Published on March 3rd, 2016 | by Alastair Gilmour


The little dog laughed to see so much fun

It’s amazing what turns up when you research a pub’s history, writes Alastair Gilmour

The owners of a Northumberland pub have long congratulated themselves on its lengthy service to the local community. A sundial on its frontage proudly proclaims the year 1726, which is a significant enough pat on the back for anybody.

However, The Angel Inn in Corbridge doesn’t originate in the 18th Century. A recent delve into the history books has discovered that it’s nearly 160 years older than previously thought. And it took a Gulf War veteran from California to find that out.

The hotel and pub’s managing director Kevin Laing says: “I got an email out of the blue in October from Mark Hedgepeth, a former United States Air Force major, who had spent the last 20 years tracing his ancestry. We had always believed The Angel was dated 1726 as it has on the sundial, but Mark had traced his ancestors owning the pub and a nearby farm right back to 1569. We asked local historian David Waugh to help and within no time he came up with every owner, innkeeper and landlord from then until now.

“He also found nice stories such as the little dog sculpture that used to perch on the roof, which now sits by the fire in the lounge.”

The historical collaboration discovered that a William Hudespethe took over The Hole farm in Corbridge in 1569. The property had been forfeited by John Swinburne following his involvement with the Rising of the North (or Northern Rebellion), an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles to depose Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. Volume 10 of Craster’s History of Northumberland (published in 1914) claims that Hudespethe’s new land holding also included “what can be identified with probability as the Angel Inn”.

A century later, in 1675, a descendant John Hudespethe left for the American Colonies and by intention or mistake his name was changed to Hedgepeth. This is quite a common occurrence with migrants, mainly caused by slipshod paperwork.

“When I was 15 I did a high school project on family history and after 35 years my passion for the subject has done nothing but grow,” said Mark Hedgepeth at a dinner organised by The Angel in his and his family’s honour.

“The past led me to reach out into the present via the internet to find The Angel website and then to David Waugh who has taught us so much more about the history our family had a part in.”

The Hedgepeths are also closely related to Frank Hudspeth who spent 19 seasons playing for Newcastle United, from 1910 to 1929, appearing in 472 games. This makes him the joint longest servant for the club along with Billy McCracken.

Kevin Laing says: “We found a cigarette card featuring Frank Hudspeth and when we put it beside a photo of Mark Hedgepeth as young man it shows a remarkable likeness. On a visit to St James’ Park, Mark’s son Mark jnr was presented with a signed Newcastle United shirt.

“When something like this comes together you realise how lovely some people in the world are.”

Cheers58AngelDog-copyThe history of The Angel, now displayed on two panels in the pub, takes us from the Hudespethes of 1569, through the construction of a bridge over the River Tyne in 1236, which provided easy access to the hostelry, particularly over the three-day annual Stagshaw Fair when 100,000 cattle, horses, sheep and swine were traded. It then includes the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the coming of the railway in 1835, and on past John Hall, “innkeeper and farmer” who owned the pub in 1897 when it was sold to John Barras & Co, one of the five founding companies of Newcastle Breweries.

It’s a fascinating journey and a terrific story to tell. Lifelong friendships have now been cemented between Northumberland and California; historian David Waugh has been presented with a life-long voucher so he never has to pay for his beer again at The Angel; the little dog is warm and cosy in front of the fire, and there’s no stopping the success of the pub.

Finally, by utter coincidence and a neat completion of circles, The Angel Inn’s current owner Semore Kurdi (who also owns Newcastle Falcons) now lives with his family in what was The Hole Farm, occupied 449 years ago by William Hudespethe.

As Major Mark Hedgepeth has demonstrated, you couldn’t make it up.

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Alastair Gilmour

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