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 22a. Rothbury in Northumberland

A brief history of Rothbury

A bit of history first: Rothbury is to be found in the picturesque Coquet Valley, with the river Coquet running through the heart of the town. It is 15 miles northwest of Morpeth and 12 miles southwest of Alnwick, near to the Simonside Hills. Rothbury is an ancient barony and from 1095 held by the crown. It passed through various land owners before coming into the hands of the Percy family in the 1330s. The town was surrounded by the ancient forest of Rothbury, which covered several acres in all directions. Tradition states that the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 began in the neighbourhood of Rothbury because of Thomas Forster and the Earl of Derwentwater mustering support from their home lands and along the way and spent a night in Rothbury! The town continued to be a Jacobite centre even after the failed rebellion had been crushed. Rothbury picturesquely situated on the banks of the River Coquet in Upper Coquetdale, surrounded by agricultural land but in the past was the site of regular markets for the sale of livestock. The River Coquet is an outstanding river for fishing and the town itself is becoming very popular with visitors.

The old bridge which carries the medieval road over the River Coquet.


Looking west up Coquetdale from the footbridge from Rothbury Town to the car park on the south bank of the River Coquet.


The town centre green and war memorial. A charter was granted by Edward 1st in 1291 to hold a market in Rothbury. Rothbury has had a turbulent and bloody history and in 15th and 16th centuries the Coquet Valley was a pillaged by bands of Reivers who attacked and burned the town with terrifying frequency.  Near the town's impressive All Saints' Parish Church stands the doorway and site of the seventeenth century Three Half Moons Inn, where the Earl of Derwentwater stayed with his followers in 1715 prior to marching into a heavy defeat in battle, at Preston.


The Coquetdale Centre for tourist visitor information and there are plenty of walkers, fishermen, touring motorists etc. to make use of this facilities. There several good walks from Rothbury itself.


The bridge, of most importance in the past as the village is on an ancient packhorse trail from Hexham to Alnmouth and a droving route down the Coquet valley. The availability of good quality spring water allowed the development of several breweries and public houses serving a wide rural catchment area. The construction of Cragside by Lord Armstrong and linking to the railway in 1870 (Morpeth-Rothbury-Newcastle) saw the rapid development of housing and services and much of what you see of the present Coquetdale village to day is the legacy of the late 19th century (it is technically a town but feels like a solid friendly village).


The reinforcing arched ribbed vaulting on the underside of this once medieval bridge.


From the junction of Church Street and Haw Hill a south view of the Church of All Saints, Rothbury in the Parish of Upper Coquetdale.

PLEASE buy the guide and/or leave a donation for the upkeep of this historic church


The four faces of the famous carved font which is on your left under the tower as you enter the church by the south door which gives a clue to some of Rothbury's earlier history. Rothbury is the capital of Coquetdale and derives its name from Anglo-Saxon, times when it was called Routh Biria meaning 'Routha's Town', but the history of the area goes back much further from the evidence of prehistoric hillforts in the area.

The base is part of the 8th century stone carving from the Saxon cross of Rothbury with a square carved top sculptured in 1664. A picture of each side is shown below with a description of the Saxon carving on each face.

The south side: Saxon knot-work pattern - a most beautiful panel of intricate 'Celtic' knotwork.


The west side: 'After the Fall' - a carving of beasts preying on one another.


The north side: 'The Ascension of Christ' with angels either side, the Apostles looking upwards and the Evangelists hold their gospels. This is reputed to be one of the earliest carvings of this subject in Britain. The Disciples can be seen gazing up to the ascending Christ.


The east side: 'Before the Fall of Man' - includes an animal (lion?) walking between branches bearing fruit in clusters of three.


The tall and intricately carved font cover.


The fine Victorian carved pulpit given in 1901 by Lady Armstrong depicting the Bernard Gilpin, the16th C "Apostle of the North", Saint Columba, St Paulinus, St. Hilda and Saint Aidan.


The nave arches, north aisle on the left and the picture taken from in the south aisle. Some of the arches date from the 13th century but most have been sympathetically reproduced. The screen (just right of centre) is a beautiful piece of carving from 1901 in memory of Lord Armstrong and beyond it the oak choir stalls.


View of the church from the south-east on Haw Hill.



The War Memorial in the form of a Celtic Anglo-Saxon cross.


More fine buildings looking down the main High Street which runs parallel to the north side of the River Coquet.


The Turks Head pub is quite a good looking building and other places of refreshment include The Sun Kitchen Cafe and the Rothbury Fish and Chips Shop, all are on Town Foot, a sort of upper section of High Street.


On the left Steward House on Prospect Terrace and on the right the Congregation Church and Sunday School built in 1842 and rebuilt in 1908 - both at the right top end of High Street.


The centre of Rothbury - village green, Coquetdale Centre on the left, All Saints Church in the distant centre and on the right the fine building of the United Reformed Church.


Some fine buildings on the main street.


Returning to the car park on the south bank of the River Coquet. The north bank, just below the town centre, is a good place to picnic and plenty of space for children to play - but watch the river!

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