Keys to the Past

Local History

Cheviotside (Northumberland)

Roddam parish lies near the foot of the Cheviot Hills and contains widespread archaeological sites of all periods and much of historical interest.

Little is known about early prehistoric people in the parish. In the Mesolithic and Neolithic people may have hunted and gathered food here on a seasonal basis, but little evidence has been found. A single Neolithic monument survives on Ewe Hill where a possible long cairn stands overlooking the Breamish gorge.

The first prehistoric settlements known in the parish date to the Bronze Age. At Reaveley Hill and Knock Hill small groups of round houses have been discovered. The settlement at Tathey Crags shows that settlement was possible high in the hills at this time. Prehistoric people also farmed in these now remote and inhospitable areas and, in clearing early fields of stone, they created cairns. On lower ground, fewer prehistoric sites survive although an enclosure at Station Sawmills has been discovered by aerial photography and is visible as a cropmark.

Some of the burial places used by Bronze Age people have been discovered south-west of Roddam village. A number of burial cists, with associated pottery and grave goods, have been found at Roddam Rigg House, Athelstane Mount and Jubilee Wood. And an unusual copper axe lost in prehistoric times in the moss on Hedgeley Moor was found again in the 19th century.

In the Iron Age, people lived in a different type of settlement. Circular enclosures surrounded by ramparts or banks were built in prominent hilltop locations such as Reaveley Hill camp or on promontories as at Knock Hill. Some settlements were probably sited for defensive reasons, but many also occur in lowland areas. These were small farmsteads where an extended family group may have lived and worked and some may have continued largely unchanged into the Roman period, such as East Reaveley.

In the Roman period the farmsteads became squarer, and several survive as earthworks in the hills of Roddam parish at Reaveley Hill, East Knock Hill and Knock Hill. In the lowland parts of the parish archaeological excavations in the 1990s have discovered pit alignments, gullies and buildings close to the Devil's Causeway Roman road that may be part of an as yet undiscovered military site.

Little is known about Roddam until the medieval period, although the Saxon King Athelstane is traditionally associated with Athelstane Mount.

After the Norman Conquest, people lived in small villages and hamlets at Roddam, Roseden and Wooperton N3550}. Over the years these settlements have shrunk in size or become deserted altogether. Small farms were also built and the earthworks of one survive on Ewe Hill together with a long house. A mixture of arable and livestock farming is likely to have been carried out in the parish and cultivation terraces are visible near Heddon.

Medieval warfare would have affected life in the parish. This was not confined to the warfare between England and Scotland but also the War of the Roses. The Battle of Hedgeley Moor took place here in 1464 and Percy's Leap is thought to be associated with Sir Ralph Percy who was killed in the battle.

The 18th and 19th centuries brought more peaceful times to this part of Northumberland. Farming began to develop, with the nearby region of Glendale being at the heart of these new ideas. More productive and innovative methods show themselves in the new farm buildings that were built here in the 18th and 19th century, such as Calder and Roddam Home Farm. Wealthy landowners built fine country houses in the parish, including Roddam Hall and Brandon White House. Amongst the owners of Roddam Hall was Admiral Robert Roddam RN (1720-1808) who rose through the ranks to become Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth before retiring to his country seat. He is buried in a mausoleum in the neighbouring parish of Ilderton. Communications also improved in the post-medieval era, with turnpikes and railways making travel easier than it ever had been before. The railway line from Alnwick to Cornhill passed through the parish and there was a crossing at Roseden with a signal box and crossing keeper's house.

Reference number:N13766

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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.