The Wolf of Allendale
"Wolf at Large in Allendale" was the
headline of The Hexham Courant on 10th December 1904. The Courant
reported that in the last three weeks, farmers around the village
of Allendale were stabling their animals at night as loss of
livestock had become a serious concern. One farmer had found
two of his sheep killed, one with its bowels hanging out. The
head and horns were all that remained of another animal. Many
of the unfortunate livestock had been bitten around the neck
and legs, suggesting an attack by a wolf.
It was suggested that the perpetrator was a grey wolf that had
escaped from its owner, Captain Bain of Shotley Bridge. However,
Shotley Bridge police station had recorded Captain Bain's wolf
as being only four and a half months old and not much of a danger
to men or livestock.
Sightings of the beast began to filter
through the community. A report of an imposing looking wolf
lurking around behind Allenheads School brought a hunting party
of 150 residents to the scene, some armed with guns. A search
of the area found only a spot within a large drain where it
was thought the beast may have slept. The Hexham Courant reported
on the 17th December that on the previous Wednesday, the wolf
had committed "great
slaughter of a flock of sheep" - the wolf had been tracked
by a 100 strong hunting party, but could not be driven towards
the guns of the group. The following day, another hunting party
200 strong, half of whom were armed with guns again attempted
to track the wolf, but the search proved hopeless.
Further sightings, sometimes conflicting,
were reported over the next several days, describing the beast
as "black and
tan" or "dun" coloured.
The community became unsettled. Lanterns were kept burning overnight
in an attempt to ward the wolf away and the Hexham Wolf Committee
was founded to organise efforts to track down the beast, offering
rewards to prospective wolf trackers.
Throughout the winter, the hunt for the
Allendale Wolf continued. Reknowned tracking dogs, the Haydon
Hounds were put on the trail but not even the prized bloodhound
of the group, Monarch could find its quarry. Charles Fort,
who recorded the case in his book, Lo! commented: "The wisedog was put on what was supposed
to be the trail of the wolf. But, if there weren’t any
wolf, who can blame a celebrated bloodhound for not smelling
something that wasn’t?"
The Wolf Committee perservered and hired
Mr W. Briddick, a "skilled
Indian game hunter". Mr Briddick was intereviewed by the
Newcastle Evening Chronicle stating that he would find the Allendale
Wolf "on scientific lines". Despite his experience
and scientific pretensions, Briddick was unable to track down
Despite the lack of success in tracking down their wolf, the
locals adopted the continuing search as part of their folklore.
Hunt days soon took on a sense of occasion complete with fancy-dress
Throughout December and over Christmas, the search continued.
The wolf was witnessed jumping over a high wall to escape two
men and, the following day it was seen attacking a black faced
yew. One afternoon in late December the wolf was encountered
by a group of women and children, whose screams startled and
scared the wolf away.
In 1905, a corpse of a wolf was found on a railway track in
Cumwinton, Cumbria some 30 miles west of Hexham. The Hexham Courant
on the 7th January reported that the corpse was not that of the
Wolf of Allendale, and the Wolf Committee claimed the beast was
still at large. It was suggested that there was perhaps an entire
family of predators living in the Allendale woods, which does
offer an explanation as to why there had been differing descriptions
of the animal.
By the end of January 1905 reports of the wolf began to wane,
culminating with a succinct report of a wolf sighted with a snare
attached to its leg. Eventually. the sightings and livestock
killings ceased altogether.