Rochester In The 20th Century
Over the last 100 years upland districts of rural Northumberland, such as Redesdale, have experienced further profound social and economic change (see The Upper Rede Valley in the 20th Century). Despite this, the fabric of the village has altered relatively little during this period. The industries discussed above have all ceased, but three new forces, the army's training needs, forestry and tourism have all had a significant impact on Rochester or its immediate environs.
One example is Redesdale Camp on the west side of the Sills Burn, one of two military camps built in the Otterburn Training Area during the century. It is now surplus to requirements and is to close and be demolished in 2004/2005. Large areas of conifer plantation cover the hilltops, with Stewartshiels Plantation to the north, just beyond Hillock farmstead, and the main mass of Redesdale Forest away to the west. A petrol station was built on the south side of the A68 opposite Low Rochester to serve the growing road traffic to and from Scotland. This has now closed but the village hall next to it is still in use. The café on the north side of the main road also draws on this passing trade, in addition to serving visitors to 'Bremenium', the reconstruction of a late Iron Age/Romano-British settlement and other prehistoric monuments, erected by Lord Redesdale as a tourist and educational attraction.
Picture: Low Rochester
The creation of this feature underlines just how dramatic the socio-economic changes in the Upper Rede Valley in the latter decades of the 20th century. Other changes included the closure of the school in 1953. Children from upper Redesdale now have to travel to Otterburn for schooling. Perhaps the one constant is farming which has remained an important element of the local economy.
Some new houses have been built on the northern edge of Low Rochester, beside the road leading up to High Rochester. A more poignant addition to the village's fabric is the war memorial beside the junction of the road from High Rochester with the A68. This exceptionally distinctive yet sympathetic structure takes the form of an Arts and Crafts style tabernacle with a steeply-pitched gabled roof supported by four rounded columns and provides a fitting commemoration of the tragic human losses inflicted on the community by two world wars.
In contrast very little change has occurred at High Rochester, within the precinct of the Roman fort, a reflection of the archaeological importance of the site acknowledged since the pioneering excavations sponsored by the Duke of Northumberland and the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne. Indeed the fort remains a focus of investigation with a sustained programme of research being conducted by archaeologists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne during the 1990s. With an increasing emphasis on tourism and cultural heritage, Rochester is once again adapting to changing circumstances and demonstrating that whatever challenges the village faces in this century will continue to meet them.