Acklington Park Factory

             The Curved Dam

Acklington Park was a significant township within the parish. The park, from a very early period, was attached to the castle of Warkworth and the noblemen in the area would hunt the fallow deer in the park. According to the Northumberland County History: “The rural calm of Acklington Park was broken in the year 1775 when a firm of speculators, attracted by the unfailing water power of the Coquet, acquired a lease of land from the Duke of Northumberland with liberty to erect a foundry for the manufacture of tin and iron.” This development came during a time of increasing industrialization in the county.

The ironworks were built in 1776 and at the same time a dam was constructed to feed water into the millrace that was to supply the power for the foundry. This dam is now considered to be the finest 18th century dam in England! It is a magnificent horseshoe shape with an unusual vertical downstream face. This fine dam, however, clearly brought problems for the salmon population of the river for its 11 feet height defeated many of them. An eccentric salmon sympathiser, the surgeon and naturalist Frank Buckland, erected a hand-written notice for their benefit: “No road at present over this weir. Go downstream, take the first turn to the right and you will find good travelling water upstream and no jumping required. FTB.” A fish pass was eventually erected in the twentieth century. As for the ironworks, it proved to be too far away from its market and by 1791 the mill was being used to manufacture woollen cloth instead. At the census of 1891 there was a healthy population of 76 at Acklington Park and the mill continued as a dye and bleach mill until the 1930’s. Today the population in the Acklington Park area is much smaller (although there is still a significant deer population in the nearby Acklington Wood) and the mill has been private housing since the 1980’s.




As well as its magnificent dam, the river Coquet boasts an historic bridge at Brainshaugh and an historic viaduct built to carry trains on the east coast main line. Another example of railway architecture is Acklington Railway Station and Goods Shed built between 1847-49 in a mock Tudor style by Benjamin Green. Both the station and goods shed are now private houses.
A great snow storm hit the region in 1886.  The snow was so bad that the main London to Edinburgh railway line was blocked at Acklington and passengers had to be dug out.  These two pictures (taken from wood engravings of the event) were printed in an edition of the Illustrated London News, so Acklington made the national news on that occasion.  A less known story was when a cattle train got stuck in snow (near to the viaduct) and villagers carried hay across the fields to the starving animals.
Before moving off the theme of railways the story of “Tunkle” must be told.  Tunkle lived in a cottage at the railway station and he had a potato patch at the side of the line and in it he placed a scarecrow with an old silk hat on its head.  The drivers and firemen on passing trains couldn’t resist numerous shies with suitable lumps of coal.  This was Tunkle’s deep scheme of obtaining coal for nothing… and it succeeded exceedingly well!




The present headteacher
is Ms Claire Cuthbert (pictured left).


Acklington School was built in 1852 and opened in 1853, making it one of the oldest schools still in operation in the county of Northumberland. The first pupil to register in 1853 was 10 year old Ann Egdele. Since that time, hundreds of pupils have enjoyed their early education at the village school and the community is rightly proud of the excellent reputation of the school and the high standards achieved.

When the school was first built it was actually designed to accommodate 124 scholars.  The maximum number of pupils on the register at one time was 100 back in 1865
(although this was during World War II when evacuees from Wallsend helped to swell the numbers).  In the early days, playing out on the street (outside the school gates) did not appear to be a problem.... as this old photograph indicates.

The number of pupils on roll at the present time is 14. This small roll, together with an excellent team of staff, means that the pupils get a great deal of individual attention and a superb start to their formal education.

Mr Smith was one of the earliest (and longest serving) of Acklington’s headteachers.  He served for 30 years.  This picture of Mr Smith and his class was taken in 1930.     

In 2007 the School Governors agreed that the school headship could be a job share position and Mrs Suzanne Connolly was appointed to share the role with Mrs Nichola Brannen. This meant that Acklington C. of E. First School became one of the few innovative schools in the country to have two headteachers. 

In 2015 the school joined the James Calvert Spence College federation and another new head (Claire Cuthbert) was appointed.




Another significant building in the parish is the church of St John The Divine in Acklington Village. It was erected in 1861 and is one of the largest buildings in the parish. The stones of which the church is built were tooled and dressed within the walls of Alnwick Castle. All the woodwork was also prepared there. For this is one of the churches built by Algernon, fourth Duke of Northumberland, in the last few years of his life. When the stones were ready, and the woodwork was fashioned, masons and joiners were sent from the castle works to Acklington to set them in their appointed places.
The Duke & Duchess were present at the consecration which was performed by the Lord Bishop of Durham.

Both the church and the old vicarage were built from the designs of Mr. James Deason. The church is in the early English style and is a fine Victorian Gothic building with a plain exterior and an unexpectedly pleasing interior. Some good modern woodwork includes an altar and reredos and communion rails, given as memorials to various members of the Milburn family of Guyzance. 
The oak Lych Gate itself is very attractive and interesting.  It was opened in 1921 as a war memorial dedicated in honour of those from this district who took part in the Great War 1914 – 1918.  There was quite a ceremony which was attended by His Grace the Duke of Northumberland. The Lych Gate was renovated on the occasion of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2nd 1953.


Coal has been mined in the parish since the 18th Century. In 1902 Acklington Colliery was at full production and employed 347 workers (288 miners below and 59 surface workers). There is now no sign of the colliery but it was situated close to the present “Coal Houses” site. In the 1970s and 80s coal was extracted from large areas of our parish by means of open cast coal mining to the south and the east of the village. The last coal was extracted from the Chester House site in 1991 and all the land in the parish that was scarred by this form of mining has now been restored and returned to farmland. At the present time, however, the landscapes to the south and east of the village still remain somewhat immature as a result of the mining. In 1997 there was an application to mine coal and fireclay from the Cavil Head area along the northern edge of the village but this was successfully opposed by members of the parish and permission for the mining was refused.


A cattle market has been at Acklington for over 100 years. It is owned by a company of Alnwick Farmers (North East Livestock Ltd) and is one of the main auction marts in the north east, employing over 20 workers and achieving a turnover of over 17 million pounds per year. The mart sells prime cattle and sheep to every corner of the United Kingdom with the main weekly auctions taking place on Mondays and Thursdays. From time to time other livestock and farm produce are auctioned, including horses and saddlery, poultry, eggs, plants, fruit, fresh vegetables and farm machinery & tools. The railway used to be used in the transportation of animals to the mart but now all livestock arrives in cattle wagons. The mart has its own canteen, which is always well used by the farmers.





It was in 1916 that the first biplanes touched down on a small field just south of Acklington. The site was called Southfield and 36 Squadron operated there until the end of the First World War. Although peacetime arrived the aerodrome was soon expanded and became known as RAF Acklington.

The airfield really came into its own during the Second World War when Acklington was well and truly put on the map. Hurricanes of No. 43 Squadron were stationed at the base for coastal patrol duties and RAF Acklington made its first mark upon history when three No. 43 squadron pilots shot down the first enemy aircraft to crash on English soil in 1940. They were led by Flt Lt Peter Townsend, whose name was later linked with Princess Margaret. In June 1940 spitfires flew out of Acklington and assisted in the evacuation of Dunkirk. On August 15th 1940 Acklington’s fighters, together with aircraft from other airfields on the east coast, enjoyed their greatest ever achievement by shooting down 15 Luftwaffe aircraft in a head-on clash over the North Sea in a raid which turned out to be one of the Battle of Britain’s most significant encounters.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Acklington became the main RAF armament training base with various units passing through to brush up on their air-to-air firing accuracy. It was a host to gliders as well as more modern jets. After budget cuts in 1956 the jet fighters had to share the station with helicopters from Search and Rescue.

The glory days for the airfield were over by the time the site was designated as a prison in 1969. The three runways were ripped up in 1974 and the remaining helicopters moved up the coast to Boulmer in October 1975.

Disused buildings and structures associated with both world wars are now considered to be of archaeological interest. In Acklington Parish, a World War II anti-aircraft artillery site survives which was built to protect RAF Acklington. The gun has of course long gone. While the remnants of the airfield also disappeared during the extensive opencast mining in the 1980s and 1990s, a lasting legacy is the housing created for the officers and airmen of RAF Acklington which now makes up the eastern end of the village and is still often locally referred to as the “married quarters”.




Mention Acklington to a criminal or a prison officer and they of course will immediately think of the gaols we have had here.  HMP Acklington was developed in 1972 on the 40 acre site of the former RAF station... situated on the southern edge of our parish. Within the North East Area it was the only Category C establishment catering for men.  There was accommodation for up to 882 prisoners, 216 of the places were reserved for those who are deemed vulnerable by the nature of their offence, or inability to cope in the mainstream prison.
 In January 1983 HMYOI Castington was also opened also on the old airfield site.  Castington housed 240 offenders aged 18-21 and a further 160 offenders from as young as aged 14-17.  The full range of criminal offenders was housed in the two establishments and there was almost no restriction on the type of offender that was likely to be received.  Both the establishments housed inmates serving all sentences from as little as nine months to life.  The prisons were by far the largest employer in the area with over 900 staff (uniformed + others) working within the two establishments.  In 2011 Acklington and Castington prisons merged to form HMP Northumberland.  The prison was privatised in December 2013 when the management passed from Her Majesty's Prison Service to Sodexo Justice Services.



There have been a number of village pubs in the past making valuable contributions to the economic and social activities of the area.
  We have had the “Three Horse Shoes”, “The Plough” and "The Railway Inn" but only the latter still survives.

The Railway Inn is a small rural pub which has quite a history. It started life as a two up, two down farm house in the mid 1800’s and then the enterprising farmer decided to add some more rooms and take in guests. It actually became a “hotel” in the 1890’s with landlords staying for many years before moving on. The Marsh family had the hotel before it was taken over by Mr and Mrs Webb and family. From 1923 to 1954 the Webb brothers ran the pub and Tom Webb trained racehorses along the fields adjoining the main railway line. Some nice winners were stabled at the Station Hotel, none grander than “Pickle,” who won the Cumberland Plate. Photographs of some of his winners can be seen on the lounge walls of the pub today. The hotel in the early days was patronized by sporting folk, foxhunters, otter hunters, gamekeepers, farmers and shepherd’s, etc. Special social evenings including “Badger Suppers” were very popular at the time— but remember this was over 70 years ago, before the protection of many of our wild animals.

Before, during and after the second world war, when Acklington RAF site and airfield was just a couple of miles down the road, many airman and officers visited the pub regularly. Included amongst those frequent visitors was Flt Lt Peter Townsend who was reputed to be Princess Margaret’s first love (we even now have a “Townsend Court” in the village). So as well as pictures of fine racehorses, there are also photographs of the old RAF camp displayed on the walls of the pub today, a nice reminder of Acklington’s proud history.

From 1954 to 1985 the pub was run by Kitty Absalom, a name still well known in the area. Peter and Linda Osborne took over in 1988 and they had the old stables and outbuildings converted into three self-catering cottages which became very popular with holidaymakers to Northumberland.

Stuart and Susan Collingwood, took over the pub in 2009 and refurbished the place, completely transforming the bar and restaurant.  They also opened up a 22 pitch touring caravan site in the pub grounds.  They ensured the Railway Inn continued to be one of the most popular and thriving pubs in our area.

The present landlords (or should that be landladies) are Rachel and Helen.  They took over the pub in July 2015.





Village Hall is a very significant building.  It has always been extremely well used for meetings as well as for sporting and social events.  It is also the venue used by various local clubs and it continues to be one of the main centres of social activity in the parish. Before the hall was built meetings took place in the school.  They had what they called “Parish Meetings” and it appears from the minutes written at the time that most of the discussions concerned:
the state of the footpaths; the water supply; scavenging; safety of bridges; road-signs; parish celebrations (e.g. Jubilee / Coronation) and the provision of a village hall.

The Village Hall was originally due to open in February 1924 but it was completely wrecked by a gale just a few days before the official opening ceremony.  The following extract is taken from a newspaper article written at the time.


A gloom has been cast over the village of Acklington by the blowing over of its newly erected War Memorial Hall early last Saturday morning, by the terrific gale which swept over the district. The hall only needed some slight painting inside for completion, and was to have been handed over to the Committee on February 5th, Monday first, when the opening ceremony was to have been performed by Sir Leonard Milburn.

At midnight on Friday, when a constable passed the building, it was all right, so that the catastrophe must have occurred at some time between that hour and 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, when the hall was found to be in ruins by Mr. J. K. Waggot, who lives at the Post Office, the next building to the hall.

The hall is almost completely raised to the ground, only the gable ends remaining. It was in a very exposed position, and stood broadside on to Friday night’s gale, which is declared by the keeper of the Coquet Lighthouse to be the severest experienced in the district for a considerable time.

Early on Monday, a party of Acklington men and lads commenced helping the builders to make order out of the debris on the site of the building, removing broken slates and clearing bricks, etc. The damage is estimated at well over £400. A lucky circumstance was that £30 worth of chairs, which had just been purchased, had not been put into the hall.

The cost of the hall was £800 and the money was raised from public subscriptions, whist drives, bazaars, entertainments, etc. Mr Turner, retired schoolmaster and secretary of the Memorial Hall Fund, said he was quite satisfied the workmanship was all right. The fault lay with the night.

We can only imagine how it felt for those in the parish who had worked and laboured for years to raise funds to get that hall and then found that just when their hopes were going to be realised that the whole structure was lying in ruins.  Thankfully they decided that the hall had to be rebuilt and they set about raising yet more funds.  The committee gave instructions for a building of much greater stability that the original one and in June 1925 all their efforts were rewarded when Lady Milburn officially opened this hall.  It has been extremely well used ever since.
Throughout the sixties there was a great deal of maintenance work done (redecoration, new heating system, toilet repairs, new furniture, etc.) and discussions about such items dominated the village hall meetings, as recorded in the minutes.
Village hall activities during the seventies included:  ballet lessons, keep fit classes, Whist Drives, coffee mornings, Youth Club evenings, dances, as well as regular meetings of the Parish Council / W.I. / Young Wives Group / Bowls Club / PCC / Autumn Club.  The school also used the village hall during a period of school alterations.
The kitchen and supper room were altered and modernised during the eighties. Working parties of prison inmates helped to clear up the village hall grounds.  An active village badminton club ran throughout the eighties.  The number on the village hall committee was increased to 12.
In 2001 a group calling themselves ACT (Acklington Community Team) was formed and organised numerous events for the community…. as a result the village hall was used nearly every day and given a new lease of life.  Extra activities included: sports club, history club, toddler group, ceilidh’s, sales, treasure hunts, “village tidy” days, dance classes, quiz nights, pantomimes… all of which helped to increase revenue for the village hall committee.

At the present time the hall continues to be used almost every day for meetings, functions and club nights.  It is a real focal point of the community.  The village hall committee has recently improved the village hall by installing a disabled toilet and redecorating throughout.  They plan to enhance the facility even further with a rebuild of the back room and the development of a community garden & play area alongside the hall.


Brainshaugh House

If the Village Hall is one of the most used buildings in the parish, Guyzance Hall is definitely one of the grandest.  In 1892, J.D. Milburn – a Newcastle Industrial entrepreneur and shipowner – bought the estate of Barnhill (and much of Guyzance) and converted Barnhill Farm into a fine residence.  The residence was completed in 1905 and became known as Guyzance Hall.  The hall was owned by various members of the Milburn family until 2008 when Revd Robert Parker bought the estate and transformed the hall into a stunning luxury mansion for holidays, special parties and weddings.

Brainshaugh House (bottom left) is also undoubtedly an impressive building and one of the finest dwellings in the parish.

In the village of Acklington itself The Old Vicarage is, according to Sir Nikolaus B. L. Pevsner the famous scholar of the history of architecture, one of the finest and most significant architectural gems in Northumberland.



Pearson's Garage
may not be anywhere near so grand as the illustrious buildings above, but it never-the-less serves a very useful function…
Pearson’s Agricultural Garage started life as a Builders Yard – specialising is sand (from Alnmouth) and gravel.  Then it became Acklington Motor Company – with buses and such like.
Since 1980 it has been Pearson’s Agricultural Garage – serving not just local farms but farms throughout Northumberland (e.g. Wooler / Hexham).  Most of the garage's business (80%) is about repairing tractors and farm machinery…. but they also sell and hire new and second hand machinery. Between five and eight staff are employed at the garage and they are busiest during harvest time (combine harvester maintenance) and on mart days.

Acklington village pump often catches the eye of visitors passing through the village.  Strangers are told that the little roof over the pump is to keep the water dry when it rains.  The pump sadly no longer works but when it did the water was said to be sweet and cool, coming from seven little springs below.

When this newspaper picture (top right) was taken in 1932 the local authorities had been discussing the water supply for Acklington for almost 30 years.  But nothing had been done and, as this photograph shows, the villagers were still drawing buckets of water from the pump despite the water being condemned.
 Behind the pump the two cottages (“Pump Cottage” and “Rookery Nook”) are over 400 years old.