Mumps Hall References

Below is an annotated list of most of the references I have found to Mumps Hall.


William Howard's map of the Barony of Gilsland does not indicate any buildings on or near the site of Mumps Hall, but does show Thirlwall Mill and Orchard House Mill (at the mouth of Red Beck). This suggests that there was no hamlet called Mumps Hall at the time when the house was built in the later 17th century.


Carlisle Records Office holds an appeal to the magistrates datable to 1688 and containing a reference to Mumps Hall.
(link to transcript)
This document provides firm evidence that Mumps Hall dates back to the later 17th century and that its reputation for bad people and dark deeds may be true. A Thomas Carrick is named on his wife's tombstone at Over Denton (next, below) but if he was the same age as his wife he would have been about 70 at the time of the attack.

Around 1700

Celia Fiennes travelled though the Borders and observed the following:
". . thence I cross'd over a tedious long heath to Brampton a mile over [Lyne] river and here I had my dinner dress'd; thence to Mucks Hall; here I passed by my Lord Carleton's which stands in the midst of woods [Naworth]; you goe through lanes and little sort of woods or hedge rows and many little purling rivers or brooks out of the rocks.
At Muncks Hall this is the place the Judges dine its a sorry place for entertainment of such a company; here the Sherriffs meet them it being the entrance of Northumberland which is much like the other county . .


The Teasdale and Carrick tombstones in Over Denton churchyard.
(Over Denton gravestones)
The famous gravestone of Margaret Teasdale, with its oft-repeated four line warning, is only one of a row of five C18 stones, all proudly claiming residence at Mumps Hall. Evidence of Teasdales and Carricks/Carrockes with a strong attachment to Mumps Hall over a long period, immediately before Scott's arrival.


Nether Denton burial register has the following entry: "1717 Margt wife of Thos Carrick of Monks Hall Dec 15", although the name is spelt Mumps on her gravestone.


H.M.C. Mss of the Duke of Portland, vol. vi, p129: Journeys in England by Lord Hartley: “We leave Theringworth (Thirlwall ?) Castle on the right, and another on the left, within ten minutes of this we come to a poor mean place called Long Byers, where is a sort of Red Lion hung over the door. Our design was to have gone on a mile further before we halted, to a house (which cannot be named a house of entertainment) called Mump Hall, but having sent thither about half an hour before, we were informed there was neither corn nor hay for our horses.”

An important reference, providing further evidence that Mumps Hall existed before Scott’s visits, was so-named and was a one-star inn of some kind.


Legal Document concerning Margaret Teasdale
(link to transcript)

This document appears to be a draft of an instruction to collect fines imposed on the Teasdales of Mumps Hall for obstructing excise men. It provides firm evidence, complementing the tombstones in Over Denton churchyard, of the existence of the Teasdale family at Mumps Hall in the mid-eighteenth century, although the individuals are all stated to be "late of" Mumps Hall - perhaps they had done a runner ? It is also a notorious event likely to be recollected by local people when Scott arrived 39 years later.

1797 & 1804 (Scott’s visits to Gilsland)

Walter Scott's description of a building (which he later revealed to be Mumps Hall) in Guy Mannering, published 1815: “The alehouse, for it was no better, was situated in the bottom of a little dell, through which trilled a small rivulet. It was shaded by a large ash tree, against which the clay-built shed that served the purpose of a stable was erected, and upon which it seemed partly to recline. The outside of the house promised little for the interior, notwithstanding the vaunt of a sign, where a tankard of ale voluntarily decanted itself into a tumbler, and a hieroglyphical scrawl below attempted to express a promise of ‘good entertainment for man and horse.’ ”

See comment on this passage by Mounsey, below. This is the only reference to Mumps Hall in Guy Mannering, and does not name the alehouse, although the landlady is named as Tib Mumps elsewhere in the book. The description is difficult to reconcile with today’s Mumps Hall.


From the Leeds Intelligencer, 19th November 1798 (see 1877, below) "A short time ago, Richard Hodgson, alias Hudson, who, on the 6th of June Iast, escaped out of Newgate, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, whither he had been committed as a deserter from the 60th regiment, was apprehended at Carlisle, on the information of an accomplice, named Richard Mindham, who also further stated, that Hodgson was a common dealer in counterfeit currency, and got his living by that nefarious traffic. Hodgson recriminated and charged Mindham with the same practice, and further declared, that a parcel of base coin was then on the road from London for the latter. Both informations being sworn to, the Magistrate committed the two men to Carlisle gaol, and ordered an attentive watch to be kept for the expected parcel. On Saturday night it arrived by the mail-coach, and on examination, was found to contain in nominal value, in base half-crowns £18. 10s .-shillings £12. 10s. and half guineas £21. The parties have for several months past lodged at Mumps-hall, near Gilsland, and frequented fairs, races, &c."

Fascinating, as it sheds light on the mysterious reference to "the notorious Mendham" in the Hexham Herald 79 years later. More to the point, his arrest is only a year after Scott's summer in Gilsland, and it is quite likely that Scott would have discovered that something untoward had been going on at Mumps Hall.


Scott added explanatory notes to the 1829-33 ‘Magnum Opus’ edition of the Waverley Novels, including this one on Mumps Hall: “Note 2. – Mumps’s Ha’: It is fitting to explain to the reader the locality described in chapter xxii. There is, or rather I should say there was, a little inn called Mumps’s Ha’, that is, being interpreted, Beggar’s Hotel, near to Gilsland, which had not then attained its present fame as a Spa. It was a hedge alehouse, where the border farmers of either country often stopped to refresh themselves and their nags, in their way to and from the fairs and trysts in Cumberland, and especially those who came from or went to Scotland, through a barren and lonely district, without either road or pathway, emphatically called the Waste of Bewcastle.”

Scott emphasises the use of the past tense, as if Mumps Hall had already ceased to exist by the time the note was written (see Mounsey's comment upon events in 1831 immediately below). Perhaps he meant “ceased to function as an alehouse”. These appendices were designed to satisfy (or sometimes just tease) the readers’ appetite for information on the originals for characters and locations. It looks as if Scott has used the rustic hedge alehouse by the burn as the basis for his description of the meeting place of Brown and Meg Merrilies, and the name of the nearby Mumps Hall, with its reputation for dark deeds, has been transferred to it. The alehouse by the burn is associated with the Teasdales as the birthplace and/or abode of Tib Mumps/Meg O’Mumps – see 1877 newspaper article below.


In G.G. Mounsey's, book Gillesland, published around 1865, he comments on the description by Scott in Guy Mannering: “This is an exact description of Mumps Ha’ as it existed till the year 1831. In that year a viaduct was thrown over the rivulet, and the road was raised upon it to such a height as almost to hide from view the old alehouse in the dell. Yet, with a knowledge of the alteration, it is easy on the spot to recognise the place as described by Scott. There is the little dell through which the rivulet trills - there is the steep old road down to it, and the rough stony crossing of its bed - and beyond it there is the old alehouse at the roadside. All the difference there is consists in the modern viaduct and roadway placed in front, over which the uninquiring multitude may pass without noticing the Mumps Ha' of Guy Mannering. If anyone going from Rosehill station to Gillesland will take the trouble to keep to the right hand down the old road, instead of crossing the viaduct, and so follow the ancient track down to and across the rivulet, he will find himself on the spot where Brown stood when he halted in front of the tankard and tumbler glass, and will at once recognise the locality.”

The rivulet is the Poltross Burn, the diversion to the right, down the old road, can still be seen beside the viaduct opposite the Bridge Inn and can be entered beside the telephone box. Today, Merrilies Cottage occupies the site described by Scott. It is odd that Mounsey, with his local knowledge, should acknowledge the name Mumps Ha’ for Scott’s alehouse, when the more substantial inn would have been standing, and presumably named at the time. See W Collingwood Bruce (1851) below, who does point this out.


Visit of Dr Granville, collecting information for his Spas of England, published 1841: “What stranger can have the still standing Hall of the amazonian Meg Merrilies pointed out to him as he descends the winding road on his way to a small bridge over the Irthing and not recollect that under the semblance of a house of entertainment for Scottish travellers straying on the edge of the wild and trackless waste of the ‘Borders’ the wretched insulated building he beholds often witnessed dark and bloody deeds, and has presented a traditional celebrity to this day under the appellation of ‘Mumps Hall.’ There it was before me, the miserable thatched hut, its walls now plastered up and tinged with yellow ochre, which Scott has rendered so famous. It still bears the outward tokens of a house of entertainment, and upon an eminence a little way from it, within a few spans of the very earth she so often trod over in terror to the dwellers of Upper and Nether Denton, lies interred its former mysterious tenant.”

“still bears the outward tokens” seems to clarify Scott’s use of the past tense (1829, above) and suggests that although the building was still standing in its original condition, it was not open for business. A "miserable thatched hut" doesn't sound much like the solid stone building we now call Mumps Hall. Mounsey (1831, above) takes Granville to task over his error regarding Meg Merrilies and his generally superficial and derogatory comments on everything in Gilsland. (Read on beyond p52, to where Mounsey really gets into his stride !)


Hodgson's History of Northumberland, p295 in a footnote to his 173 page mega-footnote on The Wall : “Mump's-hall, according to tradition, was once a public-house, kept by a notorious person of the name of Meg Teasdale, who drugged to death such of her guests who had money. In Guy Mannering, she glares in the horrid character of Meg Merilees. But certainly all this tradition is deeply coloured with unpardonable slander against the antient and respectable family of the Teasdales, of Mumps-hall, the last male heir of whom died in 1788. There are four headstones in the church-yard of Upper Denton, charged with armorial bearings and inscriptions to members of this family: and one of these is to Margaret Teasdale, who died may 5, 1777, aged 98 years, and has these lines - "What I was once . . etc." In front of the same stone is a slab inscribed to Margaret, wife of Thomas Carrick, who died December 11, 1711, aged 66: and is supposed to have been the mother of Margaret Teasdale, who died in 1777, and the person to whom so much notoriety has been attached."

Minor errors, including the usual one about Meg M. but a good point made about the likely truth of the traditional (e.g. invented by Scott) view of the character of Meg Teasdale. The date of Margaret Carrick's stone seems to be garbled, I recorded it as 4th December 1717, aged 100.


Collingwood Bruce, in his first book on The Wall, footnote to p275: He first of all gives the above quotation from Hodgson, then, after an important reference to the Popping Stone, follows: “The small, thatched cottage, opposite the road leading from the railway station, is usually pointed out as the residence of Meg, but it is not the one which was occupied by her. She lived in the larger building beyond, round which the road bends at a right angle. The front of the house is modernized, but the back of it still retains the character of a border fortress. My information upon this and other subject respecting her, has been derived from an individual residing in the district, whose mother knew Meg well, and visited her upon her death-bed. Although the heroine of Mump's-hall was cast in a mould somewhat suited to the state of the district at that time, she was not the fiend-like woman that she is generally represented."

The phrase "round which the road bends at a right angle" may be confusing until you inspect a 1st edition (1860s) OS map of Gilsland. The road used to run down to the Irthing bridge between Mumps Hall and the site of the Methodist Church, through what is now a garage. The sharply curved corner of the back-garden wall of Mumps Hall, nearest the church, shows the original position of the "right angle".


Report in the Hexham Herald, sometime in 1877, quoted in Lamb [2001] (see 1798, above) “Another of those landmarks connecting the present with the past is about to be swept away by the inexorable monster Progress. Gilsland has lost one of its chief attractions, Meg O’Mumps domicile, over which the Wizard of the North, Sir Walter Scott, waved his magic wand making every stone in the low shieling an object of worldwide interest. The debris is now in the process of removal in order to make way for a modern villa. This classic spot had other tenants of ill repute besides the redoubtable Meg. According to tradition Merrilies Cottage was occupied by the notorious Mendham, a name well known on the Borders. Here this worthy for many years carried on his nefarious practice. Mumps Ha’ was the place where he manufactured spurious notes known as “Mendham’s pictures”, some of which are in existence yet, preserved as curiosities.”

The precise date of the original’s replacement by today’s Merrilies Cottage is interesting, and the mysterious reference to Mendham is explained by 1798, above.


Postcard showing a photograph of a small building on the site of today’s Merrilies Cottage. It is titled “Old Merrilies Cottage, Gilsland. Birth place of Meg Merrilies” No publication date or postmark is given but many of these cards date from the period 1903-1910, although the photo could have been taken at any time before that, as it must have been, as the building was demolished in 1877. Perhaps the photo was taken in the knowledge of the impending demolition.View card


Postcards (in my collection) postmarked 1908 and 1913, showing 4, Hall Terrace and Merrilies Cottage, titled “Mumps Hall, Gilsland”. The photographer has gone to some trouble to include both buildings in the photo. View cards


Register Sheet of Listed Building Details:
List Title: Nos. 1-4 Hall Terrace
Reference Number: 09410100088
Grade: II
Listed Date 28/03/1984
Obtainable from Civic Centre, Carlisle
List Description: Calls no. 4 Hall Terrace a "late C17 inn" and mentions its link with Margaret Teasdale (1679-1777).
Read full List Description


4, Hall Terrace is universally known as Mumps Hall.

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