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.
It is thanks to Lord Crewe that his Charities exist to this day, and his name will always be remembered in Bamburgh as a great benefactor
Nathaniel Crewe, born 1633, was the third Lord Crew of Steane, and a grandson of the Speaker to the Commons. He was educated at Lincoln College Oxford, where he was made Deacon and Priest in 1665. He went on to rise to Bishop of Oxford then Bishop of Durham from 1674 till his death in 1721.
He married twice; firstly to Penelope Frowde, then on her death in 1699 to his first love, Dorothy Forster in 1700. It is said that he wooed Dorothy first but her father declined to let her marry at a very young age
“The following year, in July 1700, Crewe at last married Dorothy Forster, now aged 27; Crewe himself was 67, but there seems no doubt that this was a lovematch, and the bishop was inconsolable when his wife died. Dorothy was the youngest daughter of Sir William Forster of Bamburgh Castle and Dorothy, daughter of Sir William Selby of Twizell. She was fair, blue eyed and charming, known as ‘pretty Dolly Forster’, and through her the bishop acquired the property in Northumberland and Durham which in his will was devoted entirely to charitable purposes. She did not bring it as a dowry, since the family were deep in financial trouble when she married Crewe. But her husband by 1709 bought up from his relatives by marriage the manor and castle of Bamburgh, the townships of Shoreston and North Sunderland, Bamburgh Friars farm, Bamburgh cell and tithes, Fleetham, the manor of Blanchland, the rectory of Shotley, the manor of Thornton, houses at Alnwick, Edmondhills and Durham property, and extensive mineral and fishing rights, to an annual value at that date of £1,314. The purchases cost the bishop a total of £20,697, and he then proceeded to begin the restoration of Bamburgh Castle.
In 1715 the north of the country was shaken by the first Jacobite rising; a prominent figure was Thomas Forster of Adderstone, Dorothy’s nephew, and the news that a warrant had been issued for his arrest proved fatal to her. She fell into convulsions and died in October 1716. She was buried, like the bishop’s first wife, at Steane. Crewe’s health was already failing and he spent hours sitting alone beside Dorothy’s grave. Eventually, on 18 September 1721, he died at Steane, aged 88. As he had no children by either of his marriages, the peerage died with him.”
It was written at the time, rather waspishly, that “nothing became his life so well, as his leaving of it”. However, many future generations of inhabitants of Bamburgh had cause to bless his name, for the numerous charities that were established after his death such as the Schools for Boys and Girls, free medical help, hot and cold baths at the Castle, free inoculations for the poor against smallpox, subsidized cheap corn, handouts of meat to the poor, help to the shipwrecked and to the drowned. The fellows at his former College Lincoln College must also remember him with gratitude every year, as his Will left provision for an annual ovation of champagne and strawberries in his memory! And the Chancellor of Lincoln college is a Trustee of his Charity to this day.
The Lord Crewe Trustees made several grants in Lady Forster name –
“Agreed to give 2 guineas to Mary Pullen, who had lived 13 years with Lady Crewe, but now old and reduced, but with good character.
And on July 20 1774
“Ordered 5 guineas to be given as charity to Mary Moor, daughter of Martin Adamson deceased, who formerly was Page to Lady Crewe, now in great distress”
There is one fascinating reference to Dorothy, Lady Crewe. Constance Smedley is the author of a well-respected and researched book about Grace Darling- “Grace Darling and her times” published in 1932. It is said that she researched her accounts carefully; speaking to the oldest villagers then in Bamburgh, whose memories may best retain stories about the Darling family.
Perhaps this was the source of the following anecdote, referring to The Castle Garden, now situated at the head of the Grove in Bamburgh . The Garden was one time cared for by Job Horsley, Grace Darling’s grandfather.
“…the great walled garden-There you can see the pear tree planted in 1663 by the Dorothy Forster who married the famous Bishop of Durham, lord Crewe. It stands by the wall beside the door upon the grove whose trees look over the red brick coping, and it still bears fruit “
There are several portraits of Dorothy, Lady Crewe, in Bamburgh Castle, a gracious elegantly dressed lady.