19 Jun A (very brief) history of Northumbria
Northumbria, a small part of which is now known as Northumberland, was one of the five Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, namely Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex (of King Alfred fame).
Parts were eventually over-run by the Scots and Danes and you can still find a Scandinavian influence in place names of old settlements. The kingdom was reduced to an Earldom under the Norman Barons, perhaps the most famous being the Percys of Alnwick who went on to become the Dukes of Northumberland.
Consequent to being a border area there are still several castles and fortified houses to be found, amongst them look for Pele towers, defensive houses with walls 3 to 4 feet thick. In Elizabethan times and earlier these Peles were inhabited by raiding clans known as Border Reivers.
You can also find the famous Roman Hadrian’s Wall which was never, contrary to popular belief, the English Scottish border which is actually several miles north of the Wall.
The first Anglian settlement was started in in 547 and culminated in the fortress of Bamburgh being built. There is an on-going series of novels written by Bernard Cornwell (of Sharpe fame) based on the Bamburgh family and the efforts of King Alfred of Wessex to amalgamate the five Kingdoms into a united England.
From the Norman Conquest in 1066 until the unification of England and Scotland under James I and VI there were numerous invasions of Northumbria. Hence the large number of defensive battlements, many now in ruins, scattered all over the region.
The famous coal trade along the Tyne flourished from the 13th century until its decline in the 20th century. There was also a thriving lead trade from the 12th century.
Saint Aidan founded a monastery on Lindisfarne (now commonly known as Holy Island) in 635 and the famous Lindisfarne Gospels are reputed to have been written between 698-721. The Vikings raided the island in 793 but the monks rebuilt and lived there for another century before, fearing another viking raid, fleeing inland with their relics and treasures.
Harry (Hotspur) Percy was reputed to have had a relationship with Anne Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIII. This speculation led to much fighting for power within the Noble Families of England.