General Wade – Jacobites, walls and Yorkshire.

Fleece Inn Image sml.jpgI first heard of General George Wade as the man who built the Military Road from Newcastle to Carlisle by using some conveniently placed worked stone – Hadrian’s Wall.  It didn’t endear him to me.  Across on the Continent he’d served in the Nine Years War and the Wars of the Spanish Succession. In 1724 Wade was sent off to inspect Scotland having done a stint as an MP for Bath and having foiled various Jacobite plots in the SouthWest in 1719.  It was he who orchestrated barracks, bridges, roads and fortifications by which the north and Scotland could be controlled – he was made a field marshall for his pains. But it wasn’t until 1746 that he vandalised Hadrian’s Wall. His Military Road is the B6318.  It used masonry from the wall and near Brampton simply ploughs along its path.

Marshall Wade was in Newcastle in October 1745. Essentially he hung around in Newcastle in case his Princeliness and his Jacobites followed after Sir John Cope to Berwick and then down the east coast.  Meanwhile the east coast all the way down to Norfolk prepared to repel invading French-persons – unfortunately Louis XV hadn’t got his act together at that point.  There was supposed to have been a Jacobite uprising with shiploads of French the previous year – and it hadn’t happened due to a February storm that had scattered the French invasion fleet- in addition to which it wasn’t because Louis felt strongly about supporting the house of Stuart it was more to do with the War of Austrian Succession that saw Britain and France squaring off without actually declaring war.  The Jacobites were a handy method of disrupting the English.  Anyway, in 1745 Louis waited to see what would happen and left concrete support far too late but hindsight is a wonderful thing and in the autumn of 1745 everyone on the east coast was feeling decidedly nervous.

Meanwhile the inhabitants of the Cumbria and Lancashire were remembering that in 1715 the Jacobites had headed in their direction.  Letters were exchanged. Wade waited to see what the Jacobites would do.  George Murray was a canny lad and kept Wade guessing about which direction the Jacobites would choose. When it was finally clear which direction Charlie-boy and his cohorts were heading in it was too late for Wade’s forces to deploy in time. Wade discovered that bad weather and bad roads would prevent him from heading the Jacobites off before they made too much progress into England.

He and his men headed south after the Jacobites – using what we know as the A1 and what they thought of as the Great North Road. Meanwhile the duke of Cumberland was summoned from playing soldiers in Europe.  He and his men were based in Lichfield. A third army was hurriedly assembled to defend London although there were rumours that the Scottish contingent of the London based army would defect to the Jacobites if they got within twenty miles.  Realistically, Lord George Murray had every reason to be concerned about being out manoeuvred when Prince Charles held his meeting in Exeter House in Derby on the 5th December.

Wade and his troops had arrived in Ferrybridge on the 8th December. They made it to Wakefield by the 10th December.  Cumberland had sent a letter demanding that Wade’s men cut off the prince’s retreat. Wade realising that his men weren’t going to get to Preston or Manchester in time to cut off the Jacobites sent his cavalry commanded by Olgethorpe, on the 11th, to do what they could.  They hurried from Wakefield to Elland via Westgate where they stopped so that Lady Oglethorpe could admire the view. According to the tenant of the Fleece Inn, George Readyhough, provided ale for three thousand troops.


Wade, meanwhile turned his men around and head back to Newcastle. Oglethorpe arrived in Preston more or less at the same time as Cumberland – the 13th December.


Thirlwall Castle.

The name means ‘gap in the wall’ and the wall is Hadrian’s Wall.  Edward I stayed on the site in 1306 but he didn’t actually stay in this castle although he may well have paused to admire the wall that the Romans built.  John Thirlwall began building his castle in 1330 on a rocky outcrop next to the Tipalt Burn with the handily placed dressed stone that some one had conveniently left laying around.  It was just as well he did.  The Scottish Wars of Independence were ongoing but battles were turning into raids.  The riding times of the border reivers had begun.  Having a good stout stone wall along with a thick oak door protected by an iron yett were handy things to have and as a consequence the Thirlwalls did well.  When Lancelot or Lionel Thirlwell died in 1582 he left his widow and eight children comfortably off.  Of course, after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 there was less need to live in a cold and isolated castle and by the 1660s the Thirlwalls had taken themselves off to Hexham.  Not that this stopped the Scottish Parliamentarian army sleighting it during the 1640s.

All that remains today is a ruin and a legend.  According to the story there was a rather alarming raid in the offing and the Thirlwall’s needed to hide their possession from the thieving Scots.  They happened to have a particularly fine jewel-laden gold table (don’t we all) which a servant hid down a well where it remains hidden to this day.  Depending on which version of the story you read, the servants still there as well!