The later Tudor and Elizabethan North : 1547 to 1603

Edward, Mary and Elizabeth

The age of northern suppression that started under the early Tudor monarchs of Henry VII and Henry VIII continued during the rule of Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603. She crushed the Catholic Rising of the North in 1569 in much the same way her ruthless father had done with the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. During this later Tudor era, the hopes of Catholic elements in the North were raised by two reigning queens of the name Mary.  Before Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne, her sister Mary, Queen of England (1553-1558) or ‘Bloody Mary’ as she came to be known, had continued the regime of Tudor brutality in dealing with religious opponents with Protestants this time the target. Following Mary’s death, another Catholic, Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1567) became the hopeful focal point for northern plots. Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary of England had been preceded as monarchs by the uncrowned Lady Jane Grey and by their younger brother King Edward VI, whose reign as a minor was dominated by powerful regents.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle, home to a branch of the Nevilles who were key figures in the Rising of the North plot against Queen Elizabeth I © David Simpson

👈 Early Tudor | Timeline | Stuarts Civil War 👉

Jan 28 1547 – KING EDWARD VI

Following King Henry VIII’s, death today, Henry’s ten-year-old son, Edward becomes King of England. Edward, who is the son of Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, is solidly Protestant. However the real ruler of the kingdom is another staunch Protestant, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Seymour is the king’s uncle, regent and protector.

Sep 10, 1547  – Scots defeated

On August 28, an army under the command of the new king’s uncle Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford gather at Newcastle where they were mustered by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. On the last day of the month, numbering some 18,000 men and assisted by a fleet of ships under the command Sir George Clinton, they head north to Berwick and camp outside its walls. Crossing the Border, they defeat the Scots on September 10th at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh near Musselburgh to the east of Edinburgh.

Aug 7, 1548 – Infant Mary’s French refuge

The five-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots is taken by ship from Dumbarton on the Clyde, to France for safety, where she will be raised at the French court. There she is betrothed to the dauphin of France who is the heir to the French throne.

1549 – French General attacks Ford

Scots, under the leadership of a French General, André de Montalembert, also known as Seigneur d’Essé inflict severe damage upon Ford Castle in north Northumberland. There are about 6,000 troops in Scotland assisting the Scots north of the border but not all Scots are comfortable with the French alliance.

Ford Church and Castle
Ford Church and Castle © David Simpson

1549 – Book of Common Prayer

The Act of Uniformity is introduced by Parliament, a major event in the continuing move towards Protestantism. It seeks to introduce the Book of Common Prayer, which uses English rather than Latin. Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham, voted against this measure but accepts its implementation.

1550 – Wall repairs at Berwick

Extensive and costly repairs are made to the defences at Berwick.

Royal Border Bridge Berwick
Looking south from Berwick, the Royal Border Bridge © David Simpson

Jun 10, 1551 – Peace treaty signed

A peace treaty is signed between the English and Scots at the church of Norham-on-Tweed in England. The French have been assisting the Scots in their war with the English, helping them to liberate castles such as Roxburgh.

Norham church
Norham church, Norham on Tweed © David Simpson

Oct 1551 – Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick, becomes the Duke of Northumberland. Last year he ruthlessly mastered a palace coup in which he ousted Edward Seymour and now has all the power as a regent for the thirteen-year old king. Despite his title, Dudley has no known connection with the county of Northumberland. Seymour will be executed in January 1552.

24 Sep, 1552 – Course of the Border

After negotiations that have lasted more than a year, the course of the England-Scotland border is finally settled between the two nations.

Oct 1552 – Durham bishop deprived of see

Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham is imprisoned in the Tower of London and deprived of his Bishopric by Parliament. Although he had tactfully supported King Henry VIII’s policies in his break with Rome, Tunstall is still very much a Bishop in the Catholic mould and has objected to the ever-more Protestant religious reforms of King Edward VI’s reign.

1553 – Newcastle annexes Gateshead

Newcastle annexes Gateshead as a result of the dissolving of the Bishopric of Durham. Plans are afoot to create a new bishopric at Newcastle, with Nicholas Ridley as bishop, detaching the most northerly section of the Durham diocese. The plans are brought to a halt by the death of Edward VI. The reign of Mary will see the Bishopric of Durham restored.

Church of St Mary, Gateshead and Tyne Bridge
Church of St Mary, Gateshead and Tyne Bridge © David Simpson

Jul 6, 1553 – JANE GREY : Queen (9 days)

With the encouragement of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Edward VI, who was sick, nominated the Protestant, Lady Jane Grey as his successor. She is the great-niece of Henry VIII and has recently married Northumberland’s son. King Edward dies at Greenwich on July 6, On July 10, Jane Grey is proclaimed queen in London, however Parliament does not accept the succession and proclaims for Henry’s eldest daughter, Mary on July 19, sending Jane Grey to the Tower of London. The new queen, Mary, enters London on the 9th of August.

July 19, 1553 – QUEEN MARY I

Mary I, the new Queen of England is the Roman Catholic daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She becomes Queen of England following her brother Edward’s death. A staunch Catholic, she makes an agreement to marry Philip, the heir to the Kingdom of Spain. She will come to be known as ‘Bloody Mary’ because of her ruthless and deadly persecution of Protestants.

Aug 22, 1553 – Duke executed

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland is executed on Tower Hill, London for his plot to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Lady Jane Grey and her husband (who is Northumberland’s son) will be executed in February 1554.

1554 – Durham bishopric restored

Queen Mary restores the Bishopric of Durham and its Bishop, Cuthbert Tunstall. Gateshead, recently given over to Newcastle, is returned to Durham.

Durham Cathedral Cloisters
Durham Cathedral Cloisters © David Simpson

Jul 25, 1554 – Mary marries Philip

Queen Mary marries the future Spanish king Philip, (who becomes King Philip II of Spain in 1556). Philip is of course a Catholic. Meanwhile, north of the Border another Catholic, a Frenchwoman called Mary of Guise is the virtual ruler or regent in Scotland. She is the widow of the late king, James V and mother to the eleven-year-old Mary Queen, of Scots, who is kept in safety in France. Mary of Guise maintains a strong alliance with the French.

1555 – Saltmeadows 450 year lease

The Saltmeadows area of Gateshead (the riverside area to the east of the town centre) is sold to Newcastle Corporation by Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham for 44 shillings per annum in a lease that will last 450 years – supposedly until 2004.

1555 – ‘Martyr’ Ridley burned at stake

The Northumbrian-born Nicholas Ridley is the most prominent of the Protestants martyrs to be burned at the stake in front of Balliol College, Oxford on Queen Mary’s orders. Ridley, a former Chaplain to Henry VIII, is the Bishop of London. Another prominent martyr is Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester. Bishop Ridley is a member of a noted Tynedale family. Around 300 Protestants will lose their lives in this way in what are known as the Marian persecutions.

Unthank in the South Tyne Valley may have been Ridley’s birthplace © David Simpson

1557 – Gilpin the Rector

The influential Bernard Gilpin becomes the Rector of Houghton-le-Spring. He will be noted for his trips into Northumberland where he becomes something of an evangelist amongst the rough border folk. Gilpin establishes the Kepier Grammar School in Houghton and is thought to have inaugurated the annual Houghton Feast.

Kepier Grammar School
Former Grammar School of 1557 at Houghton © David Simpson

1557 – Gateshead trades

Glovers, Barkers and Tanners are trades receiving the approval of Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall at Gateshead this year.

Apr 24, 1558 – Queen of Scots marries

Mary Queen of Scots marries the dauphin – the heir to the French throne, in Paris. The Scottish parliament have agreed that should Mary at any point die, then he will inherit the Scottish throne. However, the persecution of Protestants in Scotland by Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, is creating tension north of the Border.

1558 – Mixed fortunes for Percy

This year Sir Henry Percy was defeated by the Scottish Earl of Bothwell in a skirmish at a place called Haltwellsweire in the parish of Ford in Northumberland. However,  Sir Henry and Sir Thomas Percy defeated the Scots in another battle at a nearby place called Grindon, halfway between Norham on Tweed and Duddo in north Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle, a Percy stronghold in Northumberland © David Simpson

Nov 17, 1558 – QUEEN ELIZABETH I

Elizabeth I ascends to the throne following the death of her older sister, Queen Mary I on November 17, 1558 who had died from an ongoing illness during an influenza epidemic. Elizabeth is crowned Queen of England on January 15, 1559. A Protestant, Elizabeth is the daughter of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth will be one of Britain’s longest-reigning and in some eyes most popular monarchs and although a Tudor, will give her name to the Elizabethan age. Like her father and sister before her she will be ruthless in her dealings with political and religious opponents including those in the north.

Feb 22, 1560 – Treaty of Berwick

English and Scottish Protestants sign a treaty at Berwick in which the English agree to provide military aid to expel French Catholic forces north of the border. Ships and mustered men from Newcastle are ordered to help with the effort. Protestants north of the border have been increasingly persecuted by their regent ruler, Mary of Guise and although they have recently regained Edinburgh and ousted Mary as regent they have requested Elizabeth’s help to defend them against the French.

Marygate, Berwick
Berwick © David Simpson

July 1560 – English leave Scotland

A treaty is signed in Edinburgh ending the war north of the border, resulting in the agreed departure of both the English and French armies, who are respectively supporting the Protestant and French factions there.

1560 – Elizabethan Darlington

Darlington, like many Northern towns, is an agricultural centre and most of its inhabitants are employed in farm-related industries like weaving, leather, tanning and fulling (cloth-making). Unfortunately, Darlington is also renowned for its unpaved streets and will come to be known as ‘Darnton i’ the Dirt’.

St Cuthberts Church Darlington
St Cuthberts Church Darlington © David Simpson

Dec 1560 – Queen of Scots a widow

Seventeen-year-old, Mary Queen of Scots is left a widow, following the death of her husband Francis II, King of France. Mary, a Catholic, will return to her home country. However, in August the Protestant-dominated Scottish parliament voted to make a break with Rome and the preacher John Knox has many supporters who wish to take reforms further in the roots of what will be called Presbyterianism.

1561 – Percy is Tynemouth captain

Sir Henry Percy, the brother of Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland becomes the ‘Captain’ of Tynemouth Castle.

Tynemouth gateway
Tynemouth gateway © David Simpson

1561 – First Protestant Bishop of Durham

James Pilkington is elected as the first ever Protestant Bishop of Durham. Many of the ‘figures of idolatry’ associated with the Catholic church are removed from the cathedral. James is a fanatical Protestant and his presence will be gravely resented by the clandestine Catholic Nevilles of Raby and Brancepeth who are the prominent family in the County of Durham.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson

Aug 19, 1561 – Queen of Scots comes home

Mary, Queen of Scots arrives home in Scotland, at Edinburgh, arriving by ship at Leith. She was seemingly protected during her journey by fog, that hid her movements from English ships that hoped to intercept her. Mary, who also claims the English throne and does not accept Elizabeth I as Queen is considered a threat to the Elizabethan regime.

1562 – Herbal

The ‘Father of English Botany’, the Morpeth botanist William Turner completes his influential work Herbal. Published in three parts, he dedicates it to Queen Elizabeth I

William Turner garden, Morpeth
William Turner garden, Carlisle park, Morpeth © David Simpson

1565 – Port at Seaton

Seaton (Seaton Sluice) on the Northumberland coast is described as a port but its natural harbour wasn’t easy for ships to use.

1565 – Durham City charter

Durham City receives a new charter from the Bishop of Durham. Its first charter was in 1179.

View of Durham Cathedral, Castle and Cathedral from the Millburngate-Framwellgate waterside
Durham © David Simpson

July 19, 1565 – Queen of Scots marries

Mary, Queen of Scots marries the nineteen-year-old Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, her cousin. Both potentially have claims to the English throne. Mary and her new husband are both great-grandchildren of the first Tudor King of England, Henry VII.

March 1566 – Murderers flee to Newcastle

On March 9, David Riccio, an Italian favourite and Private Secretary of Mary Queen of Scots was stabbed to death in a coup in Edinburgh instigated by her husband, the jealous, Lord Darnley. The murderers include the Earl of Morton and Lords Maitland and Lindsay as well as the diseased Lord Ruthven, who all flee to Newcastle where Ruthven dies. Meanwhile, with assistance from the Earl of Bothwell, the pregnant Mary escapes from the  clutches of Darnley and on March 20 takes flight to Dunbar, where she calls supporters to her aid, enabling her return to Edinburgh.

June 19, 1566 – Future King James born

A baby boy, James, is born to Mary, Queen of Scots at Edinburgh Castle. He will be the future King James VI of Scotland and James I of England.

Oct 1566 – Queen of Scots at Berwick

During 1566, Mary Queen of Scots visited the outskirts of the town of Berwick which she inspected from the splendid view at nearby Halidon Hill, under the watchful eye of her guide, the town’s deputy governor. While at Roxburgh Castle in October she takes ill with a disease that comes close to taking her life before she makes a full recovery.

Town walls, Berwick
Elizabethan Town walls, Berwick © David Simpson

May 15, 1567 – Queen of Scots abdicates

On February 10, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, (‘King Henry’), the husband of Mary Queen of Scots is murdered in Edinburgh. The suspects include James Hepburn, Protestant Earl of Bothwell, who marries Mary on May 15. The marriage results in a revolt from opponents and in June, Mary is taken prisoner while Bothwell takes flight. Mary takes ill again and on July 24 and abdicates in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI. Her half brother, James Stuart, Earl of Moray acts as regent for the baby prince.

1567 – Coiners on Coquet Island

Coiners come to work at Coquet Island to experiment in minting new coins, the location probably chosen for its isolation and secrecy.

Coquet Island.
Coquet Island © David Simpson

July 1567 – Darlington school

Queen Elizabeth I establishes by charter a Grammar School in Darlington with the support of Bishop Pilkington of Durham.

May 2, 1568 – Scots Queen escapes

Mary,  Queen of Scots escapes from imprisonment in Fife and rallies troops in south west Scotland but is defeated in battle by her half brother, the Earl of Moray near Glasgow. She heads to Dumfriesshire and escapes to England across the Solway Firth.

May 16, 1568 – Mary lands in England

The Queen of Scots lands at Workington on the Cumberland coast and is now at the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. She stays a night at Workington Hall before officials take her into custody at Carlisle Castle.

July 1568 – Scots Queen held in Wensleydale

Mary, Queen of Scots, seen as a dangerous focus for Catholic rebellion, is kept in custody on the orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth. She was moved from Carlisle to Castle Bolton in Wenseydale during July and will be held in many other places in the north in the coming years.

Bolton Castle Wensleydale © David Simpson

Jan 1569 – Scots Queen moved

Perhaps, being considered too close to centres of potential Catholic rebellion, Mary Queen of Scots is removed from Castle Bolton in Wensleydale and taken to Tutbury Castle in Nottinghamshire where she is under the watchful eye of Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. She will later be held at other properties belonging to the Shrewsburys, notably Sheffield Castle in Yorkshire.

Nov 1569 – Rising of the North

Charles Neville, the 6th Earl of Westmorland and Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland brazenly master a plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and reinstate Catholicism, with Mary, Queen of Scots at the helm. The rebellion will be called ‘The Rising of the North’ or ‘Rising of the Northern Earls’. The Nevilles, though titled Earls of Westmorland, are the principal family of County Durham, while the Percys are their counterpart in Northumberland. Neville and Percy are names that have long dominated the two counties but their powers have suffered a demise under the centralised government of the Tudors. In addition, the now Protestant church of Durham, has further weakened their influence and threatens their traditional Catholic ways.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson

Nov 1569 – Neville castles host plot

One of the triggers for the northern rising, other than the presence of Mary Queen of Scots in England, is the recent imprisonment of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk in the Tower of London. Norfolk is England’s leading noble and a prominent Roman Catholic. The rebels intend to see him married to Mary. They also desire the overthrow of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s hated principal adviser and statesmen and perhaps, most ambitiously, they seek to gain the support and alliance of Spain. The detailed plans for the rising are developed in meetings at the Neville-owned castles of Brancepeth and Raby.

Brancepeth village.
Brancepeth Village, the north side © David Simpson

Nov 1569 – Queen hears of rebellion

Queen Elizabeth learns of the Northern plot and summons the earls to London to answer to her, which they refuse. Elizabeth’s principal informants in the North are likely to have been her staunch supporter, George Bowes, Constable of Barnard Castle and Thomas Radclyffe, the 3rd Earl of Sussex who is President of the Council of the North at York. This Council is the northern arm of the Tudor regime’s centralised government.

The castle, Barnard Castle
The walls of the castle at Barnard Castle © David Simpson

Nov 13, 1569 – Rebels at Durham Cathedral

Gathered at Brancepeth, in County Durham the rebels initially number some 1,500 men, with at least 917 drawn from across the county. They seize the City of Durham, from which the Bishop along with the Dean and Chapter have fled. There is little resistance. English prayer books and English Bibles are trampled underfoot and the Catholic mass is reinstated. The mass is similarly reinstated at churches across Durham such as Darlington, Pittington and Sedgefield.

Durham Cathedral nave
Durham Cathedral nave © David Simpson

Nov 15, 1569 – Rebels march south

The rebels buoyed with local support begin their advance south. Upon reaching Wetherby the rebels muster some 4,000 foot and 700 knights. Men from towns and villages throughout the North East and Yorkshire join the earls, some enthusiastically, some perhaps unwillingly. From here they intend to march south, heading for Tutbury near Nottingham where Mary, Queen of Scots is now held.

Dec 1569 – Barnard Castle besieged

Foreign support does not seem to have materialised for the rising and the Earl of Sussex raises an army of around 10,000 men to pursue the earls and their army. Hearing of this, the rebels abandon a planned siege of York. Somehow, they lose their nerve or change their minds south of Knaresborough and turn their attention northward, returning via Ripon and Richmond. At Richmond one party seems to have broken off and headed for the port of Hartlepool which was secured for the rebels. The main party head north west, towards Teesdale, besieging the castle at Barnard Castle, which surrenders to them on December 14. However, at this point they seem to have lost heart with the threat of Sussex’s army closing in upon them. The leaders head north across the Tyne into north west Northumberland. Heading northward they make their way across the border into Liddesdale, hoping to find support amongst the Scots.

Barnard Castle Castle
Barnard Castle Castle © David Simpson

Dec 8, 1569 – Raid on Rookhope

Such is the anarchy and opportunism in the border region at this time that Tynedale livestock rustlers raid the neighbouring valley of Weardale. Many Weardale men were away supporting the earls in their rising but the remaining Weardale men repel the raiders. Border raids, though common in Tynedale at this time in history are a rare event as far south as Weardale.

The Rookhope Burn.
The Rookhope Burn © David Simpson.

Jan 1570 – Aftermath of rebellion

Many rebels from the Rising of the North fled north into Scotland where some found favour amongst the Borderers and others were captured. In the aftermath, Raby and Brancepeth Castles are confiscated from the Nevilles by the Crown. The Percy lands and properties are retained by that family due to the faithful support given to Queen Elizabeth by Thomas Percy’s brother, Sir Henry Percy.

Brancepeth Castle
Brancepeth Castle © David Simpson

Jan 1570 – Executions

There are hundreds (around 450) executions across the region in nearly every town and village from Wetherby to Newcastle in the aftermath of the rebellion. There are 288 executions across County Durham alone. Charles Neville will eventually escape abroad to safety where he lives in poverty in Flanders for the rest of his days. Thomas Percy will be captured and executed in 1572.

Elwick village
Elwick near Hartlepool where five residents were executed for their part in the Rising of the North was one of many places in the north that suffered from the aftermath of the failed plot © David Simpson

Jan 1570 – Quota of executions

Elizabeth simply requested a proportional quota of executions perhaps 1 in 3 of those involved and the decision on who to execute was left in the hands of her trusted supporters in the north, amongst them George Bowes who helped instigate the retribution. In the towns and villages notable numbers include 28 hanged in Durham City, 5 in Bishop Auckland, 23 in Darlington and 14 in Billingham. It was mostly the poorest that suffered execution, as hundreds more paid a fine for pardon, though many fines were clearly paid by fearful individuals who were not even involved. Bowes lamented that some of the unfortunate individuals he executed or fined had been forced into supporting the rebellion against their will,

Durham Castle and Cathedral from Framwellgate Bridge
Durham © David Simpson

Jan 1570 – Centres of rebel support

Proportionally, support for the rebellion seems to have been particularly high in Durham City and Darlington as well as in the Staindrop area in the Earl of Westmorland’s heartland near Raby Castle. Support seems to have been quite low at Gateshead and Sunderland, perhaps because they lay distant from the areas of the rebels’ initial focus or perhaps due to wavering support for the old ways of Catholicism. In the George Bowes dominated areas around Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale, support seems to have been non-existent. Some of the most notable supporters were Yorkshiremen such as Richard Norton, Thomas Jenye and Nicholas Morton. Interestingly, one prominent participant in the rebellion was Egremont Radcliffe, half brother of the Earl of Sussex. For a time after the rebellion, Radcliffe was sheltered by the Border Reiver Scott family of Buccleugh in the borders. Radcliffe eventually escaped to Flanders via the circuitous route of the Orkneys.

Staindrop © David Simpson

1570 – Witches at Wallsend

In this year it is said that a member of the Delaval family, returning, one evening from Newcastle to Seaton Delaval encountered a gathering of witches at the Holy Cross Chapel in Wallsend. He is said to have captured one of them and had her burned to death on the beach at Seaton where she briefly rose high into the air after muttering some spell but the flames still took her life.

The ruins of Holy Cross church, Wallsend
The ruins of Holy Cross church, Wallsend © David Simpson

1571 – Harrogate Spa

A spring is discovered at Harrogate in Yorkshire, that is thought to have beneficial qualities for improving health. It will attract many visitors.

May 1572 – Hexham in Northumberland

By Act of Parliament the district called Hexhamshire centred on the town of Hexham becomes part of the county of Northumberland. It had previously been an independent liberty. The liberty was administratively under the control of the Archbishops of York from around 1071 and ecclesiastically within the Diocese of York since 1100. Due to its remote nature and distance from York, Hexhamshire has perhaps become something of a law unto itself. It is a relatively small shire and although it includes the nearby Allendales it does not include the extensive valleys of neighbouring North and South Tynedale which formed a liberty in their own right. Despite this political change Hexham and its shire remain in the Diocese of York for ecclesiastical purposes. At this time the rest of Northumberland is situated within the Diocese of Durham. Hexhamshire will become part of the Diocese of Durham in 1837 and then, along with the rest of Northumberland, part of the new Diocese of Newcastle in 1882.

Hexham Moot Hall
The Moot Hall, former courthouse of the Archbishops of York in Hexham © David Simpson

Aug 22, 1572 –  Percy beheaded at York

Thomas Percy, the Earl of Northumberland who was one of the chief planners of the Rising of the North is captured in Scotland by James Douglas the 4th Earl of Morton and handed over to the English for a fee. He is transported to York where Elizabeth I orders his execution. He is beheaded at Pavement in the city. Charles Neville, the other chief of the rising fled to Flanders, supposedly upon hearing of Percy’s capture and betrayal. Neville will seemingly end his life in poverty.

York City walls
City walls and Micklegate Bar in York © David Simpson

1572 – Pallion sold

The Bowes family sell Pallion near Sunderland to the Goodchild family.

1575 – Reidswire Fray

One of the last battles between the English and Scots took place near the Carter Bar on the England-Scotland border this year. The battle called the Reidswire Fray broke out following an argument between a Warden of the English Marches and the Keeper of Liddesdale on a supposed day of truce. The English side came off worse and George Heron of Chipchase, Keeper of Tynedale and Redesdale numbered among the dead.

Carter Bar, Northumberland
Carter Bar, Northumberland © David Simpson

1576 – Gateshead resists Newcastle

Gateshead resists an attempt by Newcastle to annex their borough once again, as Newcastle had briefly achieved in 1553. Newcastle is keen to take over political control of Gateshead and fully exploit the coal mining of the area. It is met with strong resistance from the people of Gateshead who argue that Newcastle will seize their rightful common land and restrict their freedom to trade. They receive the support of the Recorder of London, Sir William Fleetwood who convinces Queen Elizabeth that the Gateshead people are good Protestants while those of Newcastle he claims are papists motivated by malice and ambition.

1579 – Newcastle plague

Plague is so bad at Newcastle that the Mayor writes to Yarmouth warning ships not to visit Newcastle for coals.

1582 – Hartlepool witchcraft

A sorcerer from Hart village near Hartlepool serves penance by sitting in Durham Market Place; in Hart Church and in Norton-on-Tees church while wearing a paper hat.

Saxon church, Hart Village.
Saxon church, Hart Village © David Simpson

1583 – Guild of Brewers

The Guild of Brewers is established in Newcastle.

March 4, 1583 – Gilpin killed by ox

Bernard Gilpin, the noted Rector of Houghton-le-Spring dies after being knocked down by an ox in Durham market place.

Durham Market, Guildhall, Town Hall
Durham Market, Guildhall and Town Hall © David Simpson

1583 – Newcastle annexes Gateshead

Newcastle finally succeeds in its virtual annexation of Gateshead and takes control of the lucrative mining interests of Gateshead and Whickham in the famed ‘Grand Lease’ that will last 99 years. Through parliamentary manoeuvring, Queen Elizabeth I ‘extorted’ the coal mines in the Whickham area from Richard Barnes, the Bishop of Durham in 1582 and passed the rights to the Earl of Leicester. It then passed into the hands of wealthy Newcastle hostmen merchants through the aldermen Henry Anderson and William Selby. They sold it to the corporation of Newcastle bringing it under the control of thirteen wealthy burgesses who will hold the lease until it expires in 1681. During this era the wealthy Newcastle merchants called the Liddells, Claverings and Coles will obtain country estates in the Whickham area of County Durham to consolidate their interests and influence here. The area would be heavily exploited for coal and see the widespread development of numerous ‘Newcastle Roads’ which are early wooden wagonways utilised by horse drawn wagons that transport coal from mines to the Tyne.

Whickham © David Simpson

May 7, 1585 – Darlington fire

273 houses are destroyed in a Darlington fire. The fire affects High Row and Skinnergate, leaving 800 people homeless. Figures may have been exaggerated to encourage charitable donations but flames could be seen from Roseberry Topping.

Skinnergate, Darlington
Skinnergate, Darlington © David Simpson

1586 – Mary Queen of Scots executed

Mary Queen of Scots is executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on Elizabeth’s orders.

Nov 22, 1586 – Sheriff murdered

Robert Clavering, a Sheriff of Northumberland is shot dead by William Selby of Berwick. Clavering’s Cross, on the moors to the north east of Netherwitton and north of Stanton towards Longhorsley in Northumberland marks the spot of the murder. It was an ambush. Clavering and his colleagues, who included Cuthbert Collingwood, who had previously served as a sheriff, were returning from Newcastle.

1588 – Northern plagues

A Hartlepool plague killed 89 last year. In Newcastle 1,726 people died of plague this year.

1590 – Grammar Schools

Yarm Grammar School is established. Recently established schools include Newcastle (1525), Berwick (1559), Guisborough (1561) and Darlington (1567).

1592 – Bishop takes refuge at Stockton

Bishop of Durham, Toby Matthew takes refuge at Stockton castle to escape the ravages of the plague at Durham.

1593 – Priest captured

John Boste, a Catholic priest is captured at a place called the Waterhouse in the Deerness valley near Durham, by the Protestant authorities who broke down the walls of the building to find Boste hiding in a secret place. After he was taken south to the court of Queen Elizabeth, he is returned to Durham for trial in 1594 and sentenced on the morning of July 23. Preaching the Catholic faith is outlawed.

The River Deerness near Waterhouses
The River Deerness near Waterhouses © David Simpson

1594 – Priests and Catholics executed

In 1588, three Roman Catholic priests were executed at Durham, the first of many during the reign of Elizabeth I, who forbids Roman Catholic priests from preaching or even being Catholic. In 1593, a member of the Lambton family was executed at Newcastle for being a Roman Catholic priest. This year at Dryburn in Durham City, John Speed, a layman, and John Boste, a Roman Catholic priest, are executed. Other executions have taken place at Gateshead and Darlington.

1594 – The Lumley Warriors

Fourteen stone effigies of the Lumley family are squeezed into Chester-le-Street church by John Lord Lumley, some with their feet removed to fit them in. Lumley is keen to promote his family’s genealogical heritage but it is believed that some of the effigies, including one uprooted from Durham Cathedral churchyard, are not Lumleys at all.

Lumley Warriors, Chestr-le-Street church
Lumley Warriors, Chester-le-Street church.

1596 – Barnard Castle bridge

Barnard Castle bridge is opened connecting the Durham town of Barnard Castle to Startforth in Yorkshire across the River Tees.

Barnard Castle Bridge
Barnard Castle Bridge © David Simpson

1597 – More plague

Plague ravages Newcastle, Darlington (killing 340), Aycliffe, and Chester-le-Street. It will return to Durham and Darlington next year.

1601 – Death of Northern rebel

Fifty-nine-year-old, Charles Neville, the one time 5th Earl of Westmorland and former owner of Brancepeth and Raby Castles in County Durham, dies in relative poverty in exile in Flanders. In his later years he had lived on a small pension paid by King Philip of Spain.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson

1602 – Durham City new charter

Durham City receives a new city charter, following on from earlier charters of 1179 and 1565. The charter of 1602 introduces the office of a mayor who is elected by the guild members called Aldermen. Despite its small size, in 1602, Durham is the only place in North East England (unless we include Yorkshire) to have city status as Newcastle is still a town.

Palace Green, Durham
Palace Green, Durham © David Simpson

1603 – Elizabethan era closes

Elizabeth I dies and is succeeded by King James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. He becomes the first king of both England and Scotland as well as Ireland. Unlike his Catholic mother, Mary, from whom he was separated as a baby, James was raised as a Protestant. North of the Border, the Episcopalian form of Protestantism he favoured had created uneasy relations with the reformed Scottish Kirk with its established Presbyterian system. There was much greater fervour in religious conflicts in Scotland at this time. This fervour would come to play a role in a major Scottish invasion of North East England during the Civil War in the reign of Charles I.

👈 Early Tudor |  Stuarts Civil War 👉


Abbeys and Priories

Border Reivers | Northumberland Borderland

North East England History and Culture