Northumberland - Encyclopedia

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NORTHUMBERLAND, the northernmost county of England, bounded N.W. by the Scottish counties of Berwick and Roxburgh, W. by Cumberland, S. by Durham, and E. by the North Sea. The area is 2018 sq. m. It has a general inclination eastward from the hill-borders of Scotland and Cumberland. The Cheviot range partly separates Northumberland from Scotland, and reaches in the Cheviot, its culminating point north-eastward, the greatest elevation in the county, 2676 ft. The elevation of the Cheviots rarely falls below 1300 ft. along the Border, and generally exceeds 1600. A line of high ground, bending southward, forms the watershed between the North and Irish Seas. The boundary with Cumberland crosses the low divide between the Irthing and the South Tyne, after coinciding with the former river for a short distance, and giving Northumberland a small drainage area westward. In the south-west a small area of the Pennine uplands is included in the county, reaching elevations up to 2206 ft. in Kilhope Law. Few eminences break the general eastward incline, which appears as a wide billowing series of confluent hills that for half the year mingle tints of brown, russet, and dun in a rich pattern, and at all times communicate a fine sense of altitude and expanse. The Simonside Hills 0447 ft.) form one not very conspicuous exception. The configuration of much of these uplands has a certain linearity in its details due to groups and ranges of ridges, crags, and terrace-like tiers, termed "edges" (escarpments) by the country folk, and generally facing the interior, like broad ends of wedges. The line of pillared crags and prow-like headlands between the North and South Tynes along the verge of which the Romans carried their wall is a fine specimen. Passing eastwards from the uplands the moors are exchanged for enclosed grounds, "drystone" walls for hedgerows, and rare sprinklings of birch for a sufficiently varied wooding. The hills and moors sink to a coast generally low, a succession of sands, flat tidal rocks and slight cliffs. Its bays are edged by blown sandhills; its borders are severely wind-swept. Several islands lie over against it. Holy Island, the classic Lindisfarne, 1051 acres in extent, but half "links" and sandbanks, is annexed to the mainland and accessible to conveyances every tide. The Farne Islands are a group of rocky islets farther south.

Deep glens and valleys, scoring the uplands, and richly wooded except at their heads, are characteristic of the rivers. Of these the chief are the Tweed, forming the north-eastern part of the Scottish border, its tributary the Till (with its feeders the Glen and College), the Aln and the exquisite Coquet, flowing into Alnmouth Bay, the Wansbeck, with its tributary the Font, the Blyth and the Tyne, forming part of the boundary with Durham, the union of the North and South Tynes. Many of the upland streams attract trout-fishermen.

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The core of the county, in a geological aspect, is the northern Cheviots from Redesdale head nearly to the Tweed. Its oldest rocks are gritty and slaty beds of Silurian age, about the head of the rivers Rede and Coquet and near the Breamish south of Ingram - a part of the great Silurian mass of the southern uplands of Scotland. Volcanic activity about the period of the Old Red Sandstone resulted in the felspathic porphyrites, passing into the syenites and granites, that form the mass of the northern Cheviots. Round this core there now lie relays of Carboniferous strata dipping east and south, much faulted and repeated in places, but passing into Coal Measures and Magnesian Limestone in the south-eastern part of the county. The whole system consists of (1) the Carboniferous Limestone series in three divisions; (2) the Millstone Grit; and (3) the Coal Measures. Lowest in Northumberland lies Tate's Tuedian group, the first envelope of sinking Cheviot-land. Some reddish shore-like conglomerates lie in places at its base, as at Roddam Dene; its shales are often tinged with distemper greens; its coals are scarcely worthy of the name; its limestones are thin, except near Rothbury; and its marine fossils are few. The Tuedian group is overlaid by the Carbonaceous group; its shales are carbonaceous-grey, its coals, though mostly small, very numerous, its limestones often plant-limestones, and its calcareous matter much diffused. Upon this lies the Calcareous group; its lime occurs in well-individualized marine beds, cropping up to the surface in greenvested strips; its fossils are found in recurrent cycles, with the limestones and coals forming their extremes. These three groups now range round the northern Cheviots in curved belts broadening southwards, and occupy nearly all the rolling ground between the Tweed and the South Tyne, the sandstones forming the chief eminences. The middle division becomes thinner and more like the Coal Measures in passing northwards, and the upper division, thinning also, loses many of its limestones. The Millstone Grit is a characterless succession of grits and shales. The Coal Measures possess the same zone-like arrangement that prevails in the Limestone series, but are without limestones. They also are divided, very artificially, into three groups. The lowest, from the Brockwell seam downwards, has some traces of Gannister beds, and its coalseams are thin. The famous Hutton collection of plants was made chiefly from the roof-shales of two seams - the Bensham and the Low Main. The unique Atthey collection of fishes and Amphibia comes from the latter. The Coal Measures lie along the coast in a long triangle, of which the base, at the Tyne, is produced westwards on to the moors south of that river, where it is wedged against lower beds on the south by a fault. The strata within the triangle give signs of departing from the easterly dip that has brought them where they are, and along a line between its apex (near Amble) and an easterly point in its base (near Jarrow) they turn up northeastwards, promising coal-crops under the sea.

The top of the Coal Measures is wanting. After a slight tilting of the strata and the denudation that removed it, the Permian rocks were deposited, consisting of Magnesian Limestone, a thin fish-bed below it, and yellow sands and some red sandstone (with plants of Coal Measure species) at the base. These rocks are now all but removed. They form Tynemouth rock, and lie notched-in against the 90-fathom dyke at Cullercoates, and again are touched (the base only) at Seaton Sluice. No higher strata have been preserved. The chief faults of the county extend across it. Its igneous rocks, other than the Cheviot porphyrites and a few contemporaneous traps in the lowest Carboniferous, are all intrusive. An irregular sheet of basalt forced between planes of bedding (perhaps at the close of the Carboniferous period) forms the crag-making line of the Great Whinsill, which, with many shifts, breaks and gaps, extends from Greenhead near Gilsland to the Kyloe Hills. Numbers of basalt dykes cross the county, and were probably ccnnected with the plateau of Miocene volcanic rocks in the Hebrides. Everywhere the Glacial period has left rocks rounded and scored, and rockfragments from far and near rubbed up into boulder-clay. The glaciers at first held with the valleys, but as the ice-inundation grew they spread out into one sheet - the Cheviot tops, heavily ice-capped, alone rising above it. Two great currents met in confluence around these hills - one from across the western watershed, the other skirting the coast from the north. Boulders from Galloway, Criffel, the Lake District and other places adjacent, and from the Lammermuirs and Berwickshire, lie in their track. Of moraines there are only a few towards the hills. Glaciated shell-fragments have been detected at Tynemouth. Laminated brick clays occur among the boulder-clays. Sheets and mounds of gravel of the nature of kames exist here and there on the low grounds, and stretch in a chain over the low watershed between Haltwhistle and Gilsland, sparsely dotting also some more upland valleys. An upper boulderclay, containing flints, skirts the coast.

The older valleys are all pre-Glacial, and may date from the Miocene period. They are much choked up with Glacial deposits, and lie so deep below the surface that, if they were cleared-out arms of the sea, one of them, 140 ft. deep at Newcastle, would extend for miles inland. After the departure of the glaciers the streams here and there wandered into new positions, and hence arises a great variety of smooth slope and rocky gorge. In the open country atmospheric waste has hollowed out the shales at their outcrops, leaving the sandstones, &c., as protruding "edges," roughened here and there into crags. In the lower grounds, where this surfacedissection first began, the "edges" have much run together; on the heights, whose turn came last, they are often prominent and crest-like, but have glacier-rounded brows. Many old tarns are now sheeted over with peat. The sloping peat-fields are often the sites of straggling birch-woods, now buried.


The climate is bracing and healthy, with temperate summers (e.g. the average July temperature at Alnwick is 57.9° F.). In spring east winds prevail over the whole county. The lambing season in the higher uplands is fixed for the latter half of April, and is even then often too early. In summer and autumn west winds are general. The rainfall gradually increases as the country rises from the coast, thus the mean annual fall at Shields is 26.32 in., at Alnwick 31.04 in., while on the western borders 40 to 60 in. are recorded. East winds in summer bring rain to the interior. The smell from the coal-field, the lighter grime of which is detected as far as Cumberland, is taken by the shepherd for a sign of wet.

Agriculture, eec. - About five-ninths of the total area is under cultivation, and of this nearly five-sevenths is in permanent pasture. There are also about 470,000 acres under hill pasture. South of the river Coquet there is a broad tract of cultivation towards the coast that sends lessening strips up the valleys into the interior. From the Coquet northwards another breadth of enclosed ground stretches almost continuously along the base of the Cheviot hills. In the basin of the Till it becomes very fertile, and towards the Tweed the two breadths unite. In the porphyritic Cheviots the lower hills show a great extent of sound surface and good grass. The average hill-farms support about one sheep to 2 acres. A coarser pasturage covers the Carboniferous hills, and the proportion of stock to surface is somewhat less. In the highest fells the congeries of bogs, hags and sandstone scars, with many acres dangerous to sheep,'i are worthless to the farmer. The lower uplands are a patchwork of coarse grasses (mown by the "muirmen" into "bent-hay") and heather, or, in the popular terms, heather and "white ground," for it is blanched for eight months in the year. Heather is the natural cover of the sandstones and of the sandy glacier-debris near them. On the uplands they grow bents; lower down they are apt to be cold and strong, but are much relieved by patches and inworkings of gravel, especially north of the Wansbeck. The prevalent stream-alluvium is sandy loam, with a tincture of peat. The arable regions are very variable. Changes of soil are probably as numerous as fields. The bulk of the acreage under corn crops, which has greatly diminished, is under oats and barley, and turnips occupy some five-sixths of the area under green crops. Northumberland is one of the largest sheep-rearing counties in Great Britain. Of these, the half-breds - crosses between the Leicester (or Shropshire) and Cheviot breeds - occupy the lower enclosed grounds, the pure Cheviots are on the uplands and the hardier black-faced breeds lie out on the exposed heathery heights. The cattle are chiefly shorthorns and Galloways. They are very largely raised, chiefly for fattening purposes.

The practice of paying wages in kind has passed greatly into disuse. Some of the shepherds still receive "stock-wages," being allowed to keep forty or fifty sheep and several cows on their employers' farms in lieu of pay. This arrangement, which makes them really copartners, has probably done much to render them the singularly fine class of men they are.

Other Industries

The manufactures of the county chiefly come from the Tyne, which is a region of ironworks, blast-furnaces, shipbuilding yards, ropeworks, coke-ovens, alkali-works and manufactories of glass, pottery and fire-bricks, from above Newcastle to the sea. Machines, appliances, conveyances and tools are the principal articles of manufacture in metal. There is great activity in all trades concerned in pit-sinking and mine-working. In the other parts of the county there are a few small cloth-mills, a manufactory of tan gloves at Hexham, some potteries and numbers of small brick and tile works. There are several sea-fishing stations, of which North Shields is by far the most important. The salmon fisheries are also valuable.


Communications are provided almost wholly by the North-Eastern railway, of which the main line enters the county at Newcastle and runs N. by Morpeth, and near the coast, to Berwick, where a junction on the East Coast route from London to Scotland is effected with the North British railway. Numerous branch railways serve the populous south-eastern district, and there are connexions westward to Hexham and Carlisle, up the Tweed valley into Scotland and (by the North British line) up the North Tyne valley from Hexham. The principal ports besides the Tyne ports are Blyth, Amble (Warkworth Harbour), Alnmouth and Berwick. The Tyne is one of the most important centres of the coal-shipping trade in the world.

Population and Administration

The area of the ancient county is 1,291,530 acres with a population in 1891 of 506,442, and in 1901 of 603,498. In physique the Northumbrian is stalwart and robust, and seldom corpulent. The people have mostly grey eyes, brown hair and good complexions. The inhabitants of the fishing villages appear to be Scandinavian; and parts of the county probably contain some admixture of the old Brit-Celt, and a trace of the Gipsy blood of the Faas of Yetholm. The natives have fine characteristics: they are clean, thrifty and plodding, honest and sincere, shrewd and very independent. Their virtues lie rather in solidity than in aspiration.

Northumbrian speech is characterized by a "rough vibration of the soft palate" or pharynx in pronouncing the letter r, well known as the burr, a peculiarity extending to the town and liberties of Berwick, and absent only in a narrow strip along the north-west. Over the southern part of the county there is the same duplication of vowel-sounds, such as "pebl" for "pool," that is found in the English counties adjacent. Many OldEnglish forms of speech strike the ear, such as "to butch a beef ," i.e, to kill a bullock, and curious inversions, such as "they not can help." There is the Old-English distinction in the use of "thou" to familiars and "ye" to superiors.

The area of the administrative county is 1,291,515 acres. The county is divided into nine wards, answering to hundreds. Population is densest in the south-east, where the mining district and the Tyneside industrial area are situated. The municipal boroughs in this district are: Newcastle-upon-Tyne (city, county of a city and county borough; pop. 215,328), Tynemouth (county borough, 51,366), Morpeth (6158), Wallsend (20,918). In this district the following are urban districts: Amble (4428), Ashington (13,956), Bedlington (18,766), Blyth (5472), Cowpen (17,879), Cramlington (6437), Earsdon (9020), Gosforth (10,605), Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (2032), Newburn (12,500), Seghill (2213), Weetslade (5453), Whitley and Monkseaton (7705), Willington Quay (7941). The remainder of the county contains the municipal borough of Berwick-uponTweed (13437) and the urban districts of Alnwick (6716), Hexham (7071) and Rothbury (1303). The county is in the north-eastern circuit, and assizes are held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The total number of civil parishes is 523. The ancient county, which is in the diocese of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with the exception of a small portion in that of Durham, contains 173 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. The parliamentary divisions of the county are Berwick-upon-Tweed, Hexham, Wansbeck and Tyneside, each returning one member; while the parliamentary borough of Newcastleupon-Tyne returns two members, and those of Morpeth and Tynemouth one member each.


The first English settlement in the kingdom of Bernicia, which included what is now Northumberland, was effected in 547 by Ida, who, accompanied by his six sons, pushed through the narrow strip of territory between the Cheviots and the sea, and set up a fortress at Bamburgh, which became the royal seat of the Saxon kings. About the end of the 6th century Bernicia was first united with the rival kingdom of Deira under the rule of IEthelfrith, and the district between the Humber and the Forth became known as the kingdom of Northumbria. In 634 Cadwalla was defeated at Hefenfeld (the site of which lies in the modern parish of St John Lee) by Oswald, under whom Christianity was definitely established in Northumbria, and the bishop's see fixed at Hexham, where Bishop Wilfrid erected the famous Saxon church. Oswald also erected a church of stone at Tynemouth, which was destroyed in 865 in an incursion of the Danes under Hinguar and Hubba. The extent of Danish influence in Northumberland has been much exaggerated, however, for though in 876 Halfden, having conquered the whole of Northumbria, portioned out the lands among his followers, the permanent settlements were confined to the southern portion of the kingdom. In the northern half, which is now Northumberland, the English princes continued to reign at Bamburgh as vassals of the Danes, and not a single place-name with the Danish suffix "by" or "thorpe" is found north of the Tyne. In 938 lEthelstan annexed Northumberland to his dominions, and the Danish authority was annulled until its re-establishment by Canute in 1013. The vigorous resistance of Northumbria to the Conqueror was punished by ruthless harrying. The Normans rebuilt the Saxon monasteries of Lindisfarne, Hexham and Tynemouth; Eustace Fitz John founded Alnwick Abbey, and other Norman abbeys were Brinkburn, Hulne, Blanchland and Newminster. Castles were set up at Alnwick, Warkworth, Prudhoe, Dunstanborough, Morpeth, Ford, Chillingham, Langley, Newcastle, Bamburgh, Wark and Norham, a stronghold of the palatine bishops of Durham.

The term Northumberland is first used in its contracted modern sense in 1065 in an entry in the Saxon Chronicle relating to the northern rebellion. The county is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, but the account of the issues of the county, as rendered by Odard the sheriff, is entered in the Great Roll of the Exchequer for 1131. In the reign of Edward I. the county of Northumberland was found to comprise the whole district between the Tees and the Tweed, and to have within it the several liberties of Durham, Sadberg and Bedlington south of the Coquet, and Norham beyond the Coquet, all subject to the bishop of Durham; the liberty of Hexham belonging to the archbishop of York; that of Tynedale to the king of Scotland; that of Emildon to the earl of Lancaster; and that of Redesdale to Gilbert de Umfraville, earl of Angus. These franchises were all held exempt from the ordinary jurisdiction of the shire. By statute of1495-1496the lordship of Tynedale was annexed to Northumberland on account of flagrant abuses of the liberties of the franchise; the liberty of Hexham was annexed to Northumberland in 1572; Norhamshire, Islandshire and Bedlingtonshire continued to form detached portions of Durham until 1844, when they were incorporated with Northumberland. The division into wards existed at least as early as 1295, the Hundred Roll of that year giving the wards of Coquetdale, Bamburgh, Glendale and Tynedale.

The shire-court for Northumberland was held at different times at Newcastle, Alnwick and Morpeth, until by statute of 1 549 it was ordered that the court should thenceforth be held in the town and castle of Alnwick, and under the same statute the sheriffs of Northumberland, who had lately been in the habit of appropriating the issues of the county to their private use, were required to hereafter deliver in their accounts to the Exchequer in the same manner as the sheriffs of other counties. The assizes were held at Newcastle, and the itinerant justices, on their approach to the county, were met by the king of Scotland, the archbishop of York, the bishop of Durham and the prior of Tynemouth, who pleaded their liberties either at a well called Chille near Gateshead, if the justices were proceeding from York, or, if from Cumberland, at Fourstanes. In these franchises the king's writ did not run, and their owners performed the office of sheriff and coroner. Among other Northumbrian landowners claiming privileged jurisdiction in 1293 was Robert de Quonla, who claimed that he and his men were quit of the suits of the shire and wapentake; the prior of St Mary of Carlisle claimed to exclude the king's bailiffs from executing their office in his fee of Corbridge, and that he and his men were quit of the suits of the shire and wapentake. The burgesses of Newcastle claimed return of writs in their borough, and Edmund, the brother of Edward I., claimed return of writs and exemptions from the sheriff's jurisdiction in his manor of Stamford. Newcastle was made a county by itself by Henry IV. in 1400, and has jurisdiction in admiralty cases. Ecclesiastically the county was in the diocese of Durham, and in 1291 formed the archdeaconry of Northumberland, comprising the deaneries of Newcastle, Corbridge, Bamburgh and Alnwick. In 1535 the archdeaconry included the additional deanery of Morpeth. The archdeaconry of Lindisfarne was formed in 1845, and subdivided into the rural deaneries of Alnwick, Bamburgh, Morpeth, Norham and Rothbury; the archdeaconry of Northumberland then including the deaneries of Bellingham, Corbridge, Hexham and Newcastle-uponTyne. In 1882 Northumberland was formed into a separate diocese with its see at Newcastle, the archdeaconries and deaneries being unaltered. In 1885 the additional deaneries of Tynemouth and Bedlington were formed in the archdeaconry of Northumberland, and in 1900 the deanery of Glendale in the archdeaconry of Lindisfarne.

Pre-eminent among the great families connected with Northumberland is that of Percy. Ford and Chipchase were seats of the Heron family. The Widdringtons were established at Widdrington in the reign of Henry I. and frequently filled the office of sheriff of the county. The barony of Prudhoe was granted by Henry I. to the Umfravilles, who also held the castles of Otterburn and Harbottle and the franchise of Redesdale. From the Ridleys of Willimoteswyke was descended Bishop Ridley, who was martyred in 1555. Aydon Castle was part of the barony of Hugh Baliol. The Radcliffes, who held Dilston and Cartington in the 15th century and afterwards acquired the extensive barony of Langley, became very powerful in Northumberland after the decline of the Percies, and were devoted adherents of the Stuart cause.

From the Norman Conquest until the union of England and Scotland under James I., Northumberland was the scene of perpetual inroads and devastations by the Scots. Norham, Alnwick and Wark were captured by David of Scotland in the wars of Stephen's reign, and in 1290 it was at Norham Castle that Edward I. decided the question of the Scottish succession in favour of John Baliol. In 1295 Robert de Ros and the earls of Athol and Menteith ravaged Redesdale, Coquetdale and Tynedale. In 1314 the county was ravaged by Robert Bruce, and in 1382 by special enactment the earl of Northumberland was ordered to remain on his estates in order to protect the county from the Scots. In 1388 Henry Percy was taken prisoner and 1500 of his men slain at the battle of Otterburn, immortalized in the ballad of "Chevy Chase." Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanborough were garrisoned for the Lancastrian cause in 1462, but after the Yorkist victories of Hexham and Hedgley Moor in 1464, Alnwick and Dunstanborough surrendered, and Bamburgh was taken by storm. In 1513 the king of Scotland was slain in the battle of Flodden Field on Branxton Moor. During the Civil War of the 17th century Newcastle was garrisoned for the king by the earl of Newcastle, but in 1644 it was captured by the Scots under the earl of Leven, and in 1646 Charles was led there a captive under the charge of David Leslie. Many of the chief Northumberland families were ruined in the rebellion of 1715.

The early industrial development of Northumberland was much impeded by the constant ravages of internal and border warfare, and in 1376 the commonalty of Northumberland begged consideration for their sheriff, who, although charged £loo for the profits of the county, through death and devastation by the Scots could only raise X53, 3s. 4d. Again Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II.), who passed through the county disguised as a merchant in 1436, leaves a picture of its barbarous and desolate condition, and as late as the 17th century, Camden, the antiquarian, describes the lands as rough and unfit for cultivation. The mineral resources, however, appear to have been exploited to some extent from remote times. It is certain that coal was used by the Romans in Northumberland, and some coal ornaments found at Angerton have been attributed to the 7th century. In a 13th-century grant to Newminster Abbey a road for the conveyance of sea-coal from the shore about Blyth is mentioned, and the Blyth coal-field was worked throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. The coal trade on the Tyne did not exist to any extent before the 13th century, but from that period it developed rapidly, and Newcastle acquired the monopoly of the river shipping and coal-trade. Lead was exported from Newcastle in the 12th century, probably from Hexhamshire, the lead mines of which were very prosperous throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. In a charter from Richard I. to Bishop Pudsey creating him earl of Northumberland, mines of silver and iron are mentioned, and in 1240 the monks of Newminster had an iron forge at Stretton. A salt-pan is mentioned at Warkworth in the 12th century; in the 13th century the salt industry flourished at the mouth of the river Blyth, and in the 15th century formed the principal occupation of the inhabitants of North and South Shields. In the reign of Elizabeth glasshouses were set up at Newcastle by foreign refugees, and the industry spread rapidly along the Tyne. Tanning, both of leather and of nets, was largely practised in the 13th century,. and the salmon fisheries in the Tyne were famous in the reign of Henry I.

The county of Northumberland was represented by two members in the parliament of 1290, and in 1295 Bamburgh, Corbridge and Newcastle-upon-Tyne each returned two members. From 1297, however, Newcastle was the only borough represented, until in 1524 Berwick acquired representation and returned two members. Morpeth returned two members from 1553. Under the Reform Act of 1832 the county returned four members in two divisions; Berwick and Newcastle were represented by two members each, and Morpeth and Tynemouth by one member each. Under the act of 1885 the county now returns four members in four divisions.


Of Anglo-Saxon buildings the Danes left almost nothing. The crypt of Wilfrid's abbey of St Andrew at Hexham is one undoubted remnant; portions of several other churches are very doubtfully pre-Norman. Some thousand Saxon stycas found buried at Hexham, the "fridstool" there, and an ornate cross now shared between Rothbury and Newcastle are the other principal vestiges of Saxon times. The Black Dyke, a bank and ditch crossing the line of the Roman wall about 3 m. east of the Irthing, is supposed by some antiquaries to be the continuation of the Catrail at Peel Fell; the latter was the probable boundary-fence between the Saxon Bernicia and the British Strathclyde.

The ecclesiastical buildings of the county suffered greatly at the hands of the Scots. Not a few of the churches were massive structures, tower-like in strength, and fit to defend on occasion. Lindisfarne Priory, the oldest monastic ruin in the country, dates from 1093. Hexham Abbey Church, raised over the crypt of Wilfrid's cathedral, has been termed a "text-book of Early English architecture." Of Brinkburn Priory the church remains, and has been well restored. Hulne Abbey was the first Carmelite monastery in Britain. Besides these there are fragments of Newminster Abbey (i 139), Alnwick Abbey (1147) and others. An exquisitely graceful fragment of Tynemouth church is associated with some remains of the older priory. St Nicholas's church, Newcastle (1350), was the prototype of St Giles's, Edinburgh. There is a massive Norman church at Norham, and other Norman and Early English churches at Mitford, Bamburgh, Warkworth (with its hermitage), Alnwick (St Michael's) &c., most of them with square towers. The stone roof of the little church at Bellingham, with its heavy semicircular girders, is said to be now unique.

"It may be said of the houses of the gentry herein," writes Fuller, "` quot mansiones, tot munitiones,' as being all castles or castle-like." Except a few dwellings of the 16th century in Newcastle, and some mansions built after the Union of England and Scotland, the older houses are all castles. A survey of 1460 mentions thirty-seven castles and seventy-eight towers in Northumberland, not probably including all the bastle-houses or small peels of the yeomen. At the Conquest Bamburgh, the seat of the Saxon kings, was the only fortress north of York. Norham Castle was built in 1121. None of the baronial castles are older than the time of Henry I. A grass mound represents Wark Castle. Alnwick Castle is an array of walls and towers covering about five acres. Warkworth, Prudhoe and Dunstanburgh castles are fine groups of ruins. Dilston Castle has still its romantic memories of the earl of Derwentwater. Belsay, Haughton, Featherstone and Chipchase castles are joined with modern mansions. The peel-towers of Elsdon, Whitton (Rothbury) and Embleton were used as fortified rectory-houses. Seaton Delaval was the work of Vanbrugh.

The place-names of the county may be viewed as its etymological antiquities. The Danish test-suffix by is absent. Saxon tons, hams, cleughs (clefts or ravines) and various patronymics are met with in great numbers; and the Gaelic knock (hill) and Cymric caer, dwr (water), cefn (ridge), bryn (brow), &c., mingle with the Saxon. Many curiosities of place-nomenclature exist, some strange, some expressive, e.g. Blink-bonny, Blaw-wearie, Skirl-naked, Pity Me.


- Victoria County History, Northumberland; Northumberland County History Committee, A History of Northumberland (in process) (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1893, &c.); John Hodgson, A History of Northumberland, in 3 parts (1827-1840); E. Mackenzie, An Historical View of the County of Northumberland (2nd ed., 2 vols., Newcastle, 1811); Society of Antiquaries, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, A History of Northumberland, pt. i. containing the general history of the county, state of the district under the Saxon and Danish kings, &c. (Newcastle, 1858); Archaeologia Aeliana, or Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiquity, published by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (4 vols., Newcastle-upon-Tyne,1822-1855new series, 1857, &c.); William Wallis, The Natural History and Antiquities of Northumberland (2 vols., London, 1769); W. S. Gibson, Descriptive and Historical Notices of some remarkable Northumbrian Castles, Churches and Antiquities, series i. (London, 1848); Early Assize Rolls for Northumberland, edited by William Page, Surtees Society (London, 1891).

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