Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Miranda van de Heijning, Margaret Macaskill and PG
[Illustration: BAMBURGH CASTLE.]
Northumberland Yesterday and To-day. by JEAN F. TERRY, L.L.A. (St. Andrews), 1913.
_To Sir Francis Douglas Blake,
this book is inscribed in admiration of
an eminent Northumbrian._
CHAPTER I.--The Coast of Northumberland
CHAPTER II.--North and South Tyne
CHAPTER III.--Down the Tyne
CHAPTER V.--Elswick and its Founder
CHAPTER VI.--The Cheviots
CHAPTER VII.--The Roman Wall
CHAPTER VIII.--Some Northumbrian Streams
CHAPTER IX.--Drum and Trumpet
CHAPTER X.--Tales and Legends
CHAPTER XI.--Ballads and Poems
(_From photograph by J.P. Gibson, Hexham_.)
(_From photograph by T.H. Dickinson, Sheriff Hill_.)
HEXHAM ABBEY FROM NORTH WEST
(_From photograph by J.P. Gibson, Hexham_.)
THE RIVER TYNE AT NEWCASTLE
(_From photograph by T.H. Dickinson, Sheriff Hill_.)
NORTH GATEWAY, HOUSESTEADS, AND ROMAN WALL
(_From photograph by J.P. Gibson, Hexham_.)
(_From photograph by J.P. Gibson. Hexham_.)
WRECK OF THE "FORFARSHIRE"
(_From illustration kindly lent by B. Rowland Hill, Newcastle_.)
SKETCH MAP OF NORTHUMBERLAND
(_From a Drawing by C.H. Abbey_)
The following book makes no pretensions to be a mine of deep historical
research or antiquarian lore; its object will have been achieved, and
its existence to some extent justified, if haply by its aid some of the
dwellers in this northern county of ours, with its past so full of
action, and its present so rich in the memorials of those actions, may
pass a pleasant hour in becoming acquainted through its pages with the
happenings which have taken place in their own particular fields, their
own streets, or by their own riverside.
I am aware that many learned volumes on this subject, representing an
enormous amount of patient labour and careful research in their
compilation, are already in existence. To such this little book can in
no sense be a rival; but there must be many people who have not a
superabundance of time, to enable them to dig out the information for
which they wish, from these various sources; nor can they always make
these volumes their own, to be consulted at leisure.
Northumbrians have always been interested in the records of their own
county, and are now-a-days not less so than when, some three-and-a-half
centuries ago, Roger North found them "great antiquarians within their
own bounds." If to such as these this little book may perhaps bring in a
more convenient form the information they seek, and help them to become
better acquainted with the county which inspired Swinburne to write in
stirring phrases of "Northumberland," and to address the home of his
"Land beloved, where nought of legend's dream
Outshines the truth"--
I shall be more than satisfied. I would take this opportunity of
expressing my grateful thanks to the Rev. Canon Savage, of Hexham, for
information relating to the tomb of Alfwald the Just, in the Abbey,
given with courteous readiness; to the Rev. Canon Jeffery, of Bywell,
for similar kindness regarding Bywell St. Peter's; to R.O. Heslop, Esq.,
whose profound store of learning on the subject of "Northumberland
words" was in cases of uncertainty my final court of appeal; to E.T.
Nisbet, Esq., and J. Treble, Esq., to whom I am greatly indebted for
their goodness in reading my manuscript, and for their generous
encouragement following thereupon; to C.H. Abbey, Esq., for his kindness
in executing the map which accompanies these pages; and to Mr. G.P.
Dunn, of Corbridge, for much helpful criticism, and many suggestions
which only want of space has prevented my adopting in their entirety.
_31st May_, 1913.
NORTHUMBERLAND YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY
THE COAST OF NORTHUMBERLAND.
"We'll see nae mair the sea banks fair,
And the sweet grey gleaming sky,
And the lordly strand of Northumberland,
And the goodly towers thereby."
Wild and bleak it may be, hard and cruel at times it undoubtedly is,
but, nevertheless, this north-east coast of ours is at all times
inspiring, whether half-hidden by storm-clouds, its cliffs and hollows
lashed by the "wild north-easter," or seen calmly brooding in the warm
haze of a summer's day, its grey-blue water smiling beneath the
grey-blue sky, and its stretches of sand and bents edging the sea with a
border of gold and silver.
In keeping with either mood of nature, the ancient Priory of Tynemouth,
standing on the sandstone cliffs on the northern bank of the Tyne,
rearing its grey and roofless walls above the harbour mouth, strikes a
note that is symbolic of the Northumbria of old and the Northumberland
of to-day--the note, that is, of the intimate commingling of the romance
of the warlike past and the romance of the industrial present. Here,
above the mouth of the river on which so many of the most noteworthy
advances in industrial science have been made, and out of which sail the
vessels which are often the last word of the moment in marine
engineering and construction, stand calmly looking down upon them all
the fragments of a building which was a century old when John signed
Magna Charta, and which stands upon the site of another that had already
braved the storms of nearly five hundred years.
Looking upon the Priory of St. Mary and St. Oswin we are carried back to
the days when Edwin, the first king of Northumbria to embrace
Christianity, built a little church here, in which his daughter took the
veil. King Oswald had the first wooden structure replaced by a stone
one; and here, in 651, the body of another good king--Oswyn--was brought
for burial from Gilling, near Richmond in Yorkshire, where, disbanding
his army, he sacrificed his cause and his life to Oswy of Bernicia, with
whom he had been about to fight.
[Illustration: THE PRIORY, TYNEMOUTH.]
When the pirate ships of the Danes swept down upon our coasts, the
Priory of St. Oswin, conspicuous on its bold headland, could not hope to
escape their ravages. It was destroyed by the fierce invaders; but King
Ecgfrith of Northumbria restored the shattered shrine. Again, in the
year 865, it was sacked and burnt, and the poor nuns of St. Hilda, who
had already fled from Hartlepool to Tynemouth hoping to find safety,
were ruthlessly slain and earned the crown of martyrdom. It was again
restored; but, five years later, the destroying hands of the invaders
fell on the place once more, and for two hundred years the Priory stood
roofless and tenantless. After the Norman Conquest, Waltheof, Earl of
Northumberland bestowed it upon the monks of Jarrow. The rediscovery of
the tomb of St. Oswyn in 1065, had gladdened the hearts of the monks,
and forthwith the monastery was reared anew over the ashes of its former
[Footnote 1: Pronounced "Edge-frith."]
Mowbray, the next Earl of Northumberland, re-endowed the building. He
had quarrelled with the Bishop of Durham, so in order to do him a
displeasure, he made Tynemouth Priory subordinate to St. Albans instead
of to Durham and brought monks from St. Albans to dwell there. The new
buildings were finished in 1110, and the bones of St. Oswyn enshrined
within them, the right of sanctuary being extended for a mile around his
resting-place. This right, however, was already in existence, and had
been appealed to in 1095 by Mowbray himself, who fled here pursued by
the followers of William Rufus, against whom he had rebelled. The King's
men disregarded the sanctuary right, captured Mowbray, and sent him
prisoner to Durham. [Footnote 2: See account of Bamburgh Castle.]
In later days the queens of Edward I. and Edward II. visited Tynemouth
Priory; and it was from Tynemouth that the foolish King Edward II. and
his worthless favourite Piers Gaveston fled from the angry barons to
Scarborough. In the reign of Edward III., after the battle of Neville's
Cross, David of Scotland was brought here by his captors on his way to
Bamburgh, from whence he was sent to the Tower.
At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. the Priory was
inhabited by eighteen monks with their Prior. They bowed to the King's
decree and left the monastery; but the church continued to be used as
the parish church until the days of Charles II., when Christ Church was
The Priory has many times formed the subject of pictures by famous
artists, the best known being that of no less a genius than J. M. W.
Turner; and its picturesque ruins are a well-known landmark to the
hundreds of voyagers who pass it on their journeys, outward or homeward
bound. Within the last few years the Priory has been in some measure
repaired and restored.
There is but little left of Tynemouth Castle, which was built as a
protection for the monastery against the attacks of the Danes. It stands
in a commanding position on a neighbouring cliff, and is now used as
barracks for garrison artillery corps. During the days when Scotland
harried the English borders, the Priors of Tynemouth maintained a
garrison here; and later, in Stuart days, Charles I. visited the North,
and the fortress was strengthened just before the outbreak of the Civil
War. It was captured, notwithstanding, by Leslie, Earl of Leven, after
he had left Newcastle. Colonel Lilburn, left in charge as governor,
shortly afterwards avowed himself on the side of King Charles; but he
speedily paid for his change of allegiance, for the Castle was re-taken
by a force from Newcastle under Sir Arthur Hazelrigg, and Lilburn lost
his life in the fight. The Castle has long been used as a depot for the
storage of arms and ammunition. Behind the Spanish Battery which
commands the entrance to the Tyne stands a statue of the famous
North-countryman, Admiral Collingwood.
Connected with Tynemouth, by the fact that a small chantry belonging to
the Priory once stood there, is St. Mary's Island. One may walk
unhindered at low tide across the rocks to this favourite place, but
where the chantry stood there is now a lighthouse with a powerful
lantern, flashing its welcome light to the seafarers nearing the mouth
of the Tyne, and extending
"To each and all our equal lamp, at peril of the sea,
The white wall-sided war-ships, or the whalers of Dundee."
Between Tynemouth and St. Mary's Island lie Cullercoats, Whitley Bay,
and Monkseaton, and together these places make practically one extended
seaside town, stretching for three or four miles along the sea-front,
and joined by a fine parade which leads to open links at Monkseaton. Of
these places Cullercoats is most noteworthy. This picturesque fishing
village, with quaint old houses perched in every conceivable position on
the curve of its rocky bay, is, needless to say, a favourite camping
ground for artists. The Cullercoats fishwife, with her cheerful
weather-bronzed face, her short jacket and ample skirts of blue flannel,
and her heavily laden "creel" of fish is not only appreciated by the
brotherhood of brush and pencil, but is one of the notable sights of the
district. At Cullercoats is struck a note of the most modern of modern
achievements--the Wireless Telegraphy Station (225 feet); and here, too,
is situated the Dove Marine Laboratory, looked after by scientists on
the staff of the Armstrong College at Newcastle.
In fine weather the crowds which pass and repass along the top of the
bold cliffs which overlook the fine stretch of sands between Cullercoats
and Monkseaton show how many hundreds of Northumbria's busy workers
enjoy the fresh breezes from the sea on this pleasant and bracing coast.
Out at sea, opposite the Parade, vessels built in the busy shipyards on
the Tyne may be seen doing their speed trials over the measured mile.
The Peace of St. Oswyn may, in fact, be said to brood over Tynemouth,
even in these days, for it is an increasing custom for those who can do
so to remain in Newcastle and other busy centres of toil only during
business hours, and to leave workshop and office every evening for their
home by the sea: while the tide of noisy, happy, boisterous
excursionists has rolled on to Whitley Bay, leaving Tynemouth to its
old-time sleepy content. Northward to Hartley and Seaton Sluice the
cliffs are very fine. Hartley, with its bright-looking red-tiled houses,
once belonged to Adam of Gesemuth (Jesmond) who lived in the reign of
King John. Coming down to modern times, about thirty years ago a gallant
Hartley man, Thomas Langley, rescued two successive shipwrecked crews on
the same day, in one case allowing himself to be lowered over the cliffs
at a terrible risk in the furious storm.
Seaton Sluice belongs to the ancient family of the Delavals, whose
house, Delaval Hall, may be seen not far away, peeping from amongst the
trees which surround it. Seaton Sluice owes its name to the Delaval who
placed the large sluice gates upon the burn, in order to have a strong
current which, in rushing down to the sea, would be able to wash the
mouth of the stream clear from the silt and mud brought in by the
incoming tide. A later baronet, Sir John Hussey Delaval, made the
cutting through the solid rock which is so striking a feature of the
harbour. It was ready for the entrance of vessels in March, 1763.
Delaval Hall is now owned by Lord Hastings, the present representative
of the Delavals, which family became extinct in the male line early in
the nineteenth century. The last Delaval, a very learned man, was buried
in Westminster Abbey in 1814. The Hall was built for Admiral Delaval in
1707 to the design of Sir J. Vanbrugh, who also designed Blenheim
Palace, given by the nation to the great Duke of Marlborough about the
Hartley Colliery, about half a mile away, has a sad interest as being
the scene of the terrible accident in 1862, when a number of men and
boys were imprisoned in the workings owing to the blocking up of the
only shaft by a mass of debris, caused by the fall of an iron beam
belonging to the pumping engine at the pit-head. Before the shaft could
be cleared and a way opened to the workings, all the poor fellows had
died, overcome by the deadly "choke-damp." Joseph Skipsey, the pitman
poet, in a simple ballad, tells the pathetic story.
"Oh, father! till the shaft is rid,
Close, close beside me keep;
My eyelids are together glued,
And I,--and I,--must sleep."
"Sleep, darling, sleep, and I will keep
Close by--heigh ho."--To keep
Himself awake the father strives.
But he--he, too--must sleep.
"Oh mother dear! wert, wert thou near
Whilst--sleep!" The orphan slept;
And all night long, by the black pit-heap
The mother a dumb watch kept.
From here, northward, the coast is rather dull and uninteresting,
although the sands are fine, until we reach Blyth, at the mouth of the
little river of the same name. This town is growing rapidly in size and
importance; the export of coal has greatly increased since the harbour
was so much improved by Sir Matthew White Ridley, and now totals some
millions of tones a year. The river Wansbeck not far north of the mouth
of the Blyth, in the latter part of its course flows through a district
begrimed by all the necessary accompaniments of the traffic in "black
diamonds," and reaches the sea between the colliery villages of Cambois
and North Seaton.
On the point at the northern curve of Newbiggin Bay stands Newbiggin
Church, and ancient building, whose steeple, "leaning all awry," is a
well-known landmark for sailors. The site of this church is in danger
of being undermined by the waves, and, indeed, part of the churchyard
crumbled away many years ago; but such defences as are possible have
been built up around it,--and the danger averted for a time. Newbiggin
itself is a large fishing village and an increasingly popular holiday
resort, for it possesses not only good sands but a wide moor near at
hand which provides one of the best of golf courses; and, also, a short
distance along the coast, are the attractive Fairy Rocks.
Newbiggin was a town of some importance in Plantagenet days, with a busy
harbour, and a pier; and in the reign of Edward II. it was required to
contribute a vessel towards the naval defence of the Kingdom.
Northward from Newbiggin Point is the magnificent sweep of Druridge Bay,
stretching in a fine curve of ten miles or more to Hauxley Haven. Here,
the sands of a warm golden colour, the wind-swept bents of silvery-grey,
and the vivid green of the grassy cliff tops edge the curve of the bay
with a line of bright and delicate colour, only thrown into greater
relief by the brown reefs and ridges which stretch out from the rocky
shores, and by the deep blue-green of the waves rolling inshore in long
majestic lines, to break into hissing foam on the sharp reefs, or slide
smoothly up the yellow sands in the centre of the bay. Above, beyond the
grassy tops of the cliffs, stretch deep woods, with the old pele-tower
of Cresswell looking out from amongst the trees, fields many-coloured
with their burden of varying crops, and wide lonely moors, where one may
walk for half a day without hearing any sound save the wild screaming of
sea-birds, or the whistle of the wind, with the low boom of the waves
below sounding a deep-toned accompaniment. The bay is not always so
peaceful, however, and many wild scenes and terrible shipwrecks have
taken place here, as everywhere along our wild north-east coast. The
Bondicar rocks, by Hauxley, and the cruel spikes of the reef at Snab
Point, near Cresswell, have betrayed many a gallant little vessel to her
doom. Not, however, without bringing on many an occasion proof of the
courage which is shown as a matter of course by the fisher folk on our
coasts. At Newbiggin, and Cresswell, for instance, deeds have been done,
which, in their simple unassuming heroism, may be taken as typical of
the hardy race which could count Grace Darling among its daughters.
About thirty years ago, a ship drove ashore off Cresswell one bitter
night in January, and the fisher folk crowded down to the shore,
watching with sorrowful eyes the hapless crew clinging to their
unfortunate vessel, which was slowly being broken up by the waves. There
was no lifeboat at Cresswell then, and all the men of the village,
except the old men who were past work, had gone northward, when the
oncoming storm prevented their return. The women and girls heard the
cries of the schooner's crew, and mourned to each other their inability
to help. But one gallant-hearted girl, named Peggy Brown, cried out, "If
I thowt she could hing on a bit, I wad be away for the lifeboat." But
between them and Newbiggin, the nearest lifeboat station, the Lyne Burn
runs into the sea, and spreads widely out over the sands; and the older
people told Peggy she could never cross the burn in the dark. She set
off, however, the thought of the drowning men hastening her on. For four
miles she made her way in the storm and darkness, partly along the
shore, scrambling over rock's, and wading waist-deep through the Lyne
Burn and one or two other places where the waves had driven far up the
sands, and partly across Newbiggin Moor, where the icy wind tore at her
in her drenched clothing. She pressed on, however, and managed to reach
the coxswain's house and give her message. The lifeboat was immediately
run out, and the men reached the wreck in time to save all the crew
except one, who had been washed overboard.
On another occasion one of the fishermen, named Tom Brown, was preparing
to go out, with the help of his two sons, in his own fishing coble to
the aid of a ship in distress on the reef. A carter had come down to the
beach, the better to watch the progress of events, and, terrified by the
thundering waves, his horse took fright, and in its plunging drove the
cart against the little boat, making a hole clear through one side. "Big
Tom," as he was generally called, merely took off his coat, rolled it
into a bundle and stuffed it against the hole. Then he beckoned to
another fisherman, saying to him "Sit on that." The man clambered in,
and without the loss of another minute these four heroes set off to save
their fellow creatures' lives, with a broken and leaking boat in a heavy
sea. And they did it, reaching the brig only just in time, for it went
to pieces a few minutes after the shivering crew had been safely landed.
Incidents like these, which could be multiplied indefinitely, bring a
glow of pride to the heart, and a reassuring sense that the degeneration
of the race is not proceeding in such wholesale fashion--in the country
districts, at any rate--as the pessimists would have us believe.
At the northern extremity of Druridge Bay is the little fishing village
of Hauxley, with the chimneys and pit-head engines of Ratcliffe and
Broomhill Collieries darkening the sky to the south-west. Passing the
Bondicar rocks and rounding the point we enter the "fairway" for
Warkworth Harbour and Amble, where a brisk exportation of the coal of
the neighbourhood is carried on.
Lying out at sea, opposite Amble coastguard station, the white
lighthouse on Coquet Island keeps watch over the entrance to the
harbour. Some of the walls of the monastery, which stood on the island
in Saxon days, can now be seen forming part of the dwelling of the
lighthouse keeper. For many generations, too, hermit after hermit went
to dwell on this tiny islet, and St. Cuthbert himself is said to have
inhabited the little cell at one time. The island was captured by the
Scots in the Civil Wars of King Charles's reign, and held by them for a
The situation of Amble, at the mouth of the Coquet, has been looked upon
as convenient from very early days, for there are signs which tell us of
a population here at an early period. Several cist-vaens, or ancient
stone coffins, have been found near the town, and a broken Roman altar
was unearthed in the neighbourhood. The monastery which stood here, like
that on Holy Island, was, in later times, inhabited by Benedictine
monks, who were under the authority of the Prior of Tynemouth. William
the Conqueror gave the then Prior the right to collect the tithes of the
A short distance from Amble, and practically encircled by the Coquet
which here makes a wide sweep, we come upon Warkworth, prettiest of
villages, combining the beauties of sea-shore and river scenery, and
rich in the possession of that romantic castle, the ruins of which carry
the mind back to Saxon times; for they stand on the site of an older
fortress erected by Ceolwulf, a Saxon King of Northumbria. He was the
patron of Bede, who dedicated his "Ecclesiastical History" to his royal
friend. Ceolwulf built both the fortress and the earliest church at
Warkworth, and a few stones of this latter building are still to be
seen. In 737, two years after the death of Bede, this royal Saxon laid
aside his kingly state and became a monk on Lindisfarne,
"When he, for cowl and beads, laid down
The Saxon battle-axe and crown."
It was when the castle was bestowed by Edward III. upon Lord Percy of
Alnwick that it became, for more than two hundred years, the chief
residence of that illustrious family; becoming in the next reign of
historical value as the home of that Hotspur whose valour and gallantry
made Henry IV. envy the Earl of Northumberland, in that he "should be
the father of so blest a son." In Act II., Scene 3 of "Henry IV.," Part
II., Shakespeare has laid the scene at Warkworth Castle, where Hotspur's
wife, troubled by her lord's moody abstraction, tries to win from him
the reason of his secret care. And after the battle of Shrewsbury,
Rumour, flying with the news of Hotspur's death, says:--
"Thus have I rumoured through the peasant towns,
Between the royal field of Shrewsbury
And this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone,
Where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland,
Two years after this, the castle was besieged by Henry IV. himself, and
surrendered to him after a brief bombardment by the newly invented
cannon. The keep was re-built by Hotspur's son, after the family
possessions had been restored to him by Henry V., and it is now the only
remaining part of the castle which is almost perfect. One of the
half-ruinous towers remaining is called the Lion Tower, from the
sculptured lion on its walls; while another rejoices in the curious name
of Cradyfargus. A strange story is told of a blue stone to be seen in
the courtyard of the castle. Many years ago, so runs the tale, one of
the custodians of Warkworth Castle dreamed three nights in succession
that a large treasure was concealed beneath a blue stone in a certain
part of the castle grounds. He told this dream to a neighbour, and after
allowing two or three days to pass, finding the dream constantly
recurring to his mind, he thought he would go to the place indicated,
and see what he could find. To his disappointment, however, he
discovered that some one had been there before him; a large hole had
been dug, and on the edge of it lay the blue stone.
Needless to say, the hole was empty, nor could the keeper discover
anything about the treasure in the neighbourhood. It is said that a
certain family in the village became suddenly rich; and, many years
afterwards, a large and ancient pot, supposed to have been that in which
the buried treasure had been contained, was found in the Coquet.
The main street of Warkworth leads straight up to the postern gate of
the castle, and many stirring sights have the successive inhabitants of
the little village looked upon, as the fortunes of the owners of the
castle waxed and waned throughout the many centuries in which the lords
of Warkworth played a notable part in the history of England. They saw
Henry Percy, entrusted with a share in the safe keeping of the country,
set out from Warkworth for Durham, to help in winning the victory of
They saw Hotspur's force set out for the Cheviots to intercept Douglas
and his followers, which they did at Homildon Hill, near Wooler; and it
was the quarrel in connection with the prisoners taken on that day which
led Hotspur and his father openly to throw off their allegiance to
Henry IV., so that a few months later the peasants of Warkworth saw
their idolised young lord set out for what was to prove the fatal field
of Shrewsbury. They saw Hotspur's father, the first Henry Percy to
receive the title of Earl, (a title which had been given him at the
coronation of Richard II.) set out with a brave force after Hotspur's
departure; and they saw his return, almost alone, dejected and broken in
spirit, having learnt that the help so tardily given had come too late,
and the life of his gallant son was ended.
They saw the siege train of Henry Bolingbroke laid against the castle,
directed by Henry in person, provoked into these active measures by the
open rebellion of father and son, though Northumberland had tried to
make it appear that he was innocent of any treasonable act. After
capturing the castle, Bolingbroke bestowed it on his third son, John of
Lancaster, and the villagers saw the young prince riding in and out
among them daily so long as he made the castle his home.
Then, in the next reign, they welcomed the return of Hotspur's son,
Henry, to the home of his fathers, restored to him by Henry V.; and,
within a short time, saw him bring home his bride, Eleanor Neville,
daughter of his friend and neighbour, the Earl of Westmoreland.
In the Wars of the Roses, Warkworth Castle saw many changes of fortune,
as the tide of victory flowed this way and that. The Percies were all
Lancastrians, though Sir Ralph Percy changed sides twice. The castle
fell into the hands of the Yorkists, and the great Earl of Warwick, the
"King-maker" himself, made it his headquarters for a time, while he
superintended the sieges of Alnwick, Dunstanborough, and Bamburgh, which
were all invested at the same time. Eventually, after the Wars of the
Roses concluded, Warkworth was restored, along with the other Percy
estates, to its original owners.
Finally, the inhabitants of the little village saw the church entered by
the Jacobites in 1715, when Mr. Buxton, chaplain of the little force,
prayed for James III. and Mary the Queen-mother; and General Forster,
dressed as a trumpeter, proclaimed King James III. at the village cross.
A few miles north from the mouth of the Coquet, the little Aln spreads
over the sandy flats near Alnmouth, and reaches the sea. It has changed
its course, for at one time it flowed to the south of Church Hill,
instead of to the north as at present. The town of Alnmouth, viewed from
the train just before entering Alnmouth Station, looks very picturesque,
especially if the rare sunshine of an English summer should be lighting
up the bay, bringing out the vivid red of the tiled roofs against the
grassy hills fringing the links which lie on their seaward side, and
lighting up, also, the yellow sands and long lines of sparkling wavelets
edged with white.
Alnmouth depends for its living on a fleet of fishing boats, and on the
numbers of visitors who seek its fresh breezes and inviting shores each
summer. Golfers, indeed, find it pleasant all the year round, as there
is only a scarcely appreciable interval in the winter months when their
favourite pastime cannot be followed on the breezy links. On Church
Hill, now crowned by a few old stones, once stood a Norman church,
dedicated to St. Valery, which, in its turn, occupied the site of an
older Saxon building, supposed to have been the church which Bede refers
to as being at Twyford, where a great synod of clergy was held in the
year 684, and Cuthbert appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne. It is a matter
of dispute whether this Twyford was Alnmouth or Whittingham, but the
two fords at Alnmouth seem to point to a decision in favour of that
place. The old Norman church, which fell into ruin at the beginning of
last century, was fired at by the famous pirate Paul Jones; the cannon
shot, weighing 68 pounds, missed the church, but struck a neighbouring
farm house, doing great damage.
The coast north of Alnmouth becomes rocky and wild, and very
picturesque, and the villages along the coast are being sought out by
holiday makers in increasing numbers, year by year. Boulmer, one of
these villages, was a famous place for smuggling in the old days, and
many an exciting scene and sharp encounter took place between the
smugglers and the King's men. Not far away is Howick Dene, a lovely
little glen leading down to the sea from Howick Hall, the home of Earl
Cullernose Point, a striking crag, is formed by the outcrop of a portion
of the Great Whin Sill, which from here can be traced to the south-west,
and thence right across the county.
At Craster, another fishing village and a favourite holiday haunt, is
Craster Tower, which has been the home of the family of Craster since
before the Conquest. Not far to the north is the famous Rumble Churn in
the rocks below Dunstanborough Castle, where the waves roll in and out
of the caves and chasms with weird and hollow rumblings. There is
another Rumbling Churn in the cliffs near Howick.
The famous divine of the Middle Ages, John Duns Scotus, was born in this
parish--that of Embleton; the group of buildings known as Dunston Hall,
or Proctor's Steads, is supposed to have been his birthplace, and a
portrait of the learned doctor is to be seen there.
Dunstanborough Castle stands in lonely grandeur on great whinstone
crags, close to the very edge of the sea, and on the first sight of it,
Keats' wonderful lines spring involuntarily to the lips:--
"Magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."
Forlorn, indeed, though not in exactly the sense conveyed by the poem,
is this huge fortress now; it abides, says Freeman, "as a castle should
abide, in all the majesty of a shattered ruin." The primitive cannon of
the days of the Wars of the Roses began to shatter those mighty walls,
and, unlike Bamborough, it has never been strengthened since. Simon de
Montford once owned this estate, and the next lord of Dunstanborough was
a son of Henry III., to whom Earl Simon's forfeited estate was given.
His eldest son, Thomas of Lancaster, took part with the barons in
bringing the unworthy favourite of Edward II., Piers Gaveston, to his
death. Under the King's anger, Lancaster went away to his Northumbrian
estate, and began to build this mighty fortress, though he already owned
the castles of Kenilworth and Pontefract. In the Wars of the Roses,
Dunstanborough Castle was taken and retaken no less than five times, and
Queen Margaret found refuge here, as well as at Bamburgh; but apart from
these occasions, Dunstanborough has not taken nearly so great a part in
either local or national history as the other Northumbrian castles of
Bamburgh, Warkworth, and Alnwick, though greater in extent than any of
them. In 1538 an official report describes "Dunstunburht" as "a very
reuynous howse"; and the process of dilapidation was soon aided by
enterprising dwellers in the neighbourhood using the stones of the
forsaken castle to build their own homesteads.
From the castle northward curves Embleton Bay, in which, after having
been buried in the sand for ages, a sandstone rock was uncovered by the
tide, having on its surface, chiselled in rough but distinct lettering,
the name "Andra Barton." Sir Andrew Barton, daring Scottish sea-captain
and fearless freebooter, was slain in a sea-fight off this part of the
coast, in the days of Henry VIII., by the sons of Surrey, one of whom,
Sir Thomas Howard, was Lord Admiral at the time, and so, in a measure,
responsible for the defence of the English coast. The loss of his brave
sea-captain and his "goodly ships" was one of the grievances in the long
list which led King James IV. to declare war against England, and led to
the fatal field of Flodden, in which Admiral Sir Thomas Howard and his
brother took part under the command of their father, the Earl of Surrey.
The wide sweep of grassy common beyond the sands in Embleton Bay is, in
summer time, covered with a profusion of wild flowers, chief amongst
them being the wild geranium, or meadow cranes-bill, whose
reddish-purple blossoms grow in such abundance as to arrest the
attention of every visitor. A little way back from the sea-shore, in the
middle of this wide space, lies the village of Embleton, which possesses
an ancient and interesting church, and a vicarage, part of which is
formed by an old pele-tower. Embleton would seem to have a reputation to
keep up in the way of famous churchmen. Duns Scotus has been already
mentioned; and one of the vicars here was a cousin of Richard Steele,
the essayist and friend of Addison; and he described the country squires
of his day in a paper which he contributed to the "Spectator" of that
Another Vicar of Embleton, who lived here from 1874 to 1884, was Dr.
Mandell Creighton, the learned historian, who became Bishop of London.
The well-known journalist, W.T. Stead, was born in the parish of
Embleton, though his childhood was passed in very different
surroundings, in the narrow streets and grimy atmosphere of
Howdon-on-Tyne. His recent death on the ill-fated _Titanic_ will be
fresh in the minds of all.
Newton-by-the-Sea is reached by a pleasant walk along the sea-shore. (It
is to be understood that in this journey along the coast we are moving
northward always). There is here a cheery-looking white-washed
coastguard station standing on the bold headland of Newton Point.
Past this point is Beadnell Bay, with green and grassy Beadnell just
beyond Little Rock. The small fishing harbour at Beadnell has the unique
distinction of being the only harbour on the east coast whose mouth
faces west, and the short pier, running _inland_ from rocks to shore,
acts as a breakwater against the heavy easterly or southeasterly seas
and makes the harbour a safe anchorage for fishing craft or small
yachts. The rocks around this bay are very interesting, showing the
various strata very plainly, and containing many fossils. The striking
cliff called Ebbe's Nook is supposed to have been named after the Saxon
princess Ebba, sister to King Oswald, and the ruins which were
discovered on the headland, to be all that is left of a chapel erected
to her memory.
At Seahouses is an extensive fish-curing establishment, a fact which
proclaims itself unmistakably as you near the village, especially if the
day chance to be at all warm. A little distance from the shore is
another fishing village, North Sunderland, and northward from Seahouses
is the inn called The Monkshouse, from the fact that it once belonged to
the community on Lindisfarne.
Bamburgh Castle, magnificently placed on a lofty crag rising
perpendicularly from the greensward on the west or landward side, and
almost as steeply from the sea which washes the north and east sides,
lies like a majestic lion on its mighty rock "brooding on ancient
fame." The voices of children at play on the sands below sound faint and
far in the still air; the sea birds, with the summer sunshine flashing
on their outspread wings, sweep round and round; in the far distance a
trail of smoke low down on the horizon marks the track of a passing
steamer; and near at hand, southward a little way from the castle cliff,
the rocky islets of the Farne group lie drowsily asleep on the
gently-heaving swell of the grey-blue waters. Behind the castle lies the
pretty old-fashioned village with its quaint hostelries and grove of
trees; and from the higher parts of the new golf-links the player may
look round on a view which would be difficult to match, comprising as it
does, the Farne Islands and Dunstanborough to the south, and northward,
Holy Island, with its castle and abbey and the bluish haze of smoke
lying over Berwick; while, on the western skyline, on a clear day, may
be seen the rounded caps of the Cheviots.
The beginnings of Bamburgh take us back more than a thousand years, to
that long-ago summer of 547, when the _cyuls_ (keels) of the marauding
Bernician chieftain Ida and his followers grounded on the shore of our
Northland, and the work of conquest began. Ida was not slow to grasp the
importance of such a commanding site as this isolated mass of basaltic
crag, and the rude stronghold which crowned it. It became in time a
formidable fortress, and remained for centuries the headquarters of the
kings of the North.
Here reigned Ida and his sons--six of them--for more or less short and
stormy periods, and Ethelric of Bernicia, who vanquished the
neighbouring prince of Deira, and thus reigned as the first king of
Northumbria as Northumbria. The Celtic name of the fortress was
Dinguardi, or Dinguvardy; and tradition has it that this was Sir
Lancelot's castle of Joyeuse Garde, where he had often feasted the
Knights of the Round Table, and where he, at last, came home to die. The
fact that Bamburgh is the only pre-Conquest castle in Northumberland
disposes of the claim of Alnwick.
"My fair lords," said sir Launcelot, "wit ye well, my careful body will
into the earth; I have warning more than I will now say; therefore, I
pray you, give me my rights." So when he was houseled and eneled, and
had all that a Christian man ought to have, he prayed the bishop that
his fellows might bear his body unto Joyous Gard.
Some men say Anwick, and some men say to Bamborow; "how-beit," said sir
Launcelot, "me repenteth sore; but I made mine avow aforetime, that in
Joyous Gard I would be buried; and because of breaking of mine vow, I
pray you all lead me thither." Then was there weeping and wringing of
hands among all his fellows.
And so, within fifteen days, they came to Joyous Gard, and there they
laid his corpse in the body of the quire, and read many psalters and
prayers over him and about him.... And right thus, as they were at their
service, there came sir Ector de Maris, that had sought seven years all
England, Scotland and Wales, seeking his brother sir Launcelot.... Then
went sir Bors unto sir Ector, and told him how there lay his brother sir
And then sir Ector threw his shield, his sword, and his helm from him;
and when he beheld sir Launcelot's visage, he fell down in a swoon; and
when he awoke, it were hard for any tongue to tell the doleful
complaints that he made for his brother. "Ah! sir Launcelot," said he,
"thou wert head of all Christian knights!" "And now, I dare say," said
sir Bors, "that sir Launcelot, there thou liest, thou wert never matched
of none earthly knight's hands; and thou wert the courtliest knight that
ever bare a shield; and thou wert the truest friend to thy lover that
ever bestrod horse; and thou wert the truest lover of a sinful man that
ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest man that ever stroke with
sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among press of
knights; and thou wert the meekest man, and the gentlest, that ever eat
in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal
foe, that ever put spear in the rest."
Then there was weeping and dolor out of measure.
--_Malory's Morte d'Arthur_.
Ethelfrith, who succeeded Ethelric, gave the fort to his second wife,
Bebba, after whom it was named Bebbanburgh, which soon became Bamburgh.
In the days of King Edwin, who succeeded Ethelfrith, Bamburgh was the
centre of a kingdom which extended from the Humber to the Forth, and as
Northumbria was at that time the most important division of England, the
royal city of Bernicia was practically the capital of the country. The
reign of King Oswald, though shorter than that of Edwin, was equally
noteworthy from the fact that in his days the gentle Aidan settled in
Northumbria, and king and monk worked together for the good of their
people, and Bamburgh became not only the seat of temporal power but the
safeguard and bulwark of the spiritual movement centred on the little
isle of Lindisfarne. On the accession of Edwin, Oswald, son of
Ethelfrith, had fled from Bernicia and taken refuge with the monks of
Iona, living with them till the time came for him to rule Northumbria in
his turn. As soon as possible after the inevitable fighting for his
political existence was over, he sent to Iona for a teacher to come and
instruct his people in the truths he had learned; and a monk named
Corman was sent. He, however, was unable to make any impression on the
wild and warlike Saxons of the northern kingdom, and he soon returned to
Iona with the report that it was useless to try to teach such obstinate
and barbarous people. One of the brethren, listening to his account,
ventured to ask him if he were sure that all the fault lay with the
people. "Did you remember," said he, "that we are commanded to give them
the milk first? Did you not rather try them with the strong meat?" With
one accord the brethren declared that he who had spoken such wise words
was the man best fitted for the task, and the gentle Aidan was sent to
Oswald's help. In such a fashion came the Gospel to Northumbria, and
Aidan became the first of the long roll of saints whose deeds and lives
had such incalculable influence on Northumbrian history. From Aidan's
arrival in 635 until the death of Oswald the relations between the king
and the monk who had settled on Medcaud or Medcaut, soon to be known as
Lindisfarne, and later as Holy Island, were those of friend to friend
and fellow-worker, rather than those of king and subject.
After the death of Oswald, his conqueror Penda, the fierce King of the
Mercians, harried Northumbria, and appearing before the walls of
Bamburgh prepared to burn it down. Piles of logs and brushwood were laid
against the city and the fire was applied. Aidan, in his little cell on
Farne Island, to which he had retired, saw the clouds of flame and smoke
rolling over the home of his beloved patron. Raising his hands to
Heaven, he exclaimed, "See, Lord, what ill Penda is doing!" Scarcely had
he uttered the words, when the wind changed, and drove the flames away
from Bamburgh, blowing them against Penda's host, who thereupon ceased
all further attempts against the city.
Not long after this, Aidan was at Bamburgh, when he was seized with
sudden illness, and died with his head resting against one of the wooden
stays of the little church. Penda came again the next year, and this
time both village and church were burnt, all except, says tradition, the
beam of wood against which Aidan had rested in his last moments.
When the Danish ships appeared off our shores, in the two centuries
following, Bamburgh was attacked and plundered several times. In the
days of William Rufus, as we have seen, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of
Northumberland, rebelled against the Red King, in company with his
uncle the Bishop of Coutances, Robert of Normandy, and William of St.
Carileph, Bishop of Durham. Rufus marched into Northumberland, but the
quarrel was adjusted for the time; though private strife between the two
Bishops led to Mowbray's driving the monks of Durham from the Priory at
Tynemouth and replacing them by monks from St. Albans.
Later, however, Mowbray disobeyed a summons from the Red King, who once
more marched into Northumberland. He reached Bamburgh, and invested it,
but failed to make any impression on that impregnable stronghold, within
whose walls were Mowbray and his young wife, the Countess Matilda, and
his nephew, who was Sheriff of Northumberland. Rufus, finding all
attempts to carry the fortress useless, began to build a wooden fort,
called a _Malvoisin_, or "Bad neighbour"; and so anxious was he to have
it speedily erected that he made knights and nobles as well as his
men-at-arms take part in the work.
Mowbray, from the battlements, called out to many of these by name,
openly taunting those who had secretly promised to join him, or had
expressed themselves as in sympathy with his disobedience. His words
gave great amusement to Rufus and the nobles who were truly loyal, and
much mortification and vexation to those whom he so ruthlessly exposed.
Rufus left the "Bad neighbour" to continue the siege and went southward.
Mowbray, led to believe that Newcastle would receive him, and take his
part, stole away from Bamburgh by sea, and reached Tynemouth. On
proceeding to Newcastle, however, he found he had been mistaken, and
hurriedly fled hack to Tynemouth, pursued by his enemies. He held out
against them for a day or two, but was then captured and taken to
Durham. Meanwhile the high-spirited Countess held Bamburgh against all
assailants; but Mowbray's capture gave Rufus an advantage he was not
slow to use. Returning to the North, he ordered Mowbray to be brought
before the walls of Bamburgh, and threatened to put his eyes out if the
Countess did not immediately surrender. Needless to say, she preferred
to give up the castle, and Mowbray's reign as Earl of Northumberland was
Thereafter Bamburgh was visited by various sovereigns in turn, when
their affairs brought them to the northerly parts of their kingdom. When
Balliol, tired of long years of conflict, surrendered most of his rights
to Edward III., it was at Bamburgh that the convention was concluded. In
this reign the castle was greatly strengthened.
In the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh was held for the queen by the
Lancastrian nobles of the north country--Percy and Ros--with the Earl of
Pembroke and Duke of Somerset; but was obliged on Christmas Eve, 1462,
to capitulate to a superior force. The next year the Scots and the
queen's French allies surprised it, and re-captured it for Henry VI. and
his courageous queen; but Warwick, "the King-maker," came upon the
scene, and after a stout resistance the garrison surrendered.
When the Union of the Crowns took place in 1603, Bamburgh was no longer
necessary as a defence against the Scots, and its defences were
neglected. The Forsters, into whose hands it passed in the days of James
I., were a spendthrift family, and gradually wasted their rich estate,
until in 1704 it had to be sold, and was bought by Lord Crewe. He was
Bishop of Durham at the time, having been promoted to that position by
Charles II., who liked his handsome figure and pleasing manners. When at
the age of fifty-eight, he wished to marry Dorothea Forster, daughter of
Sir William Forster, of Bamburgh, the lady, who was many years younger,
refused him at first; but some years later he renewed his suit, and this
time was accepted. When the Forster estates were sold and their debts
paid, there was scarcely anything left for the heirs--Lady Crewe and her
nephew, Thomas Forster, who afterwards became the General of the
ill-fated Jacobite rising in 1715, and whose escape after his capture
was contrived by his high-spirited sister, Dorothy Forster the second.
Lord Crewe, in his will, left a great part of his fortune to found the
Bamburgh Trust, for which his name will ever be remembered. The most
notable of the trustees, Archdeacon Sharp, administered the moneys in so
wise and beneficent a manner that to him most of the credit is due for
the real usefulness of the Crewe charities. These include a surgery and
dispensary; schools; the relief of persons in distress; the clothing and
educating of a certain number of girls; the maintenance of a lifeboat,
life-saving apparatus, and everything necessary for the relief of
ship-wrecked persons. A lifeboat, kept in the harbour at Holy Island, is
always ready to go out on a signal from Bamburgh Castle.
The castle was extensively restored and repaired by the late Lord
Armstrong; but, sad to say, since his death it has been stripped of many
of its treasures. The church, dedicated to St. Aidan, stands at the west
end of the village; but there is no vestige remaining of the one built
in Saxon times, the present building having been erected when Henry II.
was king. In the churchyard is the grave of Grace Darling, and many
hundreds come to look on the last resting place of the gentle girl who
was yet so heroic, when her compassionate heart nerved her girlish frame
to the gallant effort on behalf of her fellow-creatures in dire peril,
".... rode the waves none else durst ride,
None save her sire."
The beautiful monument over her grave is by Raymond Smith, and is an
exact duplicate of the original one, also by him, which was being
injured so much by the weather that it was removed to a position inside
the church. The duplicate was commissioned by Lord (then Sir William)
The island on which yet stands the lighthouse which was Grace's home is
the Longstone, almost the farthest seaward of the rocky group of the
Farnes, lying almost opposite Bamburgh. The Longstone is only about four
feet above high-water mark, so that in stormy weather the lighthouse is
fiercely assailed by the heavy seas, and the keepers are often driven
for refuge to the upper chambers. To the Longstone might with truth be
attributed the opening lines of Kipling's poem, "The Coastwise
"Our brows are bound with spindrift, and the weed is on our knees,
Our loins are battered 'neath us by the swinging, smoking seas;
From reef, and rock, and skerry, over headland, ness, and voe,
The coastwise lights of England watch the ships of England go."
There are about twenty of these little islets to be seen at low tide,
and very curious are some of their names--The Megstone, The Crumstone,
The Navestone, The Harcars, The Wedums, The Noxes (Knokys), and The
Wawmses. The largest, Farne Island, is the nearest to the coast, and is
the one to which St. Aidan retired, and on which St. Cuthbert made
himself a cell, and where he lived for some years, leaving Lindisfarne
(Holy Island) very often for months together, to dwell alone on this
almost bare rock and devote himself to holy meditation and prayer.
To this island came King Ecgfrith of Northumbria with Archbishop
Trumwine and other representatives of the Synod to beg the hermit to
accept the Bishopric of Hexham; and it was on this island that St.
Cuthbert died, the monks who had gone to look after him signalling the
news of his death to his brethren at Lindisfarne by means of torches.
The island is rocky and precipitous, with deep chasms between the high
cliffs; and when a north wind blows, the columns of foam and spray, from
the waters dashing into the chasms and over the tops of the cliffs, may
be seen from the mainland rising high into the air.
Before the first lighthouse was built on Farne Island, in 1766, a coal
fire was kindled every night on the top of the tower-like building used
as a fort. This method of warning passing vessels had been used
continuously since the days of Charles II. In great contrast to this is
the modern lighthouse, with its acetylene gas lights and its automatic
Close to Stapel Island are the three high basaltic pillars, of rock
called the Pinnacles. On all these islands sea-birds breed, but
especially on the Pinnacles, the Big and Little Harcar, and the islet
called the Brownsman.
Thousands and thousands of them perch and chatter on the rocks and fly
screaming in the air, amongst them being guillemots, kittiwakes, gulls,
terns, cormorants, puffins, and eider-ducks, for which latter St.
Cuthbert is said to have had great affection; certainly they are the
gentlest of these wild sea-fowl.
Bidding farewell to the rocky Farnes, we sail past Budle Bay, into which
runs the Warenburn and the Elwick burn, and underneath whose sandy flats
is the buried town of Warnmouth, once a busy seaport, to which Henry
III. granted a charter. Approaching Lindisfarne, "Our isle of Saints,
low-lying on the blue breast of the curling waters, is hushed and silent
in the lightly-purple mists of morning, like the wide aisles of a great
cathedral at daybreak, before the feet and tongues of sightseers disturb
the solemn stillness. The tideway is covered with water, and the
footprints of the pilgrims who came yesterday to the shrine of St.
Cuthbert have passed into oblivion like footmarks on the sands of time."
(_Galloway Kyle_.) The modern pilgrim to Holy Island generally takes
train to Beal station, and from there walks to the seashore, and crosses
the long stretch of sand between Holy Island and the mainland. The
governing factor in the possibility or otherwise of making the journey
is the state of the tide, for these sands are entirely covered by the
sea twice a day, so that Holy Island can only be said to be an island at
"For with the flow and ebb, its style
Varies from continent to isle;
Dry-shod, o'er sands, twice every day
The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
Twice every day the waves efface
Of staves and sandall'd feet the trace."
There are dangerous quicksands on the way, too, and a row of stakes
points out the proper course to be taken.
We have already seen that St. Aidan settled on Lindisfarne and have
treated of him in connection with Bamburgh. After his death another monk
of Iona, Finan, succeeded him and carried on his work; and after Finan
came Colman, who resigned after the Synod of Whitby had decided to keep
Easter according to southern instead of northern usage. St. Cuthbert was
Prior of Lindisfarne at this time. Later, the seat of the bishopric was
removed from Lindisfarne to York, when it was held by that restless and
able prelate, Wilfrid, for a time. Then the bishopric was divided and a
see of Hexham formed, as well as that of Lindisfarne, which included
Carlisle, out of the northern portion of the diocese of York.
St. Cuthbert was bishop of Lindisfarne for two years, having exchanged
sees with bishop Eata, who went to Hexham. The stone coffin in which St.
Cuthbert's body was pieced, after his death on Farne Island, was buried
on the right side of the altar in the Abbey of Lindisfarne, which by
this time had arisen on the little island. A later bishop, Edfrid,
executed a wonderful copy of the Gospels, which was illuminated by his
successor, Ethelwald. Another bishop enclosed it in a cover of gold and
silver, adorning it with jewels; and, later, a priest of Lindisfarne,
Aldred, wrote between the lines a translation into the vernacular, and
added marginal notes. This precious manuscript, a wonderful example of
the beautiful work done in monastic houses in the north so many
centuries ago, is now in the British Museum, where it is known as the
When the pirate keels of the Danes appeared off our coasts about the end
of the eighth century, Lindisfarne Abbey was one of the first points of
attack; and in 793 it was plundered of most of its wealth, and many of
the monks were slain. For nearly a century afterwards it was left in
peace, but in 875 the Danish ships appeared again approaching from the
south, where they had just sacked Tynemouth Priory. The bishop,
Eardulph, last of the Lindisfarne prelates, and the brethren hastily
collected their most treasured possessions, and with the body of St.
Cuthbert, the bones of St. Aidan, and other precious relics, they fled
from their island home, and journeyed north, west, and south for many
years before they found a resting place at Chester-le-Street near
Durham. For seven years they carried with them the body of St. Cuthbert;
and it is said that the final choice of a resting place for the body of
their beloved saint was indicated to them by supernatural means as they
In 1069 William the Conqueror marched northward to visit with sternest
punishment the hardy north-men, who were so long in submitting to his
authority; and the monks of Durham fled before the advance of the
relentless Norman, carrying with them, as before, the body of St.
Cuthbert. They reached Lindisfarne in safety to find the Abbey in the
ruinous state in which it had been left by the Danes two centuries
earlier. Thus, once again, the body of St. Cuthbert rested on the little
island where so many years of his life had been spent.
In 1070 the brethren returned to Durham and in 1093 the building was
begun, almost simultaneously, of the present glorious Cathedral of
Durham and a new Priory and Church on Lindisfarne, and a strong
resemblance may be traced between the two buildings The Abbey was
deserted on the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., and
gradually fell into ruins.
The Castle, which stands on a lofty whinstone rock at the south-east
corner of the island, is a conspicuous object for many miles, whether
viewed by land or sea. It is supposed to have been built in the reign of
Henry VIII., at a time when defences were commanded to be made to all
harbours. If the Castle has had any appreciable share of romantic
incidents in its history, the records thereof seem to be unknown; but
one which has come down to us is the account of its daring capture by an
ardent North-country Jacobite, Lancelot Errington, in 1715. The
garrison consisted of seven men, five of whom were absent. Errington,
who was master of a small vessel lying in the harbour, discovered this,
and immediately made his way to the Castle accompanied by his nephew,
and overpowered the two men who were left in charge, turning them out of
the Castle. He then signalled to the mainland for reinforcements, but
none were forthcoming. A company of King's men came instead and
re-occupied the place, Errington and his nephew escaping, to wander
about in the neighbourhood for several days, hiding from pursuit, before
they got clear away. The Castle was for many years the home of the
coastguardsmen, who must have found it a most advantageous position for
their purpose, as they had an uninterrupted view of miles of coast line.
Northward from Holy Island, but on the mainland, lies Goswick, from
whose red sandstone quarries came the material for building the Abbey of
Lindisfarne. Further north we come in sight of the coal pits and smoke
of Scremerston, while beyond it, Spittal and Tweedmouth bring us right
up to Berwick-on-Tweed itself, that grey old Border town which has seen
so many turns of fortune, and been harried again and again, only to draw
breath after each wild and cruel interlude, and go calmly on its quiet
way until it was once more called upon to fight for its very existence.
Though definitely forming part of English soil since 1482, it is not
included in any English county, but, with about eight square miles
around it, forms a county by itself. Hence the addition, to any Royal
proclamation, of the well-known words "And in our Town of
Sir Walter Scott's description of the Northumbrian coast, in his poem of
Marmion may well be recalled here. It will be remembered that the
Abbess of Whitby, with some of her nuns, was voyaging to Holy Island,
and we take up the description when
".... the vessel skirts the strand
Of mountainous Northumberland;
Towns, towers, and halls successive rise,
And catch the nuns' delighted eyes.
Monkwearmouth soon behind them lay,
And Tynemouth's Priory and bay. They
marked, amid her trees, the hall Of lofty Seaton Delaval;
They saw the Blyth and Wansbeck floods
Rush to the sea through sounding woods;
They passed the tower of Widdrington,
Mother of many a valiant son;
At Coquet-isle their beads they tell
To the good saint who owned the cell.
Then did the Alne attention claim,
And Warkworth, proud of Percy's name;
And next they crossed themselves, to hear
The whitening breakers sound so near,
Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar
On Dunstanborough's caverned shore.
Thy tower, proud Bamburgh, marked they there,
King Ida's castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look grimly down
And on the swelling ocean frown.
Then from the coast they bore away
And reached the Holy Island's bay.
* * * * *
As to the port the galley flew,
Higher and higher rose to view
The castle with its battled walls,
The ancient monastery's halls,
A solemn, huge, and dark-red pile
Placed on the margin of the isle.
In Saxon strength that abbey frowned,
With massive arches, broad and round.
* * * * *
On the deep walls, the heathen Dane
Had poured his impious rage in vain;
And needful was such strength to these,
Exposed to the tempestuous seas,
Scourged by the winds' eternal sway,
Open to rovers fierce as they.
Which could twelve hundred years withstand
Winds, waves, and northern pirates' hand."
NORTH AND SOUTH TYNE.
"On Kielder-side the wind blaws wide;
There sounds nae hunting horn
That rings sae sweet as the winds that beat
Round banks where Tyne is born."
Between Peel Fell and Mid Fell, almost the farthest western heights of
the Cheviot Hills, a little mountain stream takes its rise, and flows to
the south and east. This little burn is the North Tyne, the beginnings
of that stream which, deep, dark, and swift at its mouth, bears the
mighty battleships there built to carry the war-flags of the nations
round the world. In the wild and lovely district where the North Tyne
takes its rise, is Kielder Castle, a shooting box belonging to the Duke
This neighbourhood is the scene of two romantic ballads; that of the
"Cowt (colt) of Kielder" and the Ettrick Shepherd's ballad of "Sir David
Graeme." The deadly enemy of the young "Cowt," so called from his great
strength, is Lord Soulis of Hermitage Castle, on the Scottish side of
the border. The Cowt, with his followers, was enticed into the Castle,
where Lord Soulis purposed his death; but the gigantic youth burst
through the circle of his foes and escaped. The evil Brownie of the
moorland, however, gave to Lord Soulis the secret which safeguarded the
young Cowt. His coat of mail was sword-proof by a spell of enchantment,
and he wore in his helmet rowan and holly leaves; but these would all be
of no avail against the power of running water. The Cowt was pursued
until, in crossing a burn, he stumbled and lost his helmet, and ere he
recovered, his enemies were upon him, and they held him under water
until he was drowned.
Not far from the mouth of the Bell Burn, which here runs into the Tyne,
a circle of stones outside an ancient burial ground is known as the
"This is the bonny brae, the green,
Yet sacred to the brave,
Where still, of ancient size, is seen
Gigantic Kieldar's grave.
* * * * *
Where weeps the birch with branches green
Without the holy ground,
Between two old grey stones is seen
The warrior's ridgey mound.
And the hunters bold of Kieldar's train,
Within yon castle's wall,
In a deadly sleep must aye remain
Till the ruined towers down fall."
In the ballad of "Sir David Graeme," by James Hogg, the lady of the
story watched out of her window in vain for the coming of her "noble
Graeme," who had vowed that the hate of her father and brothers would
not keep him from coming to carry off his fair lady on St. Lambert's
"The sun had drunk frae Kieldar Fell
His beverage o' the morning dew;
The deer had crouched her in the dell,
The heather oped its bells o' blue.
* * * * *
The lady to her window hied,
And it opened o'er the banks o' Tyne;
An' "O! alack," she said, and sighed,
"Sure ilka breast is blythe but mine?"
Her forebodings prove only too true, for her lover's faithful hound
seeks her out, and with mournful looks induces her to follow him over
Deadwater Fell, and guides her to a lonely spot where the body of the
gallant Graeme, slain by her brothers, is lying.
In the neighbourhood of these desolate Fells are to be found many traces
of ancient British Camps.
The little mountain streams which here help to swell the stream of the
North Tyne are, on the south side, the Lewis and Whickhope Burns, and on
the north, the Plashetts and Hawkhope Burns. On both sides of the Tyne,
near the Whickhope and the Hawkhope Burns are many remains of an ancient
pre-historic forest, the largest being near the Whickhope Burn where the
abnormally thick stems of trees may be seen.
The little village of Falstone is set amongst trees, in the midst of
pleasant meadows, a welcome relief from the bare fells and moorlands
around it; yet this wild scenery has a distinct fascination of its own,
and adds not a little to the charm of the varied landscape within the
bounds of our northern county. At Falstone a fragment of an ancient
cross was discovered, with an inscription carved upon it--in Roman
letters on one side and in the Runes of the Anglo-Saxons on the other.
The inscription states that a certain Eamer set up the cross in memory
of his uncle Hroethbert, and asks for prayers for his soul. The
existence of a similarly inscribed cross is not known, so that the
Society of Antiquaries, in whose keeping this cross rests, has in it
probably a unique treasure.
The Tarset Burn, upon which stands the village of Thorneyburn, runs into
the Tyne not far from Falstone, and reminds us of the old Border-riding
days, when the rallying-cry of the men of the district in many a feud
with neighbouring clans was--"Tarset and Tarret Burn, Hard and
heather-bred, yet-yet-yet." Near the spot where the Tarset Burn joins the
Tyne is a grassy hill on which once stood Tarset Castle, a stronghold of
that Red Comyn whom Bruce slew in the little chapel at Dumfries, and of
whose death Bruce's friend Kirkpatrick said he would "mak' siccar"!
The village of Charlton, on the north bank of the Tyne, and the mansion
of Hesleyside on the other, carry the mind back to the old reiving
plundering days, for it was at Hesleyside that the incident of the
ancient spur of the Charlton's took place, doubtless many a time and
oft, when the good lady of Hesleyside served up the spur at dinner as a
gentle hint that the larder was empty, and it behoved her lord to mount
and away to replenish the same, preferably with stock from the Scottish
side of the border, or if not, a neighbour's cattle would serve equally
The Charltons, Robsons (possibly the lineal descendants of "Hroethbert"
of the ancient cross) and Armstrongs, held almost undisputed sway over
this region, and the district teems with reminders of their prowess and
traditions of their exploits. The men of Tynedale (the North Tyne) and
Redesdale were known as the fiercest and most lawless in all that wild
district. Redesdale is a district of monotonous, almost dreary,
moorlands, and wild, bare fells, where sheep graze on what scanty
provender the bleak hills afford, finding better fare, however, in the
valleys near the river banks, where the pasture is fresh and green.
Bellingham is to-day the most considerable village of the neighbourhood;
it stands conveniently at the foot of the hills where the little Belling
Burn, or Hareshaw Burn, joins the main stream. In Hareshaw woods is the
beautiful Hareshaw Linn, where the stream falls down through a break in
the sandstone cliffs, and forms a picturesque waterfall, fringed with
ferns and trees and cool mosses. It well repays one for the walk of a
mile or so through tangled underwoods by the side of the burn.
Bellingham gives its mime to the family of de Bellingham, whose chief
seat, however, is now in Ireland and no longer in the little
The massive church here, with its roof of stone, bears eloquent
testimony to the need for fireproof buildings in a village so near to
Scotland in the days of Border warfare. Outside the churchyard wall is
the well of St. Cuthbert, or "Cuddy's Well," which was greatly venerated
in early days, and many stories are told of the miraculous power of its
waters. Inside the churchyard a grave is pointed out as the burial place
of the robber whose tragic end was told by James Hogg in his gruesome
story of "The Long Pack."
The village itself is plain and bare, as might be expected from a
settlement which would probably find that unattractiveness in either
wealth or appearance was a tolerable safeguard.
Below Bellingham the North Tyne is joined by its longest and most noted
tributary, the Rede Water, which also rises in the Cheviots. Rising in
the hills north of Carter Fell, it flows south-east, through a wild
region, passing, while still high up amongst the hills, the little
village of Byrness, and the new reservoir at Catcleugh, where a supply
of pure water is stored for the use of the dwellers in distant
Newcastle. On its way to the Tyne, it passes many an old pele-tower, and
the Roman stations of Bremenium (Rochester) and Habitancum, near
Woodburn. The ancient Roman road of Watling Street crosses the Rede at
Woodburn, leading from Habitancum to Bremenium.
Many mountain streams, clear and sparkling, or peaty and brown, join the
Rede Water on its way, amongst others the little Otter Burn, by whose
banks took place that stirring episode in the constant quarrels between
the Douglases and Percies known as "Chevy Chase," from which the fierce
battle-cries ring down the five centuries that have passed since that
time, with sounds that echo still.
The pretty village of Redesmouth (or Reedsmouth) stands where the Rede
Water enters the North Tyne, and a few miles further on the rapid little
Houxty Burn pours its peaty waters into the main stream.
On the right bank of the Tyne stands Wark, conveniently placed at one of
the most important fords of the Tyne in former days. Like other towns
and villages so placed on different streams throughout the country, the
advantages of its situation have evidently been appreciated by the
successive inhabitants of the land, for there are traces of its
occupation by Celt, Roman, and Saxon; and, later, the town was the most
considerable in Upper Tynedale. During the time that this part of
England was ceded to the Scottish Kings, David and Alexander, it was at
Wark that the Scottish law courts for Tynedale held their sittings. The
mound called the Mote Hill, near the river, marks the spot where, in all
probability, the ancient Celtic inhabitants met together to administer
the rude justice of prehistoric times, and to make the laws of their
little settlement, which grew to much greater proportions in later
years. In fact, it is supposed that the Kirkfield marks the site of a
church which stood in the midst of the once extensive town.
A little way up the Wark Burn, above the bridge, there may be seen some
upright stems of Sigillaria in the exposed face of the cliffs. On the
opposite side of the river from Wark is Chipchase Castle, one of the
finest mansions in Northumberland, standing in the midst of the
beautifully wooded and picturesque scenery which, from this point
onwards is characteristic of the North Tyne. Of the former village of
Chipchase scarcely a trace remains, though its name, if nothing else,
shows that here has been a village or small town, important enough to
have its well-known, market; for "Chip," like the various "Chippings"
throughout England is derived from the Anglo-Saxon _ciepan_--to buy and
sell, to traffic. In the reign of Henry II., Chipchase was the property
of the Umfravilles of Prudhoe; but later it passed into the hands of the
well-known Northumbrian family of Heron.
Not far from Chipchase Castle are the famous Gunnerton Crags, formed by
an out-crop of the Great Whin Sill. These lofty cliffs have been the
site of a considerable settlement of the ancient British tribes who
dwelt in the district in such numbers, as is evident from the scores of
camps, which may be traced all over this part of Northumberland. The
naturally strong position on the Gunnerton Crags, would be certain to
commend itself to a people, the first requisite of whose dwelling places
was strength and consequent safety.
At Barrasford the making of the railway cutting led to the opening up of
a large barrow, or burial place, of the ancient Britons; and a single
"menhir," supposed to be the solitary survivor of a large group of these
huge stones, stood near the village school some years ago.
Passing Chollerton and Humshaugh, embowered amongst spreading trees, we
arrive at Chollerford, the prettiest village of North Tyne, lying near
the river where it was crossed by the Roman Wall. From the bridge which
spans the Tyne at Chollerford one of the finest views of the river, both
up and down the stream, is to be seen; and to watch the swift brown
stream, after a flood or a freshet, foaming through the arches is an
exhilarating sight. The bridge itself is a modern one, for we know that
all the bridges on the Tyne, except that of Corbridge, were swept away
by the great flood of 1771.
In 1394, that prince of bridge-builders, Bishop Walter de Skirlaw of
Durham, granted thirteen days' indulgence to all who should assist in
rebuilding the bridge at Chollerford; so that already there was one here
which had evidently fallen into disrepair. Yet, in the ballad of "Jock
o' the Side," the rescuers, with Jock in their midst, reach Chollerford,
and, after some anxious questioning of an old man as to whether the
"water will ride," are compelled to swim the Tyne in flood, which their
pursuers, coming up, will not attempt to do. Now Bishop Skirlaw's
bridges did not usually disappear; those of Yarm, Shincliffe, and
Auckland have stood until to-day, with occasional repairs. Are we then
reluctantly to question the truth of "Jock o' the Side"? Surely, if the
choice remain of the accuracy of the ballad or the fact of the bridge,
it is the duty of all leal North-country people to swear by the ballad.
Perhaps the good Bishop did not personally oversee the rebuilding of
Chollerford Bridge: more probably the Wear and Tees do not come down
with the angry impetuosity of the Tyne in flood!
The remains of the great Roman camp of Cilurnum (The Chesters) may be
seen here within Mrs. Clayton's park. This was the largest military
station in Northumberland, Corstopitum, which is very much larger, being
more of a civil settlement. At some little distance below the present
bridge some of the piers of the old Roman bridge are still to be seen
when the river is low.
Eastward from Chollerford is the little church of St. Oswald, standing
where the battle of Heavenfield took place. When Penda of Mercia, and
the British Prince Cadwallon, were warring against Northumbria, the
greatest Northumbrian King, Edwin, was defeated and slain by them; and
on their return to the attack, Ethelfrith's eldest son, called back from
exile to take the vacant throne, and rule in his father's seat of
Bamburgh, also fell before their fierce onslaught. His brother Oswald
now took command of the Bernicians and prepared to lead them against the
foe. Oswald posted his men in a strong position on the north side of the
great Wall; and, setting up a huge cross of wood, called upon all his
followers to bow before the God of whom he had learnt during his exile
in Iona, and to pray to Him for victory. His army obeyed, and, in the
battle which followed, Oswald's forces were completely victorious. The
Mercians, and their allies, the western Britons, were routed, and driven
out of Bernicia, and Cadwallon was pursued as far as the Denise Burn,
and there slain. The Denise Burn is supposed to have been the Rowley
Burn, which flows into the Devil's Water, on whose banks stands Dilsten
Castle. Some time later, on the spot where Oswald's Cross had stood, a
church was erected and dedicated to the royal Saint. It was served from
After passing Wall, which, however, is not quite so near the Roman Wall
as Chollerford is, we come to the pretty village of Warden, nestling
beneath the woods of Warden Hill; and here, just above Hexham, the North
Tyne unites with its sister river in the rich meadow lands which lie
near the old town.
The South Tyne has journeyed from Cross Fell, where it takes its rise,
northward through a corner of Cumberland, past Garrygill and Alston,
until it enters Northumberland where the Ayle Burn on the one hand, and
the Gilderdale Burn on the other, flow into it. Here is Whitley Castle,
where was a small Roman station called Alio, and Kirkhaugh Church,
charmingly placed on the bank of the river, which continues its course
northward past Slaggyford, Knaresdale, Eals, and Lambley, till it flows
past the fine Castle of Featherstone, and the ruins of Bellister, where
it turns eastward to Haltwhistle.
The little streams which enter the South Tyne up to this point flow
through wild and romantic glens, two of them owning the Celtic names of
_Glen Cune_ and _Glen Dhu_.
The family of Featherstonehaugh is one of the oldest in the North; and
it was concerning the death of one of this family--Sir Albany
Featherstonehaugh, who was High Sheriff of Northumberland in the days of
Henry VIII.--that Mr. Surtees, the antiquary, wrote the well-known
ballad, which, when Surtees gave it him, deceived even Sir Walter Scott
into thinking it genuinely ancient. The first verse of the ballad shows
with what a verve and swing the lines go.
"Hoot awa', lads, hoot awa'
Ha' ye heard how the Ridleys, an' Thirlwalls, an' a'
Ha' set upon Albany Featherstonehaugh;
And taken his life at the Deadmanshaw?
There was Willimoteswick,
And Hard-riding Dick,
An' Hughie o' Hawdon, an' Will o' the Wa'
I canno' tell a', I canno' tell a'
And mony a mair that the de'il may knaw."
The ruins of Bellister Castle stand against a sombre background of
woods, only a little way from Haltwhistle. The Castle once belonged to
the Blenkinsopp family, who also owned Blenkinsopp Castle, about two
miles away. The name was formerly spelt Blencan's-hope--the hope being
valley or hollow--and the Castle, like many other places, has its
legendary "White Lady."
Haltwhistle is a little straggling town lying on both sides of the main
road above the South Tyne, where it is joined by the Haltwhistle Burn.
By going up the valley of this pretty little stream we shall arrive near
the Roman station of AEsica, on the Wall. The town of Haltwhistle is
peaceful enough now, but it had a stirring existence in the days when
Ridleys, Armstrongs, and Charltons, to say nothing of the men of
Liddesdale and Teviotdale, had so strong a partiality for a neighbour's
live-stock and so ready a hand with arrow and spear. In the old ballad
of "The Fray of Hautwessel," we are told that
"The limmer thieves o' Liddesdale
Wadna leave a kye in the haill countrie,
But an we gi'e them the cauld steel,
Our gear they'll reive it a' awaye,
Sae pert they stealis, I you saye.
O' late they came to Hautwessel,
And thowt they there wad drive a fray.
But Alec Ridley shot too well."
[Footnote 3: But an = unless.]
The most notable feature of present-day Haltwhistle is the finely placed
parish church, of which the chancel is the oldest part, having been
built in the twelfth century, so that it was already an old church when
Edward I. rested here for a night in 1306, on his way to Scotland for
the last time. When William the Lion of Scotland returned from his
captivity, after being taken prisoner at Alnwick in 1174, he founded the
monastery of Arbroath in thanksgiving for his freedom, and bestowed on
the monks the church of Haltwhistle.
All that remains of the old Castle, or "Haut-wysill Tower," is the
building standing near the Castle Hill, which latter has been fortified
by earthworks. The Red Lion Hotel is a modernised pele-tower. The
general aspect of the place is singularly bare and bleak; but from
several points in the town, notably from the churchyard terrace, fine
views of the river valley may be obtained.
Henshaw (Hethinga's-haugh) is a little village which King David of
Scotland, when he was Lord of Tynedale, gave to Richard Cumin and his
wife, who afterwards bestowed it on the Cathedral of Durham. It lies by
the side of the main road to Bardon Mill, which is the most convenient
station for travellers to alight at who wish to visit the Roman Wall and
the Roman city of Borcovicus, and the Northumberland lakes. Some little
distance up the hill from Bardon Mill station is a very pretty little
village whose name speaks eloquently of other invaders than the
Romans--the village of Thorngrafton (the "ton" or settlement on Thor's
"graf" or dyke). Near at hand there are quarries from which the Romans
obtained much building material for the Wall; and in one of these old
quarries some workmen discovered a bronze vessel full of Roman coins, a
few of gold, but most of silver. This was known as the "Thorngrafton
Find," and the interesting story of it is told by Dr. Bruce.
On the opposite side of the South Tyne from Henshaw, Willimoteswick
Castle stands on the level plains which are as characteristic of the
south bank of the river as are the steep slopes of the north bank. One
of the towers of this old Castle yet remains, and forms part of the more
modern farm-house which stands there. Willimoteswick was long in the
possession of the Ridleys, and it is generally accepted as having been
the birthplace of Bishop Ridley, though Unthank Hall, nearer to
Haltwhistle, and also a home of that family, disputes the honour. The
Bishop, who suffered death at the stake in the troublous times of Queen
Mary, in touching letters bids farewell to his Cousin at Willimoteswick
and his sister and her children at Unthank.
On the same side of the Tyne is Beltingham Church, with some wonderful
old trees in the churchyard, and Ridley Hall, which takes its name from
that family, although not now occupied by them. Here the Allen flows
into the South Tyne, and nowhere in the whole of the county is there a
more beautiful and romantic scene. By the side of the stream the Ridley
woods stretch for a mile or two, and the delightful mingling of graceful
ferns, overhanging trees, tall, rugged cliffs, flowering plants, and
sparkling waters forms a succession of lovely scenes throughout their
length, which, with the play of lights and shadows on the dimpled
surface of the stream, and frequent glimpses of grassy glades and cool
green alleys, make a walk through these enchanting woods an
The Allen Burn, which gives its name to the beautiful district of
Allendale, is, like the Tyne, formed by the junction of two streams, the
East and West Allen, which rise near each other in hills on the border
of Northumberland and Durham, down the opposite slopes of which run the
little streams which feed the Wear. After flowing apart for some miles,
the East and West Allen unite not far from Staward railway station. Both
rivers flow, for the first part of their course, through a wild and
hilly region, rich, however, in minerals. On the East Allen are the
towns of Allenheads, formerly a busy centre of the lead-mining industry,
and Allendale Town, which lies about 1,400 feet above the sea-level.
As the lead-mining industry has decreased, Allendale has turned its
attention to other methods of living, and now caters for the army of
visitors who, each summer, climb its hills and wander through its woods
and lanes, and by its riverside, as did the Allendale maid whose memory
is perpetuated in the simple lines of the little poem, "Lucy Gray of
"Say, have you seen the blushing rose,
The blooming pink, or lily pale?
Fairer than any flower that blows
Was Lucy Gray of Allendale.
Pensive at eve, down by the burn,
Where oft the maid they used to hail,
The shepherds now are heard to mourn
For Lucy Gray of Allendale."
Not far from the village of Catton, the name of "Rebel Hill" reminds us
that it was a vicar of Allendale, Mr. Patten, who joined young
Derwentwater in the rising of "The Fifteen," and was appointed chaplain
of the little army. He met some half-dozen men of the neighbourhood at
this hill, when they set off together to join the rest of the forces at
On the West Allen is the lonely little hamlet of Ninebanks, with
Ninebanks Tower, concerning which little is known with certainty; and on
this stream also are two of the most strikingly beautiful places in
Northumberland--the delightfully picturesque village of Whitfield, and
the well-known Staward-le-Peel.
The ruins of the "Pele" tower stand on a high grassy platform,
safeguarded on three sides by tall cliffs and tumbled boulders; the
remains of a ditch may also be traced. From this point a splendid view
of the river valley, with its steep precipices, overhanging pinewoods
intermingled with trees of less sombre hue, and the bright course of the
river, may be obtained. At a point a little higher up the valley, where
the waters of the stream are held back by some huge rocks, they form a
deep pool, and then flow onwards through a narrow gorge called Cyper's
Linn. Following the stream now until it has merged its waters in those
of the South Tyne, we turn eastward with the main stream and come to
This considerable village, gradually growing to the proportions of a
small town, lies on both sides of the river, which is here crossed by
the substantial bridge from which the village takes its name; for the
original village of Haydon stood at some distance up the hill on the
north side of the stream. On the hillside may still be seen the ruins of
the old church, in which services are occasionally held in the summer
time. The chancel, apparently dating from the twelfth century, and a
later little chapel to the south of it, are all that are left of the
building. Some very quaint inscriptions are to be seen in the
churchyard, and there are many sculptured grave-covers within the
church. Many of the stones used in the building have evidently been
brought from the great Wall, or probably from the Roman station of
Borcovicus, some six or seven miles to the north; and what a rush of
bewildering fancies crowds upon one's mind on first discovering that the
font was originally a Roman altar!
The old church must have looked down on many a wild and curious scene in
the days when Scot and Englishman sought only opportunities to do each
other an injury, and the river-valleys were the natural passes through
which the tide of invasion, raid, and reprisal flowed.
In the beginning of the reign of Edward III., about 24,000 Scots, under
Douglas and Murray, crossed the Tyne near Haydon Bridge, and rode on to
plunder the richer lands that lay to the south and west. They reached
Stanhope and encamped there for a time. The young king set out
northwards with a great army to punish these marauders, and he was told
by his scouts that they had hastily left Stanhope on his approach. He
and his army pushed on quickly until they reached Bardon Mill; and,
crossing the Tyne, marched down to Haydon Bridge, expecting the Scots to
return by the way they went. It was miserable weather, and the feeding
of so many thousands of men was no little problem. They scoured all the
country round for provisions, getting the most from the Hexham Abbey
lands. Meanwhile it rained and rained, and no Scots appeared. After a
week of waiting, Edward, in great disappointment, went to Haltwhistle,
while his followers reconnoitered in all directions. Finally, he had the
mortification of learning that the Scots were still at Stanhope, but
before anything more could be done, they betook themselves back to
Scotland by a different route, and there was nothing left for Edward but
to give up the expedition in despair.
The bridge at Haydon appears to have been the only one for some distance
up and down the river in the sixteenth century, for we read of its being
barred and chained, on various occasions of marauding troubles in
Tynedale, to prevent the free-booters re-crossing the river.
In the days of Charles I. Colonel Lilburn marched to Haydon Bridge in
command of some troops of the Roundheads, on his way to join their
comrades at Hexham as a counter-move to the operations of the Royalist
troops in the North. Little more than thirty years after this, when the
days of Cromwell's power had come and gone, and Charles II. ruled at
Whitehall, the old Grammar School was founded at Haydon Bridge in 1685
by a clergyman, the Rev. John Shafto. Various changes have taken place
in the school from time to time, necessitated by the gradual changes and
educational needs of the passing years; and now, like the Grammar School
of Queen Elizabeth at Hexham, it has been entirely re-constituted to
meet modern requirements. John Martin, the famous painter of "The Plains
of Heaven," received the beginnings of his education at this school. He
was born at East Land Ends farm in 1789. In after years the authorities
of Haydon Bridge Reading Room, wishing no doubt to afford a perfect
example to future generations of the truth of the proverb concerning a
prophet and his own country, refused some of Martin's pictures, which
the gifted painter himself offered to them--an act which their
successors have doubtless regretted.
At a little distance along the Langley Road, which leads past the
school, a memorial cross is standing. It was erected in 1883 by the late
Mr. C.J. Bates, the historian of Northumberland, to the memory of the
last of the Derwentwater family, whose castle of Langley he purchased.
The inscription on the cross reads:--"To the memory of James and
Charles, Viscounts Langley, Earls of Derwentwater, beheaded on Tower
Hill, London, 24th February, 1716, and 8th December, 1746, for loyalty
to their lawful sovereign."
A striking testimony, this, to the fact that freedom in England is a
reality, and not merely a name. In what other land would an inscription
such as this have been allowed to remain for more than twenty-four
A couple of miles or more down the South Tyne is Fourstones, so called
because of four stones, said to have been Roman altars, having been used
to mark its boundaries. A romantic use was made of one of these stones
in the early days of "The Fifteen." Every evening, as dusk fell, a
little figure, clad in green, stole up to the ancient altar, which had
been slightly hollowed out, and, taking out a packet, laid another in
its place. The mysterious packets, placed there so secretly, were
letters from the Jacobites of the neighbourhood to each other; and the
little figure in green was a boy who acted as messenger for them. No
wonder that the people of the district gave this altar the name of the
Between Haydon Bridge and Fourstones are both freestone and limestone
quarries, which latter have supplied many fossils to visitors of
geological tastes. Halfway between Fourstones and Hexham, the two
streams of North and South Tyne unite, and flow together down to the old
town of Hexham, with its quaintly irregular buildings clustering in
picturesque confusion round its ancient Abbey, which dominates the
landscape from whatever point we approach.
Warden Village, already mentioned, lies in the angle formed by the
meeting of the two streams, and has an ancient church which, however,
has been largely rebuilt. From High Warden, near at hand, a delightful
view may be obtained for a long distance up the valleys of North and
South Tyne. On the summit of this hill there are the remains of a
considerable British camp, showing that they had seized upon this point
of vantage, and though the ancient British name has not come down to us,
it is evident from the Saxon name of Warden (_weardian_) that Saxons as
well as Britons were fully alive to the merits of the situation,
"guarding" the valley at such a commanding point.
DOWN THE TYNE.
The town of Hexham, standing on hilly ground overlooking the Tyne,
immediately below the point at which the North and South Tyne unite, and
spreading from thence down to the levels all round, is one of the most
ancient in the kingdom. To write of Hexham with any measure of fulness
would require much more space than can be given to it within the limits
of a small book; only a mere summary can be offered here. Britons,
Romans, and Saxons, in turn, have dwelt on and around the hill which, in
Saxon days, was to be crowned with Wilfrid's beautiful Abbey, which, we
read, surpassed all others in England at that time for beauty and
excellence of design and workmanship; nor was there another to equal it
anywhere on this side of the Alps.
The name of Hexham is generally understood to be derived from the names
of two little streams, the Hextol and the Halgut, now the Cowgarth and
the Cockshaw Burns, which here flow into the Tyne; or, as Mr. Bates
suggests, it may have been the "ham" of "some forgotten Hagustald,"
which the name perpetuates. In any case its name was Hagustaldesham when
King Ecgfrith (or Egfrid) of Northumbria gave it to his queen,
Etheldreda, who wished to take the veil. Queen Etheldreda, however,
preferred to go to East Anglia, which was her home; she retired to a
convent at Ely, and bestowed the land at Hagustaldesham on Wilfrid, a
monk of Lindisfarne, clever, ambitious and hardworking, who had become
Bishop of York, which meant Bishop of all Northumbria.
Wilfrid had been to Rome, and seen the churches of that city and of the
lands through which he travelled; and, on his appointment to power, he
set himself to make the churches of his diocese worthy to compare with
those of older civilizations. He did much to the cathedral of York, and
built that of Ripon; but the Abbey of Hexham was his masterpiece. He
built a monastery and church, dedicating the latter to St. Andrew, for
it was in the church of St. Andrew at Rome that, kneeling, he felt
himself fired with enthusiasm for his work, in the same church from
which Augustine had set out on his journey to Britain some fifty years
before. The year 674 is generally accepted as the date on which this
noble Abbey was founded.
Wilfrid lived in great splendour at York, and ruled his immense diocese
with a firm hand; in fact, he was the first of that line of great
ecclesiastics who have moved with such proud, and oft-times turbulent,
progress through the pages of English history. King Ecgfrith's second
wife, Ermenburga, was jealous of the great power and magnificence of the
Northumbrian prelate, and through her influence, Archbishop Theodore was
induced to divide the huge diocese of Northumbria into four
portions--York, Hexham, Ripon and Withern in Galloway. Wilfrid,
naturally indignant, found all his protests disregarded, and immediately
set out for Rome, to obtain a decree of restitution from the Pope. It
was given to him, but little cared the Northumbrians for that. Wilfrid
was imprisoned for nine months, and then banished from Northumbria.
He went southwards and dwelt in Sussex, where his genius for hard work
found scope in a mission to the Saxons of the south lands, and where he
built and founded more churches and monasteries. Readers of "Rewards
and Fairies" will have made acquaintance with Wilfrid in his Sussex
wanderings and hardships. On his recall to the North by King Aldfrith,
he returned to Hexham. On the death of Aldfrith, the new King, Edwulf,
banished Wilfrid once more, ordering him to leave the kingdom within six
days; but the friends of Aldfrith's young son, whom Edwulf had
dispossessed, obtained the ascendancy, and Wilfrid was re-instated in
his Abbeys of Hexham and Ripon.
While on his way back from Rome, on his last visit, Wilfrid had a severe
illness, but was granted a vision in which he was told that he had four
years more to live, and that he must build a church to the honour of the
Blessed Virgin. The little church of St. Mary, which stood close to the
walls of the great Abbey of Hexham, was erected in fulfilment of this
In the Abbey church itself, all that was known for centuries of the
original work of Wilfrid was the famous crypt, which is almost unique,
that of Ripon, also the work of Wilfrid, being the only one like it; but
recent excavations have brought much more of the ancient cathedral to
light, and laid bare, not only its original plan, but some of the walls,
and part of the very pavement trodden by the feet of Wilfrid and his
fellows so many centuries ago. The tomb of Wilfrid, however, is not at
Hexham, but at his other foundation of Ripon.
The ancient Abbey suffered much at the hands of the Danes, and in later
years from the ravages of the Scots, having been burnt several times,
notably in 1296, when 40,000 Scots ravaged the North of England,
plundering, burning, and laying waste wherever they went, exactly as the
Danes had done four hundred years before. Some of the stones of the old
Abbey yet bear traces of the fires by which the ancient building was so
often nearly destroyed, and in these frequent conflagrations all
records, charters, etc., of the Abbey, from which might have been
compiled a complete history, not only of the Abbey but of much of the
provincial and national history of the times, were lost.
The Abbey was restored and rebuilt again and again, but for varying
reasons was without a nave for some hundreds of years. Within the last
ten years, however, a complete restoration has been carried out, under
the loving, and, what is more to the point, the capable superintendence
of Canon Savage and his colleagues, in the spirit and manner, as nearly
as possible, of the beautiful portions already standing; and several
disfiguring so-called "restorations" of nineteenth century work, which
could only detract from the beauty and dignity of the noble building,
have been removed entirely. This work was completed in 1908, and all who
have the honour of our famous county at heart must rejoice that its
noblest church is at last more worthy of its own high rank and glorious
Among the many deeply interesting objects to be seen in the Abbey is the
stone Sanctuary seat--the Frid Stool, or seat of peace--at which
fugitives, fleeing from their enemies, might find refuge. It is believed
that this was the "Cathedra" of St. Wilfrid himself. The arms and back
of the chair are ornamented with a twisted knot-work pattern. The right
of Sanctuary extended for a mile round the Abbey, the boundaries being
marked by crosses, one at each point of the compass at that distance.
[Illustration: HEXHAM ABBEY FROM NORTH WEST]
Other treasures of the Abbey are the beautiful Old Rood Screen, dating
from the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century;
some wonderful old paintings, especially the portraits of the early
Bishops of Hexham, Alcmund, Wilfrid, Acca, Eata, Frithbert, Cuthbert,
and John, which date from the fifteenth century; the mediaeval carved
and painted pulpit, and the tomb of good King Alfwald of Northumbria.
Many of the stones used by Wilfrid's builders were of Roman workmanship,
and seem to have come from the Roman city of Corstopitum, at Corbridge.
An inscription on one of these old stones in the crypt takes us back
some centuries before even Wilfrid's time, for it commemorates the
Emperor Severus and his two sons, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla)
and Publius Septimius Geta, and has the name of the latter erased, as
was done on all similar inscriptions throughout the Empire, by order of
the inhuman Caracalla, after his murder of his brother.
A very interesting feature of the building is the stone stairway in the
South transept, by which the monks ascended to their dormitories above.
Quite near to the Abbey, at the other side of the Market Place, the
ancient Moot Hall claims attention. The modern visitor to the old town
walks beneath the gloomy archway, with its time-worn stones, which forms
the basement over which the Moot Hall stands. Another building, grim and
dark, near at hand, is the Old Manor House, in which the business
connected with the ancient Manor of Hexham was transacted.
An old foundation in the town was the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School,
which, after having fallen into desuetude for many years, has been
revived in a form appropriate to modern needs, and housed in a worthy
building, formally opened by Sir Francis Blake on November 2nd, 1910.
The site on which the new Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth stands is
one of the finest in the county, commanding, as it does, an
uninterrupted view of the river valley for some distance, and of the
rising ground beyond.
At the beginning of last century, Hexham was famed for its
glove-making: but that industry has forsaken the town for many years.
Now, Hexham is surrounded by acres of market-gardens, from which the
produce of Tynedale is carried far and wide.
The spacious stretch of level meadow-land below Hexham, rising gradually
up to the swelling ridges beyond, is said to have been the scene which
John Martin had in mind when he painted the "Plains of Heaven"; though
the level reaches above Newburn, unencumbered with buildings in John
Martin's time, and then a scene of quiet pastoral beauty, also claim
Flowing now between well ordered gardens, green meadows, and ferny
banks, brawling musically over shingly shallows, or crooning gently
between fringing woods, the Tyne rolls onward to Corbridge, receiving on
its way the Devil's Water, a sparkling stream which flows through scenes
of enchanting beauty, whether between rugged cliffs and heather clad
hills as in its upper course, through the graceful overhanging trees and
cool green recesses of Dipton woods or between rich meadows and green
pasture-land where it loses itself in the bosom of the Tyne.
There is no more delightful experience than to wander through the woods
of Deepdene (Dipton) on a summer's day, when it requires no stretch of
the imagination to believe oneself in an enchanted forest, or, on
hearing a crackle of twigs, or faint sounds of the outside world
filtering through the green solitudes, to turn round expecting to see a
maiden on a "milk-white steed," or one of the Knights of the Round Table
come riding by, in bravery of glistening armour and gay surtout, and to
find oneself murmuring, "Now, Sir Gawain rode apace, and came unto a
right fair wood, and findeth the stream of a spring that ran with a
great rushing, and nigh thereunto was a way that was much haunted. He
abandoneth his high-way, and goeth all along the stream from the spring
that lasteth a long league plenary, until that he espieth a right fair
house and right fair chapel enclosed within a hedge of wood."
On the green meadows of Hexham Levels and near Dilston Castle--two spots
of more than ordinary historical interest--the Lancastrian cause
received, in 1464, a blow from which it never rallied, though the
courageous Queen fought gallantly till the final disasters at Barnet and
Tewkesbury. The general of her forces, the Duke of Somerset, was
beheaded in Hexham market-place, and, together with several others of
rank and station, buried at Hexham. The well-known incident of Queen
Margaret's escape into Dipton, or Deepdene woods, where she and young
Prince Edward met with robbers, and afterwards escaped by the aid of
another member of that fraternity, took place a year before this, after
the first battle of Hexham in 1463. The year had been one of constant
warfare between York and Lancaster in the north, the Castles of Alnwick
and Bamburgh having fallen into the hands of Queen Margaret's friends
once more, after having been raptured by Edward of York the year before;
the Scots with Margaret and King Henry VI., had besieged Norham, but
were put to flight by the Earl of Warwick and hid brother, Lord
Montague; the royal fugitives sought safety at Bamburgh, whence the
Queen, with Prince Edward, sailed for Flanders, leaving King Henry in
the Castle where he was in no immediate danger; Warwick, with his
forces, retired southward again, and the gentle King remained in his
rocky stronghold, and enjoyed there nine months of unwonted peace.
Shortly after this, the Duke of Somerset deserted the cause of York for
that of Lancaster, and became the leader of the Queen's forces. In
April, 1464, he and Sir Ralph Percy opposed, at Hedgeley Moor, the
troops of Lord Montague journeying northward to escort the Scottish
delegates who were coming to York to make terms with Edward of York. Sir
Ralph Percy was slain, exclaiming as he fell "I have saved the bird in
my bosom"--that enigmatic sentence which has given rise to so much
conjecture, but which is generally held to mean that he had saved his
honour, by dying at last, after so many changes of front, in the service
of that King and Queen to whom he originally owed allegiance. "Percy's
Cross," marking the site of his death, may be seen by the side of the
railway near Hedgeley Station, on the Alnwick and Wooler line.
The rest of the force dispersed, and made their way to Hexham; and Lord
Montague marching upon them from Newcastle, a sharp engagement took
place on the Levels, near the Linnels Bridge, with the result, as we
have seen, of the defeat and death of Somerset, and the overthrow of
Queen Margaret's hopes in the north, where she had had a strong
The historical interest centred on Dilston Castle brings us to much
later times, and enshrines a story which possesses a pathetic interest
beyond that of any other place in Northumberland. Originally the home of
the family of D'Eivill, later Dyvelstone (which explains the name
"Devil's Water") Dilston Castle came into the possession of the
Radcliffes by marriage, and in the days of the Commonwealth the
Radcliffe of the day forfeited his estates on account of his loyalty to
the house of Stuart. Charles II. restored them, and the close attachment
between the houses of Stuart and Radcliffe continued until the fortunes
of both were quenched in disaster and gloom. The figure of the young
and gallant James Radcliffe, last Earl of Derwentwater, holds the
imagination no less than the heart as it moves across the page of
history for a brief space to its tragic end. Though born in London, in
June 1689, young Radcliffe passed his childhood and youth in France in
the closest companionship with James Stuart, son of the exiled James II.
At the age of twenty-one he returned to his home in Northumbria, and
took up his residence there, his charming manners, kind heart, and
openhanded hospitality speedily endearing him to all classes. His
servants and tenants, in particular, were passionately devoted to him.
In the words of the old ballad of "Derwentwater"--
"O, Derwentwater's a bonnie lord,
And golden is his hair,
And glintin' is his hawkin' e'e
Wi' kind love dwelling there."
On his marriage in 1712, the young bride and bridegroom remained for two
years at the home of the bride's father, and preparations were made for
restoring the glories of Dilston on an extensive scale. On
Derwentwater's return to his beautiful Northumbrian seat in 1714, the
death of Queen Anne had excited the hopes of all the friends of the
house of Stuart, and plots and secret meetings were being planned
throughout Scotland and the north of England, the objective being the
restoration of the exiled Stuarts to the throne. Derwentwater took
little part in these attempts to organise rebellion for some time, but
at length was drawn into the dangerous game, as he was too valuable an
asset to be passed over by the Jacobite party.
At last rumours of the projected rising reached London, and a warrant
was issued for the arrest of Derwentwater, even before it was known