photo by Jacquie (Hedley) Emerson

A Typical View of the Northumberland Countryside

Unique Northumberland

Northumberland is England's most northerly county, extending to the Scottish border.  It is also the least densely populated, having five times as many sheep as people.  The hardy Cheviot Sheep was developed in Northumberland, as were two popular breeds of dogs, the lamb-like Bedlington Terrier and the clever black and white Border Terrier.

Northumberland is also unique for its architecture.  The 73-mile-long, five-metre high  Hadrian's Wall, built about 130 A.D. was one of the Roman Empire's greatest engineering feats.  Today, there are more castles open to the public in Northumberland than in any other county in England.  Alnwick Castle, first built in 1096, the second largest inhabited castle in England (after Windsor Castle),  has been home to the successive Dukes of Northumberland since 1309.

Northumberland is also the only county with its own unique musical instrument and its own tartan. The Northumbrian pipes produce a lighter, more melodic sound than do the Scottish bagpipes, which are primarily an outdoor instrument.  A recent find indicates that written music for the Northumberland pipes was published in 1733, some 60 years before the oldest known Scottish bagpipe music.  Northumberland's "Border Shepherd's Tartan" dates from the period of the Border Reivers in the15th and 16th centuries, when a long length of woven wool was used as a multi-purpose garment for protection from the elements for both the shepherd and the young animals in his charge.  It was originally woven by the shepherds themselves from undyed wool, half from white sheep and half from black, the oldest textile check ever woven.

The traditional foods of Northumberland include bread and cheese, lamb, fish and game. Favoured cheeses are Northumberland cheese made from cows's milk, Redesdale sheep's milk cheese and Elsdon goat's cheese.  The tadititional bread is "stottie", a round, flat, white bap.  Cheviot lamb dishes are accompanied by red currant jelly.  Traditional fish dishes are salmon and trout, and game foods are usually grouse, pheasant or venison.  The traditional local drink is Lindisfarne Mead, a honey-based alcoholic drink from Holy Island.  The famous "Abbey Well" natural mineral water comes from a spring near Morpeth.

Northumberland County contains 12 market towns, and 460 parishes. Three of which are noted in the following chapters: Birtley,  Chollerton, Ovingham,

Ryton Parish, falls within Durham County which contains 1 city, 8 market towns, and 133 parishes
See the Ryton Map for a better idea of the close proximity to the Northumberland parishes

back to Northumberland Roots Index Page

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