Morpeth, Northumberland facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Morpeth Castle.jpg
View of Morpeth Court House
Population 14,018 (2011)
OS grid reference NZ2085
Civil parish
  • Morpeth
Unitary authority
  • Northumberland
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town MORPETH
Postcode district NE61
Dialling code 01670
Police Northumbria
Fire Northumberland
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
  • Wansbeck
List of places
NorthumberlandCoordinates: 55°09′47″N 1°40′41″W / 55.163°N 1.678°W / 55.163; -1.678

Morpeth is a historic market town in the north-east of England, lying on the River Wansbeck. Nearby villages include Mitford and Pegswood. In the 2011 census, the population of Morpeth was given as 14,017, up from 13,833 in the 2001 census.

The name literally means 'murder path', though the incident that gave rise to this grisly appellation is no longer known.


Morpeth grew up at an important crossing point of the River Wansbeck. Remains from prehistory are scarce, but the earliest evidence of occupation found is a stone axe thought to be from the Neolithic period. There is a lack of evidence of activity during the Roman occupation of Britain, although there were probably settlements in the area at that time. In the final stages of the Norman conquest, the military occupation following the Harrying of the North delivered the town into the possession of the de Merlay family, and by 1095 a motte-and-bailey castle had been built to be the headquarters of the Ward of Morpeth. Newminster Abbey was founded in 1138 by Ranulf de Merlay, lord of Morpeth, and his wife, Juliana, daughter of Gospatric II, Earl of Lothian, as one of the first daughter houses of Fountains Abbey. The town became a borough by prescription. King John granted a market charter for the town to Roger de Merlay in 1199. The market is still held on Wednesdays. The town was badly damaged by fire in 1215 during the First Barons' War. In the 13th century a stone bridge was built over the Wansbeck, replacing the ford previously in use. Morpeth Castle was built in the 14th century by Ranulph de Merlay on the site of an earlier fortress; only the gatehouse, which was restored by the Landmark Trust in 1990, and parts of the ruined castle walls remain.

For some months in 1515–16 Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII's sister and Queen Consort of Scotland (James IV's widow) lay ill at Morpeth Castle, having been brought there from Harbottle Castle.

In 1540 Morpeth was described by the royal antiquary John Leland, as "long and metely well-builded, with low houses", and as "a far fairer town than Alnwick". During the 1543–50 war of the Rough Wooing, life in Morpeth was disturbed by a garrison of Italian mercenaries, who "pestered such a little street standing in the highway" by killing deer and withholding payment for food.

In 1552, William Hervey, Norroy King of Arms, granted the borough of Morpeth a coat of arms. The arms were the same as those of Roger de Merlay, but with the addition of a gold tower. In the letters patent, Hervey noted that he had included the arms of the "noble and valyaunt knyght ... for a p'petuall memory of his good will and benevolence towardes the said towne".

Morpeth received its first charter of incorporation from Charles II. The corporation it created was controlled by seven companies or trade guilds : the Merchant Tailors, the Tanners, the Fullers and Dyers, the Smiths, the Cordwainers, the Weavers and the Butchers. This remained the governing charter until the borough was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.

Until the 19th century Morpeth had one of the main markets in Northern England for live cattle. The opening of the railways made transport to Newcastle easier, and the market accordingly declined.

During the Second World War, RAF Morpeth opened at nearby Tranwell and was a notable air-gunnery training school.

The town and the county's history and culture are celebrated at the annual Northumbrian Gathering.


Like the rest of the British Isles, Morpeth has a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. There is a Met Office weather station providing local climate data at Cockle Park, a short distance to the north of the town.

Climate data for Morpeth, Cockle Park 95m asl, 1971–2000, Extremes 1960–
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.8
Average high °C (°F) 6.0
Average low °C (°F) 0.7
Record low °C (°F) -12.0
Precipitation mm (inches) 59.77
Source: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI

2008 floods

On 6 September 2008, Morpeth suffered its worst flood since 1963. The flood defences were breached after a month's rainfall fell in 12 hours. An estimated 1,000 homes were affected.

In September 2012, flooding occurred again, causing damage to properties, although floodwaters were reportedly 3 feet (1 m) shallower than in 2008.


The A1 road provides a link to Edinburgh and Newcastle. Morpeth railway station has direct trains to London taking a little over three hours. Morpeth has what is reputed to be the severest curve on any main railway line in Britain which has been the scene of several train crashes over the years.

Religious sites

Telford Bridge 6 September 2008
St George's Church and Telford Bridge during the September 2008 floods.

Church of England

The ancient Church of England parish church of Morpeth is St Mary's at Highchurch. The oldest remaining parts of the structure belong to the Transitional Early English style of the mid to late 12th century. The church, which was the only Anglican place of worship in the area until the 1840s, has been restored on a number of occasions.

The grave of Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who was killed when she fell under the King's horse during the Epsom Derby in 1913, lies in St Mary's graveyard. Her gravestone bears the slogan of the Women's Social and Political Union: "Deeds not words".

The need for a second church, in the centre of the town, was apparent by 1843. Accordingly, the church of St James the Great was consecrated for worship on 15 October 1846. Benjamin Ferrey designed the church in a "Neo-Norman" style, based on the 12th century Monreale Cathedral, Sicily.

A third church, St Aidan's, was founded in 1957 as a mission church to the Stobhill estate, on the south east of the town. It is a red brick 20th century building with a vaulted roof.

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic church, dedicated to St Robert of Newminster, was built off Oldgate on land adjacent to Admiral Lord Collingwood's house. It opened in August 1850. Collingwood House is now the presbytery (residence) for the priest in charge of the church.

United Reformed Church

There has been a Presbyterian ministry in Morpeth since 1693. The first service took place in a tannery loft in the town in February 1693 before a chapel (still surviving as a private house) was built in 1721 in Cottingwood Lane. The foundation stone of the present St George's United Reformed Church was laid in 1858. The first service in the building was held on 12 April 1860. Standing immediately to the north of the Telford Bridge, the building is in the early English style and includes a stained glass rose window. It is notable for its octagonal spirelet.

Methodist Church

The present Methodist church in Howard Terrace was opened as a Primitive Methodist place of worship on 24 April 1905. It was built from local quarry stone, and was designed by J. Walton Taylor. Although the Primitive Methodists were united with the Wesleyan Church to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain in 1932, a separate Wesleyan church continued to function in Manchester Street until 1964, when the congregations were united at Howard Terrace.


Morpeth Chantry
Morpeth Chantry (13th century).

Historical landmarks in the town include a free-standing 17th century clock tower; a grand town hall, originally designed by Sir John Vanbrugh (rebuilt 1869); Collingwood House, the Georgian home of Admiral Lord Collingwood; and Morpeth Chantry, a 13th-century chapel that now houses the town's tourist information centre and the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum.

Carlisle Park and Coat of Arms - - 943732
Carlisle Park and a coat of arms

The historical layout of central Morpeth consists of Bridge Street and Newgate Street, with burgage plots leading off them. Traces of this layout remain: Old Bakehouse Yard off Newgate Street is a former burgage plot, as is Pretoria Avenue, off Oldgate. The town stands directly on what used to be the Great North Road, the old coaching route between London and Edinburgh, and several old coaching inns are still to be found in the town, including the Queen's Head, the Waterford Lodge and the Black Bull. Morpeth's Mafeking Park at the bottom of Station Bank at the intersection with the Great North Road was unofficially considered to be the smallest park in Britain. It was originally a triangle of land bounded by roads but after road improvements is now a small roundabout.

Other landmarks are:

  • Carlisle Park – a multi-award winning park in the heart of Morpeth, Northumberland. Situated on the south bank of the River Wansbeck, it contains the William Turner Garden, formal gardens, an aviary, play areas, a paddling pool, ancient woodland, picnic areas, toilets, tennis courts, bowling greens, and a skate park.
  • Nuclear bunker located underneath the former council building at Morpeth County Hall.
  • Gateway serving two houses on High Stanners framed by a whale's jawbone.
  • Garden wall in Old Bakehouse Yard which stretches westwards off Newgate Street, that includes many stones taken from the ruins of nearby Newminster Abbey. Masons' markings can be seen on some of the stones.
  • Behind St Robert's Catholic Church near the town centre is a playing-field which was formerly an orchard. The stone wall on the north side of the field contains piping through which hot air was pumped to raise the temperature of the air and assist the growth of more exotic fruits such as peaches.
  • Morpeth's railway station is on the main east coast line which runs between London and Aberdeen. A non-passenger line still operates between Morpeth and Bedlington. Traces of various other lines remain, and many can be walked. One former line runs west from Morpeth to Scots Gap (from where there was a branch line to Rothbury), then west to Redesmouth, from where there was a northern branch to Scotland and a southern branch to Hexham.
  • Ruins of Newminster Abbey a former Cistercian abbey about 1 mile to the west of Morpeth.

Morpeth, Northumberland Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.