Sophie is back in Blighty and available for a couple of weekends outings with our cameras, so last Sunday we had a trip northwards to visit Morpeth, ostensibly Carlisle Park in Morpeth which has stuff of interest to photograph.
A (very) potted History Bit.
Morpeth is a historic market town in Northumberland, North East England, lying on the River Wansbeck. It’s spelling has been all over the shop, Morthpeth meaning “myriad”, Morthpath meaning “gateway”, Morthpaeth meaning “fodder”. Who the heck knows what’s that about. 🤷♀️ It could have been inhabited during the Neolithic era as a stone axe was found there but that’s about it. No Roman remains have turned up though they were about in Northumberland. It was first referenced in 1080 when William de Merlay was rewarded with “the Barony of Morthpeth stretching from the Tyne to the Coquet” for his part in suppressing the rebellion of Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland against the King, William II.
By 1095 Wills had built a motte & bailey castle and in 1138 Will’s son Ranulf de Merlay, lord of Morpeth founded Newminster Abbey (now a grade 2 listed site ~ there’s not much of it left) along with his Missis Juliana.
In 1200 King John granted a market charter for the town to Roger de Merlay and by the mid 1700s It became one of the main markets in Northern England, and by the mid 18th century was one of the key cattle markets in England selling cattle driven by drovers over the border from Scotland. There’s still a general market there on a Wednesday, and a Farmer’s market one Saturday a month, but I don’t think a bunch of Pesky Scottish drovers with herds of cattle get to it. In 1215 the First Barons War kicked off, this was a civil war where the major landholders (know as barons) of England rebelled against King John (who was a knob) and Morpeth got torched by the barons to block King John’s military ops.
It’s commonly said that John burnt down the motte and bailey castle and a new castle was later built south of the old one in the 13thC by his son Ranulf, but there’s no evidence for that and an alternative report is that the second William de Merlay (Ranulf’s son) completed the second castle in 1170, the same year he died.
For some months in 1515–16, Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister) who was the Queen Consort of Scotland (James IV’s widow), had laid ill in Morpeth Castle, having been brought there from Harbottle Castle.
During the 1543–51 we have the war of the ‘Rough Wooing’, when Morpeth was occupied by a garrison of Italian mercenaries, who “pestered such a little street standing in the highway” by killing deer and withholding payment for food. Rough Wooing was originally known as the Eight Years War and was part of the wars of the 16th century between England and the Pesky Scots. The historian William Ferguson contrasted this jocular nickname with the savagery and devastation of the war: English policy was simply to pulverise Scotland, to beat her either into acquiescence or out of existence, and Hertford’s campaigns resemble nothing so much as Nazi total warfare; “blitzkrieg”, reign of terror, extermination of all resisters, the encouragement of collaborators, and so on. This was all down to Henry VIII being a knob. In fact most of our Kings were knobs.
Morpeth has what is reputed to be the tightest curve (17 chains or 340 metres radius) of any main railway line in Britain. The track turns approximately 98° from a northwesterly to an easterly direction immediately west of Morpeth Station on an otherwise fast section of the East Coast Main Line railway. This was a major factor in three serious derailments between 1969 and 1994 when the drivers took the curve at 80miles per hour. The curve has a permanent speed restriction of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h). I’d still advise you to travel by car to visit though! 😊
That’s most of the good stuff, so cracking on with some pictures now!
After we got the car parked, we headed straight for Carlisle Park. The park has the William Turner Garden, an aviary, a paddling pool, an ancient woodland, tennis courts, several bowling greens and a skate park. The park has one of the only four floral clocks in England, which was restored in 2018. In 2018, a statue of Emily Wilding Davison was erected in Carlisle Park, to commemorate 100 years since women were given the right to vote. The park has been awarded the Green Flag Award,the Love Parks Award in 2017, and ‘Best Park’ in Northumbria’s in bloom competition in 2018.
Emily Wilding Davison (11 October 1872 – 8 June 1913) was an English suffragette who fought for votes for women in Britain in the early twentieth century. A member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and a militant fighter for her cause, she was arrested on nine occasions, went on hunger strike seven times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions. She died after being hit by King George V’s horse Anmer at the 1913 Derby when she walked onto the track during the race.
Next to Emily’s bit there is an aviary and though they had some plain perspex panels it wasn’t easy to photograph the birds as the panels were a bit mucky, but I got a couple of shots.
Sophie decided we needed to climb the steep hill that leads to Morpeth Castle, I hate hills but did it anyway 😄
There are only remnants left of the castle walls
but the original gatehouse is still intact, though much altered. The one great military event in the castle’s history was in 1644 when a garrison of 500 Lowland Scots held it for Parliament for 20 days against 2,700 Royalists. The castle was held by and passed by the female line through several illustrious families; de Merlay, Greystoke, Dacre and Howard, none of whom resided there for any long period. In about 1860 the gatehouse was restored and converted to provide a staff residence. The Castle was rented on a long-term arrangement to the Landmark Trust in 1988 which undertook a complete refurbishment in 1990, restoring many of the gatehouse’s original historic features and removing the modern extensions and swimming pool. The gatehouse is now available to rent from the Landmark Trust as holiday accommodation.
The Castle isn’t open usually but they did have an open day at one point and i found a short video of the inside of it;
The park runs along side the river Wansbeck so we had a wander along.
There are boats you can hire for a pootle on the river
it’s a tranquil place to read a book too.
So that’s it for this week, next time we’ll have a look at a few bits in the town itself.