Conclusions : Medieval And Early Modern Settlement At Alnham
Cultivation and settlement probably reached their peak in and around Alnham towards the latter stages of the 13th century. The pressure of an expanding population combined with favourable climatic conditions saw permanent settlement spread well beyond the nucleated village core. New farmsteads, hamlets and villages were established in the upland districts of the township, most notably at Alnhamsheles, Leafield and Barrasses/Het Hill.
In at least some instances, Alnhamsheles being the obvious example, these settlements were established at what had evidently previously been the sites of seasonal shieling grounds. Furthermore Alnhamsheles was to become sufficiently large enough to form a township of its own, for a time.
By the 16th century this picture had changed radically as a result of border conflict, plague and a deteriorating climate. All the outlying villages and hamlets had been abandoned and settlement was concentrated on the nucleated village. Norton's map, drawn up early in the following century, shows only four permanent dwellings outside the village core, namely Alnham Moor, Cobden, Hartlaw House and the mill at Hazeltonrig.
This highly nucleated settlement pattern forms a very marked contrast with that pertaining in the similarly upland terrain of North Tynedale and Redesdale, or even along the south side of Coquetdale, where small villages, hamlets and dispersed farmsteads with prevalent, with only a few sizeable villages, such as Elsdon, Otterburn and Harbottle, serving as manorial centres and marketplaces.
Alnham itself was still a significant agricultural population centre in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, with as many as 31 tenants in 1566 and 22 still in 1615. However this too was to change dramatically over the course of the 17th century.