Alnwick ( ( , with a silent
l and w) is a small market
town in north Northumberland, England.
The towns population was just over
8000 at the time of the 2001 census and Alnwick's district
population was 31,029.
According to Country
, October 2002, "Alnwick is the most picturesque
market town in Northumberland, and the best place to live in
Britain". The town is situated south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border, and inland from the
Sea at Alnmouth.
dates back to approximately AD 600, and over the centuries has
thrived as an agricultural centre; as the location of Alnwick Castle and home of what were in mediaeval times the most
powerful northern barons, the Earls of Northumberland; as a staging
post on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and London, and
latterly as a modern rural centre cum dormitory town.
The fabric of the
town centre has changed relatively little and still retains much of
its original character; however there has been appreciable growth
in size over the last ten years, with a number of housing estates
covering what had been pasture, and new factory and trading estate
developments along the roads to the south of the town.
The history of Alnwick is the history of the castle and its lords,
from the days of Gilbert Tyson, variously known as Tison, Tisson,
and De Tesson, one of the Conqueror's
standardbearers, upon whom
this northern estate was bestowed, until the present time. After
being held by the family of De Vesci (of which the modern rendering
is Vasey — a name found all over south-east Northumberland) for
over two hundred years, it passed into the hands of the house of Percy
At various points in the town are memorials of the constant wars
between Percys and Scots in which so many Percys spent the greater
part of their lives. A cross near Broomhouse Hill across the river
from the castle marks the spot where Malcolm III of Scotland was killed
in 1093, during the first Battle of Alnwick. At the side of the broad shady road called
Rotten Row, leading from the West Lodge to Bailiffgate, a tablet of
stone marks the spot where William
the Lion of Scotland was captured in 1174, during the second
Alnwick by a party of about four hundred mounted knights,
led by Ranulf de Glanvill; and
there are many others of similar interest.
Hulne Priory, outside the town walls and within Hulne Park, the
Duke's walled estate, was a monastery
founded in the 13th century by the Carmelites; it is said that the site was chosen
for some slight resemblance to Mount Carmel where the order originated.
In the winter of 1424, much of the town was burnt by a Scottish
Alnwick lies at (55.417,-1.700)1
. The River Aln forms its unofficial northern
largely rural and agrarian community, the town now lies well within
the "travel to work" radius of Morpeth and Newcastle Upon Tyne and has a sizeable commuter population.
major or noteworthy employers in the town include:
- Eclipse Translations Ltd., a major European
- House of Hardy, world-renowned makers of fly-fishing tackle.
- Greys of Alnwick, also world-renowned makers of fly-fishing
- Northumberland Estates, which manages the Duke of
Northumberland's agricultural, forestry and property
- Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand book shops in
England, set in the town's former railway station.
- Sanofi Alnwick Research Centre, a
very large pharmaceutical research
and testing centre.
- Tagish Ltd, an independent company specialising in the delivery
of ICT solutions and consultancy.
- WM Morrisons Plc
- J Sainsbury plc
F White, north east based company with head office in centre of
Alnwick since 1979
town's greatest building is Alnwick Castle, one of the homes the
Duke of Northumberland, and
site of The Alnwick
Garden; it dominates the west of the town, above the
The Castle is the hub of a number of
commercial, educational and tourism operations. From 1945 to 1975,
it was the location of a teacher training college for young women
and "mature students" (persons of more than 21 years in age).
Currently, it houses American students studying in Europe; is the
base of Northumberland Estates, the Duke's commercial enterprise;
and is in its own right a tourist attraction. The castle is open
from April to September, and the Gardens all year around.
It is the
second largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor. Benjamin
describes Alnwick as 'Montacute' in his novel
Alnwick marketplace at night
The centre of town is the marketplace, with its market cross
, and the relatively modern
Northumberland Hall, used as a meeting place. Surrounding the
marketplace are the main shopping streets, Narrowgate, Fenkle
Street, and Bondgate Within. The last of these is a wide, spacious
road fronted by attractive commercial buildings. In mediaeval
times, Alnwick was a walled town (although fluctuating economic
situations in the Middle Ages meant the walls were never
completed), and one remain—Hotspur Tower, a mediaeval gate—is
extant, dividing Bondgate Within from Bondgate Without, and
restricting vehicles to a single lane used alternately in each
direction. Pottergate Tower, at the other side of the town, also
stands on the site of an ancient gate, but the tower itself was
rebuilt in the 18th century. Its ornate spire was destroyed in a
storm in 1812. Outside the line of the walls, the old railway
station building is relatively ostentatious for such a small town,
arising out of its frequent use by royal travellers visiting the
Duke and Alnwick Castle. It is now a large secondhand
has a thriving playhouse, a multi-purpose arts centre, which stages a hectic
programme of theatre, dance, music, cinema, and visual arts
exhibitions, and supports a weekly local newspaper—the Northumberland
In 2003, the Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre was opened on the
southern outskirts of the enlarged town (replacing the old sports
centre located by the Lindisfarne Middle School and the
now-demolished Youth Centre). More widely, the Alnwick district
boasts a wealth of sporting and leisure facilities, including
football, cricket, rugby, rambling, rock climbing, water sports,
cycling and horse riding. Golfers can find thirteen golf courses
within 30 minutes drive of the town.
The castle is popular with film-makers: Harry Potter
and Robin Hood: Prince of
are some of the films shot here.
Major events in the Alnwick calendar include:
has its own museum, Bailiffgate Museum whose collection is specifically dedicated to local
- A Shrove Tuesday football match,
known as Scoring the Hales is
played in the Pastures (the fields below the castle) between the
parishes of St. Paul and St. Michaels. The ball is fetched from
Alnwick Castle in procession, preceded by the Duke of
Northumberland's piper. The game is won by whichever team is first
to score two "hales" or goals.
- Alnwick Fair, staged in the summer
as a costumed re-enactment of a mediaeval fair in which residents
of the town dress up in authentic costumes
- the Alnwick International Music Festival
- the Alnwick Castle Tournament – a mediaeval jousting
spectacular in the grounds of Alnwick Castle
The collection includes a variety of
agricultural objects, domestic items, railway items, coal mining
artefacts, printing objects, a sizable photographic collection,
paintings and the bound volumes of The Northumberland Gazettes.
Local artist Stella Vine
donated 3 of
her paintings to the museum, as she had grown up in Alnwick.
Other places of interest in and near the town include:
- Brizlee Tower, a Grade 1 listed folly
tower set atop a hill in Hulne Park, the Duke's walled estate,
designed by Robert Adam in 1777 and
erected in 1781 for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of
- the Hotspur Tower, part of the remains of the ancient town
wall, and named for Sir Henry Percy,
also called Harry Hotspur, the eldest son of the 1st Earl of
Northumberland and a major character in Henry IV, Part 1.
Memorial, Swarland, emphasising a local link to the admired Admiral.
White Swan Hotel, an 18th Century Coaching Inn that now houses the
First Class Lounge and other fittings from the Titanic's near identical sister ship RMS Olympic.
Museum (inside Alnwick Castle).
- the Pinfold, a stone circular structure within the centre of
the town, built to imprison stray cattle.
- RAF Boulmer, which serves as the base for an air-sea rescue
helicopter, and has a role in early warning radar surveillance and
Column—much in the style of Nelson's Column, tall and topped by the Percy Lion, symbol of the
Percy family—designed by Charles
Harper and erected for Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of
Northumberland in 1816 in gratitude to the Duke. A
popular urban legend states that, in response to this display of
wealth, the Duke immediately increased the tenants' rent. In
reality the later rent increase was under his successor, the 3rd
Duke of Northumberland.
town lies adjacent to the A1, the main national north/south trunk road,
providing easy access to Newcastle upon Tyne ( south) and to the
Scottish capital Edinburgh ( north). The town is an 'A1
Town', there are several such similar towns in the North of England
such as (North to South), Berwick
Upon Tweed (28.1 miles North), Morpeth
(28.3 miles South), Newton Aycliffe (65.1 miles South) and Wetherby (116 miles South).
Being such a stopping
point on the A1 (particularly in such a rural area) provides
Alnwick with a lot of passing trade and tourism.
East Coast railway link between
Edinburgh (journey time approximately 1:10) and London (journey
time approximately 3:45) runs via the nearby Alnmouth for
Alnwick Station, with a weekday service of 15 trains per day north
to Edinburgh and 13 trains per day south to London.
was once connected to the main line by the Alnwick
branch line, but this was closed in January 1968.
Airport lies around 45 minutes drive-time away, and
provides 19 daily flights to London (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City), with regular flights to other UK centres.
The airport also operates regular flights to many European
destinations, along with destinations in Africa and North America.
Airport is the nearest, however for alternative flights, Edinburgh
Airport, Manchester Airport and Leeds Bradford Airport are all within 150 miles.
Bryne (Time, Norway), Lagny-sur-Marne
(Paris, France), Voerde (Wesel,
Born in Alnwick
- William of Alnwick, (c. 1275-1333),
Theologian and Bishop of Giovinazzo
- William Henry Percy
(1788-1855), naval commander and politician.
- George Biddell Airy,
(1801–1892), Astronomer Royal from
1835 to 1881
Bosanquet, (1848–1923), philosopher
- John Busby, (1765–1857), mining
- Henry 'Hotspur' Percy,
(1364?–1403), son of the 1st Earl of Northumberland
- T. J. Cobden Sanderson, (1840–1922),
artist and bookbinder
associated with the Arts and
- Prideaux John Selby,
(1788–1867), ornithologist, botanist and artist
- Ralph Tate, (1840–1901), botanist and geologist
- Sid Waddell, (born August 10, 1940)
British born Geordie commentator and
- Stella Vine, (born 1969) British
contemporary artist, born in Alnwick.
Died in Alnwick
- , Country Life Magazine.
- , Retrieved 23 December 2008.