickness, placed at a distance of twelve inches apart, the interstices filled with loam. N The chimneys are of great size, having one very large stone over the opening for the fireplace. The steps to the second story are solid blocks of wood, those beneath being of stone. N The ceiling of the ground floor is of oak moulded, N upon which are laid narrow oak planks, having their undersides smoothed, and a reed ornament on them, so as not to require plaster. The south side was formed by the chapel, which is of excellent ashlar work. At the east end is the great window ; and the chapel has this peculiarity —there is an upper floor of about two-thirds its length from the west, still remaining, with the fireplace at the proper level. This has clearly been part of the original plan, and is a good example of the domestic chapel as described in previous chapters ; and it communicates with the dwelling. There is a similar instance of this in a chapel within the keep at Warkworth Castle. The east and north sides are missing ; they doubtless contained the inferior dwelling rooms, stables, &c."
    That part of the-building called in the foregoing account the " principal dwelling house," instead of being part of the fourteenth century edifice, as conjectured, is clearly indicated by the character of the masonry to be post-Reformation work. It is built in the semi-fortified, semi-domestic style that prevailed in those fierce times when every man's house was his castle as well as his home. I incline to fix the precise date as immediately succeeding the Reformation, for this reason : when the dwelling house was building, advantage was taken of the fact of the chapel being in good preservation, and in disuse, to secure additional chamber accommodation. The floor, described in the before-quoted passage as only extending two-thirds the length of the chapel, was inserted ; and fireplaces and doors made precisely similar in character to those of the new house, to make it thus available. The floor however, extended the whole length of the chapel ; for a door, leading to other apartments in an adjacent building, now in ruins, is situated on the very angle which is erroneously supposed not to have been floored. (See drawing at A.) I can well imagine it would be difficult to come to any other conclusion, after taking up the fallacious opinion that the work was all of one period ; because the floor brought up to the east end cuts the east window in two. But, as will be seen from my drawings, the east window was filled up to meet this contingency, and two small square apertures left in the interstice—the one to light the upper floor, the other the lower one.
   On the south side of the chapel, the label moulding of the ancient building points out the original features. It rose and fell regularly over three windows on one level, and arched over the doorway. It was broken up, when the floor was laid, in the manner we now see ; the doorway filled up, and the original windows disposed of in the same manner, except the bases of two of them, which were cunningly turned into small square lights for the lower floor of the chapel thus divided. The two small ogee-headed single lights, so curiously below the level of the other windows, were also left to light the lower part of the building ; while a new square mullioned opening was made on the same line as an existing double ogee-headed window, to furnish more light for the upper part.
    The story of Chibburn, then, is thus told by its stones. The hospital, situated a seven-miles' stage from Warkworth, on the road between Holy Island and Durham—a welcome sight, no doubt, to many a weary pilgrim—was in decay when the dwelling-house, now standing, was erected. But the remains of the chapel were in such preservation as permitted additional accommodation to be obtained by throwing a floor across it, and converting both stories into chambers. A fire-place above stairs, and another below stairs, were inserted for the convenience of this arrangement; and the original windows, now inconveniently situated, with regard to height, for both stories, were filled up for the sake of strength and snugness, and others made in more suitable positions.
    The present state and prospects of the buildings are most lamentable, and needful of this learned Society's attention. A few years ago, they were used as a kind of farmstead ; which occupancy, rough as it was, afforded some protection. But now, the farm buildings are removed to a great distance, and the sole occupant of the dwelling-house is a herd. The chapel, dismantled of its oak for the benefit of the now farm buildings, is floorless, roofless, and uncared for—save by the bats, jackdaws, and starlings. The ancient roads are obliterated ; and there is every reason to fear that this quaint old place, which should be sacred to the memory of the Hospitaliers, and subsequently to that of the dowager ladies of the house of Widdrington, who made it their pleasant home in Elizabethan times, will as completely disappear to meet the exigencies of additional cow-byre requirements. [Mr. Wilson adds the following note.—" Five months after the above paper was read, I again visited Chibburn ; when I found that the projecting masonry over the corbels which marked the height of the upper windows of the dwelling house, as shewn in the drawings, had been removed ; the corbels had been suffered to remain ; and thus the aspect of the building is rendered more enigmatical then ever. I may add that, since the reading of my notes on Chibburn, I have had the pleasure of perusing the paper written by Mr. Woodman on the same building, and that the evidence brought forward by him confirms my affirmation that the dwelling-house was erected after the dissolution. The date of the grant of the manor to Sir John Widdrington, 1553, and the period of the masonry precisely agree, a coincidence which points in a very indicative manner to Sir John as the builder of the dwelling house in question.—F.R.W."]
Chibburn Preceptory
Chibburn S.W.
Chibburn Preceptory: North wall of Chapel, interior
Chibburn Preceptory: North wall of Chapel, interior
Chibburn Preceptory: South wall of Chapel, interior

Chibburn Preceptory: South wall of Chapel, interior


Chibburn Preceptory: view of the east end of the Chapel

Chibburn Preceptory: Interior and exterior view of the east end of the Chapel




[Read on the 27th of September, 1899.]

    The incident dealt with in my paper to-night has been almost entirely overlooked by our historians. Macaulay, it is true, alludes to it in very general terms, but places it in the autumn of 1692. ' Jean Bart,' he says, 'even ventured to land in Northumberland, and burnt many houses before the train-bands could be collected to oppose him.' N Details of the occurrence have been accumulating in my hands for some time, and I now feel justified in putting before you with some particularity the story of the almost forgotten descent of Jean Bart on our coast.
     In the spring and summer of 1691 a large squadron of English and Dutch warships, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Ralph Delaval,
N one of our Northumbrian men of mark, was engaged in blockading Dunkirk. In the harbour lay nineteen large men of war, N recently refitted for service, three of sixty-four guns, one of sixty-two guns, and the rest, with two exceptions, of from thirty-six to fifty-two guns a-piece, which, it was supposed, were intended to convey munitions to Ireland and co-operate with Tourville's fleet in an attack on some part of the British coast. The commander of this squadron was the redoubtable Jean Bart, the son of a Dunkirk fisherman, whose deeds of daring had made him the naval hero of his time. He was brilliantly supported in his adventurous projects by an officer sprung from a very different station in life Claude de Forbin, who, five years earlier, had accompanied the French ambassador to Siam, and been appointed admiral of the king of that country, general of his armies, and governor of Bangkok. Bart and Forbin were the two French captains who, in May 1689, had made so sensational an escape from Plymouth by filing through the bars of their prison and then rowing across the Channel in a small ship's boat. Such men were capable of any enterprise, however hazardous.
    After successfully checkmating Bart for two months, Sir Ralph Delaval seems to have been recalled, and, early in July we find Captain Bokenham in command of the squadron off Dunkirk.
    The number of vessels engaged in the blockade has been greatly exaggerated by the French historians. One authority gives thirty-two,
N another thirty-seven, N and a third forty. N According to Burchett there were twenty-one, viz., eight English (six men of war of from fifty to sixty guns, one fire-ship, and one sloop) and thirteen Dutch (one of fifty-four guns, one of fifty-two, five of fifty, and six of from twenty to forty) N
    On the 14th of July Bart made an attempt to get out to sea with sixteen of his ships, but the blockading squadron drew into a line, with fire-ships at each end. A few shots were exchanged, and the French retired again into the harbour. N Clearly these large vessels, which could only be taken out in daylight, had little chance of getting past the allied fleets. But Bart was not the man to remain passive at a juncture like this. Seven light frigates and a fire-ship had been fitted up in Dunkirk in pursuance of a plan which he had recently submitted to the Comte de Pontchartrain, minister of the navy, for ruining the trade of the Dutch. With this small squadron he determined to make his escape. Taking on board five months' provisions N he made his final preparations, and on Wednesday, July the 15th, in the night, he sailed out of the harbour at the spring tide.
   Silently forward through the darkness sped the skilfully handled frigates, steered by men who knew every inch of the roadstead, and, as they neared the blockading fleets, the gunners stood with their lint-stocks in their hands
N ready to pour in a broadside at the first sign of alarm. According to Colonel Austin, speaking in the House of Commons, 'they came out on the Dutch side and not on ours' N —a statement confirmed by Luttrell N —afterwards `sailing along shore as far as Ostend before they set out to sea.' N Their escape being at length discovered, eighteen or twenty ships went in pursuit of them, but at daybreak the bold Dunkirk corsairs were out of sight N Towards the evening Bart fell in with three large merchantmen bound for Russia, convoyed by a man-of-war of forty-four guns. He had received information about these ships ten days before they left London, and it was part of his project to intercept them. N Forbin hovered near them all night, making them believe he was English and came from Flushing. About five o'clock the next morning—July the 17th—being then ten leagues W.S.W. from Yarmouth, Forbin hoisted the white flag, and after a short engagement, in which he lost six men and the English forty, the ships were taken and sent off to Bergen, in Norway, under the escort of one of the frigates of the squadron. N It is gratifying to learn that three days later one of the largest of these prizes, the 'Tiger,' valued at from £40,000 to £50,000, and a Danish buss, containing the prisoners, were recaptured by an English galley from Elsinore. N Another prize taken by Bart on the 17th was a Dutch collier, which he sank. N Two days later he captured on the Dogger Bank ten or twelve Dutch herring-busses with a small man-of-war convoying them. N Eighty is the number given by the French authorities. These he burnt as being of little value, and their crews he shortly afterwards landed on the English coast. Ranging along towards Newcastle, with designs no doubt on the fleets of colliers, which he fortunately does not seem to have encountered, he found himself on Tuesday, the 21st of July, off the Northumberland coast, with a stately castle and some small villages in sight. N
    Forbin erroneously surmised that they were off the coasts of Scotland. It was decided to land some men and burn the villages. Such a deed would make no little stir in the country, and the fame of the squadron would be noised abroad. An English renegade of the name of Chetworth or Thetford piloted the French ships into Druridge Bay N : these were the 'Alcion,' a frigate of forty-four guns, which Jean Bart had commanded at the battle off Beachy Head the previous year, the 'Conte,' the ' Heureuse,' the 'Seux' (?), the `Tigre,' the 'Aurore,' the 'Railleur,' and the 'Sorcière,' the latter being the fire-ship. N Some privateers seem to have accompanied the squadron out of Dunkirk, and probably were also present, for the captain of one of these vessels, a renegade Scotchman of the name of Melford or Milford, was afterwards charged with having taken part in this affair. N Bart left Forbin to carry out the plan of the expedition. The latter having landed somewhere in the neighbourhood of Druridge Links no doubt, stationed twenty-fire men in a suitable position for protecting the boats and covering his retreat in case he were driven back, and advanced through the fields at the head of his party N They first pillaged and set fire to the village of Widdrington, and then forced their way into Widdrington Castle, the seat of the third Lord Widdrington. After carrying away all the valuables they found there—the money, plate and household goods, they burnt the barns, stables and outhouses, with several cottages thereabouts N Forbin afterwards regretted this sacking of the castle, for he discovered from the ornaments taken from the private chapel that the house belonged to a Roman Catholic. N The marauders then proceeded to Chibburn and Druridge, burning a farmhouse at the former place—the old preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers—and three or four houses at the latter. N They had only just completed their work of destruction when a small body of cavalry and infantry, hastily gathered together in the neighbourhood, and, consequently, very badly equipped, arrived on the scene. The French retired in good order and the cavalry dashed forward to the boats. However, the officer in charge of the detachment already referred to fired upon them and obliged them to retire. Forbin and his men then embarked with their `loot,' and regained the squadron without further molestation. One man only was missing, and he lost his life through his cupidity, for having loaded himself with more booty than he could carry, he fell behind and was overtaken by the cavalry and killed. N
    Most of the French accounts of the descent state that about two hundred houses were burnt,
N but this is clearly an exaggeration. From the briefs authorising collections in churches for the inhabitants of the devastated villages we learn that the damage done was estimated at £6,000 N Before leaving the northern coasts Bart captured several fishing-boats, which he scuttled or burnt, N and so, having done as much damage as possible in a comparatively short period, he made his way back to Dunkirk, rich in booty and fame. As Forbin had anticipated, the news of the landing quickly spread throughout the country. Robert Harley, writing to Sir Edward Harley, July 25th, 1691, informed him, ' an express brought tidings last night that the ships which got out of Dunkirk had landed some men in Northumberland, who plundered and then burnt the house of Lord Widdrington, a papist '; N and Sir William Hamilton of Whitelaw, in a letter to William, earl of Annandale, dated July 30th, 1691, wrote, 'The privateers of Dunkirk burned a gentleman's house of Northumberland. The council of Scotland sent a boat after the privateers to discover their whereabouts.' N For two years after the affair collections continued to be made in the churches for the benefit of the sufferers, Billingham Church, Co. Durham, contributed three shillings and seven pence on July 31st, 1692, N and Ormesby St. Margaret's three shillings and four pence on April 3rd, 1693, N and research would no doubt bring to light many other instances. Echoes of the affair were also heard in the assize courts two years and more afterwards. From Luttrell we learn that ' Captain Melford, taken on board the French privateer on the Goodwin Sands, with other English, were examined yesterday [April 27th, 1692] before council ; he is charged for burning the lord Widdrington's house in Northumberland, and is thereon committed to Newgate, and will be speedily tryed.' N He is referred to again, on November 29th, 1692, this time as ' Captain Milford, a sea-officer, supposed to be captain of the French privateer who burnt the lord Widdrington's house in the north,' N and then he drops out of sight. In August, 1693, however, Nemesis overtakes another miscreant. Under date of August 3rd Luttrell records, ' One Chetworth, who pilotted in the French privateers that burnt the lord Widdrington's house 2 years since, being taken in a privateer and sent prisoner to Newgate, is sent prisoner to Newcastle to be tryed.' N
     The assizes began Tuesday, August 15th, before Sir Edward Nevill and Sir John Powell, and being brought to trial, Chetworth, or, as he is afterwards called, Thetford, 'pleaded guilty to the indictment'
N The depositions in York castle for this period are unfortunately in some disorder or further particulars might have been gleaned from them respecting this landing of the French on the coast of Northumberland. What we naturally suppose would be the sequel to the affair is given by Luttrell under date of September 14th. `Thetford, who pilotted in the French privateers, has been executed at Newcastle.' N But five days later he adds, `Thetford, the pilot, said to be executed at Newcastle, proves a mistake.' N What eventually became of Thetford I have not been able to discover.
    In 1694 we narrowly escaped having another visit from Jean Bart in these parts, for in the instructions given to him by the king, on August 19th, his majesty recommends him, not only to destroy all the English and Dutch fishing along the coasts of England and Scotland, but to take steps to capture some fleet of Newcastle colliers ('quelque flotte de charbonniers de Neufchâtel'), as such an expedition, he knows, would make the people of London cry out very loudly, and this would be exceedingly opportune at the particular juncture.
N It may possibly have been two of Bart's privateers which, in October 1695, landed some men near Shields and burnt two houses. They, however, had not the good fortune or adroitness of the famous Dunkirk captain, for on putting to sea with their booty they were taken by two Dutch privateers. N
    The descent of Jean Bart on the coast of Northumberland forms the subject of a small engraving by Yves le Gouaz—it is one of a series depicting the chief sea-fights of the Dunkirk hero—but as this Breton engraver was not born till 1742, and in all probability was never in the north of England, the dim undulating line of coast represented, with the frigates lying off it, may safely be assumed to be an imaginary sketch.



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