Redesdale & Elsdon Parish : Historical Background
Prehistoric activity in the area remains highly visible in the form of burial cairns from the Neolithic and Bronze Age and Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements with associated field systems. The earliest settlement in the area is probably the round house at Hallshill Farm.
In the Iron Age defended settlements were built at Manside and Haining; at Manside the site was protected by three ramparts and two ditches, and excavation revealed that it had continued in occupation well into the Romano-British period. Romano-British homesteads are common throughout the area and often associated with field systems, such as the Butts on Whether Hill.
During the mediaeval period Elsdon lay within the manor of Redesdale, which was held by the Umfravilles from the lords of Alnwick (Hope Dodds, 1940,472). A motte and bailey castle was constructed here in the 11th century but its relative isolation meant that its position as capital of the Manor was impractical, and it was replaced in the 12th century by a castle at Harbottle.
The unsettled conditions of the period, fostered by the Anglo-Scottish wars, resulted in the construction of many fortified buildings, including Elsdon Tower which originally dates from the 14th century and was constructed for the rector of Elsdon. Bastle houses were also a common feature from this period until the early 17th century and examples which have survived are to be found at Townfoot, Ottercops, Whitless and High Bowershield. The more peaceful times which followed resulted in the construction of many new buildings and establishment of new farmsteads and mills.
The Elsdon Enclosure award of 1731 states that Elsdon Common comprised ten thousand five hundred acres in the possession of Charles Francis Howard, Lord of the Manor.