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Rich heritage of Northumberland National Park

Historic Environment

The altar stones in the Mithraic temple of Brocolitia along the route of Hadrian's Wall in the Northumberland National Park, England, by David Taylor.

The altar stones in the Mithraic temple of Brocolitia along the route of Hadrian’s Wall. Photo by David Taylor.

We know that people have lived in what is now Northumberland National Park for at least 10,000 years. After the end of the Ice Age, during the Mesolithic (middle stone age) period, bands of hunters passed over the uplands on regular seasonal cycles of movement around the landscape.

Farming began in the Neolithic (new stone age), from about 4,000BC, although many upland areas were still probably only occupied on a seasonal basis. Several burial cairns survive from this period, as do the mysterious rock carvings known as ‘cup and ring marks’.

In the Bronze Age, from 2,000BC, the first permanently-occupied villages appeared in the uplands, and clusters of roundhouses with associated fields can still be seen in many places in the Cheviots.

During the Iron Age, from about 700BC, the magnificent hillforts that crown so many hills in the northern half of the National Park were constructed.

The Romans arrived in the region in the late 1st century AD and, after giving up the idea of conquering Scotland, the northern frontier of the mighty Roman Empire was drawn up along the Tyne-Solway isthmus, where Hadrian’s Wall was built in the 120s.

The Romans departed in the early 5th century, and were followed by the mysterious Dark Ages, about which we know very little.

What is today’s National Park fell within the great Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria from the early 7th century, and after 1066 was incorporated within the Norman kingdom of England. Many castles and towers were constructed during the medieval period (1066-1603), when there was much conflict with the kingdom of Scotland.

The 16th century saw the rise of the border reivers, notorious cattle rustlers who terrorised communities on both sides of the border. After 1603, when England and Scotland were united under James I, conditions gradually became more peaceful, enabling much improvement of agricultural land and the construction of many new farms throughout the National Park.

Today’s landscape owes much to the activities of people during the past 10,000 years, and it is people who will determine the future of this landscape.

In order to manage the landscape effectively, it is important to understand our historic past, and it is partly with this in mind that the National Park Authority has commissioned a great many archaeological research projects over the years.

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Planning in the National Park

Northumberland National Park Authority is the statutory Planning Authority for the area of the Northumberland National Park. View our planning pages here.