History of NorthumberlandOne of the great things about visiting Northumberland, is its rich and varied history. Here“s a very quick run through of the last 10000 years!
Northumberland in Ancient Times
Northumberland has a rich pre-history- we know that from the rock art that has been discovered, and Britain“s oldest house: a Mesolithic building at Howick, from around 7500 BC. Archaeologists have studied tools, ornaments and cairns from the bronze and iron ages, when Northumberland was inhabited by Celts from continental Europe.
What did the Romans ever do for us? Well....in Northumberland, they were quite busy actually. Gnaeus Julius Agricola was Roman governor of Britain in 78 AD, at a time when most of the north of the British isles was dominated by British tribes. This governor expanded Roman held territory north of York and into Scotland. Roman built villages, garrisons and roads across Northumberland.
The northern border moved north and south between Newcastle and the Firth of Forth. Hadrian finished his wall in about 130 AD, to keep the barbarians to the north of the border and they built another further north called the Antonine Wall, between the firths of the Forth and Clyde. The Picts were a pretty hardy bunch though, and eventually the southerners fell back to Hadrian's Wall.
Famous roman town include Corbridge which was the most northerly settlement in the Roman Empire, Housesteads- a fort on Hadrian's Wall, and Stanegate.
The Celts in Northumberland lived relatively peacefully under the Romans and were a relief for the Romans compared to the more warlike Picts to the north.
When the Roman pulled the plug on Northern Britain, as their mighty empire weakened, the void was filled with many warring groups and resulted in a chaotic period immediately following the retreat.
Next came the Anglo-Saxons which lead to the kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia. Ida and his six sons began the story at Bamburgh in 547, which became the royal seat of the Bernician kings.
Bernicia and Deira joined forces to become Northumbria under Ęthelfrith, who controlled this region between the Humber and the Forth. Nest came a succession of Anglo-Saxon kings: Edwin of Deira became king of Northumbria afterwards and brought Christianity to the kingdom. The came Cadwallon ap Cadfan and Oswald.
Saint Aidan came to Northumberland on the invitiation of Oswald to spread the gospel and chose the island of Lindisfarne as this church and monastery, in 635. The monastery flourished under Saint Cuthbert, but was sacked in 793 by the Vikings.
Northumberland as an Earldom
Northumbria was a victim of the geopolitical events of the time when it was melded into England as an earldom by Athelstan, the first king of all of England. In 937, Athelstan defeated Norse-Celtic force in the battle of Brunanburh to secure control over his northern territory.
Indulf, the Scottish King, captured Edinburgh in 954 and you could say that it was at this time that the beginning of a long history of scraps between English and Scottish kings developed, with Northumberland aften as their battle ground.
Northumberland initially resisted Willima The Conquerer and paid dearly for it.
Later, the Normans rebuilt Lindisfarne, Hexham and Tynemouth; and constructed Norman Castles at Newcastle, Alnwick, Bamburgh, Harbottle, Prudhoe, Warkworth, Chillingham, Dunstanburgh, Morpeth, Langley, Wark and Norham, so you could say that they were responsible for alot of the visible histrory of the region.
As you can imagine, during the reign of Edward I (The Hammer of The Scots), the region saw quite a bit of action.
Border Reivers, War on the Borders
The Scots pushed south and were forced back many times between the Norman Conquest to the union of England and Scotland.
Norham, Alnwick and Wark were all captured by Scotland.
In 1174, William I of Scotland, was captured by a party of knights, led by Ranulf de Glanvill. This was known as the Battle of Alnwick. In 1314 the county was sacked by king Robert Bruce. In 1388, Henry Percy was taken prisoner and 1500 of his men slaughtered at the battle of Otterburn.
In 1513, King James IV of Scotland was kileed in the battle of Flodden Field on Branxton Moor.
Union with Scotland
After uniting England and Scotland, James VI came down hard on the Border Reivers and brought peace to Northumberland for the first time in many years.
Northumberland is famous for the quality of its coal- indeed coal was used by the Romans and the area also benefited from its reserves of lead, silver and iron. And these are the resources that powered Northumberland in the Industrial age, transforming it into a centre of power and shipping industry.
Indeed Britains's Industrial Revolution was driven by coal and and the railways and there was no more important supplier of coal to the kingdom than
Coal mining today in Northumberland is for the most part just a memory, such as at the Woodhorn Colliery Museum, near Ashington. George Stephenson, "the Father of the Railways", was born in Northumberland
in 1781, so the area can lay claim to be a big influence on the transportaion side of things too.
You can visit the cottage where he was born at Wylam.
Northumberland ( incidently this house was also the home of Lord Armstrong: one the UK's greatest
Victorian inventors of the industrial age.
Armstrong“s house at Cragside, near Rothbury was the first in the world to
be lit by hydro-electricity.