Updated 6 August 2018

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Zachariah Tyzack was a lucky person.  On 28th March 1774 three locals of Warkworth, Thomas Dores a shoemaker, Robert Coulter a Husbandman and Robert Common another innkeeper beat up Zachariah’s  wife Mary and probably each other, no doubt in a drunken brawl.  So how did that make Zachariah lucky?  Well in revenge the next day he in turn beat up Thomas Dores “so that Thomas’s life was despaired of”!   For that Zachariah was incarcerated in Morpeth Gaol.  We do not know for how long because the only evidence we have, is a letter, written by Zachariah to his lawyer in 1776, from the Goal. This was quite an achievement then because the National School system did not start until the middle of the 19th Century.

In those days stealing a loaf of bread might get you transported to Australia whereas “On August 21 1776, Robert Knowles, the North Shields postman, was executed on the Town Moor, for stealing a letter out of the Newcastle post-office, containing two £50 Bank of England bills, the property of Robert Rankin, merchant, of Newcastle.”

He was hanged!!  So there were strict penalties for convictions and one can only assume that the beating up of Mary Tyzack, Zachariah’s wife the day before, was taken in mitigation.  Zachariah almost certainly knew Thomas Dores because as late as 1801, there were only 614 inhabitants of Warkworth, where they both lived.  In fact in 1762 Thomas Doores appeared in the Northumberland Militia list for Warkworth Constabulary.  The names of those men eligible to serve together with their occupations are listed. An Act of Parliament in 1757 instructed the constables of each parish to draw up a list of all men aged between 18 and 50 years. In 1762 the upper age limit was reduced to 45. A man could avoid service by paying someone else to serve in his place.

It is noted that Doores/Dores was spelled differently in each official document. But in both cases he is referred to as a shoemaker. In the same Militia list Robert Common is also listed.  He took part in the affray on Mary, but Coulter does not appear in the list.  Robert Common was a Servant at High Barns in 1762.

Morpeth Gaol was rebuilt in 1829 but before that the castle at Morpeth was formerly used as the prison for Northumberland; and afterwards a tower in Bridge Street, was adapted for a gaol, when it was extensively repaired and enlarged.  It is known that the lowest floor of the tower was once a sort of Correction House or Prison of the town, to which the bailiffs continued to commit offenders against the law till after 1800. So it was possible that this is where Zachariah found himself.


In 1774 John Howard (1726-90) the great penal reformer visited Newcastle and was disgusted by conditions in the county gaol, which was then housed in the basement dungeon of the castle keep. Let’s hope that Zachariah was released soon because by 1789 things had got even worse.

Morpeth Gaol, June 20th 1789 :-   The riotous behaviour of the felons in Morpeth gaol, where a great number are confined, has arisen to such an height, that the gaoler is under the necessity of calling in the assistance of the military.- The cause of such riots seems to be owing to the want of separate cells to keep them apart, or to increase the number of convicts destined to Botany Bay, who not being quickly sent off, through long confinement, generally become desperate.”

We do not know the length of his sentence but "Assault" seemed to be taken less seriously then, with other assault cases being punished by fines from 5 guineas to another case of imprisonment of two months and another, clearly more serious, of twelve months.  Apart from murder, the most severe punishments appeared to be for stealing money where hanging or deportation was common.