Pointing the way back to the past

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A PROJECT pointing the way to a trip down memory lane for Morpeth’s residents and visitors has been completed.

The Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) has erected the final eight signs over what have dubbed by local author Bridget Gubbins the curious yards and alleyways of the town centre.

For her book of the same name, she researched the centuries old story of more than two dozen quaintly named thoroughfares. What she discovered is that they developed along the lines of ancient furrows oxen ploughed at the time when Norman barons first began to develop the town.

Later, through the Middle Ages then on into the 17th and 18th Centuries, the bustling alleyways became home or the places of work to generations of Morpeth families and traders, often in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

Gradually through the 19th Century, the new municipal Morpeth Corporation began to get to grips with some of the health and hygiene problems associated with the yards and alleyways and 100 years later, slum clearance schemes saw the demolition of many of their older buildings.

Today, the alleyways remain as a testament to Morpeth’s past and many of them are now short-cuts to and from streets such as Newgate Street, Bridge Street and Oldgate.

Recently, GMDT erected the final eight place alleyway signs in quaintly named town centre locations such as Sweetbriar Place, New Phoenix Yard, Old Bakehouse Yard, Beggar Lane, Bilton’s Court, Scott’s Yard leading into Whalebone Yard and Butcher’s Lonnen.

Matched funding for the project has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and GMDT through the Castles, Woods and Water initiative.

The Morpeth organisation’s Heritage Officer, Barry Mead, said: “The series of alleyways and yards is uniquely associated with Morpeth’s past and it is right and proper that the especially commissioned signs point this out to residents and visitors to the town. For the past few weeks we have worked closely with owners of properties adjoining the lanes who willingly gave permission for the final signs to go up.”