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Otterburn, Northumberland

Historical Description

Otterburn, a village, a township, and a chapelry in Elsdon parish, Northumberland. The village stands on the river Reed, at the influx of a brook of its own name, near Watling Street, 4¼ miles N by W of Woodburn station on the North British railway, and 8 NNE of Bellingham, and has a post, money order, and telegraph office (R.S.O.) Acreage of township, 8563; population, 260. Otterburn is a pleasant place at the foot of the Cheviot Hills; gives name to a famous battle fought in its vicinity in 1388 between the English and the Scots; and had a castle which the Scots on the eve of that battle " attacked so long and so unsuccessfully that they were fatigued, and sounded a retreat." The surrounding estates, with the old castle, belonged to the family of Hall, long the head of a strong border clan, and were forfeited in 1715, when John Hall, popularly known as Mad Jock Ha', was executed at Tyburn for participating in the rebellion of that year. A modern edifice, called Otterburn Tower, occupies the site of the ancient castle, encloses some remains of it, and has in the porch three fine Roman altars, brought from the Roman station at Rochester, 5 miles to the NW. The church, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, a chapel of ease to St Cuthbert's Elsdon was built in 1858 at a cost of £3000; contains a richly carved stone vestry screen; and has a fine E memorial window, inserted in 1866, to the memory of its founders. A Presbyterian chapel, erected in 1834, was rebuilt in 1885. The battle of Otterburn, noted for the capture of Sir Henry Percy, the famous " Hotspur," and for the death of James, Earl of Douglas, is the subject of a well-known ballad given in " Percy's Reliques," and in multitudes of later publications; is minutely described by Froissart; and is commonly identified with the somewhat mythic battle of Chevy Chase. The scene of it is generally placed on the W of the Otter Burn, at a spot still called Battle Croft and Battle Biggs; but, in order to agree with the descriptions of Froissart, ought rather to he placed on a spot on the E of the Otter, near the ancient trackway from Eldon to Newcastle. A curious obelisk, about 15 feet high, stands about a mile W of the village, is approached by a short avenue of trees and is surrounded by Scotch pines, bears the name of Percy's Cross, and is said to mark the spot where the Earl of Douglas fell. There is a small woollen factory, also a colliery. The Duke of Northumberland is lord of the manor.

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 
Civil parishElsdon 
Poor Law unionBellingham 

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

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Otterburn from the following:

Land and Property

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


Online maps of Otterburn 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 districtNE19
Post TownNewcastle Upon Tyne