Click here for Warkworth’s Magna Carta baron John FitzRobert
Warkworth has a long and interesting history. The present parish church of St. Lawrence dates from the twelfth century, but it is recorded that in 737AD King Ceolwulf of Northumbria gave the church and village to the Abbot and monks of Lindisfarne. Traces of Saxon foundations and some decorated stones remain. The nave, north wall and chancel vaulting are Norman in origin, while the south aisle was added in the fifteenth century.
At the other end of the village, Warkworth Castle occupies a splendidly defensive site high above the river, its keep visible for miles around. Destroyed by the Scots and rebuilt in the thirteenth century, this castle is the ancient seat of the Percy family, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland. It is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, and popularly believed to be the place from whence Hotspur set out to fight at Shrewsbury, never to return. It has suffered over the years from the ravages of battle and partial demolition in the eighteenth century but remains a spectacular building in the care of English Heritage.
Between church and castle there are many fine houses from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, some of which retain their mediaeval burgage plots. The fourteenth-century bridge has a gatehouse once used as a lock-up. The Coquet River is well known to anglers, and there is a history of salmon fisheries here.
Warkworth Hermitage, on the river below the castle, is a chapel and dwelling carved in stone and reachable only by boat along the river. It commemorates the deaths of the brother and beloved lady of a knight named Sir Bertram, who is said to have created the chapel and remained there the rest of his life. This tale was immortalised by Bishop Thomas Percy in his ballad The Hermit of Warkworth, written in the eighteenth century and dedicated to Elizabeth, Countess and later First Duchess of Northumberland.
John Wesley came to preach during his travels, and in 1715 the ill-fated supporters of the Jacobite cause gathered in the square to declare Prince James Stuart, the Old Pretender, King James III. Nineteenth century records show that the village held three fairs for livestock sales and a Court Leet was summoned twice a year to dispense justice. In 1801 the population is given as 614, rising steadily through the nineteenth century when holiday visitors began to come in large number, by train and steamship. Today there are 1493 inhabitants and the village is still a popular place to stay, offering a picturesque environment with many amenities.
With thanks to Warkworth Parish Council for its text and photographs.