Bedlington lies in south-east Northumberland. Although it is not a modern civil parish the town of Bedlington sites fairly centrally within an area bound on the south and east by the River Blyth, to the west by the Pegwhistle Burn, and to the north by the Sleek Burn and a mineral railway line.
Although there may have been earlier inhabitants, the first evidence we have for human activity probably belongs to the Neolithic and is represented by a single flint implement found at Nedderton. More evidence is present for human activity in the Bronze Age with the discovery of burial cists at Mill Hill in Bedlington. There are no upstanding remains of this date, or the following Iron Age and Roman periods in this area. However, there is evidence of possible settlements from these later periods which survive as cropmarks at Sleekburn and Netherton Moor Farm.
Evidence of human activity at Bedlington in the early medieval period comes from both documentary and archaeological sources. The earliest documentary evidence for this area relates to the purchase of the estate of Bedlington by Bishop Cutheard of Durham in the early tenth century. Documentary sources also refer to an early church, which is supported by some carved stones in the present church that are thought to be tenth century in date. The discovery of possible tenth century Viking grave goods somewhere in Bedlington in the 19th century also provides supporting evidence of activity at this time.
During the medieval period Bedlington became part of the County Palatine of Durham and was the capital of Bedlingtonshire. This connection was maintained until 1844 when Bedlington became part of Northumberland by Act of Parliament. Although there are no standing medieval buildings, except the Church of St Cuthbert, documentary sources suggest that there was a hall for the bishop, a court, and a leper hospital. Additionally, there might have been a mill dam and a fishery. A tower house, possibly of medieval date, also stood in the town but was demolished in the 1960s. Outside the town there was a medieval bridge across the River Blyth at Hartford.
From medieval times to the later 18th century, the character of this area probably changed very little. However, with the exploitation and development of nearby coal and iron industries the area began to change rapidly. The growth of the coal industry in the 19th century was the most significant influence on the development of Bedlington as a larger settlement. It acted as a focus for many smaller colliery settlements in the vicinity. The area was studded with collieries and crossed by a network of waggonways carrying coal to Morpeth and to staithes on the River Blyth. Ironworking developed as a significant industry in Bedlington in the 18th and 19th centuries on the banks of the River Blyth. The ironworks were famous for the invention of malleable iron rails, patented in 1820, which contributed to the early development of the railways. The prosperity that these industries brought to the area led to the construction of some fine stone buildings in this area, some of which are now protected as Listed Buildings.
Bedlington war memorial and the site of a military camp at Hartford represent more recent history. A Nissen hut from the camp still stands near the entrance to Plessey Woods Country Park.
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