The historic capital of Redesdale

Elsdon, the historic capital of Redesdale, is the perfect Northumbrian village. It has an ancient parish church, a tower house and even the remains of a castle.

The houses which gather round the teardrop-shaped village green make it the largest settlement within the boundaries of the National Park.

It’s a great starting point for many walks into the surrounding countryside.

History of Elsdon

The name Elsdon comes from Elli’s or perhaps Aelf’s valley.

Elsdon was an important place in the past. It was reputed to be a resting place of St. Cuthbert’s coffin, which led to the foundation of the church, and became a centre of Norman power when Robert de Umfraville, or ‘Robert with the Beard’, built the motte and bailey castle around 1080AD.

A photo of St. Cuthbert's Church in Elsdon

St. Cuthberts Church in Elsdon

Elsdon used to be on the main road leading from Newcastle to Redesdale and beyond. All that remain now are the earthworks of the Norman ringwork and bailey castle that once stood on the Mote Hills.

The village was often raided during the time of the Border Reivers. In one particularly savage raid in 1584, 14 men were murdered, 400 prisoners were held for ransom and 400 cows and oxen and another 400 horses were taken.

The village Pele tower is one of the best examples left in Northumberland. It dates from 1400 with walls nine feet thick.

Old School House Tearoom

This tea room has become an essential pitstop since Marion and Allan Graham opened in 1978. There’s a wide range of cycling memorabilia to take in while enjoying your refreshments.

The legendary homemade Gibbet Cake is a great energy boost for tackling the hilly roads out of Elsdon.

A photo of the exterior of Elsdon tea room on a bright, sunny day. The two owners are standing in front of the tea room.

The Mote Hills

Mote Hills is exceptionally well preserved and is considered to be the best example of a motte and bailey castle in Northumberland.

Elsdon Mote Hills Graphic

It was built by Robert de Umfraville, not long after the Norman Conquest and stands on a natural spur of a hill.

Historic Village Atlas

“The Historic Village Atlas is an in depth study of the history of 17 villages and settlements across the National Park. Known as the least populated National Park in the UK with less than 2,000 residents, there are no large settlements within the National Park. However, this wasn’t always the case, and the villages and hamlets were much more heavily populated in the past than they are today.

The Historic Village Atlas project began in 2004 and was carried out by Newcastle based The Archaeological Practice. It drew on a combination of sources, including archaeological data, aerial photographs, historic building records, old and modern photographs, and original historic maps and documents. It aimed at stimulating community interest in history and archaeology and lead on to further local community-led projects.

Each volume has four main parts:

  • An introduction to historic villages, the methods used and the sources consulted in their study;
  • An analysis and historical summary of the village;
  • A map showing the archaeological sensitivity of each village, classified as of high or medium sensitivity;
  • Conclusions and opportunities for further research
  • A glossary of words and phrases used in the atlas and bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
Click here to download the Elsdon Historic Village Atlas.


Getting here

By car

From the A1, take the A696 to Elsdon.

By bus

The Saturday-only 808 service runs to and from Newcastle.