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Alnwick, Northumberland

Historical Description

Alnwick, a town, a castle, a township, and a parish in Northumberland. The town stands on the river Aine, and has a station on the N.E.R., 3 miles from Ainmouth Junction. It is 34 miles by road, and 37½ by railway, N by W of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Acreage, 4777; population of town, 6746. Its name signifies " the town on Aine." The town probably dates from the time of the Romans; or, at least, grew up as a dependency of a strong baronial mansion, the original castle, in the time of the Saxons. The barony belonged to Gilbert Tysen, who fell at the battle of Hastings. It was given by the Conqueror to Ivo de Vesci, the ancestor of the De Vescis; and it passed in 1310 to the family of Percy, the ancestors of the Dukes of Northumberland. Malcolm III. of Scotland besieged the town in 1093, and was killed before its walls in 1098. David of Scotland captured it in 1135. William the Lion besieged it in 1174; but was surprised by Ralph de Glanville, and taken prisoner to London. King John burnt it in 1215. Gualo, the Pope's legate, convoked a meeting of the Scottish bishops at it in 12'20. Robert Bruce's nobles, Douglas and Randolph, besieged it without success in 1328. Additional fortifications of both the town and the castle were made in 1411. The Scots took the town and burnt it in 1448, in revenge for the burning of Dumfries. The Earl of Warwick laid siege to the castle in 1463, after the battle of Hexham; and Sir George Douglas, with a considerable force, came to its relief, and enabled its garrison to retire unmolested.

The town stands chiefly on a declivity on the south bank of the Aine. It is well laid out, and has a spacious marketplace in the centre. The streets are wide and well paved. The houses are chiefly modern, mostly built of freestone, many of them of considerable elegance. Four gates formerly pierced the town walls, and one of them, Bondgate, is still standing, and gives name to a street. Handsome stone bridges take the highway over the Aine. The town-hall, on one side of the market-place, is a large edifice, surmounted by a square tower. Anotlier building, on another side, is a modern structure, disposed below in meat and fish market, and containing above an elegant assembly-room and a spacious reading-room. The corn exchange was opened in 1862. The parish church is a large 'edifice, of the 14th century, with a richly arched chancel and carved stalls, and was restored by the fourth Diike of Northumberland, at a cost of £6000. St Paul's Church was built in 1846, at a cost of £20,000. It is a handsome edifice, in the Decorated English style; has a memorial window to the third Duke of Northumberland, produced at Munich in 1856, and contains an effigy of the Duke in Caen stone by Carew. The English Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Wesleyan Methodists, New Connexion Methodists, Baptists, and Roman Catholics have places of worship; and there are a mechanics' institute, a dispensary, and infirmary.

Alnwick has a head post and telegraph office, and several banks. A weekly market is held on Monday, and a lamb and wool fair is held on the first Monday after July 5, and fairs for hiring servants on the first Saturday in March, first Monday in May, and the first Saturday in November. Trade in corn and cattle is extensive; brewing is carried on, and there are tobacco and snuff manufactories. Two weekly newspapers are published. The town gives the title of baron to the Northumberland family. The Friar Martin of Alnwick and the Bishop William of Alnwick were natives.

Alnwick Abbey, beautifully situated on the north bank of the Alne, was the first house of the Premonstratensian canons in England. It was founded in 1147 by Eustace Fitz-John, and dedicated to the Virgin; and at the dissolution of monasteries it had about 13 canons, and was valued at £190. It became the seat of successively the Brandlings and the Doubledays, and then was sold to the Duke of Northumberland. A gateway tower of it still stands, and has armorial shields of the Percys, crosses, and a niche richly canopied with open Gothic work.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyNorthumberland 
Ecclesiastical parishAlnwick St. Mary and St. Michael 
Poor Law unionAlnwick 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Alnwick from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Northumberland is available to browse.


Online maps of Alnwick are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers related to Northumberland online:

RegionNorth East
Postal districtNE66
Post TownAlnwick