Alnwick: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 55°24′48″N 1°42′25″W / 55.4134°N 1.7069°W / 55.4134; -1.7069

Alnwick and Alnwick Castle - Northumberland - 140804.jpg
The town of Alnwick, nestling behind Alnwick Castle
Alnwick is located in Northumberland

 Alnwick shown within Northumberland
Population 7,767 (2001 census)[1]
OS grid reference NU186129
Unitary authority Northumberland
Ceremonial county Northumberland
Region North East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ALNWICK
Postcode district NE66
Dialling code 01665
Police Northumbria
Fire Northumberland
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament Berwick-upon-Tweed
List of places: UK • England • Northumberland

Alnwick (pronounced /ˈænɪk/ ( listen) (AN-ik, with a silent l and w) is a small market town in north Northumberland, England. The town's 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".[2] The town is situated 32 miles (51 km) south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border, and 5 miles (8 km) inland from the North Sea at Alnmouth.

The town 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 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 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 Battle of 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. Substantial ruins remain.

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


Alnwick lies at 55°25′00″N 01°42′00″W / 55.4166667°N 1.7°W / 55.4166667; -1.7 (55.417, -1.700)1. The River Aln forms its unofficial northern boundary.


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:

  • 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 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
  • 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 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. 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 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 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 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 Museum 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.[3] 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 folly and observation platform overlooking Hulne Park, the Duke of Northumberand's walled estate by Alnwick Castle




Bondgate Tower

Alnwick town lies adjacent to the A1, the main national north/south trunk road, providing easy access to Newcastle upon Tyne (35 miles (56 km) south) and to the Scottish capital Edinburgh (80 miles (130 km) 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.


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 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 line, but this was closed in January 1968.


Newcastle 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. Newcastle Airport is the nearest, however for alternative flights, Edinburgh Airport, Manchester Airport and Leeds Bradford Airport are all within 150 miles.

Twinned Cities

Bryne (Time, Norway), Lagny-sur-Marne (Paris, France), Voerde (Wesel, Germany)

Notable people

Artist Stella Vine grew up in Alnwick.

Born in Alnwick

Died in Alnwick


  1. ^ Office for National Statistics: Neighbourhood Statistics
  2. ^ [1], Country Life Magazine.
  3. ^ [2], Retrieved 23 December 2008.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Alnwick is a pretty town in Northumberland, England. Its name is pronounced 'Annick'.

Get in

Buses run between Newcastle and Alnwick.

Alnwick has no train station, but it is possible to take the train to Alnmouth and catch a taxi or a bus to Alnwick (less than 5 miles).

  • Alnwick Castle [1]. The "poison garden" tour is entertaining. Seeing the castle might be a thrill for people who are really big fans of Rowan Atkinson's "Black Adder" or the Harry Potter films.
  • Alnwick Gardens [2]. This is a fantastic place to visit with a young family. There are numerous fountains (modern design) that children are allowed to play in. It is a bit pricely to get in but children are free! The cafe provides children's lunch boxes at a reasonable price.


Alnwick is home to the largest second hand bookstore in the UK, housed in the former railway station.


A good cheap (especially by UK standards) pizza place is in the high street.


The Hairy Lemon is quiet, well-priced public house in Bondgate Within, located halfway between the Castle and the Market Place

Blackmore's is a friendly new modern bar next to Alnwick Playhouse, Bondgate Without. Much more friendly atmosphere for tourists.

  • White Swan Hotel [3] Best known feature is that it is furnished with fixtures from the RMS Olympic - sister ship of the Titanic.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ALNWICK, a market-town and the county-town of Northumberland, England, in the Berwick-upon-Tweed parliamentary division, 309 m. N. by W. from London, on a branch of the North Eastern railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 6716. It is beautifully situated on the small river Aln, in a hilly district. Its history has left many marks. Dominating the town from an eminence above the south bank of the river stands the castle, held by the Percys since 1309, and long before this an important border stronghold. A gateway of c. 1350, a fine Norman arch of the middle of the 12th century, and the ancient well in the keep, are among noteworthy ancient portions; but the castle was extensively renovated and altered in the second half of the 18th century, while in 1854, when the lofty Prudhoe tower was built, a scheme of decoration in Italian style was adopted in the interior; so that the castle, though magnificent, has largely lost its historic character. It contains numerous fine examples of the works of Italian and other artists, and collections of British and Roman and Egyptian antiquities. In the beautiful park are a monument commemorating the capture of William the Lion of Scotland when besieging the town in 1174, two memorial towers, and a British stone chamber. Remains of the wall which formerly surrounded Alnwick are visible, and one of the four gates, the Bondgate, stands, dating from the early part of the 15th century. The church of St Michael has Norman remains, but is principally Perpendicular; it contains several ancient monuments and incised slabs. The modern church of St Paul has a fine east window of German stained glass. Within the confines of the park are ruins of two abbeys. Alnwick Abbey was a Premonstratensian foundation of 1147; only a gateway tower stands, but the ground-plan was excavated in 1884 and is outlined on the surface. At 3 m. from the town are more extensive remains of Hulne Abbey (1240), an early Carmelite monastery. The long narrow church remains unroofed; there are also a gateway tower, and portions of the chapter-house and cloisters. The Norman chapel of the hospital of St Leonard, which, as well as Alnwick Abbey, was founded by Eustace Fitz John, completes the series of antiquities in Alnwick. In this interesting locality, however, there must be mentioned the mansion of Howick, built in the 18th century, in a fine situation near the coast to the N.E. Not far from this, overlooking the sea from a rocky cliff pierced by deep gullies, are the ruins of Dunstanborough Castle; it dates from the 14th century, though the site was probably occupied as a stronghold from earlier times.

The chief industries are brewing, tobacco, snuff and fishingtackle making, and corn milling. Alnwick is under an urban district council, but is a borough by prescription, and its freemen form a body corporate without authority over the affairs of the town. It is, however, required to pay, under an act of 1882, a sum not less than L500 out of the corporate property towards the upkeep of corporation schools. An ancient peculiar ceremony was attached until modern times to the making of freemen; those elected were required to ride in procession to a large pool called Freemen's Well and there rush through the water According to tradition the observance of this custom was enjoined by King John to punish the inhabitants, the king having lost his way and fallen into a bog owing to the neglected condition of the roads in the neighbourhood.

According to the Chronicle of Alnwick Abbey, the barony of Alnwick belonged before the Conquest to Gilbert Tyson, whose son and heir William was killed at Hastings, and whose estates with his daughter were granted by the king to No de Vescy, although this theory does not seem probable since Gilbert Tyson was certainly not a Saxon. In 1297 William de Vescy, a descendant of Ivo, dying without issue, left the barony to the bishop of Durham, who in 1309 sold it to Sir Henry Percy, in whose family it still continues. The town evidently grew up round the castle, which is said to have been built by Eustace FitzJohn about 1140. Tradition states that it received its borough charter from King John. However, Alnwick is first definitely mentioned as a borough in a charter given by William de Vescy in the reign of Henry II., by which the burgesses were to have common of pasture on Haydon Moor and to hold of him "as freely and quietly as the burgesses of Newcastle hold of the king." This charter was confirmed by his grandson, William de Vescy, in an undated charter, and again by William, son of the latter William, in 1290. According to an inquiry of 1291 a market and fair were held in Alnwick from time immemorial. In 1297 Edward I., in addition, granted the bishop of Durham a market on Saturday, and a fair on the 17th of March and six following days. By charters of Henry VI. the burgesses received licence to enclose their town with a wall, to have a free port at Alnmouth, a market on Wednesday as well as Saturday, and two new fairs on the feasts of SS Philip and James and St Lucy, and eight days following each. Tanning and weaving were formerly the principal industries carried on in Alnwick, and in 1646 there were twenty-two tanneries there. Alnwick has never been represented in parliament.

See George Tate, The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick, 2 vols. (Alnwick, 1866-1869); Victoria County History, Northumberland.

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