Keys to the Past

Local History

Sandhoe (Northumberland)

View across Stagshaw Bank. Photo by Northumberland County Council.
View across Stagshaw Bank. Photo by Northumberland County Council.

Sandhoe parish lies mainly on the south-facing slopes of the Tyne valley. At the northern end a small stretch of Hadrian's Wall forms the parish boundary and along the east side there is Dere Street.

Although the Tyne valley was probably a prime area for early prehistoric hunter gatherers and scatters of flints have been found elsewhere, no Mesolithic finds have yet been made in Sandhoe. Similarly, the Neolithic is unknown here too.

In the Bronze Age, when people had already started to lead a more settled way of life a few finds and burial places have come to light. An axe head could have been used to chop trees down, either for fuel or building. The oldest structures in the parish are a possible cist found south-west of Halton and a round cairn that stands north of Sandhoe. Without exception these places are in the higher ground in the north of the parish. People probably lived in the lower parts of the parish as well, but their remains are likely to have been disturbed and destroyed by long years of farming.

How the prehistoric inhabitants reacted to the Romans is unknown. Most of the Roman remains in this part of the county are connected to the large presence around Corbridge and Hadrian's Wall. Yet, an earlier frontier also passes across the parish. Called the Stanegate, this road was built in the first century AD and connected the fort at Red House Farm to those at Carvoran and Vindolanda an eventually to Carlisle (Cumbria). A possible signal station at Mount Pleasant could have been a look-out post for the fort at Red House Farm, although it equally have worked in conjunction with Corbridge Roman station and town.

In the early medieval period, there was a Saxon presence at nearby Corbridge and Hexham and these high-status sites would have needed supplies from outlying farms. Although no evidence has yet been found, such supply centres could have existed in Sandhoe.

In the medieval period remains in the area are centred upon these major centres again. Dere Street Roman road was still a major route at this time and Stagshaw Fair was held just off this road. It would have brought a temporary presence of much livestock that was bought and sold and then moved on elsewhere, such as Corbridge, Hexham and further afield. It is possible that this fair had its origins in even earlier periods, but it is best known in the medieval and post-medieval periods. The settlement pattern at this time comprised small villages and hamlets, such as Anick and Sandhoe. Around Sandhoe, remains of medieval cultivation terraces still stand as earthworks and show the lengths people sometimes went to create good farming land. The medieval period was also a time of warfare with Scotland and, although richer pickings were to be obtained at nearby Hexham and Corbridge, some defences were built in the parish such as a tower at Beaufront.

The need for defence continued into post-medieval times when feuding border families, called reivers, made violent raids across the border. Those who could afford it built defensive farmhouses, now called bastles, such as the one Anick. By the later 17th century and into the 18th and 19th centuries, life became more peaceful and the wealthier inhabitants began to invest in their property. Stagshaw House and its grounds were built and Beaufront Castle was redesigned in the 19th century by John Dobson for the Erringtons, also with parkland. As was common at this time, the estate had many specialised buildings, including an icehouse.

Reference number:N13799

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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.