Queen Anne died on August 1, 1714, and George I was crowned King on October 20.
In August 1715, the Earl of Mar, at one time one of George I’s ministers, came to Newcastle by collier. Here he took ship to Crail, Fife, where he was joined by other Scottish noblemen.
On September 6 he raised the Pretender’s standard as James III at Braemar.
John Sykes, in his Local Records, takes up the story: “October 6.— Thomas Forster, esq., M.P. with several gentlemen of the same county, favourable to the Pretender, met at a place called Greenrig (and) rode immediately to the top of a hill called the Waterfalls...
“They had not been long there before they discovered the Earl of Derwentwater, who that morning had come from his seat at Dilston, with some friends, and his servants... all very well armed.
“In coming from Dilston, they drew their swords on the bridge at Corbridge, and in that state marched through that town. They halted at Beaufront, the seat of Mr Errington, where there were several other gentlemen appointed to meet... from whence they proceeded in a body to join Mr Forster.”
Waterfalls is a high point near the old Roman Road of Dere street (the A68), a few miles west of the Sweethope Loughs.
Sykes continues: “They marched to Rothbury, where they staid all night, and on the 7th... marched to Warkworth, where they remained till Monday the 10th.
“On the Sunday, Mr Forster, who now styled himself General, sent Mr Buxton, their chaplain, to Mr Ion, the parson of the parish, with orders for him to pray for the Pretender as King, and in the Litany, for Mary, the queen mother... which Mr Ion wisely declined; Mr Buxton took possession of the church, read prayers, and preached.
“Meanwhile, the parson, consulting his own safety, went to Newcastle and made the magistrates there acquainted with what had happened.
“At Warkworth, the rebels openly proclaimed the Pretender as King of Great Britain, &c. It was done by Mr Forster in disguise, and by the sound of trumpets, and all the formality that the circumstances and place would permit.
Sykes’s main source was A Memorial of the Reformation, by Benjamin Bennet. Bennet was a Presbyterian minister in Newcastle, and wrote only a year after the events themselves.
He now takes up the story: “On Saturday the Lord Widdrington join’d them with thirty horse. On Monday Octob. 10. they were joined with about forty horse from Scotland.
"They staid at Warkworth till Thursday Octob. 14. when they left the place, and came to Morpeth under the command of Mr Forster, Parliament man for that county, and now the Pretender’s Champion and General.
“The next morning after their arrival at Morpeth, viz. Octob. 15, they drew up about the cross on horseback, and proclaimed the Pretender... and at the same time invited all sorts of persons to enter into his service... promising them twelve pence per day, only the Presbyterians, whom they expressly excluded from that honour.
"When they left Morpeth they were computed 373.
“Their next March was to Hexham, where they staid four nights... and there also proclaim’d their Master King of England.
“I know not of any remarkable piece of chivalry they did in any of these places, only that their taking prisoner one Thomas Gibfon, a blacksmith in Newcastle, who fell in with them between Morpeth and Felton, and was carried captive from place to place, as the first fruits of their warfare.
“From Warkworth to Morpeth they set him on the bare horse pinion’d; and it seems, as he was riding through Morpeth in this condition, some of the Company took occasion to divert themselves with the prisoner, pointing at him and calling him names, he crying out, for the hope of Israel I’m bound with this chain.”
Although writing over a hundred years later, Sykes seems to have had some additional source of information. He says that as well taking Thomas Gibson captive as a spy, they also seized the post at Felton Bridge, though whether this means the Royal Mail or a strongpoint on the bridge, I am not sure.
What poor Gibson cried out as he was ridden through Morpeth with no saddle and with his arms tied is from Acts 28:20, the words of St Paul to the Jewish community at Rome. Thomas Gibson clearly knew his Bible, and was probably one of Bennet’s own congregation.
Meanwhile, Newcastle had been put into a posture of defence. When reinforcements arrived, the rebels retreated into the borders.
Eighteenth century English prose is vigorous and generally written as spoken.
Bennet’s conclusion is typical: “So little pass’d that was memorable during the disturbances in Northumberland, that I shall be excuss’d if I pass them over more lightly. No blood was shed as I know of, and little violence offer’d by any of the Rebels...; only where they found arms and horses, to their purpose, they made bold with ’em.”