Great Tosson : The 17th and 18th Centuries
The layout and extent of the village in the early 17th century is shown by the maps contained in the Wellbeck Atlas, depicting the Earl of Newcastle's Barony of Hepple in 1632.
Great Tosson Tower briefly figured in the English Civil Wars. Following the defeat of the royalist forces at Preston in 1648, many of these troops retreated northwards into Northumberland and found friendly billets in Coquetdale. Units from Lambert's Parliamentarian army, under the command of Major Sanderson, were sent in pursuit and by a rapid night march achieved complete surprise over their opponents capturing them without a struggle as Major Sanderson reported in a letter to his superiors (reproduced by Dixon 1903, 331-2):
Friday, 30 Junii. According to agreement we rendevouzed about eleven of the clocke, at Chollerford, three miles north of Hexam. We hasted away that night, and marched sixteen miles from Hexam to Harterton; bated our horses two houres; then mounted again and marched from thence. I commanded the forlorn hope. The first towne we fell into was Tossons, where wee took a lieutenant and sixe of his dragoons, all in bed; the next town was Lorbottle, when we took 60 horse and 60 men, all in bed.
The exhausted dragoons at Tosson were evidently quartered in the royalist Duke of Newcastle's tower at Great Tosson (op. cit., 487). The route followed by the parliamentarian forces was the old road from Cambo, then known as the Clattering Way, which skirts the northern base of Simonside, (Dixon 1903, 487; Hedley & Quartermaine 2004, 347, citing William Mayson's Survey of the Duke of Northumberland's Land,1624 – Aln Cas A.V.5).
The Survey of the Ogle Lands, in 1724, listed six farms in Great Tosson, one of which was a freehold, and one cottage (Dixon 1903, 325-6). Rye Hill was also divided into six farms, one of which was a freehold, but some of the tenancies were combined:
|Oswald Detchon||1 farm|
|John Snowdon||1 farm|
|Cuthbert Ladler||1 farm|
|George Detchon||1 farm|
|Oswald Detchon, jnr||1 farm|
|William Carnaby||1 cottage|
|George Humble||1 farm|
|Elizabeth Park||2 farms|
|Margaret Snowdon||2 farms|
William Armstrong's map of Northumberland, produced 45 years later in 1769, depicts 'Rye Hill' as a hamlet or small village on the same scale as Great Tosson (three black squares) and more substantial than Little Tosson, which is shown as a large farmstead or small hamlet (two black squares). The Survey of the Ogle lands also provided a description of the moorland commons:
Hepple and Tosson Commons, extended from Tosson about 4¾ miles westward and about three miles southward, are very barren, wild, and mountainous, and full of crags and rocks, which renders a great part of them unimproveable. On the south and west parts of this ground is adjoining a great moore called Elsdon Fell, belonging to the Duke of Somerset, which is, since 1724, divided from these Commons, but what boundary he has left them I am ignorant of. About a mile south of Tosson town is a very noted craggy hill called Simon Side, the perpendicular altitude of which from the level of Coquet river, being a quarter-of-a-mile. Over the middle thereof goes the boundary of the Commons, the contents of which are, according to the Survey in 1724, 5661 acres.
The Militia List of 1762 gives the impression of a reasonably populous township, with 18 adult males fit for service being listed, in addition to the petty constable William Donkin. The range of trades recorded suggests that the village played some role as a service centre for the local rural economy. A mason, blacksmith, carpenter and miller are all listed in addition to the single farmer, five servants, five labourers, two herds and a hind which might be expected in a predominantly agricultural district.