Keys to the Past


1715 rebellion

This was the major Jacobite rebellion with which the northeast was associated. The rebellion was to take place upon the death of Queen Anne (who reigned 1703-1714AD) by taking the crown for James, 'The Old Pretender'. Risings in the north of England and Scotland were to take place, capturing ports, so as to divert the standing army from the south. Here a landing, in conjunction with the French, was to take place before a march unopposed to London. The rising did not happen on the death of Queen Anne - but was postponed, allowing George I to be crowned and reign from 1714 to 1727AD.

Nonetheless, in Scotland and northern England a rebellion was launched in early September 1715. In Northumberland a number of Catholic landowners including James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater (1689-1716AD) of Dilston, and his younger brother Charles (1693-1746), Edward and James Swinburne of Capheaton, and William Shaftoe of Bavington met at Green Riggs by Dere Street on 6th October 1715. The Radcliffes were related to and been taught with James, 'The Old Pretender'. Many were Catholics but the MP Thomas Forster of Bamburgh (1675?-1738AD), was a Protestant. Only a few had any military experience and were poorly equipped, numbering some 60 horses. Some Jacobites had already been put under horse arrest, and were so unable to take any part.

Since it was to late to back out they continued and the rebels moved off towards Rothbury, Warkworth and Morpeth proclaiming James as James III. In these places they gathered further horses and small numbers of support, such as the 4th Baron Lord William Widdrington (1678-1743AD) and his other brothers of gentry level, amongst others. It is thought that the Jacobites numbered about 400. However, the rebels found both Berwick upon Tweed and Newcastle upon Tyne's gates barred and walls armed to prevent assault. At Berwick some houses were demolished to give better cannon coverage. Watchers were employed on the walls as well. Militias, (part-time armies), were also raised - that for Newcastle taking up position at Killingworth. It is for this reason that people from Newcastle may be called 'Geordies'. Lindisfarne Castle was captured by Lancelot, and nephew Mark, Errington for the Jacobites - though was soon re-captured by Berwick soldiers.

Meanwhile in Scotland the rising had broken out under the command of the Earl of Mar - but similarly attracted little support. Mar's movements were also hampered by standing army garrisons blocking his advance from the Scottish Highlands via Stirling, to Edinburgh. Some lowland Scottish contact was made with the Northumbrian Jacobites after their had retraced their steps and marching northward to Kelso, (Scotland), via Wooler, where Forster, (despite no military experience), was put in command - as a Protestant it was thought he would appear more acceptable - when the army was in England, and Lord Kenmure when it was in Scotland. The Jacobite army moved through the Scottish Borders to the northwest of England where further support was thought to be in October. The army numbered about 2, 000. They moved down through Cumbria to Lancashire where little support was forthcoming.

There the Jacobites reached Preston, via Lancaster, on the 11th November 1715AD. They intended to hold out against the now fully mobilised army. The Jacobites barricaded themselves in the centre of the town - but after heavy fighting they surrendered on the 13th to troops under the command of Generals Carpenter and Wills. The same day the northern rebels under Mar fought at Sheriffmuir, near Stirling. This was a stalemate that the arrival of James at Peterhead with no supplies, could not break. James and Mar left for their enforced continental exile - never to see Britain again. The rising then faded into nothing. The rising failed because of indecision, lack of military knowledge and the lack of French support.

Following the defeat at Preston the Jacobite prisoners were divided by their social groups. The high-ranks were tried before the (London) House of Lords in February 1716AD. Their estates were forfeited (confiscated) from them and their heirs, (see Greenwich Hospital). The Lords Derwentwater and Kenmure were executed by beheading, after a change from hanging, drawing and quartering, after a short trial on Tower Hill, London - whilst the remaining peers, though forfeited, were generally pardoned. Members of the lesser gentry ranks were held in London and regional prisons of the northwest and northeast - from which the Erringtons, Forster and the younger Radcliffe escaped to France.

The lower orders were held in the regional prisons of the northwest, before being transported, for varying periods of time (seven years to life) abroad to act as unpaid slaves in the Jamaican Caribbean and American colonies, hung, shot or were pardoned. Those who escaped from this group - overpowering one ship in transit or escaping the shipping - made for France as well. Some 639 were transported abroad. A general pardon was issued by George I called the Act of Grace in July 1717 - removing the imprisonment terms for those in the prisons, though this did not apply to the escapees. The estates of several Jacobites were sold at auction. A Church of England vicar who had joined the rebels in Wooler, called Robert Patten, wrote A History of the Late Rebellion in 1717 after giving evidence for the prosecution (King's Evidence) and being pardoned.

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