Authors bring history into focus

The full cast of performers at the launch of the book about Dorothy Robson, Service not Self
The full cast of performers at the launch of the book about Dorothy Robson, Service not Self

Colourful characters from the past were brought vividly to life as two new local history books were launched.

The annual Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering cultural festival usually sees a broad range of costumed volunteers walking around the town, but this year there was an even wider variety.

For a band of 1930s-styled performers were marking the publication of a book about former pioneering councillor Dorothy Robson, while others dressed as medieval monks and gentry to promote a work on Newminster Abbey.

Service Not Self has been compiled by author Pru Heathcote from the memoirs of Dorothy Robson, the first woman and Labour Party member to win a seat on Morpeth Borough Council.

The politician, who served for eight years, was moved to stand for election after being horrified at the living conditions in some parts of the town. She won a seat in 1939 at her seventh attempt.

The book was commissioned by the Dorothy Robson Memorial Group and has been published by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Morpeth Town Council, the Morpeth Antiquarian Society and the William Leech Trust.

To celebrate its launch, performer Laura Gubbins gave a dramatic reconstruction of an election rally, helped by local volunteers.

The event was attended by Northumberland County Council Civic Head Kath Nisbet and her escort Margaret Richardson, as well as by Dorothy Robson’s granddaughters, Mandy from Leeds and Jane from New York.

Newminster – Monks, Shepherds and Charters, The Story of Northumberland’s Forgotten Abbey has been written by local author Bridget Gubbins to tell the abbey’s history.

Founded by St Robert of Newminster, in its day the abbey was one of the greatest monasteries in the North, owning thousands of acres and running farming, mining and salt production operations.

However, it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537 and today little remains. It is a scheduled ancient monument and is on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register, but a long-term management plan is in progress.

The book has been published by GMDT.

Performers at Morpeth Town Hall portrayed a monk writing the charter between Henry I and Count Cospatric of Northumberland, agreeing that his daughter Juliana could marry Ranulph de Merlay of Morpeth.

Her dowry ended up being granted to the monks of Newminster.