Views over Ingram parish. Photo Northumberland County Council 1991.
View of Linhope, Ingam. Photo by Harry Rowland.
The parish of Ingram lies to the west of Alnwick on the River Breamish, where it emerges from a valley in the edge of the Cheviots into the wider landscape of Whittingham Vale.
Although there may have been settlers here as early as the Mesolithic, it is not until the Neolithic that the first evidence for human occupation is found. A stone axe was found in a garden just to the north of the river in Brandon. This may have been used to clear trees to make simple fields. To the south-west of the parish on the site of Wether Hill hillfort traces of Neolithic occupation have been found. Although no building remains have been located, archaeologists uncovered a pit containing several fragments of pottery in 1997.
With the wider spread of farming in the Bronze Age there are many more remains to be seen in the area. Small clusters of typical hut circles have been found at Cochran Pike, Cat Crag and Turf Knowe. Like most settlements of this period these are not surrounded by an outer bank or ditch. These early settlements are often found surrounded by traces of an early system of fields. An excellent example of this can be seen close to Linhope Burn, which is thought to be the highest Bronze Age settlement in Northumberland. The remains of two hut circles are surrounded by a large group of fields, banks and boundaries; some were over 4m wide. Slight remains of cord rig, the ridged traces of prehistoric ploughing can also be seen here. Similar remains can also be seen near Het Burn. In these upland areas stones often had to be cleared from the land to allow the fields to be ploughed. These stones were then piled into heaps, or cairns. These can be seen at several sites, for example on the northern slopes of Greenside Hill. Not all such cairns were simply piles of stone. Several were probably used as burial mounds. A probable burial mound can be seen on the summit of Wether Hill. Others can be seen on Turf Knowe and North Knoll. In the lower lying areas of the parish to the east many of these burial mounds have been destroyed by 19th and 20th century ploughing. However, sometimes early remains were recorded by archaeologists in the 19th century. For example, a prehistoric pot and a spearhead were found in a now lost barrow to the north of Brandon White House.
In the Iron Age people began to live in settlements surrounded by an outer enclosure, usually a stone and earth bank. Several of these are recorded in Ingram, for example at Cochrane Pike Camp. However, unusually in this parish there are more remains of hillforts. These are larger settlements surrounded by more than one earth rampart. Hillforts stand on the top of Old Fawdon Hill, Castle Knowe and Prickly Knowes. As in the Bronze Age many of these settlements are surrounded by traces of early farming, such as Old Fawdon Hill.
Although the Romans invaded in the first century AD, Ingram was far to the north of the Roman border for much of the period of Roman occupation, and life changed little. People continued to live in simple enclosed settlements, such as those found on Brough Law and Hartside Hill. Because the Romans had so little effect on life, when their rule came to an end there were few changes. Despite this, definite evidence for early medieval occupation is rare in the Cheviots. Nonetheless, Ingram is exceptional in having the remains of at least two possible settlement sites. An Anglo-Saxon knife of seventh century date was found within the earlier settlement at Brough Law. This suggests that occupation may have continued through here from the Roman period. At Ingram Hill Camp it is probable that the rectangular buildings found within the Iron Age defences may have been early medieval houses. It is also possible that the iron spear found in the round cairn at Turf Knowe may have been part of an early Anglo-Saxon burial, though similar iron spears were also used in the Iron Age and Roman period. It is likely that by the eighth or ninth century many of the hilltop settlements had fallen out of use, and new villages were being formed in the lower lying areas. Many of these settlements have Old English names, such as Ingram, which comes from the early word `Angr' meaning `grassland'.
In the medieval period there were several small villages in the parish, such as Branton, Fawdon and Linhope, but now there is little to see at these sites, as they became deserted in the post-medieval period. There were also several small upland farmsteads, such as the one to the west of Brough Law and that north of Linhope. These may have been shepherd's shielings, and not occupied all year round. The main church in Ingram is dedicated to St Michael. The earliest parts date to the 12th century. There was also probably a 12th century chapel at Brandon, though it was completely rebuilt before it fell into ruins. It was only the early font which suggested the 12th century date. The tower of St Michael's church was strongly built and may have acted as a stronghold during the Scottish raids in the late medieval period, and would also have been a defence against the later Border Reivers. A small tower was also built near the church as a fortified home for the parish priest.
In the more peaceful times following the 16th century farming began to expand, and the 18th and early 19th century was a period of much growth. New, large farmhouses were built, such as those at Brandon and Branton West Side. These were often accompanied by new farm buildings. Other changes included the growth of new churches in competition with the Church of England; a Presbyterian Chapel was built in Brandon in the mid-18th century.
Although the area has remained primarily agricultural, its position on the edge of the Northumberland National Park has led to an increasing number of tourists in the area coming to enjoy the wildlife and countryside. This has become particularly important since the opening of the most northerly of the National Parks visitor centres, where tourists and visitors can come and learn about the history and natural heritage of this beautiful area.
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