Keys to the Past

Local History

Tillside (Northumberland)

River flood banks near Weetwood Bridge, Chatton. Photo by Northumberland County Council, 1990.
River flood banks near Weetwood Bridge, Chatton. Photo by Northumberland County Council, 1990.

Chatton is a large parish in north Northumberland parish lying between the Cheviots and the coastal plain.

The earliest remains are Mesolithic flint tools and knapping waste from Amerside Law and Bowden Doors. The uplands were probably visited during summer months following the migration of animals. Bowden Doors seems to have been used as a rock shelter, though for how long is unknown; such a crag-line would be a recognisable landmark for repeat visits.

Chatton is rich in Neolithic remains. Most are the well known, but mysterious, cup and ring marked stones that can be found in the higher parts of the parish, for example Weetwood Bank and Chattonpark Hill. A more unusual position was found at Kettley Crag rock shelter, beneath a rock overhang. This was a time when farming was beginning and some stone axes found on Chatton Moor may have been used to clear ground for fields. The ritual side of life can be seen in a stone circle at Whinny Hill and the Ox Hill long cairn, which originally would probably have had a wide view of the surrounding land, but is now hemmed in by forestry plantations. The oldest settlement in the parish is probably an enclosure west of Chatton where archaeologists found evidence of use from the Neolithic to the Roman period.

Cup marked stones were often reused in Bronze Age burial and ritual places, such as a ring cairn at Chatton Sandyfords and a cairn on Weetwood Moor. Many other burial places lie on moorland in the parish, including a probable enclosed cremation cemetery on Whinny Hill. A palisade settlement stood west of Chatton and two groups of unenclosed round houses lie on Horton Moor.

Many more settlements are known in the Iron Age. They include hillforts at Simonside Camp and on Horton Moor, defended enclosures in Fox Covert, above the Mill Burn and at Chattonpark. Some may have been used in the Roman period too.

The Roman road known as the Devil's Causeway passes through the parish, but no characteristic Roman camps or forts are known in this area. However, there are many enclosures and settlements that date to this period, such as in Deershed Plantation, near the Lyham Burn and on Weetwood Moor.

No early medieval remains have been found in the parish but the place-name elements 'ham and 'ing, such as Lyham and Doddington, are thought to indicate Anglian settlements.

Much more is known about the medieval period, when people were living in villages and hamlets at Fowberry, Weetwood, Chatton, Hetton, Horton, Old Hazelrigg and Old Lyham. The remains of some survive as earthworks together with ridge and furrow, the remnants of medieval field systems, whereas others are only known from historic records. This part of the county suffered in the wars between England and Scotland and several tower houses were built for protection. Ruins still stand at Coldmartin Tower whilst others have disappeared and are only known from historic documents, such as Chatton Vicar's Pele, Chatton Tower and Horton Castle. Some are hidden in later buildings, such as Fowberry Tower, Weetwood Hall and Hetton Hall which were altered when the need for defensive homes had passed.

The 18th and 19th centuries were times of change in farming and industry. New ideas in farming were developed during the Agricultural Revolution and new farms were built at Fowberrymains and Broomhouse. Other industries included a tilery and lime kilns at Brownridge and Hetton Quarry. Remains of an older quarry are at Lyham millstone quarry, which is recorded in documented in the 16th century. Coal was also exploited with shafts and bellpits near South Lyham as well as possible lead workings at Linkeylaw and Amersidelaw.

A reminder of more recent conflict is a series of World War II (1939-45) pillboxes, designed to stop any inland movement from the coast.

Reference number:N13007

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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.