1,751 burials at Ovingham St. Mary the Virgin in the Hexham district of Northumberland, covering 1762-1797
Ovingham is across the River Tyne from the Durham parishes of Medomsley and Ryton, so there was quite a bit of movement between those parishes and Ovingham. Abodes include Acomb in Bywell parish, Bearl in Bywell parish, Broad Oak, Broomhouses, Cherryburn, Crawcrook in Ryton parish, Crook-hill, Dammills, Edgewell, Eltringham, Hallyards, Harlah-hill or Harlow-hill, Hedley , Hedley Fell, High Barns, Highbarns, Horsley, Jon’s Wood or Ion’s Wood (now Hyons Wood), Mickley, Mill Moss, Nafferton, Newcastle upon Tyne, Ovingham, Ovingham Boathouse, Ovingham Wellburn, Ovington, Peepy in the parish of Bywell St Peter, Pruddoe, Pruddoe Castle, Rouchester [Rudchester], Ryal in Stamfordham parish, Ryton parish, Spittle, Swalwell, the Hagg, Welton, Welton Mill, Whittle, Woodheads, Wylam, Wylam Boathouse, and Wylam March.
Sample burials – a few ages were stated (typically for persons whose age exceeded 90), and most of these burials list a parent, spouse, occupation, cause of death, or description of some sort:
- 25 Jan 1762 Elizabeth Gardener, of Rouchester, a poor old widow
- 21 Jan 1767 Dorothy Weer, of Ovington, daughter of John & Deborah Weer, dyed in the small pox
- 19 Feb 1767 Rowland Thompson, of Wylam, age: 98, an old man
- 1 Dec 1772 Mary Urwin, of Hedley, wife of George Urwin
- 9 May 1784 Isabella Broad, of Wylam, daughter of Charles & Ann Broad
- 12 Dec 1797 Joseph Bell, of Prudhoe, 1st son of William & Mary Bell
On November 17, 1771, a rapid and large amount of rainfall caused massive and sudden flooding along the River Tyne, resulting in 8 burials at Ovingham like this one:
- 19 Nov 1771 Isable Heppel, of Ovingham Boat-house, servant to John Johnson of Ovingham Boat-house, [one of] all these eight persons were drowned when the Boat-house was swept away by an inundation of water on Sunday the 17th Inst about one o’clock in the morning & 2 men were saved on trees.
The Boat-house was the home of the boatman who operated the ferry across the Tyne between Ovingham and Prudhoe. John Sykes, in his book “Local records; or, Historical register of remarkable events: which have occurred in Northumberland and Durham”, Volume 1, published in 1833, describes the event as follows; “The tragical fate of the persons in the boat-house at Ovingham was truly heart-rending. When the water entered the house, there were ten people in it, John Johnson, the boatman, his wife and two children, his mother and his brother, his man and maid servants, with a young man from Prudhoe and a labouring man named George Simpson. On their perceiving the danger they were in, they all went upstairs, and as the water advanced, they ascended nearer the roof of the house, till at last they were obliged to break through the wall into the stable that was built at the end of the dwelling house, thinking it a place of greater safety, both by its strength and situation, and made themselves a temporary place to sit on, by putting a deal and a ladder betwixt the building balks, and there they remained until one o’clock in the morning, at which time, perceiving the dwelling house gone, and the stable beginning to give way, they got on top of the stable, when three of them climbed up to the chimney pot, viz. George Simpson, the young man from Prudhoe and the boatman’s brother. The boatman, his wife, mother and two children, and the man and maid servants remained as before, when in an instant, the building fell, and they were all swept away by the torrent, and carried down with the thatch, etc., for near 300 yards into the wood where the boatman, his brother, and maid servant got upon trees, and continued in that situation ten hours before they could be relieved, and the maid died soon after she got to land. The unhappy husband, when he seized the tree with one hand, caught his wife with the other and, after holding her a few minutes, she was wrested from him in fifteen feet depth of water, and in the midst of rapid current. The wretched husband and his brother were the only survivors left out of the ten persons to relate the sad catastrophe.”
In the grounds of the old vicarage at Ovingham, you can see the height of that flood marked on the garden steps. The level was reported to be six to eight feet higher than the previous high-water mark.