A Squatter at Dilston

In order to prove that she was entitled to the old Radcliffe lands, Amelia had to do two things. Firstly, she had to show that she really was who she claimed to be, that is great-grand-daughter of James, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater. Secondly, she had to make the case in law that a female descendant of the Radcliffes was actually entitled to take possession of the estates from Greenwich Hospital, which was by no means clear.

The Trustees of the Hospital had been inclined to ignore Amelia's claims as those of a mad woman and to hope that she would just go away, but her occupation of the castle and her growing popular support made this impossible. The Commissioners acted quickly and on 1 October Mr Grey gave instructions that Amelia and her followers be forcibly evicted from the tower and sent packing. However, this failed to get rid of the determined Amelia, who simply set up camp on the roadside at Dilston, winning herself more popular support. Thousands of people came to see her camp and to talk with her. Many were impressed by the quiet determination of a proud lady, who was very obviously sane. Once again, song and ballads began to be composed about a Radcliffe at Dilston.

On 5 November she was evicted from her camp-site by the magistrate on the grounds that she was blocking the roadway. However, she would not give up her case, and throughout 1869 she pursued the matter. In a strange emulation of the activities of Abraham Silvertop at Ryton, she tried to collect the rents from the tenants, which she claimed were rightly hers. She even went so far as to threaten Mr. Grey with a sword when he tried to stop her, a sword which she claimed had belonged to her great-grandfather. The sword was unfortunately broken in the scuffle. In early 1870 she actually auctioned livestock and property belonging to the Hospital, and occupied one of their farms. 2,000 of her sympathisers gathered and seem to have staged something approaching a riot. Amelia became a popular symbol for the struggles of the oppressed and for the whole tragedy of the Radcliffe Family, their lands usurped, it was felt, by the Hospital Commissioners from far- off London. Clearly, this situation could not be allowed to continue.

Legal recourse was taken by the Commissioners to regain the value of their lost stock and the unpaid rents. Those involved in the riot were also sued. The courts accepted unconditionally the Commissioners' claims to the estate and found the rioters guilty, but let them off without punishment. As her supporters began to appear in court, popular opinion started to turn against Amelia, who was becoming increasingly wild in her behaviour and seemed to be harming innocent people in her campaign.

Amelia was fined £500 for the damage she had caused and was declared bankrupt. In order to pay off her debt, her collection of 'relics' would have to be sold. The auction attracted much attention but most of it , by now, was just amused or even hostile. The sale of all her 'relics' did not cover Amelia's debts. For a time, she went on trying to have her claim recognised but she met with a series of legal defeats and eventual imprisonment. She died at Consett in 1880 of bronchitis. On her coffin were inscribed the words 'Amelia Mary Tudor Radcliffe, Countess of Derwentwater'.