Keys to the Past

Local History

Mitford (Northumberland)

Mitford Castle.
Mitford Castle.

The civil parish of Mitford lies in south-east Northumberland, just west of Morpeth, the county town.

The first evidence of human life in Mitford are the remains of settlements and enclosures created by people between 1500 and 4500 years ago, in what archaeologists call the later prehistoric and Roman periods. Examples of settlements from this period have been found on Spital Hill. Archaeologists call them Spital Hill 1 and Spital Hill 2. It is very likely that people were living in and travelling through Mitford for many thousands of years before this, but archaeologists have not yet found any evidence for them.

Fifteen other enclosures have been identified in Mitford, including a D-shaped settlement containing a round house at Gubeon. Archaeologists don't have enough evidence to date these enclosures yet.

After the Roman invasion of AD43, many aspects of life for the inhabitants of the area we now know as Mitford probably continued without major changes. Four settlements dating from this period have been identified in the parish, at Mitford Steads South, East Coldside Farm, Loansdean Hill and Camp Field. The site at Camp Field was excavated by archaeologists, before being destroyed by open cast coal mining in 1956.

The Roman army may have been familiar with the Mitford area. Although it lay beyond the frontier of the Roman Empire for most of the Roman occupation, the remains of a possible Roman military camp have been identified near Mitford Steads.

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

The major feature of the area after the Norman invasion of 1066 was the construction of Mitford Castle. The borough of Mitford was formed at a very early date after the invasion. Archaeologists think that Mitford probably existed before Morpeth, and that its location may mark the first crossing point established by the Normans on the River Wansbeck. The village of Mitford would have thrived on its proximity to the castle, but its location also put it in danger from border raiding. Mitford had a hospital in the medieval period, although its exact location is unknown. Mitford parish church has been rebuilt several times since it was first built in the early 12th century. Archaeologists digging near the vicarage stables discovered rubble and stonework, which probably represented the demolition or destruction of the church at an unknown date in the past.

Several other villages are mentioned in documents written after the Norman invasion. These include Aldworth, Tranwell and Gubeon, which 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.

The Old Manor House is one of the oldest buildings in Mitford. It was first built in the early 16th century. In the 18th century a landscaped park was created around the Old Manor House. Various other structures and buildings from the 18th century still survive in the parish, including Highford Bridge, Foss Bridge and Mill Farm. One of the most interesting is Abbey Mill, a water-powered fulling mill.

During the 19th century, a brick and tile works existed in the parish. A drinking fountain was built in Mitford village and Mitford Hall was built.

Between 1939 and 1945, four pillboxes were built around Mitford, as part of Britain's Second World War defences.

Reference number:N13454

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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.