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


  1. I can attest to the rugged hills.
    I spent a couple of days walking chunks of The Wall back in 2005.
    Also saw Berwick, and Bamburgh. I'll have to catch the Holy isle some other year as when I was there the tide was wrong and I had a bed in York calling to me.

  2. Well well a small World Al.I had no idea you had stepped this way!

  3. This is an interesting bit, Simon. Where I've lived, there's precious little known about 'local' England -- even when I tried to look. At least before internet.

    'Northumberland' has been a word I've recognized for 40 years, but usually in connection with Shakespeare or some generalized English history map or the the Humber River (?).

    You mention the Tyne and Newscastle -- well, 'coal'. And somehow (pop song?) 'Tyneside'. Ship building -- there was/is a town known in the Depression, wasn't there? A place marchers went from to protest?? A really depressed area?

    And I studied this -- and was considered 'good' at what I had to know about it -- in college! At least you're smartening me up!

    I'll check out the tourist website.

  4. The town you are thinking of is called Jarrow.During the depression unemployed men marched from Jarrow to London.Alan Price who used to be in a band called The Animals, wrote a song about them called The Geordie Boys

  5. I like the way you present imagery, Simon. Those of us who may never get to your country can enjoy it through your eyes.

  6. Yes Indeed Simon, and it is a beautiful part of the world. I have to admit I was drawn there by the Roman and Mediaeval bits, but the countryside and the modern villages are gorgeous too. Although by my standards it is a quite densely inhabited piece of ground.