Northumberland is the least populated English county, and a quarter of its land mass is a National Park, which includes part of Hadrian’s Wall. Despite its rural aspect, it is also an industrial centre, having rich coal deposits whose transportation helped develop railways in the region.
Historically Northumberland, or Northumbria, at its peak was the land between the River Humber and the Firth of Forth at Edinburgh. Today it is much reduced by the removal of Yorkshire, Durham, Cumbria, parts of Lancashire and the lowlands of Scotland which are no longer under it’s jurisdiction.
It was the last bastion of the Roman Empire, when they put a full stop on their conquests with firstly Hadrian’s and then Antoine’s Walls.
The subsequent violence raging between England and Scotland resulted in the many castles built across the county, Berwick in particular being on the border was continually attacked, and even came under Scottish rule on several occasions.
Northumbria first became united in 604 CE, and Edwin was installed as king. He chose to convert to Xtianity in 627, however following his death the kingdom was again split up, and returned to the Old Religion.
After much fighting, the kingdom was once again united under Oswald, who increased his lands by pushing far into Scotland and west to the Irish Sea; he also reintroduced Celtic Xtianity and built a monastery on Lindisfarne Island.
The Celtic Church in Northumberland came under a lot of pressure from the Roman church, and finally at the Synod of Whitby it was decided that the Roman church would take control, and the Celtic bishop left Lindisfarne to return to Iona.
During the 7th century Oswiu, Oswald’s successor further increased the kingdom by conquering Mercia, making him the most powerful king in England.
The Vikings took a much weakened Northumbria in 867, and had their capital at York, Northumbria finally lost its monarchy and became an Earldom, with the death of Erik Bloodaxe in 954.
Due to its strategic position on the borders of England and Scotland it is heavily fortified, and the Lords of Northumberland were given a lot of power in England as they guarded the frontier against Scottish invasion.
Bamburgh is the historic capital of Northumberland, the Norman castle now on the site replaced a long chain of fortifications dating back to an early British hillfort built on the rock outcrop, the earlier fortification being destroyed by Vikings in 993.
When William became England’s king in 1066, he needed to control the rebellious Northumbrians, so he built the “Newcastle” in 1080 to control the region, but Northumbria continued to be a thorn in the side of the English Crown until England and Scotland formed the United Kingdom under James VI.
During wars and skirmishes Berwick-upon-Tweed was continually changing sides, but was finally decided to be part of England in 1746 after the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden.
The Cheviot Hills
(Photo by Kim S)
(Photo by Kim S)