Local Historical Stories


Early in 1996 Alastair Robertson - one of our local historians was asked if he would write a couple of historical articles for the Alston Moor Newsletter. He thought he could manage three or four but in the event, over 20 years later, they were still going. Once, and only once, he received an unsolicited article from an outside source, this was the reminiscence of a school for wartime evacuees at Nent Hall that came from Mr. Michael Dickinson and it was gratefully included in the series.

They’re a real mixed bag, too random to put into a book, but they’re still worth keeping in a more permanent form, so the Historical Society website seemed the perfect place to have them.

Material for the articles came largely from local sources, from the Alston Moor Historical Society Archives, St. Augustine’s Church Records, Alston Library, the Cumbria County Records Office in Carlisle and the County Records Office Northumberland.

There has been editing in some cases that will be noted at the beginning of each item, otherwise the articles have been left as they were written, complete with occasional references to such things as cement lorries, the millennium, and foot and mouth disease, which are themselves now things of the past (?).
Read on …

Story No 18: Alston's Bank Raid

Market Place, Alston
Newcastle Journal
Wednesday September 14th 1949


Shot manager dies: gunman kills himself in car

The Alston bank manager shot dead in a raid yesterday died shortly after the gunman killed himself in a taxi he had hired.

The three dead are Mr. A.J. Steel (59), the bank manager; Mr. Ernest Ingram of Front Street, Sacriston, the taxi-driver; and Charles Corbett Kennedy (24), of Thorp Avenue, Morpeth, the gunman.

Kennedy, who is believed to have been a dirt-track rider, was the son of Mr. Gavin Kennedy, maths master at Morpeth Grammar School. The gunman, a Morpeth man, had rushed from the office of the Midland Bank at the small moorland town in Cumberland, and driven away in the taxi, which he had hired earlier at Durham.

Dr. G.E. Simpson, Newcastle police surgeon, was called in early to-day after Ingram had been identified.

Missing driver

The car that was used by the killer was driven regularly by Ernest Ingram. One of his mates at the garage last saw him in the garage yesterday morning. Ingram was then cleaning his car.

His mates described Ingram as a driver “who could look after himself”. He was regarded as a good, reliable driver, and men at the garage were surprised when he did not present himself for duty last night. He had been booked to take a dance party to Newcastle.

Ingram, a married man, has one daughter, Ann, aged 10. Ann told a ‘Journal’ reporter last night: “Daddy was going to meet Mammy at seven o’clock last night to go to Newcastle”.

There is a direct road from Durham to Alston via Weardale. The distance is approximately 50 miles. The body of the taxi’s driver was early this morning found under a heap of stones on the moors at Stanhope.

Gave alarm

Having parked on the opposite side of the road to the Alston bank, the assailant entered the bank, carrying a brown brief case. Kennedy’s movements were described to the ‘Journal’ by Miss Ailsa Spark, an assistant employed in Mrs. Boylan’s ice-cream shop opposite the bank.
“I saw the man park his car on a gradient near the shop, and then get out and walk across the road to the bank,” she said. “He appeared to be a commercial traveller.”

There were only two people in the bank at the time - the manager and his assistant, Mr. James Rush of Old Manse, Alston. A third member of the staff, Mr. Walter Dickinson, was away at lunch. When asked if he might see the manager, Mr. Rush directed Kennedy to the private office and left him talking to Mr. Steele.

It is believed that, although confronted by a revolver, Mr. Steele resisted the man’s demand for money. Meanwhile he was able to touch the alarm bell.

According to his own statement, Mr. Steele was shot by the man while he was struggling with him in an attempt to get the gun.

This is what he told Dr. J.R. Hassan, whose surgery is only about 20 yards from the bank, and who at once attended to his injuries and later accompanied him to Cumberland Infirmary.
“Mr. Steele was badly wounded in the stomach and suffering from shock,” Dr. Hassan told the ‘Newcastle Journal’.

No cash gone

After the fatal shot had been fired, the man dashed to the waiting car and made his escape.

The whole incident was over in a few minutes, and Mr. Rush, from his place behind the counter, was unable to intercept the man as he rushed out. It is understood that no money was stolen from the bank.

Busy Street

The first indication outside that something was amiss was the ringing of the bank alarm bell. Miss Spark said, “When the alarm bell rang I saw the same man come from the bank, run across the road, get into his car and drive quickly away. Alston at the time was fairly busy prior to early closing, and the car narrowly missed knocking down several people as it descended Alston hill in the direction of Penrith”.

Later, finding the police net closing in on him, Kennedy shot himself in the car at Langwathby, 12 miles from Alston.

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About Us
Alston Moor Historical Society was founded in 1973 and, due to the nature of Alston Moor, it is a member of both the Northumberland Association of Local History Societies and the Cumbria Federation of Local History Societies.
Alston Moor Historical Society
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