JOURNEY THROUGH TIME: A record 72 members and friends of the Glendale Local History Society were treated to a special expedition in the College Valley, led by Charles Baker-Cresswell, recently retired as chairman of the College Valley Estates.
We met at the refurbished Cuddystone Hall for a talk and lunch, and then went up the valley to Mounthooly, and down to look at the Pele Tower at Hethpool.
Through our speaker’s lively account, we were treated to a sweep of time from the volcanic eruptions which produced the Cheviot Hills 390 million years ago, ending up in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Farming here must always have been hard yet people have lived here and tried to farm and tend cattle for at least 5,000 years. Our speaker joked about the ‘imagination’ of archaeologists as they try to create an idea of how people lived from the small scraps of evidence now left behind in the landscape.
Whether they lived here continuously, or just came in summer, or for special occasions, is not so clear.
In Roman times and from the Norman conquest, north Northumberland was a frontier region, with all the warfare, raiding and general insecurity this brought. These were hard times in the valley and we heard of episodes where the village at Hethpool was raided, with cattle, horses and people taken away.
Our speaker argued that from this time and up into the 19th century, people would not have lived permanently in the upper parts of the valley, instead taking the sheep and cattle up to the ‘shielings’ in summer.
Admiral Collingwood, Nelson’s comrade at the battle of Trafalgar, inherited Hethpool through his wife and planted his stand of oaks 200 years ago which, contrary to his hopes, were too blasted by the sweeping winds to be much use for naval shipbuilding. Later, it was owned by Arthur Munro Sutherland, a Tyneside industrialist, who gradually assembled the various ownerships in the valley into a single estate. He also rebuilt Hethpool House into a fine Arts and Crafts building, along with a row of cottages, and provided the meeting hall and school at Southernknowe.
In the 1920s, with no sons to inherit due to the First World War, the valley estate was set up as a trust. This was taken over by the James Knott Trust in 1956, in parallel with the formation of the Northumberland National Park, which has owned and, through the College Valley Estates, managed the area since.
The new season will open on September 14 with The Craft of the Wheelwright, a talk and demonstration by Peter Thompson.