The least known of England’s regions, is where the visitor discovers desolate moor lands, miles of wide shorelines dominated by huge castles, steep river valleys dotted with little towns and villages, patch worked by miles of ancient stone walls. Numerous mediaeval bridges traverse rivers and streams .
In Northumbria , Roman remains abound. Here it was that the Emperor Hadrian constructed his immense wall, which eventually defined the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire .
Early Christianity plays heavily in the story of Northumbria .
It was here that the Celtic monks came to spread their religion to the pagan tribes of Britain , beginning as early as the 6th century The Saxons came: their tiny 7th century churches stand to this day. Here in the North civilization flowered under the influence of the monastery of Lindisfarne, until the Vikings brutally snuffed it out.
At Jarrow and Monkwearmouth over a thousand years ago, the Venerable Bede wrote the first History of the English People.
William the Conqueror continued with his brutal scorched-earth policy of revenge against the Northumbrian resistance, known as the ‘harrowing of the north’ .
But the Normans left their magnificent legacy of Cathedrals , huge castles and monasteries, vast edifices studding the Northumbrian landscape. This is reflected in Northumbria ‘s spectacular castles such as Alnwick, Lindisfarne , Bamburgh, Warkworth, and Dunstanburgh, to name but a few.
Many of these building stood as bulwarks against the depredations of the Scots and until the early seventeenth century, the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands were overrun by raiding gangs of outlaws whose whole way of life was based on rustling and feuding. Peace did not finally come to Northumbria until after the Jacobite rebellion of I745 and the defeat of the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the battle of Culloden the following year.
In more modern times the 18th century produced some of the most dramatic events of all: the Industrial Revolution. Mining pre-dated the Romans; lead and coal mining continued throughout the ages, flourishing in the 18th century. The demands of production and transport of minerals led to the innovative engineering genius of men such as George Stevenson, creator of the first working steam railway system. The rest is history!
“The Magic Kingdom”
Northumbrian Places to visit
Berwick has a fascinating history. Right on the border, it was Scottish until 1296, and then changed hands between the English and the Scots no less than 14 times before 1482 when the town surrendered to the future Richard III. A black chapter in the town’s history is the year 1296 when Edward I of England slaughtered thousands of its citizens during a campaign against the Scots. After 1482 the town was still disputed over for many years until in 1603 the two countries were united under one crown.
Berwick is a massively fortified garrison town with unique Elizabethan fortifications, from the ramparts of which fine views of the River Tweed may be seen. It has some fine bridges. The Old Bridge dates from 1634 when King James VI of Scotland condemned the previous wooden bridge as unsafe. The Royal Border Bridge was built in 1850 to a design by Robert Stephenson to carry the London to Edinburgh railway line, and the New Bridge was erected in 1928.
Rather surprisingly for an English town, Berwick’s soccer football club plays in the Scottish league. In addition, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers regiment is housed in the Ravensdowne Barracks, built in 1717, and one of the earliest purpose-built barracks in England
Historic market town. With its narrow streets, old market square and a fine abbey it makes a good base for exploring Hadrian’s Wall, one of Northumbria’s and Europe’s greatest treasures. Inside Hexham Abbey is the impressive tombstone of Flavinus , a standard bearer of the Ala Petriana cavalry unit. The inscription records that the soldier had completed seven years’ service before his death at the age of twenty-five. From the style of the lettering and the dress of the fully uniformed warrior, the stone has been dated to the late first century AD. Like many other Roman stones in the Abbey, it is thought to have been brought from the military fort and garrison town at Corbridge, only three miles from Hexham down the River Tyne. The abbey containing a great stone staircase dominates the town. The church and monastery were founded about 673 by the archbishop of York ; in 678 it became head of the new see of Bernicia . A borough from 1276, Hexham was the leading market town of Tynedale but suffered frequently from raids by Scots from across the border to the north.
Famous centre of North-eastern culture, land of the Geordies. This great city, once the heartland of the Industrial Revolution, is today one of England’s premium shopping centres, with regular visitors from as far afield as Iceland and Sweden who come to shop and take advantage of the city’s renowned pub and club life. Newcastle is an ideal spot, for shopping and taking lunch in a local pub.
Ancient seat of the Prince Bishops. During the turbulent years of conflict with the Scots and Vikings the Bishop of Durham represented the monarch as well as the Pope, and was both temporal and spiritual authority throughout Northumbria . The great Monastery of Durham with its castle stood ass bastions against hostile invaders. The Cathedral, a World Heritage Site, is awe-inspiring in its majestic setting on a rock above the River Wear. Within the massive church are the tombs of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. Cuthbert was an English missionary who evangelised in Northumbria in the 7th century, becoming Bishop of Lindisfarne. Greatly revered for his holiness, in the 10th century the monks transferred his body to Durham away from the depredations of the Vikings where it lies to this day. St Bede was the author of many grammatical, scientific and historical works, the best known of which is his History of the English People, completed in the year 731. Working most of his lives at Jarrow, but his remains were taken to Durham after the destruction of the monastery in the middle of the 9th century.
Common sights in the city are lively students and hardy hikers. The great castle, perched on the same rock as the cathedral and built as a bulwark against the Scots, now accommodates some of these students attending England ‘s third oldest and prestigious university. The hikers are down from the hills: the River Wear winds around the cathedral and castle on its way from the high moors of Weardale to the North Sea at Sunderland , and meanders through a mixture of bleak, inhospitable moor land and delightful meadowland, bisected by ancient stone walls.
Sunderland rivals Newcastle the city which best represents North-eastern culture. Sunderland is a lovely place to walk round and experience north-east life . Besides the theatres, museums, cinemas and restaurants, there are some great clubs and pubs here – it’s a real party city where the locals are very friendly and the cost of living is cheaper than most other places, including Newcastle.