The early life of the Windmill at Bamburgh Castle

As part of our look into Bamburgh in the 18th century, as researched by Carol Griffiths (with grateful thanks to Woodhorn Archive), here is a little insight into the charitable side of the trust set up by Lord Crewe when he purchased the estate. It is worth stating that the windmill built to grind the corn for the poor now serves as the BRP site office in the summer (GY):

As a Guide at Bamburgh Castle, we often talk to visitors about the many Charities that were established at the Castle during the time of Dr John Sharp in the mid-late 1700s. Under the Will of Lord Crewe, Prince Bishop of Durham, married to Dorothy Forster (of the Forster family to whom James 1 had given the Castle, ruined during the Wars of the Roses, in 1610) he left his considerable fortune for the restoration of the castle, and for good works to be carried out there, under the directions of five Trustees-of whom Dr John Sharp was the most energetic and inspired. We often talk to visitors of the immense effort directed at helping ships, sailors and passengers caught by the combined evils of storms, reefs from the Farnes and sandbanks near Holy Island; we talk of the Boys and Girls Charity Schools, the Dispensary and Infirmary established at the Castle, all to help the poor. I have to confess that only occasionally, as an afterthought, do I tack on a reference to the Mill that the Trustees built to grind corn for the poor when prices were high-till I read the following letter written to Dr Sharp by Ralph Dods of Beadnell on 24 February1783 (NRO452/C/3/2/13/13)-

The windmill in the West Ward, between our two excavation trenches (Trench 3 is the one closer to the camera). Thanks to Horizon AP fo the photo.

The windmill in the West Ward, between our two excavation trenches (Trench 3 is the one nearest to the camera). Thanks to Horizon AP and their amazing UAV for the photo.

The great numbers of People, who have resorted to Bambrough Castle this Winter for corn, is a proof of its dearness and scarcity. And as there has seldom been a sufficient quantity to serve all that apply I have made so bold on behalf of other poor neighbours and myself to trouble you with some remarks on the manner of its distribution; and also to acquaint you of the tricks that are used by some to obtain it, whilst many that are more needful are obliged to return with empty Bags and 1st it is usual for numbers of poor to be at the Castle by the hours of five, four, three and sometimes even two in the morning, on a supposition of first come first served. And when Mr Hall [ Foreman+ Constable at the Castle] comes there is often such a throng and josling that he is obliged to use Coercives to quiet the tumult 2nd their names and places of abode are taken down and what quantity of grain they want, but no notice is taken of the number of persons their family consists of; so that one individual frequently obtains as much for his or her self as the largest family 3rd it is usual for some people who have money to spare to get others to get them corn in their own names whereby two Bushels have been known to go to one house in a day 4th Bread Bakers Barnmen and even Farmers who have Corn to sell have made use of the same means to obtain it

I humbley conceive it is more owing to these tricks than to any deficiency or quantity of grain for relieving the real Necessities of the Poor. I hope you will pardon my impertinence if I now hint at a remedy for this abuse of the Benevolent intentions of the Trustees. Which is that they who apply may have a certificate from the Parish Officers specifying the names and numbers of their Familys and places of abode

I am Sir with the utmost respect your obedient and obliged Humble servant…”

Let us hope Dr Sharp paid heed to the sensible and compassionate Mr Dods. The desperation that made people queue at 3 a.m. on a February morning at the Castle entrance-wind howling, rain, possibly snow and frost, does not bear thinking about…

Carol Griffiths

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