Story of skeleton in family closet

William Charlton, stationmaster, at  Stanhope Station c.1893
William Charlton, stationmaster, at Stanhope Station c.1893

HISTORY fans can journey back 300 years to follow the true tale behind a popular Northumberland crime novel.

When Teesside teacher Karen Charlton started delving into her husband’s family tree, little did she expect to find a Northumbrian convict.

Jamie Charlton was convicted of stealing £1,157 of rent money from Kirkley Hall in Ponteland in 1809.

The discovery prompted Mrs Charlton to write a novel based on the case, Catching The Eagle, and after being inundated with requests to talk about her work, she has now produced a factual companion piece.

Seeking Our Eagle tells how the Charltons first became interested in genealogy and details how they unearthed the skeleton in their closet.

It follows their journey through seven generations of the family, showing the devastating impact of World War I, how their Victorian ancestors were dominated by the North Eastern Railway Company and how their Northumbrian family was torn apart by a bitter feud.

It gives a glimpse into the harsh and turbulent times experienced, with humorous narration and photographs.

Mrs Charlton said: “After the book launch of Catching the Eagle in 2011, the interest in the background to the novel took me by surprise. Newspapers, radio, magazines and even a TV station all wanted to know how we had discovered our unusual skeleton in the closet.

“Genealogy groups, libraries and local historical societies invited me to talk about the subject. I soon realised that there might also be a wider audience for this extraordinary story and decided to write a complementary factual book, called Seeking Our Eagle, which mapped our genealogical experience and my creative journey into fiction.”

Seeking our Eagle is available on Amazon priced £8.99 paperback and £2.87 as an ebook.