Morpeth is a historic market town in Northumberland, North East England, lying on the River Wansbeck. Nearby towns include Ashington and Bedlington. In the 2011 census, the population of Morpeth was given as 14,017, up from 13,833 in the 2001 census. The earliest evidence of settlement is believed to be from the Neolithic period, and some Roman artifacts have also been found. The first written mention of the town is from 1080, when the de Merlay family was granted the barony of Morpeth. The meaning of the town's name is uncertain, but it may refer to its position on the road to Scotland and a murder which occurred on that road. The de Merlay family built two castles in the town in the late 11th century and the 13th century. The town was granted its coat of arms in 1552. By the mid 1700s it had become one of the main markets in England, having been granted a market charter in 1200, but the opening of the railways in the 1800s led the market to decline. The town's history is celebrated in the annual Northumbrian Gathering.
Morpeth is governed by Northumberland County Council and Morpeth Town Council. The town is split into three wards – North, Kirkhill and Stobhill – for the purposes of parish elections. In 2008 the town suffered a severe flood, which was repeated in 2012, resulting in the construction of new flood defences. Morpeth railway station is on the east coast line and a curve to the south of it has caused several rail crashes. Several sports teams compete in Morpeth, with Morpeth Town A.F.C. having been the winner of the FA Vase in 2016. The town hosted its own Olympics from 1873 to 1958. Two middle schools, a high school and seven first schools are situated in Morpeth, as well as several churches of Anglican, Roman Catholic, United Reformed and Methodist denominations. Morpeth's Carlisle Park, the recipient of several awards, contains one of the four floral clocks in England.
Morpeth was founded at a crossing point of the River Wansbeck. Remains from prehistory are scarce, but the earliest evidence of occupation found is a stone axe thought to be from the Neolithic period. There is a lack of evidence of activity during the Roman occupation of Britain, although there were probably settlements in the area at that time. The first written reference is from 1080 when William de Merlay was rewarded for his part in suppressing a rebellion in Northumbria with "the Barony of Morthpeth stretching from the Tyne to the Coquet". Morpeth is recorded in the Assize Rolls of Northumberland of 1256 as Morpath and Morthpath, and was also archaically spelt Morepath. The meaning of the town's name is uncertain; "moor path" has been suggested in reference to its historical position on the main road from England to Scotland, with the marshes around the modern-day Carlisle Park having been suggested to be the "moor" in question. Another possible meaning is that the name derives from the Old English pre-7th-century compound morð-pæð or Morthpaeth, meaning "murder path", in remembrance of "some forgotten" slaying on the road, although some old documents suggest that this meaning is a fallacy. Various renderings of the name translate in Brittonic as; Morthpeth meaning "myriad", Morthpath meaning "gateway", Morthpaeth meaning "fodder".
The barony of Morpeth was granted to the de Merlay family in around 1080, and by 1095 a motte-and-bailey castle had been built by William de Merlay. It is uncertain whether there was any settlement at Morpeth at the time that the barony was created, and documents relating to the foundation of an abbey in 1137 refer to the 'new town of Morpeth'. Newminster Abbey, located on the outskirts of Morpeth, was founded in 1138 by William's son, Ranulf de Merlay, lord of Morpeth, and his wife, Juliana, daughter of Gospatric II, Earl of Lothian, as one of the first daughter houses of Fountains Abbey.King John granted a market charter for the town to Roger de Merlay in 1200. It became one of the main markets in Northern England by the mid 1700s and by the mid 18th century was one of the key cattle markets in England selling cattle driven by drovers over the border from Scotland; however, the opening of the railways made transport to Newcastle easier in the 19th century, and the market accordingly declined. The market is still held on Wednesdays.
The town was badly damaged by fire set by the barons in 1215 during the First Barons' War, in an attempt to block the military operations of King John. Whilst it is common report that the motte-and-bailey castle was burnt down by King John in 1216 and a new Morpeth Castle was built later in the 13th century by Ranulph de Merlay, to the south of Haw Hill, there is no firm evidence that King John destroyed the castle and an alternative narrative suggests that the second castle was in fact 'completed by William de Merlay (the 2nd) in the year of his death' (c.1170). In the 13th century, a stone bridge was built over the Wansbeck in Morpeth, to the west of the current bridge, replacing the ford previously in use in Morpeth. For some months in 1515–16, Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII's sister) who was the Queen Consort of Scotland (James IV's widow), had laid ill in Morpeth Castle, having been brought there from Harbottle Castle. The only remains of the castle are the inner gatehouse, which was restored by the Landmark Trust, and parts of the ruined castle walls.
In 1540, Morpeth was described by the royal antiquaryJohn Leland as "long and metely well-builded, with low houses" and "a far fairer town than Alnwick". During the 1543–51 war of the Rough Wooing, Morpeth was occupied by a garrison of Italian mercenaries, who "pestered such a little street standing in the highway" by killing deer and withholding payment for food. In 1552, William Hervey, Norroy King of Arms, granted the borough of Morpeth a coat of arms. The arms were the same as those granted to Roger de Merlay, but with the addition of a gold tower. In the letters patent, Hervey noted that he had included the arms of the "noble and valyaunt knyght ... for a p'petuall memory of his good will and benevolence towardes the said towne".
The town and the county's history and culture are celebrated at the annual Northumbrian Gathering. The gathering is held over a weekend in mid-April and includes the Border Cavalcade and Pageant. The 50th gathering took place in 2017.
Morpeth has two tiers of local government.
The lower tier is Morpeth Town Council, which has 15 members. Morpeth is a civil parish with the status of a town. For the purposes of parish elections the town is divided into three wards: North, Kirkhill and Stobhill, each returning five town councillors. Each ward also elects one County Councillor. In May 2021, the political make up of the Town Council was ten Conservatives, two Liberal Democrats, two Green and one Labour member.[needs update]
On 6 September 2008, Morpeth suffered a severe flood, causing damage to 1,000 properties and leading 400 residents to be evacuated. The town's flood defences were breached after 12 hours, when a month's worth of rain fell on Morpeth.
In September 2012, flooding occurred again, causing damage to properties, although floodwaters were reportedly 3 feet (1m) shallower than in 2008.
Work on flood defences started in 2013 in response to the 2008 floods. New flood defences were built in the town centre and a dam with a storage reservoir was built on the Mitford Estate. A second £27m dam was completed in May 2017 to reduce flooding from the Cotting Burn and marked the completion of the Morpeth flood defence plan.
The local state school, King Edward VI School, was originally founded as a chantry school in the early 14th century and was located in the Morpeth Chantry. The school was refounded in 1552 by royal charter as the Free Grammar School of King Edward the Sixth, being commonly referred to as the Morpeth Grammar School by locals. The school was renamed to King Edward VI Grammar School by 1947 and in the 1970s lost its grammar school status, becoming a comprehensive under the current name.
The town has two middle schools, Newminster and Chantry, which are built next door to one another. It also has several first schools: Abbeyfields First School in Kirkhill, Morpeth First School in Loansdean to the south of the town, Stobhillgate First School in the Stobhillgate housing estate, and Morpeth All Saints' Church of England-aided First School in Lancaster Park, which is located north of the town. Additionally, St. Robert's R.C. First School, a primary school for Roman Catholics, is located in Oldgate, Morpeth.
In 1843, a public meeting was called to address the lack of attendance at the church, and it was found that the walk to the current church, then on the southern edge of the town, was too much for many of the parishioners. From this meeting, it was decided to build a new church in the town centre and accordingly, the church of St James the Great was consecrated for worship on 15 October 1846.Benjamin Ferrey designed the church in a "Neo-Norman" style, based on the 12th century Monreale Cathedral, Sicily.
A third parish church, St Aidan's, was founded as a mission church in 1957, located on the Stobhill estate on the south-east of the town.
Morpeth has had a Presbyterian ministry since 1693. Their first service was held in a tannery loft in the town in February 1693 and in 1721 a chapel was built in Cottingwood Lane, which still exists as a private home. The construction of St. George's United Reformed Church began in 1858 and the first service in the new building was held on 12 April 1860. The Church stands immediately to the north of the Telford Bridge and is in the style of the early English era, containing a stained glass rose window and an octagonal spirelet.
The present Methodist Church in Howard Terrace was opened as a Primitive Methodist place of worship on 24 April 1905. Designed by J. Walton Taylor, it was built from local quarry stone. Although the Primitive Methodists were united with the Wesleyan Church to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain in 1932, a separate Wesleyan Church continued to function in Manchester Street until 1964, when the congregations were united at Howard Terrace. The former Wesleyan Church (built in 1883) is currently used as the Boys' Brigade headquarters.
Morpeth Town A.F.C.,Morpeth RFC and the Morpeth Golf Club play competitively within Morpeth. In addition, the Morpeth Harriers compete in athletics. The town also offers opportunities to play sport on a non-competitive basis through facilities such as Carlisle Park, the common for playing golf and football, and the Riverside leisure centre for swimming, indoor sports and fitness gym activities. Morpeth Town A.F.C. was the 2016 winner of the FA Vase.
The Morpeth Olympic Games, a professional event consisting mainly of athletics and wrestling, were staged from 1873 until 1958, barring interruptions during the two world wars. The Games were held on the Old Brewery Field until 1896, then at Grange House Field until the First World War. After two years at the town's cricket pitch at Stobhill (1919–20), the Olympics moved to Mount Haggs Field until 1939, and then back to Grange House Field after the war until the end of the games in 1958.
In 1730, a racecourse was built for horse racing, which was used until 1854, when the racetrack was replaced with St. George's Hospital.
The historical layout of central Morpeth consisted of Bridge Street, Oldgate Street and Newgate Street, with burgage plots leading off them. Traces of this layout remain: Old Bakehouse Yard off Newgate Street is a former burgage plot, as is Pretoria Avenue, off Oldgate. The town stands directly on what used to be the Great North Road, the old coaching route between London and Edinburgh.
Emily Wilding Davison, a suffragette who was killed when she fell under the King's horse during the Epsom Derby in 1913. Following her funeral in London, her coffin was brought by train to Morpeth for burial in St Mary's churchyard.
Northumberland is a county in Northern England, one of two counties in England which border with Scotland. Notable landmarks in the county include Alnwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Hadrian's Wall and Hexham Abbey.
Bedlington is a town and former civil parish in Northumberland, England, with a population of 18,470 measured at the 2011 Census. Bedlington is an ancient market town, with a rich history of industry and innovative residents. Located roughly 10 miles north east of Newcastle and Newcastle Airport, Bedlington is roughly 10 minutes from the A1 road, in south-east Northumberland. Other nearby places include Morpeth to the north-west, Ashington to the north-east, Blyth to the east and Cramlington to the south. In 1961 the parish had a population of 29,403.
The River Wansbeck runs through the county of Northumberland, England. It rises above Sweethope Lough on the edge of Fourlaws Forest in the area known locally as The Wanneys ; runs through the town of Ashington before discharging into the North Sea at Sandy Bay near Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
Wansbeck is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Ian Lavery, a member of the Labour Party.
Bothal is a village in Northumberland, in England. It is situated between Morpeth and Ashington. There is a castle, a church, a vicarage opposite the church gates, some stepping stones over the River Wansbeck, and a few houses.
Newminster Abbey was a Cistercian abbey in Northumberland in the north of England. The site is protected by Grade II listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument status.
Mitford is a village in the Wansbeck parliamentary constituency, in Northumberland, England, about 2 miles (3 km) west of Morpeth.
Robert of Newminster was a priest, abbot, and a saint of the Catholic Church. He was born in Gargrave in Yorkshire, England. He was one of the monks who founded Fountains Abbey and is named from the abbey he founded in Morpeth, Northumberland.
Stannington is a small village in central Northumberland which is associated with Morpeth and its county council. The population of the civil parish was 1,219 at the 2001 Census, increasing to 1,280 at the 2011 Census. Stannington is divided into three: Stannington North-East Quarter, Stannington North-West Quarter and Stannington South Quarter. The total area of Stannington, including Stannington Vale, is 10,093 acres (40.84 km2).
Morpeth Chantry also known as All Saints Chantry is a Grade I listed building situated adjacent to the site of the ancient bridge across the River Wansbeck at Morpeth, Northumberland.
Morpeth Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building at Morpeth, Northumberland, in northeast England. It has been restored by the Landmark Trust and is now available as a holiday rental home.
Events from the 1090s in England.
King Edward VI School, Morpeth is a voluntary controlled academy high school in Morpeth, Northumberland, England. It was established by a royal charter as Morpeth Grammar School and later as King Edward VI Grammar School. The school became a comprehensive school in the 1970s and an academy in December 2011. It is locally known as "KEVI" or simply "King Edward's". In 2011, the school became part of The Three Rivers Learning Trust.
The 2008 Morpeth flood occurred on Saturday 6 September 2008 in Morpeth, a town in Northumberland, northeastern England, when, following sustained heavy rainfall during the previous twenty-four hours, the River Wansbeck burst its banks and overwhelmed the town's flood defences. Nearly one thousand properties, mostly residential, were damaged.
Carlisle Park is a park located on the southern bank of the River Wansbeck in Morpeth, Northumberland. The park has the William Turner Garden, an aviary, a paddling pool, an ancient woodland, tennis courts, several bowling greens and a skate park. The park has one of the only four floral clocks in England, which was restored in 2018. In 2018, a statue of Emily Wilding Davison was erected in Carlisle Park, to commemorate 100 years since women were given the right to vote. The park has been awarded the Green Flag Award, the Love Parks Award in 2017, and 'Best Park' in Northumbria's in bloom competition in 2018.
Haw Hill or Ha' Hill is a mound and scheduled monument in Carlisle Park, Morpeth which was the site of a motte-and-bailey castle, being Morpeth's first castle. The castle was built by the de Merlay family in 1095, originally constructed as a wooden structure, being replaced later by a stone castle in the same location. The stone castle was burnt down by King John in the 13th century and the castle was rebuilt on the adjacent hill, which still stands today as Morpeth Castle.
St Mary's, also known as St Mary the Virgin, is an ancient Grade I listed Church of England parish church located in Morpeth, Northumberland. The church is to the south of the River Wansbeck in Morpeth, which is an area known as High Church. The oldest remaining parts of the structure belong to the Transitional Early English style of the mid to late 12th century, but the church is mostly in the 14th century style. The church, which was the main Anglican place of worship in the area until the 1840s, has been restored several times after being destroyed by the Scandinavians, Scottish and Cromwellians in the 10th and later centuries.
Morpeth Rugby Football Club is an English rugby union club based in Morpeth, Northumberland. The 1st XV team currently plays in North 1 East, having previously reached the national levels of the sport for the first time in 2019–20. The club operates 4 Senior Men's sides and Colts regularly playing each weekend, plus 'Morpeth Ranters' Vets, a Senior Ladies team and 3 Girls rugby squads, as well as a Minis/Junior rugby setup with teams ranging from U6 > U16.
St Robert of Newminster Church is a Roman Catholic parish church in Morpeth, Northumberland, England. It was built from 1848 to 1849 in the Early English Gothic style. It is located on Oldgate in the town, overlooking the River Wansbeck. It is a Grade II listed building.
↑ "Morpeth: Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey"(PDF). Northumberland County Council. 2009. p. 25 (section 4.1). Retrieved 10 November 2018. Source supports "High Church", because the church subsection is in the "South of the Wansbeck" section and the nickname for the "South of the Wansbeck" is "High Church" as stated in the source.
1 2 Turrill, J. (1844). "Events of the Month: Northumberland". The British Magazine and Monthly Register of Religious and Ecclesiastical Information, Parochial History, and Documents Respecting the State of the Poor, Progress of Education. Vol.26. p. 353, section 'Northumberland'.
↑ (subscription required) R. K. Douglas (revised Robert Bickers), Morrison, Robert (1782–1834) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; May 2007 online edition), accessed 23 April 2008.
↑ (subscription required) G. C. Boase (revised M. W. Kirby), Rastrick, John Urpeth (1780–1856) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; Jan 2008 online edition), accessed 23 April 2008.
↑ (subscription required) Whitney R. D. Jones, Turner, William (1509/10–1568) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; Jan 2008 online edition), accessed 23 April 2008.