Christmas caught up with me before I could get this post done, so here is the last outing Sophie and I had at the end of November, on the same day as my previous post on Alnwick. We parked up at the beach at Alnmouth and walked up the hill to see this legacy of wars. I think first though we’ll have
The History Bit ☕️ 🍪 * Long post Alert *
Alnmouth has had a bit of bother with the Pesky Scots and the Pesky French over the past 871 years, though it seems calm and peaceful now. It was established by a Norman Nobleman, William de Vesci, in 1152, but it was his son Eustace who, in 1207 or 8 was given royal permission to turn it into a port and have a Wednesday fish market going on, and by 1306 is shown to be a port of call by a Crown request for the supply of a boat to assist in a military campaign to Gascony.
But let’s digress here a little, whilst Eustace has nothing to do with our gun battery, there’s a cool history of him in The Baronage of England by Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686.) a bit of which I’ll paraphrase as it’s all in olde worlde English. This bit happened in 1211 when King John was on the way to Wales to invade it. One evening, at the dinner table, King John, (who was a bit of a lech to say the least) found out that Eustace’s missis, Margaret of Scotland, (King Alex 2nd’s sister) was thought to be very beautiful. He pretended to admire Eustace’s ring, and borrowed it to have one like it made for himself. But the cad! He was fibbing, and instead sent the ring to Maggie pretending Eustace had sent it, begging her to come and see him if she wanted to see him alive! A cad and a bounder! As luck would have it, as Maggie, unaware of the King’s ruse, was hot hoofing it to see her dearly beloved, Eustace was having a leisurely ride out and about and the two met up. Now that folks, is what we call serendipity! Anyway, Eustace, once he understood how they had both been deluded, resolved to hire a lady of the night, dress her in clothes his Missis would wear, and send her off to dally with the King. All that was accomplished, and the King was soon bragging to Eustace about how lovely his Missis was and how naughty they had been, whereupon our Eustace put him right. The King was mighty peed off at being thusly thwarted and tricked and threatened to kill Eustace, and wisely our man skedaddled North toot~sweet!
So, back to Alnmouth in 1336 or forwards now really 🙄 and the Pesky Scots came a’calling, and whilst in 1296, twenty-eight people had been listed as being liable to pay tax; in 1336 this fell to just one after the Pesky Scots had finished with the place. The Black Death, (bubonic plague) arrived and added to the woes of anyone left living there, and as always in this part of Northumberland Pesky Scottish Border Reivers constantly raided the place. In the 15th and 16th centuries the place was in pretty poor order, but nothing lasts forever, and in the 17th and 18thC’s things were looking up. Trade flourished from the port, exporting grain everywhere, coal, eggs, pork and pickled salmon to London, wool to Yorkshire for the weaving industry and then importing bat guano from Peru as you do, blue slate from Scotland, and timber from Holland and Scandinavia. The port had a modest shipbuilding centre and at it’s peak around 1750, up to 18 vessels might be seen in the harbour at any one time.
And then in August 1779 two Pesky French Privateer ships (sovereign backed pirates basically) had a contre~temps for 2 hours with a British Man Of War ship off the coast of Alnmouth. I couldn’t find out who won the battle. To cap that, a month later a chap called John Paul Jones (NOT the sublime bass player of Led Zeppelin) turned up in a ship and fired a cannonball at Alnmouth Church in support of the American War of Independence. What the heck he hoped to achieve with one cannonball in Alnmouth is beyond me, but it didn’t do much damage, missed the church and landed on a farm house roof.
I think a little digression is worthwhile here, as John Paul Jones is an interesting chappy. He was the United States’ first well-known naval commander in the American Revolutionary War. He made many friends among U.S political elites (including John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin) as well as enemies (who accused him of piracy), and his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation that persists to this day. As such, he is sometimes referred to as the “Father of the American Navy” (a nickname he shares with John Barry and John Adams). He has a very long and illustrious naval history, served with the Americans, the French and the Russians, winning medals from them all. The Institution du Mérite Militaire from France, the Congressional Gold Medal from the USA and the Order of St. Anne from Russia. His history, albeit fascinating is too long for my little blog post, my digression here is just to point out that he wasn’t American in the slightest. Nope! He was born in Arbigland in Southern Scotland! A Pesky Scot no less!! As well as his pot shot at Alnmouth, he raided Whitehaven on the West coast and in 1999 Jones was given a posthumous honorary pardon by the port of Whitehaven for his raid on the town, in the presence of Lieutenant Steve Lyons representing the U.S. Naval Attaché to the UK, and Yuri Fokine the Russian Ambassador to the UK. The U.S. Navy was also awarded the Freedom of the Port of Whitehaven, the only time the honour has been granted in its 400-year history. He didn’t get a pardon from Alnmouth, and quite right too, the traitorous Bunty.
Bear with me, we’re getting there! The Napoleonic Wars from 1803 ~1815 affected the trade of the port and the fear of further invasions carried on throughout the century. In 1799 the Volunteer Movement had come into being, and militia’s were setting up all over the shop. The Armed Association of the Percy Tenancy Volunteers was raised by the Duke of Northumberland, Hugh, in 1798, and operated between 1805 and 1814. In 1859, the 2nd Northumberland (Percy) Volunteers Artillery was established, with the next Duke of Northumberland, Algernon, being the Commanding Officer. He is the chap who had the gun battery at Alnmouth built. It was completed on 12th March 1881. When WW2 kicked off, invasion fears arose again and more defences were added to Alnmouth, anti-tank cubes, an anti-tank ditch, pill-boxes, reinforcement of the gun battery, and firing slits built into the walls of the Church Hill guano shed. We may need another outing to Alnmouth!
Enough edumacation, lets have the pictures! These are all taken with my Contax Aria, loaded with Cinestil 800T.
It was late in the afternoon when we got to it. Well not really late, but afternoons end at 3.30-4pm in winter here, so we didn’t have too much time to photograph and it was a bit of a hike from the carpark next to the beach up to the battery.
It didn’t take long to shoot the battery, but we hung about watching a lovely gentle sunset, and the view from where the battery sits is worth a few moments.
All pictures embiggenable with a click.
And that is the end of my posts for 2022 outings, I’m pretty sure there’ll be more in 23 so