New book details the social history of town

Alan Davison and Brian Harle, right, pictured in 2011. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Alan Davison and Brian Harle, right, pictured in 2011. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Almost two years after one of its authors died, a new book about Morpeth’s history has been completed.

Alan Davison and Brian Harle revised and republished the 10 volumes of Alec Tweddle’s Town Trails and wrote regular local history articles in the Herald.

Brian Harle with a copy of the Morpeth, A Social History book.

Brian Harle with a copy of the Morpeth, A Social History book.

Research for the book – Morpeth, A Social History – started in 2013. This added to the information and images they already had from going through hard copies of the old Morpeth Herald papers at the Mackay family shop in Bridge Street.

It starts with references to Morpeth and surrounding areas in ancient times and goes up to the 1950s, with occasional references to later decades.

There are seven chapters: Origins, Growth and Development; Getting About; Economy and Employment; Religion and Education; Health, Housing and Welfare; Crime and Punishment and Leisure, Sport and Entertainment.

Alan died of mesothelioma, a type of cancer, in August 2016 but Brian decided that finishing the book was the right thing to do and it is now available exclusively from the Mackay shop, priced £13.95.

Brian said: “The original idea was to do a small book after it was suggested by a lady working at the Chantry Tourist Information Centre that it would be a useful addition.

“However, the amount of information and photographs we ended up with meant it was bigger than planned. The Carlisle Archive Centre was an excellent source of information with regard to the Earl of Carlisle Northumberland estate papers.

“Alan had written his chapters before he died, and I’ve only made minor alterations to them, but I needed to finish off my sections and go through the photographs and images. I’m grateful to Alan’s family for their support to help me complete the book.

“The research brought up some interesting information and although this book is not in any way a complete social history of Morpeth, it is written in the hope that the reader may find some of the topics of interest and some possibly new to them.

“One of the things I found most surprising was the hard labour and prison punishments given to youngsters for fairly minor things in the 1800s and whilst a major housing plan from 1881 that we discovered did not happen, the details reveal that even back then, Morpeth was being thought of as a commuter town.”

Many important aspects of the town’s history are included in the book, for example the formation of the Guilds in the Middle Ages and the Morpeth Dispensary in 1817.

There are also details about social life in the town, such as the three theatres/cinemas built in Morpeth between 1903 and 1926.