EARLY HISTORY

IN THE VERY EARLY DAYS....

Amongst the earliest evidence of human activity in this area are the cup and ring carvings at Jacks Rock, near Morwick.  These markings are thought to be late Neolithic. An artists impression (pictured right) shows carvers at work.

Human bones from the Bronze Age were found in a field near Barnhill. A spearhead belonging to an Ancient Briton was found at Acklington Park. A prehistoric Iron Age settlement existed at the Chester House farmstead area.

Rake Lane runs through the parish and is almost certainly a relic of the Roman Road which connected Druridge Bay to The Devil’s Causeway (one of the main Roman Roads in the north of Britain). The Romans used Druridge Bay as a port for landing supplies for the soldiers stationed in this part of Northumberland.  Locals today often refer to Rake Lane as "Green Lane" - and looking at the picture opposite it is not hard to see why.

Ever since the sons of an Anglo-Saxon named Aeccel built homes for their families on an area of land, slightly higher than the boggy land which partly surrounded it, there has been a village at Acklington. The sons farmed the land and it is believed their home became known as Aecceley or Acley. As the village grew the name of the site changed to Acleytun then Akleton and over the years to Eclinton.


Finally the present day name of Acklington evolved and, for the time being at least, that is what the village and our parish is called.
 It is only since Anglo-Saxon times that accurate records have been kept about our Parish.

We know that in 1147 a priory was founded at Brainshaugh for nuns who belonged to the Premonstratensian Order. The chapel ruins are still visible (pictured left) but all other buildings survive only as buried foundations. The chapel was dedicated to St Wilfred of Gysnes and the nearby village adopted the name “Gysnes” which later became “Guyson” and then changed over the years to “Guizance” and then “Guyzance”.

 

IN THE MIDDLE AGES.....

The coming of the Normans helped conditions to improve very slowly. When Warkworth Castle was built in the 12th Century, Acklington and Guyzance fell into the hands of the Norman family Clavering and the villagers became bond tenants of the Lords of Warkworth (first Claverings and the Percies). 

This meant that the tenants had to pay rent to the Lords and to work for the Lords by carrying out jobs such as harvesting and carrying loads of firewood to Warkworth.

There is a fairly full account of the village in the archives of Alnwick Castle. In 1248 there were 21 Bond Tenants of Acklington each holding 30 acres. They were allowed to farm this land, but there were certain conditions, as follows:
   an annual rent of three shillings and sixpence had to be paid;
   tenants had to keep some of the Lords horses and cattle on their land;
   they had to work for the Lord for three days per week;
   they had to provide a fowl or 1d to the Lord at Christmas.
 


    Remains of Warkworth Castle
During the 14th Century the Scots proved very troublesome. They raided Northumberland frequently, carrying off anything of value. This was usually sheep and cattle for the cottages had nothing else worth taking. These times were very dangerous and the only place of safety was the castle at Warkworth. If the villagers knew in time that the Scots were coming they could drive their animals to the castle for safety. Then the Scots set fire to the cottages of Acklington. The village suffered badly in 1316 at the hands of Robert the Bruce and in 1342 at the hands of King David. On both occasions Northumberland was devastated. Crops were stolen or destroyed and people were so near starvation that they ate cats and dogs. As a result of the devastation, nine of Acklington’s farms lay waste for some years.
The position of the villagers was made worse still by the great Plague which killed one-third of the population of England in 1349. The "sanctus bell" from St. Wilfred's Priory near Brainshaugh was rung by the nuns to signify a death in Guyzance village - and it was frequently used during the great plague of 1349 which killed so many local people.  The bell survived the plague (although it has been fitted with another handle at a later date) but the priory and its inhabitants never recovered
and the buildings fell into ruin.

The bell is now housed in the parish church of St John The Divine, Acklington.
    


A number of stories have been
written about the Acklington Witches, and in particular Nancy Scott.

In a survey made in 1368 mention is made of the site of the manor house. In 1352 there was a windmill paying 40/- rent, each house from which smoke came paid 1d. About 1460 Acklington village had a very bad and unenviable reputation for witchcraft and the magic arts. Some Acklington inhabitants practised a form of witchcraft whereby the life, death or suffering of an enemy was attempted by means of a wax figure in which pins were stuck or which was roasted before a fire at night within barred and closed doors and darkened windows.
                      
 
MODERN ENGLAND.....
Farming has always been the staple economic activity within the parish. In 1567 there were 17 tenant farmers holding 30 acres of land and 8 cottage tenants holding land from quarter of an acre up to 6 acres. Gradually the farms were grouped together and by about 1800 there were 7 farms around Acklington village, as follows: Chester House, Cavil Head, Whirleyshaws, Field House, Town Farm, Coal Houses and Cheeveley.

Cavil Head means the head of the cavils, strips of land given to or cavilled among the early settlers.  Coal Houses got its name from the then adjacent pit.
From the introduction of Christianity in this district until 1859, Acklington was in the parish of Warkworth. During this period inhabitants went to Warkworth Church where they were also christened, married and buried. At funerals, those who could not walk all the way to Warkworth would walk with the corpse as far as the Lower Well Tree (the tree and the well are now gone). Matthew Purvis wrote a poem called “The La’ Well Tree” in 1858, just a few years before his own corpse was carried past the La’ Well Tree on its way to its last resting place. There is an inscription to him on a gravestone in Warkworth churchyard.

A few years after the death of Matthew Purvis, Acklington finally had its own church.  The church was erected in 1861, from designs by James Deason, at the Duke of Northumberland’s expense.  There is much more about the history of Acklington Church under the "Recent History" section.