Keys to the Past

Local History

Hedley-on-the-Hill (Northumberland)

Hedley is a small parish lying between the valley of the River Derwent and the watershed to the Tyne.

The oldest finds in the parish date to the Mesolithic period. Pieces of worked flint were found above the Derwent at The Heugh. At this time most people probably moved about following game, such as deer, from location to location through the seasons. Any settlements would have been in tents and bivouacs ' easily portable, allowing movement throughout the whole of the landscape, as well as caves and rock shelters.

Neolithic finds are unknown in this part of Northumberland. For some reason, the Derwent seems to have far fewer finds than the Tyne valley; perhaps there was some preference for the Tyne terrace gravels. Equally, no Bronze Age discoveries have been made.

In the Iron Age a possible promontory fort stood on The Heugh. It used the natural slopes overlooking the Derwent for protection. Other smaller farmsteads may have existed in the parish at this time but their remains have not yet been discovered.

Although Ebchester Roman fort lies just across the river in County Durham, no settlements have been found in Hedley parish. A possible forerunner of the great Dere Street Roman road may have run from Ebchester north-westwards towards the confirmed route of Dere Street near Portgate. Ebchester may have been a draw for people from north and south of the Derwent, perhaps as a market for trading goods. A stone head from Ebchester fort is the only evidence of any Iron Age ritual practices in the area.

Like many parts of Northumberland nothing is known about the early medieval period in Hedley, although a monastery may have stood across the river at Ebchester and the medieval periods is equally unknown.

The parish seems to have escaped mention in the wars between England and Scotland in medieval times. Likewise, the effects of border reivers seem to have had little or no impact on the parish. In post-medieval times industries began to develop here, including mining and quarrying. Many small pits and quarries were opened although only a few are named, such as Hedley Colliery and Ringing Pit. The growth of industry across the country in the 18th century brought with it new approaches to Christianity. This nonconformist version of Christianity was adopted in Hedley and a Methodist chapel and schoolroom were built here.

The parish today, though not as remote as it once was, is still largely quiet and little known to outsiders.

Reference number:N13802

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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.