Keys to the Past


Starting with N - 17 Glossary entries found.

In this section of the website you can find out more about specialist and technical terms archaeologists sometimes use. There is also lots more information about famous people and historic events in the north-east.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Z 1-9

Narrow gauge

A narrow Gauge railway has track with 3 foot 6 inch (1067mm) spacing between rails.

Narrow rig

Ploughing traces usually left by a machine. These are straight and narrow than would be achievable with an animal team.

National Trust

A charity set up in 1895 by Octavia Hill, (a housing campaigner), Robert Hunter, (of the Commons Preservation Society) and Hardwicke Rawnsley, (an anti-railway campaigner), which owns lands, houses and artistic collections across England, Wales and Northern Ireland - a sister organisation deals with Scotland. It was set up to preserve lands, houses and collections in danger of being sold or demolished, and also to stimulate interest in these. The Trust has extensive lands in the region - such as the Farne Islands, (see Saint Cuthbert), Hadrian's Wall, Cragside, (see Lord Armstrong) amongst others. It has recently taken on properties of cultural importance such as houses of the 1960s pop group 'The Beatles' in Liverpool, and a former military testing range at Orford Ness, Suffolk. The lands acquired by The Trust cannot be sold without the permission of Parliament.


The nave is the main body of a church, west of the chancel. It is where most of the congregation sits. It may be flanked by aisles.
Diagram of a parish church. Copyright Peter Ryder 2003


The Neolithic or New Stone Age lasted from about 4000BC to 2200BC in the north of Britain. This period is attributed with many innovations including monument building, pottery making, and the domestication of plants and animals, when a new more settled way of life began with less reliance on hunter-gathering.


A local dialect name for a toilet.


A hollow or recess in a wall, often of a church or monastery, or cliff, (see grotto). This may be for statues, acts as seats for clergy (called sedilia), or be where the priestly vessels may be washed (called a piscine) and have ornate edges and decoration.

Night soiling

This was the practice of putting sewage and cess on fields as a fertilizer.

Non Conformism; Nonconformism; Nonconformist; Non-conformist

See Dissenter.


also known as North Durham
Norhamshire was a detached part of County Durham. It was the lands, based on the grants of land to the Lindisfarne priory, in the northernmost triangle of Northumberland south of the Tweed River. Clockwise the boundaries were the coast from Tweedsmouth to Budle Bay, then from Budle Bay west to Tillmouth, and back along the Tweed to Tweedsmouth.

This was administered as part of Durham - but had it's own courts and jurisdiction from Norham castle. The entity existed from before 995AD till 1846AD. It suffered some loss of legal and land ownership privileges at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, as it was ruled by the Bishop of Durham - but continued to exist, sending votes to County Durham elections.

'Bedlingtonshire' was also a detached part of the bishopric. This lay between the Rivers Blyth and Wansbeck, from the coast to about Morpeth area. However, this was only a manor and treated as part of Chester(-le-Street) ward, therefore it only possessed some legal systems and privileges. It was sold after the English Civil War - but reacquired by the Bishops. If a Norhamshire or 'Bedlingtonshire' militia was raised, (see 1715 rebellion and 1745 rebellion), it would be used to defend County Durham. The Bishops of Durham also acquired land at Crayke, Northallerton and Howden, (all in Yorkshire), Scotland and Lincolnshire, as overnight stops for journeys elsewhere. These areas finally ended in 1846AD as part of governmental reorganisation, though lands apart from Norhamshire and 'Bedlingtonshire' had been lost in Scotland because of the Anglo-Scottish Wars, seized and sold before. Early county histories will deal with these areas as part of Durham.


The period after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Normans came from Normandy in northern France and were descendents of the Vikings. Norman is also used to describe the architectural style of the 11th and 12th centuries as shown by their castles, cathedrals and abbeys. This style is also known as Romanesque.

Norman Conquest

In 1066 the Anglo-Saxon king of England, Edward the Confessor, died. There was a dispute between the Anglo-Saxon lord Harold Godwinson and Duke William of Normandy. Duke William invaded England and defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings to become king of England.

Norman Shaw

See Shaw, Norman.

North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty

The North Pennines was made an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1988. At almost 2000ha it is the second largest such area, and one of the most remote and unspoilt parts of the country.

Northern Rebellion

This was a rebellion by the Catholic nobility of the north. It was launched in November and December 1569AD being led by Thomas, Earl of Northumberland, and Charles, Earl of Westmorland. This used the flag of the Pilgrimage of Grace showing the wounds of the crucifixion. The rebels destroyed English Bibles and restored traditional altars and statues. The rising was put down for the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I by Lord Sussex. Westmorland escaped into exile - but Northumberland was beheaded after a failed attempt to seek sanctuary in Scotland in 1572AD. Henry, who became the 8th Earl had held the castle at Tynemouth for the Queen in the rebellion.


In medieval times and later the county covering most of England from the Tyne north to the Scottish Border. However, in the 1970s much of Newcastle was removed from the county and is administered separately. The county town of Northumberland is now Morpeth.


An Anglo-Saxon kingdom and later earldom formed from the joining of Bernicia and Deira. This at times was all of England north of the Humber, north to the Firth of Forth and across to the west of Scotland acquiring land through treaty and force. These bits of land were also variously lost. It was also an Early Medieval earldom when acknowledgement was made of the English and Scottish crowns - though retained considerable powers till the Harrying of the North.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Z 1-9