Alnwick (Pronunciation /ˈænɪk/) is a small market town in north Northumberland, England. It serves as the administrative centre for the Alnwick district, and had a population of 7,100 at the time of the 2001 census.
According to Country Life
, October 2002, the "historic county town of Northumberland and seat of the Duke of Northumberland
, Alnwick is the most picturesque market town in Northumberland, and the best place to live in Britain". The town is situated south of Berwick-upon-Tweed
and the Scottish border, and 5 miles (7 km) inland from the North Sea
The town dates back to approximately AD 600, and over the centuries has thrived as an agricultural centre; as the location of Alnwick Castle and home of what were in mediaeval times the most powerful northern barons, the Earls of Northumberland; as a staging post on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and London, and latterly as a modern rural centre cum dormitory town. The fabric of the town centre has changed relatively little and still retains much of its original character; however there has been appreciable growth in size over the last ten years, with a number of housing estates covering what had been pasture, and new factory and trading estate developments along the roads to the south of the town.
The town's greatest building is Alnwick Castle, the home of the Earl of Northumberland
, the Dukes of Northumberland, and site of the Alnwick Garden
; it dominates the west of the town, above the River Aln
. The Castle is the hub of a number of commercial, educational and tourism operations. From 1945 to 1975, it was the location of a teacher training college for young women and "mature students" (persons of more than 21 years in age). Currently, it houses American
students studying in Europe; is the base of Northumberland Estates, the Duke's commercial enterprise; and is in its own right a tourist attraction. The castle is open from April to September, and the Gardens all year around. It is the second largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor
. Benjamin Disraeli
describes Alnwick as 'Montacute' in his novel Tancred
The centre of town is the marketplace, with its market cross, and the relatively modern Northumberland Hall, used as a meeting place. Surrounding the marketplace are the main shopping streets, Narrowgate, Fenkle Street, and Bondgate Within. The last of these is a wide, spacious road fronted by attractive commercial buildings. In mediaeval times, Alnwick was a walled town (although fluctuating economic situations in the Middle Ages meant the walls were never completed), and one remain—Hotspur Tower, a mediaeval gate—is extant, dividing Bondgate Within from Bondgate Without, and restricting vehicles to a single lane used alternately in each direction. Pottergate Tower, at the other side of the town, also stands on the site of an ancient gate, but the tower itself was rebuilt in the 18th century. Its ornate spire was destroyed in a storm in 1812. Outside the line of the walls, the old railway station building is relatively ostentatious for such a small town, arising out of its frequent use by royal travellers visiting the Duke and Alnwick Castle. It is now a large secondhand bookshop.
The town has a thriving playhouse, a multi-purpose arts centre, which stages a hectic programme of theatre, dance, music, cinema, and visual arts exhibitions, and supports a weekly local newspaper—the Northumberland Gazette.
In 2003, the Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre was opened on the southern outskirts of the enlarged town (replacing the old sports centre located by the Lindisfarne Middle School and the now-demolished Youth Centre). More widely, the Alnwick district boasts a wealth of sporting and leisure facilities, including football, cricket, rugby, rambling, rock climbing, water sports, cycling and horse riding. Golfers can find thirteen golf courses within 30 minutes drive of the town.
The castle is popular with film-makers: Harry Potter; Blackadder and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves are some of the films shot here.
Major events in the Alnwick calendar include:
- A Shrove Tuesday football match, known as Scoring the Hales is played in the Pastures (the fields below the castle) between the parishes of St. Paul and St. Michaels. The ball is fetched from Alnwick Castle in procession, preceded by the Duke of Northumberland's piper. The game is won by whichever team is first to score two "hales" or goals.
- Alnwick Fair, staged in the summer as a costumed re-enactment of a mediaeval fair in which residents of the town dress up in authentic costumes
- the Alnwick International Music Festival
- the Alnwick Castle Tournament – a mediaeval jousting spectacular in the grounds of Alnwick Castle
Other places of interest in and near the town include:
- Brizlee Tower, a Grade 1 listed folly tower set atop a hill in Hulne Park, the Duke's walled estate, designed by Robert Adam in 1777 and erected in 1781 for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland.
- the Hotspur Tower, part of the remains of the ancient town wall, and named for Sir Henry Percy, also called Harry Hotspur, the eldest son of the 1st Earl of Northumberland and a major character in Henry IV, Part 1.
- the Nelson Memorial, Swarland, emphasising a local link to the admired Admiral.
- the White Swan Hotel, an 18th Century Coaching Inn that now houses the First Class Lounge and other fittings from the Titanic's near identical sister ship RMS Olympic.
- the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum (inside Alnwick Castle).
- the Pinfold, a stone circular structure within the centre of the town, built to imprison stray cattle.
- RAF Boulmer, which serves as the base for an air-sea rescue helicopter, and has a role in early warning radar surveillance and communications.
- the Tenantry Column—much in the style of Nelson's Column, tall and topped by the Percy Lion, symbol of the Percy family—designed by Charles Harper and erected for Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland in 1816 in gratitude to the Duke. A popular urban legend states that, in response to this display of wealth, the Duke immediately increased the tenants' rent. In reality the later rent increase was under his successor, the 3rd Duke of Northumberland.
The history of Alnwick is the history of the castle and its lords, from the days of Gilbert Tyson, variously known as Tison, Tisson, and De Tesson, one of the Conqueror
's standardbearers, upon whom this northern estate was bestowed, until the present time. After being held by the family of De Vesci (of which the modern rendering is Vasey—a name found all over south-east Northumberland) for over two hundred years, it passed into the hands of the house of Percy
At various points in the town are memorials of the constant wars between Percys and Scots in which so many Percys spent the greater part of their lives. A cross near Broomhouse Hill across the river from the castle marks the spot where Malcolm III of Scotland was killed in 1093, during the first Battle of Alnwick. At the side of the broad shady road called Rotten Row, leading from the West Lodge to Bailiffgate, a tablet of stone marks the spot where William the Lion of Scotland was captured in 1174, during the second Battle of Alnwick by a party of about four hundred mounted knights, led by Ranulf de Glanvill; and there are many others of similar interest.
Hulne Priory, outside the town walls and within Hulne Park, the Duke's walled estate, was a monastery founded in the 13th century by the Carmelites; it is said that the site was chosen for some slight resemblance to Mount Carmel where the order originated. Substantial ruins remain.
In the winter of 1424, much of the town was burnt by a Scottish raiding party.
Commerce & Industry
Formerly a largely rural and agrarian community, the town now lies well within the "travel to work" radius of Morpeth
and Newcastle Upon Tyne
and has a sizeable commuter population. Some major or noteworthy employers in the town include:
- House of Hardy, world-renowned makers of fly-fishing tackle.
- Greys of Alnwick, also world-renowned makers of fly-fishing tackle.
- Northumberland Estates, which manages the Duke of Northumberland's agricultural, forestry and property interests.
- Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand book shops in England, set in the town's former railway station.
- Sanofi Alnwick Research Centre, a very large pharmaceutical research and testing centre.
- Alnwick District Council.
- Tagish Ltd, an independent company specialising in the delivery of ICT solutions and consultancy.
- WM Morrisons Plc
- J Sainsbury plc
- George F White, north east based company with head office in centre of Alnwick since 1979, now employing over 60 persons in total with largest number of RICS Rural Practice Surveyors in the area.
- World Of Difference – Purveyor of fairtrade and organic food and gifts. Shop Locally Think Globally
Alnwick town lies adjacent to the A1, the main national north/south trunk road, providing easy access to Newcastle upon Tyne (south) and to the Scottish capital Edinburgh (north). The town is an 'A1 Town', there are several such similar towns in the North of England such as (North to South), Berwick Upon Tweed (28.1 miles North), Morpeth (28.3 miles South), Newton Aycliffe (65.1 miles South) and Wetherby (116 miles South). Being such a stopping point on the A1 (particularly in such a rural area) provides Alnwick with a lot of passing trade and tourism.
The main East Coast
railway link between Edinburgh (journey time approximately 1:10) and London
(journey time approximately 3:45) runs via the nearby Alnmouth for Alnwick Station
, with a weekday service of 15 trains per day north to Edinburgh and 13 trains per day south to London. The town was once connected to the main line by the Alnwick branch line
, but this was closed in January 1968.
lies around 45 minutes drive-time away, and provides 19 daily flights to London (Heathrow
and London City
), with regular flights to other UK centres. The airport also operates regular flights to many European destinations, along with destinations in Africa and North America.
Alnwick lies at (55.4167,
. The River Aln
forms its unofficial northern boundary.
(Time Valley Region
Born in Alnwick
- William of Alnwick, (c. 1275-1333), Franciscan Theologian and Bishop of Giovinazzo
- George Biddell Airy, (1801–1892), Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881
- Bernard Bosanquet, (1848–1923), philosopher
- John Busby, (1765–1857), mining engineer
- Henry 'Hotspur' Percy, (1364?–1403), son of the 1st Earl of Northumberland
- T. J. Cobden Sanderson, (1840–1922), artist and bookbinder associated with the Arts and Crafts movement
- Prideaux John Selby, (1788–1867), ornithologist, botanist and artist
- Ralph Tate, (1840–1901), botanist and geologist
- Sid Waddell, (born August 10, 1940) British born Geordie commentator and television personality
Died in Alnwick