Acklington Park Factory
Acklington Park was a significant township
within the parish. The park, from a very early
period, was attached to the castle of Warkworth
and the noblemen in the area would hunt the
fallow deer in the park. According to the
Northumberland County History: “The rural calm
of Acklington Park was broken in the year 1775
when a firm of speculators, attracted by the
unfailing water power of the Coquet, acquired a
lease of land from the Duke of Northumberland
with liberty to erect a foundry for the
manufacture of tin and iron.” This development
came during a time of increasing
industrialization in the county.
The ironworks were built in 1776 and at the same
time a dam was constructed to feed water into
the millrace that was to supply the power for
the foundry. This dam is now considered to be
the finest 18th century dam in England! It is a
magnificent horseshoe shape with an unusual
vertical downstream face. This fine dam,
however, clearly brought problems for the salmon
population of the river for its 11 feet height
defeated many of them. An eccentric salmon
sympathiser, the surgeon and naturalist Frank
Buckland, erected a hand-written notice for
their benefit: “No road at present over this
weir. Go downstream, take the first turn to the
right and you will find good travelling water
upstream and no jumping required. FTB.” A fish
pass was eventually erected in the twentieth
century. As for the ironworks, it proved to be
too far away from its market and by 1791 the
mill was being used to manufacture woollen cloth
instead. At the census of 1891 there was a
healthy population of 76 at Acklington Park and
the mill continued as a dye and bleach mill
until the 1930’s. Today the population in the
Acklington Park area is much smaller (although
there is still a significant deer population in
the nearby Acklington Wood) and the mill has
been private housing since the 1980’s.
THE RAILWAY LINE AND
As well as its magnificent dam, the
river Coquet boasts an historic bridge
and an historic viaduct built to carry trains on
the east coast main line. Another example of
railway architecture is Acklington Railway
Station and Goods Shed built between 1847-49 in
a mock Tudor style by Benjamin Green. Both the
station and goods shed are now private houses.
great snow storm hit the region in 1886.
The snow was so bad that the main London
to Edinburgh railway line was blocked at
Acklington and passengers had to be dug
These two pictures (taken from
wood engravings of the event) were
printed in an edition of the Illustrated
London News, so Acklington made the
national news on that occasion. A
less known story was when a cattle train
got stuck in snow (near to the viaduct)
and villagers carried hay across the
fields to the starving animals.
moving off the theme of railways the
story of “Tunkle” must be told.
Tunkle lived in a cottage at the
railway station and he had a potato
patch at the side of the line and in it
he placed a scarecrow with an old silk
hat on its head.
The drivers and firemen on
passing trains couldn’t resist numerous
shies with suitable lumps of coal.
This was Tunkle’s deep scheme of
obtaining coal for nothing… and it
succeeded exceedingly well!
The present headteacher
is Ms Claire Cuthbert (pictured left).
Acklington School was built in 1852 and opened
in 1853, making it one of the oldest schools
still in operation in the county of
Northumberland. The first pupil to register in
1853 was 10 year old Ann Egdele. Since that
time, hundreds of pupils have enjoyed
their early education at the village
school and the community is rightly
proud of the excellent reputation of the
school and the high standards achieved.
the school was first built it was
actually designed to accommodate 124
The maximum number of pupils on
the register at one time was 100 back in
(although this was during World War II
when evacuees from Wallsend
helped to swell the numbers). In the early
days, playing out on the street (outside
the school gates) did not appear to be a
problem.... as this old photograph
The number of
pupils on roll at the present time is 14.
This small roll, together with an excellent team
of staff, means that the pupils get a
great deal of individual attention and a
superb start to their formal education.
was one of the
longest serving) of
He served for
of Mr Smith and his
class was taken in
the School Governors
agreed that the school
headship could be a job
share position and Mrs
Suzanne Connolly was
appointed to share the
role with Mrs Nichola
Brannen. This meant that
Acklington C. of E.
First School became one of
the few innovative
schools in the country
to have two headteachers.
In 2015 the school
joined the James Calvert
federation and another
new head (Claire
Cuthbert) was appointed.
significant building in the parish is
the church of St John The Divine in
Acklington Village. It was erected in
1861 and is one of the largest buildings
in the parish. The stones of which the
church is built were tooled and dressed
within the walls of Alnwick Castle. All
the woodwork was also prepared there.
For this is one of the churches built by
Algernon, fourth Duke of Northumberland,
in the last few years of his life. When
the stones were ready, and the woodwork
was fashioned, masons and joiners were
sent from the castle works to Acklington
to set them in their appointed places.
The Duke & Duchess were
present at the consecration which was
performed by the Lord Bishop of Durham.
Both the church and the old
vicarage were built from the
designs of Mr. James Deason. The
church is in the early English
style and is a fine Victorian
Gothic building with a plain
exterior and an unexpectedly
pleasing interior. Some good
modern woodwork includes an
altar and reredos and
communion rails, given as memorials to various
members of the Milburn family of Guyzance.
The oak Lych
Gate itself is very
attractive and interesting.
It was opened in 1921
as a war memorial dedicated
in honour of those from this
district who took part in
the Great War 1914 – 1918.•
was quite a ceremony which
was attended by His Grace
the Duke of Northumberland.
The Lych Gate
was renovated on the
occasion of the coronation
of Queen Elizabeth II on
June 2nd 1953.
Coal has been mined in the parish since the 18th
Century. In 1902 Acklington Colliery was at full
production and employed 347 workers (288 miners
below and 59 surface workers). There is now no
sign of the colliery but it was situated close
to the present “Coal Houses” site. In the 1970s
and 80s coal was extracted from large areas of
our parish by means of open cast coal mining to
the south and the east of the village. The last
coal was extracted from the Chester House site
in 1991 and all the land in the parish that was
scarred by this form of mining has now been
restored and returned to farmland. At the
present time, however, the landscapes to the
south and east of the village still remain
somewhat immature as a result of the mining. In
1997 there was an application to mine coal and
fireclay from the Cavil Head area along the
northern edge of the village but this was
successfully opposed by members of the parish
and permission for the mining was refused.
A cattle market has been at Acklington for
over 100 years. It is owned by a company of
Alnwick Farmers (North East Livestock Ltd) and
is one of the main auction marts in the north
east, employing over 20 workers and achieving a
turnover of over 17 million pounds per year. The
mart sells prime cattle and sheep to every
corner of the United Kingdom with the main
weekly auctions taking place on Mondays and
Thursdays. From time to time other livestock and
farm produce are auctioned, including horses and saddlery, poultry, eggs, plants, fruit, fresh
vegetables and farm machinery & tools. The
railway used to be used in the transportation of
animals to the mart but now all livestock
arrives in cattle wagons. The mart has its own
canteen, which is always well used by the
It was in 1916 that the first biplanes touched
down on a small field just south of Acklington.
The site was called Southfield and 36 Squadron
operated there until the end of the First World
War. Although peacetime arrived the aerodrome
was soon expanded and became known as RAF
The airfield really came into its
own during the Second World War when Acklington
was well and truly put on the map. Hurricanes of
No. 43 Squadron were stationed at the base for
coastal patrol duties and RAF Acklington made
its first mark upon history when three No. 43
squadron pilots shot down the first enemy
aircraft to crash on English soil in 1940. They
were led by Flt Lt Peter Townsend, whose name
was later linked with Princess Margaret. In June
1940 spitfires flew out of Acklington and
assisted in the evacuation of Dunkirk. On August
15th 1940 Acklington’s fighters, together with
aircraft from other airfields on the east coast,
enjoyed their greatest ever achievement by
shooting down 15 Luftwaffe aircraft in a head-on
clash over the North Sea in a raid which turned
out to be one of the Battle of Britain’s most
In the late 1940s and
early 1950s Acklington became the main RAF
armament training base with various units
passing through to brush up on their air-to-air
firing accuracy. It was a host to gliders as
well as more modern jets. After budget cuts in
1956 the jet fighters had to share the station
with helicopters from Search and Rescue.
glory days for the airfield were over by the
time the site was designated as a prison in
1969. The three runways were ripped up in 1974
and the remaining helicopters moved up the coast
to Boulmer in October 1975.
and structures associated with both world wars
are now considered to be of archaeological
interest. In Acklington Parish, a World War II
anti-aircraft artillery site survives which was
built to protect RAF Acklington. The gun has of
course long gone. While the remnants of the
airfield also disappeared during the extensive
opencast mining in the 1980s and 1990s, a
lasting legacy is the housing created for the
officers and airmen of RAF Acklington which now
makes up the eastern end of the village and is
still often locally referred to as the “married
THE BADGE OPPOSITE FOR MORE
ABOUT RAF ACKLINGTON
Mention Acklington to a criminal or a
prison officer and they of course will
immediately think of the gaols we have
had here. HMP Acklington
was developed in
1972 on the 40 acre site of the former
RAF station... situated
on the southern edge of our parish.
Within the North East Area it was
the only Category C establishment
catering for men.
There was accommodation for up to
882 prisoners, 216 of the places were
reserved for those who are deemed
vulnerable by the nature of their
offence, or inability to cope in the
January 1983 HMYOI Castington was
also opened also on the old airfield
Castington housed 240 offenders aged
18-21 and a further 160 offenders from
as young as aged 14-17. The
full range of criminal offenders was
housed in the two establishments and
there was almost no restriction on the
type of offender that was likely to be
Both the establishments housed
inmates serving all sentences from as
little as nine months to life.
The prisons were by far the largest
employer in the area with over 900 staff
(uniformed + others) working within the
two establishments. In 2011
Acklington and Castington prisons merged
to form HMP Northumberland.
The prison was privatised in December
2013 when the management passed from Her
Majesty's Prison Service to Sodexo
THE RAILWAY INN
There have been a number of village
pubs in the past making valuable
contributions to the economic and social
activities of the area.
We have had
the “Three Horse Shoes”, “The Plough”
and "The Railway Inn" but only the
latter still survives.
The Railway Inn is a small rural pub
which has quite a history. It started
life as a two up, two down farm house in
the mid 1800’s and then the enterprising
farmer decided to add some more rooms
and take in guests. It actually became a
“hotel” in the 1890’s with landlords
staying for many years before moving on.
The Marsh family had the hotel before it
was taken over by Mr and Mrs Webb and
family. From 1923 to 1954 the Webb
brothers ran the pub and Tom Webb
trained racehorses along the fields
adjoining the main railway line. Some
nice winners were stabled at the Station
Hotel, none grander than “Pickle,” who
won the Cumberland Plate. Photographs of
some of his winners can be seen on the
lounge walls of the pub today. The hotel
in the early days was patronized by
sporting folk, foxhunters, otter
hunters, gamekeepers, farmers and
shepherd’s, etc. Special social evenings
including “Badger Suppers” were very
popular at the time— but remember this
was over 70 years ago, before the
protection of many of our wild animals.
Before, during and after the second
world war, when Acklington RAF site and
airfield was just a couple of miles down
the road, many airman and officers
visited the pub regularly. Included
amongst those frequent visitors was Flt
Lt Peter Townsend who was reputed to be
Princess Margaret’s first love (we even
now have a “Townsend Court” in the
village). So as well as pictures of fine
racehorses, there are also photographs
of the old RAF camp displayed on the
walls of the pub today, a nice reminder
of Acklington’s proud history.
From 1954 to 1985 the pub was run by
Kitty Absalom, a name still well known
in the area. Peter and Linda Osborne took over in
1988 and they had the
old stables and outbuildings converted
into three self-catering cottages which
became very popular with holidaymakers
Stuart and Susan
Collingwood, took over the pub in 2009
and refurbished the place, completely
transforming the bar and restaurant.
They also opened up a 22 pitch touring
caravan site in the pub grounds.
They ensured the Railway Inn
continued to be one of the most popular
and thriving pubs in our area.
The present landlords (or should that be
landladies) are Rachel and Helen. They
took over the pub in July 2015.
Village Hall is a very
It has always been extremely well
used for meetings as well as for
sporting and social events.
It is also the venue used by
various local clubs and it continues to
be one of the main centres of social
activity in the parish. Before
the hall was built meetings took place
in the school.
They had what they called “Parish
Meetings” and it appears from the
minutes written at the time that most of
the discussions concerned:
state of the footpaths; the water
supply; scavenging; safety of bridges;
road-signs; parish celebrations (e.g.
Jubilee / Coronation) and the provision
of a village hall.
The Village Hall was originally due to
open in February 1924 but it was
completely wrecked by a gale just a few
days before the official opening
The following extract is taken
from a newspaper article written at the
NEW BUILDING COLLAPSES IN GALE
A gloom has been cast over the village
of Acklington by the blowing over of its
newly erected War Memorial Hall early
last Saturday morning, by the terrific
gale which swept over the district. The
hall only needed some slight painting
inside for completion, and was to have
been handed over to the Committee on
February 5th, Monday first, when the
opening ceremony was to have been
performed by Sir Leonard Milburn.
At midnight on Friday, when a constable
passed the building, it was all right,
so that the catastrophe must have
occurred at some time between that hour
and 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, when
the hall was found to be in ruins by Mr.
J. K. Waggot, who lives at the Post
Office, the next building to the hall.
The hall is almost completely raised to
the ground, only the gable ends
remaining. It was in a very exposed
position, and stood broadside on to
Friday night’s gale, which is declared
by the keeper of the Coquet Lighthouse
to be the severest experienced in the
district for a considerable time.
Early on Monday, a party of Acklington
men and lads commenced helping the
builders to make order out of the debris
on the site of the building, removing
broken slates and clearing bricks, etc.
The damage is estimated at well over
£400. A lucky circumstance was that £30
worth of chairs, which had just been
purchased, had not been put into the
The cost of the hall was £800 and the
money was raised from public
subscriptions, whist drives, bazaars,
entertainments, etc. Mr Turner, retired
schoolmaster and secretary of the
Memorial Hall Fund, said he was quite
satisfied the workmanship was all right.
The fault lay with the night.
only imagine how it felt for those in
the parish who had worked and laboured
for years to raise funds to get that
hall and then found that just when their
hopes were going to be realised that the
whole structure was lying in ruins.
Thankfully they decided that the
hall had to be rebuilt and they set
about raising yet more funds.
The committee gave instructions
for a building of much greater stability
that the original one and in June 1925
all their efforts were rewarded when
Lady Milburn officially opened this
It has been extremely well used
the sixties there was a great deal of
maintenance work done (redecoration, new
heating system, toilet repairs, new
furniture, etc.) and discussions about
such items dominated the village hall
meetings, as recorded in the minutes.
hall activities during the
ballet lessons, keep fit
classes, Whist Drives, coffee
mornings, Youth Club evenings,
dances, as well as regular
meetings of the Parish Council /
W.I. / Young Wives Group / Bowls
Club / PCC / Autumn Club.
The school also used the
village hall during a period of
kitchen and supper room were
altered and modernised during
the eighties. Working parties of
prison inmates helped to clear
up the village hall grounds.
An active village
badminton club ran throughout
The number on the village
hall committee was increased to
2001 a group calling themselves
ACT (Acklington Community Team)
was formed and organised
numerous events for the
community…. as a result the
village hall was used nearly
every day and given a new lease
included: sports club, history
club, toddler group, ceilidh’s,
sales, treasure hunts, “village
tidy” days, dance classes, quiz
nights, pantomimes… all of which
helped to increase revenue for
the village hall committee.
At the present time the hall
continues to be used almost
every day for meetings,
functions and club nights.
It is a real focal point of the
community. The village
hall committee has recently
improved the village hall by
installing a disabled toilet and
They plan to enhance the
facility even further with a
rebuild of the back room and the
development of a community
garden & play area alongside the
THREE FINE BUILDINGS
the Village Hall is one of the most
used buildings in the parish,
Guyzance Hall is definitely one
of the grandest. In 1892, J.D.
Milburn – a Newcastle Industrial
entrepreneur and shipowner – bought
the estate of Barnhill (and much of
Guyzance) and converted Barnhill
Farm into a fine residence.
The residence was completed in 1905
and became known as Guyzance Hall.
The hall was owned by various
members of the Milburn family until
2008 when Revd Robert Parker bought
the estate and transformed the hall
into a stunning luxury mansion for
holidays, special parties and
Brainshaugh House (bottom
left) is also undoubtedly an impressive
building and one of the finest
dwellings in the parish.
In the village of Acklington itself
The Old Vicarage is, according to
Sir Nikolaus B. L. Pevsner the famous
scholar of the history of architecture,
one of the finest and most significant
architectural gems in Northumberland.
Pearson's Garage may not be anywhere
near so grand as the illustrious
buildings above, but it never-the-less
serves a very useful function…
Agricultural Garage started life as a
Builders Yard – specialising is sand
(from Alnmouth) and gravel. Then
it became Acklington Motor Company –
with buses and such like.
1980 it has been Pearson’s Agricultural
Garage – serving not just local farms
but farms throughout Northumberland
(e.g. Wooler / Hexham). Most of
the garage's business (80%) is about
repairing tractors and farm machinery….
but they also sell and hire new and
second hand machinery.
and eight staff are employed at the
garage and they are busiest during
harvest time (combine harvester
maintenance) and on mart days.
Acklington village pump
often catches the eye of
visitors passing through the
Strangers are told
that the little roof over
the pump is to keep the
water dry when it rains.
The pump sadly no
longer works but when it did
the water was said to be
sweet and cool, coming from
seven little springs below.
this newspaper picture (top
right) was taken in 1932 the
local authorities had been
discussing the water supply
for Acklington for almost 30
But nothing had been
done and, as this photograph
shows, the villagers were
still drawing buckets of
water from the pump despite
the water being condemned.
the pump the two cottages
(“Pump Cottage” and “Rookery
Nook”) are over 400 years