IN this latest book in a series by the author about this coastal area, he reveals that Lesbury village was for many years in medieval times of far more civic and religious importance than nearby fledgling Alnmouth or Alnwick. His research of long-neglected newspapers and official records reveals a flourishing and remarkable township peopled by many interesting individuals.
The village church dedicated to St Mary was, in the 13th century, the mother church of the district, but in centuries ahead it was to have several eccentric priests. In the early 17th century its vicar, Patrick Macklewyan, who lived to the ripe old age of 110 and was described as a ‘quarrelsome and troublesome’ man, was often in hot water with his parishioners and the archdeacon’s court, which on one occasion fined him for grazing his geese and a mare on ‘out of bounds’ land.
Then, in the late 18th century, Branxton-born vicar Percival Stockdale achieved notoriety when a hoax message led him to believe that his unloved wife had died and her remains were being sent by sea to Alnmouth. On meeting the vessel, he was horrified to come face to face with his very-much-alive spouse.
Delving into accounts of 19th century court cases reported in local newspapers, we learn about such crimes as being asleep while in charge of a horse and cart, duck stealing, selling drink during prohibited hours, and sentences of transportation for minor theft.
An intriguing case in 1924 concerned a Lesbury village sub-postmistress charged with intent to defraud who placed bets on racehorses by post for her lodger. After a suspiciously good winning streak it was eventually found that she was waiting for the race results, then misusing her postmark date stamp to send off the bets.