Keys to the Past

Local History

Ford (Northumberland)

View over Ford parish.
Photograph by Harry Rowland, 1980.
View over Ford parish. Photograph by Harry Rowland, 1980.

The parish of Ford lies in north Northumberland, close to the Scottish border. It has a very rich variety of archaeological an historic sites, with numerous cropmarks, and important monuments and buildings from the prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval periods.

The first people to have left traces of their lives in the parish are from the Mesolithic period. Some of their flint tools and blades have been found and would have been used by people who travelled to seasonal hunting grounds in the search for food. Later, in the Neolithic period, people began to lead a less nomadic way of life and started clearing trees away to make fields. Stone axes, like those from Crookham Eastfield and Pallinsburn, were used to chop down trees. Neolithic people were also the first people to build large ceremonial structures, like the henge at Second Linthaugh, and the possible causewayed enclosure on Flodden Hill. Some pieces of Neolithic pottery have been found as well as mysterious rock carvings on outcrops at Broomridge.

Bronze Age people have left much more evidence behind including ritual and burial monuments as well as a house site. The round house was excavated in 1980 and is more than 3000 years old. Many Bronze Age burials have been found in Ford, and were excavated in the 19th century. Some lay buried under cairns, in cists or urns, for example at Hazely Hill and Ford Common, and at Pace Hill circular hollows were covered with a flat stone. Some of the graves contained objects, such as a jet necklace, pottery and a flint knife. One group of burials were found in a rock shelter together with pits, postholes and earlier, Mesolithic pottery. More evidence of the ritual side of Bronze Age life comes from the King's Stone standing stone and some burials at Ford Westfield House which were found with cup and ring marked stones.

The range of sites dating to the Iron Age is much smaller and all are settlements. This was a time when there seems to have been an increasing level of conflict and people built better-defended places to live, such as Flodden Camp and Fordwood Camp. Both are protected by double ramparts that would have protected the wooden houses that stood inside. Some people built settlements using natural defences, such as a promontory. Although some settlements survive as earthworks some survive as cropmarks and are only visible from the air, such as a triple-ditched enclosure south-east of Ford.

Ford lies north of Hadrian's Wall and life probably changed very little during the Roman period. The only difference seems to have been that the new, small farmsteads built at this time were generally squarer than Iron Age ones.

In medieval times people lived in villages at Kimmerston, Heatherslaw, Crookham, Old Etal and Ford. Over the years some settlements have shrunk in size, but at Ford and Etal they were replaced by planned villages in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, there are still a number of medieval buildings standing in the parish, including the Church of St Michael and All Angels, the Parson's Tower, Ford Castle and Etal Castle.

The medieval period was a time of warfare between England and Scotland and Ford occupied a strategic position near the border. Those who could afford it built defensive houses to protect themselves. The 14th century saw two impressive buildings built here, Etal Castle and Ford Castle. Later, in the 16th century, a the Parson's Tower was built between the church and castle for the vicar's protection. Ford lies near the site of the Battle of Flodden fought in 1513; English forces crossed the boggy Pallin's Burn at Branx Bridge and the Scots built a camp nearby.

By the 18th and 19th centuries more peaceful times had arrived in Ford and people began to invest more in their surroundings. Ford Castle was transformed into a fashionable country house on two occasions, first by the Delavals in the 1760s and a century later by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford. New country houses were built, including Pallinsburn House and park and Etal Manor. Farming also began to develop more productive and innovative methods and Ford, lying in Glendale, was at the centre of these new ideas. A series of fine farmhouses and planned farms were built, including Encampment, Etal Rhodes, Watchlaw, and Hay Farm. Industries developed as well, in particular coal mining. The Delavals of Ford invested in Ford Colliery whose remains can still be seen near Ford Moss. The colliery supplied local businesses, such as a brick and tileworks at Flodden and Ford Forge. Waterpower was also important and a number of mills were established on the River Till, including Heatherslaw which is still operating and open to the public. Communications were also improving with the building of turnpike roads. The original milestones still stand along the A697 Wooler to Coldstream road together with the former Blue Bell coaching inn.

Reference number:N13751

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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.