April 7, 2015

Northumberland history. Bellingham (North Tyne) – the Gingall gun

By Clive Dalton and Donald Clegg
Spring daffodils around the Bellingham Gingall gun
Generations of Bellingham folk must have looked at the old gun on its plinth, protected by iron railings near the Town Hall.  It never meant much to us locals, and certainly we were never told about it in any history lessons we got at school, especially at the Reed's school which I (CD) attended and was just around the corner from the gun.

The original timber of the gun always in dark red paint rotted away (in the 1970s ?), and was replaced with great skill by local volunteers. So it still keeps its place in local history, and now thanks to Wikipedia, we can find out  the  story that few locals were aware of, and as far as anybody knew, had not involved any Bellingham folk like those in the other wars.

The plaque on the gun 
The plaque says the that the gun was presented to the people of Bellingham by Commander (later Admiral) Sir Edward Charlton.  Why he thought Bellingham deserved such a gift would be nice to know.  The N.W. Fort Taku China was involved in the Boxer rebellion when the British invaded China to extend the empire, and presumably he served there on the HMS Orlando, although this is not mentioned in the Wikipedia report.

What is a Gingall gun?
From Wikipedia:
A jingal or gingall, (Hindi janjal) is a type of gun, usually a light piece mounted on a swivel; it sometimes takes the form of a heavy musket fired from a rest. Frequently a form of wall gun either by design or use. The weapon was used by the Chinese and Indians in the 19th century, such as by the Taiping armies. 

Who was Sir Edward Charlton (1865-1937)?
Wikipedia gives a full profile of him and his career in the Royal Navy. The fact that he was born in Newcastle may indicate some Northumbrian links with the wider Charlton family of Hesleyside Hall. This is speculation as no Wikipedia details are provided. 

He served in the Anglo Egyptian war and WW1 and retired from the Royal Navy in 1924.  There is no mention of him serving in the Boxer rebellion - and how he managed to claim the gun.

What was HMS Orlando?
 From Wikipedia

HMS Orlando was the lead ship of the Orlando-class of first-class cruisers built in the yards of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, on the Tyne at Jarrow and launched on 3 August 1886.

In 1899 she was assigned to the China Station, Captain James Henry Thomas Burke in command. During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, sailors from HMS Orlando formed part of the force led by Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour attempting to relieve the British Legation in Beijing.

The Gingall gun where is has stood outside the Town Hall guarding the Black Bull for over 100 years.  It has also guarded the Rose and Crown too (below)!

The authors would welcome any more information about the gun or Admiral Charlton's link with Bellingham.

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