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

Kilham : The Village Layout

The 1712 map shows a village of two rows of dwellings and toft enclosures following the same NE-SW alignment as the present village. A total of 19 buildings are depicted, plus a watermill on a separate site to the north, beside the Bowmont Water and three buildings at Longknowe Farm to the southwest. The street appears to widen gradually as it approaches the junction with the Kirknewton-Paston road, to create a broader open area, if not a green, at the northern end of the village and giving the settlement a wedge-shaped plan. The east row probably followed much the same line as the present cottages on that side of the village, but the west row was set back from the present street frontage, and was perhaps on the same line as the present Kilham House.

A thick-walled building that stood adjacent to the farmhouse and was demolished a few years ago (M Goodson, pers. comm.), may have represented the last surviving structure of the early 18th century village depicted in the Tankerville estate map. At the north end of the village, the layout of the village appears less regular, with three of the tenements belonging to the west row, one of which lacked a building, having apparently encroached forward onto the broad street or green. Some complexity in the layout of the tenements is also evident at the north end of the east row. The present farmyard is probably represented by an open area, which forms a break in the east row. This open area or yard broadens out towards the south as it approaches the burn just like the oldest part of the farmyard.

None of the current farm buildings are visible however, not even the building adjacent and parallel to the burn, which appears to be oldest structure in the present farm complex. There is no indication of the chapel or the bastle house, which are recorded by the antiquarian sources. The bastle house was perhaps the final incarnation of the manorial complex, or ‘capital messuage’, which Micheal of Kilham and his various successors must surely have possessed.  One would expect this to have been located in or adjacent to the village and it may be represent by one of the building tenements shown on the map, but not otherwise distinguished.

The village appears to stretch slightly further along the road to Longknowe than the current farm hamlet, and this is confirmed by the earthworks of former garths and cottages on the east side of the road, in the field just to the south of the farm complex and associated cottages. Dixon noted that these did not appear to be of great antiquity since some of the ruined walls are mortared (1985, II, 371), but they could represent the final phase in a long succession of village tenements in that location. Indeed it is possible that some shrinkage might already have taken place before the 1712 map was surveyed.

The border commissioners, Bowes and Ellerker, noted that Kilham township contained 26 ‘well plenyshed’ husbandlands 1541 (Bates 1891, 31), whereas the 1580 survey of Border Service recorded only twenty tenants of Mr Gray there (CBP I, 14-19). Even the 1541 figure might represent something of a decline on the late 13th Century extent, given the prolonged insecurity, climatic deterioration, disease and economic recession of the late medieval period (see Population).

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