Alnwick (/ˈænɪk/ (listen) AN-ik) is a market town in north Northumberland, England, of which it is the traditional county town. The population at the 2011 Census was 8,116.

The town is on the south bank of the River Aln, 32 miles (51 km) south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border, 5 miles (8 km) inland from the North Sea at Alnmouth and 34 miles (55 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The town dates to about AD 600, and thrived as an agricultural centre. Alnwick Castle was the home of the most powerful medieval northern baronial family, the Earls of Northumberland. It was a staging post on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and London, and latterly has become a dormitory town for nearby Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The town centre has changed relatively little, but the town has seen some growth, with several housing estates covering what had been pasture, and new factory and trading estate developments along the roads to the south.

Alnwick and Alnwick Castle - Northumberland - 140804

The town of Alnwick, nestling behind Alnwick Castle
Alnwick is located in Northumberland
Alnwick shown within Northumberland
Population8,116 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid referenceNU186129
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townALNWICK
Postcode districtNE66
Dialling code01665
AmbulanceNorth East
EU ParliamentNorth East England
UK Parliament


The name Alnwick comes from the Old English wic ('dairy farm, settlement') and the name of the river Aln.[2]

The history of Alnwick is the history of the castle and its lords, starting with Gilbert Tyson, written variously as "Tison", "Tisson", and "De Tesson", one of William the Conqueror's standard bearers, upon whom this northern estate was bestowed. It was held by the De Vesci family (now spelt "Vasey" – a name found all over south-east Northumberland) for over 200 years, and then passed into the hands of the house of Percy in 1309.

At various points in the town are memorials of the constant wars between Percys and Scots, in which so many Percys spent the greater part of their lives. A cross near Broomhouse Hill across the river from the castle marks the spot where Malcolm III of Scotland was killed during the first Battle of Alnwick. At the side of the broad shady road called Ratten Row, leading from the West Lodge to Bailiffgate, a stone tablet marks the spot where William the Lion of Scotland was captured during the second Battle of Alnwick (1174) by a party of about 400 mounted knights, led by Ranulf de Glanvill.

Hulne Priory, outside the town walls in Hulne Park, the Duke of Northumberland's walled estate, was a monastery founded in the 13th century by the Carmelites; it is said that the site was chosen for some slight resemblance to Mount Carmel where the order originated. Substantial ruins remain.

In 1314, Sir John Felton was governor of Alnwick.[3] In winter 1424, much of the town was burnt by a Scottish raiding party. Again in 1448 the town was burnt by a Scottish army led by William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas and George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus.

Thomas Malory mentions Alnwick as a possible location for Lancelot's castle Joyous Garde.

The Alnwick by-pass takes the A1 London–Edinburgh trunk road around the town. It was started in 1968.[4]


Alnwick lies at 55°25′00″N 01°42′00″W / 55.41667°N 1.70000°W (55.417, -1.700)1. The River Aln forms its unofficial northern boundary.


Historically, the town was partly within the Bamburgh Ward and Coquetdale Ward and later included in the East Division of Coquetdale Ward in 1832.[5] By the time of the 2011 Census an electoral ward covering only part of Alnwick Parish name existed. The total population of this ward was 4,766.[6]


Barter Books, Alnwick - - 86554
Barter Books in Alnwick

Formerly a largely rural and agrarian community, the town now lies within the "travel to work" radius of Morpeth and Newcastle upon Tyne and has a sizeable commuter population. Some major or noteworthy employers in the town are:

  • Metrology Software Products Ltd, developers and suppliers of co-ordinate measuring machine and machine tool software
  • House of Hardy, makers of fly-fishing tackle
  • Greys of Alnwick, makers of fly-fishing tackle
  • Northumberland Estates, which manages the Duke of Northumberland's agricultural, forestry and property interests
  • Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand book shops in England, set in the town's former railway station
  • Sanofi Alnwick Research Centre, a large pharmaceutical research and testing centre
  • NFU Mutual, provider of insurance, pensions, investments
  • DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs)[7]
  • Skin Salveation manufacturers and distributors of skin care products


The town's greatest building by far is Alnwick Castle, one of the homes of the Duke of Northumberland, and site of The Alnwick Garden; it dominates the west of the town, above the River Aln. The castle is the hub of a number of commercial, educational and tourism operations. From 1945 to 1975, it was the location of a teacher training college for young women and "mature students" (persons of more than 21 years in age). Currently, it houses American students studying in Europe through a partnership with Saint Cloud State University; it is the base of Northumberland Estates, the Duke's commercial enterprise; and is in its own right a tourist attraction. The castle is open to tourists from April to September, and the Gardens all year around. It is the second largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor Castle. Benjamin Disraeli describes Alnwick as "Montacute" in his novel Tancred.

Alnwick marketplace - snow - night
Alnwick marketplace at night in winter

The centre of town is the market place, with its market cross, and the relatively modern Northumberland Hall, used as a meeting place. Surrounding the market place are the main shopping streets: Narrowgate, Fenkle Street, and Bondgate Within. The last of these is a wide road fronted by commercial buildings. In medieval times, Alnwick was a walled town, although due to fluctuating economic conditions during the Middle Ages, the walls were never completed. Hotspur Tower, a medieval gate, is extant, dividing Bondgate Within from Bondgate Without, and restricting vehicles to a single lane used alternately in each direction. Pottergate Tower, at the other side of the town, also stands on the site of an ancient gate, but the tower itself was rebuilt in the 18th century. Its ornate spire was destroyed in a storm in 1812. Outside the line of the walls, the old railway station building is relatively ostentatious for such a small town, due to its frequent use by royal travellers visiting Alnwick Castle. It is now a large secondhand bookshop.

The town has a thriving playhouse, a multi-purpose arts centre, which stages theatre, dance, music, cinema, and visual arts productions.

In 2003, the Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre was opened on the southern outskirts of the enlarged town (replacing the old sports centre located by the Lindisfarne Middle School and the now-demolished Youth Centre). More widely, the Alnwick district boasts a wealth of sporting and leisure facilities, including football, cricket, rugby, rambling, rock climbing, water sports, cycling and horse riding. Golfers can find thirteen golf courses within 30 minutes drive of the town.

The castle is popular with film-makers: Blackadder, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Harry Potter; are some of the films shot here.

Front of Bailiffgate Museum squared up
Bailiffgate Museum, a local history museum

Alnwick's museum, Bailiffgate Museum, is close to the Bailiffgate entrance to the castle. Its collection is specifically dedicated to local social history. The museum has recently had a major refit funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Its collection includes a variety of agricultural objects, domestic items, railway items, coal mining artefacts, printing objects, a sizeable photographic collection, paintings and a range of activities for children.[8] Local artist Stella Vine donated three of her paintings to the museum, as she had grown up in Alnwick.

Other places of interest in and near the town include:

Brizlee Tower - Alnwick - Northumberland - UK - 2006-03-04
Brizlee Tower, a folly and observation platform overlooking Hulne Park, the Duke of Northumberand's walled estate by Alnwick Castle


Alnwick Cricket Club


Major events in the Alnwick calendar include:

  • Shrove Tuesday football match known as Scoring the Hales is played in the Pastures (the fields below the castle) between the parishes of St Paul and St Michael. The ball is brought from Alnwick Castle in procession, preceded by the Duke of Northumberland's piper. The first team to score two "hales" (goals) wins.
  • Saturday Markets in Alnwick Market Square from Jan - Dec
  • Thursday & Saturday Markets, fresh local produce, arts and crafts, jewellery, soft furnishings and household items (Thursday Markets are seasonal, starting in March)
  • Easter Market in Alnwick Market Square, children's entertainment and lots of local fresh produce
  • Alnwick International Music Festival
  • Alnwick Castle Tournament – a medieval jousting spectacular in the grounds of Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Fair was an annual costumed event, held each summer from 1969 to 2007, recreating some of the appearance of medieval trading fairs and 17th century agricultural fairs. It has now been discontinued.[10]



Bondgate Tower

Alnwick town lies adjacent to the A1, the main national north/south trunk road, providing easy access to Newcastle upon Tyne (35 miles (56 km) south) and to the Scottish capital Edinburgh (80 miles (130 km) north). The town is an 'A1 Town', there are several such similar towns in the North of England such as (North to South), Berwick Upon Tweed (28.1 miles North), Morpeth (28.3 miles South), Newton Aycliffe (65.1 miles South) and Wetherby (116 miles South). Being such a stopping point on the A1 (particularly in such a rural area) provides Alnwick with a lot of passing trade and tourism.


The main East Coast railway link between Edinburgh (journey time approximately 1:10) and London (journey time approximately 3:45) runs via the nearby Alnmouth for Alnwick Station, with a weekday service of 15 trains per day north to Edinburgh and 13 trains per day south to London. Despite its name, Alnmouth Station is located at the western end of the village of Hipsburn, near to the hamlet of Bilton. It also serves the village of Lesbury.

Alnwick was once connected to the main line by the Alnwick branch line, but this was closed in January 1968. The Aln Valley Railway Trust, is in stages, reconstructing the branch as a heritage railway. The Alnwick terminus, called Lionheart station, is located near the Lionheart Enterprise Estate on the outskirts of the town rather than on the site of the original Alnwick railway station closer to the town centre. The building of the A1 bypass makes reopening the section of the line leading into the town centre unviable.


Newcastle Airport lies around 45 minutes drive-time away, and provides 19 daily flights to London (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City), with regular flights to other UK centres. The airport also operates regular flights to many European destinations, along with destinations in Africa. Newcastle Airport is the nearest, however for alternative flights, Edinburgh Airport, Leeds Bradford Airport and Manchester Airport are all within 150 miles (240 km).

Town twinning

Notable people

Born in Alnwick

Died in Alnwick


  1. ^ "Parish population 2011". Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  2. ^ The Cambridge Dictionary of english Place-Names, ed. by Victor Watts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), s.v. Alnwick.
  3. ^ p.309
  4. ^ "News and Views: A1 Alnwick by-pass". Autocar. 15 February 1968. p. 57.
  5. ^ George Tate, The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick (Vol. 1). Alnwick: Henry Hunter Blair, 1866.
  6. ^ "Alnwick ward population 2011". Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2008.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  9. ^ "Kelly's Directory of Northumberland (1894)". Archived from the original on 28 August 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Death of Alnwick Fair, Retrieved 23 August 2010

External links

1994 European Cross Country Championships

The 1st European Cross Country Championships were held at Alnwick in England on 10 December 1994. Paulo Guerra took the title in the men's competition and Catherina McKiernan won the women's race.

1995 European Cross Country Championships

The 2nd European Cross Country Championships were held at Alnwick in England on 2 December 1995. Paulo Guerra took his second title in the men's competition and Annemari Sandell won the women's race.

1999 Alnwick District Council election

Elections to Alnwick District Council were held on 6 May 1999. The whole council was up for election with boundary changes since the last election in 1995 increasing the number of seats by 1. The council stayed under no overall control.

2003 Alnwick District Council election

Elections to Alnwick District Council were held on 1 May 2003. The whole council was up for election and the council stayed under no overall control. One of the three seats in Rothbury and South Rural ward had no candidate for the seat.

2007 Alnwick District Council election

Elections to Alnwick District Council were held for the final time on 3 May 2007. The whole council was up for election and the council stayed under no overall control. The council was abolished in 2009 when Northumberland County Council became a unitary authority.

Alnmouth railway station

Alnmouth railway station is on the East Coast Main Line in the United Kingdom, serving the village of Alnmouth and neighbouring settlements including Alnwick, in Northumberland. It is 303 miles 45 chains (488.5 km) down the line from London King's Cross and is situated between Acklington to the south and Chathill to the north. Its three-letter station code is ALM.


The Township of Alnwick/Haldimand is a township in central Ontario, Canada, in Northumberland County, situated between Lake Ontario and Rice Lake. It was formed in 2001 by the merger of Alnwick Township in the north and Haldimand Township in the south. Alderville First Nation is an autonomously governed First Nation contained within the township boundaries, in two non-contiguous sections along County Roads 45 and 18.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle ( (listen)) is a castle and country house in Alnwick in the English county of Northumberland. It is the seat of His Grace The 12th Duke of Northumberland, built following the Norman conquest and renovated and remodelled a number of times. It is a Grade I listed building and as of 2012 received over 800,000 visitors per year.

Alnwick District

Alnwick was a local government district of Northumberland, England. Its council was based in Alnwick town and the district had a population of 31,029 according to the 2001 census.

It was one of the most rural and sparsely populated districts in the United Kingdom, having a resident population of 32,300 in an area of 1,079.51 square kilometres, according to the 2001 census. (That is 29 persons per km² compared with the UK average of 245 persons per km².) Just over 50% of the population was located in the three main towns of Alnwick (7,600), Amble (6,100) and Rothbury (2,500), with the remainder dispersed across large and small villages, hamlets and isolated dwellings.

It was the second most racially homogeneous community in the country, in the terms measured in the 2001 census with 99.6% of the population recording their ethnicity as White.The district was formed on 1 April 1974 as a merger of the urban districts of Alnwick and Amble and the rural districts of Alnwick and Rothbury. The district was abolished as part of structural changes to local government in England effective from 1 April 2009. Its responsibilities were transferred to Northumberland County Council, which became a unitary authority.

Alnwick District Council elections

Alnwick was a non-metropolitan district in Northumberland, England. It was abolished on 1 April 2009 and replaced by Northumberland County Council.

Alnwick branch line

The Alnwick branch line was a railway line in Northumberland, northern England. It ran from Alnmouth railway station, on the East Coast Main Line, to the town of Alnwick, a distance of 2 3⁄4 miles (4.4 km).

It opened on 5 August 1850 to both freight and passenger traffic; passenger operations included direct Newcastle to Alnwick services, as well as regular shuttle runs between Alnmouth and Alnwick. As late as 1966, some of the Alnmouth to Alnwick shuttles were operated by steam locomotives.

Alnwick railway station

Alnwick railway station was the terminus of the Alnwick branch line, which diverged from the East Coast Main Line at Alnmouth in Northumberland, Northern England. The branch opened on 1 October 1850 and closed for passengers in January 1968 and completely in October 1968. The station was also the terminus of the Cornhill branch line to Coldstream which closed for passengers in 1930.

Ben Alnwick

Benjamin Robert Alnwick (born 1 January 1987) is an English professional footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for EFL Championship club Bolton Wanderers.

Alnwick started his career at Sunderland in 2004, having progressed through the club's youth ranks, but never fully established himself in the first team. He left for Tottenham Hotspur in January 2007, having made 19 league appearances, but never made more than a single league appearance for Tottenham. Instead, he spent several loan spells away from the club, at Luton Town, Leicester City, Carlisle United, Norwich City, Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient. He switched permanently to Barnsley in July 2012, and made 12 appearances, but was deemed surplus to requirements in September 2013, and his contract was terminated by mutual consent.

Alnwick has represented England at under-16, under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 levels.

Cornhill Branch

The Cornhill Branch was a 35.5 miles (57 km) single track branch railway line in Northumberland, England, that ran from Alnwick on the terminus of the three mile long Alnmouth to Alnwick line via ten intermediate stations to a junction on the Tweedmouth to Kelso Branch line at Cornhill-on-Tweed.

Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland

Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, 4th Baron Percy, titular King of Mann, KG, Lord Marshal (10 November 1341 – 20 February 1408) was the son of Henry de Percy, 3rd Baron Percy, and a descendant of Henry III of England. His mother was Mary of Lancaster, daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, son of Edmund, Earl of Leicester and Lancaster, who was the son of Henry III.

Henry Percy (Hotspur)

Sir Henry Percy KG (20 May 1364 – 21 July 1403), commonly known as Sir Harry Hotspur, or simply Hotspur, was a late-medieval English nobleman. He was a significant captain during the Anglo-Scottish wars. He later led successive rebellions against Henry IV of England and was slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 at the height of his career.

Jak Alnwick

Jak Alnwick (born 17 June 1993) is an English football goalkeeper who plays for EFL League One club Scunthorpe United, on loan from Scottish Premiership side Rangers.

He turned professional at Newcastle United in 2008, and went on to represent England at under-17 and under-18 levels. He spent time on loan at Gateshead in the 2011–12 season, and played eight Premier League games for Newcastle in the 2014–15 season. He joined Bradford City on loan in March 2015, and Port Vale on a free transfer that August. He was sold to Rangers for an undisclosed fee in January 2017, before being loaned out to Scunthorpe United after failing to win a first-team place.


Northumberland (; abbreviated Northd) is a county in North East England. The northernmost county of England, it borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a 64 miles (103 km) path. The county town is Alnwick, although the County council is based in Morpeth.The county of Northumberland included Newcastle upon Tyne until 1400, when the city became a county of itself. Northumberland expanded greatly in the Tudor period, annexing Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1482, Tynedale in 1495, Tynemouth in 1536, Redesdale around 1542 and Hexhamshire in 1572. Islandshire, Bedlingtonshire and Norhamshire were incorporated into Northumberland in 1844. Tynemouth and other settlements in North Tyneside were transferred to Tyne and Wear in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972.

Lying on the Anglo-Scottish border, Northumberland has been the site of a number of battles. The county is noted for its undeveloped landscape of high moorland, now largely protected as the Northumberland National Park. Northumberland is the least densely populated county in England, with only 62 people per square kilometre.

William Alnwick

William Alnwick (died 1449) was an English Catholic clergyman. He was Bishop of Norwich (1426–1436) and Bishop of Lincoln (1436–1450).Educated at Cambridge, Alnwick was an ecclesiastic priest. He was probably the same hermit who lived in the St Benet's Chapel that was screened off as part of Westminster Abbey. On the night of 20 March 1413, as King Henry IV lay dying in the Jerusalem Chamber, his son and heir apparent Prince Henry wandered the precincts and spoke to Alnwick. On 20 March 1415, Alnwick was appointed as confessor-general of Syon Abbey, but after a year returned to Westminster. During Henry V's reign he became Archdeacon of Salisbury, but by early 1421 had been appointed King's Secretary, and is recorded as attending Privy Council meetings. In the new reign he was forced to surrender his seals of office to Parliament before being named Keeper of the Privy Seal on 19 December 1422. He had custody of the seal until 24 February 1432.Alnwick was nominated to the see of Norwich on 27 February 1426 and consecrated on 18 August 1426. He was translated to the see of Lincoln on 19 September 1436.While bishop Alnwick built the east wing of bishop's palace at Lincoln, with chapel and dining-parlour and a gateway tower.While at Lincoln Alnwick attempted a resolution of a dispute within the cathedral, producing an elaborate arbitration. He then reviewed the whole body of statutes of the diocese, then largely unaltered since the Norman Conquest, creating an improved one. He finished this by 1440, but the Dean of the cathedral was hostile, and they argued over the implementation of the reforms until Alnwick’s death.

Alnwick was an assiduous heresy-hunter, and persecutor of the Lollards, punishing them with imprisonment, forced entry into monasteries and, in at least one case, execution.

Alnwick was involved in the foundation and building of Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, as well as altering and improving Norwich & Lincoln Cathedrals, and the palaces in both of the dioceses of which he was Bishop.

He died in 1449, and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral with a lengthy epitaph, now destroyed, recording his virtues. In his will he left money to St Michael’s Church, Alnwick, as well as vestments, a missal, an antiphoner, and a chalice.

Alnwick died while Bishop of Lincoln on 5 December 1449.

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