Keys to the Past

Local History

Haydon (Northumberland)

Hadrian's Wall from Sewingshields. Photo Northumberland County Council, 1994.
Hadrian's Wall from Sewingshields. Photo Northumberland County Council, 1994.

The civil parish of Haydon stretches from the lowland Tyne Valley, north to Hadrian's Wall and south to the edge of the North Pennines. The main settlement is Haydon Bridge, where a bridge has spanned a crossing point on the River Tyne for at least 700 years.

More than 6000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, people carved mysterious designs into natural rocks at High Shaw and Tony's Patch, Haydon. These cup marked stones, together with stone axe heads found in river beds, are the only signs we have of people who must have travelled through, and probably lived and farmed, in the area we now call Haydon.

Some 3000 to 4500 years ago, during what archaeologists call the Bronze Age, people buried their dead in stone cists. These graves have been found at West Wharmley and Low Morralees. Objects placed in the graves are clues to daily life of these people, as well as their funeral rituals. The objects found include knives and axeheads made of copper alloy, and pottery. Archaeologists have not found the houses of these people, but cord rig plough marks at Grindon show us that later prehistoric farmers were growing food in Haydon.

Native people continued to live in the Haydon area after the Roman invasion of AD43. We don't know how much their lives were affected by the invasion, but we do know that they continued to grow crops, keep animals and live in round houses in small settlements. The remains of Roman period native settlements can be seen at Knag Burn and Howden Hill. The occupants of Knag Burn were metal workers as well as farmers. Archaeologists have found evidence of lead smelting there. Coal was mined during the Roman period, and the remains of pits dug for coal can be seen in Haydon.

The Roman army's frontier with Scotland ran through Haydon. The Roman army built Hadrian's Wall, running from coast to coast. The section in Haydon includes, a gateway at Knag Burn, Turret 35b, Turret 36a, Milecastle 36, Housesteads Fort and a bathhouse. Various Roman roads run through Haydon. Stanegate was the main east-west road. The Military Road ran alongside the Wall, next to a bank and ditch known as the Vallum. Smaller roads N6641, connected various temporary camps. These camps are still visible as earthworks at Grindon Hill, Grindon School and Sandyford Farm. Other Roman military installations along the route of Hadrian's Wall included a line of signal towers. The remains of one of these signal towers survives as an earthwork. Inscribed and carved Roman stones are often found re-used in buildings in Haydon. An example is the centurial stone found re-used in a wall near Sewingshields School.

After the Roman army left, life continued in Haydon. We know that Anglo-Saxon people settled in the area. A piece of a carved stone cross was found in the River Tyne at Whitechapel.

After the Norman invasion of 1066, the area was split into baronies and manors. The most important of these was Langley Castle. The town of Haydon Bridge grew from two medieval villages, Langley and Haydon. Many other medieval villages in the parish have now disappeared altogether. These deserted medieval villages can be seen as earthworks all over Haydon parish.

Like many other areas in Northumberland, Haydon suffered from border raiding from the 12th through to the 16th century. This affected the type of buildings people lived in. Many bastles were built, offering accommodation for animals on the ground floor, and people upstairs. Staward Pele is a good example of a pele tower, another type of defensive building built during this period.

In the post-medieval period, Haydon became an important producer of lead. The Langley Barony mines and Langley and Blaghill smeltmills are important examples of 18th century industrial development. During the 19th century, coal mining became more intensive, developing new techniques and technology. The 19th century buildings preserved at Stublick Colliery are good examples of buildings which do not survive at other former coal mines.

Reference number:N13365

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Disclaimer -

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.