Corbridge - heart-warming town where the blood runs cold
PUBLISHED: 11:36 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 February 2013
Corbridge is a place which displays rural charm, high fashion and art against a backdrop of a turbulent and bloody past. Tom Fennelly delves under the skin of this historic town
The rural charm and tranquillity of Corbridge today belies its turbulent and often bloody past. Its quaint streets of fine stone buildings with an impressive collection of quality boutiques, cosy tearooms, interesting independent shops, great pubs and eating places make this lovely town one of Northumberlands most popular tourist hubs.
Corbridge lies in the Tyne Valley with most of the town north of the river which is spanned by an impressive arched bridge. Built in 1674 this was the only bridge across the Tyne to survive the great floods of 1771. A little further upstream are the stout stone remains of the much earlier Roman bridge.
Its strategic location and natural crossing point made Corbridge a much fought-over place since the earliest times. The nearby Roman settlement of Corstopitum was a key supply depot in the building and garrisoning of Hadrians Wall, carrying the legions along the north-south line of Dere Street, one of the countrys busiest Roman roads.
The substantial remains of this excavated Roman settlement include the best example of military granaries in the country. Finds from the site include the famous stone fountainhead - the Lion
The British Museum holds the Corbridge Lanx, a magnificent 4th century AD Roman silver platter which was found in the river bank by a nine-year-old girl in February 1735. It is probably from a silver hoard, as other vessels were found there between 1731 and 1760.
Corbridge literally grew from Corstopitum, which provided much of the stone used in the construction of many of the village buildings including the church, Vicars Pele and several nearby castles.
On the north bank, opposite the Roman bridge stones, are the remains of an Anglo-Saxon watermill which is unique in the northern region and is only the second well-preserved example of this period in England.
After the Romans, Corbridges colourful history continued and Ethelred King of Northumbria was slain here in 796. King Regnald the Dane defeated the English and Scottish armies in 918. During the mediaeval period the town was burned by invading Scots three times over, first by William Wallace (1296), then Robert the Bruce (1312) and finally King David II of Scotland (1346).
In the 13th century Corbridge was second only to Newcastle in wealth and its citizens were heavily taxed to help pay for Edward 1s Scottish wars. Its mediaeval street plan remains largely unaltered today.
Nearby Dilston Castle is famous for its associations with James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, who played a leading part in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. He was executed the following year and the ruins of the castle and chapel serve as a reminder the lost
As far back as 1827 Corbridge was well known for its wealth of shops, inns and eating places. A stroll around the town today takes the visitor past an impressive variety of local businesses offering an amazing range of goods
Corbridge is the home of the Northumberland County Show and this year a record 28,200 attended this traditional Late May Bank Holiday event. Corbridge is also renowned for its Christmas shopping event which takes place this year on November 20 and 21 with late-night shopping on December 13.
Corbridge is a Mecca for ladies fashion and for a town of its size it has a good number of quality boutiques offering top designer labels and bespoke garments for every occasion. Brides and the mothers of brides, and wedding guests seeking outfits for that special day are well served in Norma James, Orvis, Out of the Blue, Acanthus and Katie Kerr among others in the streets around Market Place, Middle Street, Hill Street and Watling Street.
Add a mix of art galleries including James Alder (Fine Art) which specialises in 19th and early 20th Century oils and watercolours both from the Northern school and nationally, arts and crafts, a bespoke gents outfitter, distinctive gift shops and the delightful independent perfumery Laura Christina, and you will find a distinctive rural shopping experience unparalleled in the region.
No visit by ladies to Corbridge would be complete with calling in to see the Corbridge Collection of Joyce Andersons pearl, semi-precious and silver jewellery, plus many other famous brand names.
The Balman Gallery features contemporary art from international and national artists displayed in six gallery spaces over two floors of the Corbridge Town Hall. More contemporary art including ceramics, glass, wood and metalwork can be found in the Off The Wall gallery in Hill Street, where you should watch out for the bear outside of Orvis, which offers distinctive country style fashions. Skrumshus in the
Market Place is a traditional sweet shop offering many favourites and there are some delightful tea and coffee shops to be enjoyed.
In the heart of the town stands the magnificent Corbridge Parish Church of St Andrews with its tower dating back to Saxon times and the Vicars Pele built with Roman stones in the 14th century for protection from the frequent Scottish raiders and invaders. The church is a mixture of Gothic, Saxon and Norman architectures and features some excellent stained glass windows throughout.
In a unique ecumenical collaboration the church is also used for worship by the local Roman Catholic community.
Corbridge is very much a place shaped by its past and todays invaders are more inclined to be armed for a shopping raid guaranteed to damage bank balances rather than destroy the town which has become a year round destination for tourists from near and far.