The title belongs to Morpeth

THE man central to Alnwick's trumpeting last week that the 'County Town' feud was won says Morpeth holds the title.

The Town Council up North declared the contest over, announcing that a trip to the House of Lords Records Office and the National Archives had unearthed 'incontestable' evidence to back Alnwick's claim.

David Crook, Knowledge Development Manager at the archives offices in Surrey specialising in parliamentary acts, was cited as one of the experts who had finally settled the debate between the two towns.

At Alnwick Town Council's March meeting, Mayor Coun Gordon Castle was reported as saying: "We now have as much evidence as any reasonable person could ever want that we are County Town. It has been worth waiting for such a long time.

"We have a good claim that has been thoroughly researched. We are prepared to defend our title as we are quite certain it is incontestable."

But when asked by the 'Herald' on Monday which town had the modern and strongest claim to 'County Town' status, Mr Crook answered: "Definitely Morpeth, because it's where Northumberland is administered. Simple as that."

Mr Crook admitted that both Alnwick and Morpeth had claims to the title under two separate definitions — but that Morpeth's was universally adopted.

Alnwick wins, under the terms that County Town is classed as the settlement holding the County Court, and from where MPs were elected. Morpeth wins, under the now accepted modern definition that a County Town will be 'the place where its affairs are administered'.

Northumberland County Council's headquarters — formerly at Moot Hall, Newcastle — have been at Loansdean, Morpeth, since 1982.

And the Act of Parliament Alnwick says clinches its argument, the Act for the Keeping of County Days 1548, appears to have been part-written by a 'local'.

Mr Crook hinted that the 1548 Act was 'a little curious' because the clause, which he described as a mere 'footnote', decreeing that County Court be held at Alnwick was added on the demands of the then Duke of Northumberland.

He said: "This Act is legally watertight but it is extremely unusual, in fact I have rarely seen it, that a national Act like this should single out a specific place.

"The Act, which covers the whole of the land, states only Alnwick by name, nowhere else. This is because the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle insisted that the clause be tacked on at the end.

"He used his power to add the condition that Alnwick always holds the County Court and that is basically where their claims to County Town have come from, and on which they are now based.

"It seems it was a blatant way for those holding power at Alnwick to influence which MPs were elected in Northumberland at the County Court and allow some political control."

He added that since the 1974 local government reshuffle, it was commonly accepted that a County's main town was the base of its top tier local authority.