“Land beloved, where nought of legend’s
Outshines the truth”—
I shall be more than satisfied. I would take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks to the Rev. Canon Savage, of Hexham, for information relating to the tomb of Alfwald the Just, in the Abbey, given with courteous readiness; to the Rev. Canon Jeffery, of Bywell, for similar kindness regarding Bywell St. Peter’s; to R.O. Heslop, Esq., whose profound store of learning on the subject of “Northumberland words” was in cases of uncertainty my final court of appeal; to E.T. Nisbet, Esq., and J. Treble, Esq., to whom I am greatly indebted for their goodness in reading my manuscript, and for their generous encouragement following thereupon; to C.H. Abbey, Esq., for his kindness in executing the map which accompanies these pages; and to Mr. G.P. Dunn, of Corbridge, for much helpful criticism, and many suggestions which only want of space has prevented my adopting in their entirety.
31st May, 1913.
NORTHUMBERLAND YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY
THE COAST OF NORTHUMBERLAND.
“We’ll see nae mair the sea
And the sweet grey gleaming sky,
And the lordly strand of Northumberland,
And the goodly towers thereby.”
Wild and bleak it may be, hard and cruel at times it undoubtedly is, but, nevertheless, this north-east coast of ours is at all times inspiring, whether half-hidden by storm-clouds, its cliffs and hollows lashed by the “wild north-easter,” or seen calmly brooding in the warm haze of a summer’s day, its grey-blue water smiling beneath the grey-blue sky, and its stretches of sand and bents edging the sea with a border of gold and silver.
In keeping with either mood of nature, the ancient Priory of Tynemouth, standing on the sandstone cliffs on the northern bank of the Tyne, rearing its grey and roofless walls above the harbour mouth, strikes a note that is symbolic of the Northumbria of old and the Northumberland of to-day—the note, that is, of the intimate commingling of the romance of the warlike past and the romance of the industrial present. Here, above the mouth of the river on which so many of the most noteworthy advances in industrial science have been made, and out of which sail the vessels which are often the last word of the moment in marine engineering and construction, stand calmly looking down upon them all the fragments of a building which was a century old when John signed Magna Charta, and which stands upon the site of another that had already braved the storms of nearly five hundred years.
Looking upon the Priory of St. Mary and St. Oswin we are carried back to the days when Edwin, the first king of Northumbria to embrace Christianity, built a little church here, in which his daughter took the veil. King Oswald had the first wooden structure replaced by a stone one; and here, in 651, the body of another good king—Oswyn—was brought for burial from Gilling, near Richmond in Yorkshire, where, disbanding his army, he sacrificed his cause and his life to Oswy of Bernicia, with whom he had been about to fight.