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Alnwick ( ( , with a silent l and w) is a small market town in north Northumberlandmarker, 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 Life, 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-Tweedmarker and the Scottish border, and inland from the North Seamarker at Alnmouthmarker.

The town dates back to approximately AD 600, and over the centuries has thrived as an agricultural centre; as the location of Alnwick Castlemarker 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 Roadmarker between Edinburghmarker and Londonmarker, 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 in 1309.

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 Alnwickmarker. 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 Battle of Alnwickmarker by a party of about four hundred mounted knights, led by Ranulf de Glanvill; and there are many others of similar interest.

Hulne Priorymarker, 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 Carmelmarker where the order originated. Substantial ruins remain.

In the winter of 1424, much of the town was burnt by a Scottish raiding party.


Alnwick lies at (55.417,-1.700)1. The River Alnmarker forms its unofficial northern boundary.


Formerly a largely rural and agrarian community, the town now lies well within the "travel to work" radius of Morpethmarker and Newcastle Upon Tynemarker and has a sizeable commuter population. Some major or noteworthy employers in the town include:
  • Eclipse Translations Ltd., a major European translation company.
  • House of Hardy, world-renowned makers of fly-fishing tackle.
  • Greys of Alnwick, also world-renowned makers of fly-fishing tackle.
  • Northumberland Estates, which manages the Duke of Northumberland's agricultural, forestry and property interests.
  • Barter Booksmarker, 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
  • George F White, north east based company with head office in centre of Alnwick since 1979


The town's greatest building is Alnwick Castle, one of the homes the Duke of Northumberland, and site of The Alnwick Gardenmarker; it dominates the west of the town, above the River Alnmarker. 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 Windsormarker. Benjamin Disraeli describes Alnwick as 'Montacute' in his novel Tancred.

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 bookshop.

The town has a thriving playhousemarker, 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 Gazette.

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; Blackadder and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves are some of the films shot here.

Major events in the Alnwick calendar include:
  • 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

Alnwick has its own museum, Bailiffgate Museummarker whose collection is specifically dedicated to local social history. 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:



Alnwick town lies adjacent to the A1marker, 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 Aycliffemarker (65.1 miles South) and Wetherbymarker (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.


The main 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 Stationmarker, with a weekday service of 15 trains per day north to Edinburgh and 13 trains per day south to London. The town was once connected to the main line by the Alnwick branch linemarker, but this was closed in January 1968.


Newcastle Airportmarker lies around 45 minutes drive-time away, and provides 19 daily flights to London (Heathrowmarker, Gatwickmarker, Stanstedmarker and London Citymarker), 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. Newcastle Airport is the nearest, however for alternative flights, Edinburgh Airportmarker, Manchester Airportmarker and Leeds Bradford Airportmarker are all within 150 miles.

Twinned Cities

Brynemarker (Time, Norwaymarker), Lagny-sur-Marne (Paris, France), Voerdemarker (Weselmarker, Germany)

Notable people

Born in Alnwick

Died in Alnwick


  1. [1], Country Life Magazine.
  2. [2], Retrieved 23 December 2008.

External links

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