Looking Back ... at the life of Ralph Gardner

Ralph Gardner's old cottage in Chirton, North Shields.
Ralph Gardner's old cottage in Chirton, North Shields.

Ralph Gardner married Catherine Reed on September 9, 1648, and the couple lived in a small cottage in Chirton, North Shields, during the early years of their marriage.

That cottage was demolished in 1656 and replaced by the grander building shown above.

In 1882, a memorial monument was erected at Chirton Green in commemoration of the life and deeds of Gardner inscribed with the words ‘A faithful son of Father Tyne’ on its west side. During the 1640s and 1650s, Gardner had business interests in both brewing and coal, and he actively challenged the monopoly held over the trade of such products by the Newcastle Corporation.

In August 1652, Gardner was arrested for failure to meet fine payments and held in prison without trial for five months.

Clarke’s 1881 account of Gardner and the Tyne states that he broke free from jail in February 1653 and was ‘at liberty’ until May of that year, when he was visited by an armed Newcastle posse who shot at his servants and beat his wife.

It was not long before Gardner was back in confinement.

It has been suggested that it was during this period that Gardner penned much of his infamous book England’s Grievance Discovered in Relation to the Coal Trade, published in 1655.

The final official record of Ralph Gardner comes from the bakers and brewers’ books of Newcastle for 1662-63, showing payments made for his services.

There is no official record of his death, only false claims of his being hanged in York, and they have been wholly disproved.

If you have any further information on Gardner, ask for Discover at North Shields Customer First Centre on 0191 643 5270 or email discover@northtyneside.gov.uk