We are still looking for stories and photographs to include here - if you have any please get in touch .

 The History of Bywell

Thanks to George Strachan for this contribution.

The history of Bywell goes back a long way. Before the Norman Conquest (1066 AD) the village and lands were owned by the Saxon Earl of Northumberland. After the Norman conquest Bywell and a great deal of surrounding countryside was in the hands of two Norman Barons. Guy de Baliol and Walter Bolbec. Bywell village itself was held by the Baliols until 1296. Within that period John de Baliol had become King of Scotland whilst another Baliol founded Baliol College at Oxford. 

Bywell gained in importance throughout the following 600 years as a place where skilled metalworkers crafted the county's finest stirrups, bits and other horse equipment. The village and estate eventually passed via the Earl of Richmond, the Countess of Pembroke (who founded Pembroke College Cambridge), the Nevilles, Fenwicks, then in 1809, to the Beaumont family. However the majority of the village was demolished in 1852 by Wentworth Blackett Beaumont in an effort to improve the view from Bywell Hall.

Included in the clearance was the vicarage to St Andrew's church, although the vicarage to St Peter's church survived...just! An interesting record is as follows:

The Reverend Brereton Edward Dwarris was Vicar of St Peter's church from 1845 until 1901. He was a very influential Vicar and gained notoriety by refusing to agree to the sale of the Vicarage to Wentworth Blackett Beaumont who wanted to demolish “that old building” to improve garden landscaping around Bywell Hall ( situated only 100mtrs to the West of the Old Vicarage). After Dwarris’s refusal, Wentworth Blackett Beaumont had the “wall of spite” built in 1852 to prevent him having to look at the Vicarage, and preventing the Vicar from looking at the Hall !…. have a look the high stone “wall of spite” on the West side of  the front garden.

The main east-west "auld highway" from Newcastle to the West coast passed through Bywell. ( The "auld highway" existed right up to the late 18th century when General Wade built the military road from Newcastle to Carlisle to speed the transport of troops from east to west after 1745 when bad roads failed to allow English troop movement to prevent the Scots marching south in the second Jacobite rebellion)

Bywell Castle, a 15th Century Gatehouse

Bywell Castle was built in the early 15th Century by Ralph de Neville, the 2nd Earl of Westmorland. In fact all that was completed of this medieval castle was the Gatehouse. When King Henry III found out about the castle he issued an instruction to stop building! The Nevilles held the barony from the days of Edward III to the time of the rising of the north when their estates were forfeited to the crown.

The deposed, and mad, King Henry VI sheltered briefly at the castle after the battle of Hexham in 1464. His sword and helmet were found as he made his escape. He later faced the Tower of London where he was executed in 1471


A survey made by the Royal commissioners in 1570 tells us:-

"The town of Bywell is built in length all in one street upon the river of water of Tyne, on the north and west part of the same and is divided into two several parishes and inhabited with handy craftsmen whose trade is all in iron work for the horsemen and borderers of that country as in making bits, stirrups, buckles and such other, wherein they are very expert and cunning and are subject to the excursions of the thieves of Tynedale, and are compelled winter and summer to bring all their cattle and sheep into the street in the night season and watch both ends of the street and, when the enemy approaches, to raise hue and cry whereupon all the town prepares for rescue of their goods which is very populous by reason of their trade, and stout and hardy by continual practice against the enemy"

The Great Tyne Flood 1771

on Sunday the 17th November 1771 the whole village of Bywell was under water, which stood 8 feet deep in the ground floor of the newly built (1766) hall. Ten houses were washed away and six persons lost their lives. The horses of Mr Fenwick who lived in the hall were saved by herding them into St Andrew's church. A record exists indicating that "one mare mounted the communion table"


The flood was the result of heavy rain and melting snow and had a dramatic effect along the whole 

length of the river Tyne, sweeping away every stone bridge except the bridge at Corbridge. Even The Old 

Vicarage was affected by the 1771 floods with the vicar Robert Simon making a claim on the hardship 

funds collected by Northumbrians for "lost communion wine and brandy" that had been stored in the 



Bywell is a strange place. There is no village, yet two churches right next to each other! It sits at the boundary of two Norman baronies. St. Peter's was actually the church of Bywell where the castle and Bywell Hall remain. St. Andrew's served the now non-existent community of Styford.

Both churches pre-date the Conquest, but only St. Andrew's is substantially Saxon in date. The first church - from which only one carved stone remains - may have been founded by St Wilfred in the 7th century, but its circular churchyard shows even more ancient origins. In AD 803 Egbert, the 12th Bishop of Lindisfarne was consecrated in St Andrews. Much destruction of the churches took place after the Danish invasions, and the rebuilding of St.Andrew's took place around AD 1030 to 1060. This was when the upper tower was built and is one of Northumberland's best examples of Saxon church architecture. The baseof the present tower, however, dates from shortly around AD 800 when the Danish raids forced members of the diocenal community on Lindisfarne to seek refuge here. 

The body of the church is mostly 13th century. It houses some fine Victorian glass by William Wailes, who is buried in St. Peter's; a number of hatchments and a fascinating collection of medieval grave-slabs. These date from the mid-12th to 14th century. The Victorians placed them in the outside wall, but several have now been moved inside for better preservation. They feature elaborate crosses and emblems denoting the occupant's status: a sword for the right to bear arms, shears for a housewife, hunting-horns, tongs and a rectangular object: possibly a book or lady's work-box. The tower of St.Andrew's was decorated using some Roman stones and incorporates a novel usfor Roman toilet seats! They are used on all four sides at the top of the Saxon tower. Additionally, some Saxon stone grave covers are used as a lintel and internal wall decoration. An unusual, and still unexplained feature on the west wall stonework of the tower at St Andrew's is a carved shepherd's crook, about 1.75 metres in height, that is obviously of considerable age.

An interesting point is that St.Andrew's was known as the "White Church" after the Praemonstratentian monks of Blanchland Abbey who wore white habits. St.Peter's was known as the "Black Church" after the Benedictine order from Durham who wore black habits.


Wendy Hinchcliffe has very kindly provided us with some additional details of Newton history in selected, and updated, extracts from ‘Newton: Recollections of village life’ A millennium booklet published in October 2000.  Copies of this booklet are in Hexham Library, Corbridge Library and Newcastle City Library.  The booklet is now out of print. 

Click here to download the document in word format.