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From the remains that have been found, it seems that the first people to live in the North arrived about 8000 BC. Up till the time of the Roman invasion, Britain was occupied by tribes who often lived in forts built on the tops of hills. The North-East was part of the territory of the Brigantes tribe.

Although Julius Caesar had a go at invading Britain in 55 BC, it wasn’t till 43 AD that the troops of the Emperor Claudius occupied Britain. Later, in AD 122, Emperor Hadrian ordered work to start on a wall across the country from the Solway to the Tyne. The Romans stayed around for about 400 years, but the troops were needed back in Rome and withdrew. Without the Roman military and legal organization, Britain became a lawless place.

The Angles were the next to invade, bringing with them the language that was one day to become English. They built a fortress at Bamburgh. By a combination of battles and mergers, the kingdom of Northumbria was created. The name means the land north of the Humber and included some of what is now Scotland, as far as the Firth of Forth.

Christianity flourished in the region, and St Aidan founded a monastery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in AD 635. St Cuthbert became a bishop here and Northumbria developed as a place of learning and religion. But the next lot of invaders, the Vikings, sacked Lindisfarne in AD 743 and killed many of the monks. Although they rebuilt, they eventually fled inland, taking with them the body of St Cuthbert, who now lies in Durham Cathedral.

The next major invasion brought the Normans, in 1066. Under their influence, the monasteries were renovated, and many castles were built, including Alnwick (1096), Bamburgh (1131), Warkworth (1205), Chillingham (c1275), Ford (1287) and Dunstanburgh (1313).

Many great battles have been fought in Northumberland between the Scots and the English. Otterburn in 1388 and Flodden Field in 1513 are the most well-known. But some of the fighting wasn’t between nations, but between families. The Border Reivers, who lived on both sides of the border, lived a lawless and vicious lifestyle, raiding each other’s territories for cattle and sheep, and causing much bloodshed. Some famous family names from these troubled times are Armstrong, Robson, Charlton, Elliott, Dodd, Hall and Graham.

But with the unification of England and Scotland in 1603, law and order were gradually restored and most of the border raids stopped. Today, this is a tranquil and beautiful area, attracting fascinated visitors rather than warlike invaders.

  Hodgkin Hall • Barmoor Lane End • Lowick • Berwick-upon-Tweed • TD15 2TR • UK  

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