Truncheon Obverse Side. Copyright C. Ruskin

Handcuffs used by Weardale Park & Forest Association for the Prosecution of Felons
Copyright C. Ruskin

Weardale Society
Centenary Photo of Weardale Association for the Prosecution of Felons.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Weardale
Current Location: Private
Theme: Cultural/Social
Period: Post-medieval
Date: c.1808

What is it?
A wooden, possibly ceremonial truncheon. It is painted in gold with the words ‘Geo. 111’ with a coat of arms and ‘GR’ on one side and the initials ‘MS’ in gold on the other side.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Before the 18th century there was no police force in England and each village or town would have its own law enforcers. In Weardale, Stanhope had a society for prosecuting felons set up in 1800, Blanchland and Hunstanworth in 1814. A Weardale Park and Forest Association for the prosecution of Felons, with a membership of 67 was set up in 1802 and reformed in 1820.  Not only were they concerned with crimes such as theft, robbery and murder but they would punish anyone fighting, sliding on the snow and ice and playing football or other unlawful games ‘in any of our fields’. Wolsingham had its own Association in 1808 for prosecuting felons. This was an association:

‘for detecting and punishing with the utmost rigour of the law, all persons who shall be guilty of and felony or misdemeanour against the persons or property, of us or any of us and that we will spare no expense in encouraging and rewarding individuals for giving such information as may by the mean of apprehending and convicting offenders.’

One member of the Association in the East Quarter of Wolsingham in 1808 was Michael Stephenson. Could this truncheon have belonged to him? The date fits as do the initials.

Why is it important?
The truncheon’s provenance is certainly from Weardale according to the current owner. It is the only known example of its type for the North Pennines representing a fascinating but little studied aspect of law and order measures in the area in the early 19th century.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Devey T.V., Records of Wolsingham,   Northumberland Press 1926
  • Egglestone W.M., The Weardale Nick Stick, Darlington 1872


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