Cramlington, Horton and Plessey lie in south-east Northumberland in an area marked by the River Blyth in the north and the county boundary with North Tyneside in the south.
The oldest remains are those of a possible Neolithic henge at Bebside, discovered by aerial photography. A later site with ritual or religious associations is a Bronze Age cemetery at Plessey Quarry. Three pots were found on a high point overlooking the River Blyth, a situation typical of burial places at this time.
Little is known of the Iron Age or Roman period. Settlements were small, roughly rectangular enclosures with circular timber huts inside. Cropmarks of enclosures at Cramlington may be all that remains of these small farmsteads but recent excavations at a site north of West Hartford found no prehistoric remains.
The earliest documented settlements are medieval villages at Horton and West Hartford with a manorial centre at Plessey with its own chapel and hall. Tynemouth Priory owned much of the land in this area and had a grange at Bebside. During the wars with Scotland, there was a need for defences and a manor house at Horton was fortified in the 13th century. Another defended building stood at Bebside where a tower house was built and later incorporated into Bebside Old Hall. An early river crossing was made at Hartford in the 13th century, but the oldest parts of the present bridge are 15th or 16th century.
Post-medieval developments are dominated by the coal industry, but coalmining had already been established by the mid-13th century when coal was probably exported from Plessey to London. Pits were linked by waggonways to harbours on the Blyth and Tyne rivers, such as the Plessey waggonway, though later examples, like the Cramlington Waggonway, linked to the railways. Horsepower was used to lift coal or water from the earlier coalmines, through the use of structures like gin gangs, such as Cuddy's Wheel. Clays and stone were also extracted from brickfields and quarries near Hartford Bridge.
As well as industry, farming was developing new methods and practices. The Agricultural Revolution saw planned farms built to make the most of these new ideas, such as High House Farm, Bebside. A windmill was built at Plessey Checks whilst, for winter meat, a dovecote was built near Plessey Moor Farmhouse.
Defence of the whole industrialised area was especially important in both World Wars. The proximity of these industries, flat lands and rail-links led to increasing defences from the new types of attack. An airfield was constructed to counter Zeppelin raids and an airship base was built at Nelson, Cramlington. It had its own large shed, barrack accommodation, waterworks and chemical plant to make hydrogen gas and was used for airship patrols over the North Sea to counter the U-boat threat in World War I (1914-18).
Modern developments since the 1960s have seen the `New Town' development of Cramlington as commuter-belt and light industry lands on the edge of Tyneside.
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