Robbery at Netherby Hall

Netherby Hall may well have been plundered time and time again during the years of the Border Reivers but, nearing the end of the 19th century, it no doubt seemed all that was behind the place.

Lady Graham probably never expected her home was to become the scene of probably the most infamous robbery ever in Cumbria.

It happened on the evening of  October 28, 1885. While the Grahams were dining a London based gang climbed into the house using a ladder and escaped with prized jewellery.

The four gang members were Anthony Benjamin Rudge, John Martin, James Baker and William Baker. They were an entirely ruthless bunch, armed with different weapons, including revolvers, which they were to use.

Rudge was a suspect in a robbery in Brixton, south London; Martin was wanted for the murder of a police inspector in Essex; and police suspected William Baker had been involved in a  Newcastle jewel theft a number of years earlier.

They had made their way north by train arranging to join up at a coursing meeting at Longtown on October 27.

The alarm was raised by a maid at 8.15 the following evening but by then, the gang had disappeared.

However, they were spotted at Kingstown in Carlisle by two local policemen, sergeant Roche and Constable Johnson who bravely tackled the men. Both officers were initially beaten with an iron bar and then, as they pursued the fleeing gang, the sergeant was shot in the arm and the constable in the chest.

The robbers made it to the Dalton Road crossing of the North Eastern Railway where they were intercepted by Constable Fortune who was immediately beaten unconscious by the jemmy.

The men were next spotted at Plumpton, by the stationmaster, who told PC Byrnes and that’s when the chase took and extreme turn for the worse. By now police were aware the gang would stop at nothing to get away and as PC Byrnes was searching for them, he was shot in the head and thrown over a wall. The constable died.

The gang managed to scramble on to a goods train heading south but again were spotted, this time by a cool headed guard, Geddes, who did nothing to make them suspect they had been recognised. Geddes posted a message asking police to meet the train at Tebay and it was spotted by the driver of a passing engine.

Geddes then got a number of railwaymen together and, armed with shovels and sticks, they went for the gang at Tebay. Martin and Rudge were captured after a chase. They were found to be carrying revolvers. James Baker got away but was captured by a guard at Lancaster Station. William Baker was also on the run but was picked up in Manchester.

Rudge, Martin and James Baker were taken back to Carlisle for trial. An angry mob was waiting them and they were almost lynched. After a three day court case they were found guilty and all were hanged.

William Baker, who had not been present at the robbery, was jailed.

Lady Graham’s jewellery was recovered at Tebay.