A John Gargett Story From 1757

I have no idea if it is true, who this John Gargett was, but I got the source from “THE LANGSTAFFS OF TEESDALE AND WEARDALE BY GEORGE BLUNDELL LONGSTAFF Transcribed by CAROLE A.M. JOHNSON COPYRIGHT 2001 All Rights Reserved” on the web (If I am violating the copyright, someone please let me know, but the following is from a newspaper, the Teesdale Mercury. There is nothing from the book.):


One evening in March 1757 a pedlar named John Patrick called at the house of John Gargett, a small farmer of Hury. Gargett was a widower with one child, an imbecile daughter of 14. There is also in Gargett’s house at the time of Patrick’s visit a man called Longstaff, who lived in Mickleton. Business over the three sat down to drink and play cards.

Earlier in the day Patrick had called at the house of another customer, John Raine, a Quaker of Hunderthwaite, and had left his pack there, saying he would return for it in a few days. Several days passed but the pedlar did not return. Raine became alarmed, especially as he knew the missing man left with a considerable sum of money on his person. Raine went over to Hury and questioned Gargett, who said that Patrick left his house late that night about an hour after Longstaff. The latter part of the story was confirmed by neighbours having seen Longstaff enter his own house at a time corresponding with Gargett’s statement. Suspicions got abroad, and after a while, both Gargett and Longstaff were apprehended on the charge of having either killed the pedlar in a quarrel over the cards, or deliberately murdered him for his money.

A man named H——— of Briscoe, an intimate friend of Patrick’s, had a long-standing feud with Gargett’s family, and now exerted himself in endeavouring to substantiate the charge against Gargett, even going so far as to procure subscriptions for that object. The deep pools of the Balder were dragged, the floor of Gargett’s house was dug up, and the ground around pierced with spears in search of a new grave.

Nothing suspicious was discovered, and Gargett preserved a calm demeanour under repeated examinations, adhering to his original statement. Meanwhile Longstaff, for some reason which does not appear, was set at liberty.

Then Gargett’s daughter made a statement to the effect that her father on the night in question knocked the pedlar off his chair with the poker as he sat drinking, and then cut him up with a gully (large knife) and burnt him in the oven! This story was fully believed in spite of the girl’s mental condition, and the old stone oven was pulled down, but nothing was found. Nevertheless Gargett was committed to York Castle. Before the Assizes a Mr. Binks of Stonykeld (near Bowes), in whose service Gargett had been when a youth, and who did not believe in his guilt, having succeeded by solicitation in high quarters in procuring an adjournment of his trial, at his own expense advertised far and wide, offering a reward for information of the pedlar’s whereabouts.

All was in vain. Gargett was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He was on the point of being hanged, when at the last moment a man appeared at the foot of the scaffold and cried out: “He is innocent. I am the pedlar!” and fell down in convulsions.

When Patrick had sufficiently recovered himself, he-told the following story:—

As a pedlar he dealt largely in contraband goods, and was part owner of a smuggling craft. Needing to replenish his pack, he left Gargett’s house at midnight, taking a short road across the moors and made for Shields, expecting to return in a few days. He boarded his vessel at Shields, but was driven off the coast by a Revenue cruiser and had to take refuge in a Dutch port. On returning, he was much delayed by contrary winds and only got into the Humber two days before that appointed for the execution.

*Abstracted from a long account in the ” Teesdale Mercury.”