Humshaugh lies in a bend of the River North Tyne, six miles from Hexham, protected from heavy traffic to Kielder by the ‘new’ road, completed in 1947. The hamlets of Chollerford, Lincoln Hill, Walwick and Haughton with its castle are usually considered part of the village. There is a reference to the village as early as 1279 in the Court Rolls of Alexander, King of Scots. The name’s derivation is not clear. ‘Haugh’ means low-lying fertile ground by a river; ‘Hum’ may be a corruption of a proper name e.g. Hugh.
The original village was centred at Haughton and had a population of 267 in 1801. In 1816 when Haughton became ‘a gentleman’s residence’ the village was dismantled to enlarge the parkland, and villagers were moved to Humshaugh. By 1911 the population was 519. Now after many changes the population is almost the same at 529.
There is one main street and many unexpected lanes and some lovely old houses. Smoke still rises from some village chimneys in spite of ‘mod cons’. The village is surrounded by trees and fields and is registered as conservation area.
Farming has always been an important industry here, which together with nearby quarries gave employment to many. Kielder Forest now provides job opportunities with some villagers driving the great log-carrying lorries.
Humshaugh has been influenced by the same changes as other Northumbrian villages, from the early Border raids, through the mechanisation of farming and the exodus of villagers to jobs in Hexham and Newcastle some 25 miles away.
The North Tyne railway line to Scotland was axed in the 1960s but roads provide reasonably easy access to Newcastle. Life is easier if you own a car but a bus service operates up the valley between Hexham and Bellingham.
In 1947 the village boasted a tailor’s shop, draper, butcher, grocer/baker, joinery and a post office. All have gone except for Humshaugh Village Shop, which is a general store and newsagent.
There is a good mix of ages in the village with young families as well as retired people. During the last 30 years new enclaves of housing have been built, some labelled ‘executive’. The welfare of the villagers is well catered for by a new health centre and dispensary at the heart of the village. There has been a school here since 1833. During the Second World War children evacuated from Newcastle attended the school whilst Brunton House became a branch of the Newcastle Eye Hospital.
An attractive village, Humshaugh’s main claim to fame is its proximity to Hadrian’s Wall and Chesters Fort with its Roman bath house. The mansion of Chesters built in 1771 was bought by John Clayton (1792-1890). John Clayton did much to preserve the wall and its forts, by buying whatever portions came on the market and saving them from despoilers. A fine museum at Chesters contains a remarkable collection of Roman antiquities.
While the wall was patrolled the supporting roads were maintained but after the Romans left the roads fell into decay and were so poor that when General Wade went to intercept the Jacobites in 1745 he could not proceed and the Jacobites captured Carlisle. Later a better road was built, part of the wall being demolished for stones. This provoked angry letters to The Times of those days. This road is the one known today as the ‘Military Road’.
On the other side of the village stands Haughton Castle, given its name in 1373. The castle had a ghost which was eventually exorcised! During the Napoleonic Wars the castle was used as a store for Volunteers’ equipment. A nearby paper mill was used to make paper for forged notes intended to depreciate the enemy’s currency. The castle was later converted into a residence.
Until recently a ferry operated between Haughton and Barrasford and quarry workers were among the main users. There is a story – unsubstantiated – that this is the place referred to in the Northumbrian song “Waters of Tyne”.
About 1100 a chapel was built at Haughton but the present church of St Peter, in the centre of the village, was built in 1818. At that time Greenwich Hospital had the right of clergy nomination and its officials were anxious to appoint those who had been chaplains in the Royal Navy. The Methodist chapel was built in 1862 after public subscription. The site was donated by John Clayton.
In addition to the customary war memorial, Humshaugh also built a village hall in memory of those who died in the First World War. It was officially opened in 1928 and is constantly used by the various village groups.
The village information above is taken from “The Northumberland Village Book” written by members of the Northumberland Federation of Women’s Institutes and published by Countryside Books.
For more historical, archaeological and architectural information about Humshaugh visit the Keys To The Past website.