Keys to the Past

Local History

Lesbury (Northumberland)

View towards Lesbury.
Photo by Harry Rowland.
View towards Lesbury. Photo by Harry Rowland.

The civil parish of Lesbury lies in eastern Northumberland, on the North Sea coast just north-west of Alnmouth, in the direction of Alnwick.

The earliest archaeological evidence from this parish dates to between 4000 and 6000 years ago and consists of two axe heads. These axe heads may represent evidence that Neolithic people once occupied this area, or at least travelled through it. Alternatively they may have been brought here by more recent collectors and subsequently lost.

Slightly later in date, a copper alloy spearhead from the Bronze Age has been found in Lesbury. Stone tools were still made and used at that time and a stone hammer head found near the Hipsburn in Lesbury in the 19th century is an example of this later use of stone. During this time, people buried their dead in stone-lined cists under cairns. Examples of such burials have been found in Lesbury at Shell Law and Birney-Knowe Field.

Some structures in the landscape are very difficult to date. One such site is the defended site known as Alnmouth Castle on Pine Hill which was probably built at some time between 2000 and 4000 years ago.

So far, there is nothing known about the Roman or early Christian periods in Lesbury. However, there is evidence from later periods. After the Norman invasion of 1066, the land was shared out between Norman barons and lords. Large baronies owned smaller manors. Villages often grew up around these manors. Medieval villages were small. Over time, some, such as Lesbury, grew in size, while others shrank until they were no more than one farm or house, or disappeared completely. Examples of shrunken or deserted villages in the parish of Lesbury are The First, Wooden, Bilton, Hawkhill, Marden and Foxton Hall. Archaeologists call these settlements deserted medieval villages. Sometimes earthworks can be seen, which are all that remain of crofts, tofts and field systems. Ridge and furrow was created by the medieval farmers of Foxton Hall.

Some medieval buildings still survive today. The Church of St Mary was built in the 12th century, although it has been altered since. Lesbury Bridge was built in the 15th century, and may have replaced an even older bridge. The bridge may have been built at the same time as Lesbury Mill, which was standing on the river bank by 1523, next to the spot where Lesbury Bridge stands today.

Coal mining took place on Bilton Common in the 17th century, but Lesbury was primarily an agricultural area. Seventeenth century field systems at Lesbury and Bilton can be seen on a map drawn in 1624. In the 18th and 19th centuries, farmers improved their land with fertiliser that had been extracted from limestone in lime kilns. The remains of a lime kiln can be seen today at Snableazes.

The railway arrived in Lesbury in 1848. A viaduct was built over the Aln in this year, designed by Robert Stephenson. Today it forms part of the East Coast Main Line. In 1890, a trawler called the Annie Walker sank off Marden Rocks and still lies there today.

During World War II, a pillbox was built at Foxton Hall. It formed part of Britain's coastal defences and can still be seen today.

Reference number:N13492

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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.