Today's Object of the Week has a touch of the macabre about it - with a tale of a grisly murder.

An unclassified road from Elsdon to Wallington and Morpeth in Northumberland, follows the course of an old straight as an arrow’s flight drove road south eastwards, where it passes the site of Steng Cross, an old medieval guiding post.

Some good views of the Northumbrian border country can be obtained from this area looking north towards Harwood Forest, the Simonside Hills and the Cheviots, and south towards the Wild Hills of Wannie where the River Wansbeck rises.

The Northern Echo: A spectacular view of the Northumberland countryside from Winter’s Gibbet. Picture: DAVID SIMPSONA spectacular view of the Northumberland countryside from Winter’s Gibbet. Picture: DAVID SIMPSON

In the vicinity of Steng Cross, near to the roadside is the eerie site of a gibbet or ‘stob’. Known as Winter’s Gibbet - today's Object of the Week.

It was from here that the body of a certain William Winter was hung, following his execution at Westgate, Newcastle in 1791.

Winter had been executed for the murder of an old woman, called Margaret Crozier, who lived in the vicinity of Elsdon and whose home stood within site of the gibbet.

The old woman ran a small drapery store in the neighbourhood, which led Winter to believe she was wealthy.

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He murdered her after breaking into her home to find that she had little worth stealing.

He seems to have been a rather desperate character, as he had not long returned from transportation. His family did have a history of crime, as both his father and brother also died by execution.

Winter’s body was returned to the Elsdon area following his execution in accordance with an old custom that murderer’s corpses should be displayed near the scene of their crime.

The site of the body hanging from the gibbet is said to have haunted a young shepherd boy by the name of Robert Hindmarch who, at the age of 11, had given the evidence which largely convicted Winter. Hindmarch’s life was dominated by a constant fear of reprisals from Winter’s friends and this probably led to his early death at the age of 22.

For a time the morbid site of Winter’s body, drew sightseers from all around, until the stench from the corpse became so bad that people began to avoid using the road that passed that way.

Eventually the corpse was taken down and buried, but was replaced with a carved wooden effigy of Winter, of which the head remained for a while. That too has now gone in recent times leaving only the gibbet.

The Northern Echo:

In the 19th century the gibbet was viewed with considerable superstition with one of the strangest claims being that chips taken from it had the magical ability to cure toothache.

* Thanks to North East historian David Simpson for his help in compiling this article. Fore more on the history, culture, places and people of the region, visit

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