Felton and Swarland Local History Society

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Early 19th-century Alnwick was brought vividly to life at the November meeting of the Felton and Swarland Local History Society.

Andy Griffin described in fascinating detail the life and times of William Davison, whose profession was an unlikely combination of printer and apothecary.

Son of an Alnwick husbandman, we followed his life from his early training in Newcastle, where he met the famous wood engraver and ornithologist Thomas Bewick, to his business activities in Bondgate.

He printed many notable works, including illustrated books of Bewick’s engravings and the nationally sought-after chapbooks.

However, what really set the imagination racing were the many advertising posters he produced featuring local events, tradesmen and products, which shone a revealing and amusing spotlight on society of the day.

He also advertised his own apothecary business with outrageous claims for quack medicines one of which, among many, was a product called Fatoff, a cream which could be rubbed on to reduce weight.

However, what many Alnwick folk will remember him for is that in 1854, aged 72, he inaugurated a local paper called the Alnwick Mercury which became the successful forerunner of today’s Gazette.

The society’s next public meeting is on Monday, January 21, when Robin Wright rediscovers mills in upper Coquetdale, many long forgotten.