Rothbury is a town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, on the River Coquet, 13.5 miles (21.7 km) northwest of Morpeth and 26 miles (42 km) of Newcastle upon Tyne. At the 2001 Census, it had a population of 2,107.[1]

Rothbury town centre
Looking east along Town Foot, Rothbury - - 1382820.jpg
Looking east along Town Foot
Rothbury is located in Northumberland
Location within Northumberland
Population2,107 (2011)
OS grid referenceNU056017
Civil parish
  • Rothbury
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townMORPETH
Postcode districtNE65
Dialling code01669
AmbulanceNorth East
UK Parliament
List of places
55°18′35″N 1°54′39″W / 55.3097°N 1.9109°W / 55.3097; -1.9109Coordinates: 55°18′35″N 1°54′39″W / 55.3097°N 1.9109°W / 55.3097; -1.9109

Rothbury emerged as an important town because of its situation at a crossroads over a ford on the River Coquet. Turnpike roads leading to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Alnwick, Hexham and Morpeth allowed for an influx of families and the enlargement of the settlement in the Middle Ages. Rothbury was chartered as a market town in 1291, and became a centre for dealing in cattle and wool for the surrounding villages in the Early Modern Period.

Today, the town is used as a staging point for recreational walking. Points of interest around Rothbury include the Victorian mansion Cragside, the Simonside Hills and Northumberland National Park.


The area around Rothbury was populated during the prehistoric period, as evidenced by finds dating from the Mesolithic period and later, although all the known finds are from beyond the outer edges of the modern town.[2] Sites include a cairnfield, standing stone and cup-marked rock on Debdon Moor to the north of the town,[3] a well-preserved circular cairn some 26 feet (8 m) in diameter,[4] a late Neolithic or Bronze Age standing stone,[5] and an extensive hillfort, covering an area 165 by 125 metres (541 by 410 ft) and associated cairnfield to the west of the town.[6] No evidence of the Roman period has been found, probably because the town was a considerable distance north beyond Hadrian's Wall.[7]

Fragments from an Anglo-Saxon cross, possibly dating from the 9th century, are the only surviving relics pre-dating the Norman conquest. They were discovered in 1849, when part of the church was demolished, and in 1856. They are now in the town church and the University of Newcastle Museum.[8] The first documentary mention of Rothbury, according to a local history,[9][page needed] was in around the year 1100, as Routhebiria, or "Routha's town" ("Hrotha", according to Beckensall).[10][page needed] The village was retained as a Crown possession after the conquest,[11] but in 1201 King John signed the Rothbury Town Charter and visited Rothbury four years later,[12] when the rights and privileges of the manor of Rothbury were given to Robert Fitz Roger, the baron of Warkworth.[11] Edward I visited the town in 1291, when Fitz Roger obtained a charter to authorise the holding of a market every Thursday, and a three-day annual fair near St Matthew's Day, celebrated on 21 September.[12]

Rothbury was not particularly significant at the time, with records from 1310 showing that it consisted of a house, a garden, a bakehouse and a watermill, all of which were leased to tenants. When the line of Fitz Roger died out, the village reverted to being a crown possession, but in 1334 Edward III gave it to Henry de Percy, who had been given the castle and baronry of Warkworth six years earlier. Despite the Scottish border wars, the village rose in prosperity during the 14th century, and had become the village with the highest parochial value in Northumberland by 1535. Feuds still dominated local affairs, resulting in some parishioners failing to attend church because of them in the 16th century, and at other times, gathering in armed groups in separate parts of the building.[11]

Rothbury became a relatively important village in Coquetdale, being a crossroads situated on a ford of the River Coquet, with turnpike roads leading to Newcastle upon Tyne, Alnwick, Hexham and Morpeth. After it was chartered as a market town in 1291, it became a centre for dealing in cattle and wool for the surrounding villages. A market cross was erected in 1722, but demolished in 1827. In the 1760s, according to Bishop Pococke, the village also had a small craft industry, including hatters. At that time, the village's vicarage and living was in the gift of the Bishop of Carlisle, and worth £500 per year.[citation needed]

Rothbury has had a turbulent and bloody history. In the 15th and 16th centuries the Coquet Valley was a pillaging ground for bands of Reivers who attacked and burned the town with terrifying frequency. Near the town's All Saints' Parish Church stands the doorway and site of the 17th-century Three Half Moons Inn, where the Jacobite rebel James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater stayed with his followers in 1715 prior to marching into a heavy defeat at the Battle of Preston in 1715.

Hill farming has been a mainstay of the local economy for many generations. Names such as Armstrong, Charleton and Robson remain well represented in the farming community. Their forebears, members of the reiver 'clans', were in constant conflict with their Scots counterpart. The many fortified farms, known as bastle houses, are reminders of troubled times which lasted until the unification of the kingdoms of England and Scotland in 1603.

Bernard GilpinEdit

There are two stories of the theologian Gilpin at Rothbury's Church. The first is that two rival gangs were threatening each other during his sermon. Realizing that they might break into fighting, Gilpin stood between them asking them to reconcile. They agreed as long as Gilpin stayed in their presence. Another story is that Gilpin observed a glove hanging in the church and ask the sexton about it. He told him that it was a challenge to anyone who removed it. Gilpin thus took the glove and put it in his pocket and carried on with his sermon, and no-one challenged him.[13]




Rothbury is the site of Cragside, a Victorian country house built for the industrialist Sir William Armstrong, later Lord Armstrong of Cragside. The house was built as a "shooting box" (hunting lodge) between 1862 and 1865, then extended as a "fairy palace" between 1869 and 1900. The house and its estate are now in the possession of the National Trust and are open to the public.


The Rothbury Electoral Division is in the parliamentary constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed. At the 2011 census it had a population of 5,316.[14]


All Saints' Church incorporates materials from an ancient Anglo-Saxon place of worship

Rothbury's Anglican parish church building – All Saints' Church – dates from circa 1850, largely replacing but in parts incorporating the fabric of a former Saxon edifice, including the chancel, the east wall of the south transept and the chancel arch. The church has a font with a stem or pedestal using a section of the Anglo-Saxon cross shaft, showing what is reputed to be the earliest carved representation in Great Britain of the Ascension of Christ.[15]

The Anglo-Saxon cross is not to be confused with the market cross near the church, the current version of which was erected in 1902 and is known as "St Armstrong's Cross" as it was paid for by Lady Armstrong, widow of Lord Armstrong of Cragside.[16] Until 1965, Rothbury was the location of a racecourse, which had operated intermittently since April 1759, but seldom staged more than one meeting per year. The course was affected by flooding in the 1960s, and the last meeting was on 10 April 1965. The site is now used by Rothbury Golf Club. [17]

Half a mile to the south, Whitton Tower is an exceptionally well-preserved 14th-century pele tower.[18]

Lordenshaw Hill has the largest concentration of rock carvings in Northumberland. Over 100 panels have been recorded on the hill, the adjacent Whitton Burn and Garleigh Moor, in an area which covers less than 620 acres. The carved panels range from single cup-marked boulders to complex panels. There are many other interesting archaeological sites in this area, including a ditched Iron Age enclosure and an Early Bronze Age cairn.[19]


The town was the terminus of a branch line from Scotsgap railway station on the North British Railway line from Morpeth to Reedsmouth. The line opened on 1 November 1870, the last passenger trains ran on 15 September 1952 and the line closed completely on 9 November 1963.

Rothbury's Station (1953)

The railway station was located to the south of the River Coquet, and the site has been reused as an industrial estate, where the only obvious remains are one wall of the engine shed, which has become part of an engineering workshop.[20] The old Station Hotel still stands near the site, but is now known as The Coquetvale Hotel. It was built in the 1870s by William Armstrong, as a suitable place for visitors to his house at Cragside to be accommodated.[21]

The town is now served by an Arriva Midlands bus service which runs via Longframlington, Longhorsley, Morpeth and continues to Newcastle upon Tyne, the nearest city. PCL Travel, a local bus company, operates infrequent services to Alnwick. It also runs services roughly three times a day to Morpeth via Longframlington and Longhorsley.

Public servicesEdit

Rothbury has a police station and the new fire station is located a few hundred metres from where the old one used to be situated.

Rothbury's fire station for sale

Rothbury Community Hospital is a local healthcare facility which caused controversy when it closed to inpatients in September 2016.[22] A facebook page called Save Rothbury Cottage Hospital has 1,569 likes and 1,555 followers as of 27 January 2019.[23]


Simonside Hills next to Rothbury has a story about a mythical creature called a deaugar (Norse for 'dwarf'). It is said that the creature lures people at night by its lantern light towards bogs or cliffs in order to kill them.[24]


Northumbria Police is responsible for dealing with crime relating to Rothbury. Crime is low in Rothbury being 164 instances in 2018, this being made up of 50 grievous bodily harm and assaults, 39 anti-social behaviour, 23 thefts other than vehicle or bicycle theft, shoplifting, or burglaries, 20 instances of criminal damage, 8 vehicle thefts, 7 burglaries, 4 non theft, breaching the peace, or assault crimes, and 2 shopliftings. [25]

1919 Wild West DramaEdit

Around 9:00 pm on 28 February 1919, PC Francis Sinton walked past the Rothbury Brewery. Hearing a noise he approached. He told a passer-by called James Curry to fetch the manager Mr Farndale. As PC Sinton approached, a man approached him and shot at him missing him slightly and the two began to tussle as a third man approached them. The third man assaulted PC Sinton's head with an iron bar. Curry and Farndale arrived finding PC Sinton laying in a pool of his own blood and the assailants missing. After a police search the two perpetrators were found in Walbottle Dene. Despite being armed with a pistol they gave themselves up. The men were Russian sailors Peter Klighe and Karl Strautin. They were found wearing clothes stolen from the Ashington Co-Op where they also broke into the safe. They were suspected of breaking into a number of safes across the region. They were charged with attempted murder and sentenced to penal servitude for 13 years. PC Sinton was awarded the King's Police Medal. A newspaper called the crime a "Wild West Drama".[26]

2010 Northumbria Police manhuntEdit

In July 2010, Rothbury was the site of a major police manhunt for Raoul Moat, a murder suspect believed to be armed. The manhunt culminated in a stand-off between the police and Moat, which ended when Moat took his own life.

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  • Beckensall, Stan (2001). Northumberland The Power of Place. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7524-1907-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Finlayson, Rhona; Hardie, Caroline; et al. (2009). "Rothbury Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey" (PDF). Northumberland County Council.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Graham, Frank (1975). Rothbury and Coquetdale. Northern History Booklet No. 65. ISBN 978-0-85983-092-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


  1. ^ "Parish population 2011". Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  2. ^ Finlayson & Hardie 2009, p. 7.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Cairnfield, standing stone and cup marked rock on Debdon Moor (1011634)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Cairn 900m north-east of Old Rothbury hillfort (1008757)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  5. ^ Historic England. "Standing stone 550m north-east of Old Rothbury hillfort (1008698)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Old Rothbury multivallate hillfort and cairnfield (1011616)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  7. ^ Finlayson & Hardie 2009, p. 8.
  8. ^ Finlayson & Hardie 2009, pp. 8-9.
  9. ^ Graham 1975.
  10. ^ Beckensall 2001.
  11. ^ a b c Finlayson & Hardie 2009, p. 11.
  12. ^ a b "Chronology - Rothbury".
  13. ^ [1].
  14. ^ "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  15. ^ "All Saints Rothbury". Parish of Upper Coquetdale. Retrieved 29 October 2018.; see also Hawkes, Jane (1996). "The Rothbury Cross: An Iconographic Bricolage". Gesta. 35 (1): 77–94. doi:10.2307/767228. JSTOR 767228.
  16. ^ Watson, June. "Rothbury, Northumberland". Durham & Northumberland Ancestry Research. Archived from the original on 26 May 2010.
  17. ^ "Rothbury Racecourse". Greyhound Derby. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  18. ^ "Whitton Tower". Pastscape. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  19. ^ "Walking With Rock Art – 7. Lordenshaw". Archived from the original on 15 April 2012.
  20. ^ "Rothbury site record". Disused Stations. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Coquetvale Hotel". Archived from the original on 28 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Ray of light for Rothbury community over closed inpatient beds". Northumberland Gazette. 14 November 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  23. ^ "Save Rothbury Cottage Hospital - Home | Facebook". Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  24. ^ [Green, Malcolm (2014). Northumberland Folk Tales. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press. pp. 20–23. ISBN 978-0-7524-8998-8.]
  25. ^ "Rothbury". Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  26. ^ Green, Nigel. Tough Times and Gristly Crimes: A History of Crime in Northumberland. Wallsend, Tyne and Wear: Stonebrook Print and Designs. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-9551635-0-0.
  27. ^ Folklore has it that the Bedlington Terriers were used by Romani people of the Rothbury Forest to hunt silently for small game and the livestock of the landowners: Kerry V. Kern, "The Terrier Handbook"; Barron's Edu. Ser., 2005 New York.

External linksEdit