Keys to the Past

Local History

Belford with Middleton (Northumberland)

View across farmland near Budle Bay. Photo Northumberland County Council.
View across farmland near Budle Bay. Photo Northumberland County Council.

The civil parish of Middleton lies on Northumberland's North Sea coast approximately 3km north of Bamburgh Castle.

The first inhabitants of Middleton lived in the area between 6000 and 12,000 years ago. These people lived by fishing, hunting wild animals and gathering shellfish and wild plants. Archaeologists call this period the Mesolithic. At this time, people made tools from flint. Several of these flint tools have been found in Middleton, including some in the sea at Budle Bay.

Much prehistoric activity leaves little trace in the modern world. The earliest built remains from Middleton date to between approximately 2500 and 3000 years ago. These consist of an oval-shaped enclosure surrounded by a bank. Archaeologists think this enclosure was used as a settlement or an animal enclosure, during a period they call the Iron Age. Archaeologists have also discovered another enclosure, definitely used as a settlement, either during the Iron Age or Roman period. This site was identified by a cropmark seen on an aerial photograph which reveals the layout of a roughly circular enclosure, surrounded by a ditch and containing the remains of at least two round houses.

Although the Roman occupation of Britain began in AD43, the area we now know as Middleton lies well north of Hadrian's Wall and was therefore outside the Roman Empire for much of the Roman period. However, archaeologists think that the proximity of the Roman Empire must have affected people living in this part of Northumberland, influencing trade and the types of goods that became available. There was also a change in the type of settlements they built during the Roman period, with sites becoming less defensive and often more rectangular in shape. A Roman period enclosure has also been identified in Middleton from aerial photographs.

Archaeologists call the time after the Romans left Britain in AD410 the early medieval period. They have not yet found any evidence of an early medieval population in Middleton, although Anglo-Saxon people were living in the surrounding area, so it is likely that these people were also living and farming in Middleton itself.

Several villages in Middleton are mentioned in documents written after the Norman invasion of 1066. These include Detchant, Elwick, Ross and Middleton. Most of these settlements have fewer inhabitants now than they did in the medieval period. Depending on how depopulated they have become, they are known as shrunken medieval villages or deserted medieval villages.

As a result of the agricultural revolution of the 18th century, lime kilns were built to provide fertiliser for newly enclosed land. An example can be seen at Quarry Hill Wood. An example of one of the farms built in this period is Old Farmhouse at Detchant.

Middleton Hall, surrounded by its landscaped park, was built in the 19th century and is still the largest house in the parish. One interesting feature of the house is a former game larder in the grounds, though it is now used as a garden shed. This structure reflects the interests and activities of the house's original owners.

A different form of hunting was taking place on the coast at the same time. Fish traps, in the form of banks of stone, were created in Budle Bay. At low tide, fishermen could collect any fish trapped behind them. The remains of these banks can still be seen today.

During the World War II, between 1939 and 1945, the coast took on a different importance. Pillboxes were built in Middleton as part of Britain's coastal defences. Four of these structures can still be seen today at Ross Links.

Reference number:N13399

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.