Keys to the Past

Local History

Bowsden (Northumberland)

The parish of Bowsden lies in north Northumberland on a ridge of rising ground which marks the western limit of the level coastal plain. It is one of the smaller parishes in Northumberland yet contains a reasonable cross-section of archaeological and historic remains, from prehistoric burials and a Roman road to post-medieval lime kilns. The name Bowsden probably means `Boll's valley or hill'.

Although there may have been earlier inhabitants, the first evidence we have for human activity comes from the Neolithic with the discovery of a polished stone axe in the 1930s. However, any evidence of Neolithic settlement will probably have been destroyed long ago by continuous agricultural activity in the area. Finds are more abundant from the Bronze Age with the discovery of a cist burial and a round barrow, as well as a spearhead.

There is now a large gap in our knowledge of Bowsden with no remains known from the Iron Age to the early medieval period, apart from the Roman road called the Devil's Causeway. This runs northwards through the parish on its route from Learchild Roman fort towards Berwick.

It is only after the Norman Conquest that we have evidence for the past in the parish. This comes mainly from old documents that show there were settlements at Bowsden and Gatherwick from the 13th century onwards. The medieval period was an unsettled time in the Border region of England. Bowsden was frequently ravaged by Scots who destroyed everything in the parish and such raids are recorded in the account rolls of Holy Island Priory and of Norham.

Coal and lime working were once important industries in this area and there are records of coal pits at Gatherwick in the 16th century. A 19th century lime kiln still stands in Dryburn Quarry and is protected as a listed building.

Reference number:N12997

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Please note that this information has been compiled from a number of different sources. Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council can accept no responsibility for any inaccuracy contained therein. If you wish to use/copy any of the images, please ensure that you read the Copyright information provided.