A Short History of Lesbury

We have very little to go on as regards these early days and thus have to rely on imagination, as far as possible based on probability, in order to get any sort of picture. Lesbury was probably typical of all the individual and comparatively isolated villages in this part of the world in these very early days. The rude houses of the inhabitants would have been clustered near the church which itself would have dominated everything around it. As far as the people were concerned, they knew nothing about lords of the manor and such remote entities but they knew their priest and they accepted him and his Church as the most important influence in their lives. Everyone belonged to the Church and acknowledged the right of the Church to rule their lives and to levy taxes. There was no other 'local authority'.

Lesbury lay in the lower reaches of the River Aln and the soil since earliest times had favoured arable farming. There were wide open spaces all around and cattle were grazed either in small paddocks in or near to the village or on the common land of Lesbury Moor, the high ground to the north of the village.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, people found it preferable to keep their cattle nearer home where some protection could be afforded them from the frequent cattle raids by their northern neighbours. Let it not be thought however that raiding was all one-way traffic and that the people of Lesbury were all angels. Surveys of the 16th century report that the people of Wooden which, after all, was part of the parish of Lesbury, were not backward in helping themselves to their neighbour's cattle.

So Lesbury had quietly got on with things on their own, free from any outside influences which might have caused them to change their ways. From its origin as an early Anglian settlement it had developed by the 13th century into what, it seems certain was a significant township, ahead of either Alnwick or Alnmouth in importance in the local scene.

Another prominent feature of village life in medieval days was the water mill, the ruins of one of which could be seen until recently near the bridge over the river in Lesbury, together with its mill race bringing the water to operate the wheel from a weir beneath the 18-arch railway bridge. This mill was referred to in a survey of as long ago as 1352 and everyone in those days was obliged to 'dosuit' to the mill by having their corn ground there. For this service various payments in kind were levied and the benifits from the tenancy of a mill must have been considerable. It is recorded that in 1553 a man named George Carr optained a 21-year lease of the Lesbury mill from Edward VI, the mill being 'parcel' of the possessions of the Earl of Northumberland which has been bequeathed to the Crown by the Earl when he died in 1537.

These water mills demonstrated the ingenuity and economy of effort and resources which must have ruled peoples lives in those far off days when all motive power for any operation came from man's own musclepower, horse power and, where possible, water power. On the River Aln there was a water mill at Bilton, another at Deep Dene which was the mill for Longhoughton and a third at Lesbury.

Not only were these water-powered contrivances extremely cheap to run but they also had an incredibly long life. Lesbury mill was kept as a working concern for more than 600 years until it was closed down in 1925 but it was irrevocably lost when it was burnt down in 1964. It is fortunate that a picture of the mill before this sad event has survived and is reproduced here.
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History of St Mary's Church
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Visit the new Bridge Construction Site
Historical moment of Lesbury's bridge
Phase 2 - Fitting of Bridge Spans
Phase 3 - Bridge nearing completion
History and photos of the old mill
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