Every year, Morpeth – led by the Mayor and Town Council – remember and celebrate Admiral Lord Collingwood – hero of Trafalgar and resident of Morpeth – both on Trafalgar Day (21st October) and on 8th March, the anniversary of the Admiral’s death in 1810.
The picture shows a posy on the bust of the Admiral in the Town Hall on 8th March 2022. It was placed by Nigel Collingwood, a descendant of the Admiral, on behalf of the Collingwood Society – accompanied by Cllr David Bawn, Mayor of Morpeth.
Perhaps best-known to most simply as Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson’s friend and second-in-command at the battle of Trafalgar, Collingwood has arguably been undersold by history. He was, in his own right, an inspirational leader, a dedicated naval officer, a devoted husband and father, a shrewd strategist and a highly capable diplomat. He was a man gifted with sound judgement, a dry humour and a wonderful way with words, many of which have fortunately survived. His life was characterised both by great achievement and ultimately, great sadness.
His home in Britain was Collingwood House on Oldgate in Morpeth – now the Presbytery for St Robert’s RC Church. The house is usually open for viewing during the annual Morpeth Heritage Open Days programme in September.
This article is taken from the excellent “Villageguides” Facebook page – and we hope to be trawling in those waters for future items…
One of the most distinctive shops in Morpeth was J. Smail & Sons the hardware store on Bridge Street. It was one of the largest shops in the town, high-ceilinged and cavernous, extending across three floors but packed to the rafters with every kind of hardware items.
The shop was opened towards the end of the nineteenth century by the first John Smail. He was a Scotsman from just across the border by Kelso. He had a business selling Fishing Tackle from a horse and cart, travelling all around the border country, Wooler, Alnwick and as far south as Morpeth. He relocated his family in the town and at first rented premises in Bridge Street, next door to the Queen’s Head Hotel.
Every Wednesday the farming folk would descend on Morpeth for the weekly market and after they had sold their own produce and had cash in their pocket they would go to one of the many pubs or hotels in the town, or head to John Smail’s shop to stock up on any agricultural or general ironmongery they needed. The shop also stocked many of the new household implements that were starting to be manufactured.
The current shop dates from the 1920’s. John’s son, also called John, took over the business on the death of his father. He took a gamble in the dark days of the depression and acquired the large premises at No. 40 Bridge Street that had once been the town house of the Wards of Nunnykirk. He created the huge plate glass frontage on the first two floors that still exists today.
The second John died in 1941 aged only fifty. He had no son to succeed him in the business and many thought it would be sold off. What they had not reckoned on was the indomitable spirit of his widow and her four daughters. For the next sixty years these women ran the store. One daughter in particular stands out. Isobel Smail served in the shop well into her eighties. She was a pillar of the local community and served as mayor of the town in 1971 and 1983 and was awarded an OBE in 1996. She died in 2010 aged 89.
The shop closed in 2016 and has since been converted into an Italian restaurant – Lollo Rosso.
A comprehensive Appraisal of the Morpeth Town Centre Conservation Area was produced at the behest of the Town Council in January 2020. Here is an extract from the Appraisal discussing buildings of the early-to-mid 18th century:
“The 18th century is a particularly well-documented period of Morpeth’s history. Following the fire in 1689, there was substantial rebuilding of the town and an opportunity to introduce the latest styles and fashions in both construction and architectural detailing. Numerous buildings survive from this period and they make a considerable contribution to the character and appearance of the town. There is commonality to buildings from this century, but there is also a subtle progression in character, an increasing sophistication and refinement, that means the contribution they make to the overall character and appearance of the conservation area is distinct and warrants independent discussion.
“The most apparent feature of buildings of the first half of this century is the almost ubiquitous use of brick. At this time bricks were still handmade, usually on site in temporary kilns and using local clay. The clays around Morpeth have resulted in bricks of soft oranges with highlights of red, and a deep almost plum coloured undertone. They give a beautifully warm and rich appearance to the buildings and are quite distinct from the mass-produced and imported bricks used from the mid-19th century onwards.
“Whilst they are made from the same clay, the process of hand-making bricks means that there is subtle variation in size and finish depending on the skill of the craftsman in charge of firing, where the brick was placed in the kiln and the builder’s personal preference. There was no standardised sizing and so this can alter from building to building, but they tend to be thinner and longer than they are today. The surface is more textured than later bricks, partly because of the wear and tear of intervening centuries, but also because the firing temperatures that could be achieved at this time were comparatively low, and so the fireskin of the brick – the surface of the brick that protects the softer inner – did not vitrify to the same extent, resulting in a rougher finish. Once the bricks were made, further variation and character was achieved through how they were laid. A variety of bonds could be used, although buildings of this period in Morpeth favoured English garden wall bond. Equally though, examples of stretcher bond and Flemish bond can be found, as well as some interesting examples that appear to be a randomly applied mixture of all. Lintels, stringcourses and eaves detailing – such as sawtooth or cogged cornices – are all in brick and animate an otherwise flat façade.
“There is less variety to be found with roof materials, which on the whole would have been a regional slate – such as Cumbrian or Westmorland – although most have been replaced over the years with Welsh slate. Another tell-tale feature of this period of building is the window. By this date the use of sash windows is absolute, but advancing technologies, changing fashions and legislative directions on design mean that an early 18th century sash is quite distinct from an early 19th century one. A healthy proportion of buildings from this period in Morpeth retain their original windows, or replacements that accurately replicate them, and they do much to reinforce the character of the building. Those from the early 18th century are rectangular but modest in size. The frame is visible – giving the windows a thick border – and they are placed flush with the façade of the building. The lights are small and numerous – 8 over 8 or 6 over 6 – and the glazing bars that hold them in place are moulded but thickset. There is appreciation that the arrangement of windows should be more regular, but the symmetry that underpins classical design is not always successfully applied: the internal layout of these buildings dictates the need for four bays, which necessarily pushes the door off-centre.
“These buildings often display a slightly naïve application of classical detailing; that is, they apply classical elements but not always in the established proportions or arrangements. This results in some quirky effects, most notable in Morpeth in door surrounds, where you can find any combination of ogee arches, triangular pediments and engaged columns that sometimes, most curiously, have pilasters sat atop them.”
Key words for the character of 18th century buildings in Morpeth: charming, spirited, aspirational
The full Conservation Area Appraisal can be found on this Morpeth Heritage website or downloaded from the Town Council website. Also available is a Gazetteer listing all the buildings in the Conservation Area and highlighting their significant heritage traits individually.
The Town Council has now commissioned a formal review of the Conservation Area boundaries which is due to start later this year.
This is a fascinating piece of Morpeth history regarding the presentation of the current Mayor’s Chain in 1890.
Discovered in the Morpeth Herald archives and transcribed by Cllr Andrew Tebbutt (with interpolations by Cllr Alison Byard).
Morpeth Herald Saturday 26 April 1890
Morpeth Town Council held a special meeting on 22nd April 1890 to present a new Mayoral Chain. Present were the Mayor (Councillor F E Schofield); ex-Mayor, Councillor W Clarkson; Aldermen G B Grey; W J Atkinson; W Burn & W Duncan; Councillors G Young; T Gillespie; S P Bates; J Swinney; R Summers; W C Wilkinson; J W Chirney; J Richardson; J W B Anderson; & W Webb; Town Clerk; F Brumell. The report says the Hall was filled with a large number of ladies and gentlemen.
Prior to the presentation of the chain, the Council paid tribute to the recently deceased Rector of Morpeth, Reverend Canon Grey. Then the Council let the contract to ring the Town Bells. 4 applicants – from £25 a year to £10 a year. Awarded to J Brown at £15 a year.
Transcript made 15th June 2020
PRESENTING THE MAYORAL CHAIN
The Sergeant’s Mace, the punch bowl, the town halberds, and chain were then placed in front of the platform, and the Town Clerk was deputed to make the presentation, and he addressed the meeting as follows:
“Mr Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, fellow burgesses of the old town – for the ladies are burgesses as well as the gentleman – I have been deputed to perform an important and pleasing duty this evening, and however unequal I might feel to discharge that duty with satisfaction to myself, I could not with propriety decline to undertake it. The duty thus imposed upon me, is no less than to present, on behalf of the subscribers, a new and handsome chain of office to be worn by you, sir, on official occasions, and to be handed on by you at the termination of your year of office to your successor and from Mayor to Mayor in perpetuity. (applause)
The practice of adorning the Mayor and chief officials of our ancient cities and towns is not at all a novel one and perhaps the town of Morpeth, was in former years an exception to the general rule in this respect. I am not aware the Bailiffs of Morpeth, who were the chief officers of this borough prior to 1836, were ever graced by the use of any gold chain or other insignia or emblems of office. But besides the Bailiffs there were in Morpeth in the olden times other officers, each of whom appears to have had some badge of office for use on public occasions. There were two fish and flesh lookers whose duties were to examine the quality of those articles, but if the butchers of Morpeth were as good and honest in former days, as they are now, their duty must have been of a light description. Each of them had a badge or emblem of his office, consisting, I believe, of spears or halberds, still in existence. Then there were 2 ale tasters. One can conceive what an appreciable duty theirs must have been to taste and adjudicate upon the ale and beer used within the Borough, and their emblems of office were two small silver cups which they used in the discharge of their tasting duties.
Each of the 4 constables carried a small baton or tip-staff as a menace to evildoers, and the Sergeant bore that splendid silver mace, the gift of Belted Will Howard to the town in 1604, which is now so ably wielded by our worthy and respected, vigilant and ancient friend, Mr Bolton, who has just completed his 63rd year, and is still mercifully spared in good health and strength. (applause.)
Thus the Bailiffs, the chief officers of the old Borough, were the only ones who had no badges or insignia of their office, unless the two handsome silver punch bowls which were relegated to their custody could be considered as such. Though they could scarcely be used on the occasion of processions, or suchlike ceremonies, they would naturally come into use on the festive occasions after dinner, when we may be sure, many a good flowing bowl of punch – that generous liquor – has been drained out of them.
And as the old Bailiffs went out of office without their insignia, so the new Mayor came in without any gold chain or any similar decoration, and so they continued without decoration during the reign of several of the early Mayors, until at length about 1846, Dr Trotter came into office as Mayor. The doctor was an old Morpethian. His father, the Reverend Robert Trotter, was the Presbyterian Minister of Morpeth for 50 years, and the doctor had spent all or most of his lifetime here, and was a man of great wealth and importance in the town, and it was thought fitting that the doctor should be decorated with a gold chain. How the money was raised for the purchase of it I cannot exactly say. Perhaps the doctor may have contributed part of it. I have also heard, and believe it was the case, that one of the old punch bowls was cast into the melting-pot to raise part of the money. Fortunately, the more handsome of the two is still preserved. There it is (pointing to the bowl). It was made by Richard Hobbs of Newcastle in 1712 and is called a Monteith. As you will see it is an ample and handsome vessel. It is also said that the emblems of the Ale Tasters were consigned to the name the same ignominious fate. But the money was raised and the chain procured, and has been in existence for the use of the successive Mayor from that time to this, and may now be seen gracing the shoulders of our present worthy Mayor.
Well, the old chain was sufficient for its purpose for a great number of years, but of late years a conviction has been springing up that it was not sufficient for the use of the Mayor of this ancient and respectable Borough. It looks well enough at a distance, but when examined closely is found to be very light and flimsy and the question of procuring a new chain of more adequate proportions was frequently discussed, but that mighty obstacle to fulfilment of many a good and laudable object – the want of funds – stood in the way. At length, on 5 November last, after the Hollon Tea, most of the members of the Corporation were met together, and the project was renewed, and at length the cry was “Put the names down of those who will subscribe”, and the result was most satisfactory.
Before the meeting separated the larger portion of money was actually booked, and little difficulty was experienced in procuring the remainder. A committee was formed, and offers were received from the jewellers in this town, as well as from others at a distance, and ultimately the order was given to Messrs. Bragg, an eminent firm in Birmingham, which appears to be the headquarters of that kind of business – the manufacture of gold chains. The chain has now been supplied, and it has been pronounced by all who have seen it as eminently satisfactory. There is no tinsel about it, and it presents no gaudy display, but it is a good, plain, solid article, weighing about a pound and a half of troy weight, and is of solid 18-carat gold or, to be precise, 18ozs 2dwt 18gr – of gold (applause) And I may inform you, Mr Mayor, you need feel no scruples in assuming the chain. It is burdened by no debt. The money is paid, and I have it exactly a shilling left of the subscription money. Moreover, it is eminently satisfactory to you, sir, as well as to the public of Morpeth in general, to know that no burden has been cast upon the public revenues of the town by the purchase. The whole of the money has been subscribed by individuals out of their private resources. These individuals, consisting entirely of members of the Council and some of their officials – none of it out of public money, and no one outside of the Council was even asked to contribute to the cost. (applause) The chain is paid for and I hold the contractor’s receipt for the price – all except the old discarded chain, which is to be surrendered, and a small sum of money allowed in part payment. All the rest is paid in cash.
(the Town Clerk, having placed the chain upon the Mayor)
And now, Mr Mayor, I have the honour and pleasure, on behalf of the subscribers, to place the chain round your shoulders and I ask your acceptance of it during the remainder of your office, and that the termination thereof, to be handed over by you to your successor in office and so on from Mayor to Mayor in perpetuity to be held as the property of the Council, but to be used by the Mayor of Morpeth for the time being, and I staunchly (unreadable) wish you health and happiness during the remainder of your term, and hope you will use it on all suitable occasions, and more frequently than it has been customary to use the old one of late – for there is no reason to be ashamed of it, and I have no fear, but that at the termination of your year you will hand it over to your successor unsullied and untarnished. (loud applause)
The Mayor, on rising, said:
Mr Town Clerk and Gentlemen, – As Chairman of this Council and the representative of the Burgess of this Borough, I have much pleasure in accepting your beautiful gift. It will be idle of me to attempt to conceal the fact – and I certainly have no wish to do so – that I am just a little proud that such a magnificent emblem of office should be first placed upon my unworthy shoulders. You have just told me that the first wearer of the old chain was Dr Trotter. After that the “Northenders” may take heart. For I believe I am correct in saying that Dr Trotter was a “Northender”, and very near a “Bools-greener”, born and reared above the Copper Chair. To me it is rather an interesting coincidence that his more humble successor nearly half a century afterwards should be able to lay a similar claim to the same illustrious quarter. And if Dr Trotter waxed fat in earthly goods upon Calvinism and Physic, his obscure successor also was, at all events, able to keep himself from starving upon the same pasture. (laughter and cheers)
But, so it is my duty, on behalf of those whom I represent, to thank you and those who have been associated with you, for your great generosity in this matter. I wish for the moment to disassociate myself from the gentleman by whom I am surrounded and speaking as a native of this town. I say it is a very handsome thing on the part of its representatives to make such a valuable and beautiful present. It is only another proof that whatever errors of head – and so long as Morpeth Town Council, like other Town Councils is composed of human beings there will be errors – there is making no mistake as to the heart being in the right place. (applause)
But I have to do more than thank you, I have to congratulate you upon which a successful termination of your labours. I know something of the ins and outs connected with this chain. And I know how you and many of those with you whom you have been so long and so honourably connected have felt that the old chain was not equal to the times. If the truth must be told I had a lurking suspicion myself that two and a half ounces of fifteen carat gold was not quite the thing to adorn the manly bosom of the Mayor of Morpeth! (loud laughter) But this new 18 carat one, stamped on every link, will stand examination, and I’m quite sure there will be but one opinion as to its beauty and the taste displayed in it. (applause) I have to congratulate you also on the time of procuring it – though by luck and not by merit I chance to be the wearer of it.
It is –
“Ever again old decay The greenest mosses cling” *
and I think you must have proceeded upon this poetic principle. As far as I can make out the old chain had no special epoch to mark its birth; the new one has a very distinctive one. Last year we were to all intents and purposes, a decaying institution; but we have risen to life again with a larger area, with increased powers and duties, and correspondingly increased responsibilities. And if this is true of the council generally, it is especially true with regard to the wearer of the chain. I take it, sir, that you wish to mark this change, and know quite well that both the present wearer and its successors will find that it has many labours and many responsibilities attached to it which the old one had not. (applause) I hope, sir, the whole ceremony will be viewed in its proper light, especially by the young men and boys of the town. I hope many of them will count it amongst the noblest of their ambitions to wear this chain. It is a proper and commendable ambition for every lad and young man to have – to become the wearer of it. It is something worth struggling for and striving after, something worth looking forward to as a reward for an honest discharge of duty. (applause and cheers) In conclusion, sir, I have only again to thank you very heartily on behalf of the Council and constituency for this beautiful chain, and to repeat the lines of good old Whittier: **
Our fathers to their graves have gone,
Their strife is past, their triumphs won,
But sterner trials wait the race,
Which rises in their honoured place
A moral conflict with the crime
And folly of an evil time.
The Mayor, then moved that the Town Clerk be instructed to enter a record on the minutes of the Council of the proceedings that night. Councillor Young moved that the Mayor be authorised to dispose of the old chain. Alderman Burn seconded this and the motion was carried.
The public were then allowed to come up and inspect the chain and other articles of Corporation plate. The new chain is of neat and exquisite workmanship, and is of the double-link pattern, and presents an imposing and massive appearance, and reflects the highest credit upon the makers, Messrs. Bragg of Birmingham. A very pretty oak casket, lined with blue velvet and mounted with a brass handle, and a plate in centre bearing the following inscription;
“This chain was presented to the Corporation of Morpeth, on 22 April 1890, for the use of the Mayor for the time being, by the members of the Council and officials. The badge was portion of the old chain. Fred E Schofield, Mayor.”
– was made by Alderman W Burn cabinet maker and upholsterer of Bridge Street, to hold the chain.
* Thanks to Alison Byard, this extract (misquoted) comes from “A Dream of Summer” by John Whittier.
** John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892) – Moral Warfare (1836) NB: in the actual poem the word “conflict” is replaced by “warfare”)
In the UK, decorating hard-boiled eggs was mainly popular in the North of England and south of Scotland, where they were called “pace-eggs” (or “peace-eggs”, “pash-eggs” and “paste-eggs”). This definitely existed by 1579, when the author of the Beehive of the Romish Church wrote that they were a silly superstition that should be discarded. They weren’t, and this still continues today, thanks in part to the Victorians who encouraged children to decorate eggs and helped the tradition spread across the whole country (their equivalent of something going viral, perhaps?). Traditionally, boiling the eggs with onion skins turned the eggs brown, and different design effects could be created by winding wool around an egg, or wrapping it in leaves. Nowadays I’ve been known to use felt-tip pens and Doctor Who stickers.
The fun didn’t/doesn’t end with decorating eggs, however. They’d then be used by children in various games, such as “jaapin” where you hold the egg in your fist, the pointy bit sticking out between your second and middle fingers, and then you smash it into your opponent’s pointy end. Winner is the one whose egg remains intact. “Boolin” is another custom which is still popularly practised, for example in my home town of Morpeth: lots of people gather in the park and bowl their eggs down a hill to see whose goes furthest and doesn’t break. One 1909 antiquarian article from Northumberland, quoted by Roud, mentions rolling the eggs up a hill, which is unusual to say the least. I am rubbish at this game, and try as I might I can’t find any decent strategies for winning.
Amongst the many treasures in the Town Hall, there is a wooden case containing a medal, a logbook and WWII RAF insignia on the wall of the Council Chamber. The label says: “This Distinguished Flying Medal was awarded to Flight Sergeant Charles Fairbairn on 8th May 1945 by King George VI. Presented to Castle Morpeth Borough Council on 20th February 1984 by his widow Mrs Violet Fairbairn“.
When entertaining visiting groups, someone will occasionally ask about the medal but we have never been able to give them say more information than is stated on the label. So, in the spirit of ‘we will remember them‘, I decided to find out more about the history of this Morpeth serviceman.
As a member of local history pages on Facebook, I had often been fascinated by biographies and photographs of long dead servicemen, researched from the starting point of the inscriptions on their gravestones, by amateur historian Peter Hastie. I asked Peter to find out more about Charles Fairbairn and he didn’t disappoint!
Charles, known as Charlie, Fairbairn was born on 20th July 1917, the son of John Robert and Julia Fairbairn (nee Littledyke) of Hollon Street in Morpeth. Charlie was a joiner in 1939. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1940 and was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, No. 1078762.
Originally posted to 12 Squadron, No.1 Group, RAF Bomber Command at RAF Wickenby, he flew in Wellington Bombers until the creation of 626 Squadron in November 1943 formed with two flights of eight aircraft. Its first operation was to bomb the Western entrance to the Montcenis Tunnel in the French Alps on the 10th of November 1943.
During his service Charlie served predominantly with the same crew, Sergeant, later Pilot Officer Jack Currie (pilot); Navigator P/O Jim Cassidy; Sergeant Walker (flight engineer); Flight Sergeant Larry Myring (bomb aimer); Sergeant Protheroe (mid upper gunner) and Sergeant Charlie Lanham (rear gunner). Cassidy, Myring and Lanham were Australian and the others were British.
After completing his tour, 30 missions, with 12 and 626 Squadrons, he was posted to 83 Operational Training Unit, RAF Peplow (Childs Ercall) on 17th February 1944, probably as an instructor. He received his Distinguished Flying Medal from King George VI on Tuesday 8th May 1945 (Victory in Europe Day).
Bomber Command aircrews suffered a high casualty rate: of a total of 125,000 aircrew, 57,205 were killed (a 46 percent death rate), a further 8,403 were wounded in action and 9,838 became prisoners of war. Therefore, a total of 75,446 airmen (60 percent of all operational airmen) were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. A memorial in Green Park in London was unveiled by the Queen on 28 June 2012 to highlight the heavy casualties suffered by the aircrews during the war.
After the war Charlie worked for the Morpeth Corporation and married Violet Short in 1952. They had no children. They lived at 25 Olympia Gardens, Morpeth. Charlie died in 1983 and Violet in 2003.
The medal and medal ribbons are: Distinguished Flying Medal, 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star (with rosette which signifies award of bar, either Atlantic, or most likely, France and Germany) and Defence Medal (probably eligible through his Operational Training Unit post).
“S” on aircrew badge signifies Signaller/Wireless Operator.
After taking advice from Woodhorn Museums and receiving permission from Charlie Fairbairn’s nephew, Gordon, we opened the case so that Peter could read the logbook. Hidden inside we also found a newspaper cutting about his award of the Distinguished Flying Medal, his RAF Flying Clothing Card and his invitation to Buckingham Palace!
The old, wooden medal case has now be replaced with a smart, new and airtight case and returned to display in the council chamber.
Morpeth Centenaries falling in the year 2020 extracted from the writings of Alec Tweddle by Peter Fuller
1120 Ranulph de Merlay, eldest son of William, Baron Morpeth, married Juliana, daughter of Cospatrick III Earl of Dunbar and March, and a claimant to the title Earl of Northumbria through descent from Cospatrick I, the last Viking Earl. She was possibly his cousin as his mother was also a Cospatrick.
1220 King Henry III commanded Roger de Merlay, Baron Morpeth, to besiege and destroy Cockermouth Castle, which was in rebellion. It belonged to William de Forz, 3rd Earl of Albemarle. In 1219 he had been declared a rebel and excommunicated for attending a forbidden tournament. In 1220 matters came to a crisis when he refused to surrender the two royal castles of Rockingham and Sauvey of which he had been made constable in 1216. Henry III marched against them in person, the garrisons fled, and they fell without a blow. His other castles at Cockermouth, Skipton, Holderness and elsewhere were also besieged. His rebellion died out the following year. [Incidently, de Forz was also descended from Cospatrick I, the last Viking Earl, and was therefore distantly related to de Merlay.]
1320 A year of temporary respite from war with Scotland after the Scots had seized Berwick back from the English.
1420 A deed plan shows that development had taken place on the west side of Newgate Street which had previously been undeveloped.
1520 Lord Dacre, Baron Morpeth, attended upon the King (Henry VIII) at ‘The Field of the Cloth of Gold’ in France with numerous others. Afterwards six French ambassadors to Scotland arrived in Morpeth to see Lord Dacre that he might inform them fully of the situation in Scotland as Dacre “has great influence with the Scotch Lords.” The French delegation continued to Scotland but upon their arrival they were arrested.
Dacre reported to Wolsey that he had personally escorted further French envoys from Morpeth to Edinburgh in September with instructions to conclude a truce between England and Scotland for a period of 12 months. There he witnessed a riot between the supporters of rival Scotch Lords Albany and Angus in the streets. Two of Dacre’s men were slain in the melee. Nevertheless an extension of the truce between England and Scotland was signed and Dacre returned satisfied that he had done his duty.
1620 Robert Brandling became MP for Morpeth.
1720 it was reported that the windmill at Cottingwood was intended only for use when the river Wansbeck was too low to power the town’s water mills, but Lord Carlisle complained that it had been used to avoid paying dues at the Town Mill. He required 53 burgesses to sign an undertaking that they would henceforth use only the town mill. It was also reported that there was a brick kiln and several clay pits at Cottingwood, the source of bricks for many new buildings in the town. [The windmill and brick kilns were sited where the High School now stands.]
1820 Local builder Thos. King constructed an enclosed reservoir on Allery Banks, fed erratically by several small streams, which provided water to a number of public sites and some houses in the town. The water supplied was light-heartedly known as The King’s Water. Beyond the Market Place water still had to be drawn from the public well in Wellway, although many commercial establishments and some of the wealthier citizens had private wells on their properties. At this time a large part of Allery Banks was in use as a fruit orchard though some part remained as common grazing.
Newcastle architect John Dobson designed a new county gaol at Goosehill in the form of two half-octagonal courtyards with a governor’s house and administrative block at the centre. To get the building stone to the site from Quarry Woods, local builder and stonemason Thos. King demolished the house of correction and built a temporary wooden bridge across the Wansbeck (downstream of the later Telford Bridge).
1920 The Corporation sued the Northumberland Farmers’ Auction Mart at Stobhill under the town charter of 1199 which had awarded the burghers exclusive rights to hold a market on Wednesdays. The Corporation won their case and the court ordered the Northumberland Farmers to cease holding markets on Wednesdays.
Mr Waters, joint-owner of Robson and Waters Mineral Company, moved into the larger eastern half of Orde House – his partner Mr Robson already owned the adjoining smaller northern wing.
The landlord of the Sun Inn by St Mary’s resurrected the Morpeth Olympics after a break for the Great War. The event was held in the Boundary Playing field at Stobhill.
A council housing estate was built on the former Victorian Pleasure Garden at High Stanners as ‘homes fit for heroes’ and the area became known as Garden City (not to be confused with the later private ‘garden city’ development off Loansdean). These were the first semi-detached rather than terraced council properties, and the first with inside WCs and bathrooms. The only road access to the area was through the ford at the end of Oldgate, and, although there were footbridges at the end of Oldgate and up to Dogger Bank, the main access was over the Bakehouse Steps.
Swinney’s acquired Winston House Field and laid out tennis courts for the firm’s social club.
The County Council founded the Morpeth Commercial College at 53 Newgate.
A row of stables in Corporation Square (behind Corporation Yard) was converted by the Morpeth Branch of Toc H into a social centre which was a ‘replica of Talbot House in Poperinghe, Belgium’ to ‘provide milk and eggs to the needy’.
The Singer Sewing Machine Company acquired the prominent shop at the corner of Oldgate and the Market Square, together with workshop premises behind, for the sale and repair of sewing machines. This spot became widely known as ‘Singer’s Corner’.
A new gated-entrance was created into the Newmarket from the Market Place next to the Town Hall by the demolition of the former Scotch Inn (ex YMCA) and adjoining derelict Gentleman’s Club building. The Morpeth Social Club relocated to the old post office building in the northeast corner of the Market Place.
The barracks and ammunition store of the Scottish Horse Brigade at the Grammar School were converted to provide additional classrooms.
The Rev. A.H. Drysdale retired as Minister at the Presbyterian Church and published a history of the Presbyterian movement.