Northumberland Yesterday and To-day. BY JEAN F. TERRY, L.L.A. (St. Andrews), 1913.
To Sir Francis Douglas Blake, this book is inscribed in admiration of an eminent Northumbrian.
CHAPTER I.—The Coast of Northumberland
CHAPTER II.—North and South Tyne
CHAPTER III.—Down the Tyne
CHAPTER V.—Elswick and its Founder
CHAPTER VI.—The Cheviots
CHAPTER VII.—The Roman Wall
CHAPTER VIII.—Some Northumbrian Streams
CHAPTER IX.—Drum and Trumpet
CHAPTER X.—Tales and Legends
CHAPTER XI.—Ballads and Poems
BAMBURGH CASTLE (From photograph by J.P. Gibson, Hexham.)
TYNEMOUTH PRIORY (From photograph by T.H. Dickinson, Sheriff Hill.)
HEXHAM ABBEY FROM NORTH WEST (From photograph by J.P. Gibson, Hexham.)
THE RIVER TYNE AT NEWCASTLE (From photograph by T.H. Dickinson, Sheriff Hill.)
NORTH GATEWAY, HOUSESTEADS, AND ROMAN WALL (From photograph by J.P. Gibson, Hexham.)
ALNWICK CASTLE (From photograph by J.P. Gibson. Hexham.)
WRECK OF THE "FORFARSHIRE" (From illustration kindly lent by B. Rowland Hill, Newcastle.)
SKETCH MAP OF NORTHUMBERLAND (From a Drawing by C.H. Abbey)
The following book makes no pretensions to be a mine of deep historical research or antiquarian lore; its object will have been achieved, and its existence to some extent justified, if haply by its aid some of the dwellers in this northern county of ours, with its past so full of action, and its present so rich in the memorials of those actions, may pass a pleasant hour in becoming acquainted through its pages with the happenings which have taken place in their own particular fields, their own streets, or by their own riverside.
I am aware that many learned volumes on this subject, representing an enormous amount of patient labour and careful research in their compilation, are already in existence. To such this little book can in no sense be a rival; but there must be many people who have not a superabundance of time, to enable them to dig out the information for which they wish, from these various sources; nor can they always make these volumes their own, to be consulted at leisure.
Northumbrians have always been interested in the records of their own county, and are now-a-days not less so than when, some three-and-a-half centuries ago, Roger North found them "great antiquarians within their own bounds." If to such as these this little book may perhaps bring in a more convenient form the information they seek, and help them to become better acquainted with the county which inspired Swinburne to write in stirring phrases of "Northumberland," and to address the home of his people as
"Land beloved, where nought of legend's dream Outshines the truth"—
I shall be more than satisfied. I would take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks to the Rev. Canon Savage, of Hexham, for information relating to the tomb of Alfwald the Just, in the Abbey, given with courteous readiness; to the Rev. Canon Jeffery, of Bywell, for similar kindness regarding Bywell St. Peter's; to R.O. Heslop, Esq., whose profound store of learning on the subject of "Northumberland words" was in cases of uncertainty my final court of appeal; to E.T. Nisbet, Esq., and J. Treble, Esq., to whom I am greatly indebted for their goodness in reading my manuscript, and for their generous encouragement following thereupon; to C.H. Abbey, Esq., for his kindness in executing the map which accompanies these pages; and to Mr. G.P. Dunn, of Corbridge, for much helpful criticism, and many suggestions which only want of space has prevented my adopting in their entirety.
31st May, 1913.
NORTHUMBERLAND YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY
THE COAST OF NORTHUMBERLAND.
"We'll see nae mair the sea banks fair, And the sweet grey gleaming sky, And the lordly strand of Northumberland, And the goodly towers thereby."
Wild and bleak it may be, hard and cruel at times it undoubtedly is, but, nevertheless, this north-east coast of ours is at all times inspiring, whether half-hidden by storm-clouds, its cliffs and hollows lashed by the "wild north-easter," or seen calmly brooding in the warm haze of a summer's day, its grey-blue water smiling beneath the grey-blue sky, and its stretches of sand and bents edging the sea with a border of gold and silver.
In keeping with either mood of nature, the ancient Priory of Tynemouth, standing on the sandstone cliffs on the northern bank of the Tyne, rearing its grey and roofless walls above the harbour mouth, strikes a note that is symbolic of the Northumbria of old and the Northumberland of to-day—the note, that is, of the intimate commingling of the romance of the warlike past and the romance of the industrial present. Here, above the mouth of the river on which so many of the most noteworthy advances in industrial science have been made, and out of which sail the vessels which are often the last word of the moment in marine engineering and construction, stand calmly looking down upon them all the fragments of a building which was a century old when John signed Magna Charta, and which stands upon the site of another that had already braved the storms of nearly five hundred years.
Looking upon the Priory of St. Mary and St. Oswin we are carried back to the days when Edwin, the first king of Northumbria to embrace Christianity, built a little church here, in which his daughter took the veil. King Oswald had the first wooden structure replaced by a stone one; and here, in 651, the body of another good king—Oswyn—was brought for burial from Gilling, near Richmond in Yorkshire, where, disbanding his army, he sacrificed his cause and his life to Oswy of Bernicia, with whom he had been about to fight.
When the pirate ships of the Danes swept down upon our coasts, the Priory of St. Oswin, conspicuous on its bold headland, could not hope to escape their ravages. It was destroyed by the fierce invaders; but King Ecgfrith of Northumbria restored the shattered shrine. Again, in the year 865, it was sacked and burnt, and the poor nuns of St. Hilda, who had already fled from Hartlepool to Tynemouth hoping to find safety, were ruthlessly slain and earned the crown of martyrdom. It was again restored; but, five years later, the destroying hands of the invaders fell on the place once more, and for two hundred years the Priory stood roofless and tenantless. After the Norman Conquest, Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland bestowed it upon the monks of Jarrow. The rediscovery of the tomb of St. Oswyn in 1065, had gladdened the hearts of the monks, and forthwith the monastery was reared anew over the ashes of its former self.
[Footnote 1: Pronounced "Edge-frith."]
Mowbray, the next Earl of Northumberland, re-endowed the building. He had quarrelled with the Bishop of Durham, so in order to do him a displeasure, he made Tynemouth Priory subordinate to St. Albans instead of to Durham and brought monks from St. Albans to dwell there. The new buildings were finished in 1110, and the bones of St. Oswyn enshrined within them, the right of sanctuary being extended for a mile around his resting-place. This right, however, was already in existence, and had been appealed to in 1095 by Mowbray himself, who fled here pursued by the followers of William Rufus, against whom he had rebelled. The King's men disregarded the sanctuary right, captured Mowbray, and sent him prisoner to Durham. [Footnote 2: See account of Bamburgh Castle.]
In later days the queens of Edward I. and Edward II. visited Tynemouth Priory; and it was from Tynemouth that the foolish King Edward II. and his worthless favourite Piers Gaveston fled from the angry barons to Scarborough. In the reign of Edward III., after the battle of Neville's Cross, David of Scotland was brought here by his captors on his way to Bamburgh, from whence he was sent to the Tower.
At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. the Priory was inhabited by eighteen monks with their Prior. They bowed to the King's decree and left the monastery; but the church continued to be used as the parish church until the days of Charles II., when Christ Church was built.
The Priory has many times formed the subject of pictures by famous artists, the best known being that of no less a genius than J. M. W. Turner; and its picturesque ruins are a well-known landmark to the hundreds of voyagers who pass it on their journeys, outward or homeward bound. Within the last few years the Priory has been in some measure repaired and restored.
There is but little left of Tynemouth Castle, which was built as a protection for the monastery against the attacks of the Danes. It stands in a commanding position on a neighbouring cliff, and is now used as barracks for garrison artillery corps. During the days when Scotland harried the English borders, the Priors of Tynemouth maintained a garrison here; and later, in Stuart days, Charles I. visited the North, and the fortress was strengthened just before the outbreak of the Civil War. It was captured, notwithstanding, by Leslie, Earl of Leven, after he had left Newcastle. Colonel Lilburn, left in charge as governor, shortly afterwards avowed himself on the side of King Charles; but he speedily paid for his change of allegiance, for the Castle was re-taken by a force from Newcastle under Sir Arthur Hazelrigg, and Lilburn lost his life in the fight. The Castle has long been used as a depot for the storage of arms and ammunition. Behind the Spanish Battery which commands the entrance to the Tyne stands a statue of the famous North-countryman, Admiral Collingwood.
Connected with Tynemouth, by the fact that a small chantry belonging to the Priory once stood there, is St. Mary's Island. One may walk unhindered at low tide across the rocks to this favourite place, but where the chantry stood there is now a lighthouse with a powerful lantern, flashing its welcome light to the seafarers nearing the mouth of the Tyne, and extending
"To each and all our equal lamp, at peril of the sea, The white wall-sided war-ships, or the whalers of Dundee."
Between Tynemouth and St. Mary's Island lie Cullercoats, Whitley Bay, and Monkseaton, and together these places make practically one extended seaside town, stretching for three or four miles along the sea-front, and joined by a fine parade which leads to open links at Monkseaton. Of these places Cullercoats is most noteworthy. This picturesque fishing village, with quaint old houses perched in every conceivable position on the curve of its rocky bay, is, needless to say, a favourite camping ground for artists. The Cullercoats fishwife, with her cheerful weather-bronzed face, her short jacket and ample skirts of blue flannel, and her heavily laden "creel" of fish is not only appreciated by the brotherhood of brush and pencil, but is one of the notable sights of the district. At Cullercoats is struck a note of the most modern of modern achievements—the Wireless Telegraphy Station (225 feet); and here, too, is situated the Dove Marine Laboratory, looked after by scientists on the staff of the Armstrong College at Newcastle.
In fine weather the crowds which pass and repass along the top of the bold cliffs which overlook the fine stretch of sands between Cullercoats and Monkseaton show how many hundreds of Northumbria's busy workers enjoy the fresh breezes from the sea on this pleasant and bracing coast. Out at sea, opposite the Parade, vessels built in the busy shipyards on the Tyne may be seen doing their speed trials over the measured mile. The Peace of St. Oswyn may, in fact, be said to brood over Tynemouth, even in these days, for it is an increasing custom for those who can do so to remain in Newcastle and other busy centres of toil only during business hours, and to leave workshop and office every evening for their home by the sea: while the tide of noisy, happy, boisterous excursionists has rolled on to Whitley Bay, leaving Tynemouth to its old-time sleepy content. Northward to Hartley and Seaton Sluice the cliffs are very fine. Hartley, with its bright-looking red-tiled houses, once belonged to Adam of Gesemuth (Jesmond) who lived in the reign of King John. Coming down to modern times, about thirty years ago a gallant Hartley man, Thomas Langley, rescued two successive shipwrecked crews on the same day, in one case allowing himself to be lowered over the cliffs at a terrible risk in the furious storm.
Seaton Sluice belongs to the ancient family of the Delavals, whose house, Delaval Hall, may be seen not far away, peeping from amongst the trees which surround it. Seaton Sluice owes its name to the Delaval who placed the large sluice gates upon the burn, in order to have a strong current which, in rushing down to the sea, would be able to wash the mouth of the stream clear from the silt and mud brought in by the incoming tide. A later baronet, Sir John Hussey Delaval, made the cutting through the solid rock which is so striking a feature of the harbour. It was ready for the entrance of vessels in March, 1763.
Delaval Hall is now owned by Lord Hastings, the present representative of the Delavals, which family became extinct in the male line early in the nineteenth century. The last Delaval, a very learned man, was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1814. The Hall was built for Admiral Delaval in 1707 to the design of Sir J. Vanbrugh, who also designed Blenheim Palace, given by the nation to the great Duke of Marlborough about the same time.
Hartley Colliery, about half a mile away, has a sad interest as being the scene of the terrible accident in 1862, when a number of men and boys were imprisoned in the workings owing to the blocking up of the only shaft by a mass of debris, caused by the fall of an iron beam belonging to the pumping engine at the pit-head. Before the shaft could be cleared and a way opened to the workings, all the poor fellows had died, overcome by the deadly "choke-damp." Joseph Skipsey, the pitman poet, in a simple ballad, tells the pathetic story.
"Oh, father! till the shaft is rid, Close, close beside me keep; My eyelids are together glued, And I,—and I,—must sleep."
"Sleep, darling, sleep, and I will keep Close by—heigh ho."—To keep Himself awake the father strives. But he—he, too—must sleep.
"Oh mother dear! wert, wert thou near Whilst—sleep!" The orphan slept; And all night long, by the black pit-heap The mother a dumb watch kept.
From here, northward, the coast is rather dull and uninteresting, although the sands are fine, until we reach Blyth, at the mouth of the little river of the same name. This town is growing rapidly in size and importance; the export of coal has greatly increased since the harbour was so much improved by Sir Matthew White Ridley, and now totals some millions of tones a year. The river Wansbeck not far north of the mouth of the Blyth, in the latter part of its course flows through a district begrimed by all the necessary accompaniments of the traffic in "black diamonds," and reaches the sea between the colliery villages of Cambois and North Seaton.
On the point at the northern curve of Newbiggin Bay stands Newbiggin Church, and ancient building, whose steeple, "leaning all awry," is a well-known landmark for sailors. The site of this church is in danger of being undermined by the waves, and, indeed, part of the churchyard crumbled away many years ago; but such defences as are possible have been built up around it,—and the danger averted for a time. Newbiggin itself is a large fishing village and an increasingly popular holiday resort, for it possesses not only good sands but a wide moor near at hand which provides one of the best of golf courses; and, also, a short distance along the coast, are the attractive Fairy Rocks.
Newbiggin was a town of some importance in Plantagenet days, with a busy harbour, and a pier; and in the reign of Edward II. it was required to contribute a vessel towards the naval defence of the Kingdom.
Northward from Newbiggin Point is the magnificent sweep of Druridge Bay, stretching in a fine curve of ten miles or more to Hauxley Haven. Here, the sands of a warm golden colour, the wind-swept bents of silvery-grey, and the vivid green of the grassy cliff tops edge the curve of the bay with a line of bright and delicate colour, only thrown into greater relief by the brown reefs and ridges which stretch out from the rocky shores, and by the deep blue-green of the waves rolling inshore in long majestic lines, to break into hissing foam on the sharp reefs, or slide smoothly up the yellow sands in the centre of the bay. Above, beyond the grassy tops of the cliffs, stretch deep woods, with the old pele-tower of Cresswell looking out from amongst the trees, fields many-coloured with their burden of varying crops, and wide lonely moors, where one may walk for half a day without hearing any sound save the wild screaming of sea-birds, or the whistle of the wind, with the low boom of the waves below sounding a deep-toned accompaniment. The bay is not always so peaceful, however, and many wild scenes and terrible shipwrecks have taken place here, as everywhere along our wild north-east coast. The Bondicar rocks, by Hauxley, and the cruel spikes of the reef at Snab Point, near Cresswell, have betrayed many a gallant little vessel to her doom. Not, however, without bringing on many an occasion proof of the courage which is shown as a matter of course by the fisher folk on our coasts. At Newbiggin, and Cresswell, for instance, deeds have been done, which, in their simple unassuming heroism, may be taken as typical of the hardy race which could count Grace Darling among its daughters.
About thirty years ago, a ship drove ashore off Cresswell one bitter night in January, and the fisher folk crowded down to the shore, watching with sorrowful eyes the hapless crew clinging to their unfortunate vessel, which was slowly being broken up by the waves. There was no lifeboat at Cresswell then, and all the men of the village, except the old men who were past work, had gone northward, when the oncoming storm prevented their return. The women and girls heard the cries of the schooner's crew, and mourned to each other their inability to help. But one gallant-hearted girl, named Peggy Brown, cried out, "If I thowt she could hing on a bit, I wad be away for the lifeboat." But between them and Newbiggin, the nearest lifeboat station, the Lyne Burn runs into the sea, and spreads widely out over the sands; and the older people told Peggy she could never cross the burn in the dark. She set off, however, the thought of the drowning men hastening her on. For four miles she made her way in the storm and darkness, partly along the shore, scrambling over rock's, and wading waist-deep through the Lyne Burn and one or two other places where the waves had driven far up the sands, and partly across Newbiggin Moor, where the icy wind tore at her in her drenched clothing. She pressed on, however, and managed to reach the coxswain's house and give her message. The lifeboat was immediately run out, and the men reached the wreck in time to save all the crew except one, who had been washed overboard.
On another occasion one of the fishermen, named Tom Brown, was preparing to go out, with the help of his two sons, in his own fishing coble to the aid of a ship in distress on the reef. A carter had come down to the beach, the better to watch the progress of events, and, terrified by the thundering waves, his horse took fright, and in its plunging drove the cart against the little boat, making a hole clear through one side. "Big Tom," as he was generally called, merely took off his coat, rolled it into a bundle and stuffed it against the hole. Then he beckoned to another fisherman, saying to him "Sit on that." The man clambered in, and without the loss of another minute these four heroes set off to save their fellow creatures' lives, with a broken and leaking boat in a heavy sea. And they did it, reaching the brig only just in time, for it went to pieces a few minutes after the shivering crew had been safely landed.
Incidents like these, which could be multiplied indefinitely, bring a glow of pride to the heart, and a reassuring sense that the degeneration of the race is not proceeding in such wholesale fashion—in the country districts, at any rate—as the pessimists would have us believe.
At the northern extremity of Druridge Bay is the little fishing village of Hauxley, with the chimneys and pit-head engines of Ratcliffe and Broomhill Collieries darkening the sky to the south-west. Passing the Bondicar rocks and rounding the point we enter the "fairway" for Warkworth Harbour and Amble, where a brisk exportation of the coal of the neighbourhood is carried on.
Lying out at sea, opposite Amble coastguard station, the white lighthouse on Coquet Island keeps watch over the entrance to the harbour. Some of the walls of the monastery, which stood on the island in Saxon days, can now be seen forming part of the dwelling of the lighthouse keeper. For many generations, too, hermit after hermit went to dwell on this tiny islet, and St. Cuthbert himself is said to have inhabited the little cell at one time. The island was captured by the Scots in the Civil Wars of King Charles's reign, and held by them for a time.
The situation of Amble, at the mouth of the Coquet, has been looked upon as convenient from very early days, for there are signs which tell us of a population here at an early period. Several cist-vaens, or ancient stone coffins, have been found near the town, and a broken Roman altar was unearthed in the neighbourhood. The monastery which stood here, like that on Holy Island, was, in later times, inhabited by Benedictine monks, who were under the authority of the Prior of Tynemouth. William the Conqueror gave the then Prior the right to collect the tithes of the little town.
A short distance from Amble, and practically encircled by the Coquet which here makes a wide sweep, we come upon Warkworth, prettiest of villages, combining the beauties of sea-shore and river scenery, and rich in the possession of that romantic castle, the ruins of which carry the mind back to Saxon times; for they stand on the site of an older fortress erected by Ceolwulf, a Saxon King of Northumbria. He was the patron of Bede, who dedicated his "Ecclesiastical History" to his royal friend. Ceolwulf built both the fortress and the earliest church at Warkworth, and a few stones of this latter building are still to be seen. In 737, two years after the death of Bede, this royal Saxon laid aside his kingly state and became a monk on Lindisfarne,
"When he, for cowl and beads, laid down The Saxon battle-axe and crown."
It was when the castle was bestowed by Edward III. upon Lord Percy of Alnwick that it became, for more than two hundred years, the chief residence of that illustrious family; becoming in the next reign of historical value as the home of that Hotspur whose valour and gallantry made Henry IV. envy the Earl of Northumberland, in that he "should be the father of so blest a son." In Act II., Scene 3 of "Henry IV.," Part II., Shakespeare has laid the scene at Warkworth Castle, where Hotspur's wife, troubled by her lord's moody abstraction, tries to win from him the reason of his secret care. And after the battle of Shrewsbury, Rumour, flying with the news of Hotspur's death, says:—
"Thus have I rumoured through the peasant towns, Between the royal field of Shrewsbury And this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone, Where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland, Lies crafty-sick."
Two years after this, the castle was besieged by Henry IV. himself, and surrendered to him after a brief bombardment by the newly invented cannon. The keep was re-built by Hotspur's son, after the family possessions had been restored to him by Henry V., and it is now the only remaining part of the castle which is almost perfect. One of the half-ruinous towers remaining is called the Lion Tower, from the sculptured lion on its walls; while another rejoices in the curious name of Cradyfargus. A strange story is told of a blue stone to be seen in the courtyard of the castle. Many years ago, so runs the tale, one of the custodians of Warkworth Castle dreamed three nights in succession that a large treasure was concealed beneath a blue stone in a certain part of the castle grounds. He told this dream to a neighbour, and after allowing two or three days to pass, finding the dream constantly recurring to his mind, he thought he would go to the place indicated, and see what he could find. To his disappointment, however, he discovered that some one had been there before him; a large hole had been dug, and on the edge of it lay the blue stone.
Needless to say, the hole was empty, nor could the keeper discover anything about the treasure in the neighbourhood. It is said that a certain family in the village became suddenly rich; and, many years afterwards, a large and ancient pot, supposed to have been that in which the buried treasure had been contained, was found in the Coquet.
The main street of Warkworth leads straight up to the postern gate of the castle, and many stirring sights have the successive inhabitants of the little village looked upon, as the fortunes of the owners of the castle waxed and waned throughout the many centuries in which the lords of Warkworth played a notable part in the history of England. They saw Henry Percy, entrusted with a share in the safe keeping of the country, set out from Warkworth for Durham, to help in winning the victory of Neville's Cross.
They saw Hotspur's force set out for the Cheviots to intercept Douglas and his followers, which they did at Homildon Hill, near Wooler; and it was the quarrel in connection with the prisoners taken on that day which led Hotspur and his father openly to throw off their allegiance to Henry IV., so that a few months later the peasants of Warkworth saw their idolised young lord set out for what was to prove the fatal field of Shrewsbury. They saw Hotspur's father, the first Henry Percy to receive the title of Earl, (a title which had been given him at the coronation of Richard II.) set out with a brave force after Hotspur's departure; and they saw his return, almost alone, dejected and broken in spirit, having learnt that the help so tardily given had come too late, and the life of his gallant son was ended.
They saw the siege train of Henry Bolingbroke laid against the castle, directed by Henry in person, provoked into these active measures by the open rebellion of father and son, though Northumberland had tried to make it appear that he was innocent of any treasonable act. After capturing the castle, Bolingbroke bestowed it on his third son, John of Lancaster, and the villagers saw the young prince riding in and out among them daily so long as he made the castle his home.
Then, in the next reign, they welcomed the return of Hotspur's son, Henry, to the home of his fathers, restored to him by Henry V.; and, within a short time, saw him bring home his bride, Eleanor Neville, daughter of his friend and neighbour, the Earl of Westmoreland.
In the Wars of the Roses, Warkworth Castle saw many changes of fortune, as the tide of victory flowed this way and that. The Percies were all Lancastrians, though Sir Ralph Percy changed sides twice. The castle fell into the hands of the Yorkists, and the great Earl of Warwick, the "King-maker" himself, made it his headquarters for a time, while he superintended the sieges of Alnwick, Dunstanborough, and Bamburgh, which were all invested at the same time. Eventually, after the Wars of the Roses concluded, Warkworth was restored, along with the other Percy estates, to its original owners.
Finally, the inhabitants of the little village saw the church entered by the Jacobites in 1715, when Mr. Buxton, chaplain of the little force, prayed for James III. and Mary the Queen-mother; and General Forster, dressed as a trumpeter, proclaimed King James III. at the village cross.
A few miles north from the mouth of the Coquet, the little Aln spreads over the sandy flats near Alnmouth, and reaches the sea. It has changed its course, for at one time it flowed to the south of Church Hill, instead of to the north as at present. The town of Alnmouth, viewed from the train just before entering Alnmouth Station, looks very picturesque, especially if the rare sunshine of an English summer should be lighting up the bay, bringing out the vivid red of the tiled roofs against the grassy hills fringing the links which lie on their seaward side, and lighting up, also, the yellow sands and long lines of sparkling wavelets edged with white.
Alnmouth depends for its living on a fleet of fishing boats, and on the numbers of visitors who seek its fresh breezes and inviting shores each summer. Golfers, indeed, find it pleasant all the year round, as there is only a scarcely appreciable interval in the winter months when their favourite pastime cannot be followed on the breezy links. On Church Hill, now crowned by a few old stones, once stood a Norman church, dedicated to St. Valery, which, in its turn, occupied the site of an older Saxon building, supposed to have been the church which Bede refers to as being at Twyford, where a great synod of clergy was held in the year 684, and Cuthbert appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne. It is a matter of dispute whether this Twyford was Alnmouth or Whittingham, but the two fords at Alnmouth seem to point to a decision in favour of that place. The old Norman church, which fell into ruin at the beginning of last century, was fired at by the famous pirate Paul Jones; the cannon shot, weighing 68 pounds, missed the church, but struck a neighbouring farm house, doing great damage.
The coast north of Alnmouth becomes rocky and wild, and very picturesque, and the villages along the coast are being sought out by holiday makers in increasing numbers, year by year. Boulmer, one of these villages, was a famous place for smuggling in the old days, and many an exciting scene and sharp encounter took place between the smugglers and the King's men. Not far away is Howick Dene, a lovely little glen leading down to the sea from Howick Hall, the home of Earl Grey.
Cullernose Point, a striking crag, is formed by the outcrop of a portion of the Great Whin Sill, which from here can be traced to the south-west, and thence right across the county.
At Craster, another fishing village and a favourite holiday haunt, is Craster Tower, which has been the home of the family of Craster since before the Conquest. Not far to the north is the famous Rumble Churn in the rocks below Dunstanborough Castle, where the waves roll in and out of the caves and chasms with weird and hollow rumblings. There is another Rumbling Churn in the cliffs near Howick.
The famous divine of the Middle Ages, John Duns Scotus, was born in this parish—that of Embleton; the group of buildings known as Dunston Hall, or Proctor's Steads, is supposed to have been his birthplace, and a portrait of the learned doctor is to be seen there.
Dunstanborough Castle stands in lonely grandeur on great whinstone crags, close to the very edge of the sea, and on the first sight of it, Keats' wonderful lines spring involuntarily to the lips:—
"Magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."
Forlorn, indeed, though not in exactly the sense conveyed by the poem, is this huge fortress now; it abides, says Freeman, "as a castle should abide, in all the majesty of a shattered ruin." The primitive cannon of the days of the Wars of the Roses began to shatter those mighty walls, and, unlike Bamborough, it has never been strengthened since. Simon de Montford once owned this estate, and the next lord of Dunstanborough was a son of Henry III., to whom Earl Simon's forfeited estate was given. His eldest son, Thomas of Lancaster, took part with the barons in bringing the unworthy favourite of Edward II., Piers Gaveston, to his death. Under the King's anger, Lancaster went away to his Northumbrian estate, and began to build this mighty fortress, though he already owned the castles of Kenilworth and Pontefract. In the Wars of the Roses, Dunstanborough Castle was taken and retaken no less than five times, and Queen Margaret found refuge here, as well as at Bamburgh; but apart from these occasions, Dunstanborough has not taken nearly so great a part in either local or national history as the other Northumbrian castles of Bamburgh, Warkworth, and Alnwick, though greater in extent than any of them. In 1538 an official report describes "Dunstunburht" as "a very reuynous howse"; and the process of dilapidation was soon aided by enterprising dwellers in the neighbourhood using the stones of the forsaken castle to build their own homesteads.
From the castle northward curves Embleton Bay, in which, after having been buried in the sand for ages, a sandstone rock was uncovered by the tide, having on its surface, chiselled in rough but distinct lettering, the name "Andra Barton." Sir Andrew Barton, daring Scottish sea-captain and fearless freebooter, was slain in a sea-fight off this part of the coast, in the days of Henry VIII., by the sons of Surrey, one of whom, Sir Thomas Howard, was Lord Admiral at the time, and so, in a measure, responsible for the defence of the English coast. The loss of his brave sea-captain and his "goodly ships" was one of the grievances in the long list which led King James IV. to declare war against England, and led to the fatal field of Flodden, in which Admiral Sir Thomas Howard and his brother took part under the command of their father, the Earl of Surrey.
The wide sweep of grassy common beyond the sands in Embleton Bay is, in summer time, covered with a profusion of wild flowers, chief amongst them being the wild geranium, or meadow cranes-bill, whose reddish-purple blossoms grow in such abundance as to arrest the attention of every visitor. A little way back from the sea-shore, in the middle of this wide space, lies the village of Embleton, which possesses an ancient and interesting church, and a vicarage, part of which is formed by an old pele-tower. Embleton would seem to have a reputation to keep up in the way of famous churchmen. Duns Scotus has been already mentioned; and one of the vicars here was a cousin of Richard Steele, the essayist and friend of Addison; and he described the country squires of his day in a paper which he contributed to the "Spectator" of that date, 1712.
Another Vicar of Embleton, who lived here from 1874 to 1884, was Dr. Mandell Creighton, the learned historian, who became Bishop of London.
The well-known journalist, W.T. Stead, was born in the parish of Embleton, though his childhood was passed in very different surroundings, in the narrow streets and grimy atmosphere of Howdon-on-Tyne. His recent death on the ill-fated Titanic will be fresh in the minds of all.
Newton-by-the-Sea is reached by a pleasant walk along the sea-shore. (It is to be understood that in this journey along the coast we are moving northward always). There is here a cheery-looking white-washed coastguard station standing on the bold headland of Newton Point.
Past this point is Beadnell Bay, with green and grassy Beadnell just beyond Little Rock. The small fishing harbour at Beadnell has the unique distinction of being the only harbour on the east coast whose mouth faces west, and the short pier, running inland from rocks to shore, acts as a breakwater against the heavy easterly or southeasterly seas and makes the harbour a safe anchorage for fishing craft or small yachts. The rocks around this bay are very interesting, showing the various strata very plainly, and containing many fossils. The striking cliff called Ebbe's Nook is supposed to have been named after the Saxon princess Ebba, sister to King Oswald, and the ruins which were discovered on the headland, to be all that is left of a chapel erected to her memory.
At Seahouses is an extensive fish-curing establishment, a fact which proclaims itself unmistakably as you near the village, especially if the day chance to be at all warm. A little distance from the shore is another fishing village, North Sunderland, and northward from Seahouses is the inn called The Monkshouse, from the fact that it once belonged to the community on Lindisfarne.
Bamburgh Castle, magnificently placed on a lofty crag rising perpendicularly from the greensward on the west or landward side, and almost as steeply from the sea which washes the north and east sides, lies like a majestic lion on its mighty rock "brooding on ancient fame." The voices of children at play on the sands below sound faint and far in the still air; the sea birds, with the summer sunshine flashing on their outspread wings, sweep round and round; in the far distance a trail of smoke low down on the horizon marks the track of a passing steamer; and near at hand, southward a little way from the castle cliff, the rocky islets of the Farne group lie drowsily asleep on the gently-heaving swell of the grey-blue waters. Behind the castle lies the pretty old-fashioned village with its quaint hostelries and grove of trees; and from the higher parts of the new golf-links the player may look round on a view which would be difficult to match, comprising as it does, the Farne Islands and Dunstanborough to the south, and northward, Holy Island, with its castle and abbey and the bluish haze of smoke lying over Berwick; while, on the western skyline, on a clear day, may be seen the rounded caps of the Cheviots.
The beginnings of Bamburgh take us back more than a thousand years, to that long-ago summer of 547, when the cyuls (keels) of the marauding Bernician chieftain Ida and his followers grounded on the shore of our Northland, and the work of conquest began. Ida was not slow to grasp the importance of such a commanding site as this isolated mass of basaltic crag, and the rude stronghold which crowned it. It became in time a formidable fortress, and remained for centuries the headquarters of the kings of the North.
Here reigned Ida and his sons—six of them—for more or less short and stormy periods, and Ethelric of Bernicia, who vanquished the neighbouring prince of Deira, and thus reigned as the first king of Northumbria as Northumbria. The Celtic name of the fortress was Dinguardi, or Dinguvardy; and tradition has it that this was Sir Lancelot's castle of Joyeuse Garde, where he had often feasted the Knights of the Round Table, and where he, at last, came home to die. The fact that Bamburgh is the only pre-Conquest castle in Northumberland disposes of the claim of Alnwick.
"My fair lords," said sir Launcelot, "wit ye well, my careful body will into the earth; I have warning more than I will now say; therefore, I pray you, give me my rights." So when he was houseled and eneled, and had all that a Christian man ought to have, he prayed the bishop that his fellows might bear his body unto Joyous Gard.
Some men say Anwick, and some men say to Bamborow; "how-beit," said sir Launcelot, "me repenteth sore; but I made mine avow aforetime, that in Joyous Gard I would be buried; and because of breaking of mine vow, I pray you all lead me thither." Then was there weeping and wringing of hands among all his fellows.
And so, within fifteen days, they came to Joyous Gard, and there they laid his corpse in the body of the quire, and read many psalters and prayers over him and about him.... And right thus, as they were at their service, there came sir Ector de Maris, that had sought seven years all England, Scotland and Wales, seeking his brother sir Launcelot.... Then went sir Bors unto sir Ector, and told him how there lay his brother sir Launcelot dead.
And then sir Ector threw his shield, his sword, and his helm from him; and when he beheld sir Launcelot's visage, he fell down in a swoon; and when he awoke, it were hard for any tongue to tell the doleful complaints that he made for his brother. "Ah! sir Launcelot," said he, "thou wert head of all Christian knights!" "And now, I dare say," said sir Bors, "that sir Launcelot, there thou liest, thou wert never matched of none earthly knight's hands; and thou wert the courtliest knight that ever bare a shield; and thou wert the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrod horse; and thou wert the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest man that ever stroke with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights; and thou wert the meekest man, and the gentlest, that ever eat in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe, that ever put spear in the rest."
Then there was weeping and dolor out of measure.
—Malory's Morte d'Arthur.
Ethelfrith, who succeeded Ethelric, gave the fort to his second wife, Bebba, after whom it was named Bebbanburgh, which soon became Bamburgh.
In the days of King Edwin, who succeeded Ethelfrith, Bamburgh was the centre of a kingdom which extended from the Humber to the Forth, and as Northumbria was at that time the most important division of England, the royal city of Bernicia was practically the capital of the country. The reign of King Oswald, though shorter than that of Edwin, was equally noteworthy from the fact that in his days the gentle Aidan settled in Northumbria, and king and monk worked together for the good of their people, and Bamburgh became not only the seat of temporal power but the safeguard and bulwark of the spiritual movement centred on the little isle of Lindisfarne. On the accession of Edwin, Oswald, son of Ethelfrith, had fled from Bernicia and taken refuge with the monks of Iona, living with them till the time came for him to rule Northumbria in his turn. As soon as possible after the inevitable fighting for his political existence was over, he sent to Iona for a teacher to come and instruct his people in the truths he had learned; and a monk named Corman was sent. He, however, was unable to make any impression on the wild and warlike Saxons of the northern kingdom, and he soon returned to Iona with the report that it was useless to try to teach such obstinate and barbarous people. One of the brethren, listening to his account, ventured to ask him if he were sure that all the fault lay with the people. "Did you remember," said he, "that we are commanded to give them the milk first? Did you not rather try them with the strong meat?" With one accord the brethren declared that he who had spoken such wise words was the man best fitted for the task, and the gentle Aidan was sent to Oswald's help. In such a fashion came the Gospel to Northumbria, and Aidan became the first of the long roll of saints whose deeds and lives had such incalculable influence on Northumbrian history. From Aidan's arrival in 635 until the death of Oswald the relations between the king and the monk who had settled on Medcaud or Medcaut, soon to be known as Lindisfarne, and later as Holy Island, were those of friend to friend and fellow-worker, rather than those of king and subject.
After the death of Oswald, his conqueror Penda, the fierce King of the Mercians, harried Northumbria, and appearing before the walls of Bamburgh prepared to burn it down. Piles of logs and brushwood were laid against the city and the fire was applied. Aidan, in his little cell on Farne Island, to which he had retired, saw the clouds of flame and smoke rolling over the home of his beloved patron. Raising his hands to Heaven, he exclaimed, "See, Lord, what ill Penda is doing!" Scarcely had he uttered the words, when the wind changed, and drove the flames away from Bamburgh, blowing them against Penda's host, who thereupon ceased all further attempts against the city.
Not long after this, Aidan was at Bamburgh, when he was seized with sudden illness, and died with his head resting against one of the wooden stays of the little church. Penda came again the next year, and this time both village and church were burnt, all except, says tradition, the beam of wood against which Aidan had rested in his last moments.
When the Danish ships appeared off our shores, in the two centuries following, Bamburgh was attacked and plundered several times. In the days of William Rufus, as we have seen, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, rebelled against the Red King, in company with his uncle the Bishop of Coutances, Robert of Normandy, and William of St. Carileph, Bishop of Durham. Rufus marched into Northumberland, but the quarrel was adjusted for the time; though private strife between the two Bishops led to Mowbray's driving the monks of Durham from the Priory at Tynemouth and replacing them by monks from St. Albans.
Later, however, Mowbray disobeyed a summons from the Red King, who once more marched into Northumberland. He reached Bamburgh, and invested it, but failed to make any impression on that impregnable stronghold, within whose walls were Mowbray and his young wife, the Countess Matilda, and his nephew, who was Sheriff of Northumberland. Rufus, finding all attempts to carry the fortress useless, began to build a wooden fort, called a Malvoisin, or "Bad neighbour"; and so anxious was he to have it speedily erected that he made knights and nobles as well as his men-at-arms take part in the work.
Mowbray, from the battlements, called out to many of these by name, openly taunting those who had secretly promised to join him, or had expressed themselves as in sympathy with his disobedience. His words gave great amusement to Rufus and the nobles who were truly loyal, and much mortification and vexation to those whom he so ruthlessly exposed. Rufus left the "Bad neighbour" to continue the siege and went southward.
Mowbray, led to believe that Newcastle would receive him, and take his part, stole away from Bamburgh by sea, and reached Tynemouth. On proceeding to Newcastle, however, he found he had been mistaken, and hurriedly fled hack to Tynemouth, pursued by his enemies. He held out against them for a day or two, but was then captured and taken to Durham. Meanwhile the high-spirited Countess held Bamburgh against all assailants; but Mowbray's capture gave Rufus an advantage he was not slow to use. Returning to the North, he ordered Mowbray to be brought before the walls of Bamburgh, and threatened to put his eyes out if the Countess did not immediately surrender. Needless to say, she preferred to give up the castle, and Mowbray's reign as Earl of Northumberland was over.
Thereafter Bamburgh was visited by various sovereigns in turn, when their affairs brought them to the northerly parts of their kingdom. When Balliol, tired of long years of conflict, surrendered most of his rights to Edward III., it was at Bamburgh that the convention was concluded. In this reign the castle was greatly strengthened.
In the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh was held for the queen by the Lancastrian nobles of the north country—Percy and Ros—with the Earl of Pembroke and Duke of Somerset; but was obliged on Christmas Eve, 1462, to capitulate to a superior force. The next year the Scots and the queen's French allies surprised it, and re-captured it for Henry VI. and his courageous queen; but Warwick, "the King-maker," came upon the scene, and after a stout resistance the garrison surrendered.
When the Union of the Crowns took place in 1603, Bamburgh was no longer necessary as a defence against the Scots, and its defences were neglected. The Forsters, into whose hands it passed in the days of James I., were a spendthrift family, and gradually wasted their rich estate, until in 1704 it had to be sold, and was bought by Lord Crewe. He was Bishop of Durham at the time, having been promoted to that position by Charles II., who liked his handsome figure and pleasing manners. When at the age of fifty-eight, he wished to marry Dorothea Forster, daughter of Sir William Forster, of Bamburgh, the lady, who was many years younger, refused him at first; but some years later he renewed his suit, and this time was accepted. When the Forster estates were sold and their debts paid, there was scarcely anything left for the heirs—Lady Crewe and her nephew, Thomas Forster, who afterwards became the General of the ill-fated Jacobite rising in 1715, and whose escape after his capture was contrived by his high-spirited sister, Dorothy Forster the second.
Lord Crewe, in his will, left a great part of his fortune to found the Bamburgh Trust, for which his name will ever be remembered. The most notable of the trustees, Archdeacon Sharp, administered the moneys in so wise and beneficent a manner that to him most of the credit is due for the real usefulness of the Crewe charities. These include a surgery and dispensary; schools; the relief of persons in distress; the clothing and educating of a certain number of girls; the maintenance of a lifeboat, life-saving apparatus, and everything necessary for the relief of ship-wrecked persons. A lifeboat, kept in the harbour at Holy Island, is always ready to go out on a signal from Bamburgh Castle.
The castle was extensively restored and repaired by the late Lord Armstrong; but, sad to say, since his death it has been stripped of many of its treasures. The church, dedicated to St. Aidan, stands at the west end of the village; but there is no vestige remaining of the one built in Saxon times, the present building having been erected when Henry II. was king. In the churchyard is the grave of Grace Darling, and many hundreds come to look on the last resting place of the gentle girl who was yet so heroic, when her compassionate heart nerved her girlish frame to the gallant effort on behalf of her fellow-creatures in dire peril, when she
".... rode the waves none else durst ride, None save her sire."
The beautiful monument over her grave is by Raymond Smith, and is an exact duplicate of the original one, also by him, which was being injured so much by the weather that it was removed to a position inside the church. The duplicate was commissioned by Lord (then Sir William) Armstrong.
The island on which yet stands the lighthouse which was Grace's home is the Longstone, almost the farthest seaward of the rocky group of the Farnes, lying almost opposite Bamburgh. The Longstone is only about four feet above high-water mark, so that in stormy weather the lighthouse is fiercely assailed by the heavy seas, and the keepers are often driven for refuge to the upper chambers. To the Longstone might with truth be attributed the opening lines of Kipling's poem, "The Coastwise Lights":—
"Our brows are bound with spindrift, and the weed is on our knees, Our loins are battered 'neath us by the swinging, smoking seas; From reef, and rock, and skerry, over headland, ness, and voe, The coastwise lights of England watch the ships of England go."
There are about twenty of these little islets to be seen at low tide, and very curious are some of their names—The Megstone, The Crumstone, The Navestone, The Harcars, The Wedums, The Noxes (Knokys), and The Wawmses. The largest, Farne Island, is the nearest to the coast, and is the one to which St. Aidan retired, and on which St. Cuthbert made himself a cell, and where he lived for some years, leaving Lindisfarne (Holy Island) very often for months together, to dwell alone on this almost bare rock and devote himself to holy meditation and prayer.
To this island came King Ecgfrith of Northumbria with Archbishop Trumwine and other representatives of the Synod to beg the hermit to accept the Bishopric of Hexham; and it was on this island that St. Cuthbert died, the monks who had gone to look after him signalling the news of his death to his brethren at Lindisfarne by means of torches. The island is rocky and precipitous, with deep chasms between the high cliffs; and when a north wind blows, the columns of foam and spray, from the waters dashing into the chasms and over the tops of the cliffs, may be seen from the mainland rising high into the air.
Before the first lighthouse was built on Farne Island, in 1766, a coal fire was kindled every night on the top of the tower-like building used as a fort. This method of warning passing vessels had been used continuously since the days of Charles II. In great contrast to this is the modern lighthouse, with its acetylene gas lights and its automatic flash apparatus.
Close to Stapel Island are the three high basaltic pillars, of rock called the Pinnacles. On all these islands sea-birds breed, but especially on the Pinnacles, the Big and Little Harcar, and the islet called the Brownsman.
Thousands and thousands of them perch and chatter on the rocks and fly screaming in the air, amongst them being guillemots, kittiwakes, gulls, terns, cormorants, puffins, and eider-ducks, for which latter St. Cuthbert is said to have had great affection; certainly they are the gentlest of these wild sea-fowl.
Bidding farewell to the rocky Farnes, we sail past Budle Bay, into which runs the Warenburn and the Elwick burn, and underneath whose sandy flats is the buried town of Warnmouth, once a busy seaport, to which Henry III. granted a charter. Approaching Lindisfarne, "Our isle of Saints, low-lying on the blue breast of the curling waters, is hushed and silent in the lightly-purple mists of morning, like the wide aisles of a great cathedral at daybreak, before the feet and tongues of sightseers disturb the solemn stillness. The tideway is covered with water, and the footprints of the pilgrims who came yesterday to the shrine of St. Cuthbert have passed into oblivion like footmarks on the sands of time." (Galloway Kyle.) The modern pilgrim to Holy Island generally takes train to Beal station, and from there walks to the seashore, and crosses the long stretch of sand between Holy Island and the mainland. The governing factor in the possibility or otherwise of making the journey is the state of the tide, for these sands are entirely covered by the sea twice a day, so that Holy Island can only be said to be an island at high tide.
"For with the flow and ebb, its style Varies from continent to isle; Dry-shod, o'er sands, twice every day The pilgrims to the shrine find way; Twice every day the waves efface Of staves and sandall'd feet the trace."
There are dangerous quicksands on the way, too, and a row of stakes points out the proper course to be taken.
We have already seen that St. Aidan settled on Lindisfarne and have treated of him in connection with Bamburgh. After his death another monk of Iona, Finan, succeeded him and carried on his work; and after Finan came Colman, who resigned after the Synod of Whitby had decided to keep Easter according to southern instead of northern usage. St. Cuthbert was Prior of Lindisfarne at this time. Later, the seat of the bishopric was removed from Lindisfarne to York, when it was held by that restless and able prelate, Wilfrid, for a time. Then the bishopric was divided and a see of Hexham formed, as well as that of Lindisfarne, which included Carlisle, out of the northern portion of the diocese of York.
St. Cuthbert was bishop of Lindisfarne for two years, having exchanged sees with bishop Eata, who went to Hexham. The stone coffin in which St. Cuthbert's body was pieced, after his death on Farne Island, was buried on the right side of the altar in the Abbey of Lindisfarne, which by this time had arisen on the little island. A later bishop, Edfrid, executed a wonderful copy of the Gospels, which was illuminated by his successor, Ethelwald. Another bishop enclosed it in a cover of gold and silver, adorning it with jewels; and, later, a priest of Lindisfarne, Aldred, wrote between the lines a translation into the vernacular, and added marginal notes. This precious manuscript, a wonderful example of the beautiful work done in monastic houses in the north so many centuries ago, is now in the British Museum, where it is known as the "Durham Manuscript."
When the pirate keels of the Danes appeared off our coasts about the end of the eighth century, Lindisfarne Abbey was one of the first points of attack; and in 793 it was plundered of most of its wealth, and many of the monks were slain. For nearly a century afterwards it was left in peace, but in 875 the Danish ships appeared again approaching from the south, where they had just sacked Tynemouth Priory. The bishop, Eardulph, last of the Lindisfarne prelates, and the brethren hastily collected their most treasured possessions, and with the body of St. Cuthbert, the bones of St. Aidan, and other precious relics, they fled from their island home, and journeyed north, west, and south for many years before they found a resting place at Chester-le-Street near Durham. For seven years they carried with them the body of St. Cuthbert; and it is said that the final choice of a resting place for the body of their beloved saint was indicated to them by supernatural means as they approached Durham.
In 1069 William the Conqueror marched northward to visit with sternest punishment the hardy north-men, who were so long in submitting to his authority; and the monks of Durham fled before the advance of the relentless Norman, carrying with them, as before, the body of St. Cuthbert. They reached Lindisfarne in safety to find the Abbey in the ruinous state in which it had been left by the Danes two centuries earlier. Thus, once again, the body of St. Cuthbert rested on the little island where so many years of his life had been spent.
In 1070 the brethren returned to Durham and in 1093 the building was begun, almost simultaneously, of the present glorious Cathedral of Durham and a new Priory and Church on Lindisfarne, and a strong resemblance may be traced between the two buildings The Abbey was deserted on the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., and gradually fell into ruins.
The Castle, which stands on a lofty whinstone rock at the south-east corner of the island, is a conspicuous object for many miles, whether viewed by land or sea. It is supposed to have been built in the reign of Henry VIII., at a time when defences were commanded to be made to all harbours. If the Castle has had any appreciable share of romantic incidents in its history, the records thereof seem to be unknown; but one which has come down to us is the account of its daring capture by an ardent North-country Jacobite, Lancelot Errington, in 1715. The garrison consisted of seven men, five of whom were absent. Errington, who was master of a small vessel lying in the harbour, discovered this, and immediately made his way to the Castle accompanied by his nephew, and overpowered the two men who were left in charge, turning them out of the Castle. He then signalled to the mainland for reinforcements, but none were forthcoming. A company of King's men came instead and re-occupied the place, Errington and his nephew escaping, to wander about in the neighbourhood for several days, hiding from pursuit, before they got clear away. The Castle was for many years the home of the coastguardsmen, who must have found it a most advantageous position for their purpose, as they had an uninterrupted view of miles of coast line.
Northward from Holy Island, but on the mainland, lies Goswick, from whose red sandstone quarries came the material for building the Abbey of Lindisfarne. Further north we come in sight of the coal pits and smoke of Scremerston, while beyond it, Spittal and Tweedmouth bring us right up to Berwick-on-Tweed itself, that grey old Border town which has seen so many turns of fortune, and been harried again and again, only to draw breath after each wild and cruel interlude, and go calmly on its quiet way until it was once more called upon to fight for its very existence.
Though definitely forming part of English soil since 1482, it is not included in any English county, but, with about eight square miles around it, forms a county by itself. Hence the addition, to any Royal proclamation, of the well-known words "And in our Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed."
Sir Walter Scott's description of the Northumbrian coast, in his poem of Marmion may well be recalled here. It will be remembered that the Abbess of Whitby, with some of her nuns, was voyaging to Holy Island, and we take up the description when
".... the vessel skirts the strand Of mountainous Northumberland; Towns, towers, and halls successive rise, And catch the nuns' delighted eyes. Monkwearmouth soon behind them lay, And Tynemouth's Priory and bay. They marked, amid her trees, the hall Of lofty Seaton Delaval; They saw the Blyth and Wansbeck floods Rush to the sea through sounding woods; They passed the tower of Widdrington, Mother of many a valiant son; At Coquet-isle their beads they tell To the good saint who owned the cell. Then did the Alne attention claim, And Warkworth, proud of Percy's name; And next they crossed themselves, to hear The whitening breakers sound so near, Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar On Dunstanborough's caverned shore. Thy tower, proud Bamburgh, marked they there, King Ida's castle, huge and square, From its tall rock look grimly down And on the swelling ocean frown. Then from the coast they bore away And reached the Holy Island's bay.
* * * * *
As to the port the galley flew, Higher and higher rose to view The castle with its battled walls, The ancient monastery's halls, A solemn, huge, and dark-red pile Placed on the margin of the isle.
In Saxon strength that abbey frowned, With massive arches, broad and round.
* * * * *
On the deep walls, the heathen Dane Had poured his impious rage in vain; And needful was such strength to these, Exposed to the tempestuous seas, Scourged by the winds' eternal sway, Open to rovers fierce as they. Which could twelve hundred years withstand Winds, waves, and northern pirates' hand."
NORTH AND SOUTH TYNE.
"On Kielder-side the wind blaws wide; There sounds nae hunting horn That rings sae sweet as the winds that beat Round banks where Tyne is born." —A.C. Swinburne.
Between Peel Fell and Mid Fell, almost the farthest western heights of the Cheviot Hills, a little mountain stream takes its rise, and flows to the south and east. This little burn is the North Tyne, the beginnings of that stream which, deep, dark, and swift at its mouth, bears the mighty battleships there built to carry the war-flags of the nations round the world. In the wild and lovely district where the North Tyne takes its rise, is Kielder Castle, a shooting box belonging to the Duke of Northumberland.
This neighbourhood is the scene of two romantic ballads; that of the "Cowt (colt) of Kielder" and the Ettrick Shepherd's ballad of "Sir David Graeme." The deadly enemy of the young "Cowt," so called from his great strength, is Lord Soulis of Hermitage Castle, on the Scottish side of the border. The Cowt, with his followers, was enticed into the Castle, where Lord Soulis purposed his death; but the gigantic youth burst through the circle of his foes and escaped. The evil Brownie of the moorland, however, gave to Lord Soulis the secret which safeguarded the young Cowt. His coat of mail was sword-proof by a spell of enchantment, and he wore in his helmet rowan and holly leaves; but these would all be of no avail against the power of running water. The Cowt was pursued until, in crossing a burn, he stumbled and lost his helmet, and ere he recovered, his enemies were upon him, and they held him under water until he was drowned.
Not far from the mouth of the Bell Burn, which here runs into the Tyne, a circle of stones outside an ancient burial ground is known as the Cowt's Grave.
"This is the bonny brae, the green, Yet sacred to the brave, Where still, of ancient size, is seen Gigantic Kieldar's grave.
* * * * *
Where weeps the birch with branches green Without the holy ground, Between two old grey stones is seen The warrior's ridgey mound.
And the hunters bold of Kieldar's train, Within yon castle's wall, In a deadly sleep must aye remain Till the ruined towers down fall."
In the ballad of "Sir David Graeme," by James Hogg, the lady of the story watched out of her window in vain for the coming of her "noble Graeme," who had vowed that the hate of her father and brothers would not keep him from coming to carry off his fair lady on St. Lambert's night.
"The sun had drunk frae Kieldar Fell His beverage o' the morning dew; The deer had crouched her in the dell, The heather oped its bells o' blue.
* * * * *
The lady to her window hied, And it opened o'er the banks o' Tyne; An' "O! alack," she said, and sighed, "Sure ilka breast is blythe but mine?"
Her forebodings prove only too true, for her lover's faithful hound seeks her out, and with mournful looks induces her to follow him over Deadwater Fell, and guides her to a lonely spot where the body of the gallant Graeme, slain by her brothers, is lying.
In the neighbourhood of these desolate Fells are to be found many traces of ancient British Camps.
The little mountain streams which here help to swell the stream of the North Tyne are, on the south side, the Lewis and Whickhope Burns, and on the north, the Plashetts and Hawkhope Burns. On both sides of the Tyne, near the Whickhope and the Hawkhope Burns are many remains of an ancient pre-historic forest, the largest being near the Whickhope Burn where the abnormally thick stems of trees may be seen.
The little village of Falstone is set amongst trees, in the midst of pleasant meadows, a welcome relief from the bare fells and moorlands around it; yet this wild scenery has a distinct fascination of its own, and adds not a little to the charm of the varied landscape within the bounds of our northern county. At Falstone a fragment of an ancient cross was discovered, with an inscription carved upon it—in Roman letters on one side and in the Runes of the Anglo-Saxons on the other. The inscription states that a certain Eamer set up the cross in memory of his uncle Hroethbert, and asks for prayers for his soul. The existence of a similarly inscribed cross is not known, so that the Society of Antiquaries, in whose keeping this cross rests, has in it probably a unique treasure.
The Tarset Burn, upon which stands the village of Thorneyburn, runs into the Tyne not far from Falstone, and reminds us of the old Border-riding days, when the rallying-cry of the men of the district in many a feud with neighbouring clans was—"Tarset and Tarret Burn, Hard and heather-bred, yet-yet-yet." Near the spot where the Tarset Burn joins the Tyne is a grassy hill on which once stood Tarset Castle, a stronghold of that Red Comyn whom Bruce slew in the little chapel at Dumfries, and of whose death Bruce's friend Kirkpatrick said he would "mak' siccar"!
The village of Charlton, on the north bank of the Tyne, and the mansion of Hesleyside on the other, carry the mind back to the old reiving plundering days, for it was at Hesleyside that the incident of the ancient spur of the Charlton's took place, doubtless many a time and oft, when the good lady of Hesleyside served up the spur at dinner as a gentle hint that the larder was empty, and it behoved her lord to mount and away to replenish the same, preferably with stock from the Scottish side of the border, or if not, a neighbour's cattle would serve equally well.
The Charltons, Robsons (possibly the lineal descendants of "Hroethbert" of the ancient cross) and Armstrongs, held almost undisputed sway over this region, and the district teems with reminders of their prowess and traditions of their exploits. The men of Tynedale (the North Tyne) and Redesdale were known as the fiercest and most lawless in all that wild district. Redesdale is a district of monotonous, almost dreary, moorlands, and wild, bare fells, where sheep graze on what scanty provender the bleak hills afford, finding better fare, however, in the valleys near the river banks, where the pasture is fresh and green.
Bellingham is to-day the most considerable village of the neighbourhood; it stands conveniently at the foot of the hills where the little Belling Burn, or Hareshaw Burn, joins the main stream. In Hareshaw woods is the beautiful Hareshaw Linn, where the stream falls down through a break in the sandstone cliffs, and forms a picturesque waterfall, fringed with ferns and trees and cool mosses. It well repays one for the walk of a mile or so through tangled underwoods by the side of the burn. Bellingham gives its mime to the family of de Bellingham, whose chief seat, however, is now in Ireland and no longer in the little north-country town.
The massive church here, with its roof of stone, bears eloquent testimony to the need for fireproof buildings in a village so near to Scotland in the days of Border warfare. Outside the churchyard wall is the well of St. Cuthbert, or "Cuddy's Well," which was greatly venerated in early days, and many stories are told of the miraculous power of its waters. Inside the churchyard a grave is pointed out as the burial place of the robber whose tragic end was told by James Hogg in his gruesome story of "The Long Pack."
The village itself is plain and bare, as might be expected from a settlement which would probably find that unattractiveness in either wealth or appearance was a tolerable safeguard.
Below Bellingham the North Tyne is joined by its longest and most noted tributary, the Rede Water, which also rises in the Cheviots. Rising in the hills north of Carter Fell, it flows south-east, through a wild region, passing, while still high up amongst the hills, the little village of Byrness, and the new reservoir at Catcleugh, where a supply of pure water is stored for the use of the dwellers in distant Newcastle. On its way to the Tyne, it passes many an old pele-tower, and the Roman stations of Bremenium (Rochester) and Habitancum, near Woodburn. The ancient Roman road of Watling Street crosses the Rede at Woodburn, leading from Habitancum to Bremenium.
Many mountain streams, clear and sparkling, or peaty and brown, join the Rede Water on its way, amongst others the little Otter Burn, by whose banks took place that stirring episode in the constant quarrels between the Douglases and Percies known as "Chevy Chase," from which the fierce battle-cries ring down the five centuries that have passed since that time, with sounds that echo still.
The pretty village of Redesmouth (or Reedsmouth) stands where the Rede Water enters the North Tyne, and a few miles further on the rapid little Houxty Burn pours its peaty waters into the main stream.
On the right bank of the Tyne stands Wark, conveniently placed at one of the most important fords of the Tyne in former days. Like other towns and villages so placed on different streams throughout the country, the advantages of its situation have evidently been appreciated by the successive inhabitants of the land, for there are traces of its occupation by Celt, Roman, and Saxon; and, later, the town was the most considerable in Upper Tynedale. During the time that this part of England was ceded to the Scottish Kings, David and Alexander, it was at Wark that the Scottish law courts for Tynedale held their sittings. The mound called the Mote Hill, near the river, marks the spot where, in all probability, the ancient Celtic inhabitants met together to administer the rude justice of prehistoric times, and to make the laws of their little settlement, which grew to much greater proportions in later years. In fact, it is supposed that the Kirkfield marks the site of a church which stood in the midst of the once extensive town.
A little way up the Wark Burn, above the bridge, there may be seen some upright stems of Sigillaria in the exposed face of the cliffs. On the opposite side of the river from Wark is Chipchase Castle, one of the finest mansions in Northumberland, standing in the midst of the beautifully wooded and picturesque scenery which, from this point onwards is characteristic of the North Tyne. Of the former village of Chipchase scarcely a trace remains, though its name, if nothing else, shows that here has been a village or small town, important enough to have its well-known, market; for "Chip," like the various "Chippings" throughout England is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ciepan—to buy and sell, to traffic. In the reign of Henry II., Chipchase was the property of the Umfravilles of Prudhoe; but later it passed into the hands of the well-known Northumbrian family of Heron.
Not far from Chipchase Castle are the famous Gunnerton Crags, formed by an out-crop of the Great Whin Sill. These lofty cliffs have been the site of a considerable settlement of the ancient British tribes who dwelt in the district in such numbers, as is evident from the scores of camps, which may be traced all over this part of Northumberland. The naturally strong position on the Gunnerton Crags, would be certain to commend itself to a people, the first requisite of whose dwelling places was strength and consequent safety.
At Barrasford the making of the railway cutting led to the opening up of a large barrow, or burial place, of the ancient Britons; and a single "menhir," supposed to be the solitary survivor of a large group of these huge stones, stood near the village school some years ago.
Passing Chollerton and Humshaugh, embowered amongst spreading trees, we arrive at Chollerford, the prettiest village of North Tyne, lying near the river where it was crossed by the Roman Wall. From the bridge which spans the Tyne at Chollerford one of the finest views of the river, both up and down the stream, is to be seen; and to watch the swift brown stream, after a flood or a freshet, foaming through the arches is an exhilarating sight. The bridge itself is a modern one, for we know that all the bridges on the Tyne, except that of Corbridge, were swept away by the great flood of 1771.
In 1394, that prince of bridge-builders, Bishop Walter de Skirlaw of Durham, granted thirteen days' indulgence to all who should assist in rebuilding the bridge at Chollerford; so that already there was one here which had evidently fallen into disrepair. Yet, in the ballad of "Jock o' the Side," the rescuers, with Jock in their midst, reach Chollerford, and, after some anxious questioning of an old man as to whether the "water will ride," are compelled to swim the Tyne in flood, which their pursuers, coming up, will not attempt to do. Now Bishop Skirlaw's bridges did not usually disappear; those of Yarm, Shincliffe, and Auckland have stood until to-day, with occasional repairs. Are we then reluctantly to question the truth of "Jock o' the Side"? Surely, if the choice remain of the accuracy of the ballad or the fact of the bridge, it is the duty of all leal North-country people to swear by the ballad. Perhaps the good Bishop did not personally oversee the rebuilding of Chollerford Bridge: more probably the Wear and Tees do not come down with the angry impetuosity of the Tyne in flood!
The remains of the great Roman camp of Cilurnum (The Chesters) may be seen here within Mrs. Clayton's park. This was the largest military station in Northumberland, Corstopitum, which is very much larger, being more of a civil settlement. At some little distance below the present bridge some of the piers of the old Roman bridge are still to be seen when the river is low.
Eastward from Chollerford is the little church of St. Oswald, standing where the battle of Heavenfield took place. When Penda of Mercia, and the British Prince Cadwallon, were warring against Northumbria, the greatest Northumbrian King, Edwin, was defeated and slain by them; and on their return to the attack, Ethelfrith's eldest son, called back from exile to take the vacant throne, and rule in his father's seat of Bamburgh, also fell before their fierce onslaught. His brother Oswald now took command of the Bernicians and prepared to lead them against the foe. Oswald posted his men in a strong position on the north side of the great Wall; and, setting up a huge cross of wood, called upon all his followers to bow before the God of whom he had learnt during his exile in Iona, and to pray to Him for victory. His army obeyed, and, in the battle which followed, Oswald's forces were completely victorious. The Mercians, and their allies, the western Britons, were routed, and driven out of Bernicia, and Cadwallon was pursued as far as the Denise Burn, and there slain. The Denise Burn is supposed to have been the Rowley Burn, which flows into the Devil's Water, on whose banks stands Dilsten Castle. Some time later, on the spot where Oswald's Cross had stood, a church was erected and dedicated to the royal Saint. It was served from Hexham Abbey.
After passing Wall, which, however, is not quite so near the Roman Wall as Chollerford is, we come to the pretty village of Warden, nestling beneath the woods of Warden Hill; and here, just above Hexham, the North Tyne unites with its sister river in the rich meadow lands which lie near the old town.
The South Tyne has journeyed from Cross Fell, where it takes its rise, northward through a corner of Cumberland, past Garrygill and Alston, until it enters Northumberland where the Ayle Burn on the one hand, and the Gilderdale Burn on the other, flow into it. Here is Whitley Castle, where was a small Roman station called Alio, and Kirkhaugh Church, charmingly placed on the bank of the river, which continues its course northward past Slaggyford, Knaresdale, Eals, and Lambley, till it flows past the fine Castle of Featherstone, and the ruins of Bellister, where it turns eastward to Haltwhistle.
The little streams which enter the South Tyne up to this point flow through wild and romantic glens, two of them owning the Celtic names of Glen Cune and Glen Dhu.
The family of Featherstonehaugh is one of the oldest in the North; and it was concerning the death of one of this family—Sir Albany Featherstonehaugh, who was High Sheriff of Northumberland in the days of Henry VIII.—that Mr. Surtees, the antiquary, wrote the well-known ballad, which, when Surtees gave it him, deceived even Sir Walter Scott into thinking it genuinely ancient. The first verse of the ballad shows with what a verve and swing the lines go.
"Hoot awa', lads, hoot awa' Ha' ye heard how the Ridleys, an' Thirlwalls, an' a' Ha' set upon Albany Featherstonehaugh; And taken his life at the Deadmanshaw? There was Willimoteswick, And Hard-riding Dick, An' Hughie o' Hawdon, an' Will o' the Wa' I canno' tell a', I canno' tell a' And mony a mair that the de'il may knaw."
The ruins of Bellister Castle stand against a sombre background of woods, only a little way from Haltwhistle. The Castle once belonged to the Blenkinsopp family, who also owned Blenkinsopp Castle, about two miles away. The name was formerly spelt Blencan's-hope—the hope being valley or hollow—and the Castle, like many other places, has its legendary "White Lady."
Haltwhistle is a little straggling town lying on both sides of the main road above the South Tyne, where it is joined by the Haltwhistle Burn. By going up the valley of this pretty little stream we shall arrive near the Roman station of AEsica, on the Wall. The town of Haltwhistle is peaceful enough now, but it had a stirring existence in the days when Ridleys, Armstrongs, and Charltons, to say nothing of the men of Liddesdale and Teviotdale, had so strong a partiality for a neighbour's live-stock and so ready a hand with arrow and spear. In the old ballad of "The Fray of Hautwessel," we are told that
"The limmer thieves o' Liddesdale Wadna leave a kye in the haill countrie, But an we gi'e them the cauld steel, Our gear they'll reive it a' awaye, Sae pert they stealis, I you saye. O' late they came to Hautwessel, And thowt they there wad drive a fray. But Alec Ridley shot too well." [Footnote 3: But an = unless.]
The most notable feature of present-day Haltwhistle is the finely placed parish church, of which the chancel is the oldest part, having been built in the twelfth century, so that it was already an old church when Edward I. rested here for a night in 1306, on his way to Scotland for the last time. When William the Lion of Scotland returned from his captivity, after being taken prisoner at Alnwick in 1174, he founded the monastery of Arbroath in thanksgiving for his freedom, and bestowed on the monks the church of Haltwhistle.
All that remains of the old Castle, or "Haut-wysill Tower," is the building standing near the Castle Hill, which latter has been fortified by earthworks. The Red Lion Hotel is a modernised pele-tower. The general aspect of the place is singularly bare and bleak; but from several points in the town, notably from the churchyard terrace, fine views of the river valley may be obtained.
Henshaw (Hethinga's-haugh) is a little village which King David of Scotland, when he was Lord of Tynedale, gave to Richard Cumin and his wife, who afterwards bestowed it on the Cathedral of Durham. It lies by the side of the main road to Bardon Mill, which is the most convenient station for travellers to alight at who wish to visit the Roman Wall and the Roman city of Borcovicus, and the Northumberland lakes. Some little distance up the hill from Bardon Mill station is a very pretty little village whose name speaks eloquently of other invaders than the Romans—the village of Thorngrafton (the "ton" or settlement on Thor's "graf" or dyke). Near at hand there are quarries from which the Romans obtained much building material for the Wall; and in one of these old quarries some workmen discovered a bronze vessel full of Roman coins, a few of gold, but most of silver. This was known as the "Thorngrafton Find," and the interesting story of it is told by Dr. Bruce.
On the opposite side of the South Tyne from Henshaw, Willimoteswick Castle stands on the level plains which are as characteristic of the south bank of the river as are the steep slopes of the north bank. One of the towers of this old Castle yet remains, and forms part of the more modern farm-house which stands there. Willimoteswick was long in the possession of the Ridleys, and it is generally accepted as having been the birthplace of Bishop Ridley, though Unthank Hall, nearer to Haltwhistle, and also a home of that family, disputes the honour. The Bishop, who suffered death at the stake in the troublous times of Queen Mary, in touching letters bids farewell to his Cousin at Willimoteswick and his sister and her children at Unthank.
On the same side of the Tyne is Beltingham Church, with some wonderful old trees in the churchyard, and Ridley Hall, which takes its name from that family, although not now occupied by them. Here the Allen flows into the South Tyne, and nowhere in the whole of the county is there a more beautiful and romantic scene. By the side of the stream the Ridley woods stretch for a mile or two, and the delightful mingling of graceful ferns, overhanging trees, tall, rugged cliffs, flowering plants, and sparkling waters forms a succession of lovely scenes throughout their length, which, with the play of lights and shadows on the dimpled surface of the stream, and frequent glimpses of grassy glades and cool green alleys, make a walk through these enchanting woods an unforgettable delight.
The Allen Burn, which gives its name to the beautiful district of Allendale, is, like the Tyne, formed by the junction of two streams, the East and West Allen, which rise near each other in hills on the border of Northumberland and Durham, down the opposite slopes of which run the little streams which feed the Wear. After flowing apart for some miles, the East and West Allen unite not far from Staward railway station. Both rivers flow, for the first part of their course, through a wild and hilly region, rich, however, in minerals. On the East Allen are the towns of Allenheads, formerly a busy centre of the lead-mining industry, and Allendale Town, which lies about 1,400 feet above the sea-level.
As the lead-mining industry has decreased, Allendale has turned its attention to other methods of living, and now caters for the army of visitors who, each summer, climb its hills and wander through its woods and lanes, and by its riverside, as did the Allendale maid whose memory is perpetuated in the simple lines of the little poem, "Lucy Gray of Allendale."
"Say, have you seen the blushing rose, The blooming pink, or lily pale? Fairer than any flower that blows Was Lucy Gray of Allendale.
Pensive at eve, down by the burn, Where oft the maid they used to hail, The shepherds now are heard to mourn For Lucy Gray of Allendale."
Not far from the village of Catton, the name of "Rebel Hill" reminds us that it was a vicar of Allendale, Mr. Patten, who joined young Derwentwater in the rising of "The Fifteen," and was appointed chaplain of the little army. He met some half-dozen men of the neighbourhood at this hill, when they set off together to join the rest of the forces at Wooler.
On the West Allen is the lonely little hamlet of Ninebanks, with Ninebanks Tower, concerning which little is known with certainty; and on this stream also are two of the most strikingly beautiful places in Northumberland—the delightfully picturesque village of Whitfield, and the well-known Staward-le-Peel.
The ruins of the "Pele" tower stand on a high grassy platform, safeguarded on three sides by tall cliffs and tumbled boulders; the remains of a ditch may also be traced. From this point a splendid view of the river valley, with its steep precipices, overhanging pinewoods intermingled with trees of less sombre hue, and the bright course of the river, may be obtained. At a point a little higher up the valley, where the waters of the stream are held back by some huge rocks, they form a deep pool, and then flow onwards through a narrow gorge called Cyper's Linn. Following the stream now until it has merged its waters in those of the South Tyne, we turn eastward with the main stream and come to Haydon Bridge.
This considerable village, gradually growing to the proportions of a small town, lies on both sides of the river, which is here crossed by the substantial bridge from which the village takes its name; for the original village of Haydon stood at some distance up the hill on the north side of the stream. On the hillside may still be seen the ruins of the old church, in which services are occasionally held in the summer time. The chancel, apparently dating from the twelfth century, and a later little chapel to the south of it, are all that are left of the building. Some very quaint inscriptions are to be seen in the churchyard, and there are many sculptured grave-covers within the church. Many of the stones used in the building have evidently been brought from the great Wall, or probably from the Roman station of Borcovicus, some six or seven miles to the north; and what a rush of bewildering fancies crowds upon one's mind on first discovering that the font was originally a Roman altar!
The old church must have looked down on many a wild and curious scene in the days when Scot and Englishman sought only opportunities to do each other an injury, and the river-valleys were the natural passes through which the tide of invasion, raid, and reprisal flowed.
In the beginning of the reign of Edward III., about 24,000 Scots, under Douglas and Murray, crossed the Tyne near Haydon Bridge, and rode on to plunder the richer lands that lay to the south and west. They reached Stanhope and encamped there for a time. The young king set out northwards with a great army to punish these marauders, and he was told by his scouts that they had hastily left Stanhope on his approach. He and his army pushed on quickly until they reached Bardon Mill; and, crossing the Tyne, marched down to Haydon Bridge, expecting the Scots to return by the way they went. It was miserable weather, and the feeding of so many thousands of men was no little problem. They scoured all the country round for provisions, getting the most from the Hexham Abbey lands. Meanwhile it rained and rained, and no Scots appeared. After a week of waiting, Edward, in great disappointment, went to Haltwhistle, while his followers reconnoitered in all directions. Finally, he had the mortification of learning that the Scots were still at Stanhope, but before anything more could be done, they betook themselves back to Scotland by a different route, and there was nothing left for Edward but to give up the expedition in despair.