Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bamburgh, a Giant on the Historic Landscape; My Country Environment Editor Tony Henderson on a Village with a Powerful Past

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bamburgh, a Giant on the Historic Landscape; My Country Environment Editor Tony Henderson on a Village with a Powerful Past

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

IN terms of physical size, Bamburgh is a compact Northumbrian village. But when it comes to the depth of history squeezed into the settlement, Bamburgh is a giant.

It is 10 years since the Bamburgh Research Project began its series of annual excavations in and around the castle.

Now is the time to look back and evaluate what has been found and added to a story of occupation which stretches back 5,000 years.

What emerges is what a powerful political centre Bamburgh once was, and but for the vagaries of history, it might today have been another Edinburgh or Newcastle.

Graeme Young, who lives in Blyth, is director of archaeology for the Bamburgh Research Project.

He says: "Bamburgh was clearly an important medieval settlement, with a port and three church establishments. Had the destructive Anglo-Scottish wars not taken place, Bamburgh might well have developed into a town of regional significance rather than the beautiful village it is today."

Bamburgh was the capital of the kingdom of Northumbria.

"From the Ninth Century onwards there is a massive stone-built palace fortress of great sophistication. It is the capital of a great kingdom which is very rich and powerful and stretched from the Humber to the Forth," says Graeme. For periods of the Seventh Century, it was the pre-eminent kingdom in Britain, dominating from Kent to the Orkneys.

"But an awful lot of history turns on happenstance, and Bamburgh missed the boat. Had Northumbria survived Bamburgh could have been the equivalent of Edinburgh," says Graeme.

"Had history worked out differently, Bamburgh may have been as big as York."

But Viking and Scottish raids took their toll. "There is no reason why Bamburgh could not have been as big as Alnwick or Berwick are today, or prospered as a major regional centre like Newcastle," says Graeme.

But Bamburgh was a royal castle and as such was one of a number of similar fortifications.

The earls of Northumberland, however, were prepared to invest heavily in their Alnwick power base, and any amount of money was available for Berwick because of its immense strategic importance on the Border. …

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