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A Brief History Of Northumberland…

Originally the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria, it was formed at the beginning of the 7th century in Anglo-Saxon times when Athelfrith, a king of Bernicia in the north who conquered Deira (now Yorkshire) in 604AD, unified the two independent kingdoms. When Athelfrith was defeated and killed in 616AD, Edwin, son of Aella, a former king of Deira, was installed as king.

Ori Edwin accepted Christianity in 627AD and went on to become the most powerful king in England, creating one large kingdom which stretched from the river Humber to the river Forth and across to the river Mersey, with some evidence that it may have been even larger. After Edwin’s death, Oswald became king, expanding the territory further incorporating much of Cumbria and south-east Scotland and re-introduced Christianity.

After many subsequent battles, during the Viking invasion, the southern part (Diera) was lost to Danelaw and whilst the northern kingdom (Bernicia) at first retained its status as a kingdom, it was then reduced to an earldom, a status retained when England was later reunited after the re-conquest of Danelaw. Scottish invasions reduced the size of the territory further so that this earldom stretched from the River Tweed in the north to the river Tees in the south and was still heavily debated between England and Scotland, but was eventually recognized as part of England by the Anglo-Scottish Treaty of York in 1237.

When St. Aidan was sent from Iona by King Oswald to convert the English, it was on Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, that a monastery was established and Celtic Christianity introduced; the area becoming known as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ in England, later becoming a centre for Catholicism and then Jacobite after the Restoration. Due to being largely rural and unpopulated, it became a wild county where outlaws could hide but after the union of Scotland and England under James VI the lawlessness largely subsided.

Once part of the Roman Empire, its location on the borders with Scotland the region has seen many historical battles and meant the Lords of Northumberland wielded great power, charged with protecting England from the Scots and so has a history of revolt and rebellion against the government, usually led by the then Dukes of Northumberland, the Percy family of whom Harry Hotspur is mentioned by Shakespeare. A number of historic castles can be found throughout the area such as the ‘royal’ castle of Bamburgh, from before the unification under one monarch. Alnwick, Warkworth and Dunstanburgh are others with historic significance.