The following group of historical insights have been compiled by the wonderful Bamburgh Bones volunteer researcher Carol Griffith. Carol delights in scouring archives and ancient documents to gather information about Bamburgh and it’s impressive castle through the ages.
Ferdinando, born in 1670, was named after his maternal grandfather, Ferdinando Lord Fairfax of Denton. He was the third son of William and Dorothy, but his elder brothers William and John pre-deceased him in 1699 and 1700 respectively. So Ferdinando briefly became his father’s heir. Having resigned an army commission in 1691 he stood in his deceased brother’s place in Parliamentary elections for Northumberland MP, and was successful in January 1701. In August of that year, he attended a dinner at Newcastle for the grand jury of the County, where he quarrelled with John Fenwick of Rock who was singing, somewhat provocatively, the political party refrains from “Sir John Fenwick’s the flower amongst them”. They were prevented from dueling that evening, but the next day, drew swords, but Ferdinado slipped on the cobbles before the duel commenced, and was run through by John Fenwick. As Ferdindo had slipped this was regarded as murder and exactly one month later, Fenwick was hanged on the same spot, the authorities having barred all the city gates to prevent any attempt by supporters, to rescue the condemned man.
Proceedings in Chancery by Creditors to recover debts against the Forster family forced the sale of the estate, and although the sale realised £20,679, after payment of debts, only £1028 remained. Ferdinando’s heirs were almost penniless…
There is a resplendent memorial in the chancel of St Aidan’s erected by his grieving sister Dorothy, the future Lady Crewe, and his armour hangs in the top right hand side of the fabulous Reredos
Recently discovered documents shed some light on this infamous quarrel, which led to the murder of Ferdinando in Newcastle and the execution of Fenwick on the very spot a month later in 1701.
In the annals of the line of “ Bamburgh Forsters”, Ferdinando is known only for his untimely end, and for his armour hanging in the Chancel of St Aidan’s church, Bamburgh. It has been suggested that in a brawl at a Newcastle pub, Ferdinando, MP for Berwick, and Fenwick taunted each other with partisan political songs. But there seems to be more to it…
An account by Samuel Wilson, one time employee at Berwick at the Town Clerk’s Office in Berwick, wrote that-
About 1680 a very serious matter occurred—serious, at least, in its threatened consequences.
He recorded that a dispute arose in Berwick regarding a fourth son of a Freeeman of Berwick, named Jackson, trying to obtain the Freedom of the Town on the death of his eldest brother. This led to two factions in the town, one petitioning the King, Charles II, to force the surrender of the Town’s Charter. Eventually to the Guild capitulated, and on 23 January 1685 the Mayor and a deputation reached London and were granted audience of the King, and his brother James Duke of York.
‘On Friday, January 23, 1684, at eleven o’clock forenoon, Mr. Mayor …went with the Charter to the King, being introduced by the Marquis of Halifax, and they kist the King’s hand and laide their Charter att the King’s feete with the Town’s resignation thereof and a peticion for a new one, he smilingly said: “Is the Charter of Berwick cotrtdf’ (The Duke of York being by a little before the delivery thereof, said: “Now will Mr. Mayor and these gentlemen engage that the towne will be better people in time comeing,”.) . There was present at the delivery Captain Ralph Widdrington and Captain Biggerstaffe, However, they two are the towne’s irreconcileable enemies, and they endeavour to have the Charter so drawn that all the towne’s grounds may be given to the garrison, and that all the burgesses be no burgesses, and only a certain number as they please to name to be incerted in the new Charter, and these only to be burgesses, and impose a parcel of justices of peace upon the town, etc…. Soe the town’s friends are the Duke of Albemarle, Marquis Halifax, Earl Sunderland, Lord Dartmouth, Sir Philip Musgrove, Sir John Fenwick. The town’s enemies, Captain Biggerstaffe, Captain Ralph Widdrington, Deputy Governor of Berwick, who instigate all they can against the town, and designe, if possible, to have Mr. Mayor turned out.
His Majesty recommended them to my Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys, to consult and frame the new Charter, and in order thereunto he designed on the 2nd day of February to waite upon the Lord Chief Justice, but that very morning about eight o’clock after His Majesty was dressed, he fell down in his chair dead in an apoplective fit, and continued speechless for an houre and a half, to the great terror and consternation of all the cittie that heard it, soe that Mr. Mayor was prevented of meeting with the Lord Chief Justice that day. His Majesty continued sick till the Friday morning following, viz., the 6th of February, 168|, and about one o’clock that morning he departed this life ; and, betwixt the houres of foure and five in the afternoon that same day, his Royal Highness James Duke of York and Albany, the said King’s only brother, was proclaimed King of England, etc. Soe this sudden change of affairs put a stop to the Mayor’s proceedings about the Charter till the 19th day of February they petitioned King James for a new Charter .’
“To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty—
“The humble petition of the Mayor, Bailiffs and Burgesses of the Borough and Corporation of Berwick-upon-Tweed sheweth:
“That your petitioners did humbly and voluntarily surrender their Charter with all their lands, debts, franchises and liberties into the hands of their late Gracious Soevereign Lord King Charles II., of Blessed Memory, which he was graciously pleased to accept of.
“Now your petitioners are become your Majesty’s humble suppliants, and humbly pray your Majesty to grant unto them a new Charter
Upon which the King said to Mr. Mayor: “You shall have a new Charter, but you must bring in more honest men into the town,” and thereupon signed a warrant to his Attorney-General to further them in their new Charter, and afterward proceeded to govern by commission in Berwick; and by the misrepresentation of Captain Ralph Widdrington and Captain Biggerstaffe, they rendering the inhabitants and officers of the town to be soe dangerous and fractious, the King forthwith caused Mr. Fenwick, Mayor, Thomas Watson, John Luck and George Watson, Aldermen of the town, and Mark Scott, Town-Clerk, Lyonall Davison, Hew Hewitson, Sergeants-at-Mace, and all the other town’s officers, and Esquire Carr, the Recorder, etc., to be put out of their offices (only continuing Justice Catterall in his office), and in their steads on the 16 March, i68|, there was by the King’s order proclaimed at Berwick Ferdinando Forster, Maior, Duke of Newcastle, Recorder, and they, by a mighty hand, proceeded to election of Parliamentary Burgesses for Berwick and least burgesses and others should oppose them in their choice, they at one time cited and excommunicated Seaven Score Burgesses and Inhabitants, and gott out excommunicated capiendo against most of them to deprive them of their vote and made twenty Burgesses that were for their purpose, but would admit of none (though it was their right) that might appear against them in their election
This new ruling authority was very busy in Berwick, but they were greatly hampered through their having no charter, as they had no security upon which to raise money ; so they wrote … to urge on his Majesty to grant the charter. On August 31st, 1686, Charles Jackson was ordered to bring it down from London. On November 4th, 1686, it is recorded: The New Charter shall be received with all the respect the town is able to show.’ A new Mayor was chosen on receipt of the charter on December 12th. Ferdinando Forster, the Revolution Mayor, was not allowed to continue. Next year William Lawson was elected in his room, and Forster and some companions were dismissed the Council for “misbehaviour,’ but of what kind is not recorded.
Could this be the root of the family feud that led to murder of one and execution by hanging, of the other?