Alnham : The ‘Waste’
Norton’s map of 1619 shows a corridor of waste or common leading out of the west end of the village, providing the community with access to its plentiful resources of upland grazing on the moors to the north and west. The township’s ‘waste’ stretched well beyond the watershed of the Aln over into the Breamish valley and incorporated the entire south side of that valley above Alnhammoor. By the early 17th century the latter was no longer the site of a separate township community, Alnhamsheles, as it had been in the 13th century, but was simply a single farmstead.
A track, named ‘Kirke Waye’, ran northward across the moors to reach the outlying farmsteads and demesne grounds of Leafield, Cobden and Alnham Moor. The route was marked by two crosses, Lang Cross and Cobden Cross, depicted on the map of 1619.
No trace has survived of either of these crosses in situ, but three socketted cross bases, one of which is c. 2ft (c. 0.6m) high, are preserved in Alnham churchyard. These are said to have been removed from the side of roads and hill tracks in the parish (NCH XIV (1935), 569) and one or two may derive from the locations shown on the 1619 map. In 1825 one of these was in the churchyard and another was standing by the roadside not far away.
The corridor was also the route taken by the Salters’ Road, which led from the saltpans of the Northumberland coast through Rothbury to Alnham and then heading north westward across the moors to follow the upper course of the Breamish before eventually linking up with one of the major cross-border routes, Clennell Street, ‘the great road of Yarnspeth’ in medieval charters.
Salters’ Road was also one of many routes used by drovers who moved large cattle from Scotland to the markets of England in the period between in the 17th century when peaceful conditions returned and the early 19th century when enclosure, turnpikes and finally the advent of the railways put a stop to this remarkable traffic. Where the ‘road’ negotiated the steep hillside, northwest of the village, the numerous holloways created by the packhorses and livestock are still very evident today and can be seen clearly on the aerial photographs.