Newcastle's Great Flood

A group of keen volunteers is to visit Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn on Wednesday 20th January, to decide on their next challenge. They will be bringing with them a 500-page volume of papers about the Great Flood of 1771, which they have transcribed and made available on the Internet.

‘It was pure coincidence that this project came to fruition at the same time as this winter’s floods, but it has certainly sharpened our perceptions,’ said Sue Ward, convenor of the group. Many people are aware of the collapse of Newcastle’s medieval bridge in the Great Flood of 16th-17th November 1771, but the effects on the Tyne Valley and Tynedale, and the loss of life, property, animals and crops are much less known.

The Papers belong to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne’s archives, and are a bound volume of documents from the relief fund for Northumberland, essentially the office file of the Secretary to the Fund, solicitor Lancelot Heron from Hexham.

society_of_antiquaries_jan_2016__even_smaller_200‘As well as being a source for the history of that event, it gives a wonderful snapshot for social and family historians about those whose lives were affected -  who they were, where they lived and what they owned and valued; there is the generosity of the donors and the sometimes harsh decisions about the distribution. You had a better chance of a good payment if the Vicar signed your estimate!’ explains Barbara Martin, one of the volunteers.

At the same time, a sub-group of the volunteers has been transcribing the 1784 Poll Book – the record made by the canvassers for Andrew Stoney Bowes of Gibside, ‘Britain’s worst husband’ in the 1784 Parliamentary election for Newcastle upon Tyne. The digitised version was one of the hits of Newcastle Antiquaries’ 200 Years exhibition in 2013 at the Great North Museum, with visitors able to look for their own surnames; it’s now freely available on the Antiquaries’ website.

Despite spending so much time dealing with crabbed handwriting and peculiar spelling, the team of volunteers is up for another challenge. They are visiting Woodhorn both to bring the Flood Papers - normally looked after by Northumberland Archives but held in the library at the Great North Museum while the project has been going on – and to look for some other interesting documents in the Antiquaries’ archives to digitise and transcribe.

Sue Wood, Head of Collections at Woodhorn said, “We are looking forward to working with the volunteers to investigate our collections and find them a new project. I am sure that together we can locate something that will be both useful and interesting, not just to the volunteers, but to the wider community once completed.”  

The 1771 Tyne Flood Papers are part of the archives of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, which are lodged at Woodhorn. The digitised copy was made by Dr Ria Snowdon for Professor Helen Berry of Newcastle University, and put onto the Antiquaries’ website after a lecture by Professor Berry in February 2015. A joint venture between the Explore Lifelong Learning programme in Newcastle and the Antiquaries was then set up to transcribe the pages of the Flood Book so that an easily readable version can be seen alongside the digital images. Though there is still editing to be done, this is now all-but-complete and can be accessed on the website at http://www.newcastle-antiquaries.org.uk/Flood/

For more information about the 1771 Flood, see http://blog.twmuseums.org.uk/the-great-flood-of-november-1771-guest-post-by-emily-needle/

The Antiquaries website has information on the Poll Book at http://www.newcastle-antiquaries.org.uk/clearsight/documents/uploaded/The_Newcastle_Poll_Book.pdf

For material on Stoney-Bowes, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Robinson_Stoney

Printed from Woodhorn web site.
URL: http://www.experiencewoodhorn.com/newcastles-great-flood/
Printed: 17/07/2018
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