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 34: Who was Samuel King?

Who was Samuel King?

Alston Primary School being built
Samuel’s father was a Glaswegian but his mother’s family came from Alston and Randleholme near Alston, and we can follow these wealthy ancestors back to the 1600’s.
The earliest ancestor to be found is William Richardson, who moved to Alston Moor from Whitfield in West Allendale when he bought Randalholme in 1659. William died in 1680 leaving several sons and daughters, of whom his youngest son, Matthew, acquired property at Nunwick Hall near Great Salkeld.
Although the Richardson family was spread between Allendale, Alston Moor and the Eden Valley, they still kept in touch with each other and seemed to be equally at home either in Randleholme or Nunwick Hall. In addition to Randleholme, various members acquired property at the Raise, at Bailes and at Black House.
At Nunwick Hall, Matthew and his wife Jane had two sons, William and Timothy. Timothy was living mainly at Nunwick Hall when he acquired Bailes on the Hartside road. He married Jane Pennie on 21st October 1699 and they had a son, William, who was christened on the 24th May 1707. William, who grew up to become a doctor, married Mary Winskill in 1736 and they in turn had a son, Christopher Randal Richardson, who inherited Randalholme from another member of the family. William died at Nunwick Hall on 20th January 1769 aged sixty-one.
Christopher married a member of another local landed family, Sarah Fetherstonhaugh, in 1758 at the Church of St. Edmund the King and Martyr in Lombard Street, London. They had a son, William Randal Fetherstonhaugh Ricardson, who by the terms of his father’s will added a final ‘Randal’ to his already lengthy name, and a daughter, Sarah Ann. Sarah Ann was baptised at Great Salkeld on the 6th February 1762. Christopher died in 1784 at Randleholme Hall and at his request he was buried near to his father in the choir of the parish church of Kirkhaugh, of which he was patron.

Sarah Ann married William Hutchinson, the eldest of the eight children of John and Ann Hutchinson of Alston, and the couple became the grandparents of Samuel King. The Hutchinsons were a long-established Alston family, William’s great-grandparents were living in Alston at the time that church records began in 1700. The newly wed couple lived in the Hutchinson family home at the Loaning in Alston and they proceeded to have ten children. Their third child, another Sarah Ann, married Andrew King and became the mother of Samuel King.

It has been difficult to discover anything of Samuel’s family on his father’s side and we can only go back with any certainty to his grandfather, another Samuel King. The grandfather Samuel King was a wright, that is a craftsman of some description, and a member of the Burgess and Guild Bretheren. In 1763 he married Ann Hamilton in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. The couple lived in Glasgow and had five children, including another Samuel and Andrew, the youngest, who arrived in 1784. As an adult, Andrew, like his father, joined the Burgess and Guild Bretheren, and became a manufacturer of power looms. It is his profession that gives the only clue as to how he might have met Sarah Ann, his future wife.
In 1802 “a new mill, fit for spinning cotton and flax” was advertised to let in Alston (this became a woollen mill, the ruins of which are on the site of the scrapyard), and it can only be assumed that Andrew King arrived in Alston for business at the cotton mill and, while he was socialising here, he met and courted Sarah Ann Hutchinson. They married on 15th September 1817.

Andrew and Sarah Ann lived in the Gorbals, which was then a fashionable part of Glasgow, where they had five children, four of whom died young and only Samuel, their youngest, survived beyond the age of twenty-one. He was born on 26th December 1827 and christened on 13th February 1828, when his parents were approaching middle age. His father was forty-three and his mother was forty.
Samuel’s parents died early in his life, Sarah Ann died of consumption in 1838 and Andrew died in 1839 at the age of fifty-six, curiously recorded as being due to “decline”. In 1841, at the age of thirteen, Samuel was living at 21, St. Vincent Place, Glasgow, with his teacher, Mary McLaren, and her grown-up daughters, Elizabeth, Jane and Christina, her son Alexander aged 15 and a servant, Janet Boyd.

By 1851 Samuel was twenty-three and living with an older cousin, Allen Carswell, a fifty-seven year-old builder, his wife, Janet, and their three servants at 6, Provan Side, St. Mungo, Glasgow. This census provides a small clue to Samuel’s wealth; he was not working for a living but was of independent means, being described in the census as an “Annuitant”, living off his investments.
In 1861 Samuel was in Paris, which shows that he was capable of travelling, and in 1871 he was at 14, Sandyford Place, Glasgow, living with another cousin, Barbara, nee Carswell, who had married a William Hardie. This census recorded Samuel as a “Portioner”, living off his share of income from jointly owned property. He also held large investments in the major Scottish railway companies and some English ones.

Samuel King left very few hints as to his way of life. In 1871 at forty-three years old he was still unmarried. He did not follow his father and grandfather into the Burgess and Guild Bretheren, but joined the Merchant’s House of Glasgow. From his will we know that he had an interest in yachting, since he left his yachting pictures to Royal Clyde Yacht Club of Glasgow. When his estate was being settled, a newsagent’s invoice showed that he was a regular reader of several magazines per month on a wide range of subjects, arts, science, fiction and social events. Surviving correspondence shows that he occasionally visited Alston where he stayed at the Angel Inn. We don’t know the purpose of these visits; he might have been visiting his Hutchinson cousins and perhaps dealing with his estate here, since, with his cousins, he held a one-sixth share in the farm at Howgillrigg, inherited from his mother. In 1859 he almost sold his share for £200 to a William Roby of Liverpool. However, this deal was not completed and Howgillrigg appears in Samuel’s will of 1872.

On the 6th November 1872 Samuel King made his will. In it, amongst other bequests, he gave £2,000 in consolidated £3 per cent annuities “to be applied for the benefit of the town of Alston in Cumberland, being my mother’s birthplace” with the instruction, “ I direct and appoint my said trustees so soon after my death as convenient to pay over the said sum of £2,000 sterling to the magistrates or corporation or municipal authorities of the said town to be applied by them to such object whether charitable, educational or otherwise as shall appear to them most likely to be a benefit to the said town and the receipt of the town treasurer or other official having charge of the funds thereof shall be a sufficient discharge and exoneration to my said trustees”. However he must have been rather unfamiliar with the workings of Alston for he requested that money be paid to “the Magistrates or Corporation or Municipal Authorities of the said town”. He was not aware that Alston had none of these except for the magistrates who had not the authority to deal with such matters, and this led to drawn-out complications in the administration of the fund.

Samuel finally bought a house of his own at 24, Newton Place, Glasgow, but in 1878 he was staying at Claddoch Cottage in Dunoon where, after a short illness, he died of peritonitis on the 15th July 1878 at the age of fifty. For some reason he had stated in his will “to have my remains interred anywhere convenient to the place of my decease, but in no case in the Gorbals burying ground notwithstanding my relatives are interred there”. One wonders why. Instead he was buried at great expense in the Necropolis – a very upmarket cemetery on a hill overlooking Glasgow. His estate was proved at a little over £22,000 (very approximately worth £1,320,000 today) and the executors were the Reverend James Taylor, D.D., Secretary to the Board of Education for Scotland, 32, Queen Street Edinburgh, William Carswell Lade (his cousin Catherine’s son), Merchant in London, Alexander Ainsworth Abercromby of Brougham Place, Ayr, William Whyte, otherwise William Simpson Whyte, of 33, Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow, James Whyte, Accountant and Stockbroker in Glasgow, Archibald Colville of 6, Charing Cross, Glasgow, Cotton Spinner and Power Loom Manufacturer, Glasgow, and James Pringle Taylor of 6, Ettrick Road Edinburgh.

In Alston the bequest led to much discussion as to how it should be used. In the Alston Herald of 3rd August 1878, there was an editorial comment reviewing ideas for perhaps a new market cross, or a new water supply for the town, or - a new grammar school. Trustees for the fund were eventually appointed on 16th April 1880, but years later in 1886, William Wallace, a local historian, wrote that, “the scheme for the distribution of this charity has not yet been devised. (But) £150 or more of the interest has been applied to discharge the debt contracted in rebuilding the High School of Alston”. The High School was the Elementary School that we now know as the Topp.
The money had still not been spent by the early 1900’s and the fund invested in 3% stock had accumulated to the sum of £2875, so when the Cumberland County Education Committee recognised that a new grammar school was needed in Alston it was decided to put the money towards “the building and support of a secondary school”, which was duly built at a cost of £3,600 and opened as the Samuel Kings School in 1909.

Alastair Robertson

This article was not a solo effort and equal credit goes to Rachel Etheridge, Peter Wilkinson and Mr. P.W. Pickles for supplying much valuable information.
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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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