The most important graynes included Charlton, Dodd, Milburn and Robson. Each family was led by a headman who represented them in law courts and also organised and led their criminal activities. These included blackmail (demanding money with the threat of violence), reiving (stealing animals) and kidnapping. There was also the constant threat of murder which would lead to a series of revenge attacks. Reiving was most common in the upland areas of Northumberland, such as Cheviotdale and Tynedale, and the most dangerous time was October to March, when the nights were longest and there was little work to be done on the farms.
The on-going violence led to the growth of a new form of defensive building, the bastle. These were strongly built farmhouses, with thick stone walls. The ground floor was used to house the animals, whilst people lived on the first floor. In some areas these were isolated farmhouses, but in some border towns, such as Haltwhistle, almost every house was a bastle. Although bastles were most common in the northern areas of Northumberland, where the reiving was heaviest, some are known south of the Tyne, such as those recently identified in Allendale.
Reiving finally came to an end in the late 16th century and early 17th century, as the English and Scottish authorities began to take action against the lawless families. As society became more peaceful many bastles were turned into normal farmhouses and more windows were added. Equally many castles began to fall out of use, as the local lords of Northumberland and Durham began to build large stately homes. In some cases, such as at Belsay, the new house was built next to the original defences. In other cases the new houses were built further away, and the castle just fell into ruin.
Despite these general move towards peace, some castles were re-used during the English Civil War, and one or two towns, particularly Berwick had large defences built around them to protect against possible further violence.
The Reformation also led to the formation of the Church of England as the Roman Catholic church was forbidden. This meant that all the parish churches became protestant. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were several periods when some Protestants wanted to destroy many religious symbols and objects because they believed they were associated with the Catholic church- this means that many examples of stained glass, wall paintings and stone carving were damaged or completely destroyed.
This was not the only religious change. Many Protestants remained unsatisfied with the Church of England and several new churches were established. The most important of these were the Quakers, a religious group founded in the mid-17th century. They did not worship in parish churches; instead they first worshipped in houses, but soon set up simple meeting houses.
Many Quakers took up causes promoting industrial, scientific and social improvements. Edward Pease of Darlington was involved in financing the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Another important group were the Methodists, founded in the mid-18th century. Methodism was especially common in the industrial areas where people had little status or wealth. Like the Quakers they set up a network of simple chapels.
Most parish churches had been built by the end of the medieval period, though the 19th century saw another period of church building. The growth of industry led to a great increase in the population and many settlements, that had previously not needed their own parish church, were given a new church to serve the local people. There was also an increased interest in the history of the Middle Ages and many medieval churches were restored. Some were restored to their former glory, but others were badly damaged in the process.
Inspired by the ideas of beauty, usefulness and profit, they constructed an enormous range of picturesque or classical buildings on their farms. There was also an increased use of mechanical power; some machines were powered by horse-driven gin gangs, others were powered by steam engines.
The remains of the buildings that housed these engines can still be seen at some farms, even though the machinery itself has been removed. There other moves to improve farming- increasingly lime was used to try and improve the quality of the soil. This led to the construction of many limekilns in the region. Although much of the lime was spreas on fields and uses as a fertiliser it was also used for other purposes, such as making cement for building.
However, not all farming was carried out on the more fertile lowland areas of the region. Much of the north-east of England is harsh upland moorland, such as the North Pennines and the Cheviots. In these areas sheep farming is more common - the sheep range freely on the moorland hillsides and are only brought down to the valley bottoms when lambing.
During the medieval period the shepherds often lived in temporary summer settlements high in the hills known as shielings. However, from the 17th century shielings stopped being used; many developed into permanent farms. Others fell into disuse, and the ruins of some can still be seen in the Cheviots. There are also many other remains relating to sheep farming that can still be seen; some are still used by modern farmers.
Simple sheepfolds are square or round enclosures in which sheep were gathered before being moved; there are also smaller pens used during lambing. There are also several different types of shelter used to protect sheep during bad weather. Some of these carricks are simple drystone walls, others are more complicated, such as the three cornered shelters found in the Cheviots. A number of sheep washes are also known; sheep would be washed in these troughs in order to keep them free from pests. In other cases sheep were washed in nearby rivers or streams, such as at Dubby Sike.
In the 19th century these upland areas were also increasingly used for shooting wild birds, particularly grouse. Many of the great landowners would hold large organised shooting parties for friends. The shooters would often stand in shooting butts, simple stone shelters, from which they would fire at the birds which had been driven into the air by beaters. A staff of gamekeepers would be responsible for looking after the birds before they were shot. Some birds, such as pheasants, were bred in special shelters.
Once the 1745 rebellion had been repressed there was no further conflict between England and Scotland, instead towards the end of the 18th century there was increased worry about possible invasion from across the sea, though unlike in the south of England there were no defences to protect against the threat of attack by Napoleon.
By the later 19th century the Germans had replaced the French as the perceived threat. The Duke of Northumberland paid for the construction of a gun battery at Alnmouth, which would have protected the seaward approaches to his castle at Alnwick. Another Coastal Defence Battery was built further down the coast in Northumberland at Blyth, to protect the important shipyards in the town.
Following the outbreak of the World War I there were more new coastal defences built, and some of the older defences such as the Alnmouth and Blyth Batteries were redefended and provided with bigger, more powerful, guns.
The area was also attacked from the air by German Zeppelins and an early air raid shelter was built at West Hetton colliery. The threat of attack from air became increasingly important during World War II and many light anti-aircraft gun emplacements were built, such as that at Elsdon.