Keys to the Past

Local History

Hepple (Northumberland)

View over Hepple parish.
Photo by Harry Rowland.
View over Hepple parish. Photo by Harry Rowland.

Hepple lies in central Northumberland, with the River Coquet running across the north-east portion of the parish. The village of Hepple is situated by a bend in the river and much of the south-west part of the parish is taken up by woodland. The oldest finds in the parish date to the Neolithic period and include an arrowhead, axe head and other types of flint implement. This was a time when a more settled way of life was developing, with less reliance on hunter-gathering.

However, it was the Bronze Age people that left behind them evidence of the first built structures. They built cairns for two reasons: one to clear stone from newly created fields and secondly to bury their dead in. Cairns are plentiful across the parish and the burial cairns have revealed a number of objects, such as cinerary urns and stone cists. Other objects from this period include flint implements, a small food vessel, and jet bead.

Before the Roman invasion of Britain in AD43, in a period archaeologists call the Iron Age, the native people of this area lived in small farmsteads and defended settlements. The defended settlements are often called hillforts and were used as places to flee in times of danger, as well as permanent homes. The remains of this type of settlement can be seen at Soldier's Fold and Witchy Neuk together with the remains of several round houses. There are also some less defensive settlements in the parish, such as Camp Field enclosure, unenclosed hut circles on Todlaw Pike and farm at Pattenshiel Knowe.

Possibly the site most rich in finds was a quarry, the site of an Anglo-Saxon burial. Here, the finds included a glass bead with a bronze ring, a bronze chain, two ear pendants, an iron knife, a nail cleaner, a bronze wire ring, a bronze scoop, iron strips, and a bone comb. From around the same early medieval period there were some glass beads found at a different site.

After the Norman invasion of 1066, England was divided between various lords and barons. A number of villages were established in the Hepple area, including Caistron, Low Farnham and Wreighill, where there are some earthworks showing traces of these former settlements. There have been other objects dated to the medieval age found in and around the post-medieval Christ Church, such as a 12th century font bowl, a 14th century grave cover, two gravestones and a footstone.

Like many other areas in Northumberland, Hepple suffered during the border wars with Scotland in the 13th and 14th centuries and some people built defensive homes called tower houses, such as Hepple Tower. The turmoil of the medieval period was echoed in the post-medieval period with fierce feuds between border families called reivers. Those who could afford it built defended farmhouses called bastles and many of these survive across western and central Northumberland either as ruins or as conversions into later, more comfortable farmhouses, such as at Craig Farm, The Raw Farm and High Shaw.

Agricultural improvements in the 18th and 19th century can be seen in the remains of lime kilns at Bickerton and Hepple Whitefield as well in the fine farmhouse at East Hepple and its planned farm buildings. A series of boundary stones were erected to demarcate landownership at Headshope Farm and between Black Hill and Todlaw Pike. Several other industries sprang up at this time with coal workings at Carrick, ironstone working and tileworks. In more recent times a line of pillboxes was built at Bickerton and Hepple, forming part of the Coquet Stop Line.

Reference number:N14569

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.