Keys to the Past

Local History

Hauxley (Northumberland)

Low Hauxley beach and Coquet Island. Photo by Northumberland County Council.
Low Hauxley beach and Coquet Island. Photo by Northumberland County Council.

Hauxley parish lies on the North Sea coast in mid-Northumberland. The parish is relatively low lying and made up of fertile farmland and a rocky island called Coquet Island, which lies about one kilometre offshore. The area has a long history with remains dating from prehistoric submerged forests to 19th century coal mines.

The earliest evidence of human activity in the parish comes from a collection of Mesolithic and Neolithic flint tools. Some were found in excavations at Low Hauxley and others were found when a farmer was ploughing his fields near Hauxley Cottage. This was a time when people moved about the countryside hunting and foraging for food and only gradually did they begin to settle down and begin farming the land.

So far, we have no idea where these early people lived and it is only with the Bronze Age that the first structures made by prehistoric people some 3500 years ago come to light. As the coastline has moved since prehistoric times, a burial cairn at Low Hauxley originally stood some way from the coast on an area of high ground beside a marshy area of alder and oak. Here, several burials have been excavated by archaeologists, some in stone cists and others without, buried under a mound of earth and stones.

The first evidence of where people lived often comes from the Iron Age and Roman periods. Here, in Hauxley, only one possible enclosure is known and this has been destroyed by modern opencast coal mining. It is quite probable that other settlements and enclosures once existed here but have been destroyed in a similar manner and gone unrecorded.

Unusually for Northumberland, we have evidence of people living and worshipping here in early medieval times. Coquet Island was the site of a monastic cell, first recorded in AD684 when St Cuthbert met Elfleda, the abbess of Whitby. There was probably some sort of monastic establishment here already and an Anglo-Saxon grave slab is one of a number of stray finds found on the island showing people were here before the Norman Conquest.

After the Norman Conquest, in the medieval period, Coquet Island was given to the prior and convent of Tynemouth. A Benedictine foundation was established here before AD1125 but the remains that stand today are 15th century. On the mainland, people may have lived in the village of Hauxley but more research is needed to be sure of its medieval origins.

Even on a remote island, the warfare between England and Scotland at this time meant that a tower was built to protect the monks on Coquet Island. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century the buildings on Coquet Island fell into ruins and the island was used by coin counterfeiters.

Being an easterly parish, Hauxley seems to have escaped the troubles inflicted on other parts of the County in the 16th and 17th centuries by border reivers. As the rest of the County began to settle into a more peaceful way of life in the 18th century, so in Hauxley people invested in their surroundings. Fine country houses such as Hauxley Hall were built. On Coquet Island, a lighthouse was built for the safety of ships.

Industries also developed, such as coalmining at Radcliffe together with a waggonway to transport the coal. Somewhat later than in other parts of the County, a model farm was built at High Hauxley in 1914. Coalmining and farming have continued to be the main economic activities in the parish and, despite restoration, much of the landscape has been transformed by large scale opencast coalmining in the later 20th century.

Reference number:N13745

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.