Reports from 2013
Glendale Local History Society opened their 2013-14 season with an illustrated talk given by John Nolan of Northern Counties Archaeological Services on "The Barmoor Castle and Estate".
Barmoor has a rich and varied history with evidence of human occupation going back five thousand years. Flints from the Mesolithic era have been found along with Roman pottery and the remains of an Iron Age settlement. Barmoor's proximity to the Roman road - the Devil's Causeway – ensured that it became an important staging post on the journey north. It is probable that roman legions camped there and in the early 14th century Barmoor played host to Edward the second and his army when on the way north to harry the Scots. The Earl of Surrey's army camped there the night before the battle of Flodden. Field walkers and metal detectors have found artefacts, principally coins and pottery shards, which relate to these events.
Barmoor was the medieval home of the Muschamp family and was in their ownership for some three centuries. The Muschamps were Wardens of the Marches and were prominent in Border Affairs. Their fortunes varied. In 1550 the castle was described as "Cast down and not repaired." A George Muschamp did some restoration in the late 16th century but a hundred years later ownership had passed to the Carr family from Etal the Muschamps having become impoverished and fallen out of favour because they supported the wrong side in the Civil War. In the 18th and 19th centuries some famous names – Boscawen, Sitwell – became associated with Barmoor as owners of the estate and agricultural improvers.
Again fortunes went up and down with one of the owners being undone because of too great an involvement with horseracing! In the 19th century the castle was given a gothic makeover following plans drawn up by the Edinburgh architect John Paterson. The walls were enlarged and the massive gate tower – arguably the castle's most dramatic feature today – added. The work was completed in 1892 but not all Paterson's plans were brought to fruition because of lack of funds. After a brief flowering in the early 20th century as an Edwardian country mansion the dreaded dry rot began its ravages and by the 1950s Barmoor was once again "Much cast down".
Barmoor is now a chalet and caravan park. The owners actively promote and encourage archaeological and historical investigation of the castle and grounds. This, our speaker reminded us, is a worthwhile project because not only does Barmoor encompass a social history of a great Northumberland estate but in a wider context provides a continuum of Northumbrian history from earliest times to the present day.
The next meeting of The Glendale Local history Society will be on Wednesday 9th October in the Tom Sale room Cheviot Centre Wooler at 7.30pm. Isabel Gordon will speak on "England's Rough Wooing – from Flodden to the 1545 Rebellion". Members free Visitors £2.00. CJB
England's Rough Wooing
The Society's October talk was a tour-de-force from Isabel Gordon, who provided a rich context for the disputes between England and Scotland, of which the Flodden battle was one episode. She helped us understand how, in the sixteenth century and before, our borderland was an important arena within which the European great powers conducted their struggles. By 1500, she explained, France was the strongest of these powers, but England under the Tudor monarchs was rising in importance and continually challenging French power. The French were very aware that one way to unsettle English power was to foment unrest and invasion through Ireland and Scotland.
In the later middle ages, the English had tried to turn Scotland into an ally. The Scots, and especially the Scottish barons, saw this as unacceptable intrusion on their own power. To secure their interest against such intrusion, the Scottish Kings had a long-standing alliance with France, the 'auld alliance'. As in the mobilisation which led to the battle of Flodden, under this alliance, France and Scotland were expected to support each other in keeping English aspirations in check. Our speaker explained how, during the 15th century, and exploiting a sequence of children who acceded to the Scottish throne, there were repeated outbreaks of Anglo-Scottish conflict. These struggles overlay and exacerbated the more local clan conflicts which made our area such a troubled place in this period.
By the late 1400s, however, Scotland had a capable and cultivated monarch in James IV. He helped to develop Scotland culturally, and sought more peaceable relations with England through marriage to Henry VII's daughter Margaret. This suited the English monarch, as he needed to maximise his support given that his succession to the throne was disputed by many. But he was succeeded by Henry VIII in 1509. Our speaker suggested that this famous English monarch was 'the worst enemy Scotland ever had'. Henry sought to challenge French power, which led among other outcomes to the battle of Flodden at which James IV lost his life. Exploiting the fact that James' infant son (another James) was only two years old, and that there were tensions between the King's mother (Margaret Tudor) and the Regent and presumptive heir to the Scottish throne, the Earl of Albany, English forces were regularly sent to the Scottish borders. Sometimes, they sided with one Scottish faction or another. Or the focus was resisting French incursions. All these skirmishes and wars resulted in extensive burning and pillaging across our borderlands, causing great harm to life, society and economy.
James V, when he reached maturity, swung to the auld alliance by marrying a French princess. By this time, Henry VIII had 'reformed' the English church, so struggles with the Catholic church were added to his hostility to Scotland's French orientation. Failing to persuade James V to take Scotland away from Catholicism, he launched a force against the Scots which won a decisive victory at the battle of Solway Moss. James V died of a fever a few weeks later, six days after the birth of his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots. After this, Henry set out to get control of the infant queen, and
proposed a marriage with his young son, Edward (later Edward VI). But the Scots rejected this offer, preferring the French connection through Mary's mother.
This enraged Henry, who from 1544 launched brutal attacks on Leith and Edinburgh. This was followed by systematic laying waste of the lands between Edinburgh and Berwick. There were further raids in 1545, when English forces pillaged abbeys and towns along the Tweed valley. From a diary of one of those involved, it is possible to identify the scale of the destruction – 7 monasteries, 16 castles, towers and peles, 5 towns, 243 villages, 13 mills and 3 hospitals. Then in 1547, the English attacked Edinburgh again and defeated the Scots forces at the battle of Pinkie. Finally, in 1550 some kind of truce was negotiated. It is this period, from 1544 to 1550, which is known as Henry VIII's 'rough wooing' of Mary Queen of Scots and the Scottish people. Although our border area began to become more peaceable after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 under James VI/I, as our speaker underlined, this brutal period has lain in Scottish memory ever since, and helps to reinforce Scottish identity and suspicion of English intentions.
The next meeting of the Society will be on Wednesday November 13th (7.30, Cheviot Centre, Wooler), when speaker will be Jane Bowen, on the topic: 'Mauchline Ware: Victorian souvenir woodware and its connections with the Borderlands'.
Having been born and brought up in Alnwick there must be few who know Alnwick better than he. He also contributed to the foundation of Balliffgate Museum, currently being refurbished. His presentation, a wealth of old slides revealing 'collectable' images of the town in yesteryear, was accompanied by his anecdotes. He recalled from memory incidences associated with the many original shops and trades, together with older historical information. Numerous images showed the abundance and variety of shop-keepers who plied their trades, ranging from Jobson's the saddlers, to a bicycle shop where the cycles sold were made on the premises, to a tea broker (where loose tea, was once kept under lock and key) displayed a 'golden canister' suspended above the shop entrance: this can still be seen in Narrowgate today. There also remain, in Narrowgate, features of architectural interest: original telltale 'Yorkshire Sliders' (windows pre-dating sash-windows), together with evidence, from roof-lines and masonry, indicating a previous generation of thatched roofs.
The Great North Road once ran from London to Edinburgh through Alnwick, making it the premier market town in the north-east and able to support no fewer than 52 inns and public ale-houses – some survive but with extensive alterations. The White Swan was the principal coaching inn, where mail coaches stopped regularly. When entering the town from the south one passes through the three-storied arched 'gateway' tower, from Bondgate Without to Bondgate Within: this is the only remaining entrance of four from the era when Alnwick was a fortified walled town. In the 17th-18th centuries it was used as a prison.
The Market Cross, from which proclamations were made, stands in the north-east corner of the Market Place - a focal point situated in the centre of the town. The structure of this cross has evolved over the centuries. Regular fairs and markets with animal sales took place in the square, where bull-baiting also once occurred – a ring, anchored in stone, remains as evidence of this. The Town Hall stands on the west side of the square between the Market Place and Fenkle Street, the two connected by an arch running through the building. Adjacent on the south side stand the Assembly Rooms, now better known as Northumberland Hall. Beneath this building ran the arcaded 'Shambles', once housing the traditional butchers' stalls displaying their meat.
Many old alley-ways and architectural features remain, giving telltale signs of this once mediaeval town. A visit to the newly restored museum, in the future, and a walk around Alnwick, searching out these details, will open eyes but above all we were told to "look up" to detect much of this ancient town's history! Glendale Local History Society was very grateful to Mr Adrian Ions for standing in as speaker at this meeting
Rosemary Bell November 2013
Rights of Way in Northumberland
The County of Northumberland is full of Public Footpaths, Byways , Bridleways, Green Roads and Lonnens that give a huge amount of pleasure to everyone from the daily dog walker to the keenest long distance trail explorer. At the latest meeting of Glendale Local History Society held on December 11th members learned how our rich network of Rights of Way came about, how to learn more about them and how to discover more to add to the list.
The speaker was Sue Rodgers and in a talk entitled "Restoring the Record in Northumberland – Historical Paths and Tracks" Sue, with the benefit of a lifetime of private and professional interest in the subject made her audience aware that our historic "Rights Of Way" have origins that go back hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. Ancient tracks from pre-history, Roman roads, Drove roads, Packhorse and Peddlers' routes, even paths made by schoolchildren on their way to lessons have all contributed to what we take somewhat for granted. Now mainly part of our leisure activity Sue pointed out that in former times man rarely walked or rode for pleasure – there was usually some purpose behind it. Routes went somewhere significant, perhaps to a livestock fair or a mill and had indicative names such Salter's Drove or Jingling Gate - jingling coming from the bells that driven cattle wore. Ways were often defined by planted trees, hawthorn hedges, walls or embankments. Standing stones or clumps of Scots pines were used as way markers.
Sue then drew our attention to the legal status of Rights of Way. After the second world war, in response to pressure from groups such as the Rambler's Association the government decided upon a Rights of Way Act so in 1949 all parishes in England and Wales were instructed to register all tracks then in use. These were subsequently recorded on Ordnance Survey maps. Further additions and modifications were made in 1981. Since then the situation has remained stable and it was thought that the maxim "once a highway always a highway" would persist forever. However Sue made her audience aware that in 2026 the situation is changing. After then no more Rights of Way will be eligible for registration so her advice was to become "Landscape Detectives" and use the clues provided on the ground and on ancient maps and plans to ensure that our rich heritage of Rights of Way are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
A history of bee-keeping & tales from Chain Bridge Honey
A talk by William Robson
OF BEES AND MEN.
On 12th. of December members and guests of Glendale Local History Society were introduced to the world of bees by a speaker whose enthusiasm and delight in these little creatures and their world shone through.
Mr. Willie Robson of Chain Bridge Honey Farm was introduced to bee keeping by his father. Mr. Robson senior took up keeping bees after the war and eventually held a government post raising the profile of honey and associated products as part of the post war recovery effort. This job put him in an ideal position to learn from those who had the best in practical experience. Willie himself learnt from his father and building on his accrued knowledge he has for fifty years now developed the honey farm at Chain Bridge.
Bees and man have lived with each other for hundreds of years to the mutual benefit of both. There are references in the bible to the efficacious properties of honey and it was used in the ancient world as a medicine. We were reminded of the quotation on the Tate and Lyle tins “out of the strong came forth sweetness” a reference to Samson’s slaying of the lion and the bees’ subsequent use of the carcass as a home. Aside from lions domesticated bees were housed in hives, called skeps, made from woven straw of the shape that adorns many a honey pot and some hairstyles today! Getting the honey combs from this type of hives must have been a hazardous business necessitating as it did both destruction of the skep and considerable disturbance to the occupants. This changed when in the eighteen fifties the frame hive was introduced from America. Removable frames meant that the honey could be got more easily and the bees remained in their home. Life in a hive is somewhat regimented. We were told how bees work instinctively and to a pattern. Hives can suffer from “low morale”. This phenomenon is well recognised among bee keepers and could be compared to well, low morale in a factory or office. Causes are multiple but adverse weather, unsuitable food, lack of accessible food, poor siting of the hives and poor husbandry generally will result, as with any stock keeping system, in lowered production and death. Willie was at pains to point out that most bee keeping knowledge has come from man’s intelligent observation of their charges over centuries and until recently this knowledge was handed down in a great oral tradition.
That beekeeping was practised in Northumberland is evident in local place names. Bewick means place of the bees and our speaker told us that the archaeological evidence suggests that bee husbandry was practised there in the eleventh century. Similarly it is likely that the monks from Lindisfarne had hives at Beal on the mainland because it would have been too windy for the bees on the island. The prospect of Viking raiders may have caused low morale amongst the brothers but the biting north easterly that brought the raiders over had a similar effect on their bees!
So what of the future? As with all husbandry systems intensification brings problems as well as benefits and changes in one aspect of agriculture have a knock on effect on others. Bees depend for their food supply on plants such as clover and heather. This in turn affects the taste and quality of the honey. The low acreage of clover grown now compared with former times is a serious challenge. Good moor management by selective and sequential heather burning is essential and benefits not only grouse but bees as well. On the plus side the acreage of oilseed rape grown now contributes to the bees’ diet. Hopefully this will ensure our supplies of honey, bees wax polish, medicinal balms, lip salves and of course the bees. After such a history man would surely be worse off without them.
12 December 2012