Keys to the Past

Local History

Newton-on-the-Moor and Swarland (Northumberland)

Newton-on-the-Moor and Swarland parish makes a broad sweep across mid-Northumberland. It crosses a range of landscapes and contains a range of archaeological features.

The earliest remains are two Neolithic stone axes from Hazon High House and Lanehead. This was a time when farming was only just beginning to develop and early farmers would have needed such axes to help fell trees and clear land for fields.

In the Bronze Age the first metal tools were used alongside flint ones, such as the axe from Swarland Burn. We also get the first evidence of structures built by prehistoric people. For now they are limited to burial places such as the two cists found near Swarland Old Hall, but later, in the Iron Age, the first settlements have been recorded.

The range of landscapes in the parish has meant that some settlements survive as earthworks and some as cropmarks. Near Dyke Head are the earthworks of a presumed Iron Age camp with a ditch and ramparts encircling the hilltop. At Wormilees, near East Farm and east of Old Swarland are three roughly circular enclosures that might be Iron Age too and all survive as cropmarks. These may have been small farmsteads where an extended family lived and worked on the surrounding land. Although no Roman remains have been found, life probably changed very little and these early settlements may have continued in use.

In medieval times, several villages and hamlets became established in the parish at Hartlaw, Swarland and Newton-on-the-Moor. The medieval period was a time of warfare between England and Scotland and Overgrass Tower was built to provide some means of protection against the Scots.

The 16th century brought a different kind of unrest as feuds between local border families led to cross-border raids in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Known as reivers they made Northumberland a lawless place and those who could afford it built defensive farmhouses, know called bastles, to protect themselves and their animals. Parts of Swarland Old Hall may date to this time as does Newton Green farmhouse which began life as a bastle.

The post-medieval period saw great changes in the landscape. With the end of border reiving in the 17th century, came a greater security and people began to invest in their surroundings. Newton Green and Swarland Old Hall underwent alterations and became less defensive homes, whilst a whole village was rearranged at Hazon to become dispersed farms. Exploitation of the local geology took place with a freestone quarry and limestone taken at Whittle Quarry and burned in lime kilns. The landscape was also enhanced to become a retreat from industrialised life: Swarland Park, or Swarland New Hall, was the country house of Alexander Davison (a friend of Lord Nelson), and the parkland was specially planted to represent the fleets in the Battle of the Nile.

More recently, Swarland was chosen as the site of Swarland Settlement, a group of 77 houses built in the 1930s to house unemployed craftsmen from Tyneside. In World War II, two probable tank turning circles were built at Swarland in the period immediately before D-Day.

Reference number:N13829

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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.