Battle of Stanhope Fowling Piece
A flintlock ‘Fowling Piece’, used in ‘The Battle of Stanhope’ in 1818.

Battle of Stanhope Fowling Piece
The late William Coulthard of Weardale, President of the Weardale Society for the Prosecution of Fellons and Other Offenders, an historic body of long standing. Mr Coulthard is holding a flintlock musket, a family heirloom used by an ancestor in the Battle of Stanhope. His deputy, Kenneth Snaith, is holding the official handcuffs.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: St John’s Chapel
Current Location: Private
Theme: Cultural/Social
Period: Post-medieval
Date: c.1818

What is it?
A flintlock ‘Fowling Piece’, used in ‘The Battle of Stanhope’ in 1818.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The ‘Battle of Stanhope’ was a skirmish which took place on 7th December 1818 between the bailiffs of the Bishop of Durham and a group of Weardale miners accused of poaching grouse. Two of the so-called poachers - who believed they had a right, by ancient tradition, to take grouse (the bonny moor hen) - namely Charles and Anthony Siddle of St John’s Chapel, were arrested by a force of bailiffs and taken down dale on their way to Bishop Auckland. A group of their friends, armed with a fowling piece and other weapons, followed and intercepted the bailiffs at ‘The Black Bull’, now named The Bonny Moorhen. An altercation ensued, firearms were discharged, some of the bailiff’s men sustained minor injuries, and the ‘poachers’ were liberated. The episode was celebrated in the ballad ‘The Bonny Moor Hen’, written by Thomas Coulson, the Eastgate school-master.

Why is it important?
The incident illustrates the fierce independence of the Weardale miners who, in defiance of the Bishop’s regulations, maintained that they had special ‘immemorial rights’ allowing them to take reasonable quantities of game to feed their families.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • ‘The Bonny Moor Hen or The Battle of Stanhope’, by William Morley Egglestone.
  • Weardale Past and Present, by J. J. Graham, Northumberland Press Ltd, 1939, pp 65-69 'The Battle of Stanhope - Myth and Reality', by Helen Cannam
  • 'The Bonny Moor Hen', Journal of the Weardale Field Study Society, No. 9, 1997, p 34.

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