Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Today, I thought I would post an item on the county where I live.
Northumberland is one of England's largest counties and borders that peninsular to the North of England, commonly referred to as Scotland.
It is one of the least populated areas of England, with a total population of around 300,000 hardy souls.
Inhabited since pre-historic times, it has experienced a long and often violent history, involving Celts,Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Normans and of course the Scots.
It first appears in recorded history because of the construction of Hadrians Wall, most of which runs through the Southern part of the county. This is a seventy nine mile wall built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, as the Northern most frontier of the Roman Empire.
The soldiers who constructed it, came from what is now Syria and to protect themselves from the Northumbrian winter, they would roll naked in stinging nettles, to numb their bodies from the cold.
Even today, if you visit the sites of Fort Houseteads or Vindolanda, you can experience this bleak terrain, which no doubt was not a Centurians favourite posting.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, this part of the country experienced raiding parties from Scotland and influxes of Anglo-Saxons.
Just off the Northeast coast you will come across Holy Island or Lindisfarne in Old English, which was an early centre of Christianity, it's monks being famous for their learning throughout Europe. Another Christian centre in the county at this time was Hexham Abbey, built in the sixth century.
Both of these sites were destroyed on more than one occasion by Viking raiders, who would rip the illuminated manuscripts apart, that were produced by the monks and take only the silver mountings.
The Kingdom of Northumbria was centred on a place called Bamburgh and indeed there is still a massive castle there, to this day.
With the arrival of the Normans after 1066 an extensive programme of castle building got under way, both to defend the territory from invaders whether Scots or Viking, but also to allow the subjugation of the local populous.
Today there are still large castles and ruins at Prudhoe, Newcastle, Morpeth, Alnwick, Warkworth, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh, Chillingham and Berwick.
From Elizabethan times to the Unification of England and Scotland under James I, Northumberland was a lawless territory, controlled by families referred to as the Border Reivers and their equivalents in Scotland.
Murder and robbery either side of the border was the main occupation of these families and you can still find fortified homes dotted across the region, commonly called Pele Towers, where family and livestock could hole up during an attack.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Northumberland and Newcastle became a centre of activity, initially through coal, lead and silver mining.
Huge industries developed on the banks of the River Tyne, and at one point three quarters of the world's shipping was built on the river.
George Stephenson and his son Robert were both born in the County and established their railway engineering businesses in Newcastle.
Today, with the exception of the Southeast corner of the county, people tend to earn their living in one form or another, from the land, although there is a significant rise in tourist related jobs, which is not surprising considering the wealth of history.
We have miles upon miles of unspoilt coastland, sandy beaches, rugged hills, wildlife and beautiful towns and villages built in the local stone.
Northumbrians are canny folk who will always make you feel welcome.
Perhaps I should get a job with the tourist board myself!
Seriously, if you want to know a little more you can drop by http://www.visitnorthumberland.com