Morpeth Ward - West Division

Morpeth Parish


morpeth is a parish, township, corporate and parliamentary borough, and market town, in the western division of Morpeth Ward, and eastern and western divisions of Castle Ward. The parish comprehends the townships of Buller's Green, Hepscott, Morpeth, Morpeth Castle, Newminster Abbey, Shilvington, Tranwell and High Church, and Twizell, whose united area is 8,177 acres. The population in 1801, was 3,707; in 1811, 4,098; in 1821, 4,292; in 1831, 4,797; in 1841, 4,237; and in 1851, 5,020 souls. The township comprises an area of 537 acres, and its rateable value is 6,530. The number of its inhabitants in 1801, was 2,951; in 1811, 3,244; in 1821, 3,415; in 1831, 3,890; in 1841, 3,441; and in 1851, 4,102 souls.


the town of Morpeth is situated on the Wansbeck, eighteen miles south by east of Alnwick, and 289 miles N.N.W. of London, in an agricultural district, which possesses a rich and cultivated soil, as also valuable timber, coal, and freestone. The Wansbeck flows eastward to the boundary of the municipal borough, which it skirts on the west, south, and east; and then flowing through a succession of narrow, but fertile vales, beautifully adorned with wood, falls into the sea at Camboise, about seven miles east of Morpeth. On the south side of the town the river is crossed by a small bridge, erected in 1831, from a design by Mr. Telford, immediately below a strong but narrow and steep old bridge of two arches, and connecting the castle, jail, &c., with the town. On the west it is crossed by a suspension foot-bridge, leading through the foot of Oldgate. A public promenade is situated a little to the east of the first bridge; it was arranged and laid out at the expense of the Earl of Carlisle and the Corporation. The town chiefly consists of two spacious and well built streets, with a small market-place. The market cross was erected in 1699, at the joint expense of the Hon. Philip Howard and Sir Henry Belasye, Knt. Near the market-place is a square clock tower containing an excellent peal of bells, which, in consequence of the church being at some distance from the town, are used for the ordinary parochial purposes. Morpeth holds no very prominent place in the history of the county, and during the Saxon and Danish period it was of small importance; but, after the Norman Conquest, it emerged from the rank of a village to that of an honour, and was styled "the barony of Morpeth." In 1215 the town was set on fire to prevent King John from resting there in his infamous expedition, and in 1689 it was again destroyed by an accidental conflagration, in which nearly all the buildings were consumed. Morpeth barony was anciently the property of the Merley family, but when this barony was created, or whether the above family possessed it before the Conquest, there is no satisfactory evidence.

We learn from the Testa de Neville that the third Roger de Merley held this barony by the service of four knights' fees. It was formerly very extensive, consisting of the castle and lordship of the town, and the villages of Greenwest, Ulgham, Hepscot, Shilvington, Twizell, Saltwick, the two Duddoes, Clifton, Cladwell, Stannington, Shotton, Blagdon, North and South Wideslad, Killingworth, Great Benton, and Walker. In the year 1199 Roger de Merley obtained a grant of a market for this borough from King John, and also the privilege of an annual fair on the feast of St. Mary Magdalen. His successor ornamented the borough and founded an hospital at Catchburn. The third Roger exempted the burgesses of Morpeth from all taxes, contributions, &c., except those to the King for public safety, and the relief on the marriage of the lord's heir or eldest daughter, or the redemption of the lord from captivity. The accustomed common right, pasturage, and other conveniences, were confirmed to the burgesses by the same charter. In the year 1250, Lord Merley's market at Morpeth injured the neighbouring market at Mitford so much, that Roger de Bertram, Baron of Mitford, brought an action for damages against him in the county court, but the King Henry III, by his precept, addressed to the sheriff, prohibited the prosecution of the suit, stating that it was beyond the sheriff's jurisdiction. The two daughters and co-heiresses of the last Lord Merley having married William, Lord Greystock, and Robert de Sommerville, Morpeth became the property of Lord Greystock, to whom, and to his heirs, Edward I granted, that the annual fair in the borough should be held for three days, viz.: on the "eve, the feast, and the morrow of St. Mary Magdalen." This family becoming extinct in the person of Elizabeth, Baroness Greystock and Wemme, who had married Thomas, Lord Dacre of Gilsand [sic, Gilsland], in the reign of Henry VIII, and George, Lord Dacre, having died under age, the property passed into the possession of his two sisters, Ann and Elizabeth; the former of whom married Philip, Earl of Arundel, eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk, and the latter was espoused by William Howard, of Naworth Castle, Cumberland, the third son of the Duke of Norfolk. Charles, the grandson of William, was, in 1661, created Lord Dacre of Gilsand [sic], Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Earl of Carlisle. He was vice-admiral of the northern counties, lord lieutenant of Cumberland and Westmoreland, governor of Jamaica, privy councillor to Charles II, and ambassador extraordinary to the Czar of Muscovy, and the Kings of Sweden and Denmark. He died in February 1684, and was interred in York Minster. Edward, the second Earl of Carlisle, and Charles, his successor, were members of parliament for Morpeth. Henry, the fourth Earl, married the only daughter of the Earl of Sutherland, and after her death, he was united to Isabella, the daughter of William, Lord Byron. On his decease, the family honours and estates were inherited by his son Frederick, the fifth Earl, who married Caroline, daughter of the first Marquis of Stafford. He was Lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1780, and took an active part in all public affairs. He was succeeded by his son George, upon whose demise in 1848, the title was assumed by George William Frederick Howard, the present Earl of Carlisle, who is lord-lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire, a privy councillor for Great Britain and Ireland, one of the council of the Duchy of Cornwall, and ranger of Dean Forest, His lordship has been successively chief secretary for Ireland, chief commissioner of Woods and Forests, and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. His lordship graduated at Christ's Church, Oxford, and is eminently distinguished for his literary taste.

the parish church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, is a neat plain structure situated on an eminence called Kirkhill, in the township of High Church, south of the town, and is in the style of architecture which prevailed in the middle of the fourteenth century. Too much praise can scarcely be given to the present rector and his coadjutor, who have caused a great portion of the "pew lumber," which encumbered this church, to be removed, and its place supplied by stalls of an appropriate character, one of the galleries has also been removed, and the roof - low and of very objectionable appearance, has been replaced by another of high pitch and excellent design. The whitewash too, has been cleared off the walls and pillars, revealing the excellent and good order of the masonry which had been so long concealed. The parish register commences in 1584. The living is a rectory with the curacy of Ulgham, in the archdeaconry of Lindisfarne and deanery of Morpeth; rated in the Liber Regis at 32 16s.; gross income 1,744. Patron, the Earl of Carlisle; rector, the Hon. and Rev. Francis Richard Grey; curate, Rev. Robert Beatson.

st. james the great's church, Newgate-street, is an excellent and pleasing specimen of the Norman style. It is a cruciform structure, consisting of nave and aisles, transepts, chancel, and a small central tower, and was erected from a design by Ferry, in 1846, at a cost of about 7,000. The eastern window and several others in the church are beautifully stained, imparting that softened light, so much in accordance with the character of the edifice. This church is furnished with low open benches, or seats, containing about 800 free sittings, and is attended by the ministers of the parish church.

st. robert's catholic church, situated in Oldgate, is a splendid structure in the early English style of architecture, erected by subscription, in 1849, at a total cost of 2,300. This edifice consists of nave, chancel, and a beautiful octagonal tower, 119 feet in height, whose "silent finger pointing up to heaven," reminds the passer by, of "another and a better world." The nave is lofty and spacious, being sixty-seven feet in length, by twenty-six in breadth, and is furnished with low open benches, in strict accordance with the character of the building. The chancel, which is twenty feet long by fifteen wide, is separated from the nave by a finely carved screen, surmounted by the "Holy Rood," and figures of the Blessed Virgin and the Beloved Disciple, and over all is the Last Judgment, beautifully painted on the chancel arch by Mr. Gill, of Scarbro'. The windows of the church are all filled with stained glass, from the manufactory of Mr. Wailes, of Newcastle. That in the eastern window, represents the various events in the life of our Blessed Saviour, from the Annunciation to the Ascension, The other windows are filled with the figures of various saints, sacred monograms, &c, The eastern window, and five others in the chancel and vestry, were the gift of Mrs. Mary Boot, of Morpeth. The interior of this church has a very beautiful appearance, the finely stained windows giving in its utmost perfection that dim religious light which was so loved by Milton, and which all people of taste and feeling admire in such edifices. On the south and west of the church adjoining the river Wansbeck, are handsome grounds, in the centre of which is a large cross, with finely carved figures in the style of the 13th century. There is also a Presbytery, with a school and house for the teacher, in the immediate neighbourhood of the church. The Rev. George Austin Lowe, O.S.B., Priest.

the independent chapel, in Union-street, was erected in 1733, and is now under the ministry of the Rev. William Ayre. The Protestant dissenting interest in Morpeth is very old, a dissenting body being established here as early as the reign of Charles II. In 1692, Dr. Harle was minister here, and he was succeeded by the Rev. John Horsley, author of the "Britannia Romana," and one of the most learned antiquarians of his age.

the presbyterian chapel is situated in Collingwood Lane, and the wesleyan methodist chapel in Manchester Lane, The latter was rebuilt in 1823, and will accommodate about 600 persons.

the grammar school is held in the Old Chapel, Chantry Place, which has been recently rebuilt in its original style. It was founded and endowed by letters patent of King Edward VI, but is governed by statutes passed in 1811 and 1818. The government is vested in the bailiffs and burgesses, who have the right of appointing the master and usher, and, under the sanction of the Bishop of Durham, can remove them. The master must have taken the degree of Master, or Bachelor of Arts, and be skilled in the Latin and Greek languages, and produce testimonials as to his conduct and doctrine. The usher must possess similar qualifications as the master, but need not have taken a degree. The course of instruction prescribed, embraces the principles of the Christian religion, the Church catechism, Latin, Greek, and English grammar, the rudiments of Hebrew, and out of school hours, writing and arithmetic, geography, mathematics, and other instruction, the pupils paying for the same. The sons of freemen are taught the English, Latin, and Greek grammars, and classics, Church catechism, and principles of religion free; and other scholars, not sons of freemen, at 1 1s. per quarter, all paying for instruction in other literature. The income at the time of the Charity Commissioners' report amounted to 224 2s. 3d., but by a recent decision of the Vice Chancellor of England, this school has become entitled to lands in the township of Nether Witton of the value of 1,500. T. W. Gibson, master.

the borough school, for girls and infants, is supported by the town council, from the corporate revenues, and by funds administered by the stewards of the common, out of an annual levy from the burgesses for every stint upon the common. The number at present in attendance is 150 girls and 120 infants.

st. james's national school was erected in the same year as the church to which it is attached. There are separate apartments for boys, girls, and infants, and the average attendance is upwards of 300 children The school is in connexion with the Committee of Privy Council on education, and is regularly examined by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools.

the mechanics' institute, market place, is under the patronage of Earl Grey, and at present numbers upwards of 200 members. The News Room is well supplied with the metropolitan and local journals, periodicals, &c., and the library contains upwards of 2,700 volumes, on science, arts, and general literature. President, Sir J. E. Swinburn, Bart.; treasurer, Mr. Thomas Brown; secretaries, Mr. William Creighton and Mr. William Blair; librarian, Mr. William Wilson.

the castle, now in ruins, occupies the summit of a high ridge of land, near the church, on the south side of the river Wansbeck, about half a mile from Morpeth. The ground slopes from it on every side but the west, on which it was defended by a ditch. Its strength seems to have been principally derived from its commanding position, as its works do not appear to have been of a very extensive description. The outward walls enclose about an acre of ground, which is now converted into a garden. The gate tower, almost the only remaining portion of the castle, contains a winding staircase to the top, which is provided with machicollated turrets at the corners. The last event with which the fortress is connected, was its siege and capture during the civil wars.

the town hall is situated on the west side of the Market-place, and was erected in 1714, from a design by Vanburgh, by the Earl of Carlisle. It is an elegant stone edifice with a rustic piazza and turrets, and possesses every convenience for the transaction of municipal business.

the jail, which occupies a site south of the Wansbeck, and on the east side of the great north road, was erected in 1822, from a design by Mr. Dobson, of Newcastle, at a cost of 71,000. It is octangular in form, and consists of outer wall, gateway, sessions house, chapel, house of correction, wards for debtors and felons, and a governor's house. The gateway is an imposing structure, seventy-two feet high, on the second floor of which is the sessions house for county meetings, &c. ninety-two feet by sixty-four. This hall is surrounded by a gallery and possesses sufficient accommodation for 3,500 persons. The ceiling of this, and the other principal rooms, is ribbed and vaulted in accordance with the rest of the building. Sessions were first held here in April, 1831, Robert H. Clough, governor.

the Morpeth poor law union comprehends seventy-two parishes and townships, including an area of 95,429 acres, and a population in 1851, of 18,127 souls. The parishes and townships are Angerton (High), Angerton (Low), Ashington and Sheepwash, Bedlington, Benridge, Bigge's Quarter, Bockenfield, Bothal Demesne, Buller's Green, Bullock's Hall, Cambo, Causey Park, Chevington (East), Chevington (West), Cockle Park, Corridge, Cresswell, Deanham, Earsdon, Earsdon Forest, Edington, Ellington, Eshott, Eenrother, Freeholders' Quarter, Hadstone, Hartburn, Hartburn Grange, Hebron, Hepscott, Highlaws, Highlaws (High and Low), Hurst, Linmouth, Longhirst, Longshaws, Long Witton, Meldon, Middleton (North), Middleton (South), Mitford, Molesdon, Morpeth, Morpeth Castle, Nether Witton, Newbiggin, Newminster Abbey, Newton Park, Newton Underwood, North Seaton, Nunriding, Oldmoor, Pegsworth, Pigdon, Riddell's Quarter, River Green, Spittle Hill, Stanton, Thirston (East and West) with Shothaugh, Thornton (East), Thornton (West), Throphill, Todridge, Tranwell and High Church, Tritlington, Ulgham, Wallington Demesne, Whitridge, Witton Shields, Widdrington, Woodhorn, and Woodhorn Demesne. the union workhouse is situated in Newgate-street, W. Robinson, master;. Magdalen Robinson, matron.

government and franchise. - Previous to the year 1835, Morpeth was governed by a charter granted in the 15th year of the reign of Charles II, in which it is recognised as a borough by prescription, under the corporate style of "The Bailiffs and Burgesses of the Borough of Morpeth, in the county of Northumberland;" which style, together with the ancient liberties and privileges of the borough, the above-mentioned charter confirmed, re-appointing the corporate offices of the two bailiffs, sergeant, two fish and flesh lookers, two ale-tasters and breadweighers, and four constables; the officers to be yearly elected by the steward of the lord of the borough and manor, out of four resident burgesses, selected at a court-leet and baron, by and from amongst two juries of resident burgesses, specially nominated by the bailiffs at their pleasure; the business of the corporation, however, to be transacted in the guilds by all the freemen of the corporation, and the functions of the bailiffs to consist chiefly in receiving and applying the revenues, and acting as returning officers at elections of members of parliament. No civil or criminal jurisdiction was granted, the administration of law and justice being upheld by a court-baron, presided over by the lord's steward twice a year, for the recovery of debts under 2; and by petty-sessions held within the town, for the county, by the county justices once a month. The guilds enjoyed a peculiar constitution. The names of the seven free companies are as follows:— Merchants, Tanners, Fullers and Dyers, Smiths Saddlers and Armourers, Cordwainers, Weavers, and Skinners Glovers and Butchers. It is said that these companies acquired the power of adding other trades to the original ones. The following are the titles of officers annually elected by a majority of free brothers by birth or servitude, constituting each company; one alderman, two proctors, and two stewards. The free burgesses constituting the elements of the corporate body, previous to 1835, were elected by the freebrothers for presentation at the court-leet, for admission, as such, in the following proportions. The Merchants, four; the Tanners, six; the Fullers and Dyers, three; the Smiths, three; the Cordwainers, three; the Weavers, three; and the Butchers, two. Should any of the persons named on this list be under twenty-one years of age, no new list could be presented until such individuals reached majority and were sworn in. The present Municipal Borough of Morpeth, consists of part of the townships of Morpeth and Newminster Abbey, containing respectively in 1851, 4,078 and 18 inhabitants. The parliamentary borough consists of the parish of Bedlington, the townships of Morpeth, Morpeth Castle, Tranwell and High Church, Newminster Abbey, Buller's Green, and Hepscott, and contained in 1851, 10,012 inhabitants. The Right Hon. Sir George Grey is the present representative.

[A section on the Corporation for 1854-5, and Charities omitted.]

worthies. - Thomas Gibson, a native of Morpeth, was famous for his knowledge of divinity, medicine, and botany. He is mentioned by Bale in terms of the highest commendation. Being a zealous partisan of the Reformation, he wrote several works in its favour, and died in London, in the year 1503.

William turner, M.D., a native also of this town, was one of the earliest writers on ornithology and botany in England; he also wrote several pieces on theological subjects, and, like his contemporary Gibson, was a strenuous supporter of the Reformation. Turner was highly esteemed by foreign naturalists, and was a friend and correspondent of the celebrated Conrad Gesner, to whose great work "Historia Animalium," he contributed a brief account of the English fishes. He died in London, in July 1568.

the rev. john horsley, M.A. author of the " Britannia Romana," one of the most learned antiquarians of the age in which he lived, was minister of a Dissenting Chapel here, where he died in 1731.

Mr. Luke clennel, the celebrated painter and wood engraver, though born at Ulgham, was very early in life taken under the protection of his uncle, at Morpeth.

buller's green is a township forming part of the town of Morpeth. It contains 363 acres, and the rateable value is 326. The population in 1801, was 244; in 1811, 276; in 1821, 255; in 1831, 203; in 1841, 169; and in 1851, 237 inhabitants.

hepscott, a township and small village in the above parish, but locally situated in the eastern division of Castle Ward, contains an area of 1,594 acres, and its rateable value is 862 9s. Its population in 1801, was 135; in 1811, 139; in 1821, 164; in 1831, 179; in 1841, 183; and in 1851, 208 souls. the village of Hepscott is situated two miles south-east of Morpeth, on the borders of Bedlingtonshire.

morpeth castle is a township in this parish, and with Catchburn and Parkhouse contains 1,491 acres. The rateable value is 4,301 10s., and the number of inhabitants in 1801, was 137; in 1811, 148; in 1821, 153; in 1831, 189; in 1841, 145; and in 1851, 171 souls. catchburn is a hamlet and estate in this township, situated two miles south of Morpeth, the property of the Earl of Carlisle. There was formerly an hospital here erected under the patronage of Roger, the second Lord Merley. park house is also an estate and hamlet in this township, situated three-quarters of a mile east of Morpeth, on the south side of the Wansbeck. stob hill is a hamlet in this township, three-quarters of a mile south-east of Morpeth.

newminster abbey is a township in Morpeth parish, and obtains its designation from a fine Cistercian Abbey, whose ruins still remain. It contains 717 acres, the property of William Ord, Esq., and its rateable value is 1,628 15s. Population in 1801, 57; in 1811, 73; in 1821, 79; in 1831, 121; in 1841, 107; and in 1851, 125 souls. Newminster Abbey was founded in the year 1138, by Ralph de Merley, and was by him dedicated in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for Cistercian Monks. It was endowed by the founder with a large tract of land and woods that surrounded it on each side of the Wansbeck, and with part of his wife's inheritance at Ritton and Witton. Besides its founder and the succeeding barons of Morpeth, the Abbey roll enumerated many other noble benefactors, as the Bertrams of Mitford, the barons of Bolam and Bolbeck, the great families of Umfraville and Roos, as also those of Widdrington, Conyers, Morwick, Fenwick, Plessis, Cambo, Thornton, &c., by whose means it soon acquired considerable revenues. Grievous depredations were committed upon its property by the army of David, King of Scotland. A deed, by which Louis de Beaumont, Bishop of Durham, appropriated the rectory of Stannington to the monks of Newminster, describes their condition as exceedingly deplorable. The frequent resort to them of the royal army, and of noblemen and others, both from England and Scotland, was represented as exceedingly burdensome. The abbot was summoned to the parliament held at Carlisle, in 1307. At the Dissolution the abbey had fifteen monks, and possessions amounting to the yearly value of 100 8s. 1d. according to Dugdale; and to 140 10s. 4d. according to Speed. King James I granted its site to Robert Brandling, and it is now in the possession of William Ord, Esq. Every vestige of this fine edifice has disappeared with the exception of the entrance gateway, which is now carefully preserved. This township is situated on the north side of the Wansbeck, half a mile west of Morpeth.

shilvington, a township and hamlet in this parish, but locally situated in the western division of Castle Ward, contains 1,497 acres, the property of the Rev. Edward C. Ogle, of Kirkley Hall. Its population in 1801, was 96; in 1811, 114; in 1821, 110; in 1831, 101; in 1841, 92; and in 1851, 63 souls. the hamlet of Shilvington is situated four miles south-west of Morpeth.

tranwell and high church township contains 1,220 acres, and its rateable value is 719 3s. The number of its inhabitants in 1801, was 50; in 1811, 68; in 1821, 78; in 1831, 64; in 1841, 55; and in 1851, 68 souls. the hamlet of High Church is situated half a mile from Morpeth, and contains the parish church, rectory, and a few dwelling houses. the hamlet of Tranwell is two miles south-west of Morpeth.

twizell is a township in Morpeth parish, though locally situated in the western division of Castle Ward. It is about five and three-quarter miles south-west by west of Morpeth, and contains 758 acres, the property of the Rev. E. C. Ogle. Its rateable value is 612. The population in 1801, was 37; in 1811, 36; in 1821, 38; in 1831, 50; in 1841, 45; and in 1851, 46 souls. A small church, or chapel, was erected here in 1845, at the expense of the late Rev. J. S, Ogle, D.D. It is a neat stone edifice, capable of accommodating about 125 persons, and is attended by the curate of Morpeth.



William Whellan & Co., History of Northumberland, 1855



07 April 2013


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