Standing proudly on its plinth outside the town hall is an unusual relic of the little known Boxer Rebellion in Imperial China at the turn of the last century. It’s a type of heavy duty musket known as a gingall, which was captured by British forces during an attack on the rebel held Taku Forts in North West China in June 1900. The weapon found its way into the hands of Commander Edward Charlton, who was at the time serving aboard HMS Orlando as part of the British forces deployed to put down the rebellion. The future Admiral Sir Edward Charlton RN, a member of the Charlton family of Hesleyside Hall, Bellingham, then presented the gun to the people of Bellingham.
Cuddy’s Well is the local name for St Cuthbert’s Well, the Georgian pant which gurgles away behind St. Cuthbert’s Church to the left of the town hall. Water from the well is used in all baptisms at the church, in recognition of the fact that it was supposedly founded by St Cuthbert himself. Legend has it that a girl called Eda suffered a paralysed arm after staying away from church to sew a dress on the feast day of St Lawrence, but was miraculously cured by an apparition of St Cuthbert after drinking water from the well.
No visit to Bellingham is complete without a visit to Hareshaw Linn, a spectacular waterfall just a short walk from the centre of the village. The waterfall is reached via a footpath, which takes the walker through a wooded glade which is home to red squirrels, roe deer, badgers and a dazzling galaxy of birdlife. The path is occasionally tricky, but the effort is well worthwhile when you cross the sixth bridge on the route to see the Hareshaw Burn tumbling over the 30-foot drop into a rocky cavern.
Memorial Monument Close to the town hall in Manchester Square is the imposing memorial to the yeomanry and volunteers from Bellingham and district who marched off to South Africa to fight in the Boer War from 1900-1902. The memorial was originally erected at the junction of the roads to Otterburn and West Woodburn, but was moved to its present location in the 1950s. It is not the village’s official war memorial; that is at the lynch gate at the cemetery on the Hexham road.
The Lang Pack ….
In St Cuthbert’s Churchyard, just a few yards away from the town hall, lies a long gravestone, around which a local legend has been told for nearly 300 years
It involves the visit paid by a lone pedlar to Lee Hall, on the outskirts of Bellingham, back in 1723. The man asked for lodgings for the night, and when his request was refused, he asked if he leave his heavy pack at the hall while he sought lodgings in the village. With the owners the Ridley family away, the three servants left in charge of Lee Hall agreed, but that night, servant girl Alice thought she saw the pack move. She alerted Edward, one of the other servants, and taking no chances, he fetched his musket – which he had nicknamed Copenhagen – and fired a shot into the pack.
There was a loud cry, and blood began to gush from the pack. When the servants opened the pack, they found a dwarf hidden inside, with a silver whistle around his neck. Realising that the plan was for the dwarf to let himself out of the pack when the servants had gone to bed, and alert the rest of his gang with a blast on the whistle, the servants rounded up friends and neighbours to set a trap for the would-be thieves.
In the dead of night, Edward blew the whistle, and a large group of horsemen could be heard approaching the hall. They were greeted by a hail of bullets, and when the gunsmoke cleared, there were four bodies lying in front of the hall, while the rest of the gang fled in disarray,
But by daylight the next day, the corpses had mysteriously vanished, and no-one knows who they were, or where they had come from. The servants were left only with the body of the dwarf, whose remains, it is said, lie under the Lang Pack gravestone.