The society was formed in 1994 to bring together local people with an

interest in history.

Meetings are held from October to May at 7.30pm.

at Warkworth War Memorial Hall Castle Street


Annual membership is £12 or pay on each visit. Everyone welcome.


Information from Moira Kilkenny: e-mail: warkworthhistory@gmail.com


Programme 2021-22 


4th OctKing Alfred & St Cuthbert, an unlikely AllianceMax Adams
1st NovNorthern Quaker Philanthropists in the 19th CenturyDr Liz O'Donnell
6th DecInfamous Victorian MurdersNeil Storey 
10th JanThe Jacobites CANCELLEDDr. John Sadler
7th FebHistory of Hauxley Bird ReserveAlex Lister
7th MarAbolitionism, the US Civil War & the NorthProf. Brian Ward
4th AprilThe Man on the Monument, Earl GreyProf. John Derry
9th May

Alnwick Branch Line & the Aln Valley Railway

Talk preceeded by brief AGM

Tom Allan


Warkworth History Archive


 In 2000 Warkworth History Society invited local  people  to  donate, or lend for copying,  documentary  material  and  photographs for a    proposed millennium  exhibition  to depict  life in  and around the village  during the  twentieth  century. The response which  included  artefacts, costumes and uniforms as well as oral history, formed the basis of a fascinating exhibition staged in St Lawrence Church during August 2000.

Over the ensuing years more and more documents, letters and photographs were donated and more research carried out until, towards the end of 2007 Dr John West a noted historian and archivist agreed to catalogue the collection.

The resulting Archive Catalogue runs to over two hundred pages and references one hundred documents and fourteen hundred photographs held on compact disc. It is not merely a list but a synopsis of the material held. It provides a fascinating insight into past Village life, including: burgage structure, minutes of Parish Council meetings, records of the Victorian school, Court Leet and local Militia, Tithe and Enclosure records and plans, census records, details of Pageants, Flower Shows etc.

It was the intention to permanently display the materials collected, however this was found to be impractical due to lack of suitable premises within the village..

This extensive archive has therefore been deposited with the Northumberland Record Office at Woodhorn for safekeeping.

A copy of the Catalogue is still however held by the History Society and is available to view.


Magna Carta Barons


 The Baron of Warkworth, John FitzRobert, was one of the  principal rebel barons who secured the charter from King John in  1215.

 At Runnymede, beside the Thames, the baronial army met King  John in June 1215 and there, 24 of their barons and the Mayor of  London were chosen to ensure the king kept his word. 20 of the 22 towns and villages that made up their chief manors in 1215 came together to form the Magna Carta Barons Association and celebrate 800 years of their communities history and the connection their barons had with a document that has become the foundation of the rights and liberties of much of the English speaking world and beyond.

A facsimile of the rare 1215 edition held by the British Library has been printed on parchment and after the June 2015 celebrations, it remains in Warkworth as a permanent reminder of its connection with Magna Carta for local residents, schoolchildren and visitors. It is on display at St Lawrence Church in the village.


Meeting Reports 2021-2022 Programme

May 2022

Following a brief AGM in which Moira Kilkenny updated members on the latest developments, and Anne Cashmore presented the accounts, this month’s speaker, Tom Allan, gave a fascinating talk about the history of the now defunct Alnwick Branch Line and the more recent work on the Aln Valley Railway.

He began at the very beginning with the invention in 1790 of the first stationary steam engine by James Watt. In 1804 Richard Trevithick invented the first steam locomotive, and in 1812 the Salamanca was the first steam engine used to transport goods at a sedate 5mph. When the Stockton to Darlington Railway opened in 1825 passengers were allowed to travel for the first time at a heady speed of 15mph, and by the time the Manchester to Liverpool line opened in 1829 the aptly named ‘Rocket’ was able to carry them at an astounding 30mph!

The 1840s saw a massive growth in railways throughout Britain and in 1845 the Alnwick to Alnmouth branch line linked up to the main London to Berwick line, with stations at Lesbury, Bilton and Hipsburn.

In 1885 there was pressure to improve Alnwick Station and the Duke of Northumberland, who owned the land, eventually gave permission for a 36mile single track railway to be built from Alnwick to Coldstream. Opened in 1887, the number of passengers using the line peaked in 1890 and it was eventually discontinued in 1930. Tom was able to show us a large number of photographs of the various stations in use at that time. It was evident that both the design and construction of these buildings was of the highest quality, and many are still in use to this day as private homes.

The Alnwick to Alnmouth branch line eventually closed in 1968. In 1995 the Aln Valley Railway Society was formed. The original station at Alnwick had already been taken over by Barter Books in 1991, so a plan was formed to build a station at Lionheart. Finance was secured and construction started in 2012. In 2018 an EU grant allowed for the construction of a second station at Greenrigg Halt and by 2020 a track had been laid joining the two stations, with a ‘greenway’ alongside it for cyclists and walkers. The line is now operational and several locomotives, both steam and diesel, are in use.

Tom then called upon Ken Middlemist, the driver of the last train to travel from Alnmouth to Alnwick in June 1966, to talk a little about his life. He was also a founder member of the Aln Valley Railway Society in 1995.

Janet Jackson gave a vote of thanks for an enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable journey back in time courtesy of our local railway line and two of its most knowledgeable enthusiasts.


March 2022

This month saw the return of a well-loved speaker, Professor John Derry, who was warmly welcomed by Moira Kilkenny. His topic on this occasion was Earl Grey, the Man on the Monument. To historians he was Charles Grey, former British Prime Minister from 1830-1834 and member of the Whig Party. But to many Newcastle residents he is widely known because of his statue which takes pride of place in Monument Square. And in Northumberland he is famously linked with Howick Hall and its close association with Earl Grey tea.

But it was of Grey the politician that Professor Derry wished to speak. Born in 1764 he entered Parliament in 1785 as a member of Charles Fox’s Whig Party, which was then in opposition to the Tories under William Pitt. Educated at Eton, he is primarily associated with the Reform Act of 1832.

When the Whig Party followed Edmund Burke in being strongly opposed to the French Revolution of 1789-1799, Grey wanted reconciliation between Britain and France. This led to a split in the Whig Party with Grey finding himself very much isolated.

Grey was asked to form a government in 1830 when there had been a crisis in Parliament over the right of Catholics to sit in the Houses of Commons and of Lords. He believed in a balance between reform and continuity. As Prime Minister he presided over the Reform of Parliament Bill, but faced defeat over this so that it had to be carried to the House of Lords. In the end the Reform Act was limited in its extension of voting rights in that voters had to be house holders. Women’s franchise did not, of course, come into effect until much later. Its main effect was the redistribution of parliamentary seats and the reform of local government.

Grey was also famously involved in the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833 by which slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire.

Professor Derry concluded by reminding us of the inscription on Grey’s Monument, describing him as an ‘Aristocratic, Conservative Reformer.’ Not a radical Whig then, but one whose more moderate reforming zeal led to changes which affect us to this day.

Marion Jones gave a vote of thanks for another interesting and erudite talk


 February 2022

Moira Kilkenny introduced this month’s speaker, Professor Brian Wood of Northumbria University, for his talk on “Abolitionism, the American Civil War and the North-East”.  Brian set the scene by recalling the 9 hours that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spent in Newcastle in November 1967; Brian went on to outline the key role of non-conformists and particularly that of women (such as Harriet Martineau) in the campaign for the abolition of slavery and for human rights.

A number of ex-slaves visited Britain and gave talks to sympathetic audiences, starting with Olaudah Equiano in the 18th century and then others in the following century including William Wells Brown (the first African American to have a novel published) and Henry “Box” Brown, who had escaped slavery by having himself posted to freedom in a box, a feat which he often repeated at the start of his public lectures.  The most famous ex-slave and campaigner of his day, Frederick Douglass, toured Britain 3 times giving talks and was full of praise for the enthusiasm for the cause in the north-east of England; there is now a blue plaque at 5 Summerhill Grove, Newcastle, to mark where Frederick Douglass stayed with the family of Anna Richardson, who was instrumental in raising £150 to buy his freedom, so that he could continue his campaigning unhindered in the USA without fear of re-capture.

Today we can also visit the grave of William Hall (12th Illinois Cavalry) in South Shields cemetery; he was one of many local men who volunteered for the Union and he was even one of those who carried Lincoln’s body from Ford’s Theatre in Washington after his assassination there after the end of the war. We also learned the remarkable story of Mary Ann Macham, who escaped slavery at the age of 28, arrived in Hull and, with the assistance of the Quakers, settled in North Shields, where she married a local man; on his death he was given a typically grand Victorian headstone, whereas Mary’s grave remained un-marked until a successful campaign finally put an end to this example of racial inequality as recently as 2020.

There are of course other negative aspects in the story of the abolitionist cause: in October 1862 (at the height of the Civil War) William Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, future Liberal Prime Minister and himself an owner of sugar plantations, addressed a meeting in Newcastle and spoke fervently in favour of the rights of the South to determine their own future and to leave the Union.

Elizabeth Bethune gave a heartfelt vote of thanks, and that the next meeting will be on Monday 4th April when Professor John Derry will give his talk on ‘The Man on the Monument – Earl Grey’.


January 2022

Unfortunately this meeting had to be cancelled due to the increase in covid infections.


December 2021

For the final meeting of 2021 author and social historian Neil Storey returned to speak to us about Notorious Victorian Murders.

It seems that the Victorians were fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind, as many people still are today. He began by introducing us to the Black Museum, now located at New Scotland Yard, where souvenirs of famous crimes are to be found, including ‘death masks’ or in some cases replicas of the heads of some of the most notorious murderers. It was thought at the time that the shape of the skull (its ‘bumps’) could hold the key to whether a man, or woman, was likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Public hanging was commonplace up until 1868, and many Victorians enjoyed nothing better than a day out with the family to witness the final moments of the latest victim. One murderer who escaped hanging however was John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee. In1885 Lee was sentenced to death by hanging, but when the day for his execution arrived the trap door malfunctioned. This happened on two further occasions. Finally his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he was known thenceforth as ‘the man they could not hang’!

This all seems a little barbaric to us today. However, we were more than happy to be entertained by Mr Storey’s catalogue of bloodthirsty tales, culminating in the most notorious of all murderers, Jack the Ripper.

Unlike today, knife murders were unusual at that time, which was what made police investigators suspect that these crimes had been committed by the same person. There was a point of local interest when a similar murder was committed in Durham. But this turned out to be a ‘copycat’ murder, and the perpetrator, William Waddell, whilst confessing to the Durham murder, could not have been the infamous Jack, as another ‘Ripper’ murder took place in London whilst Waddell was in prison. Of course, to this day, the identity of Jack the Ripper remains a mystery.

Once again Neil Storey had his audience spellbound and horrified in equal measures. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be glancing over my shoulder as I walked home that night in the dark ….


November 2021

This month’s talk was by historian Dr Liz O’Donnell and centred on the religious group, the Society of Friends, known as Quakers. We learned that they were particularly active in the North East and their beliefs were based on peace and equality. They became politically active in areas such as the anti-slavery movement, prison reform, education, social work and international relief work. They also became involved in business and were extremely successful. Businesses they founded in the North East included Rowntree’s and Fry’s chocolate, Clark’s shoes and Barclay’s bank. They used the profits from these enterprises to fund their charitable causes.

The Richardsons of Newcastle were one of the most influential families at this time and Dr O’Donnell spoke of the extensive humanitarian activities of Henry and Anna Richardson, Anna’s sister-in-law Ellen, who helped set up the Ragged and Industrial Schools for vagrant children, and Anna Deborah Richardson who was involved in the first ladies college at Cambridge. Her brother-in-law, Robert Watson, was also prominent in setting up what was to become the University of Newcastle.

Another area of interest was helping victims of war. During the Napoleonic Wars they worked with civilians who had been affected by war and in 1870 they set up the Friends War Victims Relief Committee to help towns and villages devastated by the Franco-Prussian War.

In the present day the Quaker movement is still based on its six main Testimonies which are to Integrity, Simplicity, Peace, Stewardship of the Earth, Equality and Community. Their philanthropic work continues in areas which are very much relevant today, for example climate change, conservation and support for refugees.

Dr O’Donnell was given a warm and heartfelt vote of thanks for an enlightening and fascinating talk.


October 2021

After an absence of almost two years it was wonderful to see so many people back in the Memorial Hall for the first meeting of the 2021 – 22 session. Our chairman, Moira Kilkenny, welcomed Max Adams, renowned author, archaeologist and broadcaster, to speak on the subject of ‘King Aelfred and St Cuthbert, an Unlikely Alliance.’

Unlikely indeed, since King Alfred the Great (as most of us know him) was born in 849AD and died in 899, whilst St Cuthbert was born over two hundred years earlier in 634 and had been dead since 687! How could this ‘alliance’ have come about then? Mr. Adams lost no time in enlightening us.

King Alfred was the one who burnt the cakes whilst hiding in an old peasant woman’s cottage from the invading Vikings. This is how most of us remember him from primary school history lessons. However Mr Adams told us of a different story, which also took place whilst the King was in hiding in the village of Athelney in Somerset. According to this account, a vision appeared to Alfred as a stranger in a dream. In this dream Alfred kindly feeds the stranger, who later appears as a vision of none other than St Cuthbert. In this vision, St Cuthbert blesses Alfred and as a result, Alfred was able to beat the Danes at the Battle of Edington, after which peace was declared. So here we find the ‘unlikely alliance.’

Our speaker then continued to explain about the political importance of St Cuthbert during his lifetime. It was through him that the Church legitimised the chosen heirs to the thrones of the various kingdoms of Britain to ensure smooth succession. After his death his spirit continued to be regarded as of political importance. Eleven years after his death his body was disinterred and miraculously found to be intact. This was then placed in a coffin where it remained until 1827. From 698 to 705, the coffin was taken on a tour of the Roman forts of the North by the Viking kings, ending in Chester-le Street. What came to be known as the Cuthbert Community used the promise of spiritual protection to persuade communities to hand over land and treasure to the Viking kings. Consequently the Cuthbert Community held on to all this land and the power associated with it for thousands of years.

The remains of the original 7th century wooden coffin which held St. Cuthbert’s body can be viewed today at Durham Cathedral, along with his gold and garnet pectoral cross, the portable altar and ivory comb that were placed in his coffin when he was buried, and embroidered Anglo-Saxon vestments gifted to his Shrine in return for spiritual protection.

Altogether this was a most informative talk which took us on a tour (along with the coffin) of one of the most fascinating periods of English history. I’m sure that many of those present will be making a visit to Durham Cathedral to see for themselves the relics associated with this important Christian saint and political influencer, St Columbus.


Meeting Reports 2019-2020 Programme (No meetings April & May) 

March 2020

For this month’s meeting our chair Moira welcomed Sir Alan Craft, paediatric oncologist and Emeritus Professor of Child Health at Newcastle University, to speak about the Red Spot Study of 1947 and the man who inspired it, James Calvert Spence.

Born in Amble in 1892, Spence was the first Professor of Child Health in England. After a distinguished career in the army during WW1he spent some time working at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London before returning to take up a post at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Whilst there he joined the medical staff of a day nursery which, in 1925, became the Babies’ Hospital and Mothercraft Centre. He was concerned by the amount of poverty, sickness and malnutrition prevalent in the area. In 1936 there were 64baby deaths in every 1000 during the first year of life. So, in 1939 he began to research the causes, finding that most deaths were due to infections. But it was not until after WW2 that the Red Spot Study began at the instigation of Ashington born Dr. Fred Miller who appealed to Spence to undertake a study of the causes of childhood infections in the context of the family. 1142 children from Newcastle were chosen for the study, whereby they were identified by red spots on their GPs’ record cards. The study team would therefore be notified whenever a child became unwell. In addition, the team studied the ante-natal charts of each child, along with photographs and health visitor reports. Chest infections were recorded together with reports of poor housing conditions, serious overcrowding and poor sanitation. Home visits to the children’s families continued for 7 years, home and school visits for 15 years, and a follow up study was undertaken after 22 years. During this time the ‘Red Spot Children’ were made to feel very special, as two of their number who were present in the audience testified. In more recent times studies have suggested a link between birth size and adult mortality and health. Professor Craft and his associates decided to test this theory using the 1947 cohort. Of the original 1142 participants they traced 832, 69% of whom responded to a questionnaire and 36% of whom attended for clinical tests. For the men it was found that birth factors were the least likely predictors of adult health, childhood factors came next, but the most likely contributor to health was adult lifestyle and experience. For women it was slightly different, with childhood experience the least likely contributor, then birth factors but again adult lifestyle and experience were the greatest influence. In other words, in answer to the ‘Nature or Nurture’ question, the resounding answer was ‘It’s Lifestyle’!

Once again, we were treated to an excellent talk, with more than a little local interest.            


February 2020

This month saw the return of the irrepressible Professor John Derry to speak

on the subject of “Adolf Hitler: The Bohemian Corporal,” a label given to him by Hindenberg as a term of contempt. Born in rural Austria in 1889 Hitler endured

a brutal childhood at the hands of his father, who died when Adolf was 14,

leaving his family with a substantial pension. Adolf enjoyed four years of comparative comfort, indulging his interests in art and music, but all this changed when the pension stopped on the death of his mother when he was 18 years old.

He was turned down by the Vienna School of Art due to a basic lack of talent

and so he became a societal dropout (hence the Bohemian sobriquet). It was at

this time that he became interested in what he called the “Jewish problem”.

Turning his back on the bourgeois lifestyle of multi-religious Austria, he left

Vienna for Munich. There, at the outbreak of World War One, he volunteered for service in the Bavarian Army. Lance-Corporal Hitler was a ‘runner’, carrying messages to the front line, and was temporarily blinded in a gas attack. After the war he became involved with the left wing National Socialist Party, or Nazis. He attempted to lead a revolution in Munich which failed. Several Nazis died and he was imprisoned for five years. On his release his belief in the superiority ofthe Aryan race began to dominate his thoughts. He discovered a gift for public speaking and was able to persuade many Germans to believe in his cause.

In 1932 he took German nationality to stand against Hindenburg as

President of Germany. He failed, but in 1933 Hindenburg made him Chancellor,hoping in this way to gain some control over the Nazi Party. The Reichstag Fire of February 1933 was claimed by Hitler to be a Communist plot. He was givenemergency powers, thus paving the way for the rise of his Nazi regime. The rest,as they say, is history. He banned all other political parties and began a charm offensive to win over the German people. He presented himself as a man ofpeace whilst secretly re-arming Germany in contravention of the Versailles Treaty. With the invasion of Poland and the subsequent outbreak of World War II Hitler found himself fighting a war on two fronts. But his was essentially a racial war, and he became obsessed not just with the extermination of the Jewishpeople, but also with Communism and the non-Aryan peoples of eastern Europe. When his attempt to invade the Soviet Union resulted in appalling losses on both sides his military competence was called into question and a plot was hatched to kill Hitler in July 1944. Although this failed, the tide of popularity had turned against him and he committed suicide on 30th April 1945.

Once again Professor Derry held his audience spellbound with his astonishing

depth of knowledge and insight. Amazing, too, how a young man’s lack of

artistic ability may have changed the course of history!


January 2020

For the first meeting of the New Year Vice Chairman Barry Jones introduced local speaker Richard Booth to a large audience of members and visitors. Richard referred to himself as a sports diver whose underwater explorations had brought him into direct contact with the remains of several of the German warships which had been scuttled over 100 years ago in Scapa Flow, the largest deep water harbour in the world, used by the Royal Navy as a safe haven since Napoleonic times. In 1918 seventy four ships of the German Fleet were interned in Scapa Flow whilst the terms of the Armistice were agreed. Commander of the fleet, von Reuter, anticipating that the ships would be divided amongst the Allies following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, hatched a plan to scuttle the fleet. This he succeeded in doing on 21st June 1919, much to the dismay of the British, who managed to save only 11 of the 74 German ships. In the 1920s the sunken vessels were sold for scrap. Many of the ships were recovered and by 1939 only 8 were left. Richard then took us on an underwater tour of the remaining wrecks by way of some remarkable photographs taken on his own deep water diving expeditions in the area. These pictures most graphically brought to life the story of this extraordinary incident in British and German history.


December 2019

Chair Moira Kilkenny welcomed back social historian Neil Storey for this the last meeting of 2019. His subject was ‘A History of Medicine from Medieval to Victorian Times’. He began gently enough with a discussion of medieval herbal remedies and diagnoses based on star signs, phases of the moon and ‘humours’. He explained how ‘leaching’ did not always imply the use of leeches, but simply meant ‘blood- letting’ which might be performed (and here it started to get more gruesome) using blades and a bleeding bowl by the local barber. Neil then introduced us to a whole series of objects which looked more like instruments of torture than of medicine. Tooth extraction, for example, was performed by the local blacksmith using a ‘tooth key’; minor surgery, such as wart removal or the lancing of boils, using a sharp blade or lancet; all this without any form of sterilisation or use of anaesthetic and obviously with unpredictable success. Once the intricacies of blood circulation were discovered in the C19th tourniquets could be used to help surgeons remove limbs. Sterilisation came later when knives used for amputation were heated, only because soldiers complained about the cold metal next to their skin. AndC19th medicine was not without its quackery, such as the Magneto-Electric Machine, meant to give life force by means of an electric shock. This was altogether a hugely entertaining talk, though not perhaps for the squeamish!


November 2019

For our November meeting our Chair Moira Kilkenny welcomed Elizabeth Finch, volunteer speaker for the National Trust, to talk about ‘The Families of Wallington Hall’.

The original Fenwick Hall was built by Sir John Fenwick, a royalist and Master of Horse to King Charles I. His fortunes declined with the accession of William and Mary. Falling into debt he was forced to sell the Hall to Sir William Blackett in 1688 and in 1697 Sir John was executed for treason. Sir William built Wallington Hall on the site as a hunting lodge but continued to live in Newcastle. His second son, also Sir William, took over ownership at the tender age of 16. He seems to have been something of a hedonist. In spite of marrying a wealthy heiress, he left debts of a staggering £70000 when he died aged 29. They had no children, but, perhaps not surprisingly, he did have an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth. He therefore left Wallington Hall to his cousin, Sir Walter Calverley Blackett, on the proviso he married Elizabeth. Sir Walter made improvements to the Hall, took care of his tenants and Wallington flourished. On his death in 1777 the estate passed to his nephew, Sir John Trevelyan, who chose, however, to live in Devon. So Wallington was somewhat neglected until his death when his son (also Sir John) chose to move to Northumberland. A keen plantsman, he was responsible for improving the gardens. It was when his son, Sir Calverley Trevelyan, inherited Wallington that much of what interests visitors today began to take place. He and his wife, Pauline, were both intellectuals. She added the staircase and also the roof over the central hall, which had previously been open to the elements. She was a writer and an artist and had strong connections with the Pre-Raphaelites, especially John Ruskin. They were all invited to Wallington Hall where they and Pauline herself painted the columns in the central hall. William Bell Scott was also a close friend, and many of his paintings can be seen at Wallington.

Sir Calverley’s nephew Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan was the next owner. As a result of his mismanagement of the Irish potato famine the Trevelyan name came to be much hated by the Irish. His son Sir George married Caroline (Carrie) Phillips and her watercolours can be seen on display at the Hall. Next came Charles Phillips Trevelyan who married Molly Bell, sister of Gertrude Bell. He and his brothers agreed that Wallington should be left to the National Trust and the family supports the Trust to this day.

This whirlwind virtual tour through the history of these local families only served to whet our appetites for a visit in person to a most impressive National Trust property.


October 2019

It seemed appropriate that the first meeting of the new session should be

devoted to a talk on the history of our own village by one of its own residents. Our chairman, Moira Kilkenny, introduced Dr Peter Regan to a packed assembly.

Dr Regan began by discussing the history of tourism in Warkworth, which dates back as far as the 1750s and obviously continues unabated to this day.

The artist William Turner visited in 1797 and his painting ‘Warkworth Castle,

Northumberland – thunderstorm approaching at sunset’ depicts the castle from the Hermitage walk. The fishing boats shown in the painting tell us that fishing was an active industry at that time.

Dr Regan then went on to give us a pictorial history of the village, the church of St. Lawrence being the earliest of all the buildings and structures. A Saxon church dating from the C8th originally stood on this site, though the church as we know it today dates from 1130. It was interesting to hear that, being built before the castle itself, the church was constructed with a view to defending itself against invasion, and this can be seen by the height of the windows.

The river Coquet forms a natural defence around the village and thebuilding of the castle in 1139 completed that defence. In 1160 plans weredrawn up for 77 houses and plots of land which originally made up thevillage.

The Hermitage came next in 1330, an amazing structure hewn out of bare rock, and created to house a priest whose task it was to offer up prayers on behalf of the noble residents of the castle. Thomas Percy’s poem ‘The Hermit of Warkworth,’ in which a penitent lover retreats from the world after killing his beloved, is, sad to say, pure fiction!

The old bridge was completed in 1379. The old village as we know it largely dates from the C18th to early C19th. The schoolhouse was built in 1736, the Pont (or water fountain) on Castle Street is late C18th and the Market Cross was erected in 1830. For many years a market was held in Dial Place on St. Lawrence Day.

This extensive collection of old photographs which Dr Regan had sourced from

the Woodhorn archives showed us a village which, while very familiar in many

respects, also spoke to us of lives and times very different from our own. His

fascinating talk provided much food for thought as we viewed local history

from a 21st century perspective.


Meeting Reports 2018-2019 Programme

May 2019


Apologies: Beverley Stuckey, Philip Stuckey, Alan McLachlan

Approval of Minutes: The Minutes of the AGM 2018 were approved.

Chairman’s Annual Report

Moira Kilkenny reported a good year, with membership up at 68 and average attendance at over 50. The summer outing to Bamburgh was enjoyed by 30 members. This year’s outing will be to Beamish on June 3rd. Moira thanked everyone for their support.

Thanks were also expressed to the committee members, Barry Jones, Les Purvis, Kathryn McLachlan, Christine Doe, Jill Wharton and Anne Cashmore, who will remain the same for the coming year; also to non-committee member volunteers, Roger Cashmore and Katie MacFarlane; to the Pelican, Amble Library and Ian Jolly at the Post Office; and finally to St Lawrence Church and Rev. Margaret Hobrough.

Copies of the 2019-20 programme were made available.

Treasurer’s Report

Anne Cashmore provided details of the year’s finances, which were approved, and which showed a very healthy balance. As a result, annual membership will be reduced to £12. The bus for the summer outing to Beamish will also be paid for from History Society funds.

Annual Outing

Details of this summer’s outing to Beamish have been circulated to all members. Those wishing to go should sign the sheet and make their payment by June 3rd at latest.  Non-members will be made welcome if there are any spare seats on the bus.


Following the AGM chair Moira introduced our speaker for the evening Brian Ward. On 13th November 1967 Martin Luther King visited the University of Newcastle to receive an honorary doctorate in civil law – and not many people know that! One person who does know a great deal about this remarkable occasion was this month’s speaker, Brian Ward, Professor in American Studies at Northumbria University. Professor Ward has researched the details of this brief and all-but-forgotten visit and presented them to us in a fascinating talk.

He first dealt with the question of why King was invited in the first place. As many of our members will remember, 1967 was a year of much student unrest  in Britain. But the then Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University considered some of his students to be rather conservative in their outlook and thought  that a visit from this famous American civil rights activist might be just the thing to set them thinking. It was also a time when immigration and race relations were much under discussion in British politics.

Professor Ward’s next question was why King, a very busy man, agreed to come at all, especially as he was only in the country for such a very short time, arriving at Heathrow on November 12th, travelling to Newcastle by overnight sleeper, and returning across the Atlantic later on the 13th. It seems that his popularity in the United States was, at this time, in the decline and so he was eager to go somewhere he would be revered.

The visit itself was not widely reported – compared, for example, with Mohammed Ali’s much publicised visit ten years later. It was, after all, very brief. But King did make an unscheduled speech, which was recorded, although only 8 minutes of the original recording remain. In it he spoke of the importance of government regulation to end racial discrimination.

As we know, Martin Luther King was assassinated on 4th April 1968, less than five months after his visit to Newcastle. His worth as a spokesman for peace and justice was only fully recognised after his death. In his research, and  in his book ‘Martin Luther King in Newcastle upon Tyne: The African American Freedom Struggle and Race Relations in the North East of England’ Brian Ward has done much to bring this extraordinary story to light.


April 2019

For the April meeting we were fortunate to have two speakers, Baroness Joyce Quinn and our chairman Moira Kilkenny. Their talk was a snapshot of their recently published book titled ‘Angels of the North, Notable Women of the North East’ of which they are co-authors.

Joyce spoke first and explained how the book came to be written, essentially most books previously published are about men so it was time for a book about women! The book is about notable women of the North East in general and it’s publishing date coincided with three important events, 100 years of women being given the vote, the 100-year anniversary of the end of WW1 and the Exhibition of the North East.

The authors decided to focus on notable women of the past rather than those still alive. They also had to decide what was meant by ‘North East women’, and for them it meant not just women born in the North East but also those who had significance to the area. The result was the profiling of 40 women, some well known and some unknown but of notable significance.

The best-known North-East woman profiled was Grace Darling, well known both nationally and in the region. Her heroism, with her father, captured the attention of Victorian women, including Queen Victoria.

Dr Margaret Phillips, MP for Sunderland, only lived in the area for 2 years, but during her time as an MP was very influential and was an outstanding women’s organiser. She built up the organisation for the Labour party throughout the country but was known in the area for her persistence in the Commons for highlighting poverty in Sunderland.

Many suffragettes were local and/or active in the area including Emily Wilding Davison, Kathleen Brown Ruth Dodds, Connie Lawcock, to name but a few.

There were also many suffragists who didn’t like protests and setting fire to properties. These included Josephine Butler, a social reformer, Emily Davis, pioneer of Higher Education and founder of the first college in Cambridge.

Some of the best-known early MP’s were from the North East or held North East seats. Margaret Bondfield, the first female Cabinet Minister, Mabel Phillipson, the first woman to represent a Northumberland constituency, and Dame Irene Ward, given the title of ‘Mother of the House’ as she was in Parliament so long!

The second part of the talk, given by Moira, explained that most of the women profiled lived during the 5 centuries from the reign of Elizabeth 1 to the reign of Elizabeth 2 ie. 1580 to 2016. However, the number profiled each century as not equal, only 3 came from the first 4 centuries. This was because during this period women did not become entities in their own right until 1882 with the passing of the Women’s Property Act. It was extremely difficult to find women of note prior to the 20th century because the lack of equality between men and women saw women confined to the domestic domain and viewed as inferior. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that things began to change and women were given more rights, before then women’s lives were hidden.

However, there were 5 women found of note such as Dorothy Lawson, born 1580. Her biography, written by her chaplain, republished in the 1800’s, described a woman of exceptional courage who broke the law and risked her life by keeping a Catholic chaplain in her house during a time of savage panel laws relating to Catholicism.

Mary Austell, born 1666, researched through her own writings. Orphaned when 20, she wrote poetry which was sent to the then Archbishop of Canterbury, who encouraged her to be a writer and introduced her to a publisher. Published anonymously, she wrote a book, 100 years ahead of its time, arguing for equality between men and women. She was the first feminist writer but was lampooned and ridiculed causing her to hide and eventually die in poverty. Muriel Robb, born 1878, a sportswoman and gifted tennis player, won the Wimbledon ladies championship in 1902. Her story was tragic, dying of cancer aged 28.

There were several women profiled who were of note during WW1. Kate Maxley, a nurse, was one of the bravest and most decorated women. She served for 4 years on the Western front until badly injured by a bomb. Dr Ruth Nicholson, qualified as a doctor in Newcastle in 1909, one of only 300 in the country. She served on the Western front for 4 years, carrying out daily amputations surrounded by suffering and stench. Her achievement was exceptional in the face of obstacles put in the way of female doctors. She received several awards after the was and went on to become a founder of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology. Lady Sybil Gray, established the Red Cross Hospital in Petrograd in 1918 and carried on working despite shrapnel injuries to her face. She returned to the UK and then went France to work in the Ambulance Service. Ida and Louise Cook rescued at least 27 Jews from Germany and facilitated many more, using their trips to the opera as a cover rescue visit. They were honoured by the State of Israel in 1965 and in 2010 by the British Government as heroes of the Holocaust. Ida also wrote short stories, landing a contract

with Mills & Boon in 1934 and writing more than 100 novels under a different name!

Moira concluded the talk by explaining that the main message of the book is that if those women profiled could achieve so much, given so many constraints during history, how much more can women today achieve?


March 2019

This month saw the welcome return of Professor John Derry to talk about Wellington the ‘Iron Duke’.

Born Arthur Wesley in 1761, of Anglo-Irish descent, he was described by his mother as a ‘problem child’. His father died when he was 12 and, to economise, he was withdrawn from Eton and sent to Europe to the French Military Academy. By the time he joined the army as an ensign he had adopted the name Wellesley, by which he was known throughout his army career, rising through the ranks until, as lieutenant colonel, he was sent in 1796 to India, where he learned to be a true soldier.

Wellesley’s reputation was further enhanced when he faced Napoleon’s formidable French army in Portugal and won. Professor Derry described how he was able to do this by studying French military tactics and training his men how best to resist them. His military success, both now and later, seems to have depended on his belief in strong discipline and training, a close relationship with his troops, and ensuring they were well fed. Unlike the French army, he made sure that his men paid for their food and drink, thus winning the support and respect of the Portuguese peasantry.

After a second victory over Napoleon in Spain, Arthur Wellesley became Viscount Wellington, later Earl of Wellington, Marquis of Wellington and ultimately the Duke of Wellington, the name we remember him by today.

When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1813 his army was depleted when the Russian army retreated, drawing the French on into the bitterness of the Russian winter, where many of them perished. Taking advantage of this, Wellington marched his army from Portugal into Northern Spain and on into France where he once more defeated Napoleon who, in 1814, abdicated and retreated to Elba.

Napoleon did, however, return for a final confrontation with Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. Once again it was Wellington’s constant presence among his troops which gave them heart to fight on, whilst Napoleon stayed at headquarters and delegated responsibility. Napoleon abdicated for a second time and Wellington remained in France in charge of the army of occupation.

In 1818 he returned to Britain to join the government, never having lost a battle. As a controversial Conservative Prime Minister, he stood in favour of Catholic Emancipation, whereby Roman Catholics would be admitted to Parliament and to public office, and was accused of allying himself with the Pope. This led to a duel (an interesting way to settle parliamentary disputes) which happily both parties survived! Wellington was finally laid to rest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1852.

This was a spellbinding talk from Professor Derry, whose depth and breadth of knowledge is truly inspiring.


February 2019

At the February meeting, chair Moira introduced our Speaker, author and retired journalist Ian Hall to give his talk to a packed audience entitled ‘Historical Oddities and Curious Places. A Quick Ramble off the Tourist Trail’.

He started his talk by explaining that there is lots of history associated with not so grand, and very much lesser known, places off the beaten track. He then went on to talk about a random selection of unrelated places in historical chronological order.

Ian began his journey with small items that had been found from hunter/ gatherer time and then progressed to the Bronze age with examples of rock formations, stones and circles to be found in places such as the Cheviot Hills.

Next came the Iron Age with hill forts, hilltop enclosures and evidence of tracks of wooden palisades.

He then talked at some length about the Romans, and whilst Northumberland wasn’t Romanized, the presence of the Romans is all around us in the shape of Roman tombs built outside of townships, Roman roads and random stones depicting burial pits and ancient carvings in churches.

The talk then headed into the 18th century when smuggling was common and evidence of whisky stills remaining in the hills and a rather unusual structure of steps carved into a cave in Berwick Hills, possibly used as a place to hide smuggled wares, although nobody is totally sure what it is!

Ian then talked about examples of history crossing the ages, such as Cheviot goats that were originally domesticized in Medieval times but were left to go feral and still live in the wild today. The Peace column erected in Alnwick in 1814 to commemorate the victory of Napoleon sits on what once was an Iron Age hill fort. The Cheviot Hills has numerous examples of tragedy depicted by stone memorials over the course of many years. The Robert Stephenson bridge in Berwick brought about the demolition of part of Berwick Castle to get the railway through.

And so to modern day. The first scout camp was held in Humhaugh evident from a carving made in 1908, and not Brownsea Island, as commonly thought. Another carving at the site is possibly thought to have been made by Baden Powell. There are trig columns from 1930’s in the Cheviot Hills, a tree plantation in the shape of a cross in the middle of a field in Ashington used as an aircraft guide in the Great War, underground chambers for radar equipment in the moors now mostly flooded and used as practice areas for police divers, and plans approved in 1962/3 to demolish the centre of Alnwick to make way for a new town centre, thankfully prevented!

The sites where all the magnificent examples of historical oddities can be found are too numerous to mention but exist in abundance locally in many parts of Northumberland. For those who need some guidance as to where they are, Ian has written a book, available locally, titled ‘In Search of the Authentic Northumberland’


January  2019

Chair Moira introduced our first speaker of 2019, Dr John Hobrough, to give his talk ‘Bees in History’, a slight change to the advertised ‘History of Beekeeping’.

Most people think of bees just as an insect that produces honey and has a nasty sting to it, with little thought as to its evolution and importance to humanity. Bees have been around for a very long time with evidence of human interaction since 9000BC and our domestication of it by catching swarms since 2500BC. Our history with bees is about how we humans get involved with them.

A colony of bees is made up of a single fertile female (Queen) who lays around 2000 eggs/day, fertile males (Drones) who only fertilise the Queen in summer, and 20000-70000 sterile females (Workers), and it’s the Workers who control what happens. Swarms are formed from the colony and bees will swarm just about anywhere, and it’s from the capture of swarms that humans put them to work.

The bee is unique in that it is the only insect that produces food that we eat and products that we use including sweeteners, medicines, polish, candles and cosmetics. Bees pollinate ¾ of world crops and 65% of the food we eat relies on pollinators.

Bee numbers are in decline and the loss of the bee is more problematic to humans than many other world problems. Agricultural and environmental change is now affecting bees and putting increased pressure on them. The result is that the average hive yield has dropped from just over 100lbs of honey to 20-40lbs honey in the last 60 years. To try and support and protect bees, the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) was founded in 1874 bringing about changes including annual certification and annual inspection against disease by DEFRA.

John spoke of his own experiences of beekeeping over the last 60 + years which included some amusing stories about unusual swarms, including one that got into a sweet factory and subsequently produced green peppermint flavoured and red strawberry flavoured honey!

John also spoke at some length of his concern for the future of bees over the next 60 years and beyond and how we can help to protect them. A positive move by farmers has been the planting of Phacelia which has had the positive effect of encouraging bees to produce more honey. As individuals we can help by planting bee-friendly plants in the garden, be careful with the use of pesticides, by not putting unclean honey jars outside, especially those from abroad, as they may be carrying bacterial spores, and by supporting local beekeepers. We can also help fund essential research by adopting a beehive, for further information on this go to adoptabeehive.co.uk.

The talk was extremely well received and gave a fascinating and informative insight into history and the future of bees.


December 2018

At December’s meeting social historian Neil Storey spoke about Northumberland in the Great War.

The Northumberland Fusiliers was the first battalion of Kitchener’s Army, being founded upon a tradition of youth involvement in a variety of movements including league football, Boys’ Brigade, Scouting, and the Life Brigade. Young men were keen to become involved in activities which would provide some escape from a harsh life down the mines. In the pre-war years men enthusiastically joined the Territorial and even the regular army, seeing these as an opportunity for travel and adventure, with no thought of war.

But with the outbreak of war in 1914, Kitchener wanted regulars, not territorials. Men came in droves, naively seeking glory, whilst women were enlisted to take over the jobs they left behind. This introduced a feeling of independence which would ultimately lead to great social change.

Neil Storey’s excellent account was illustrated by an impressive collection of photographs of the local area during the war years and was followed by a short discussion in which members shared stories of their own families’ involvement in the Great War.


Help the Wounded fundraising event in Warkworth August 26th 1915


November 2018

Chair Moira welcomed our speaker Dr Liz O’Donnell to give her talk “Hens that Want to Crow” Suffragists and Suffragettes of the North East of England 1866 -1918.

Many people think of the fight for women’s suffrage only in terms of the early 20th century suffragettes with their militant tactics, but much wider campaigns were in fact taking place from at least the 1860s, many interconnected with the exploitation of disadvantaged people.

A number of key roles in the early campaigns were undertaken by women with North East roots including Emily Davis, Josephine Butler, Elizabeth Spence Watson, Norah Balls, Florence Nightingale Harrison Bell, and most famously Emily Wilding Davison.

Emily Davis together with Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett began in 1866 what became known as First Wave Feminism, with the establishment of the Langham Place Circle, their primary aim being the opening up of education and the professions to women and obtaining equal rights with regard to law, divorce, national politics and morality. On the 7th June 1866 the first mass women’s suffrage petition, signed by 1500 women, was taken to Parliament by Emily Davis and Elizabeth Garrett and presented by MP John Stuart Mills. Its failure marked the start of organised campaigning by women for the vote. The Second Reform Bill petition in 1867 and an amendment to the Third Reform Act in 1884 both failed. Roles in public life were slowly being opened up to women who qualified; but support continued to grow for full suffrage.

In 1912 a women’s march took place from Edinburgh arriving in London 16th November. Pictures were shown of the march as it passed through Berwick, Alnwick and Newcastle. Women joined and left the march along the journey, seven however marched the whole way.

Matters started to escalate in 1913 which strained relations between the suffragists, who believed in using legal means to achieve their goal and the suffragettes who were prepared to use extremist measures. Newspaper cuttings of the day showed reports of suffragette activities in the North East including, windows being broken, telegraph wires cut, bombs planted, and arson attacks on buildings. Emily Wilding Davison was mortally wounded when she ran in front of the king’s horse, Anmer, during the 1913 Derby. Her death and the crowds as her coffin passed through London and on arrival at Morpeth, marked a culmination and turning point in the militant suffragette campaign. The First World War broke out the following year and a suffragette amnesty declared. Campaign leaders urged women to join the war effort.

The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave women aged 30 and over and met the property qualification the right to vote. Women over 21 had to wait until 1928.

Dr O’Donnell’s talk showed the fight for suffrage was slow and complex, with  hopes raised and dashed several times along the way before electoral equality was achieved. The right to vote was only one step in women's struggle for greater equality in all areas of life which is still ongloing today.

Dr O'Donnell was thanked for her interesting, informative and thought provoking talk.


October 2018

The new session opened with a talk by Jane Gulliford Lowes about her book, ‘The Horsekeeper’s Daughter’. It seems that Jane, a Sunderland lawyer, is connected to Warkworth through her great, great, great, great grandmother, who was baptised and married in the Church of St. Lawrence. But the subject of her book came through a different connection.


Jane had inherited a box of memorabilia dating from the 1800s, passed down from her great grandmother, who in turn had inherited it from a friend, known to the family as ‘Auntie Edie’. Jane was particularly drawn to photographs and letters relating to one Sarah Marshall, the eponymous horse keeper’s daughter. Born in County Durham in 1863, her father was the keeper of pit ponies for many of the mines in the area.

Jane’s meticulous research reveals a wealth of information relating to the social history of this time: the poverty and appalling working conditions leading to many terrible mining disasters, strikes and social upheaval.

When Sarah’s father died the family was evicted from their miner’s cottage and Sarah sought what she imagined would be a better life in Australia, under the Queensland single female migrant scheme. This turned out to be no more than a means of recruiting servants to a life of drudgery with wealthy families in Brisbane.

Jane, by this time fully engrossed in Sarah’s life story, went out to Australia herself to continue her research. There she discovered that Sarah had eventually managed to escape this unfortunate situation through marriage, in 1887, to William Campbell, an Irish farmer. She was then able to trace the movements of the Campbell family until, after many difficult years, they came to own a plot of land on Tambourine Mountain, where Sarah died in 1911, aged 47. It was Sarah’s son, Bill, who had sent the letters and photographs to Auntie Edie, which had been so carefully preserved and passed down through the family.

Fascinating as Sarah’s story undoubtedly was in revealing so much about the life of a working class woman born into poverty in County Durham in the 1800s, and her journey to a life of almost comparable hardship in Queensland, Australia, it was Jane Gulliford Lowes’ dogged determination to unravel her story which ultimately inspired her listeners, no doubt sending many of us home to search our attics for forgotten letters and photographs of our own.

















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