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A Brief History of Haydon Bridge

The current village of Haydon Bridge is located on both sides of the River South Tyne. The North section is further split by the Newcastle to Carlisle railway.

The name Haydon Bridge could be derived directly as meaning the Valley where Hay is made.1 (Watson, 1970)

It is generally agreed that there is no definitive interpretation. Others include the Saxon of ‘Hay’, an enclosure and ‘Don’ a valley or hill. Possibly it was Hay (ton), an enclosed farmstead or village or Hay(den), an enclosed forest.2 (Telford, 2009)

In 1323, a Charter was granted for a market and fair to be held in the village, but as these gatherings so often ended in brawls between various families, they did not add to the peace of the district.

The Pontem de Haydon is first mentioned in 1309 and in 1336 Anthony de Lucy was given a grant of pontage for four years for its repair.

Haiden-brigg is mentioned again in 1381 and 1426. The bridge was rebuilt in 1773 after the Great Flood of 17th November 1771. In 1806 one of the arches collapsed and this necessitated the rebuilding of three of the six arches3 (Graham, 1977).

Increasing traffic flow and vehicle size in the 1960s lead to the opening of a new, five span, concrete bridge in 1970.

It was originally proposed in 1928 that the whole village be by-passed and this was eventually realised when a new £30 million road and bridges scheme was opened on Wednesday 25th March 2009.

The area was certainly a dangerous place to be in the 16th century when the Border Marches were in turmoil. The original Haydon Village was located on the hill a mile north of the present village. The Old Church at Tofts is one of the remaining indicators of this habitation. This is well worth a visit and the door is usually unlocked.  Details of a full guide to the church is Here

The original structure is believed to date from 1190. The evidence is the east end, which has three stepped round headed lancet windows with delicate tracery and the chancel of the original church with the addition of a 14th century chantry. A chapel in a south aisle is all that remains and the west end is part of a restoration by C. C. Hodges in 1882. The font is a Roman altar probably obtained from the nearby Roman Wall.4 (Massingberd-Mundy, 1982)

The Border Reivers made notable incursions in the raids of 1587, 1528 and again in 1572 when the old bridge was chained off. When the lawless 16c era was calmed, the village moved to the more sheltered and accessible area of the river bridge and development continued here.

At Chesterwood, one mile north of the village centre, there are Bastle Houses built in the times of the Reivers as defensive farms. The 'Golf House' is the best recently preserved and looks to have been part of a central row. There is a stone external staircase.

A new St. Cuthbert’s Parish Church was consecrated in 1796.

This was built on land donated by Greenwich Hospital which had originally belonged to the Derwentwater family who managed to be on the wrong side in the Jacobite rebellions.

(The Earl of Derwentwater was a key player in the 1715 rising. After surrendering at Preston, he was attainted and condemned to death. Attempts to win a reprieve were in vain and he was beheaded on Tower Hill on 24 February 1716. His remains were secretly conveyed north for burial in Dilston Chapel. As the cortège bearing his coffin reached the outskirts of Durham City, the skies were spectacularly lit up by a brilliant display of the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). It was immediately rumoured that this was an omen of heaven's wrath at the death of the gentle and popular Earl. The lights were afterwards known in the north of England as 'Lord Derwentwater's Lights' [see also Langley Castle below].)6 (anon)

The new church chancel was further extended in the 1880s. The nave windows and two on the south side of the chancel were gothicised. A Pagoda style roof on the tower is unusual along with the alabaster furnishings and marble font. Four of the stained glass windows are by the famous Victorian Charles C. Kempe c1904 (Massingberd-Mundy, 1982).

Over the porch of the church is a square sundial with inscription – non nisi caelesti radie (not save by a ray from heaven [do I tell the time]).

Other churches in the village included a Primitive Methodist Church opened in 1863, a Wesleyan in 1874. These combined in 1946 and the Methodist Chapel in Church Street was rebuilt and opened in 1998. The Wesleyan Chapel Hall was converted to a Community centre in 1946 and refurbished in 1999.

A United Reform Church building on North Bank is now a private dwelling and artist’s gallery.

There is also the St. John of Beverley Roman Catholic church built by Friar Francis Kirsopp in 1873 named after the 8C Bishop of Hexham and then York.  This features a nave, chancel and west bellcote, trefoil-headed lancets and a cusped round window in the west gable.7 (Pevsner, 1992)

A Grammar School was established in 1685 and endowed by the Reverend John Shaftoe. Here boys and girls within the parish of Haydon and ‘Woodsheels’ could claim to be taught free of charge in English, writing, geography, mathematics and the art of navigation. For an extra one penny a quarter instruction in Latin and Greek could be had 5 (Coombes, 1981). One of the more noted teachers allegedly employed at the school was the socialist radical Thomas Spence who proposed a simplified method of spelling and was later imprisoned in 1794 for treason.

One of the most famous artists of Victorian times was educated at this school. This was John Martin the 13th child of Fenwick and Isabella Martin. He was born and baptised on 19th July 1789 at East Land Ends farm.

John Martin (1789 – 1864)

‘By birth’ he was later to write, ‘my station could scarcely have been humbler than it was. My father’s disposition kept the family exceedingly poor’.

His first painting was of his grandmother’s cat which was on an old piece of canvas he had found in the ruins of nearby Langley Castle. You can find more on Martin the visionary and his somewhat eccentric family at www.wojm.co.uk

Education is still a major part of the life of the village today. The old Shaftoe Trust Grammar School is now the Wise Shaftoe Trust Academy and there is the Haydon Bridge High School continuing excellence in education at year 7 to 13 levels.

Farming has always been a major part of the economy of the village and the surrounding area. In 1810 the almshouses were built by the Shaftoe Trust. At this time the Greenwich Commissioners were also sanctioning the rebuilding of many of the dilapidated farm houses and village buildings, most of which still survive as part of our heritage.

A Library and Newsroom was opened in 1836 and the Oddfellows Hall in 1869. A newly refurbished Library, run by community volunteers, combined with a tourist information and internet coffee shop is located adjacent to the station on Church Street.

Coal Mining at Stublick, in addition to many smaller drift mines, provided an alternative employment to agriculture from the early 18c.

Other industrial enterprises associated with coal and lead mining flourished in the area including the opening in 1843 of Haydon Bridge Ironworks. There was also a renowned fireclay sanitary ware manufacturers at Langley.

The Langley Barony Lead Mines were developed in the 1870s having a short but spectacular life. The most dramatic remains are an adit, in the Honeycrook Burn north of Chesterwood, along with an engine and boiler house with chimney, hoist and crusher.

The opening of the Newcastle to Carlisle Railway in 1838 brought its own particular advantages to Haydon Bridge, especially the transporting of lead from the North Pennines to the goods yard at Haydon Bridge and then by rail to Newcastle. It also boosted tourism in the village. The goods section yard with turntable was closed in 1965 but the passenger facilities are still available and vital to the village. The gated level crossing was one of few remaining operative until it was replaced by all singing and dancing barriers in January 2009 but the classic Victorian signal box remains.

Haydon Spa is located about a mile east of the village and is a warm natural sulphurous spring. This was enclosed in 1863 to collect the spa water but suffered a landslide in 1897. The Spa Well was subsequently restored as a tribute to Queen Victoria on her Diamond Jubilee. In 2001 the area again land slipped but an access path has been re-engineered in to allow visiting today (presently temporarily closed by further flood damage). It is still an attraction for visitors to the village enjoying a riverside walk. The medicinal effect of the water is, however, undocumented.

There are three public houses in the village with interesting backgrounds. Most famous is the Anchor Hotel which was known in 1442 as a court room with gallows facilities handy in the yard outside. In 1865 an adjoining house was constructed as a rent collection point for the Greenwich Estates.

The Three Tuns, an 18c building in Ratcliffe Road, was renamed the General Havelock Inn after the Indian Army Major General Sir Henry Havelock and is now a famous restaurant.

The Railway Hotel on Church Street was also renamed from the Grey Bull to acknowledge the arrival of the Newcastle-Carlisle line.

Haydon Bridge’s town hall was built in 1908 and saw life as a cinema before being converted in 1958 to a working men’s club2 (Telford, 2009).

The most famous of the structures in the area is Langley Castle.

The land where the castle now stands used to be the seat of the Barons of Tynedale in the 12th century. The house eventually passed to the Lucy family by virtue of marriage. Sir Thomas de Lucy fought for King Edward III in the 1346 battles of Crecy and Neville’s Cross. The money he made from fighting in these two battles enabled him to convert the existing manor house into a castle.

Thomas' daughter, Maud, married Henry Percy, the first Earl of Northumberland, and in 1368 the castle became Percy property. The Percy's had supported Edward III but had switched allegiance to Henry Bolingbroke (later to become Henry IV) in 1399. This allegiance did not last and by 1403, the Percy family was supporting Edmund Mortimer. Henry Percy supported Richard Scrope, the Archbishop of York, in an unsuccessful rebellion against the king in 1405, after which he fled to Scotland. Langley Castle was gutted by fire by the King's forces and shortly thereafter fell into ruins.

Upon the death of the 9th Earl of Northumberland in 1572, the barony of Langley was forfeited to the crown. In 1632 the castle and surrounding lands were purchased by the Radcliffe family of Dilston who were Earls of Derwentwater. As previously mentioned, for their part in the Jacobite uprisings, James, the 3rd Earl, and his brother Charles were executed at the Tower of London. A nearby cross commemorates their loyalty to the King of Scotland. The castle and Derwentwater lands were attained by the crown and conferred on the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich.

Langley remained in ruins until the late 19th century when it was bought by a local historian, Cadwallader Bates. He began an extensive restoration project which was continued by his wife Josephine after his death in 1902. Josephine died in 1933 and the building was abandoned until World War II when it was used as an army barracks. After the war, until 1972, the castle served as St. Cuthbert's girl's school.

Dr. Stuart Madnick, an American professor at the MIT, purchased the castle in 1985 and it is now run as a fine wedding venue and luxury hotel8 (Eleptico, ?).


1) Watson, G. (1970). Goodwife Hot and Others. Newcastle upon Tyne: Oriel Press.

2) Telford, D. (2009). Welcome to Haydon Bridge. Haydon Bridge: Dennis Telford.

3) Graham, F. (1977). Haltwhistle, Haydon Bridge and South Tynedale. Frank Graham.

4) Massingberd-Mundy, S. P. (1982). The Newcastle Diocesan Gazetteer. Newcastle upon Tyne: Newcastle Diocesan Bishop's Editorial Committee of the Link.

5) Coombes, L. C. (1981). Shaftoe Trust School and The Rev. John Shaftoe's Charity.      Haydon Bridge: L. C. Coombes.
6) anon. (n.d.). James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater (1689-1716). Retrieved           November 19, 2009, from Jacobite Web Site www.northumbrianjacobites.org.uk
7) Pevsner. (1992). The Buildings of England, Northumberland. London: Penguin.
8) Eleptico, P. (?). History and information about Langley Castle.  Retrieved November  19, 2009, from British Castle www.britishcastle.co.uk

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