Coquetdale & Rothbury Forest Area : Historical Background
The area contains a variety of prehistoric sites, which together form one of the most interesting archaeological landscapes in the country. These include standing stones and burial cairns from the Neolithic and Bronze Age and most famously the collection of prehistoric rock art on Garleigh Moor. Later prehistoric features include the Iron Age hillfort at Lordenshaws.
Much of the survey area lay within the Forest of Rothbury during the mediaeval period. This together with the Manor and Borough of Rothbury formed a large expanse of land on either side of the River Coquet and comprised a series of dependant townships. The most visible remains of this period are sections of the deer park pale, which lies within the Lordenshaws holding.
From as early as 1095 both Manor and Forest were owned by the crown. In 1204/5 King John granted the Manor and Forest to Robert, son of Roger the Sheriff. The family continued to hold the lands and around 1275 the deer park was created (Hope Dodds, 1940, 354). In 1310 it was described as having a perimeter of 'a league' (approximately 3 miles) in length, within which the herbage was valued at 6s. 8d (Turner, 1844, 106). Problems with access to and across the area led to the construction of gates on the eastern side, close to Lordenshaws Hillfort (Topping, 1993, 24).
The park was unpopular locally due to the loss of grazing within its bounds, but is still described as 'with deer' in 1368. By this stage the Manor and Forest were in the possession of the Percy family. The 1586 survey of the Earl of Northumberland's holdings describes the park as 'now as of long time before occupied by his lordships tenents'. Clearly it had been leased out and had not functioned as a deer park for some considerable time. It was still recorded as a park in surveys of 1702 when it was described as 'barren ground' (Hope Dodds, 1940, 357).
The remains of the deer park pale are still visible and consist of a well-constructed wall 1.2m wide and up to 0.5m high in places on the north side: it forms part of the northern boundary of the Lordenshaws holding. On the south side it is largely terraced into the slope of the hill, forming an earthen bank up to 4.8m wide and 0.4m high, stone faced on the north side. The park is also remembered in the modern place name, Newtown Park.
With the, probably 16th century, abandonment of the deer park areas were sub divided into fields. In places these respect the deer park wall and township boundaries, suggesting that different communities on adjacent lands may have farmed them. Within some of these fields are the remains of broad, slightly curving rigg and furrow. The boundaries between them are earthen banks up to 3.5m wide and 0.6m high (Topping, 1993, 24). It is probable that large areas of cultivation fell into disuse before the 18th century.
The area of Rothbury Forest south of the Coquet was enclosed by agreement in the early eighteenth century. Between 1726 and 1733 the Duke of Northumberland's surveyor John Robertson drew up plans of 'improvements' for lands, which included Holling Hill Moor, Blagdon and Garleyside Moor. These improvements included the setting out of new fields containing straight rigg and furrow 5m wide enclosed within earthen dykes. It is however evident that these improvements were short lived and by the mid 19th century much of the land had reverted to rough pasture (NRO DT 287 L).