National Gazetteer (1868) - Northumberland


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"NORTHUMBERLAND, a maritime county at the extreme N. of England. It is bounded on the E. by the North Sea, on the W. it is separated from Scotland by the river Tweed and the Cheviot hills, and on the S. it adjoins Cumberland and Durham, being separated from the latter by the rivers Tyne and Derwent. Its greatest length is 62 miles, and its greatest breadth 50. It measures about 205 miles in circuit, of which 50 are on the coast, and the measure is 1,952 square miles, or 1,249,299, statute acres. It is comprised between 65° 45' and 54° 43' N. lat., and 2° 35' and 1° 20' W. long. Several small shires, as Berwick-on-Tweed, Newcastle, Islandshire, Sandberghshire, Bedlingtonshire, and Norhamshire, which were formerly independent, now form part of the county. The coast from Berwick to Lindisfarne or Holy Island belongs to the county of Durham. At the earliest period of which we have any information, Northumberland and the adjacent parts of Scotland were inhabited by the Ottadeni or Meatae and the Gadeni. Agricola was the first of the Roman generals who advanced so far north, and in the year 80 he protected the territory he had acquired by a line of 18 forts stretching across the country from the Solway Frith to the mouth of the Tyne, and passing Haddon-on-the-Wall and St. Oswald's. These forts were erected as a defence against the incursions of the northern Britons, and were found so effective that they were subsequently strengthened by Hadrian and Severus, who built the wall, and formed the conquered country into a Roman province called Valentia. Besides the paved way which ran from turret to turret, immediately within the wall, another road proceeded in a direct line between the different stations. Two Roman roads, the Maiden Way and Watling Street, or Leeming Lane, traversed the county; the former passed from Alstone to Caervoran, on the wall, between the Irthing and the Tiffold, and the latter entered the county at Elchester, Corbridge, and passed over the Cheviot hills into Scotland to a spot about 4 miles N.E. of Jedburgh. A branch of the same road ran from Beuckley, about a mile N. of the wall, to Alnwick. The first Saxon settlement was effected in 547, by Idas, who built a castle at Bamburgh, and founded the kingdom of Northanbymbra, which was subsequently subdivided into Bryneich (Bernicia) and Deifyr (Deira). The Danes commenced their incursions in 844, when they slew Redwulf, the king of Northumbria, and in 867 the sons of Regnar Lodbrog occupied the greater part of the county. During the reign of King Alfred, Northumbria was included in the Danelagh, but in the subsequent wars with that nation Athelstane gave them a decisive defeat at Brunanburgh. At the time of the Norman conquest the N. of England had been so ravaged by the Scots and Danes, that the four northern counties were not included in the survey of the Domesday Book. Until the close of the 16th century the inhabitants of the border counties both of England and Scotland were perpetually engaged in cattle-lifting and in the skirmishes ensuing from this practice. Both countries possessed officers known as the Lord Wardens, and the wardens of the E., W., and middle branches, whose duty was in time of peace to do what they could to preserve peace, and to exact and demand compensation for all injuries, while in time of war they organised marauding expeditions into the hostile country. Upon the union of the two crowns by the accession of James VI. of Scotland to the English throne these offices were abolished. Numerous battles have been fought in Northumberland, including the two famous battles before Alnwick, in 1093 and 1174, in the former of which Malcolm Canmore, the king of Scotland, was killed, and in the latter William the Lion was taken prisoner; also the battles of Otterburn (1387), Homildon (1402), and Pepperdean (1436), between the earls of Northumberland and Douglas; the capture of Alnwick (1462), and Bamburgh (1464), by Margaret of Anjou; her subsequent defeats at Hedgley Moor and Hexham; and the battle of Flodden Field or Branxton, where the Earl of Surrey defeated and slew James IV., in 1513. During the civil wars of the seventeenth century, the county principally took the part of the king, and Newcastle was taken in 1644 by the Scotch army, on behalf of the Parliament. In the rebellion of 1715 Hexham was occupied for the Pretender by the Earl of Derwentwater and the other noblemen of the county, but they retired into Scotland on the approach of the king's troops under Carpenter. The surface of Northumberland gradually rises from the coast towards the Cheviot hills on the Scotch border, and becomes more and more barren as the elevation above the sea-level increases. The hills in the centre of the county are mostly clothed with green turf, but those on the borders -are covered with moss and heather. The highest point in the range is 2,658 feet high, and lies a few miles S.W. of Wooler. Near this point the Hedgehope and Standrop range branch out into the centre of the county; and further S., the vales of the Coquet, Reed, and North Tyne, are formed by the spurs of the Cheviot, of which the most conspicuous heights are the Girdle fells, which separate the basins of the Reed and Tyne, and terminate in Hareslaw Moor. S. of the Tyne are the Allendale hills, which abound in lead mines. The coast is low and flat, and opposite Lindisfarne and the Fern Islands large tracts of sand, called "Flats," are laid bare at low, tide. These are found at intervals along the entire coast. The principal harbours are Berwick, Warkworth, Holy Island, and Seaton Road. There are lighthouses on Coquet Isle, at Warkworth, the Fern Islands, and at Berwick. The chief rivers in Northumberland are, the Tweed, which forms the N. W. boundary of the county, and is joined near Twisel by the Till, which flows northwards with the united waters of the Glen, the Caldgate, and the Breamish, which rise in the Cheviot hills. The Aln, which rises near Alnham, passes Whittingham and Alnwick, and forms Alnworth Harbour, after a course of about 20 miles. The Coquet, a very celebrated trout river, rises in the Cheviots, near Watling Street, and crosses the county, passing Alwinton and Rothbury, and falls into the sea at Warkworth, where a system of docks is in course of construction; the Alwine and numerous other small streams join it on its course. The Wansbeck, 24 miles in length, passes Morpeth and enters the sea near Seaton; the chief tributary is the Font, which rises in the South Forest. The Blyth runs nearly parallel with Wansbeck. The Tyne forms the southern boundary from Tynemouth to near Ovingham, and is navigable for large vessels as far as Newcastle. It is formed by the union of the North and South Tynes, which join at Warden, near Hexham. The former rises on the Keelder Moors, and flows S. E. past Falstone, Bellingham, and Wark, while the latter rises near Alstone Moor, and flows first in a northerly direction, altering its course at Haltwhistle to easterly. The respective lengths of the rivers are about 38 and 33 miles, and the main stream is about 30 miles in length. Numerous rivers and burns flow into both branches of the Tyne from the hills on either side, but the only river of any size is the Reed, which rises on Carter Fell and falls into the North Tyne near Bellingham. The Derwent forms for some distance the southern boundary of the county, and falls into the Tyne a little above Newcastle. The above rivers, and, in fact, nearly every stream in the county, abound in trout, and there are salmon fisheries in the Tweed, the Coquet, and the Aln, and formerly in the Tyne, but the navigation in that river now keeps away the salmon. The climate is considerably colder than that of the southern districts of England, but in different parts of the county the temperature varies considerably, the low lands on the E. side being warmer than the moor land on the Scotch border, although the former is also subject to cold E. winds. Of the geological features of the county, the most noted is the carboniferous formation, of which Newcastle is the centre. The coal measures run northwards from the Tyne as far as the river Aln, and are bounded on the W. by a line drawn through Alnmouth, Felton, Morpeth, Whalton, and Bywell. The coal is mixed with sandstone, clayslate, and limestone, and is in some places 1,600 feet thick. The principal pits are at Earsdon, Wallsend, Heddon, and Hartley. The first pit was worked at Newcastle in 1240. Between the above-mentioned line, and a similar one from Rothbury to Hexham and Alstone Moor, lies a belt of millstone grit, and W. of this, carboniferous limestone, with occasional seams of coal. The remainder of the county is chiefly composed of several varieties of sandstone, except the Cheviots, which are formed in great measure of porphyry, and the cliffs consist of trap near Bamburgh and Dunstanborough, and of magnesian limestone further S. There is also a tract of red sandstone along the Tweed, which yields gypsum. Flags and grindstones are quarried at Byker, and limestone for manure at Bamburgh. Iron is found in connection with the coal, and lead and zinc at Allendale, Alstone, Fallowfield, Coalcleugh, and Shildon. There are mineral springs at Thurston, Lady's Well, near Halystone, and at Eglingham. The soil of the eastern part of the county is a clayey or gravelly loam; in the centre and S.E. the loam rests on a clay subsoil. Towards the Scotch border there are about 450,000 acres of peat and moor land, divided into small freeholds called "marches," and employed as pasture for sheep, of which there are two breeds on the hills, the Cheviot, a hornless breed, and the ordinary mountain sheep. In the lower lands, the Leicester, Southdown, and other varieties are found. Turnips are very largely grown, also large crops of wheat, oats, barley, beans, and potatoes. The short-horned Durham cattle are very extensively bred, and large quantities of Scotch cattle are imported to fatten. The Clydesdale breed of carthorses has long been famous. The manufactories in Northumberland are chiefly dependent on the abundant supply of coal, and are scattered in various parts of the county, but more especially along the Tyne, where there are glass, iron, lead, and chemical works, also paper manufactories at Houghton, gloves at Hexham, potteries, brickfields, &c. For administrative purposes Northumberland is divided into six wards-Bamburgh, Glendale, Coquetdale, and Morpeth, which form the northern division of the county, and Castle and Tynedale wards forming the southern division. These contain 90 parishes and part of one more, with six extra-parochial places, and about 600 towns and villages, of which twelve are market towns, viz:, Newcastle, Morpeth, Alnwick, Belford, Bellingham, Berwick, Haltwhistle, Hexham, Rothbury, Tynemouth, Allendale, North Shields, and Wooler. Each division of the county returns two members to the House of Commons. The election towns are respectively Alnwick and Hexham, and the polling places, Elsdon, Morpeth, Berwick, and Wooler, for the N., and Newcastle, Bellingham, Haltwhistle, Allendale, and North Shields, for the S. Newcastle and Berwick also return two members each, and Morpeth and Tynemouth (with North Shields) one each. Newcastle is the county and assize town, and sessions are held there as well as at Alnwick, Morpeth, and Hexham. The first ten of the above-named towns, with Glendale and Castle wards, are the seats of the poor-law unions into which the county is divided. The first nine and last two have new county courts. Northumberland has a population of 343,025, according to the census of 1861, of which the northern division contained 93,041, and the southern 249,984, showing an increase of 39,457 since the former census of 1851, when the population was 303,568. The county is governed by a lord lieutenant, about 32 deputy lieutenants, a high sheriff, and a body of magistrates about 200 in number. It is in the northern circuit and the north-eastern military district. For ecclesiastical purposes it contributes two archdeaconries (Lindisfarne and Northumberland) in the diocese of Durham and the province of York. Lindisfarne is subdivided into the rural deaneries of Alnwick, Bamburgh, Morpeth, Norham, and Rothbury. Northumberland contains the deaneries of Bellingham, Corbridge, Hexham, and Newcastle. The benefices in the county number about 135. Northumberland formed an earldom in the Saxon times, and was held by various persons during the reigns of the early Norman kings. In 1148, Henry, Prince of Scotland, was Earl of Northumberland, and he was succeeded by his son and heir Malcolm. In 1377 the title was bestowed on Henry Percy, and it has been held by members of that family for many generations, with the exception of John Nevill, Lord Montagu (1164), John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (1551), and George Fitz-Roy, son of Charles II. The present dukedom dates from 1766. The principal seats in the county are Alnwick Castle, of the Duke of Northumberland, and one of the grandest historical mansions in the kingdom, restored in 1858 by the late duke to its pristine magnitude as a border castle; Ford Castle, of the Marquis of Waterford; Howick Hall, of Earl Grey; Chillingham, of the Earl of Tankerville; Gallowhill and Bolam House, of Lord Decies; Eslington Park, of Lord Ravensworth; Kielder Castle, of the Duke of Northumberland; Belsay Hall, of Monck, Bart.; Capheaton Hall, of Swinburne, Bart.; Ewart Park, at Doddington, of St. Paul, Bart.; Matfen Hall, of E. Blackett, Bart.; Wallington Hall, of Trevelyan, Bart.; Riding House, of Lord Charles Beauclerk; Beaufront, of Cuthbert, Esq.; Belford, of Rev. J. D. Clarke; Biddlestone, of Walter Selby, Esq.; Blenkinson, of Col. J. B. Coulson; Bywell Hall, of W. Blackett Beaumont, Esq., M.P.; Callaley Castle, of E. J. Clavering, Esq.; Chesters House, of J. Clayton, Esq.; Chipchase Castle, of Ralph W. Grey, Esq., M. P.; Craster Tower, of T. W. Craster, Esq.; Dissington Hall, of E. Collingwood, Esq.; Gosforth House, of W. Smith, Esq.; Harbottle Castle, of P. F. Clenhell, Esq.; Little Harley Tower, of T. Anderson, Esq.; Heddon, of G. Burdon, Esq.; Hesleyside, of W. H. Charlton, Esq.; Kirkley Hall, of E. C. Ogle, M.A.; Lilburn Tower, of E. J. Collingwood, Esq.; Milburn Hall, of N. Bates, Esq.; Minster Acres, of H. C. Silvertop, Esq.; Mitford Castle, of Mrs. Osbaldeston; Morwick Hall, of W. Linskill, Esq.; Nunwick Hall, of Hunter Allgood, Esq.; Pallinsburn House, of Watson Askew, Esq.; Roddam, of W. Roddam, Esq.; Shawdon, of W. J. Pawson, Esq.; Swinburne Castle, of J. B. Coulson, Esq.; Westwodd Hall, of Rev. L. S. Orde; besides numerous other seats of landed gentry. The county is hunted by Lord Elcho's and the Tynedale packs of hounds. The principal lines of railway are the Newcastle and Berwick, a branch of the Great Northern which connects these two towns, running parallel to the coast, and passing through Morpeth and Belford, with branches to Newsham and Alnwick; the Berwick and Kelso line runs along the southern bank of the Tweed, leaving Northumberland near Carham; the Newcastle and Carlisle follows the course of the Tyne from Tynemouth to Haltwhistle, where a branch line from Alstone Moor joins it, and another line leaves it at Hexham, and runs along the North Tyne into Scotland, passing Bellingham, from which town there is a line recently constructed to Morpeth, and thence to Bedlington and Tynemouth, with two branches to North Seaton and Blyth; there is also a line from North Shields, joining the above at the Hartley Colliery. Another line is in contemplation, passing through the centre of the county near Rothbury and Wooler to join the Berwick and Kelso and Morpeth and Bellingham lines. The Edinburgh road passes through Newcastle to Morpeth, and so through Alnwick and Belford to Berwick, 62 miles. Another road to Edinburgh runs from Newcastle through Loughasley, Edlingham, and Wooler to Berwick, with branches to Branxton and Kelso, 63 miles. A third road traverses the vale of the Reed, and another road passes by Ponteland, Kirkharle, and Elsdon, to Kelso, 54 miles. The road up the valley of the Tyne passes Heddon, Bywell, Borbridge, Hexon, and Haydon Bridge, to Haltwhistle, 35 miles. The road down the Tyne valley passes Wallsend and Shields to Tynemouth, 8 miles. The Roman remains in this county are among the most interesting in the island, including those of the great wall, mentioned at the commencement of this article, and the forts by which it was defended, eighteen in number, but of these the sites of eleven only are within the county. There are remains of stations at Cousins House, or Wallsend (Segedunum), Newcastle (Tons Elii), Benwell Hill (Condercum), Halton Chesters (Vindobala), Rutchester (Hunnum), Walwick Chesters (Ciluruum) Carrowburgh (Procolita), Housesteads (Borcovicum), Little Chesters (Vindolana), Great Chesters AEsica), Caervoran (Magna), Ebchester (Vindomora), Corbridge (Corstopitum), Risingham. (Habitancum), Rochester (Brerneniurn), and Chew Green (Ad Fines). Of these remains the most perfect is that at Little Chesters; which covered a space of about 15 acres. There are traces of Roman camps at Whatton, Whitley Castle, near Kirkhaugh, Haltwhistle, Rosedon Edge, Kirknewton, Thirlwall Castle, Bolam, Bamburgh, Belford, Rothbury, Callaley, Glanton Pike, Bewick Hill, Hardan, Cornhill, and other places. There are also Druidical remains at Ilderton and Humbledon, and a British ruin on Yevering Bell Mountain, near Wooler, which last deserves a more particular mention. It consists of a large cairn surrounded by a stone wall 8 feet thick on the summit of the mountain, while around and lower down the mountain are the remains of buildings of a circular form, and of a grove of oak trees. In the same neighbourhood, on Homildon Hill, is a stone pillar to commemorate the battle fought there in 1402. The ruins of border castles are very numerous. Of these Norham and Wark on the banks of the Tweed are the most interesting. On the Till are Heton, Dudhowe, and Ford, the latter being still used as a residence. Prudhoe Castle, a seat of the Percys, stands on a hill on, the S. bank of the Tyne, near Ovingham. The keep and gate tower are still standing, but the remainder, including the chapel, is in ruins. In the same part of the county are Langley Castle, near Hexham, and Featherstone, Thirlwall, Bellister, and Blenkinsop, near Haltwhistle. Along the coast are Bamburgh, a structure of the highest antiquity, Dunstanborough, and Warkworth castles. Near Morpeth are Mitford, Bothal, Marnham, and Helsay castles. Others are Bellingham, Elsdon near Bellingham, Witton near Rothbury, now used as a parsonage, Staward le Peel, on the Allen, Willimotesweck, Simonsburn, Fowberry, Kielder, Cockley, Ayden, Halton, Welton, Harbottle, Hepple, Edlingham, Lilbourne, and Horton. Most of the large towns, as Newcastle, Alnwick, Berwick, Morpeth, and Tynemouth, possessed castles, of which there are some remains, and of which a description will be found in the articles on those towns. The religious houses of which there are remains are the following:-Blanchland Premonstratensian Abbey on the Derwent was founded in 1175; one of the towers is still used for the celebration of Divine service. There were also abbeys at Alnwick, Hulne, and Newminster, and priories at Brinckburn, near Rothbury, Tynemouth, and on Holy Island. On the banks of the Coquet at Warkworth there is a hermitage, consisting of two rooms and a chapel, cut out of the rock. The churches at Hexham, Elsdon, Bolam, Heddon, Ponteland, and Seaton Delaval are deserving of notice from their age."


[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]