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Rothbury town centre
Looking east along Town Foot, Rothbury - - 1382820.jpg
Looking east along Town Foot
Rothbury is located in Northumberland
Location within Northumberland
Population2,107 (2011)
OS grid referenceNU056017
Civil parish
  • Rothbury
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townMORPETH
Postcode districtNE65
Dialling code01669
AmbulanceNorth East
UK Parliament
List of places
55°18′35″N 1°54′39″W / 55.3097°N 1.9109°W / 55.3097; -1.9109Coordinates: 55°18′35″N 1°54′39″W / 55.3097°N 1.9109°W / 55.3097; -1.9109

Rothbury is a town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, on the River Coquet, 13.5 miles (21.7 km) northwest of Morpeth and 26 miles (42 km) of Newcastle upon Tyne. At the 2001 Census, it had a population of 2,107.[1]

Rothbury emerged as an important town because of its situation at a crossroads over a ford on the River Coquet. Turnpike roads leading to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Alnwick, Hexham and Morpeth allowed for an influx of families and the enlargement of the settlement in the Middle Ages. Rothbury was chartered as a market town in 1291, and became a centre for dealing in cattle and wool for the surrounding villages in the Early Modern Period.

Today, the town is used as a staging point for recreational walking. Points of interest around Rothbury include the Victorian mansion Cragside, the Simonside Hills and Northumberland National Park.


Bernard Gilpin making Peace among the Borders by taking down the Glove in Rothbury Church, painting by artist William Bell Scott (1811-1890) and housed at Wallington Hall, one of a series of eight oil paintings illustrating the history of the English Border

Prehistory and Ancient (Pre 500)[edit]

The area around Rothbury was populated during the prehistoric period, as evidenced by finds dating from the Mesolithic period and later, although all the known finds are from beyond the outer edges of the modern town.[2] Sites include a cairnfield, standing stone and cup-marked rock on Debdon Moor to the north of the town, a well-preserved circular cairn some 26 feet (8 m) in diameter,[3] a late Neolithic or Bronze Age standing stone,[3] and an extensive hillfort, covering an area 165 by 125 metres (541 by 410 ft) and associated cairnfield to the west of the town.[4] No evidence of the Roman period has been found, probably because the town was a considerable distance north beyond Hadrian's Wall.[5]

Saxons (500 -1066)[edit]

Fragments from an Anglo-Saxon cross, possibly dating from the 9th century, are the only surviving relics pre-dating the Norman conquest. They were discovered in 1849, when part of the church was demolished, and in 1856. They are now in the town church and the University of Newcastle Museum.[2]

Medieval (1066–1465)[edit]

The first documentary mention of Rothbury, according to a local history,[6] was in around the year 1100, as Routhebiria, or "Routha's town" ("Hrotha", according to Beckensall).[7] The village was retained as a Crown possession after the conquest,[2] but in 1201 King John signed the Rothbury Town Charter and visited Rothbury four years later,[8] when the rights and privileges of the manor of Rothbury were given to Robert Fitz Roger, the baron of Warkworth.[2] Edward I visited the town in 1291, when Fitz Roger obtained a charter to authorise the holding of a market every Thursday, and a three-day annual fair near St Matthew's Day, celebrated on 21 September.[6]

Rothbury was not particularly significant at the time, with records from 1310 showing that it consisted of a house, a garden, a bakehouse and a watermill, all of which were leased to tenants. When the line of Fitz Roger died out, the village reverted to being a crown possession, but in 1334 Edward III gave it to Henry de Percy, who had been given the castle and baronry of Warkworth six years earlier. Despite the Scottish border wars, the village rose in prosperity during the 14th century, and had become the village with the highest parochial value in Northumberland by 1535. Feuds still dominated local affairs, resulting in some parishioners failing to attend church because of them in the 16th century, and at other times, gathering in armed groups in separate parts of the building.[2]

Rothbury became a relatively important village in Coquetdale, being a crossroads situated on a ford of the River Coquet, with turnpike roads leading to Newcastle upon Tyne, Alnwick, Hexham and Morpeth. After it was chartered as a market town in 1291, it became a centre for dealing in cattle and wool for the surrounding villages. A market cross was erected in 1722, but demolished in 1827. In the 1760s, according to Bishop Pococke, the village also had a small craft industry, including hatters. At that time, the village's vicarage and living was in the gift of the Bishop of Carlisle, and worth £500 per year.[8]

Tudors and Stuarts (1465–1714)[edit]

Bernard Gilpin and the Border Rievers[edit]

Rothbury has had a turbulent and bloody history. In the 15th and 16th centuries the Coquet valley was a pillaging ground for bands of Reivers who attacked and burned the town with terrifying frequency. Hill farming has been a mainstay of the local economy for many generations. Names such as Armstrong, Charleton and Robson remain well represented in the farming community. Their forebears, members of the reiver 'clans', were in constant conflict with their Scots counterpart. The many fortified farms, known as bastle houses, are reminders of troubled times which lasted until the unification of the kingdoms of England and Scotland in 1603.

The theologian Bernard Gilpin, known as the 'Apostle of the North' for his work in northern England during this period, visited Rothbury. While he preached a sermon, two rival gangs were threatening each other; realising they might start fighting, Gilpin stood between them asking them to reconcile - they agreed as long as Gilpin stayed in their presence. On another occasion, Gilpin observed a glove hanging in the church and asked the sexton about it. He was told it was a challenge to anyone who removed it. Gilpin thus took the glove and put it in his pocket and carried on with his sermon, and no-one challenged him.[8][9][6] A painting of this incident by artist William Bell Scott is housed at Wallington Hall.

Georgians (1714–1837)[edit]

Near the town's All Saints' Parish Church stands the doorway and site of the 17th-century Three Half Moons Inn, where the Jacobite rebel James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater stayed with his followers in 1715 prior to marching into a heavy defeat at the Battle of Preston in 1715.[8]

On 16 June 1782, Methodist theologian John Wesley preached in Rothbury.[8]

Victorians (1837–1901)[edit]

Cragside described by the Victorian periodical The World as "Truly the palace of a modern magician [10]


Although Rothbury is of ancient origin, it mainly developed during the Victorian era. A factor in this development was industrialist Sir William Armstrong, later Lord Armstrong of Cragside, who built the country house, and "shooting box" (hunting lodge), of Cragside, between 1862 and 1865, then extended it as a "fairy palace" between 1869 and 1900. The house and its estate are now in the possession of the National Trust and are open to the public.

In 1884 the then Prince of Wales, Edward VII and his wife Alexandra, visited Rothbury in order to see Cragisde and Lord Armstong

1884 royal visit[edit]

Another factor in Rothbury's Victorian development was the arrival of the railway. Rothbury Station opened in 1870, bringing tourists on walking holidays to the surrounding hill country. This railway was most notably used by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra and their children (Albert Victor, 10, George later George V, 9, Louise, 7, Victoria, 6, Maud, 4), They arrived in Rothbury on 19 August 1884 and left on 22 August in order to visit Cragside and Lord Armstrong. Firework displays were held by Pain's of London.[8]

David Dipper Dixon[edit]

David Dippie Dixon was a historian from Rothbury. He previously worked in his father's draper's shop, William Dixon and Sons, set up in Coquetdale House (now the Co-op). After William Dixon died, David Dippie Dixion and his brother John Turnbull Dixon renamed the shop Dixon Bros.[8]

21st century[edit]

2006 royal visit[edit]

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, visited Rothbury on the 9th November 2006, with his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

On 9 November 2006, Rothbury was visited by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Prince Charles visited to reopen the refurbished Rothbury village hall, Jubilee Hall, originally built in 1897 and named after the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, his 3rd Great Grandmother.[11][12][13] The royal couple also visited Rothbury Family Butchers, whose owner, Morris Adamson, said:

“I talked to them for about 20 minutes about the business. It was almost surreal, staggering. They were both very well informed about the trade, and the Duchess really impressed me with her knowledge and enthusiasm. I put together for them a gift of Northumbrian lamb and specialist sausages and two days later they sent me a thank you letter from Clarence House saying how much they had enjoyed the visit and the meat. The Duchess told me in the shop that her son (Tom) was a food critic and she said she would recommend he should come up to see us in Rothbury to sample our speciality sausages. And Prince Charles congratulated us on keeping alive the traditions of the trade and providing meat that was sourced locally. He urged us to keep up the good work. It was amazing, really.”



County Council[edit]

Rothbury is served by the Northumberland County Council and represented by Councillor Steven Bridgett, first elected in 2008 as a Liberal Democrat and re-elected in 2013 and 2017 as an Independent.[14]


Alan Beith (Liberal Democrats 1988 - present, Liberal Party before 1988) Rothbury's MP from 1973 to 2015
Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative) Rothbury's MP since 2015

Rothbury is in the parliamentary constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The current representative is Anne-Marie Trevelyan of the Conservatives, who has been the local MP since 2015.  

From 1973 until 2015, Rothbury's MP was Alan Beith, a member of the Liberal Democrats since 1988 and the Liberal Party prior to its merger with the Social Democratic Party, he is currently a member of the House of Lords.

European Union[edit]

Prior to Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, Rothbury was in the European Parliament constituency of North East England, represented predominantly by the Labour party.

Public services[edit]


Rothbury is served by Northumbria Police and has a single police station, housed, since May 2019, in a building owned by the Northumberland National Park.[15]


Rothbury has a fire station. The fire station is staffed by on-call firefighters; They do not work at the fire station full-time but are paid to spend time on call to respond to emergencies. The station has a four by four fire engine. The building and its facilities are shared with Sure Start.[16]


The village is served by a doctor's surgery[17] and a hospital, Rothbury Community Hospital, which closed to inpatients in September 2016 causing controversy[18] and the establishment of a local protest group called Save Rothbury Cottage Hospital.[19][20][21] Rothbury's (Conservative) MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan discussed the closure in Parliament on 9 March 2017.[22][23]


Rothbury is located in Northumberland, England, on the River Coquet, it is 13.5 miles (21.7 km) northwest of Morpeth and 26 miles (42 km) of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is located on the edge of the Northumberland National Park.[24] Rothbury has two Zone 6 B roads going though it: West to East is the B6341, Rothbury's main street, Front Street, is part of this B road;[25] The second B road is the B6342, its starting point is in Rothbury, and is connected to the B6341, it is part of Rothbury's Bridge Street before going over the River Coquet on the Rothbury Bridge and going South for 23.4 miles (37.7 km) connecting to the A68 (Dere Street) at the hamlet of Colwell [26] Rothbury also has the B6344 on the eastern edge, it is connected to the B6341 and goes southeast for 5.6 miles (9.0 km) passing though the hamlet of Pauperhaugh and connecting to the A697 at the hamlet of Weldon Bridge.[27]



Ethnic Group 2011 [28]
Number %
White: Total 2086 99.0
White: English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British 2068 98.1
White: Irish 4 0.2
White: Gypsy or Irish Traveller 1 0.0
White: Other white 13 0.6
Asian or Asian British: Total 9 0.4
Asian or Asian British: Chinese 7 0.3
Asian or Asian British: Indian 1 0.0
Asian or Asian British: Asian Other 1 0.0
Black or Black British 3 0.1
Other 1 0.0
Total 2107 100.0

Note: An ethnic group that is not on the table means that no one from that ethnic group was present in Rothbury at the time of the census.


Religion 2011 [28]
Number %
All usual residents 2,107 100.0
Has religion 1,480 70.2
Christian 1,466 69.6
Buddhist 2 0.1
Muslim 2 0.1
Other religion 10 0.5
No religion 477 22.6
Religion not stated 150 7.1

Note: An religion that is not on the table means that no one practising that religion was present in Rothbury at the time of the census.


All Saints' Church incorporates materials from an ancient Anglo-Saxon place of worship

Rothbury's Anglican parish church building – All Saints' Church – dates from circa 1850, largely replacing but in parts incorporating the fabric of a former Saxon edifice, including the chancel, the east wall of the south transept and the chancel arch. The church has a font with a stem or pedestal using a section of the Anglo-Saxon cross shaft, showing what is reputed to be the earliest carved representation in Great Britain of the Ascension of Christ.[29]

The Anglo-Saxon cross is not to be confused with the market cross near the church, the current version of which was erected in 1902 and is known as "St Armstrong's Cross" as it was paid for by Lady Armstrong, widow of Lord Armstrong of Cragside.[30] Until 1965, Rothbury was the location of a racecourse, which had operated intermittently since April 1759, but seldom staged more than one meeting per year. The course was affected by flooding in the 1960s, and the last meeting was on 10 April 1965. The site is now used by Rothbury Golf Club.[31]

Half a mile to the south, Whitton Tower is an exceptionally well-preserved 14th-century pele tower.[32]

Lordenshaw Hill has the largest concentration of rock carvings in Northumberland. Over 100 panels have been recorded on the hill, the adjacent Whitton Burn and Garleigh Moor, in an area which covers less than 620 acres. The carved panels range from single cup-marked boulders to complex panels. There are many other interesting archaeological sites in this area, including a ditched Iron Age enclosure and an Early Bronze Age cairn.[33]


The town was the terminus of a branch line from Scotsgap railway station on the North British Railway line from Morpeth to Reedsmouth. The line opened on 1 November 1870, the last passenger trains ran on 15 September 1952 and the line closed completely on 9 November 1963.

Rothbury's Station (1953)

The railway station was located to the south of the River Coquet, and the site has been reused as an industrial estate, where the only obvious remains are one wall of the engine shed, which has become part of an engineering workshop.[34] The old Station Hotel still stands near the site, but is now known as The Coquetvale Hotel. It was built in the 1870s by William Armstrong, as a suitable place for visitors to his house at Cragside to be accommodated.[35]

The town is now served by an Arriva North East bus service which runs via Longframlington, Longhorsley, Morpeth and continues to Newcastle upon Tyne, the nearest city. PCL Travel, a local bus company, operates infrequent services to Alnwick. It also runs services roughly three times a day to Morpeth via Longframlington and Longhorsley.


Rothbury has two schools:

  • Rothbury First School - a community school for 3 to 9-year-olds of both genders (this type of school is state-funded, with the local education authority employing the staff, being responsible for the school's admissions and owning the school's estate). The school can accommodate 126 pupils and currently has 94.[36][37]
  • Dr Thomlinson Church of England Middle School - founded in 1720, and for 9 to 13-year-olds of both genders, the school is run by the academy trust The Three Rivers Learning Trust.[38] The school can accommodate 258 pupils and currently has 232.[39][40]

Rothbury is in the catchment area for The King Edward VI School, Morpeth, also run by The Three Rivers Learning Trust.

Culture and community[edit]


In Rothbury folklore Simonside Hills overlooking Rothbury has a mythical creature called a deaugar or duergar (Norse for 'dwarf'). It is said that the creature lures people at night by its lantern light towards bogs or cliffs in order to kill them.[41] The deaugar has entered into Rothbury's popular culture: in 2021 local musician and poet James Tait wrote a debut children's book called The World of Lightness: A Story of the Duergar of Simonside;[42][43] an annual 10-mile winter nighttime trail run in the Simonside Hills is called the Duergar Nightcrawler;[44] and a Rothbury art gallery is named Red Deaugar Art Gallery, run by local artist Margaret Bodley Edwards, a descendant of Gothic Revival architect George Frederick Bodley (1827–1907), and of diplomat and founder of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613).[45]

Bedlington Terrier[edit]

The Bedlington Terrier was originally named after Rothbury and known as the Rothbury or Rodbury Terrier however the name changed due to popularity of the breed by miners in the Northumberland pit village of Bedlington [46]


Rothbury Traditional Music Festival[edit]

Rothbury holds the annual Rothbury Traditional Music Festival. It consists of traditional Northumberland folk music concerts as well as competitions.[47] In 2013, the festival was featured on actor Robson Green's documentary series Tales from Northumberland with Robson Green (season one, episode five).[48] In 2019, TV presentor Alexander Armstrong, who was born in Rothbury, was made patron of the festival.[49]

Rothbury Hills[edit]

Rothbury has a song about it called "Rothbury Hills," written by Jack Armstrong in 1944.[50] It has been sung by Kathryn Tickell on her 2009 album "Northumberland Collection",[51] and by Alexander Armstrong on his 2015 album "A Year of Songs".[52]

Mackenzie tartan, it is used for the kilts of the Rothbury Highland Pipe Band

Rothbury Highland Pipe Band[edit]

Rothbury has its own pipe band, called the Rothbury Highland Pipe Band. The band is over a hundred years old, it was established on the 1st June 1920 then being named the Rothbury Kilted Pipe Band. The tartan chosen for their kilts was taken from the army regiment the Seaforth Highlanders, as during World War One some of their soldiers from the were stationed in Coquetdale and developed friendships with the local people. The was reformed in the 1950s being renamed the Rothbury Highland Pipe Band. The band has appeared on the TV show The White Heather Club. [53][54] On the 27th July 2020 the longtime Drum Master David Brown MBE JP died.[55][56][57][58]


Armed robbery of Rothbury Brewery, 1919[edit]

Around 9:00 pm on 28 February 1919, PC Francis Sinton walked past the Rothbury Brewery. Hearing a noise he approached. He told a passer-by called James Curry to fetch the manager Mr Farndale. As PC Sinton approached, a man approached him and shot at him missing him slightly and the two began to tussle as a third man approached them. The third man assaulted PC Sinton's head with an iron bar. Curry and Farndale arrived finding PC Sinton laying in a pool of his own blood and the assailants missing. After a police search the two perpetrators were found in Walbottle Dene. Despite being armed with a pistol they gave themselves up. The men were Russian sailors Peter Klighe and Karl Strautin. They were found wearing clothes stolen from the Ashington Co-Op where they also broke into the safe. They were suspected of breaking into a number of safes across the region. They were charged with attempted murder and sentenced to penal servitude for 13 years. PC Sinton was awarded the King's Police Medal. A newspaper called the crime a "Wild West Drama".[59]

Armed robbery of post office, 1993[edit]

Overnight on 23 and 24 August 1993, an organised crime gang robbed the Rothbury post office of £15,000 (£31,248.42 in 2020)[60] in cash, stamps and pension books. Armed with iron crowbars and dressed in camouflage and ski masks they cut the telephone wires, blocked the main road with a stolen council van, and threatened local residents.

The then MP for Rothbury, Liberal Democrat Alan Beith said the event showed rural villages like Rothbury needed extra police cover to fight organised crime. Detective Inspector John Hope, who lead the investigation, stated that too much of focus on cities lead to organized crime moving to rural villages. He also said that improving roads to give better police access to rural villages would help decrease crime, that the criminal justice system was failing to convict people, and that criminals knew they could escape punishment.[8][61]

Northumbria Police manhunt, 2010[edit]

In July 2010, Rothbury was the site of a major police manhunt. Raoul Moat was released from prison on 1 July, after an 18-week sentence for assaulting a nine-year old relative. During his prison sentence, his girlfriend had a relationship with a poilce officer that she kept secret from Moat; his business also collapsed while he was in prison, which he blamed the police for. After his release, he discovered his girlfriend's relationship; he shot and killed her new boyfriend, 29-year-old karate instructor Chris Brown, and attempted to kill her. Then, while driving on the A1, he attacked police officer David Rathband, stationed in a patrol car on the roundabout of the A1 and A69 roads near East Denton, permanently blinding him (Rathband would hang himself at home in Blyth 18 months later). Moat then went on the run for five days (3-8 July), hiding in and around Rothbury. Police then cornered him by the river on the night of 8 July. After a six-hour stand-off, with Moat holding a gun to his head the entire time, Moat committed suicide early on the morning of 9 July.

2018 burglary conviction[edit]

In 2018, Sandra Bullock from Rothbury, 69, was convicted of burglary and theft, and was sentenced to 12 months and 3 months respectively, running concurrently. From 2013 to 2018, she stole £6,000 worth of belongings from the Longframlington home of Joyce Sumner who she had befriended.[62]

Notable people[edit]

Places named after Rothbury[edit]

In popular culture[edit]



Thrum Mill where episode Silent Voices (Season 2 Episode 2) of ITV crime drama Vera was filmed

Two episodes of ITV crime drama Vera were filmed in Rothbury:[65][66]

Line producer Margaret Mitchell commented on filming at Rothbury for Darkwater:[69]

“We arrived very early in the morning, on an October day when it was very misty. The sun was rising and shone through the water – that was particularly beautiful. It’s a great place for walking. When you’re here, you’re completely struck by the expansive land, the light and the skies. You can see the vast panorama of countryside, the light just fills your eyes. It’s incredible.”



  • Beckensall, Stan (2001). Northumberland The Power of Place. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7524-1907-7.
  • Finlayson, Rhona; Hardie, Caroline; et al. (2009). "Rothbury Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey" (PDF). Northumberland County Council.
  • Graham, Frank (1975). Rothbury and Coquetdale. Northern History Booklet No. 65. ISBN 978-0-85983-092-8.


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