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The man who would become the first (and last) individual to be known as Lord Kirkley was born as William Joseph Noble in
in January 1863. He married Margaret Dixon and they had four children. Noble
made his name and his considerable fortune in shipping – primarily with the
Cairn Line – and rose to serve as president of the Chamber of Shipping in 1920.
On his way to the top of his profession he also served on the Tyne Improvement Commission and acted as an advisor to the Ministry of Transport. He served on a number of national and local committees during World War I, and led the British Economic Mission to
Africa in 1930. By this time he was a
Baronet and when, in 1928, he bought Kirkley Hall in Northumberland from the
Ogles, he soon found himself bearing the title of Lord Kirkley.
He was to die, aged
in 1935, but the last few years of his life were
eventful enough. First off, his wife, Margaret, died in September 1928 and was
interred in Ponteland churchyard. Then his newly acquired mansion was almost
completely destroyed by fire in 1929 – which he quickly rebuilt in much the
form we see today.
Noble was a staunch Presbyterian and even had his own chapel at Kirkley. He was most vociferous towards the local C of E vicar at Ponteland, who is known to have warned his bishop of “difficulties ahead”. And he wasn’t wrong. Sir William was soon trying to poach worshippers from him by parking a bus outside the parish church at Evensong. But worse was to come…
Keen to do all he could to upset his rival, Sir William then hit upon the idea of exhuming his wife’s body from Ponteland churchyard and reburying her in the garden of his own little chapel … and in very much unconsecrated ground. When the old man himself died in 1935, he joined her. And with no surviving sons to inherit his title, that was the end of the Lords of Kirkley, too.