Okay I promised quilts...
At the Beamish Museum we were able to walk into houses all trapped in a time warp, with guides dressed in period costume, real fires burning and real activities taking place - black leading the range, baking caraway seed cake, doing the laundry, teaching a visiting group of school children. Many of the beds were piled with lovely quilts, a lot of typical North Country wholecloth quilts with lovely hand stitching detail and some vivid Turkey red fabric.
"proggy" rugs and some woven mats which reminded me of Japanese country sakiori rugs (have a look at the fantastic example Nat has just acquired here.)
Monthly Chronical of North- Country Lore and Legend 1887
TERRIBLE and mysterious tragedy, vividly remembered for half a century after the event, was perpetrated in the neighbourhood of Hexham at the beginning of the year 1826. The victim, an old man of 76, was well known over all the country side as an honest, industrious, and kindly character. Joseph Hedley, better known as Joe the Quilter, had essayed in early life to be a tailor. He does not appear to have taken kindly to the goose, nor the goose to him, and he turned out to be but a useless knight of the thimble. But Joe had a good genius of his own. Although cutting coats and trousers was not in his way, and although sewing seams was far from being his peculiar forte, yet he developed a faculty for delineating flowers, fruit, and figures, which in time led him to adopt the profession of "quilting." There were no sewing machines in those days. Nought but the swiftly plied needle vied with the knitting wires in creating the new or repairing the old. There seems, therefore, to have existed a good field for the opera- tions of a quilter. It is hardly necessary to say how quilts of those days were made, or to describe them minutely when executed. Quilts of all days, we daresay, since quilts were made, have been much the same. Joe showed exquisite taste in devising the figures which he wrought upon the linen or cotton committed to his care. He first cut out the patterns in cardboard, then laid them on the cloth, which was stretched upon a frame, and with chalk or pencil marked the outline of the flower or leaf which the taste of his employers had selected. He soon came to have a stock of excellent figures, and, being popular with the lady members of families, his services appear to have been greatly in request. As a workman, he seems to have occupied a high place. Specimens of his work were known in different parts of England, and even Ireland and America heard of his fame. Joe spent the latter days of his life in, a small cottage in the parish of Warden, situated on the road between Warden church and the village of Cho^erford, and over- looking the North Tyne. The locality was at that period (as it is now) lonely and retired, and went by the name of "Homer's Lonnin." The cottage itself was unpretentious enough, although it was called Homer's House for what reason is not apparent. Low walls, a thatched roof, moss-covered stones, and weeds that made the rotten thatch look green, formed the beau-ideal of a witch or warlock's dwel- ling : but in connection with Joe it was merely known as the habitation of a human being of powers not exceeding the bounds set to those of ordinary humanity, except in the particular province of kindness to all living creatures. It is, of course, natural that people who knew the "Hermit of Warden" should speak highly, even to exaggeration, of his good qualities when he was robbed of life in a manner at once so brutal and BO mysterious. But the truth remains that the burden of all that was written of the unfortunate creature at the time was greatly and unreservedly to his praise, while certain facts indicate that he was not neglected during his life. His place of habitation secured for him the name of Hermit, though the quality of a recluse seems to have had a very slight hold of his character. The cottage was pulled down in 1872, so that all landmarks of the mournful tragedy have vanished, leaving nothing to recall the circumstance but the silent page of the local historian. A painting of the humble domicile, however, was made before its removal, and from it we have taken a sketch, reproduced from a photograph by Mr. Gibson,
of Hexham. The Quilter did not at one time occupy his cottage alone. Like other men, he had married ; but his married life proved in the end to be a burden and a severe drain on his slender resources. His partner was much older than himself, and was, besides, confined to bed for eight years before her death. Joe met the adverse circum- stances manfully. With true affection he nursed his ailing wife through her lingering trouble, performed all domestic operations, and watched over her till she died. Having alternated the lighter labour of quilting with a turn at the reclamation of a piece of waste land near his dwelling, Joe in course of time managed to convert it into a garden, where gooseberries grew which young couples from neighbouring farms and villages came to share with each other on Sunday afternoons. Some people possess a happy aptitude for putting blushing lovers at their ease, and there are others before whom the tender passion dare not and cannot show itself. The Quilter belonged to the former class, and his con- versation or banter eeems to have been as accept- able to his young visitors as his supply of fruit. Joe had another class of visitors, and this feature of his story recalls an interesting phase of social life. There were pedlars and beggars in those days. The joint profession was rather an honourable one than other- wise. The members of the tribe often acted the part of newspapers, and carried from house to house the latest intelligence and the most highly flavoured accounts of the exciting in fact, the horrible in fancy, or the supernatural in gross superstition. In lonely farm-houses the beggar with a wallet of news was, metaphorically speaking, "high placed in hall a welcome guest." Joe's cottage was often the resort of the more respectable of these peripatetic vendors of household necessities or articles of ornamentation, which found a ready market when going from home was not so common as now, and when shops were fewer and further between. By this means the Quilter added to his popularity with his neighbours and the public generally ; for he got good stories from these wandering visitors, and he could retail them with considerable effect. It is even said that Joe at some time of his life connived at smuggling, which is scarcely sur- prising when we consider the times and the char- acter of many of his guests. The secluded position of Joe's cottage must have suited this business wonder- fully well, although it does not appear that it had ever been carried on under his eyes to any considerable extent. The distance of his home from neighbouring habitations seems to have made him liable to other dangers besides the temptation of baulking the exciseman ; and it is reported that he would have perished from want during a severe snowstorm had not a Hexham clergyman the Rev. R. Clarke, to whom, we believe, the late General Gordon was distantly related gone through the drifts to his assistance after other efforts to reach him had failed. This occurred in 1823, three years previous to Joe's miserable death. A mystery deep and as yet unfathomsd hangs around the end of honest Joe. On the evening of Tuesday, January 3rd, 1826, he returned to his cottage, having been at Walwick Grange in the afternoon. He had brought home his pitcher of milk, with other marks of the kindness of the farmer's wife. About six o'clock, William Herdman, a labourer living at Wall, called on returning from his work to sit with him for a few minutes. Joe had a good fire, and was preparing some potatoes for his supper. About seven o'clock, a female pedlar from Stamfordham called to inquire the road to Fourstones, having missed it in the darkness of the night. Old Joe came to the door and gave the necessary directions, gallantly observing that he would, if he had been younger man, have been glad to have acted as her guide. She was so far within the threshold of the house as to be able to observe that he was then alone, and she is supposed to have been the last person who saw him alive, except those who deprived him of life. This wae, as we have said, about seven o'clock. An hour later, when Mr. Smith, of Haughton Castle, rode by, all was silence and darkness in the cottage. The horrid deed had, in all human probability, been committed between the hours of seven and eight. Next morning Herdman, on proceeding to his day's work, found the cottage shut up, and a pair of old clogs lying on the other side of the lane opposite to a way leading over a hedge in the direction of Wall Mill. He men- tioned the circumstances to some one during the day, but only to receive for answer the remark that Joe had likely got a pair of new clogs, and had consequently thrown the old ones away. On Thursday, Herdman was not at work, and it does not appear that any other person had passed the cottage that day. On Friday, he found the cottage still shut up, and also observed for the first time marks of blood on the door. But till Saturday no further inquiry was made, and no fears were entertained. The neighbours at length became alarmed, and the cottage door was burst open on Saturday afternoon. The body of the unfortunate man was found in a small inner room, which was perfectly dark, the window having been built up. The apartment had been used as a place for lumber, and contained no furniture. Here the last act of the tragedy had been performed, as a sort of hollow or in- dentation of the floor close to the body contained quite a pool of blood. There were no fewer than forty-four wounds inflicted on the head, face, and neck. The hands of the deceased were dreadfully cut, probably in en- deavouring to ward off the knife from his throat, and several wounds had been received in his breast and neck, which seemed likewise to have been inflicted with a knife, apparently at the same period of the struggle. His head and face were frightfully mangled. A garden hoe with many appalling marks of its having been used as an in- strument of death was lying across the breast It bore evidences, near the middle of the handle, of having been wielded by two bloody hands, and the mingled blood and grey hairs of the sufferer "still stuck to the heft." The coal rake was found near the clock, and in a position which seemed to indicate that it had been the purpose of the murderer to conceal it. Its shank was much bent, and it bore other unmistakeable marks of having been offensively used. From the circumstance of two weapons having been wielded, it was considered at the time that there must have been two persons concerned in the murder. A theory such as we are about to state was formed at the time the murder was committed. The old man's garden tools, with the exception of the hoe we have mentioned, were found, after the discovery of the murder, in one of his three slips of garden against the south gable of the cottage, where they were usually placed. On the supposition that there were two murderers, one of them was probably stationed at the corner of the house as a scout, and, finding a braver and more protracted resist- ance than had been expected, he perhaps snatched up this implement, which he would find ready by his side, and went in to hasten the work of death. The clogs found in the lane, and the muddy state of the murdered man's clothes, are proofs that the deceased had at one time succeeded in making his escape from the house, and had been endeavouring to flee for refuge to Wall Mill, about a quarter of a mile distant, and the nearest resi- dence, although on the east or opposite side of the Tyne. On being dragged back, poor Joe must have made a con- siderable stand in the doorway, as one of the lintels bore marks of blood and grey hairs just where his head would have touched it when standing with his back to the door. In the cottage itself traces of the brave struggle which its aged tenant had made for his life were everywhere visible. The bed-tester had been violently torn down. The clock face was broken. Prints of three bloody fingers were distinctly visible on the chimney- jamb, next the coal-hole, to which Joe must have clung for support. To this corner he had probably retreated after his unsuccessful escape across the road, as there were traces of blood as well as mud on the walls. Here, too, he probably received some desperate wounds, as the plates on the table were streaked with blood. All efforts to discover the murderer or murderers were fruitless. Several arrests were made immediately after the deed took place, and even poor Herdman was taken into custody on the charge. The parish offered a hundred guineas reward to whosoever would bring the guilty persons to justice, and the Secretary of State, then Sir Robert Peel, offered a free pardon to any but the actual murderer who would give information which should lead to conviction. But these means were unavailing, and for once murder did not come out. The only possible motive for the crime was considered to have been a hope of securing money, as it was foolishly believed that old Joe was rich, although he was receiving parish relief. From time to time there have been published reputed confessions of the murder. One was made in 1836 by a man in Carlisle, then on his death-bed. Another was said to have been made by a prisoner in Gloucester Gaol an Irish navvy who was employed at the time of the tragedy in cutting a new road in the neighbourhood. Still another story is to the effect that the murder was committed by a couple of Newcastle pig-jobbers. But there does not appear to have been any truth in these statements. The following quaint verses were written at the time by Mr. A. Wright : And the lone cottage on the hill, Is it without a tenant still ? No. It remained vacant till 'Twas ta'eu by Joe the Quilter. Then it became the main resort, There lads and lasses went to courfy To chat and have a bit of sport With canny Joe the Quilter. Old Joe hedged in a rood of land ^ As from the stroke of magic wand A garden sprung beneath his hand Industrious Joe the Quilter. His cot secure his garden neat, He loved the lone and still retreat. Glad were his neighbours all to meet With honest Joe the Quilter. Of each he had some good to say, Some friendly token to display, And few could cheer a winter's day Like canny Joe the Quilter. Joe was beloved by all. The great Forgot the lowness of his state, And at their tables sometimes sate Respected Joe the Quilter. By efforts of superior skill, He paid these tokens of good will ; Humble but independent still Was grateful Joe the Quilter. His quilts with country fame were crown'd, So neatly stitch'd, and all the ground Adorn'd with flowers, or figured round, Oh, clever Joe the Quilter ! Joe's wife was sick, bed-rid and old ; To ease her pain he spent he sold Oh, there was never bodght for gold Such love as Joe the^Quilter's ! He was her housewife, doctor, nurse, But still the poor old soul grew worse, And she was lifted to her hearse By weeping Joe the Quilter. His labour still supplied their need, Till eight years' sickness bent the reed, And then the parish took some heed Of poor old Joe the Quilter. And now in widowhood and age, Frail, fail'd in sight, his hermitage Was little better than the cage Of feeble Joe the Quilter. But there were friends who cheer'd his days} Money and food they strove to raise, And kinder still relieved with praise The mind of Joe the Quilter. A favoured duck was dead, but yet He had two hens on which he set High value, and a cat, the pet Of tender Joe the Quilter. These were his wealth, and these to guard He'd just receive his work's reward, And darkling homewards trudging hard I've met the thoughtful Quilter. Thus oft from Warden Paper Mill He'd toiling climb the weary hill, Tho' bed and supper with good will Were press'd on Joe the Quilter. His friends, his hens, his cat and garden, He never thought his lot a hard one ; And the old Hermit of High Warden, They called good Joe the Quilter. Oft in his solitary nook, With shaking head, but steadfast look. Through spectacles on goodly book, Was seen the pious Quilter. His lowly latch was thought secure, At night he seldom ope'd the door, Except to lodge the wand'ring poor Oh ! hospitable Quilter. Who raised the tale 'twere vain to scan, But far and wide the story ran That there was scarce a wealthier man Than poor old Joe the Quilter. Satan by this vain tale, 'tis said, Had put it in some monster's head To violate the lowly shed, And murder Joe the Quilter. Missed by his friends at Walwick Grange, Who thought his few days' absence strange, They sought the cot and awful change, There lay the murdered Quilter. We pass the horrid scene of blood, For when hath feeling hearts withstood The grief of the afflicted good ? All mourned for Joe the Quilter. Know, then, ye proud ones of the earth, How light weigh greatness, wealth, and birth, To lowly virtue's heavenly worth, And envy Joe the Quilter