ALNWICK, a town, a castle, two townships, a parish, a subdistrict, and a district, in Northumberland. The town stands on the river Alne, at the terminus of a branch railway of 3 miles from the Bilton Junction of the Northeastern, 34 miles by road, and 38½ by railway, N by W of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Its name signifies “the town on Alne.” 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 William Tyson, who fell at the battle of Hastings; it was given by the Conqueror to Ivo de Vesco, 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 1220. 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 Alne. It is well laid out; and has a spacious market-place 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. A handsome stone bridge of three arches, erected by the Duke of Northumberland, takes the high way over the Alne. The town hall, on one side of the market-place, is a large edifice, surmounted by a square tower. Another 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 prison contains accommodation for 12 male and 6 female prisoners. The parish church is a large edifice, of the 14th century, with richly groined chancel and carved stalls; and was restored by the fourth Duke of Northumberland, at a cost of £6,000. St. Paul’s church was built in 1846, at a cost of £20,000; 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 effigies of the Duke in Caen stone by Carew. The English Presbyterians or Free Churchmen, the United Presbyterians, the Independents, the Wesleyan Methodists, the New Connexion Methodists, the Unitarians, and the Roman Catholics have places of worship; and there are a mechanics’ institute, a dispensary and infirmary, two endowed schools with £22 a year, and other charities with £37.
Alnwick claims to be a borough by prescription; and is governed by four chamberlains and 24 common councilmen. It is a seat of quarter sessions, and a polling place; and has a head post office, a telegraph station, four hotels, and an office of the Alnwick and county bank. A weekly market is held on Saturday; and fairs are held on Palm-Sunday-Eve, 12 May, the last Monday in July., the first Tuesday in Oct., 28 Oct., and the Saturday before 25 Dec. Trade in corn and cattle is extensive; tanning and brewing are carried on; and brick-works, limestone quarries, and building-stone quarries are in the neighbourhood. Two monthly newspapers are published. Earl Beverley, who became fifth Duke of Northumberland in 1865, is Baron Alnwick. The friar Martin of Alnwick and the Bishop William of Alnwick were natives. Pop., 5,670. Houses, 837.
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.
Alnwick Castle, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, situated on an eminence on the south side of the Alne, is a most imposing pile. It retains some vestiges of Saxon architecture, but probably none of the original castle; and, after having passed almost to ruin by the shocks of war and the wear of time, it was reconstructed and embellished, at a modern period, in the Gothic style, and has just been undergoing extensive renovations, partly in a very fine light-tinted stone, after designs by the Commendatore Canina of Rome. It consists mainly of freestone or moonstone, covers or encloses about five acres, is disposed in three courts, exhibits sixteen towers and turrets, and is altogether a most noble and magnificent specimen of a great baronial seat. A notice of it in 1860 said,-“The new grand staircase forms the approach to the vestibule, in which the recesses will be filled with illustrations of the ballad of Chevy Chase. The ceiling will be painted with a subject from English history. Stettin damask hangings line the walls of the domestic apartments. The drawing-room has a ceiling of carved wood, gilt and coloured. The dining-room, 60 feet by 24, stands on the site of the old banqueting-hall. The foundation-stone of the Prudhoe tower was laid on 25 Nov. 1854. It now rises 20 feet above the cluster of towers, breaks the hitherto long uniform skyline, and forms a fine bold feature in the landscape. In the SW front is a deeply recessed triple-corbelled window. The high-roofed chapel, early English, has a stone vault and an apsidal west end, and will be furnished with marbles and mosaics from Rome. It contains a tomb to the Duchess Elizabeth, danghter of Alvernon, Duke of Somerset. In the state apartments are exquisite carvings by Bulleti; copies, by Nueci, of slaves from Constantine’s Arch and the Greek Camephora, and coloured friezes by Mantovani; inlaid wood, pure white marbles, and carved walnut panels contribute to the magnificence of these rooms. A vaulted kitchen has been built on the SE side, which rivals a mediæval structure of the sort. The octagonal Donjon tower contains a square dungeon, 11 feet by 9¾.” The grounds connected with the castle lie along both sides of the Alne; are upwards of 3 miles long; exhibit great wealth and variety of both natural and artificial beauty; and contain the remains of Alnwick and Hulne Abbeys, a picturesque cross on the spot where King Malcolm of Scotland fell, a monument on the spot where William the Lion was taken prisoner, and the tower of Brislee, 66 feet high, erected in 1762, and commanding a superb extensive view.
The two townships of Alnwick are Alnwick and Alnwick-South-Side. The former comprises 4,504 acres, the latter, 4,760; and the latter includes the hamlets of Canledge-Park, Greensfield, Grumwells-Park, Hobberlaw, Rugley, Shieldykes, and Snipe-House. Pop. of A. township, 5,958. Houses, 876. Pop. of A. S. S. township, 268. Houses, 53. The parish includes also the townships of Abbey-Lands, Canongate, Denwick, and Hulme-Park. Acres, 16,250. Real property, £31,183. Pop., 7,350. Houses, 1,110. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Durham. Value, £175. Patron, the Duke of Northumberland. The chapelry of St. Paul’s was constituted in 1846; and is a perpet. curacy, with salary of £200, in the patronage of the Duke of Northumberland. The subdistrict differs only so far from the parish as to include a small additional township. Acres, 16,484. Pop., 7,359. Houses, 1,112.
The district of Alnwick comprehends the subdistrict of Warkworth, containing the parishes of Lesbury and Shilbottle, and parts of the parishes of Warkworth and Felton; the subdistrict of Alnwick, containing the parish of Alnwick and a township of the parish of Eglingham; and the subdistrict of Embleton, containing the parishes of Embleton, Howick, Long-Houghton, and Edlingham, and parts of the parishes of Whittingham, Eglingham, and Ellingham. Acres, 98,935. Poor-rates in 1866, £9,860. Pop. in 1841, 18,799: in 1861, 21,053. Houses, 3,800. Marriages in 1866, 90; births, 595, of which 60 were illegitimate; deaths, 355, of which 92 were at ages under 5 years, and 15 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 905; births, 6,389; deaths, 3,915. The places of worship in 1851 were 13 of the Church of England, with 4,375 sittings; 3 of the United Presbyterian Church, with 1,248 s.; 2 of the Presbyterian church in England, with 1,158 s.; 2 of Independents, with 1,080 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 210 s.; 7 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1,339 s.; 2 of the New Connexion Methodists, with 370 s.; and 2 of Roman Catholics, with 350 s. The schools in 1851 were 35 public day schools, with 2,488 scholars; 22 private day schools, with 590 s.; 37 Sunday schools, with 2,512 s.; and 4 evening schools for adults, with 36 s.
Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].