Keys to the Past

Local History

Wall (Northumberland)

Medieval cross base on Fallowfield Fell looking towards St Oswald's Church. Photo by Alan Williams, 2004.
Medieval cross base on Fallowfield Fell looking towards St Oswald's Church. Photo by Alan Williams, 2004.

Wall parish covers a range of landscapes and has a wide variety of archaeological remains. It spans the lowlands by the River North Tyne, rising through steep wooded slopes, pasture and rough-grazing to a high plateau which descends sharply to the north. Dere Street Roman road and Hadrian's Wall mark part of the parish boundary. The geology of the area has been important from Roman times to the post-medieval period.

No Mesolithic presence is known within the parish at all. The Neolithic is only slightly better known at with a cup-marked rock built into Chesters Roman bridge abutment. However, all trace of the original setting for this stone has been long lost through its reuse in the Roman period. A number of Bronze Age burials have been found in the parish, including one found when the Border Counties Railway was built at Chollerford and another at Grottington.

The earliest prehistoric settlement in the parish dates to the Iron Age. A defended settlement stands above the village of Wall with at least six round houses inside an oval enclosure. Later, in the Roman period, a number of small farmsteads were built at Redhouse Crags and near Grottington Farm. They are more rectangular in plan than the earlier settlements with no more than three round houses inside. Although no Roman objects have been found at these settlements the local people probably had some contact with the Romans during the time that Hadrian's Wall was occupied.

Hadrian's Wall runs right across the parish. It was built by the Romans in AD122 and, although it runs unseen in some places, in others it can be seen as a restored stone wall. Other structures in this section of the frontier include the remains of Turret 26b and Milecastle 25 as well as the Vallum. The stone to build this part of the Wall was quarried locally at Black Pasture and Fallowfield Fell where a quarryman left his name carved in the rock face.

In the early medieval period Heavenfields battle was fought somewhere in the area, although the actual site of the battle, as opposing to the rallying point, is hotly debated. A church was later built at the site, dedicated to Saint Oswald and eventually became a possession of Hexham Abbey. A hermitage was built somewhere nearby and Heavenfields became a place of pilgrimage from Hexham Abbey.

Later, in the medieval period, a number of small villages and hamlets grew up in the parish at Keepwick, Beuclay, Great Grottington and East Errington. Historical records tell how the Scots attacked some of these villages in the 14th and 15th centuries. At Cocklaw a tower house was built to protect life and livelihood. Traces of medieval ridge and furrow fields also survive as earthworks around East Errington and Fallowfield.

As border warfare came to an end in post-medieval times industry took on a greater role in the economy of the parish. At Fallowfield there have been active mines since the 17th century, and possibly earlier. Here, galena, barytes and witherite were mined and the spoil heaps of waste can still be seen around the Acomb Burn. Coal and general limestones were also mined and quarried in the area, for example at Cocklaw Quarry where limestone was burned commercially in [lime kilns N9326} that linked to the Border Counties Railway.

With the decline of most of these industries the parish once again has a mainly farming economy and the accessible sections of Hadrian's Wall make this an ideal place to explore Hadrian's Wall country.

Reference number:N13760

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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.