Today’s Object of the Week hides a dastardly tale of death and dishonour in the 18th century.

A MYSTERIOUS long stone in a Northumberland churchyard marks the last resting place of an unknown man who was part of a dastardly plot to burgle a fine country house.

The stone is in the churchyard of St Cuthbert’s at Bellingham and is associated with a well known piece of North Tynedale folklore – ‘the Legend of the Lang Pack’.

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Lee Hall, the aforementioned country house, was historically a home to the Ridley of family who left each winter to reside in London.

In the winter of 1723 the house was left in the care of three servants, who looked after the hall under strict instructions not to allow any guest or lodger inside.

One afternoon, a pedlar called at the hall carrying with him an unusually long package and asked if he could have shelter for the night.

The servants refused, but allowed the pedlar to leave the package overnight, while he sought shelter elsewhere.

As the night grew dark one of the servants, a young maid called Alice, became increasingly suspicious of the pedlar’s long pack which had been left in the kitchen of the house. While lighting a candle the maid swore she saw it move.

She quickly alerted the other two servants, Richard and Edward. Young Edward, not wishing to take any chances fetched his blunderbuss gun (which he called Copenhagen) and shot at the ‘lang pack’. To his astonishment a cry was heard and blood began to ooze from the mysterious package.

When the pack was opened, the body of a dead man was found inside wearing a silver whistle around his neck.

It seemed the man had been brought to the hall as part of a plot. He was going to break free from his package and open the door for fellow accomplices to burgle the household.

The servants realising that they were likely to be visited by the rest of the gang that night, summoned help from the neighbourhood and many locals came to Lee Hall, bringing with them their guns ready to see off the gang.

Later that night the gang arrived and were given the signal on the whistle, but were astonished to be greeted with gunshot from the servants and locals waiting at the hall. Four of the gang immediately fell dead from their horses, the rest quickly fled.

At daylight the following morning the bodies of the four dead men had mysteriously disappeared and the Lee Hall servants were only left with the body of the unfortunate man from the lang pack.

The rest of the gang were never caught and the identity of the man from the lang pack remains a mystery to this day.

The Northern Echo: St Cuthbert’s Church in Bellingham, with the ‘lang pack’ in the foreground. Picture: DAVID SIMPSON St Cuthbert’s Church in Bellingham, with the ‘lang pack’ in the foreground. Picture: DAVID SIMPSON

The body was finally buried at Bellingham churchyard, where it is said to lie beneath the long stone cut in the shape of a pedlar’s pack.

* Thanks to historian David Simpson of the England's North East website for his help in compiling this feature. For more on North East history and culture, visit

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