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 56: Three Descendants Of Mining Agent Thomas Crawhall In The First World War

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Three Descendants Of Mining Agent Thomas Crawhall In The First World War

Lieutenant Richard Crawhall Walton does not feature prominently in my book ‘Alston Moor and the Great War,’ but he took the avid attention of one reader. This led on to a discussion that in turn led me to research Lieutenant Walton’s connections with this area and into the network of a family tree that all began with Thomas Crawhall of Allendale about 250 years ago.

Thomas Crawhall was a gentleman and a lead mining agent in Allendale. He married Ann Bownas of Allendale in 1771 and their marriage bore fruit - twelve fruits to be exact. This article follows briefly the lines of three of their six sons, John (b.1774), Joseph (b.1793) and Isaac (b.1795).
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Second and Third Generations

Thomas was the first generation and, of his twelve children, his eldest son John grew up to become a land agent in Allenheads. John had eight children by two wives, first by Dorothy, then by Margaret. Frances, his oldest daughter by Dorothy, was born in 1794, in 1816 she married William Little, a lead mine agent from Alston. William was the son of John Little, who at the time was making a great fortune out of Cross Fell lead mine. The couple settled at Tower Hill, across the river from Tyne Willows in Alston.

Thomas’s fifth son Joseph was apprenticed as a ropemaker in Newcastle. But this was only in order to learn the trade from the bottom, because he went on to own a rope factory on Tyneside. To diversify, he also held shares in the family-owned lead mine at Rotherhope, and in his spare time he was a writer. Joseph lived at Stagshaw House north of Corbridge with his wife Margaret and their ten children. One of their sons, Joseph Crawhall (born in 1821), became a wood engraver in Newcastle.

Thomas’s youngest son, Isaac, was born when his oldest brother, John, was 21 years old. As a young adult, Isaac helped another of his brothers, William, in the Beaumont lead mines at Allenheads before moving to Weardale, where he became a lead and coal mine proprietor and a landowner in his own right. In 1823 he married Ann Wilson, the daughter of John Wilson of Nenthall who, with his brother Jacob, owned the extremely rich Hudgill Burn mine. One of their two children was Thomas Wilson Crawhall, born in 1825.

It’s interesting to note that within one generation there were thirty years difference in ages between first cousins Frances, Joseph and Thomas.

Third and Fourth Generations

At Tower Hill, Frances and William Little had eight children of whom their eldest son, John Crawhall Little, was born in 1818. Almost inevitably, John went into the lead industry and he became a mine manager at Coalcleugh in the West Allen valley. After the death of his wife Esther, during or soon after childbirth in 1850, he moved back to Alston with his two children. His only son, William Robinson Little (b.1846), became a wine and spirit merchant on Front Street in Alston. He married Margaret Ann Walton in 1876 and the couple had one son and four daughters, one of whom died in infancy, while the other three remained single and all lived to a ripe old age at Tower Hill. William John Little, the only son (b.1880), grew up to be a commercial traveller for the wine and spirit business, and an early motorcyclist.

Joseph Crawhall, the engraver, had four children with his wife Margaret, including their daughter Judith (b.1861). Judith married Captain Richard Walton in 1881 and moved to Clifton near Bristol where, in 1886, they became the parents of Richard Crawhall Walton. The family moved to Liverpool, where they were living at the outbreak of the First World War.

Thomas Wilson Crawhall became a very successful mine manager. He moved from the family home in Newcastle to take on the family-owned mines of Hudgill Burn and Rotherhope Fell, and then other mines from his great-uncle Jacob Wilson. He lived first at the Raise and then at Nenthall, before moving with his wife Fanny (nee Portmore) and their children to Alston House, where they lived for about 50 years. Thomas was also manager of Coanwood Colliery, a J.P., a church warden and a captain in the Alston Mountain Rifles. In total he and Fanny had ten children and of their five sons, one became a solicitor, another one a vicar, another a mine engineer and another was an architect. The vicar, Reverend Edmund Isaac Laroche Crawhall (b.1864), went on to be the father of Fritz Portmore Crawhall, born at Ryde on the Isle of Wight in 1895.

By now, although William Robinson Little, Richard Crawhall Walton and Fritz Portmore Crawhall were of the same generation (their great-grandfathers had been brothers), there was by this time almost 50 years difference in age between them.

This is where we come to the First World War which, in its own sad way, drew these distant relatives together.
Lieutenant Richard Crawhall Walton was a professional soldier in the 9th Gurkha Rifles. He was killed on 7th November 1914, aged 28, and his death was announced, probably by the Crawhall-Wilsons formerly of Alston House, in the local Cumberland press.
2nd Lieutenant Fritz Portmore Crawhall of the 6th (Reserve) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, fell in action at Givenchy-les-la-Basses on 10th March 1915 aged only 19.
Private William John Little enlisted in Newcastle in the Northumberland Fusiliers, and because of his ability to ride a motorbike he was transferred to the Army Service Corps to be a dispatch rider. He died in action on 8th July 1915, aged 34. He was the first Alstonian to be killed.

For Richard and Fritz, four generations had passed since Thomas Crawhall, their ancestor, and five generations had passed for William, they were by now very distant relatives but in death there was only a matter of months between them.

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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.
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