This is the only occurrence of the surname in the entire Hearth Tax – that list of householders for the county of Northumberland and from this man we can claim direct descent.
The East Boat area directly linked the town with the village of St John Lee and was owned by the Hermitage estate, the house still existing within the park. A ferry boat from here provided a safer means of crossing especially in flood time as illustrated by a traveller’s account in 1634:
“And now when we had thought that dangers were pass’d we met a gulfe too, at the entrance into Hexham over the rapid river Tyne where, for want of a boat or bridge , we were enforced in the vale of the night to passe a swift deep stream, over high great stumbling stones, in such danger both to our horse and to ourselves, as had we not fortunately happen’d on a guide that knew the fording place well, we had there ended our travels.”
The wife of William of East Boat was possibly Mary Newbigin recorded in 1731 as godmother to the infant son of Edward Allsopp. William had nine children, although only the later ones appear in the baptismal records of St John Lee, to be followed by his burial in 1728.
Not surprisingly for this area, there is an old tradition that the Newbigins were ‘out’ in the 1715 Rising. Indeed, the owners of the nearby Fallowfield area, the Erringtons, were dispossessed for their Jacobite leanings at this time. Hexham generally was sympathetic to the Jacobite cause and charges were to appear in the Quarter Sessions for many months afterwards against those who had drank to, or had otherwise shown allegiance to the king over the water.