Shipwreck that could have changed history

The opening of Boulmer Memorial Hall.
The opening of Boulmer Memorial Hall.

The latest fund-raising event to support a project to renovate a north Northumberland village hall takes place this weekend.

Last month, the Gazette reported how the ongoing scheme to revamp Boulmer Memorial Hall, which is in a dilapidated state and hardly used, was halfway to its total of £55,000. Now, the total sits at £40,000.

We also reported the surprising story of where the hall originally came from. The people of Boulmer paid £250 for a former barracks hut from Berwick, which had to be transported with difficulty over the old bridge and down the Great North Road.

This was all because it was covered in galvanised iron and therefore longer-lasting than the wooden huts from Alnwick Pastures, which were being auctioned off for £30.

The latest fund-raising event at the hall, on Sunday, runs from 10am to 3pm and will feature crafts, cakes, refreshments and a display of stories from Boulmer’s history.

“It’s been very interesting gathering material for the display,” said Avril Meakin, of the Howick Heritage Group.

“There are so many fascinating stories, which local residents have told, and also in the archives.

One dates back nearly 500 years and concerns a shipwreck, gold and the country’s divide between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Tomlinson’s Guide to the County of Northumberland 1888 records that in 1565, a ship carring gold to Mary Queen of Scots was wrecked off Seaton Point.

Local fishermen later recovered ‘a great masse of gold, which was found in one chest’.

It was reclaimed on behalf of the Duke of Northumberland, it was reported. It occurred in the same year as Mary married Lord Darnley, a very unwise move as he was next in line to the English throne. Elizabeth I was furious at the strengthening of the Stuart claim, although there were many on the continent keen to promote the Stuart, and Catholic, cause.

The shipwreck and loss of gold must have been a setback to Mary and certainly her fortunes were on the wane from that date. But with few details at present, it’s difficult to speculate about how key the role Boulmer played in the history of the nation was!