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College Valley - a history

There is over 7,000 years of history in the Valley. When the evening draws to a close, the last of the sunlight dies away and the whole valley turns to purple then you can imagine that maybe

all this history is not so far away. You can think that the veil separating us from the past is, perhaps, just a little bit thinner in this wonderful valley.



Pre 5000 bc and before farming was widely adopted. There is evidence of occupation along the alluvial flood plains of the rivers Till and Glen. However no evidence has yet been found within the College Valley which in common with the rest of the Cheviots would have been wooded throughout this period. It's not unreasonable to imagine hunters and foragers venturing into the Valley.

This period has left its mark in the Valley through cultivation remains which can be best seen through aerial photographs.


Neolithic or new stone age.

From the Neolithic onwards there was only one human species on the earth. This was the time when farming was developed and it is believed that the Stone Circle iin the Valley ( just past the car park) dates from the more recent part of this period. The National Park website also mentions an intriguing idea, that the stone circle might well have acted as a ritual gateway to the Cheviot itself.


Bronze age , approx 3000 BC to 700 BC.

With the coming of metal working the whole history in the area suddenly starts to grow. We have cultivation terraces within the valley which are believed to be either bronze or iron age. We also have bronze age cairns. Suddenly we are seeing real evidence of settlements in the valley and a bronze spearhead was found in the Lambden burn just down from Dunsdale.


Iron age . 700 BC to 70 AD

This is the time of hillfort building, Great Hetha, Little Hetha and Hetha Burn are all thought to date from this period.

Post 70 AD

Pollen evidence suggests that the forests were cleared around 100 bc or later.We are still looking at small homesteads and very little interaction with the Roman conquest.



The Romans and into the Dark Ages.

Northumbria was prominent throughout these years. The Romans came Northward into Scotland along the East coast and the Valley was never far from the changes which were sweeping across Britain.
When the Romans were gone their legacy was a splintered land, separate small kingdoms with the majority of them believing a continuation of Roman traditions was needed.

Within the Valley there is a Roman settlement just south of Whitehall. There is also a cairn and settlement at Southernknowe.These are both scheduled ancient monuments.

The spread of Christianity brought a golden age to Northumbria with Lindisfarne being at the centre of the movement. St Cuthbert's way cuts through the bottom of the College Valley and this is perhaps appropriate for the
new religion would surely have spread here but probably only touching the Valley.


Ad Gefrin

Travelling to the Valley from Wooler, just after you turn left off the Coldstream road you will come to Ad Gefrin and it's memorial on the right of the road.'s not the monument on top of the hill , that's early 19th century.

Ad Gefrin was a large cluster of buildings administering the local area. See also Maelmin.

Border wars.

The border wars between Scotland and England brought armies across the north Northumberland plains.
In 1388 the battle of Otterburn was the first notable confrontation in the area. Then in 1402 was Humbleton Hill and 1415 saw fighting at Yeavering.

Between 1455 and 1487 the wars of the roses touched even the remotest part of England with action around the local castles and of course the Battle of Hexham Levels.

Then in 1513 came the Battle of Flodden field with its carnage and destruction.

All this fighting took place against a background of the border reivers.The Valley would have been part of the English East Marche. These were violent times and the local population would have lived in fear
of brigands like Geordie Bourne.

There were marks left in the Valley from these times. We know that there was a tower house at Hethpool which had walls over 1 metre thick. It is not difficult to imagine the reivers coming down Elsdonburn.
At this point it is probably best to quote the National Park website

"That Hethpool had need of such fortifications there can be no doubt. Owing to its proximity to the border, the township was extremely exposed to Scottish raids (NCH XI (1922), 249-51). In 1342 its lands were reported as having been 'for the most part devastated by the Scots, rebels and enemies of the king' and the results of further devastation were documented in 1385, 1389 and 1429. In 1385 it was recorded that nothing had been levied in Hethpool for the last two years on account of the destruction and burning of the Scots"

The privations of these raids led to many local townships being abandoned, however Hethpool hung on, for to leave the valley would have been to surrender the northern Cheviot to the Scots. It effectively became the Uttermost Plenished Town.

From these medeival times you also get the furrows and terraces which can be seen on the hills in the lower part of the Valley.

By the 16th century ownership of the land in and around the Valley was primarily with the Grey family. If you stay in Coldburn cottage there is a framed photocopy of a local survey confirming this.

By the time Cuthbert Collingwood inherited the valley through his wife's family there was relative peace in the area. From him we have the story of the oaks which he planted on Hethpool Bell whilst walking his dog Bounce. The tradition lived on with the planting of Trafalgar wood in 2005 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle in which he took command after Nelson's death.

After Collingwood the Grey family from Howick became owners of the majority of the Valley. Certainly Coldburn, Mounthooly and the farms around Hethpool were owned by them

The Valley then passed into the ownership of Arthur Sutherland a shipping magnate from Newcastle. Under his ownership the cottages in Hethpool were rebuilt in the arts and craft style.

In 1953 the Valley was bought with funds left by Sir James Knott and its is now run by College Valley Estates along philanthropic principles.

Memories of childhood days in the Valley.Reminiscences and pictures.

Memories - page 2 - further notes from Edward


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