Keys to the Past

Local History

Humshaugh (Northumberland)

Hadrian's Wall at Black Carts. Photo by Northumberland County Council.
Hadrian's Wall at Black Carts. Photo by Northumberland County Council.

Humshaugh lies in mid-Northumberland on the banks of the River North Tyne, a few kilometres north of Hexham. Archaeological remains in the parish date from prehistoric times to the 20th century. The most famous remains are Roman, with Hadrian's Wall, its milecastles, turrets, and the impressive remains of Chesters Roman fort.

A flint knife found at Keepershield is probably the oldest piece of evidence for humans being in the parish. The blade of this prehistoric flint was finely worked and may have been used to cut hides or meat. In the Bronze Age someone was buried at Rye Hill as their inhumation was discovered buried in a pot called a food vessel. Evidence of the ritual side of prehistoric life is also found on Chesters bridge abutment where the Romans used a stone with a Neolithic cup mark carved on it.

In contrast, the Romans left a great deal of evidence behind them, all of it associated with the military presence along Hadrian's Wall. Humshaugh has some of the very best Roman remains in the country, none more so than Chesters Roman fort. Here, there are traces of a civilian settlement, a bath house, cemeteries, a road, a temple and a well, as well as a Roman bridge of monumental proportions that carried Hadrian's Wall across the River North Tyne.

The people of the early medieval period have left hardly any evidence behind. All that has been found here is a bronze brooch discovered at Chesters Roman fort in the 19th century.

In medieval times people lived in villages at Haughton and Walwick. Over the years Walwick has merely shrunk in size, but Haughton was removed entirely when the grounds of Haughton Castle were laid out in the early 19th century. Upstream of Chesters Roman fort, medieval people chose Chollerford as the place to cross the River North Tyne. A number of bridges were built here and destroyed by floods until the present bridge was completed in 1775. People living in this area also had to contend with the ravages of warfare between England and Scotland in medieval times and those who could afford it built defensive houses to protect themselves. Haughton Castle was just such a building and although it began life as a hall house in the late 13th century, over the years it was altered and fortified and was first called a `castle' in 1377.

Reivers continued to make the border regions of England and Scotland a troubled place to live into the 17th century. Those who could afford it built defended farmhouses, or bastles to protect themselves and their animals from the fighting between different border families. The village of Humshaugh has a number of bastles, since converted to modern living, such as Linden House, Dale House and Cottage and Humshaugh House. Unfortunately, Haughton Castle had gone into decline and in 1541 a raid by Armstrongs, Elliots and Crosiers saw nine horses and goods worth £40 stolen.

The 18th century brought with it a more peaceful way of life and people began to invest more in their surroundings and build less defensive houses. Haughton Castle was transformed into a fashionable country house and some of the bastles in Humshaugh village were altered and extended for more comfortable living. Country houses were built at Walwick and Chesters, and a landscape park was laid out at Haughton, and gardens at Wester Hall. Farming also began to develop more productive and innovative methods and series of fine farmhouses and planned farms were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Coldwell and Haughton Strother. Other economic activities developed, including a paper mill at Haughton, lime burning at Halfway House to improve the fertility of the land, and a dovecote was built at Humshaugh to breed pigeons and doves.

Today, Humshaugh is an excellent place to find out more about the Romans in Northumberland with Chesters Roman fort and its museum open to visitors all year round.

Reference number:N13748

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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.