The Makepeace family

What has a curly-haired toddler - currently learning how to use his potty and shuffle about on his bottom - got to do with Blanchland and its history? Everything, if the toddler in question is 12-month-old Max Hudson Makepeace, who lives in the village with Mam Sara and Dad Jeff.

Boltshope Farm
Three generations of Makepeace men: John Makepeace (born 1940), son Jeff (born 1975) and Max Hudson (born 2009) Click on the image for larger view

Jeff has lived all his life in Blanchland, but it wasn't until his young son was born that he started to get curious about his family's history. He's now amassed a lot of information which shows that the Makepeace name and fortunes have been interwoven with life in the area for at least 400 years.

The earliest reference to the family name dates back to 1665 when Joseph Makepeace of Blanchland is mentioned as not being liable to pay the Hearth Tax.

Family bible belonging to John Makepeace of Cotehouse Farm, Blanchland, Northumberland, 2010.

The Hearth Tax was introduced in 1662 at a time of 'serious fiscal emergency' - a 17th Century credit crunch - and Charles II's Government needed to raise money fast. Each liable householder had to pay one shilling (5p) twice a year for each hearth in the property. Joseph Makepeace could have been exempt for one of three reasons: he was either too poor to be paying local rates, he lived in a house with a rateable value of 20 shillings or less, or his hearths were 'industrial' - for example a smith's forge or a baker's oven.

By the late 1600s the Makepeaces were living at Newbiggin, near Blanchland, and were devout Quakers. The Quaker movement was founded in the 1650s, based on the fundamental belief that ordinary people could have direct experience of God without the mediation of clergy. A hundred years on in the mid-1700s, meetings of the Religious Society of Friends (as the Quakers were known) would take place at Newbiggin once a month at the house of Ann Makepeace, widow of Thomas Makepeace.

Because the Quakers were Non-conformists, they weren't able to be buried in the churchyard of St Mary's in Blanchland as their Anglican neighbours would have been. A burial ground was established at Winnows Hill (near the Derwent Reservoir), and the Makepeaces of Newbiggin - Thomas and Ann, Joseph and Rebecca, Joshua and Ann - were all buried there. The Friends gradually left the area or interest waned in the movement; but by 1823 the Winnows Hill meeting was discontinued as there was only one member left.

Jeff Makepeace has been able to trace his family back to another Thomas Makepeace (probably closely related to the Quakers at Newbiggin), who married Rebecca Elrington in 1731 and lived at Allenshields, today farmed by Jennifer and Stan Graham.

Allenshields in the late 19th Century
Allenshields in the late 19th Century

Allenshields - or Alansheeles to use its original spelling - was given to Alan Marshall sometime before 1180 by Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham for his services to the forest. The land stayed in the Marshall family throughout the 13th and 14th Centuries; in 1339 John of Alanshields left his son William an estate of 100 acres of arable and meadow land and a dwelling house.

Around the middle of the 15th Century Allenshields passed by gift to Blanchland Abbey, and the monks used it as a dairy until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Baron Claudius Forster of Bamburgh eventually bought the property - he died in 1623 and was buried in Blanchland.

Jeff's five-times great-grandparents Thomas and Rebecca were living at Allenshields in the 1700s, by then part of the Lord Crewe Estate.

The Makepeaces in the 1890s

But in about 1788, husbandman John Makepeace, Thomas and Rebecca's son, has serious cause for complaint: he petitions the estate, reminding the Trustees that his wife's late first husband, William Teasdale, had rebuilt the ruined farmhouse at his own expense expecting to be reimbursed and never had been. John goes on to say that just before his marriage to Frances Teasdale, he'd been granted leave to build "a House (at Blanchland) consisting of four fine rooms and a Stable and Inclosed the rest of the Ground with a Garth or Garden", and over the 20-odd years since he'd moved into Allenshields with Frances, he'd carried out repairs to both properties with no payment. And the worst is still to come: "...the late Robson (the Lord Crewe Agent) thought proper to remove your Petitioner from the said premises without any Just Cause of Complaint, never being in arrear of Rent."

John 'humbly hopes' for £100 to cover years of building works and repairs or to be reinstated at Allenshields; perhaps we'll never find the document that proves he got his money, but it looks as if the Makepeaces did not return to Allenshields Farm.

Boltshope Farm
Not such a good living at Boltshope Farm... Click on the image for larger view

The move to Boltshope Farm - and a different landlord in John Ord, owner of the Newbiggin and Hunstanworth Estate - took place in the 1780s, and was to be home to many Makepeace generations for the next 160 years. Jeff thinks Boltshope can't possibly have been as good a prospect as Allenshields, as it comprised mainly rough pasture rather than the more fertile 'meadow land' the family was used to.

Victorian cokeworker and amateur poet George Carr paints a bleak picture of the farm and its 10 lead miners' smallholdings at Boltshope Park in his 1890s elegy Bonnie Blanchland:

Exposed to every blast that blows
Behold Makepeace's Park
There little else but heather grows
The outlook drear and dark.

But here the Makepeaces would form strong bonds with other local families through marriage, so that today Jeff's extensive family tree is an intricate network of farming and lead mining surnames such as the Jamesons of Hunstanworth, the Eddys, Paulls, Murrays, Taylors and Pears' of Jeffrey's Rake and the Lowdons of Whitelees.

Lowdons and Makepeaces
Michael Hudson Makepeace with Robert Lowdon, who appears as Gamekeeper at Riddlehamhope in the 1911 census... Click on the image for larger view
Hay time at Cotehouse
Hay time at Cotehouse Farm Click on the image for larger view

John Makepeace married Margaret Hudson in the early 1800s, and began the 'Hudson Makepeace' dynasty of which young Max is the most recent addition.

One of John and Margaret's sons, Thomas, born in 1814, took over Hunstanworth Farm as an adult, and another Makepeace stronghold lasting nearly 150 years was formed.

Christiana - Michael Hudson's wife
Christiana, Michael Hudson's wife: note the clogs and stool Click on the image for larger view
The Lowdons of Whitelees - because they are related, some photos in this album are actually duplicates of the Makepeace album

In 1934 Jeff's great-grandparents Michael Hudson and Christiana Makepeace (nee Armstrong of Boltshope Park) left Boltshope to go to Cotehouse, another very old Derwent farmstead up the hill from the Shildon Road and commanding spectacular views of the hills above Blanchland. Jeff's father John was born and brought up at Cotehouse and stills farms there to this day.

What does the future hold for young Max Makepeace, with 500 years of Blanchland ancestors behind him? Dad Jeff can't tell, but at least through his family research, his son Max will always have a strong sense of his past.