Volume 42 Number 1 Article 3
Goosey Tyson's Cave
(A Clear Case of Foul Play?)
Those who have ever perused the very last pages of 'Northern Caves Volume 3' looking for obscure caves in 'other areas' will have noted the entry for 'Goosey Tyson's Cave', grade I, length 55 m, depth 5.5 m.
There is nothing remarkable about the cave itself, except that it is the only one within a few miles of my home in west Cumbria. It is located in a narrow band of limestone between the Skiddaw slate of 'Cold Fell' and the St. Bees sandstone of the coastal plane. There are (or were) large deposits of iron ore in this area, and indeed Florence Mine, at the bottom of the same hill, is now the last working deep mine in Europe. Its owner once told me that they frequently come across natural 'caves', but they are too small to allow access, (which is almost true of Goosey Tyson's as well!)
The reason for this short article is that I recently became aware of the cave's history, revealed by Dave Banks of the West Cumbria Mines Research Group. I thought others interested in 'cave trivia' might enjoy it...
On the morning of 7th October 1840, John Mossop, yeoman, of Carleton Lodge near Egremont, discovered twenty-nine of his forty geese missing. A swift search recovered twelve near the house, but the remainder had vanished.
Now Mr. Mossop was a member of the 'Association for the Prosecution of Felons in the Parish of St. John, Beckermet', which offered a handsome reward of £5 for information leading to the conviction of the offender(s). Such information was quickly forthcoming, and implicated one Henry Tyson, yeoman, of Brackenthwaite Farm at Wilton, about two miles from Carleton Lodge.
A search warrant was obtained, and that evening, constables John Douglas and Henry Bragg concealed themselves near Henry Tyson's home. They soon heard the sound of geese coming from an out-building, and these were later identified by Mossop as his own.
Despite understandable protests about the validity of the identification, Tyson, a respected gentleman of the Parish, was arrested. The subsequent trial was held on 20th October 1840 at Cockermouth, and aroused considerable public interest as it was most unusual for a man of Tyson's standing to be accused of such a serious offence.
Long and tedious legal arguments were presented by both sides, but it seems the principal case for the prosecution rested on the observation that, when returned to the rest of the flock, "the stolen geese were very friendly and showed great fondness for one another." Six of the geese were then brought to the court as evidence. Being unaccustomed to such surroundings, the geese attempted to escape. Cackling loudly, and with showers of feathers, they dashed around the courtroom, soiling a number of books and gentlemen's hats!
The jury failed to be persuaded by several testimonies to the good character of Mr. Tyson. He was pronounced guilty and sentenced to six months hard labour, with one month in solitary confinement. A less important man may have been transported for seven years or more!
Sadly, the exact connection of 'Goosey Tyson' with the cave of that name is less clearly documented. It is suggested that, following his release, he became rather reclusive, and either lived in the cave or at least used it as a temporary refuge. It is also said that, within living memory, there were still the remains of cupboards and shelves that he had installed in the first chamber.
This chamber is not large enough to stand up in, and the entrance is a low wet crawl. There are some references to a roof-fall, but no visible evidence or memory of this in recent history. Tyson's association with the cave may therefore be little more than local myth, but it's a good story any way.