Broomhaugh and Riding (Northumberland)
Broomhaugh and Riding parish is located in southern Northumberland on the south bank of the River Tyne just south-east of Corbridge. The northern part of the parish is bounded by the River Tyne and the southern part rises towards Broomley Fell. The valley of the March Burn cuts across the north-western side of the parish on its route to the Tyne and separates the main settlements of Broomhaugh and Riding Mill. The name Broomhaugh derives from the broom that grew there; Riding probably derives from the Latin term for a clearing, Riding Mill being the mill by the clearing.
The earliest evidence we have for human activity in the parish comes from the Mesolithic period. This survives as scatters of worked flints which have been discovered in the fields around High and Low Shilford. Around Low Shilford the flints showed a range of types that date from the Early Mesolithic to the Late Neolithic periods suggesting this area had a longstanding early human presence. Unfortunately no traces have been discovered of where these early people lived, although evidence from elsewhere in the County suggests that remains can survive, for example Howick.
Following this early evidence, there is a gap in our knowledge for the Bronze Age and Iron Age, with no such remains having yet been discovered in the parish. However, even in the Roman period we are still lacking any evidence of settlements. The Romans seem only to have passed through the parish along Dere Street on their way between Ebchester and Corbridge.
Like many parts of Northumberland there are no monuments or finds from the early medieval period. It is only after the Norman Conquest that once again we can recognise remains of the past in this parish, albeit through documentary evidence only. Lee, Merchingleyand Shilford were all settlements here in the medieval period and, although no remains are visible today, old documents record, for example, the number of taxpayers, landholdings and tenants who lived there. Another piece of documentary evidence records a 13th century hermitage whose site is now lost, but which probably stood near the March Burn on the boundary between Slaley and Riding Mill. The water mill that gives Riding Mill its name is documented from the 14th century and probably stood on the same spot as the old mill which is now converted to a dwelling.
The troubled nature of the Border region between England and Scotland in the medieval period is documented in the records of some of the villages which are described as having been devastated or totally destroyed. This is not generally an area in which many tower houses were built and there are no examples in Broomhaugh and Riding. However, there are examples of later defensible buildings called bastles at Broomhaugh Farm and Stable End which were built to protect families and their livestock from the Scots and local outlaws.
As the Border region became more peaceful in the 17th and 18th centuries, less defensive homes were built, such as the Riding House which is now known as the Wellington Inn, The Dower House and The Manor House. Broomhaugh and Riding Mill continued develop on a small scale through the 19th century around the railway line that connected Newcastle and Carlisle.
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