The Murder of Joe the Quilter

On 3 January 1826 a 76 year old man named Joseph Hedley was brutally murdered in his cottage in the parish of Warden. Joseph’s throat and face were slashed and multiple stab wounds were inflicted upon his body. He was commonly known as Joe the Quilter due to his skill with needlework. He was a quilter by trade and travelled around the country seeking employment. Joe’s skills in quilting were celebrated, and his handiwork was known in various parts of England, Ireland, Scotland and America.

On the evening of the murder, Joe obtained a pitcher of milk, a pound of sugar, a sheep’s head and pluck (offal) from farmer’s wife Mrs Colbeck of Warwick Grange. At approximately 6pm William Herdman, a labourer living in Wall called in on Joe on his way home from work at the local paper mill and sat with him for a short time. Joe had a good fire going and was busy preparing some potatoes for his supper.  Around 7pm Mrs Biggs, a female pedlar from Stamfordham knocked at the cottage to ask directions to Fourstones having missed the turning due to the excessive darkness of the night. Joe came to the door and gave her the necessary directions. Apart from the murderer(s), Mrs Biggs is said to be the last person to have seen him alive.


Plan of Joe’s cottage where the murder took place


At approximately 8pm a Mr Smith of Haughton Castle rode past the cottage on his way home from Warden and all at the cottage was silent and dark. It is suspected that the deed took place between 7-8pm. Concern for Joe’s safety grew after his neighbours didn’t see the elderly man for a few days. It was reported that there appeared to be marks of blood in the snow outside the cottage and marks to indicate that a struggle had taken place. His neighbours found the cottage door locked and after knocking several times with no reply proceeded to break into the property. They were faced with a chilling sight as parts of the walls of the cottage were stained with blood and a quilt spread on a frame bore a distinct mark of a bloody handprint. The pitcher of milk, sheep’s head and pound of sugar which he had recently purchased were found lying on a table. A search of the house was conducted and nothing was found. An old outhouse which stored wood and coals was then searched and Joe’s body was discovered. Both cheeks were cut widely open with deep wounds. A garden hoe was found laid across his chest. A coal rake was also found with its shank bent. As two weapons were discovered it then raised a suspicion that there were 2 murderers. Joe was found with knife wounds on his hands so had obviously fought with the attacker(s).

The small cottage had been ransacked and bore evidence of a struggle. All of his boxes and drawers had been disturbed and it was believed that two silver tablespoons, four teaspoons and two old fashioned salt cellars of silver net-work had been stolen.The bed tester had been violently torn down and the face of the clock broken. Prints of 3 bloody fingers were distinctly visible on the chimney jamb . The plates on the dresser were also streaked with blood. Outside in the lane some clogs were found and a small piece of coat was discovered on a hedge.It was supposed that Joe had fought hard with the murderer(s) and had managed to escape about 100 yards from the cottage before he was caught. Judging by the marks in the snow it appeared that a struggle had taken place and then Joe had been overcome and dragged back and murdered. After this had taken place the cottage door had been locked on the outside and the key taken away.


Reward Poster


A one hundred guineas reward was offered to catch the perpetrator(s) of the atrocious murder . The reward was offered from the Overseers of the Poor of the parish of Warden on 17 January 1826. Home secretary Robert Peel offered his majesty’s full pardon to any accomplices who came forward with information (as long as they were not the actual murderer). A jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.  Although several people were arrested and questioned nobody was ever charged and sadly the murder of Joe the Quilter was never solved. Joe was buried in Warden churchyard on 10 January 1826. On his burial entry the word murdered can clearly be read underneath his name.



On Wednesday 29 March 1826, an auction was held to sell the household furniture belonging to the ‘late unfortunate Joseph Hedley, commonly called Joe The Quilter’.


Auction Poster


This Week in World War One, 26 January 1917






Delia Curry, Berwick, married, was charged with concealing two deserters- Private Martin Conroy and Private Curry, in her house on 23rd January.

The Chief Constable explained that Sergeant Wilson got information that there were two deserters in the defendant’s garret in Chapel Street on Tuesday. From snoring the Sergeant heard outside he came to the conclusion that there were several men in the room. He called later, but the defendant refused to open the door for a considerable time. By the aid of a pen-knife he enlarged a hole in the door and saw a man partly dressed in khaki. He also saw a uniform lying about, and on getting in he only saw one man. There was a cupboard which he at last forced and found a man concealed there. Conroy had been an absentee since 9th April, 1916, and Curry since the 11th December- both from Duddingston.

(c) BRO 1250/163 Chapel Street 1950’s

Sergt. Wilson gave evidence as to his visit to the house. The keyhole of the door was choked up. After getting hold of one of the soldiers defendant said that there was no one in the house though the other was concealed in the cupboard. Conroy was defendant’s husband, the other man her brother.

Sergt Harvie, the Barracks, proved that the men were both deserters.

Defendant denied the charge, and said that the soldier went into the cupboard to put on his trousers – it was not a cupboard, it was a small room.

The Chief Constable said that the defendant was one of those who travelled the country and had no permanent residence.

Sentence – one month’s hard labour.




Laying the foundation Stone of Berwick Pier. In connection with our short article

Masonic Lodge, Berwick-upon-Tweed. © James Denholm, Creative Commons Licence.

regarding the Masonic ceremony at the laying of the foundation stone of Berwick Pier, it is of interest to note that there are framed in St. David’s Lodge two masonic aprons worn on that occasion. The inscription on the first is as follows: – “Presented to St. David’s Lodge No. 393, by Bro. J. Crow, on behalf of Mrs Smith, Magdalene Fields House, August 1914. Worn by her uncle, Bro. John Fox, who was surveyor of Berwick Pier under Sir John Rennie, and was used by him in the procession at the laying of the foundation stone, “July 27th, 1810.” The second bears a similar inscription, and was worn by her grandfather, Bro. John Good. There is a small trowal attached to this which was carried on the volume of the sacred law, in the procession and used in the ceremony.

Present Day Conditions in Germany: Mr D Thomas Curtin, whose articles and lectures descriptive of conditions in present day Germany have attracted much attention here and abroad, is to lecture in the Queen’s Rooms, on Wednesday, 31st inst., at seven p.m. Mr Curtin spent ten months in Germany, and during that period he travelled from one end of the country to the other, carefully noting what was going forward and the methods adopted by the authorities to cope with the famine brought about by the blockade. He will give his hearers an admirable opportunity of learning how the Germans succeed in organising for war, and the ruthless manner in which regulations are enforced. The lecture should be heard by everyone, and as a large audience is expected those desirous of being present should secure tickets immediately.

Soldiers’ Recreation Rooms. – The popularity of this institution as a resort for our local soldiers is well maintained. Every night the premises are well filled, and while supper is served in one room, innumerable letters written in another, great advantage is also taken of the concert hall. Last week was a specially busy one in the latter department. Tuesday saw the first tie in a whist contest; on Wednesday there was a concert; while every Sunday an hour is spent singing hymns. And in all this activity it is noticeable that the soldiers play the main part. A whist league has been formed consisting of eight teams of eight men each. Great keenness was shown in the first match, and the feature has been enthusiastically taken up. The concert proved a most enjoyable one. It was opened  by the orchestra, consisting of six instrumentalists, with a spirited rendering of “Sandy Mac,” and in response to an encore, “Stop Shorty” followed. Next came a song, “Scotland Yet.” by Private Mason. This soldier has a pleasing tenor voice, and while the audience, being mostly Scotch, would have liked a little more vim, he sang very sweetly. By way of variety Mr W. B. Dickinson told a few racy stories about bulls – the Highland, not the Irish variety. Private Burnett, a youthful soldier, gave a step dance, which was much appreciated. But the lion of the evening was Private Cumming, a splendid baritone, who sang, “Sons of a Nation.” A very few bars only were necessary to convince all that this handsome soldier had submitted his voice as well as his body to discipline and training. He is far above the ordinary run of vocalists. Praise in such a case would savour of patronage, but we may remark that his effort was hugely enjoyed and in response to rapturous applause he returned and sang “The Old Soldier” to the genuine delight of all present. A cornet solo, “Afton Water.” By Bugler Russell so pleased the audience that they insisted upon another, when the Bugler gave “Killarney.” The deep voice of Lance-Corporal Staples was heard in “When the ebb tide flows.” This was followed by another piece “Melodyland,” by the orchestra, and the concert closed with “God Save the King!”




A Berwick native, Mr William Purves, who resides in London, near the seat of the recent Munition factory explosion, writes as follows:-

The situation of the house is in close proximity to the centre of the explosion, and the remarkable part is that although all the other houses round about us were damaged in one way and another, such as a windows out, doors smashed, ceilings down, furniture upset, etc, we escaped with a broken lock, not even a window cracked. My wife and self are both natives of Berwick, she being the daughter of the late captain H. J. Rutherford, 61 Ravensdowne, and just a few hours before the explosion took place had received intimation of her mother’s death.

BRO 2103-4-2-71 Castlegate looking North mid 1900’s


That, coupled with the fact that she was thrown right across the room with the force of the explosion, causing a wound to her hand, completely unnerved her, but I am pleased to say she is progressing favourably. I am a Freeman of Berwick, serving my apprenticeship with Messrs J. Cockburn and Son, Castlegate. At present I am shop foreman of joiners in a munition works. My mother, who is still alive, and also a native of Berwick, resides at Cheviot View, Lowick.



Scouting at Stannington

Three Scouts practising map reading on a hospital veranda (ref: NRO 10510/2/2)
Three Scouts practising map reading on a hospital veranda (ref: NRO 10510/2/2)

Children were kept occupied in several ways during their long stays at Stannington, perhaps one of the more unexpected was by being able to join the hospital’s own Scout and Guide groups.

A patient’s stay at the Sanatorium (later Children’s Hospital) normally lasted for several months and often extended into years. Keeping children occupied during this time was an important consideration for the institution’s staff. Outside of attending the on-site school which all children did as soon as their recovery from illness allowed there were several ways the hospital staff kept children busy and entertained during their stays.

To provide children’s evening and weekend activities the sanatorium staff included a Welfare and Recreation Officer. At the start of the 1950s this role was held by Mr Holmes and it was his responsibility to organise and manage activities for the children. In this role he was a member of the Hospital House Committee which met to discuss and oversee the day to day running of the hospital. For each meeting he submitted a report of the various activities he’s arranged in the previous month. In his monthly report for the meeting of August 1950 he noted that:

“I have attended two meetings in conjunction with forming a Scout and Cub section at the Sanatorium. I think this is a helpful scheme for the boys, as some of them are already members of the Boy Scout Movement and if we form a group at the Sanatorium patients leaving would be transferred to Scout Clubs in their own district. …

…I also propose to form a Girl Guide Section.” (HOSP/STAN/1/2/5)

Report on Ralph Readers visit to Stannington in the Morpeth Herald, 29th January 1952
Report on Ralph Reader’s visit to Stannington in the Morpeth Herald, 29th January 1952

By the end of September 1950 four sections had been established; Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies. In January 1952 Ralph Reader, actor, theatre producer and originator of the Scout Gang Show visited to hand the Scouts and cubs their first colours. On this occasion the membership, which totalled 40, including 22 Scouts, assembled on the veranda to receive the colours. Several troop members confined to bed were wheeled out onto the veranda to also be involved in proceedings.

Soon after this a Scout and Guide Group Committee was formed to oversee all 4 sections. At their meeting held on the 30th April 1952 Mr Holmes and Mrs Driver, the Scout and Guide leaders, reported on activities which had taken place:

“Two lessons on woodcraft and tracking and 2 scouts were to take their 2nd class badge. Mrs Driver reported that she now had 22 guides… … an expatient had been presented with the Badge of Fortitude at the Sanderson Orthopaedic Hospital and it was agreed that the Secretary write a letter of congratulations.”

 “Arrangements were being made to hold the competition for the Mitford Cup at the sanatorium and it was suggested that the committee might act as host.” (HOSP-STAN 1/2/14)

The Scout Troops posing for a photograph on the steps of a hospital veranda (NRO 10510/3/15)
The Scout Troops posing for a photograph on the steps of a hospital veranda (NRO 10510/3/15)

When it was held the Hospital Scout troop went on to win the Mitford Cup for their skill in knot making, knowledge of scouting law and oral relay skills. The range of activities undertaken by the Scouts carried on and even expanded to include Scout camps held in the grounds of the hospital as long as “Mr Holmes was present the whole time and returned the children to the ward each morning” (HOSP/STAN/1/2/14 9th July 1952).

Later that year Mr Holmes resigned as Welfare and Recreation Officer. In time he was replaced in this role by Mr Pullen and Douglas Johnstone took over as Scout Master. Douglas Johnstone, after his time with the Scouts, would go on to become to the General Secretary of the PCHA, later Children North East, the organisation which half a century earlier had originally built the sanatorium.

Activities carried on including a salvage drive, where used paper, bottles and jars were collected to sell and raise money, but it was decided not to collect bones due to the possibility of encouraging rats! This happened in conjunction with the normal activities of learning skills and gaining badges. In 1952 some scouts were noted in the Welfare and Recreation Officers report as being ready to sit tests for Semaphore and First Aid Badges and one guide had recently taken her Music Lover’s badge and was ready to take her Needlewoman’s Badge test.

Later the Scouts were allowed away from the hospital on troop outings. These included trips to places such as Northumberland National Park and the beaches of Craster, Alnmouth and Boulmer. Pictured below are 6 of the scouts whilst on an outing to Alnmouth in 1961.

Six members of the hospital Scout Troop on a trip to the coast near Alnmouth. (ref: NRO 10510/3/4)

The groups also carried out fundraising activities in addition to their salvage drive, hosting dances and other events. With the money they raised they contributed £40 to the purchase of 5 TVs by the committee which was set up to celebrate the queen’s coronation in 1953. The Girl Guides also contributed to the fundraising efforts which included having a stall at the 1952 sanatorium garden party and raising £22 towards the installation of radio throughout the hospital.

The short history of the Scout Troop at Stannington ended in the autumn of 1962 when Douglas Johnstone, the Scout Master, disbanded the troop. However we know the Guide and Brownie sections continued after this as in the spring of 1964 the hospital recreation hall was refurbished and a timetable drawn up for its use; this included a slot for the Girl Guides on a Monday night between 5pm and 7pm and a slot for the Brownies at the same time on Tuesday nights. Though the scouts only had a relatively short history the troop was just one of many ways we’ve came across in the patient files and other records in which children were kept occupied and entertained during their stays. You can read more about this in an earlier blog post here.