Whilst researching I found records of a couple of especially violent incidences in which Brierley’s family had some unexpected involvements. This one takes place at Marland itself.

Just in case you thought the whole book was about ‘motions of the spirit’ and such like…


By the time I had been dragged in there matters seemed to have become quite serious. That must have happened quite quickly. A lot of the noise and disturbance was suddenly explained to me. Tonge had his hands tied behind his back and tethered to one of the posts of the ‘A’-frame in there. And it was whilst we were all in that cruck barn that the conversation switched from being focused purely upon the land dispute to the theft of a mare by Tonge. That I did know something about. Well, I knew that she had been stolen and I had heard that a particular person had been spotted riding off with her. Who he might be began to fall into place for me. There was no doubting he had done it. He didn’t even formally deny that he had filched her[1]. This had all being going on for a long time – even by then – perhaps six or seven years[2]. It would have been pointless for him to deny it actually for he had been seen riding her between here and his home in Middleton by a good dozen or so folk. So, instead he took to taunting Anne [I wasn’t actually totally clear which Anne he had meant. When I heard anyone speak the name of ‘Anne Brierley’, I naturally enough thought only of Anne back at Grindleton but, of course, he did not mean her! My confused mind permitted the moment to pass without any further clarification[3].] …and it was at that point that Alice[4] lost her temper.

By the looks of it she had been brandishing a staff for some time. But, to be honest, just simply for our own protection most of us were grasping something – myself excluded for Tonge had been less than any threat by then[5]. He took no notice of her increasingly threatening gestures. I suppose that he considered that she would not actually strike him and that it was all for some show of aggression only. I suppose that a fair number of those there must have thought that but in case you forget, Matthew, I grew up under her command. She was always the one with whom you didn’t argue. Forget my father! – he might have seemed a little difficult in his older years but, by and large, he was always easy in comparison! It is hard for you to judge I should well imagine for you have only ever thought of him as a sick man, too ill even to be disturbed. No, it was always her you had to watch and, frankly, I could see it coming. Even from his weakest of positions he was still busy insulting us. Still he did not see it coming!  Well, that is why, I suppose!

I could see how all that could have been the case – indeed, would have been the case. She had always played the matriarch, then? It was not something ‘new’. That role had not been forced upon her by the recent state of Thomas’ health. Indeed, that state of affairs had but yielded her up the opportunity to play her natural role to its fullest extent.

I will give her something: it was a blow which seemed to come from nowhere: so fast, so agile, angled so that it went nowhere near anyone else and yet lost nothing in terms of either momentum or speed for all that. Only she could have delivered it like that, Matthew! As a child I was sometimes on the receiving end of that particular agility.

I smiled in order to make as light of the moment as I could – but there was only so much I could do! I was already shocked. It was bad enough that it was his mother. What seemed harder for me to grasp was that it was Brierley’s mother as well who had behaved so!

…He wasn’t expecting it; he didn’t spot it coming at all. The staff struck him from the side, just beneath his left ear – a fragile point on which to catch him! A man can’t take much there[6]! The very impact of it caused him to lurch to the right but, if he had been thinking that his movement might save him from further damage, his rightward movement came to an abrupt cessation because his tied hands prevented his further departure from the post, so that his chin became stationary as the staff continued onwards in its forceful arc. [I grimaced. It was not the kind of conversation which I relished and it was not the way I thought of Alice either – farm matriarch or not!] The blood sprayed in some horizontal line across the oak beams, barely visible at that precise moment in time but leaving a longer-lasting, diffuse staining across some of the posts. Next time you go in there, I have no doubt that you will still be able to search them out all these years later!

Tonge was motionless for a moment, his head hanging limp forward. The looks on some of the faces around seemed to me to indicate that some suspected that he might well have had the consciousness knocked out of him. But it was not so. A moment or two later, he managed to raise his tired and bloody head, suddenly appearing very akin to my imagination of Jesus on the tree.

It was only then that a few of us – myself[7] and Edward[8] primarily – leapt at her to stop her repeating the action …which she seemed intent upon doing, seeing that she had not succeeded in doing him greater damage. But she was so fast and so determined. The weight she had gained over the previous couple of years made her all the more unstoppable too. Therefore, in spite of the fact that the two of us had hold of her arm by then, it made precious little difference. It was already in motion for a second swipe and we were just pulled along with it.

The side of Tonge’s face had already been streaming profusely with blood but if we had thought that the second blow would have any less impact, we were wrong. Nevertheless, in spite of his state, this time it was better anticipated by Tonge and he leapt to his right in expectation of the blow prior to the impact. Not that it was really to any great benefit. From the position with the ropes that bound him already taut, the severty of the blow was enough to break them completely. The sound of them bursting was accompanied by another cracking sound which I believe may have come from his jaw. Losing consciousness, Tonge fell to the ground, face down, with the ropes at his side and lay there motionless. To be honest with you, Matthew, it was all we could do to prevent our Alice from delivering a third strike to the back of his skull. Indeed, it might well only have been Thomas’[9] call of ‘Enough!’ from behind her that really gave her thought to think twice. Doubtlessly, in my opinion, a third strike dealt from above would have finished him off. I mean… finished him… [I already knew exactly what he meant. There was scarcely any need for Abel to attempt any clarification, even his most oblique of manners!]

With her off him, I said that someone needed to take care of him and suggested that my sister, Alice,[10] did so but she seemed adamant:

…‘I’ll have naut to do with ‘elping t’ lozell![11] Better ‘e dies where ‘e lays and we tip ‘im in t’ Ribble come the gloaming.’

I took no notice of that suggestion, of course! She would have done so contentedly enough though, believe me! Therefore, Edward and I carried him – somewhat of a heavy weight for me – back along the path to the main farm, up the stairs and laid him out on what had once been Roger’s bed. [I knew that one! It was where they had taken me that September evening nine autumns ago when I had dropped off to sleep in the housebody.] In fact, it was only through talking to Edward that I discovered how all this had actually come to pass. When Owen Radcliffe had died shortly before the end of the century[12] he had left his daughter, Mary, as heir. However, her uncle, Edmund, had succeeded the estate at Langley. It so happened that when this took place, Mary was already married – to Mr Gabriel Tudor, no less, thereby sowing the seeds of this dispute. Edmund had died a matter of a few years later although he himself had been in a litigious position with regards to Owen for many years anyway. Therefore it was only then that I understood how Gabriel Tudor and his wife, ‘Bloody Mary’ (as the Radcliffes tended to know her)… [I did my best to laugh at that but it was so hopeless. It was an amusing co-incidence of name but it in no way lightened the story I was haaving to hear!] …came to be so out on a limb and so loathed by the residents of Langley Hall[13]. It has to be said that they thought a great deal of themselves, drawing much attention to the claim they made to being descended from the Plantagenet monarchs through their family connection with the Nevilles[14]. It all goes back the best part of a decade further too.[15]



[1] Filched: a reminder: ‘stolen’.

[2] It would seem that the dispute between the Radcliffes and Gabriel Tudor went back rather further. The earliest paper relating to the dispute that I have found – namely, DL 454/56 at Kew – dates from the 4th February of the year 6 James (i.e. 1608/09).

[3] There are several potential candidates for Anne Brierley in this context. We can only be at least as confused as Matthew!

[4] Alice: The STAC8/277/22 interrogation papers speak of two Alice Brierleys – an elder and a younger. It is not one hundred percent clear which one is being referred to here. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the terminology implies that they are mother and daughter or not. Regardless of whether the Thomas mentioned is Brierley’s father or not, Alice could still be his mother. The position taken in this novel is that this is the case. However, Brierley and Abel also had a sister called Alice born 1593/94 – who is clearly the character to whom Abel refers shortly. In historical reality, it is conceivable that she could actually have been responsible for inflicting the injury.

[5] Tonge’s account (or conceivably that of his son – the documentation is confusing because it consists of a mess of diverse and sometimes incomplete papers and testimonials) suggests that there were also “diverse others of the said combination and confraternity being armed with pitchforks, long staffs (? – the writing is less than clear at this point), staffs, daggers” and that “about the tenth day of June” they “unlawfully assaulted and battered” Tonge. The evidence that the strikes actually came from Alice are sourced to the testimony of Anne Brierley who claims that “Alice Brierley did give a blow to Roger Tonge with a walking staff”.

[6] A man can’t take much there: very true – even a relatively mild blow in this area can lead to unconsciousness by jolting the back of the brain. A more serious blow can lead to brain haemorrhage and death.

[7] Abel: Only Brierley’s youngest brother makes any sense here as an identification. There were certainly plenty of other Brierleys named ‘Abel’ but they seemed to be named after him with the other baptisms under that name being very strongly concentrated in the years between 1612 and 1617.

[8] It is not completely clear who this Edward might be. Most likely he is either Edward the son of Alexander, who would have been around twenty five at the time, or the fractionally younger Edward, son of Robert Brierley.

[9] Thomas: Whilst this could obviously be Brierley’s father and this might seem logical given the presence of an Alice the elder, there are plenty of other Thomases in the wider family who could also fit the bill. Nevertheless, it might be perfectly normal for Abel to refer to his deceased father by his baptised name under such circumstances.

[10] Alice, sister to Abel and Brierley, was born around 1593/4 – there are actually two births which could be her in Rochdale’s records.

[11] Lozell: a dialect word, chiefly associated with Lancashire and Yorkshire – although often more a stereotyping of Northern speech at the time – implying a ‘rascal’ or ‘scoundrel’.

[12] Owen Radcliffe had died in 1599.

[13] Since this was the name by which Mary Tudor, the former Catholic Queen was known, it was probably a particular insult. Coincidentally, of course, the married Mary carries exactly the same name: Mary Tudor. There is, however, absolutely no evidence that this name was actually being used against this Mary.

[14] Henry Radcliffe died in December 1630 still holding the manor of Marland. However, within a matter of months, Langley Hall had been sold to another family completely – by none other than Gabriel Tudor and his wife, Mary. It was claimed that Gabriel could claim some royal lineage back to the Plantagenets but how serious or accurate a claim this was has not been researched by the author.

[15] As previously stated, in fact the deposition papers for DL4/54/56 Radcliffe v. Tudor go all the way back to February 1608/09.