Alnwick

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Missing image
Alnwick_and_Alnwick_Castle_-_Northumberland_-_140804.jpg
The town of Alnwick, nestling behind Alnwick Castle
For the parish in New Brunswick, see Alnwick, New Brunswick

Alnwick (pronounced ) is a small market town in north Northumberland, in the north-east of England. It serves as the administrative centre for the Alnwick district, and had a population of 7,100 at the time of the 2001 census.

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Overview

According to Country Life, October 2002, the "historic county town of Northumberland and seat of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick is the most picturesque market town in Northumberland, and the best place to live in Britain". The town in situated 30 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border, and 4 miles inland from the North Sea.

The town dates back to approximately 600AD, and over the centuries has thrived as an agricultural centre; as the location of Alnwick Castle and home of what were in medieval 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.

Features

The town's greatest building is Alnwick Castle, the home of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, and site of the Alnwick Garden; it dominates the west of the town, above the River Aln. The Castle is the hub of a number of commercial, educational and tourism operations. It houses American students studying in Europe; is the base of Northumberland Estates, the Duke's commercial enteprise; and is in its own right a tourist attraction. The castle is open from April to September, and the Gardens all year around.

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 Bongate Within. The last of these is a wide, spacious road fronted by attractive commercial buildings. In medieval times, Alnwick was a walled city, and one remain - Hotspur Tower, an ancient 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 frequently being used by royal travellers visiting the Duke and Alnwick Castle.

The town has a thriving playhouse, a multi-purpose arts centre, which stages a hectic programme of theatre, dance, music, cinema, and visual arts exhibitions. In 2003, the Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre was opened on the southern outskirts of the enlarged town. 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.

Major events in the Alnwick calendar include:

  • A Shrove Tuesday football match, known as Scoring the Hales is played on 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 3 "hales" or goals.
  • Alnwick Fayre, 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 (http://www.alnwickfestival.com)
  • the Alnwick Castle Tournament a medieval jousting spectacular in the grounds of Alnwick Castle.

Other places of interest in and near the town include:

History

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 Percies and Scots in which so many Percies 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. 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, by Odinel de Umfraville and his friends; 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. Substantial ruins remain.

In the winter of 1433, much of the town was burnt by Scottish a raiding party.

Commerce & Industry

Formerly a 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. Some major or noteworthy employers in the town include:

  • 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 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.
  • Alnwick District Council.

Communications

Road

Alnwick town lies adjacent to the A1, the main national north/south trunk road, providing easy access to Newcastle upon Tyne (30 miles south) and to the Scottish capital Edinburgh (80 miles north).

Rail

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 Station, with a weekday service of 14 trains per day north to Edinburgh and 11 trains per day south to London. The town was once connected to the main line by the Alnwick branch line, but this was closed in January 1968.

Air

Newcastle Airport lies around 45 minutes drive-time away, and provides 18 daily flights to London (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted), with regular flights to other UK centres. The airport also operates regular flights to many European destinations.

Geography

Alnwick lies at Template:Coor dms (55.4167, -1.7000)1. The River Aln forms its northern boundary.

People

Born in Alnwick

Died in Alnwick

External Links

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