A brief History of Longhorsley

The discovery of a Neolithic stone age axe head in 1870, about one mile west of Longhorsley village by Mr. Leighton, confirms that people were living in, or traveling through the area 4000 to 6000 years ago. The archaeological presence of an iron age fort about one-half mile southwest from the village on Smallburn Farm suggests people were living hereabouts 2000 to 3000 years ago.

The Roman road 'Cobs' Causeway passes about one mile west of the village, near Todburn, on its journey from the Roman Wall near Corbridge to Berwick. In 2003, metal-detecting enthusiasts found a hoard of low-value Roman coins in an area between the Roman causeway and Longhorsley. The coins were dated between AD69 and AD 180, evidencing Roman presence in the area.

The next documented period in our history moves on to the 12th century, when the manor of Longhorsley was within the Gospatrick barony and was given at the time of Henry the first (1100-35) to Ranulph de Merlay as a dowry on his marriage to Juliana, daughter of Gospatrick, first Earl of Dunbar, and great-granddaughter of Gospatrick. Gospatrick was Earl of Northumberland in the time of William the Conqueror (1066-87). The dowry conveyed to de Merlay, the Lordships and villas of Horsley, Stanton, Witton, and Wyndgates. Although all these places, as well as Horsley, were given in free marriage, they were liable to militia service of the county, in cornage, and the common work of the county castle. The Lordship of Witton and Wingates, however, passed through marriage to Roger de Somerville.

No further information about the history of the manors is available until about the year 1240, when they were mentioned as parts of the barony of Earl Patrick, and held by a Roger de Merlay, which had been first given to his family as a marriage dowry. Roger de Merlay died in 1266 without male heirs, his estates were divided between his two daughters, Mary, married to William Baron of Greystock, and Elizabeth who was married to Lord William Howard, of Naworth Castle, Cumberland. The grandson of the latter, Charles Howard, was, in 1661, created Lord Dacre, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Earl of Carlisle.

The village of Longhorsley consisted of three townships or quarters: 1) Bigges quarter, originally Carlisle's quarter had been in the possession of the family from the time of Henry the first until Charles William Bigge and Ralph Carr esquires bought the manor under an act of parliament from the estate of the late Earl of Carlisle in 1808. Ralph Carr sold his share to Mr. Bigge who became the sole owner of the township of about 3000 acres. 2) Riddell's quarter, originally Horsley quarter; the Horsley family had owned lands here from an early time Richard of Horsley being recorded in the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1296. The quarter contained about 2300 acres and came into the possession of the Riddell family, through the maternal line, when Sir Thomas Horsley died without male issue 3) Freeholders quarter; the land of about 850 acres in extent, which was not owned by the Lords of the Manor but held in freehold by individuals. An indenture was signed and dated 4th of November 1664, between the Earl of Carlisle Sir Thomas Horsley and five Freeholders. This deed for a division of the in-grounds and commons effectively ended the open field system and common pasturage of the village. The freeholders who signed the document were George Dobson, Thomas Dobson, Thomas Sopwith, William Woodman, and George Bolton. The village remained and was administered as three separate townships until the formation of a Parish Council in the 1950s

In 1801, the parish of Longhorsley contained 204 houses and 1006 inhabitants. There were three-day schools in which about 90 children were educated. The soil was chiefly clay and there were both coal and lime measures found in the parish.

Linden Hall was built in 1812, by Charles William Bigge on the land he had bought from the executors of Charles Earl of Carlisle and naming it after the small stream that ran nearby. Charles Bigge was also responsible for the vast improvements, over the next few years, to the farmland and the buildings of the estate. He was also a generous benefactor of St. Helen's church. In WW1 the hall was VAD hospital caring for wounded soldiers, with Miss M Adamson as the commandant.

In a directory of the village published in 1827, we see that 3 shoemakers, 3 tailors, 3 blacksmiths, 3 cart-wrights/joiners, 3 grocers, 3 publicans, a miller, a butcher, a vet, a surgeon, a colliery owner and 18 farmers are listed in the business section.

In 1841, a Roman Catholic church, dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury was built near to the Pele tower, the upper floor of which, had until then, had been used for public worship. The Pele tower was, and remained, the home of the Catholic Priest until a new presbytery was built in 1926.

The domestic water for the village was obtained from two springs (the Pead Well at the west of the village and the Lady Well at the east) and a hand-operated the pump in the centre of the village, beside the Rose and Thistle public house. In the late 19th century a committee was formed to source and provide a safe and more convenient supply. In 1895, the Longhorsley Water Supply Committee were successful and a new supply was piped, from a spring in a field known as the Acres, southwest of the village, to standpipes at six different locations around the village, it was also piped directly into some houses. The total cost of all the materials including connecting and laying the two and a half inch cast iron pipes in the trench amounted to just over £108

At the Riddells township meeting on April 5th, 1915, it was proposed that the three-quarters Riddells, Bigges and Freeholders should collectively assist in establishing a Telegraph Service at Longhorsley. The first telephone became functional in 1922, Col J G Adamson, Linden Hall, was Tel. No. Longhorsley 2 and Louis Ames, Gyllheugh, Tel. No. Longhorsley 3

In 1923, after some concern over the use of common land a village defence committee was formed to protect its status. The committee decided to revive the ancient custom of “Riding the Bounds”. On the appointed day a large crowd of riders and those on foot, gathered on the village green to hear an address by Mr. H. K. Warne, the local MP, before moving off around the boundaries of the village commons and horse racing on Longhorsley Moor, all passed off without incident. The event was repeated in 1925 and once again a pleasant day passed off without incident. It was however completely different on the next occasion, the 27th Oct. 1927, when a fierce battle took place, between the boundary riders and the owners of a house at the east end of the village. So violent and bloody was the confrontation that the police were unable to control the fighting, which did not end until the offending fence had been uprooted. The incident was covered in all the contemporary national newspapers even making the front page of the Times. Thankfully when the “Boundary Riding” has been enacted in recent years it has passed off without incident.

An electricity supply became available in the 1930s however it was not until the early 1950's that Longhorsley had its first street lamps when about 5 or 6 low power lights were erected around the village.

It was also in 1950, that Longhorsley began to witness many changes. A new mains water supply, with a storage reservoir near to View Law. A new sewerage system replaced the earth closet toilets that had previously been the main facility. The village green was crossed by a road, built to gain access to the new houses being built in Drummond’s Close.

The village nevertheless could still boast that there were two general dealers shops, a post office, a butcher's shop, a blacksmith, a motor engineers, a filling station, two haulage contractors, an agricultural contractor, a land drainage company and two pubs. All providing employment for workers. A regular reliable bus service every hour to and from Morpeth or Rothbury (Morpeth 1/1d return (just over 5p)). The last bus leaving Morpeth for Wooler at 10.30 pm allowing ample time for you to see the “second house” at the Coliseum or Playhouse cinemas before catching the last bus home.

Into the 1960s and changes to the village infrastructure continued. In 1963, the Village Farmhouse was demolished to make way for road improvements and remove a blind and very narrow bend. As a result of the concern expressed about vehicle speed, the County Council decided to remove the double bend north of the village, where once a Toll Gate was located, that was followed about a year later by hideous Armco barriers to protect the butcher's shop, and customers from the now even faster traffic.

In 1964, the Rose and Thistle pub closed and re-opened as a Tweed and Woolen shop in 1968. A new school was built at the top of Drummond’s Close in 1965, and the old school was converted and consecrated as St Helen's church. The old St Helen's church, across the field to the southeast of the village, had the roof removed, stabilised and left as a ruin.

The '80s saw the building of the Whitegates estate south of the village and Reivers Gate on the north. 1988, saw the building of the village hall. In the mid-'90s the Church View estate was built and recently the Wilding Close estate, all greatly increasing the population of the village.

Even with all the extra residents in the village now, all that is left of village businesses that flourished in the 1950s are one shop and one pub, however, the motor engineers have recently re-opened providing a slight glimmer of hope for the future.