Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Alnmouth has a long and varied history with evidence of nearby early bronze age activity.  The river Aln was marked on a map by the geographer Ptolemy which dates back to AD 150, suggesting an interest by Romans cartographers who mapped the coastline and rivers.

Adtwifydri or Adtuifydri (‘at the two fords’) is the name used by the Venerable Bede to describe the meeting of river and tributary at the mouth of the river Aln.  It is also the probable site of a great synod in 684 AD in which St Cuthbert was chosen as the Bishop of Lindisfarne.

In about 1152 a Norman knight – William de Vesci was given permission to hold court at Alnmouth, which raised the importance of the locality and a new town was started.  During the medieval period the town thrived on the exporting of stone, grain, wool, sheepskin and leather, and became quite prosperous.

However, in 1314 the English were defeated by the Scots at the battle of Banockburn.  Later, in about 1336, Alnmouth was raided, which together with the subsequent effects of the Plague in 1348 saw a general decline in economic activity and labour shortages.

The 16th Century saw the rise of the Border Reivers across Northumberland and the Scottish Lowlands and the corresponding increase in lawlessness throughout the area.  Economic prosperity continued at low levels until 1603 with the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland.  By the 18th Century Alnmouth was prominent for grain exports and importing goods from London.  Many new granaries were built to accommodate the rise in industrial activity.

To the south of the river estuary is Church hill which has an Anglo Saxon cross and was the probable site of an Anglo Saxon church.  The river Aln always flowed to the south of Church hill which was joined to the main township by a low lying piece of land.  On Christmas Day 1806 a huge storm caused the river to breach the land and changed its course directly into the sea, leaving the estuary to fill with silt. 

As ships became bigger and built of iron and steel, they became harder to dock in the tricky harbour conditions and this again led to a decline in the towns prosperity.  Now the granaries have been converted into houses and Alnmouth has embraced tourism as the ‘new’ industry with its picture postcard pastel cottages and red painted 18 century roofs.

Map of Alnmouth

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