Keys to the Past

Local History

Longhoughton (Northumberland)

View along the coast near Howick. Photo Glasgow University.
View along the coast near Howick. Photo Glasgow University.

Longhoughton parish lies on the mid-Northumberland coast. There are a wide range of important archaeological and historic sites here ranging from Mesolithic settlement to the gardens of Howick Hall.

Some of the most important archaeological remains are the Mesolithic finds from Howick Haven. This site seems to have been a roughly circular hut, used continuously for many hundreds of years. Excavation has revealed many hundreds of flints ' either tools or knapping waste, as well as organic remains. In Mesolithic times, the coast lay beyond the present coastline and the site was probably chosen because it overlooks a valley and is near crags that would have made it a recognisable landmark.

In contrast, little trace of Neolithic activity has been found. Only a stone axe found west of Longhoughton, which presumably indicates some early tree clearance in the area.

In the Bronze Age there is evidence of burial rites. A cremation cemetery at Howick Heugh and inhumation rites in a cist show differing practices. Other burials have been found at Low Stead and two barrows near Peppermoor were part of a larger cemetery. No Bronze Age settlements have been found in the parish.

The oldest settlements are Iron Age and include the earthworks of a hillfort above the Howick Burn. Early antiquarians discovered a range of artefacts from this site in the 19th century. More settlements are known as cropmarks, such as at Frank Plantation, Cushat Wood and north-east of Longhoughton. Little seems to have changed between the Iron Age and Roman periods and these early settlements may have continued in use. Antiquarians recorded a possible Roman camp on Ratcheugh Crags, although this identification is less secure now.

Unusually, there is evidence of an early medieval presence in the parish with a cemetery excavated at Howick Heugh in 1937. Although no settlement has been found to go with the burials there are several places nearby that have the Anglian place-name element 'ing. There is also a cross in the churchyard at Longhoughton village, which may be pre-Conquest in date.

In the medieval period there were villages and hamlets at Little Houghton, Howick and Longhoughton. At Little Houghton, there are earthworks of medieval fields with ridge and furrow cultivation, but there are no signs of Howick village, which was swept away when parkland was laid out in the 19th century. A church was built at Longhoughton in the 11th century and a chapel at Howick. In the graveyard of the Church of St Michael at Howick Hall, there are four medieval grave slabs that may still be in their original positions. Historic records also show that a tower was built at Littlehoughton Hall and at Howick, probably in response to the medieval wars between England and Scotland.

The post-medieval period saw lots of changes in the landscape as agriculture and industry developed. The fields around Longhoughton were altered and early maps show the changes brought about by the 17th century. In the 18th and 19th century new developments in farming meant that many fine farms were built, such as Little Mill. Industrial developments focused on the geology of the parish. Limestone was quarried in quantity and burned in lime kilns to provide lime for farming and building. Kilns at Longbank Quarry and Peppermoor exported lime to the nearby railway. An important complex operated at Littlemill West Quarry where probably the largest kiln bank in the county still stands, complete with its own waggonways. Whinstone was also quarried and used in road metalling.

Landowners made great investments in their surroundings at this time. A fashionable country house was built at Howick Hall together with surrounding parkland and gardens. The Bathing House was built on the rocky coast as part of the Howick estates, owned by the Grey family. On part of the neighbouring Alnwick (Percy) estates, the Ratcheugh Crags observatory was built by Robert Adam, complete with false battlements. An estate village was also built at Howick, and is dated 1841.

Real and more recent defences were built in World War II (1939-45) with a pillbox recorded on the coast at Sugar Sands and a bombing decoy at Longhoughton.

Reference number:N13826

Disclaimer -

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.