Elsdon, Northumberland

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Elsdon Village - geograph.org.uk - 1548982.jpg
View of Elsdon village
Northumberland UK location map.svg
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Location within Northumberland
Population258 (Local knowledge. 242, 2011 census) [1]
OS grid reference NY936932
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district NE19
Dialling code 01830
Police Northumbria
Fire Northumberland
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
List of places
55°13′55″N2°06′04″W / 55.232°N 2.101°W / 55.232; -2.101 Coordinates: 55°13′55″N2°06′04″W / 55.232°N 2.101°W / 55.232; -2.101

Elsdon is a village and civil parish in the English county of Northumberland about 10 miles (16 km) to the southwest of Rothbury. The name is derived from the Old English meaning Elli's valley.

Civil parish Territorial designation and lowest tier of local government in England

In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government, they are a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and counties, or their combined form, the unitary authority. Civil parishes can trace their origin to the ancient system of ecclesiastical parishes which historically played a role in both civil and ecclesiastical administration; civil and religious parishes were formally split into two types in the 19th century and are now entirely separate. The unit was devised and rolled out across England in the 1860s.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Northumberland County of England

Northumberland is a unitary authority and a Historic County in North East England. The northernmost county of England, the unitary authority borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a path 103 kilometres (64 mi) long. The county town is Alnwick, although the county council is based in Morpeth.


Formerly the capital of Redesdale, Elsdon contains a very fine example of a Motte and Bailey Castle, and a near perfect Pele Tower (fortified house of a type found in the border country) which is a private residence.

Redesdale valley in Northumberland, England

Redesdale is a valley in the western part of the county of Northumberland, in northeast England. This area contains the valley of the River Rede, a tributary of the River North Tyne. Redesdale includes the settlements of Elsdon, Otterburn, Rochester, Byrness and Carter Bar. A portion of Redesdale to the west and north of Otterburn now forms part of Northumberland National Park and includes the Redesdale Forest, the northernmost part of Kielder Forest.

Geographically, Elsdon lies in Redesdale and, as a market town, was once the primary settlement in the area.

Market town European settlement with the medieval right to host markets

A market town is a European settlement that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the Middle Ages, the right to host markets, which distinguished it from a village or city. In Britain, small rural towns with a hinterland of villages are still commonly called market towns, as sometimes reflected in their names.


Elsdon has a grim reminder of the past in the gibbet that rears its gaunt outline on the hill known as Steng Cross. Strangely enough this gallows has no connection with the Border raiders, many of whom met their death "high on the gallows tree". The present gibbet stands on the site of one from which the body of William Winter was suspended in chains after he had been hanged at The Westgate in Newcastle. Today this grisly relic is called Winter's Gibbet. [2] Pieces of the gibbet were once reputed to be able to cure toothache, if rubbed on the gums. [3]

In 1791, a very nasty murder of an old woman, Margaret Crozier, took place. The following quote from Tomlinson's Guide to Northumberland shows the enjoyment which the old writers took in recounting horrors in all their bloodthirsty detail. Tomlinson says:

Believing her to be rich, one William Winter, a desperate character, but recently returned from transportation, at the instigation, and with the assistance of two female faws [vendors of crockery and tinwork] named Jane and Eleanor Clark, who in their wanderings had experienced the kindness of Margaret Crozier, broke into the lonely Pele on the night of 29th August 1791, and cruelly murdered the poor old woman, loading the ass they had brought with her goods. The day before they had rested and dined in a sheep fold on Whisker-shield Common, which overlooked the Raw, and it was from a description given of them by a shepherd boy, who had seen them and taken particular notice of the number and character of the nails in Winter's shoes, and also the peculiar gully, or butcher's knife with which he divided the food that brought them to justice.

The shepherd lad must have had very good eyesight to count the number of nails in Winter's shoes! [2]

Present on the village green is a Pinfold, where stray livestock were kept in years past, pending the payment of a fine by their owners. Also present is the site of an old cockfighting ring and at the North end of the village green is a stone, which once held a ring to which bulls were tied for bull baiting. Up to the late 16th century, this was an almost lawless place, confirmed by the signs of these "pastimes" and the marks just inside the church where parishioners sharpened swords and arrowheads on the church pillars! Between the Motte & Bailey Castle and the Pele tower is some flat land known as the Haugh, where in antiquity, the men of Elsdon practised archery. This is not the countryside of Morris Dancers and Cricket, but an area, which remained beyond the law long after England and Scotland were settled, and in some ways this harshness and the lack of facilities are what has preserved Elsdon as a truly unspoilt Northumbrian Village.


Whilst some new building has been allowed, like many other small villages, Elsdon has suffered for the loss of its shop and Post Office in recent times. There is however still a public house, the Bird and Bush, and a tea room and cafe situated at the Northern end of the village, which is especially popular with cyclists and other visitors.


Elsdon Castle Motte & Bailey Castle, Elsdon.jpg
Elsdon Castle

Elsdon Castle was a castle in the village and is a scheduled monument. It is probably the best preserved medieval motte and bailey castle site in Northumberland and was built by Robert de Umfraville, not long after the Norman Conquest. Impressive earthworks remain.

Elsdon Castle

Elsdon Castle is a castle in the village of Elsdon about 10 miles (16 km) to the southwest of Rothbury, in Northumberland, England, and also known as Mote Hills. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Scheduled monument nationally important archaeological site or historic building in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, a scheduled monument is a nationally important archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.

The Umfraville family were Anglo-Norman landowners, administrators and soldiers who were prominent from about 1120 to 1437 on the northern border of England, where they held the strategic lordships of Prudhoe and Redesdale in Northumberland. They held, for the English Crown, Tynedale to the Cumbrian Border up to the border with Scotland.

Elsdon Tower is a medieval tower house converted for use as a Rectory and is a Grade I listed building. [4] [5] The property was first recorded in the occupation of the Rector of Elsdon in 1415.

The tower was reduced in the 17th century to three stories with a steeply sloping roof above a castellated parapet [6] In the early 19th century Archdeacon Singleton built an entrance porch and a two-storey, two bayed house extension. [5] [6]

Religious sites

Close to the fortified vicarage is Elsdon's church which claims to have been a resting place for St. Cuthbert's body and is one of the many dedicated to his memory. Of much historical interest, it is also larger than many Northumbrian churches. In the nineteenth century when alterations were taking place, a large number of skeletons were discovered which appeared to have been buried in a communal grave, an indication that the bodies had been buried at Elsdon after the Battle of Otterburn. [2]

See also

St Cuthbert's Church St Cuthbert's Church - geograph.org.uk - 656964.jpg
St Cuthbert's Church

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  1. "Parish population 2011" . Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Ridley, Nancy (1966). Portrait of Northumberland. London: Robert Hale.
  3. "Winter's Gibbet". Rothbury.co.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  4. Keys to the Past Archived 17 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. 1 2 Historic England. "Elsdon Tower (1371439)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  6. 1 2 Structures of the North East Archived 13 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine