Jutland, Gibraltar, and Newbiggin Hall

Which Newbiggin Hall is this?

There is more than one! Newbiggin Hall – the one at Newbiggin, near Temple Sowerby – became the home of the Crackenthorpe/Crackanthorpe family in the 1300s.

Here is the story of one of them: a man who served in action in two world wars, only to die at Newbiggin Hall in a tragic accident.

Francis Dayrell Montague Crackanthorpe

The grave of Lt.-Cdr. Francis Dayrell Montague Crackanthorpe stands in Beacon Edge Cemetery, looking a little different from most war graves.

Others in the Penrith cemetry are the traditional white – indeed, if you walk around, you can spot them for what they are easily from a distance.

The lieutenant commander’s grave, while the same recognisable shape and format of the others, is, however, a pinky-red, like the local sandstone.

Looking to discover the ‘story’ of the man buried there, led to the discovery that he was part of a ‘dynasty’ with a fascinating past. One taking in politics, international diplomacy, the arts, and personal lives that included scandals and tragedies.

The Battle of Jutland

It’s hard to know where to start and finish, really – without venturing into side-shoots of the family tree down the way.

As the gravestone records, Francis Dayrell Montague Crackanthorpe was the elder son of Dayrell Crackanthorpe, of Newbiggin, Westmorland. Specifically, Newbiggin Hall.

An obituary/inquest report records:

Commander Crackanthorpe would have been 45 years of age on January 6th, and was Mr. Crackanthorpe’s only surviving son, the younger son having died in 1931. 

He was educated at Osborne and Dartmouth and joined H.M.S. King George V as a midshipman in 1914.

He served throughout the war and was in the Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutland. 

When the war ended he was a Sub-Lieutenant in H.M.S. Vidette. 

All this by the age of 20!

Gibraltar, in the Second World War

In 1920, he retired from the Navy and after studying agriculture, he went in 1924 to farm in Southern Rhodesia. 

He was there when the present war broke out and was recalled to service. He was on HMS Esperance Bay as Lieut.-Commander until 1941. when he commanded a Coastal Force Base at Gibraltar.

Gibraltar was a huge strategic location during the Second World War. You can read it about it here (Visit Gibraltar) and on the BBC’s People’s War pages here.

In 1943, he was appointed to H.M.S. Dragon Fly at Hayling Island, Hants. This appointment having terminated, he had applied for an appointment in the Far East and in the meantime had come to Newbiggin Hall on a month’s leave. arriving last Friday.

There’s a whole ‘where do you start?’ feeling about that. Naval battles in the First World War; Gibraltar in the Second… farming in Africa between…

And he was looking, at 44, to serve in the Far East theatre of war.

Newbiggin Hall – the Crackanthorpe family

But having survived action in two world wars, his death was the result of a terrible tragedy.

To go back to the ‘dynasty’ of the Crackanthorpes of Newbiggin Hall.

Lt.-Cdr. Francis Dayrell Montague Crackanthorpe was born in 1900. He married Isabel Cary-Elwes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1925, and they had a daughter and a son.

Francis (‘Frank’ on the 1911 census) was the son of diplomat Dayrell Eardley Montague Crackanthorpe and his wife Ida (Sickles –  daughter of General Daniel E Sickles).

She was a volunteer nurse in the First World War, and died in France.

Their ‘stories’ are for another day.

The younger son referred to in the obituary was George Christopher Crackenthorpe, who died in 1931, aged just 30, in a London nursing home after a long illness.

There was also a sister, Ida Blanche.

Dayrell Eardley Montague Crackanthorpe was the son of Montague Hughes Cookson and Blanche Alethea Elizabeth Holt.

Montague Cookson took the name Crackanthorpe by Royal Licence in 1888 on inheriting the Crackanthorpe estate through his grandmother Dorothy Crackanthorpe.

Dorothy Crackenthorpe (circa 1719 to 1792) married 1741 Williams Cookson of Penrith (c1711 to 1787).

 The early Crackenthorpes are ‘worth’ coming back to. And Montague and his offspring each merit their own post. You can use the ‘search’ button on the home page to find the others.

Tragedy at Newbiggin Hall

But back to Francis (Frank) and the tragedy.

Lieutenant Commander Crackenthorpe, you will remember, was on leave at Newbiggin Hall in December 1944.

He set out alone one morning, to shoot pheasants. That evening, when he had failed to return, a search party set out.

His body was found in a shallow stream. It was thought he he must have slipped while crossing a footbridge made of trees and planks. The bridge was slippery and had a rail at the end you had to step over.

His gun had been at full cock and somehow, had discharged – the shot entering the lower part of his chest on the left side. 

Inquest verdict: accidental death.

Puzzled how that could happen, and with the inquest light on detail, I asked a friend who knows about guns.

His thought was that when Francis Crackenthorpe went to step over the rail, he must have tried to use the gun as a walking stick, to aid balance in the slippery conditions.

And he’d have done so with the stock end to the ground: the safer way to point a cocked gun would have bunged up the barrel with mud.

A sharp jolt – caused by him slipping – would have been enough to cause the gun to fire, with fatal consequences.