Grid Ref: LR79: NY 544 863
Location: Northern England & Borders
Wood fuel available locally. No vehicles are permitted in the forest.
The Horrible Murder of A Gamewatcher
First published in the December 1998 Newsletter by Margaret Rich
Visitors to Kershopehead may perhaps have enjoyed an evening stroll in the forest to the monument some two kilometres or so to the south of the bothy. The weathered stone column bears the following inscription:
In Memory of
gamewatcher who was
murdered on this spot on
the 8th of November 1849.
Erected by Subscription 1852.
The memorial has intrigued me for many years and recently I decided to try to find out more. By looking at old copies of the Carlisle Journal I was able to piece together this account.
Thomas Davidson lived at Kettle Hall on the moors in the north east extremity of Cumberland in the parish of Bewcastle. He was married with eight children and had been a “steady and honest servant” of Sir James Graham for some twenty years.
On Thursday morning, November 8th 1849, Davidson left his home to make his usual rounds, He told his wife the direction he was taking in case Armstrong, the game keeper upon whose orders Davidson worked, should wish to meet him on the fells.
Thomas Davidson did not return home that Thursday evening and a search was started the following morning. It was two days later when the body was found near Wysefield sheepfold, about two miles from his home. He had been strangled with his own neckerchief and left lying face downwards, in a pool of blood.
Three suspects were rounded up: James Hogg, a notorious poacher, who three weeks prior had been fined for shooting without a game certificate, on Davidson’s evidence, his cousin, Nicholas Hogg (alias John Nichol) and the 24 year old, Andrew Turnbull. After a lengthy inquest all three were accused of wilful murder and imprisoned in Carlisle gaol to await committal to the assizes. Three days later Turnbull, who had always pleaded his innocence, hanged himself in his cell. Beneath the window he had written. “The two Hoggs are guilty. I am innocent. I will not come in the hands of man.”
A great deal of local interest was aroused when the two accused were brought to trial at the Cumberland Spring Assizes the following year. Proceedings were lengthy but eventually a verdict of not guilty was returned. Soon after the trial both James Hogg and John Nichols left the country. No one was brought to justice for the foul murder of the Bewcastle gamewatcher.
The house was built between 1814 and 1831 when Bailey Hope common was enclosed by William John Charlton of Hesleyside, Northumberland. We have learnt that it was occupied in the year 1841 by no fewer than nine people! John and Angus Rutherford with their four children shared this one bedroom dwelling with two others plus one farmworker. Certainly a house full! In 1920 Kershhopehead, along with the surrounding area was bought by the Forestry Commission.
Donald and I have recently made the acquaintance of John Steele all lived at Kershhopehead from 1936 to 1939 with her husband, Adam. Janet reminisced about the long days she spent in the 1930s – alone, and then with her baby son, Billy. Adam was employed as a Forrester and left for work each day at 7 am, not returning until after 5pm. At that time there was no access track beyond English Kershope. Janet used to walk there “across the skies (ditches)” to pick up groceries left by a weekly delivery van. From from Copshaw (Newcastleton). She really went further than English Kershope.
She told us that water at Kershhopehead was drawn from a well, but seemed unsure of the well’s exact location. Certainly we have found no trace of it. Fuel was peat – cut by her husband, Adam. Lighting was by oil lamps. The family kept a pony in the small stone building below the house. No cow was kept, but she remembers having some hens. Washing was boiled in a large pan on the peat fire. What a hard way of living said Janet!
In 1980 the forest commission widen the access for filling/tree planting and pushed rubble against the walls of Kershhopehead to a height of a couple of metres or so. Even though some of this has now been labouriously moved Janet on her recent visit, was astonished at! “All the big big rocks in front of the house!”
Click the thumbnails below for an enlargement.
© Copyright Mountain Bothies Association, Edenbank House, 22 Crossgate, Cupar, Fife, KY15 5HW
Mountain Bothies Association is a charity registered in Scotland, no. SC008685 and a company limited by guarantee and registered in Scotland, no. SC191425