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The Old Gaol

Gaolbreak of 1538


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THE OLD GAOL
- INTRODUCTION
- CROSS-SECTION
- OUTLINE HISTORY
- GAOLBREAK OF 1538
- CRIME & PUNISHMENT
- FOOD ACTIVITY

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In December 1538 a man called Robert More, claiming to be a priest from Chichester, was arrested at the house of Richard Yeldart in Nunwick and locked up in Hexham Gaol.

This was only 2 years after Henry VIII had closed down the monasteries, taking the wealth of the Catholic Church for himself. Priests were treated with suspicion as some of them were known to act as spies, carrying messages between Scotland and Catholic France and Spain.

There was plague in Hexham, so the man responsible for keeping the peace, Reynold Carnaby, had left for a safer place. His deputy Lewis Ogle was expecting trouble, as there were many Catholic sympathisers in the area. He ordered the town and gaol to be guarded.

Word of the planned gaolbreak had also spread locally. It is recorded that a message was received at Nunwick from Edward Charlton 'Go to John Heron's mother of the Hall Barns and warn her keep in her cattle, for the outlaws and thieves would come in.'

The watch was kept past midnight, when most of the guards decided nothing was going to happen. They went home, leaving a few men behind. These men were overpowered by a 'band of outlaws' - Border Reivers, who robbed and beat the watchmen before releasing Robert More and members of their Surnames - Jerry Charlton, Clement Armstrong and two men called Dodd.

Reynold Carnaby told the investigators that the Reivers were Scots from Liddesdale (the largest Surname in that area was the Armstrongs), Tynedale men, and other outlaws. Tynedale and Liddesdale Reivers often raided together.

The enquiry into the incident found that the prisoners escaped easily because the locks on the doors - 2 wooden and 1 iron - were very weak and easy to break. None of the prisoners were in fetters or chains, and there were no stones on the roof to drop on people attacking the door. For the sake of 10/-, several Reivers and a Catholic priest (or spy) were able to escape.

Glossary
GLOSSARY
The Old Gaol

Historical
HISTORICAL SOURCES
1523 Crime & Punishment
Timeline for Old Gaol
Order for Building
Torture

Information
INFORMATION
Teachers' Resources
Opening times & Directions
Border Library

Gaolbreak Illustration  Copyright Tynedale Council
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