"A House of No Little Importance"

Plotting in the Scarrow Hill Inn?

The folklore story “In the Days of the ‘15” was written by John and Jean Lang and published in 1916 as part of “Stories of the Border Marches”. John Lang was the brother of the well known folklore historian Andrew Lang. Andrew Lang wrote much about Scottish history causing some stir at the time and in “Pickle the Spy” he achieved a striking contribution to Jacobite historiography. Andrew was also a founder member of the Folklore Society.

Folklore as an oral tradition is an informative way to pass on stories and legends often attached to a particular place. This is especially so from times when few could read or write and when there may have been a need to hide information for fear of reprisals.

Part of the story “In the Days of the ‘15” reads

‘Close on two hundred years back from the present time there stood far up the South Tyne, beyond Haltwhistle, on the road--then little better than a bridle-track--running over the Cumberland border by Brampton, an inn which in those days was a house of no little importance in that wild and remote country.

If its old walls could speak, what, for instance, might they not have told of Jacobite plottings? Beneath its roof was held many a meeting of the supporters of the King "over the water," James the Eighth; and here, riding up from Dilston, not seldom came the unfortunate Earl of Derwentwater, to take part in the Jacobite deliberations. The young lord and the horse he usually rode were figures familiar and welcome to the country folk around, and at the inn they were as well known as was the landlord himself. It was not long after a secret meeting held here in the earlier half of the year 1715 that the warrants were issued which led to Derwentwater's flight from Dilston, and precipitated the Rising that within a few months rolled so many gallant heads in the dust of the scaffold.’

So where was this Inn?

Research suggests Scarrow Hill as a contender for the location. Scarrow Hill is located on the fringe of Brampton parish on the southern side of the current A69 on the edge of what is called Row Moor on the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map.

Scarrow Hill dates back to 1595. It certainly was an Inn. Records in the Naworth Estate and Household Accounts show the purchase of a rundlett of ale and other ale from Scarrow Hill in 1648. A rundlett is about 20 gallons and this with the other ale would have served the army that was quartered at Naworth Castle in October of that year. Also, the first Alehouse Recognizance Register names The Scarrowhill Inn in 1753. Joseph Stobart was the Innkeeper of the Scarrow Hill Inn when he died intestate in 1775.

The current A69 runs along the old Military Road past Scarrow Hill. This Military Road was built in 1758 and instigated by General Wade after the failure of his army in 1745 to negotiate the muddy bridle track. The 1749 survey map clearly shows the bridle track running east-west past Scarrow Hill.

The story refers to “the old Inn’s thatched eaves ; a light wind sobbed fitfully around the building, moaning at every chink and cranny of the ill-fitting window frames.” The Scarrowhill Inn was thatched. Traces of rye thatch have been found in the eaves of Scarrow Hill. A Grant of Messuage of Scarrow Hill in 1746 also confirms the existence of outbuildings and stables at the site.

Other contenders for the location of the Inn in the story should also be considered. Temon is an obvious possibility. However, Temon is a bastle and as a fortified building unlikely to have been thatched. Temon is located on the Military Road, but old maps suggest that the bridle track that predated the Military Road went more to the north, via Chapelburn and Gilsland. Mumps Hall has therefore been suggested. However it seems unlikely that Jacobite plotting would have taken place so visible to other properties. Also, Mumps Hall only dates from the late 17th century. Therefore, Mumps Hall was not as old (as implied by the story), as Scarrow Hill was in 1715. Furthermore, the story locates the inn “by Brampton” and Scarrow Hill is nearer to Brampton than either Temon or Mumps Hall. Scarrow Hill is also the only one of these three properties within the parish of Brampton.

So who were the people associated with Scarrow Hill leading up to 1715? The property was owned by a George Thomas. He was a glazier, a Freeman of the City of Carlisle and also a churchwarden of St Mary’s Carlisle. His son John Thomas was educated at Carlisle Grammar School and Queens College Oxford. Interestingly John Thomas was a curate at Arthuret at the same time as Hugh Todd. Hugh Todd became rector of Arthuret in 1689 under the patronage of Richard Graham, Viscount Preston. Hugh Todd is known to have been a resolute high church Tory and Viscount Preston a known Jacobite. In 1704 Todd, Atterbury (of the Atterbury Plot) and Graham were all associated with Carlisle Cathedral. John Thomas became the Vicar of Brampton in 1721 where he remained until 1747. In the same year Scarrow Hill was sold by George and John Thomas to the Earl of Carlisle. John Thomas’ son also called John went on to become the Bishop of Rochester.

The Will of Dr John Thomas Bishop of Rochester who died at Bromley on 22 August 1793 also throws up an interesting possible link to James Radcliffe Earl of Derwentwater . Quoting from the will -

‘…also I give to Mr. Richard Radcliffe late of Cockermouth (next word unclear) merchant and his children the sum of four hundred pounds out of the remainder of my personal estate by even and equal portions.’

In conclusion, it seems most likely that Scarrow Hill Inn was the location for the secret meeting held in the first half of 1715 because of the tantalising links with the Lang story, the known Thomas association with Jacobite supporters in the church and, in later years, the association with possible descendants of the Radcliffe family.

This article has been written to invite discussion and input from other Jacobite researchers on the likely location of the Inn in the story and the involvement of families in the Brampton area in the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. Please contact us with the details found in the footer of this website.

For electronic viewing of the story “In the Days of the ‘15” please see eBook below:


Post Script:

From “Talks about Brampton in the Olden Times” by the Rev. Henry Whitehead, published by James Lewis, Selkirk, in 1907. Page 77 In a talk about Brampton Old Church and it’s Vicars - about 1877.

“Mr. John Thomas was vicar during the exciting time of the occupation of Brampton by Prince Charles Stuart and his Highlanders; and on the 13th November, 1745, whilst they were still there, he baptised ‘John, son of Archibald Henderson, of Argyllshire.’ The entry of that baptism in the register has often exercised my imagination, and many a fanciful story, growing out of it, has taken shape in my mind…..”

The Rev. Henry Whitehead was a vicar of Brampton from 1874 to 1884. The Rev. John Thomas was vicar of Brampton from 1721 to 1747.