Witness Deposition – Fletcher Norton – 10 Apr 1765

Document Type: Witness Deposition
Date: 10 Apr 1765
Correspondent: Fletcher Norton
Archive Source: AE Lead Road
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Additional Case relating to the Lead Way with Mr. Norton’s Opinion.

The Road or Highway between the Town of Blaydon & the Town of Edmondbyers is generally during the Summer Season (when Lead is Bro[ugh]t down the same) found to be in good repair, therefore Sir Walter Blackett had no occasion to indict any part thereof as ruinous & out of Repair in the Winter. Sevysike Lane is part of the said Road or High Way, but no Obstruction has been given on that part of the Road. ‘Tis observed that the persons interrupting the passage along Swalwells or Woodhead Loaning may be indicted on that account or prosecuted for receiving the Tolls exacted, but as the free use & enjoyment of the whole of the Highway is essential to the carrying on the Lead Mines to advantage, & as Disputed may hereafter arise touching the Right to use other parts of the Highway than Sevysike Lane or Swallwells or Woodhead Loaning, & the old Witnesses whose Examinations are annexed may then be Dead, sir Walter Blackett is desirous of having the Testimony of these Old People perpetuated, if that Evidence may be made use of on any other dispute touching the Right of using the High Way in any part thereof.

Q.1st if in your Opinion the Evidence will prove this to be a common Public Highway, will it be proper to file a Bill in the High Court of Chancery  at Westm[inste]r or in the Co[ur]t of Chancery at Durham & to sue out a Commission to perpetuate the Evidence of the Old Witnesses?

I think the Evidence stated is very strong to prove the Road in Question an Highway, but I cannot advise filing a Bill in any Court of Equity to perpetuate the Testimony of the Witnesses, as it will be attended both with great Expence  & Delay; & the same end will be much better answered by indicting the Road in sev[era]l diff[eren]t parts of it, which may be done if the Road is out of Repair in the Winter just as well as if it was so in the Summer & if the Parishes indicted either submit or sho[ul]d be found guilty, if they traverse, the Right is quieted for Ever.

Q.2nd Sho[ul]d this Step be advised, who must be made Def[endan]ts in such Bill? Will the Owners or Landlord as well as the Tenants of the Estate in which the Way is stopt or interrupted be necessary Parties? And is whose Name or Names must the Bill be filed? And against whom will the Depositions in the Cause be hereafter admitted Evidence?

After what I have said above it becomes unnecessary to answer their Quare, but if a Bill is to be filed all the interested Parties must be made Def[endan]ts, also the Deposit[io]ns taken will be of no use.

Q.3d If filing such a Bill be not a proper Measure, may an Information in the Name of the Att[orne]y General (at the relation of Sir Walter Blackett Bar[one]t who hath more than common occasion to use the Way) be bro[ugh]t & maintained against the Owners of the Said & their Tenants or any & what other Persons for the purpose of perpetuating Testimony?

I never knew a Proceeding of this sort in the Name of the Att[orne]y Gen[era]l & indeed I see no occasion for it.

Q.4th If filing such a Bill of Information be directed, will it be proper to name Def[endan]ts  therein the Owners & Tenants of sev[era]l Estates adjoining the Highway & distant from each other 3 or 4 Miles, thereby forming a Line or Chain bet[ween] the Township of Blaydon & Edmondbyers, And will the Owners of the intermediate Estates (whether there be any or no other Road within them) be concluded by the Issue of the Cause?


      If a Bill is fil[e]d it will be necessary to make the Overseers of the Highways parties when the parish repairs the Road & the sev[era]l Owners of Estates Def[endan]ts when the Roads are repaired by such Owners ratione tenure.

      If the Road sho[ul]d be indicted at both ends & about the middle, I think there will be no danger of future Disputes if the Def[endan]ts either submit or sho[ul]d be found guilty.

      <Mr.> Norton Lincolns Inn 10th April 1765.
This appears to be Fletcher Norton who was at Lincolns Inn Field between 1742 & his death in 1789. ‘Fletcher Norton, first Baron Grantley, successively solicitor-general, attorney-general, and speaker of the House of Commons. He was known in the satires and caricatures of the day as ‘Sir Bull-Face Double Fee.’ In his pleading, he was ‘remarkable alike for the clearness of his arguments and the inaccuracy of his statements.’ In the position of speaker he rendered himself obnoxious to the Court, and on the meeting of the Parliament on 31st October, 1780, he was not re-elected. In 1757 he had removed from No. 65 to No. 63, and at the latter house he died on 1st January, 1789.’

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The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project aimed to celebrate and discover the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches & lead carriers' routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale. A two year community project, it was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils and the active support of Allendale Estates. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors. Friends of the North Pennines: Charity No:1137467