Population And Settlement : Mid 18th - Early 19th Centuries
By the later 18th century the Halls were no longer the dominant element in Rochester's population. Indeed a bewildering variety of surnames are recorded, no less than eighteen between 1760 - 1800 in the parish registers alone, though eight of these are only mentioned once. It is possible that some of these individuals or families were not long-term residents. Instead they may represent farm labourers etc., lodging in the settlement for a limited number of years.
The Militia List of 1762 supplies a single period snapshot to balance the broader but more diffuse picture provided by the parochial records. This document (typed copy held at NRO Morpeth) sets out the number of able-bodied adult males for each settlement in Northumberland during that year with details of the men's occupations. In all eight men are listed for Rochester, including two freeholders predictably named John and William Hall. The relevant parts of the list (vol 8, pp. 370-371) are tabulated below.
Table 4 1762 Militia List : Lower part of Rochester Ward
|Edward Dun||miller||Stobs Mill|
|Robert Laing||freeholder||Birdhope Craig|
5 more names from Birdhope Craig
There is no stated distinction between High and Low Rochester in the list, but the division of the Rochester entries into two discrete groups separated by several other site entries may be significant in this regard. It is conceivable that the group of six men should be assigned to High Rochester whilst the remaining two men lived at Low Rochester or Petty Knowes. Certainly John Corbit, the smith, was a resident of Low Rochester in 1774, when he voted for a freehold and built himself a new house there (cf. Hutchinson 1778, 200; Hodgson 1827, 145; Grundy 1988, 306 - ROC 32; below Land Tenure and 5.3). Corbit was still resident in the lower hamlet in 1791, when he was awarded one field (3/24 of the total) in the division of land between High and Low Rochester (cf. NRO 542.59).
Conversely, John Brown the farmer, the second individual in the upper part of the 1762 list and who should therefore be assigned to High Rochester, was actually described as being 'of Low Rochester' in 1789-1795 when his children were baptised (EPR, 185). It is possible, however, that Brown had moved in the intervening 27 years. On balance, therefore, this hypothesis still merits consideration although the evidence is too ambiguous to be conclusive. On this basis the inhabitants of High Rochester would still greatly outweigh those of the lower settlement in numbers in 1762. Multiplying by a factor of 4 or 5 one might estimate a mid 18th-century population of 30-40 in High and Low Rochester and Petty Knowes with perhaps 8-10 in the each of the neighbouring farmsteads like Dykehead.