Stannington parish lies either side of the A1 Newcastle to Edinburgh road in south-east Northumberland. Most land is under agriculture, with woodland, some parkland and a scattering of small villages and farmsteads.
The earliest piece of evidence for human activity is a Neolithic stone axe found on the Blagdon estate. This was a time when people were only just beginning to farm and lead a more settled way of life. The axe may have been used to chop trees down, making way for early farming.
Another piece of evidence exists for the Bronze Age. A cist was uncovered near Clifton containing human bones, but no settlements have been found.
The oldest settlements in the parish are Iron Age or Roman in date. They are all visible as cropmark enclosures, such as North Whitehouse, south of Stannington Station, Clifton and New Horton Grange and may be of either period. One of these, the enclosures south of Stannington station were excavated in 1961 and the small number of objects found probably date it to the Roman period. Inside these enclosures there were probably circular huts made of wood in which an extended family lived.
What Stannington was like in the early medieval period is unknown. However, the place-name element 'ing is thought indicative of Anglo-Saxon settlement, as in the name Stannington.
Medieval sites are much better known through historic records. The proximity of Newminster Abbey near Morpeth led to the development monastic granges in the parish. They provided Newminster with food and materials, such as that at Horton Grange. Other monastic institutions included a hospital at Hartford Bridge. Secular estates also recognised the wealth of the area with a manor at Bellasis which served Morpeth. The pattern of medieval settlement was one of small villages and hamlets, such as Coldwell, Dovecote Farm, Clifton and West Duddo. Some have vanished entirely, others have earthwork remains and yet others have merely shrunk in size. Traces of the medieval ploughing called ridge and furrow survive as earthworks at outside Stannington village and at Dovecote Farm. These small villages were served by chapels, although the exact site of one at Shotton is unknown.
As well as farming, this was an area rich in minerals, especially coal. Industrial extraction of coal, gravel and stone took place north of Whitehouse Farm, east of Netherton Park and north-east of Glororum, respectively. The wealth that could be derived from the coal trade is well shown by the country estate of the Ridleys. Blagdon Hall was built in the early 18th century and set within landscaped parkland. To this was added a deer park, bounded by a wall to stop deer from escaping. The impact of developments in farming at this time can also be seen in the many fine farmsteads built in the parish, at Milkhope, Duddo Hill, New Horton Grange, and Glororum.
In the early 20th century, Blagdon has been added to by the most fashionable architects and designers of the age, including Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. The more therapeutic qualities of the countryside were deliberately utilised by Gateshead Borough who built a psychiatric hospital here incorporating the latest ideas for treatment in purpose-built buildings and landscaped grounds. Lutyens was also responsible for a number of other buildings in the parish, including Catraw and a pair of bus shelters. The natural resources of the parish have continued to be exploited and coal continues to be a commodity right into the 21st century.
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