The Cheviot Hills, Northumberland National Park\n© Simon Fraser

Hethpool : The Village Layout

The earliest evidence for the form of the village is provided by the ‘Survey of Hethpool in the parish of Kirknewton, 1774’ (NRO.859). There are obviously problems in using a late 18th century map to elucidate details of settlement in the medieval period, three or four hundred years previously. This is particularly so in this case since it is evident that a significant reduction in the size of the original settlement had occurred by the time the 1774 plan was compiled, to judge by comparing the 16th - 18th century documentary evidence with the data from medieval Inquisitions Post Mortem and charters. It is therefore conceivable that the medieval village covered a more extensive area than its late 18th century counterpart. Nevertheless the 1774 survey does provide interesting information and at least allows us to strip away the more recent accretions

The map shows the village comprised a row of buildings, including one large house and at least one cottage plus other buildings perhaps barns, sheds/shelters or possibly cottages, a possible conical dovecote and small paddocks (the cartographic symbolism used is not altogether clear). A large croft lay to the rear of the row, opposite a row of closes, one of which was fronted by a substantial crenellated building, presumably the tower recorded in 1415. The township was largely unenclosed. In effect the village has virtually completed its transformation into a farm hamlet, a process common in north Northumberland.

The tower still stands in a ruinous condition in the garden of Hethpool House. Two old cottages, now used for storage, lie adjacent to it on the east, built with rubble-coursed masonry. ‘Amorphous mounds’ have been noted in the field to the east of the tower’, which Dixon suggests may relate to the former village (1985, II 332).  On the hill slope to the northwest of the modern farm at c. NT893287 are an extensive set of cultivation terraces. These form part of a medieval field system including ridge and furrow furlongs, albeit of irregular form due to the hilly terrain, and measure up to about three metres in height in places and are between ten and twenty-five metres wide.

The number of cottage small holdings recorded in the 13th and 14th century Inquisitions Post Mortem and other documents discussed in the next section - where 11 or 12 such tenancies seem to be associated with the direct lordship of only a quarter of the vill - would imply that the village was both more populous and perhaps more extensive in the high medieval era than it appears in any of the available historic maps. A multiple of four, which would imply nearly 50 tenancies, seems implausibly high by comparison with other townships covered by this study, but 23 or 24 cottage tenancies, plus several freeholds seems the absolute minimum possible number on the basis of the documentary evidence.

Agricultural Terraces at Hethpool © NNPA
Picture : Agricultural Terraces at Hethpool

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