Coquetdale Ward - East Division

Alnwick Parish

  ALNWICK parish is situated partly in the eastern division of Coquetdale Ward, and partly in the southern division of Bambrough Ward. It is bounded on the north and west by the parishes of Eglingham and Edlingham, on the south and east by Lesbury and Shilbottle parishes, and comprises the townships of Alnwick, Alnwick South Side, Abbey Lands, Canongate, Denwick, and Hulne Park, whose united area is 16,250 acres. The population in 1801, was 4,719; in 1811, 5,426; in 1821, 5,926; in 1831, 6,788; in 1841, 6,626; and in 1851, 7,319 souls. The soil varies very much, a great part of it being moorland, a considerable portion, however, consists of highly ornamented pleasure grounds. The mineral productions of the parish are coal, freestone, limestone, whinstone, and marble. We are indebted to George Tate, Esq., F.G.S., for the following article on the geology of this parish.

GEOLOGY. - The mountains of Scotland are known to be much older than the Alps, and the whole island has probably a much less elevation now than belonged to its early age. Many of the rivers on the east coast of England, such as the Aln, the Coquet, the Tyne, the Wear, and others, have no flat alluvial estuary, but flow betwixt steep and abrupt banks down to the ocean. They are like fragmental or upper branches of large rivers. The east coast is a wasting shore generally, and the action of the sea, with a long and continued subsidence of the land, may have gradually wasted and submerged a large area of the country which existed previous to any written records of history, and far beyond the reach of tradition. The ruins of a submerged forest have recently been washed bare by the waves on the shore, near to Howick, and traces of this character exist on many other portions of the shores of England; betwixt the Mersey and the Dee, on the west, such remains are found. At Alemouth, properly Alnemouth, in the parish of Lesbury, the old burial ground has been washed away by the sea; and with bones of men are found those of horses, supposed to have been slaughtered in border skirmishes.

The relative positions of the boulder formation, the carboniferous limestone, and the basaltic dikes or outbursts, are exemplified in a most interesting manner at Ratcheugh, about three miles from Alnwick. The basalt may there be seen interstratified with the limestone, having broken through the lower sedimentary beds: in one part it is intercalated betwixt them; in another part it covers them. The metamorphic action of the basalt is very marked; the limestone beds in contact with it have been changed into crystalline marble, and the shell into porcellanous jasper. At Hawkhill, the estate of Earl Grey, a portion of the under-beds of the carboniferous limestone has recently been bared, for the purpose of obtaining the rock: the surface is found to be polished and scored with parallel groves, running north and south, exactly resembling the polished and striated surfaces observed in Switzerland, on the flats and bottoms of the valleys occupied by glaciers. Volcanic rocks of basalt, greenstone, trachyte, porphyry, &c., are found in all parts of the earth's crust. They have ruptured every formation; and, where in contact, they have changed the character of all kinds of rocks. Chalk has been converted into granular marble, and coal into coke. They may be seen in narrow dikes, leagues in length, and sometimes in huge shapeless masses. The dikes have penetrated the divided strata from unknown depths, evidently in a fluid or semi-fluid state, as thin horizontal sheets are found intercalated between the regular beds, or overlying them; and in the vicinity of the larger masses the rocks are broken, contorted, and thrown back into confusion. The county of Northumberland is traversed by several large dikes, and numerous smaller ones. These trappan rocks are by geologists considered to have had their origin in active volcanoes.

The polished surfaces and striated markings are also common over vast areas of the earth's surface, as are also blocks of stone, termed "erratic" some of which are a few inches, others several yards in diameter. They are strewed by thousands over Great Britain, and by myriads over the sandy countries of the north of Germany, in the valleys of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Russia, and North America. Many of them have one side flat, polished, and grooved in the same manner as the surface of the rocks forming the regular strata. Icebergs, holding these stones imbedded, and being driven by the ocean-currents and wind over shoals where their surfaces would be rubbed and ground against the strata, would produce the appearances seen; and glaciers are known to carry along with them fragments of rock of all sizes, which are rubbed and ground as the whole mass of ice descends. The geological phenomena observed near Alnwick are common to many countries on either side the intermediate equatorial and warmer regions- over vast areas of the globe. They speak of a cold climate, and of change.

The town of Alnwick stands on the south bank of the Aln, at a considerable elevation above the bed of the river, on the boulder formation, or "northern drift," which in several parts of the county overlies the carboniferous formation. The northern drift consists of many beds of sand, gravel, erratic boulders, and clay, irregularly interstratified with each other; it is of variable thickness. The following section, taken when water was bored for on the north-west outskirts of the town, will show the general character and succession of the formation:—

  Ft. In.
Gravel 7 0
Sharp sand 3 6
Gravel 3 6
Gravel and erratic boulders 4 0
Tough red clay in which boulders are generally imbedded 5 0
Sharp sand with water 9 0
Below these were beds belonging to the carboniferous series, viz:—
Grey clay or shale
23 6
Slaty sandstone 13 0
Grey metal 0 6
Sandstones and shale 17 0
Total depth. 86 0

On the south-west part of the town the subsoil is very damp, being sand, saturated with water, resting on clay. Some of the buildings in this district, as for example the Scientific Institute, stand on piles driven into the sand. The river Aln, in portions of its upper channel, flows over sandstone beds; but opposite to the town, and for the most part of its course onward to the sea, it runs through portions of the northern drift, and passes over a sandy mud, and in some parts a gravelly channel. The mountain-limestone formation extends over the parish and neighbourhood of Alnwick; it consists of limestones, calcareous shales, sandstones, coal, and carbonaceous shales, with ironstone nodules interstratified. The limestone and calcareous shales contain remains of corals, crinoids, mollusks, and fish, characteristic of the lower beds of the mountain limestone.

The sandstones and carbonaceous shales yield remains of plants identical with those found in the Newcastle coalfield, such as Stigmaria ficoides, and some species of calamites, lepidodendron, and sigillaria. The Northumberland mountain-limestone is of the same age, and presents similar characteristics, as that which is found in Fifeshire. This formation also extends over a wide area in Russia. The limestones worked in this parish produce lime of the best quality, and excellent sandstones for building purposes are abundant and accessible. The coal obtained in the neighbourhood is not well adapted for domestic use. The inclination of the mountain limestone strata in the county is varied, the angle depending chiefly on their relation to the porphyry of the Cheviot, from which they generally dip, yet modified, especially in the eastern part of the county, by basaltic dikes and outbursts, in the neighbourhood of which the beds are broken and contorted. Basaltic rocks overlying portions of the strata are found to the south-west of Alnwick. The rocks in Alnwick parish generally dip south-east.

Proceeding from the sea coast, in a line north-west, the strata rise towards Alnwick, and the relation of the beds in Alnwick parish to the contiguous formations may be distinctly seen. At Radcliff the coal measures, which are a continuation of the Newcastle coalfield, will be passed over. At Warkworth the millstone-grit will be found rising from beneath the coalfield. At Newton-on-the-Moor and Shilbottle, where one of the best seams of coal in the country is worked, the uppermost beds of the mountain-limestone rise up from below the millstone grit, and from beneath these again the Alnwick Moor limestones crop out. The chief beds of limestone in Alnwick parish appear in the elevated grounds at Hobberlaw and Alnwick Moor; but the hills to the north of Alnwick, and the highest hills on the moor, which are 800 feet above sea-level, are formed of masses of gritty sandstone. On the shore near Howick the limestone beds may be seen bent in curved lines, and the characteristic fossils of the formation may be obtained in abundance. On the declivity of the highest hills in Alnwick Moor, there are several springs of water, which, coming out of the sand-stone rocks, are remarkably bright. Along the acclivity of the hill ranging from Clayport Bank to Rugley, are several powerful springs, probably containing some portion of carbonate of lime, as the limestone beds are near to them. Some other springs in the neighbourhood of Alnwick are strongly impregnated, with iron.


ALNWICK, the county town of Northumberland1, is situated on a declivity near the banks of the Aln, about thirty-three miles north by west of Newcastle, and 306 north by west of London. The population in 1851 amounted to 6,231 souls, of which 2,882 were males, and 3,348 females. The town is well built, the houses are modern, and in general constructed of freestone, many of them are of considerable elegance. Four bridges cross the Aln in the neighbourhood of the town, one of which, situated at the northern extremity, is a fine stone structure of three arches. The streets are well paved, spacious, and lighted with gas. Alnwick had formerly four gates, defended by massive towers, of which Bondgate is the only one remaining, and is at present used as a prison. There is a spacious Market Place and Town Hall, in which the courts for the county are held, and the members of parliament for the northern division of the county are elected. The most important building is the Castle, to which we shall devote a separate article.

History is silent with regard to the foundation and rise of the town of Alnwick, though it is the opinion of antiquarians that it owes its origin to the Romans, but it is certain that it was inhabited during the Saxon period of our history, and that Gilbert Tyson, one of the most powerful of the Northumbrian chiefs, was the proprietor of the castle at the time of the Norman Conquest. Few remains of antiquity are found in the neighbourhood, and hence it has been inferred, that the various armies, which at different periods invaded the country, did not remain in this place for any length of time. In the reign of Rufus, the town was besieged by Malcolm III of Scotland, who was killed along with his son before its walls. It was captured by David of Scotland in the year 1135, but was restored to the English crown by treaty in the following year. Alnwick appears to have been very inauspicious to the Scottish kings, for William the Lion was taken prisoner here, while besieging the castle in 1174. It is related that William, attended by sixty followers, was engaged in tilting at a short distance to the west of the Castle, when he was suddenly attacked by a party of horsemen, who had advanced from Newcastle to the relief of the place. At their first appearance, he mistook them for a party of his own men, but on seeing their banner, he struck his shield with his lance, and rode forward to encounter them, exclaiming, "Now let us prove who is the truest knight." His horse was killed at the first shock, and he himself thrown to the ground and made prisoner. About a quarter of a mile from the Castle, to the left of the road going to Hulne Park, there is a stone set up near the spot where tradition says the king was captured. The Scottish monarch was subsequently ransomed for the sum of £100,000. Alexander, the son of William the Lion, came to Alnwick in 1210, to render homage to king John, and five years afterwards the barons of the north had resource to the same Alexander for protection against the tyranny of the English monarch, and in order to obtain it did homage to Alexander at Felton. This proceeding so incensed John, that he marched northward in the depth of winter, and caused Alnwick and several other towns to be laid in ashes. It was again destroyed by fire in the year 1448, by the Scots under the command of James Douglas, Lord of Balveny. In the reign of Edward IV, the English army commanded by the Dukes of Albany and Gloucester, was marshalled at Alnwick, previous to an invasion of Scotland; and in the reign of Henry VIII, 1543, a few days previous to the memorable battle of Flodden, wherein James IV of Scotland lost his life, an army of 26,000 men was detained at Alnwick for some time, in consequence of the heavy rains which rendered the roads impassable.

The renowned house of Percy, which may number among its ensigns those of the royal lines of England and Scotland, of Normandy and Brittany, of France, Castile, and Leon, had its origin in Denmark, being descended from Mainfred, a Danish noble, who united with Rollo in the subjugation of Normandy, in 912, and adopted the name of De Percy from his acquired possessions in that province. Sixth in descent from him was William de Percy, who came over with the Conqueror and married Emma, daughter of Cospatric, the Saxon Earl of Northumberland, whose estates had been seized and conferred upon the Percy, for the war their owner levied against the Normans. Sir Henry Percy, the renowned "Hotspur," was eldest son of Henry, fourth Baron of Alnwick, and first Earl of Northumberland, and was father of the second earl. The sixth earl was persecuted by Henry VIII for his early attachment to Anne Boleyn, and died without issue, when the honours were conferred upon his nephew, Thomas, by Queen Mary. This Thomas, Earl of Northumberland, was one of the Wardens General of the Marches, and defeated the Scotch in two engagements, near Cheviot and Swinton, in 1557, and the following year. He was one of the lords who protested against the validity of Anglican ordinations, and in concert with the Earl of Westmoreland, headed an insurrection in the north which had for its object the restoration of the old religion. The undertaking, however, failed, and the Earl of Northumberland was beheaded at York. He was succeeded by his brother Henry, who had remained, during the insurrection, a firm, adherent of Elizabeth. He was summoned to the parliament held in 1576, by the title of Earl of Northumberland and Baron Percy, but being suspected of plotting to place Mary, Queen of Scots, upon the English throne, he was committed to the Tower, where he was found dead in his bed, on the 21st June, 1585. Henry, his eldest son, the ninth Earl, succeeded him, and was one of those volunteer lords who hired vessels to accompany Charles Howard, Lord High Admiral of England, against the Spanish Armada, but, on a bare suspicion of being implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, he was severely fined and imprisoned. He was afterwards arraigned before the Star Chamber, by whose sentence he was fined three hundred thousand pounds, rendered incapable of holding office, and sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. In the Tower he devoted himself to literary and scientific pursuits, pensioned several learned men, and was accustomed to have so many mathematicians and scientific men at his table, that he was surnamed "Henry the Wizard." His liberal patronage of science has won for him a prouder title, that of the Mœcenas2 of his age. Having paid the enormous fine imposed upon him, he regained his liberty in 1621, and died at his seat at Petworth, in 1632, leaving six children, the two eldest of whom dying without issue, he was succeeded by his third son, Algernon, who became the tenth Earl of Northumberland. This Algernon was about thirty years of age when the titles and estates of his ancestors devolved upon him. He acted under several commissions from the parliament, during the civil wars, and made every effort to save the life of the king. He subsequently took an active part in the restoration of Charles II, and dying at Petworth, in 1668, was succeeded by his only son Josceline, who was afterwards Lord Lieutenant of the Counties of Northumberland and Sussex. He died in 1670, leaving an only child, the Lady Elizabeth Percy, heiress, with his large possessions, to the baronies only, the other honours becoming extinct. She married, thirdly, (having been twice a widow and thrice a wife before she was sixteen years of age), Charles Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who assumed her name, and their son, Algernon Seymour, Earl of Hertford and Egremont, and eighth Duke of Somerset, succeeded his father as Baron Percy, and was created Earl of Northumberland, with remainder to the husband of his only child, the Lady Elizabeth, who married Sir Hugh Smithson, Bart., of Stamoick, in the County of York. This lady succeeded as Baroness Percy, and Sir Hugh as Earl of Northumberland, and Baron Warkworth. He assumed the name of Percy, and was created Baron Louvaine, of Alnwick, Earl Percy, and Duke of Northumberland, which dignities he enjoyed till his death, in 1786, when they were inherited by his eldest son, who dying in 1817, in the 75th year of his age, was succeeded by his eldest son, Hugh Percy, third Duke of Northumberland, upon whose demise, in 1847, the estates and honours of this ancient house were inherited by his brother, Algernon Percy, the present Duke of Northumberland, Earl of Northumberland, Earl Percy, Baron Percy, Baron Lucy, Baron Fitzpayne, Poynings, Bryan, Latimer, Warkworth, and Prudhoe. His grace is a Knight of the Garter, and was First Lord of the Admiralty in the Earl of Derby's Cabinet. The Duke is also a retired rear-admiral in the royal navy, constable of Launceston Castle, president of the Royal Institution, a privy councillor, D.C.L., and F.R.S.

ALNWICK CASTLE, one of the principal seats of the noble family of Percy, is situated on the south side of the River Aln, on an elevation which gives great dignity to its appearance, and in ancient times rendered it almost an impregnable fortress. It is believed to have been founded in the time of the Romans, although no part of the original structure is now remaining. The zig-zag fret-work round the arch that leads into the inner court, is evidently of Saxon architecture, and yet it is suggested by Grose that this was probably not the most ancient entrance; for under the flag tower, before that part of the castle was rebuilt, was the appearance of a gateway, that had been walled up, directly fronting the present exterior gate-house towards the town. This castle appears to have been a place of great strength immediately after the Conquest, but from length of time and the various shocks which it had sustained in ancient times, it had become almost a ruin, when by the death of Algernon, Duke of Northumberland, it devolved, as has been seen, together with all the estates of this great barony, to the family of its present illustrious possessors, "who immediately," says Grose, "set to repair the same, and with the most consummate taste and judgment, restored and embellished it as much as possible, in the true Gothic style; so that it may deservedly be considered as one of the noblest and most magnificent models of a great baronial castle."

Alnwick castle contains about five acres within its walls, which are flanked with sixteen towers and turrets, affording a complete set of offices suitable to its magnitude and dignity. Like other ancient fortresses in the north, that of Alnwick has large stone figures of armed men, placed at regular intervals on the parapet of the battlements. "Nothing can be more striking than the effect at first entrance within its walls, from the town, when through a dark gloomy gateway of considerable length and depth, the eye suddenly emerges into one of the most splendid scenes that can be imagined, and is presented at once with the great body of the inner castle, surrounded with fair semicircular towers, finely swelling to the eye, and gaily adorned with pinnacles, figures, battlements, &c. The impression is still further heightened by the successive entrance into the second and third courts through great massy towers, till the stranger reaches the inner court, in the very centre of this splendid pile." From this court the entrance to the castle is by a staircase of singular form, the roof of which is ornamented with a series of one hundred and twenty shields of arms, as borne by the different alliances of the Percy family. The first room, forty-two feet in length by eighty-nine in breadth, is hung with portraits of the successive Earls of Northumberland. The drawing-room is forty-seven feet long by thirty-six broad, and contains a splendid oriel window. The dining-room is fifty-four feet long, twenty-one feet wide, and twenty-seven feet high. The chapel fills all the space of the middle ward, and its architectural features are derived from ancient and approved models; its great east window is copied from one of the finest in York Minster, the groining of the roof from that of King's College Chapel Cambridge, and the walls are said to be painted in the manner of the celebrated cathedral of Milan, and present the genealogical table of the house of Northumberland. The library is a very fine room suitably furnished and elegantly ornamented. In the upper apartment of the Constable's Tower there are 1,500 stand of arms, which are arranged in beautiful order, and were used by the Percy tenantry, during the time that England was menaced with a French invasion.

ALNWICK ABBEY. - This was formerly an abbey of Premonstratensian Canons, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. James. It was founded in the year 1147, by Eustace Fitz John, who, by his marriage with Beatrice, the daughter and heiress of Ivo de Vesci became Lord of the barony of Alnwick. From the charter of foundation addressed to William de Sancta Barbara, Bishop of Durham, it appears that the above named Eustace Fitz John amply endowed it out of his baronial possessions, annexing to it the village of Hincliff, with its demesnes, wastes, and the service of half the tenants; two parts of the tithes of the lordships of Tuggall, Alnham, Heysend, and Chatton; one moiety of the tithes and two bovates of land at Gyson, the church of Haugh, the lands of Ridley and Morewick Haugh, together with the liberty of erecting a corn mill on the river Coquet, and of raising as much corn on the wastes there, as the convent could plough, with the liberty to grind at the "punders mill, mulcture free." He also granted the canons, for their table, a tithe of all the venison and pork killed in his parks and forests, and of all fish taken in his fishery by his order, and a salt work at Warkworth. In addition to the extensive endowments just mentioned, William de Vesci, the son of Eustace, "for the health of his soul and that of his father Eustace and his mother Beatrice, and of his ancestors," granted three charters, by which he gave to God and the church of the Holy Mary of Alnwick, and to the canons of the Premonstratensian order there serving God, the church of Chatton with every thing pertaining thereunto, the church of Chillingham, and the church of Alnham in free and perpetual alms. The canons also held the advowsons and appropriations of St. Dunstan's, in Fleet-street, London, and of Sakenfield, in Yorkshire; also lands at Chatton and Falloden, and four tenements and a garden in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From the chronicles of this abbey, which are preserved in the library of King's College, Cambridge, it appears that several of the Percies were interred here. The abbots of this house were summoned to the several parliaments held during the reigns of Edward I and Edward II. At the Dissolution, the annual revenues of this abbey were estimated at £189 15s. 0d. by Dugdale, and £194 7s. 0d. by Speed, there being then thirteen canons. The site was granted, in the fourth year of the reign of Edward VI to Ralph Sadler, and Lawrence Winnington, but it was afterwards sold, with its demesnes, to Sir Francis Brandling, Knt., and came subsequently into the possession of the Doubleday family, from whom it passed to the Hewitsons who sold the portion containing the abbey to the Duke of Northumberland. Of the abbey buildings, the gateway tower alone remains, which, from the style of its architecture, and the armorial bearings with which it is adorned, appears to be of more modern date than the foundation of the house. The tower is of an oblong form, and possesses on each corner, an exploratory turret, while other portions of the building, which are in excellent preservation, show that it has been built as a defence to the conventual structure which it adjoined.


the parish church of Alnwick is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael the Archangel. It is an ancient structure, situated to the northwest of the town, at the end of Bailiffgate. The date of its erection cannot be ascertained, though from the architecture of the arches, and from the arms of the Vesci family being on different parts, and the arms of Percy on one of the caps of the pillars, it is supposed to have been built about the year 1300. It contains few monuments of any importance. On repairing the north aisle in 1816, two statues were found, one of them represents a person with his hands and feet bound, and his body transfixed with arrows; this is supposed to be a statue of St. Sebastian. The other is apparently the figure of a king, having a crown on his head, a ball and sceptre in his hands, and a purse at his girdle. It is not known what personage this is intended to represent. In the chancel is the recumbent figure of a female, who appears to have belonged to some religious order. The surcoat, helmet and gloves, with the funeral achievements, of the Dukes of Northumberland hang against the wall. This church has been frequently repaired, but much of its original character still remains. There was formerly a chantry in this church, dedicated to our Lady, which was founded by Henry, Earl of Northumberland, in the reign of Henry VI. Its revenues were augmented, from time to time, by grants from pious individuals, and seems to have risen rapidly, as it only existed for 100 years. At the Dissolution it possessed forty-four burgages in various parts of the town of Alnwick, containing in all eleven acres. As the forty-four burgages only produced a rental of £12 13s. 4d. in 1547, they must have been chiefly small cottages, and small properties, which, after the suppression of the religious houses, were granted to several individuals. The living is a perpetual curacy in the archdeaconry of Lindisfarne and deanery of Alnwick, rated in the Liber Regis at £15; and in the parliamentary returns at £106. The endowments are £800 private benefactions, £200 royal bounty, and £2,100 parliamentary grant; gross income, £175. Patron, the Duke of Northumberland. Incumbent, the Rev. Court Granville, M.A.; curate, Rev. Henry Miles, B.A.

st. paul's church, situated in the Green Bat, is a neat structure in the early English style of architecture, erected in 1847. Rev. Charles Charlton, M.A., incumbent.

st. mary's catholic church is situated in Bailiffgate. It is a neat edifice, and has long been served by priests of the Society of Jesus. Rev. Sidney Woollett, S.J., priest.

chapels. - the bethel chapel, in Chapel-street, belongs to the Methodist New Connexion, and has a small library attached to it. The independent chapel, situated in St. Michael's-lane, was erected in 1816, but the congregation has existed since 1731. the presbyterian meeting house, in Pottergate, was rebuilt in 1780, by a congregation which had existed from a period anterior to the Revolution of 1688. Rev. John Walker, minister. the unitarians have a small chapel in Correction House Yard, in which they have assembled since 1817. There is also the united presbyterian chapel, Clayport-street, the Rev. William Leamont, minister; the united presbyterian chapel, Lisburn-street, Rev. William Donaldson, minister; and the wesleyan methodist chapel, Old Chapel-lane, Rev. James Dunbar, minister.

schools.—the borough schools are situated in Dispensary-street, and were established for the education of the freemen's children of the borough. The Grammar School, which forms a portion of this establishment, is endowed principally from the corn-tolls, granted in 1649, by Algernon, Earl of Northumberland. This income, which has considerably decreased of late years, is augmented by a voluntary gift from the corporation, and all sons of freemen who apply are taught classics free. The master is also allowed to take pay scholars. George Meaby, B.A., head master. st. mary's catholic school is situated in Howick-street, James Cronin and Rosetta Palmer, teachers. the british school is in Bondgate, John Elleathrope, teacher. alnwick national schools are situated in Pottergate, Robert W. Irving and Margaret Irving, teachers. the duke's school, in the Green Bat, was erected and founded for 200 poor boys, by the Duke of Northumberland in 1810, and the duchess' school in Canongate, was instituted by the Duchess of Northumberland, for clothing and educating 60 poor girls. Besides these there are several private and Sunday Schools, which are numerously attended.

the town hall is situated on the west side of the Market-place in the centre of the town. It was erected in 1731, and contains a large hall with two rooms adjoining, and is used for holding the quarter sessions, the manor and county courts, and the meetings of the common council and the several companies of freemen. In this hall the members of parliament for the county are elected, and other public business is transacted.

the correction house and justices' room is situated in the vicinity of the Market-place. It was erected in 1807, and contains workrooms, cells, and other necessary apartments, with two separate yards for the prisoners. There is also a large room, in which the justices of the peace meet regularly once a fortnight to transact business. John Nichol, keeper, Isabella Nichol, matron.

the dispensary, established in 1815, is in Dispensary-street, and is under the management of two physicians, two surgeons, and an apothecary, whose offices occupy the ground floor. The upper story contains two wards, one for each sex, and a fever-ward, with an apartment for the matron, and chambers for the nurses. Upwards of 400 patients receive medical and surgical assistance at this institution annually. Every subscriber of one guinea or upwards per annum, is considered a governor, with the privilege of voting in all the transactions of the charity, and may have one patient constantly on the books. Edward Smiles, house surgeon.

the gas works are in Canongate, and were established in 1825, for the manufacture of oil-gas, but were converted into coal-gas works in 1830. The quantity of gas made in the year is estimated at 1,802,402 feet, for which the charge to the public is eight shillings per 1,000 cubic feet. On the first establishment of the company the price was twenty shillings per 1,000 feet.

the post office is situated in Fenkle-street. George Tate, Esq., F.G.S., postmaster. The registrar's and guardians' offices are in the Marketplace. A savings' bank was established here in 1816, and is situated in St. Michael's-lane. the stamp office is in Bailiffgate, Henry Alder, distributor.

the alnwick scientific and mechanical institution was established in 1824, and, since that period, it has continued to receive that attention and support from the learned and wealthy, which it so justly merits. It possesses a good library, and the other conveniences of a successful institution. Patron, the Duke of Northumberland; president, Earl Grey; secretaries, George Tate, Esq., F.G.S., and Mr. Thomas Buddle.

the alnwick poor law union comprehends seventy-one parishes and townships, embracing an area of 98,935 statute acres, and its population in 1851 was 21,122 souls. The parishes and townships are, Abberwick, Abbey Lands, Acklington, Acklington Park, Acton and Old Felton, Alnmouth, Alnwick, Alnwick South Side, Amble, Bassington, Beanley, Bilton, Birling, Bolton, Boulmer and Seaton House, Broome Park, Brotherwick, Broxfield, Brunton, Buston High, Buston Low, Canongate, Charlton North, Charlton South, Craster, Crawley, Denwick, Ditchburn, Doxford, Dunston, Edlingham, Eglingham, Elyhaugh, Embleton, Fallodon, Felton, Glanton, Gloster Hill, Greens and Glantlees, Guyzance, Harehope, Hauxley, Hawkhill, Hazon and Hartlaw, Hedgeley, Howick, Hulne Park, Learchild, Lemmington, Lesbury, Little Houghton, Long Houghton, Morwick, Newton-by-the-sea, Newton-on-the-Moor, Rennington, Rock, Shawdon, Shieldykes, Shilbottle, Shipley, Stamford, Sturton Grange, Swarland, Titlington, Togstone, Walkmill, Warkworth, Whittle, Wooden, and Woodhouse.

the union workhouse is situated in Bondgate Without. The Board of Guardians meet on the second and last Saturday of each month, Wm. Dickson, Esq., chairman. Rev. Court Granville, chaplain; John Davidson, surgeon; John Johnson, master; Ann Johnson, matron; Henry and Elizabeth Masters, teachers; and George Nicholson, porter.

brislee tower occupies an elevated situation about two miles to the northwest of the castle, and commands a most extensive view of the surrounding country. The design of the tower is very elegant, and it is finished in the highest style of masonry. Above the entrance, on the first balcony is the following inscription:-MDCCLXXXI. H. DVX. northumbrie fecit. A little above the balcony, under a medallion of the duke, is inscribed the following: - circumspice. ego omnia ista sum dimensus; mei sunt ordines, mea descriptio, multa etiam istarum arbobum mea manu sunt satĘ. Which may be rendered. "Look around you. I have measured out all these things; they are my orders, it is my planning, many of these trees have even been planted by my hand,"

A circular internal staircase leads to the summit, which is sixty-six feet high, and is surrounded with a balcony, and above all, a curious iron grate finishes this column whose total height is ninety feet. The uppermost balcony commands an extensive and varied prospect. To the west lies the fertile vale of Whittingham, to the north-west the hills of Cheviot, to the east are fine green vales, in the midst of which the town of Alnwick, overlooked by the castle, has a most picturesque appearance, and to the south the ruins of the ancient castle of Dunstanbrough, the towering remains of Warkworth Castle, and the high land in the county of Durham, terminate the prospect.

the percy tenantry column is situated on a beautiful knoll adjoining the road on the southern entrance to the town. It stands upon a base upwards of ninety feet in circumference, built with a species of rose coloured granite. This basement is ascended by steps in four divisions, separated by huge plinths, on which are placed colossal lions raised on bases of polished black marble. From this basement another elevation rises, which finishes with a gallery, having its angles ornamented by Etruscan plasters, and the sides formed into square panels, that facing the east contains the following inscription:- To hugh, duke of northumberland, K.G. this column is erected, dedicated, and inscribed, by a grateful and united tenantry, anno domini MDCCCXVI.

In each of the four panels of the parapet of the gallery is engraved the armorial motto of the Percy family:- esperance en dieu. Out of this gallery the column rises, resting on a squared plinth. The capital of the column forms a light veranda, secured by an elegant iron palisade, and from this veranda a circular pedestal arises, supporting a lion passant, the crest of the house of Percy.

borough of alnwick. - Alnwick claims to be a borough by prescription. The archives do not contain any royal incorporating charter, but an established corporation is recognised by a charter of 42, Henry III. The officers of the corporation are four chamberlains, twenty-four common councilmen, and chamberlain's clerk. The corporate name is "The Chamberlain's Common Council, and Freemen of the Borough of Alnwick." They exercise no jurisdiction over the affairs of the town, but they are possessed of some property in land and houses, out of the income of which they support a school for their own children, and they maintain several public pants [sic], and two public clocks. The freemen originally consisted of several guilds, or companies, at present reduced to ten, viz.:- the cordwainers, the skinners and glovers, the merchants, the tanners, the weavers, the blacksmiths, the butchers, the joiners, the tailors, and the coopers. Each company is governed by an alderman, wardens, and stewards, who are appointed annually, and has peculiar bye-laws and orders for its own regulation. The freemen of Alnwick, on their admission to their rights on St. Mark's day, have to pass through a pool on the moor, the water of which is purposely made filthy and muddy; hidden stakes, pitfalls, and obstructions are also placed in the water, and through this foul pool, so prepared, laughed at, pelted, and hooted by his townsmen, each young freeman is required to pass before he can take up his freedom. After this agreeable bath he has to ride the bounds of the moor on horseback, over about twelve miles of most dangerous road, which is attempted at a racing pace for the honour of precedence given to the person who accomplishes the distance first, and, as some of the young men know little of horsemanship, serious accidents have taken place. Tradition assigns this custom to a capricious mandate of King John, who had been befouled in the filth of Ayden Forest, when hunting. That which was imposed as a penance is now performed as an honour, but it is time that this memento of a weak-minded tyrant should be terminated, and that a more rational mode of taking up their freedom and preserving the boundaries of their property should be adopted by the freemen. The county magistrates hold a monthly court at Alnwick for the east division of Coquetdale ward.

charities. - Mark Forster, by his will, bearing date 20th September, 1726, left a rent charge of £15 per annum; £10 for the education of the children of poor freemen, and widows of freemen of the borough of Alnwick, and the remaining £5 to be distributed amongst the poor of the town and parish of Alnwick. Hugh Potter, in 1669, bequeathed £40 to the town of Alnwick, the interest at the rate of six per cent., to be distributed to the poor on Good Friday. Benjamin Barton, by his will, dated 18th December, 1737, gave £100 to the minister of Alnwick, in trust, that the interest of £50 should be distributed among the common poor of the said town, and the interest of the other £50 paid for the education of " unfreemen's" children of the said town. Mary Taylor, in 1807, gave to the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the parish of Alnwick, £100, clear of all duty, upon trust, to place out the same and distribute the interest yearly at Christmas, among the poor persons residing in the said parish; and Stanton Neale, by his will, proved at Durham, in 1814, gave to the curate and churchwardens of Alnwick, for the time being, an annuity of £10 to be distributed among the poor of the township of Alnwick on Christmas Day.

alnwick south side is a township including the hamlets of Cauledge Park, Greensfield, Grumwells Park, Hobberlaw, Rugley, Shieldykes, and Snipe House. It comprises an area of 4,760 acres, the property of the Duke of Northumberland, who is also lord of the manor, and the number of its inhabitants in 1841, was 297; and in 1851, 278 souls. The various townships in Alnwick parish were included in one return, previous to the year 1841.

abbey lands is a township in this parish, the property of the Duke of Northumberland, and Mrs. Anne Hewitson, of Heckley House. Its area, inclusive of Canongate, is 3,586 acres, and its population in 1841, was 295; in 1851, 345 souls. This township comprises the hamlets of Broomhouse, Heckley, Heckley Farm, Heckley Grange, and Whitehouse. alnwick high house is finely situated on a hill about a mile north of Alnwick, and commands beautiful views of the castle, the town, and the sea. abbey cottage, the residence of Francis Holland, Esq., is delightfully situated on the north bank of the Aln. heckley house occupies a fine situation two miles north of Alnwick.

canongate is an adjoining township to Alnwick, of which town it forms a part. Its area is included with that of Abbey Lands township. Population in 1841, 572; and in 1851, 614 souls.

denwick is a township and village in the above parish, but locally situated in the southern division of Bambrough Ward. It contains 1,550 acres, the property of the Duke of Northumberland, and its population in 1841, was 210; and in 1851, 187 souls. the village of Denwick, is situated one mile east of Alnwick. It is a neat little place, the cottages being similar in construction, and ornamented in the front with palisades.

hulne park is a township in this parish, extending from the north side of the town of Alnwick. Its area is returned with that of Abbey Lands and Canongate townships, and the number of its inhabitants in 1841, was 106; and in 1851, 116 souls. This township includes the hamlets of Hulne Abbey, Friar's Buildings, and Park Farm, and is the property of the Duke of Northumberland. hulne abbey, whose picturesque ruins are situated about three miles from Alnwick, was the parent house of the Carmelite Order in England. It was founded in 1240, by William de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick, and Richard Gray, who having returned from the Crusade, brought with them some members of the community of Mount Carmel, in Syria, and settled them in this place. William de Vesci granted to the monks twelve or thirteen acres of land, upon a portion of which the church and convent were erected. The community afterwards received many grants of property, with various privileges from the Percy family, and the convent continued to be one of the most famous till the period of the Dissolution, at which time its annual value, according to Fuller, was £194 7s. The convent and adjoining grounds were granted to Sir Robert Ellerker, Knight, but we find them afterwards the property of the Earl of Northumberland, upon whose defection they were given to Sir John Forster, but subsequently became again the property of the present proprietor, the Duke of Northumberland. Some portions of the buildings are now fitted up, and inhabited by persons in the employment of his grace; the other portions are planted with trees, which add much to the beauty of the locality.



William Whellan & Co., History of Northumberland, 1855


1. A TV News article today (5th Jan 2008) reported that the title of County Town was in dispute between Alnwick and Morpeth, following the erection of signposts indicating that that honour belonged to Alnwick, and Morpeth claiming it too. This directory entry clearly shows that the crown belongs to Alnwick.

2. Presumably, Męcenas is meant, the Roman patron of the arts.

13 December 2008


Parish Listing

© Steve Bulman