Knockupworth: The Story of a Family by John Bainbridge. £12.99

John Bainbridge remembers the Grinsdale of his childhood, of the track that ran to the small, ancient church on the bluff above the estuary of the River Eden. His mother recalls the times when she was a little girl and the Grinsdale children would stand on the river bank and shout insults across at the children from Cargo.

But as the generations recede, as grandparents and great- grandparents and even greater- grandparents are recalled so the memories and the record gets fainter, but it is, if one is lucky, still there waiting to be recovered.

And John has been lucky. John’s mother was a Graham and he has been able to trace his family back to the 18th century, to 1752, just a few years after Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite Army crossed the Solway near Grinsdale, the only time, perhaps, when this lonely place has been touched by history.

But everyone is part of history and the Grahams of the wonderfully named Knockupworth Hall have their story to tell and, in John’s hands, it is a story well worth the reading.

Today, the lovely little church at Grinsdale is to be sold and made into a residence. The gravestones will be removed. To John and his mother those gravestones spoke of several family mysteries.

On the oldest of the gravestones there was a Thomas. Was he the father of John on the second stone? And who was Hannah? Was she Thomas’s daughter? He died before she was born. Or was she the daughter of another man named Thomas Graham?

There was a space, a gap, on John’s headstone where his wife’s name would have been inserted. Why wasn’t her name there? And that gap remained even after her son had died over thirty years after the death of his father.

And there were the names. One son of John and Jane Graham was Robert Hodgson. That was readily explained. It was the family name of the maternal grandmother, but why was another son called William Sharp?

When you begin to pull a thread, you often have no way of knowing how far it will unravel. John pulled and the thread went on and on.

Along that thread he discovers a double murder trial and a sporting controversy that rocked Cumberland and he also solves the identity of Hannah, the mysterious missing lady.

We also learn how Margaret Graham may keep her name, but lose her fortune and what happened to Whitrigg John and the Doctor’s daughter.

This is far from being just a family history. John places his story against the events happening in the wider world and presents a picture of the changing face of north-east Cumberland in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

And that odd name, Knockupworth, is not quite as amusing as it sounds. It’s very ancient, going back, at least to the thirteenth century when people spoke of Cnochubert. With cnock being the Irish word for hill, and Hubert being a Germanic personal name, Knockupworth simply means Hubert’s Hill.

  • Knockupworth is available from Bookends, 19 Castle Street, Carlisle, and 66 Main Street, Keswick, and from