Kidland originally formed the north-eastern part of the parish of Alwinton which was part of the Lordship of Redesdale in the eleventh century. However, it was detached from the parish in the 12th century when it was leased to the monks of the Abbey of Newminster by members of the Umfraville family, who held the Lordship at that time. Eventually the family gifted the whole area, amounting to some 17,000 acres, to the monks who used it principally for summer upland grazing.
With the outbreak of the wars with Scotland at the end of the thirteenth century, the whole of Kidland became open to incursion by the Scots and the monks were forced to abandon using it. In consequence, when the Abbey of Newminster was suppressed in 1536 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries, the land was valued as worth nothing as there was no resident population and no livestock upon it and it passed into Crown ownership.
This situation continued into the seventeenth century as the Survey of Debatable Lands of 1604 reported that the area continued to be untenanted and that it was only used for summer grazing by those who could stock it free of all rent. In 1623, James I granted the whole of Kidland to James Maxwell, Earl of Dirleton, who, by 1630, was paying rent of £100 for the property. In order to make Kidland pay, the Earl appears to have begun to divide it up into farms which could be leased to rent paying tenants.
Despite the fact that the property changed hands a number of times in the seventeenth century, the process of enclosure continued until Kidland was divided into eight or nine farms by the late eighteenth century with a rental valued in 1800 at £3000. By this stage, three-quarters of Kidland was owned by a Yorkshire family, the Legards, whose head, Sir Thomas Digby Legard, purchased the remaining quarter in 1841.
The Legards retained ownership of all of Kidland for only a short time before selling it to the second Earl of Durham in 1867. During the Earl’s ownership, the estate was surveyed by the Ordnance Survey, who reported that its true extent was only 11 800 acres. The Earl and his second son, who inherited the estate in 1879, both used it for shooting purposes as well as leasing out the farms to sheep farmers. With a total rental of only about £2000, the estate was once more offered for sale and in 1890 was purchased by the Leyland family who owned Haggerston Castle and its surrounding estate.
The Leyland’s policy was to use the estate for shooting and to this end built a large mansion for their personal accommodation. Unlike their predecessors, they did not lease all of the farms, but ran them as sheep farms managed by shepherds who were under the direct control of members of the Leyland family. This policy was successful for a time, boosted no doubt by the high prices paid for lamb and wool during the First World War. However, as prices slumped in the 1920s and the family was forced to pay death duties on their enormous properties, the Leylands were forced to put the estate up for sale once more.
When the property was eventually sold in 1925, the estate was broken up among a number of new proprietors. Although they did their best to make their holdings pay, several of them sold out by 1950 to the Forestry Commission. Thus today, most of Kidland, all of which lies within the Northumberland National Park, has been planted with trees and the population, which had reached 79 by 1921, has diminished to less than 20.