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Status: Ceremonial & Administrative County
Region: North East England
- Total
- Admin. council
Ranked 6th
5,013 km²
Ranked 6th
Admin HQ: Morpeth
ISO 3166-2: GB-NBL
ONS code: 35
- Total (2002 est.)
- Density
- Admin. council
Ranked 44th
62 / km²
Ranked 33rd
Ethnicity: 99.0% White
Northumberland County Council
Executive: Labour
MPs: Peter Atkinson, Alan Beith, Ronnie Campbell, Denis Murphy
  1. Blyth Valley
  2. Wansbeck
  3. Castle Morpeth
  4. Tynedale
  5. Alnwick
  6. Berwick-upon-Tweed

For other places with this name, see Northumberland

Northumberland is a county in England, on the border with Scotland.

The county's largest boundaries were from the river Humber in the south, to the Forth in the North, as the kingdom of Northumbria under King Edwin. At present, however, the county extends covers a much smaller area. Until 1974 it included Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the traditional county town of Northumberland, but that is now part of Tyne and Wear. The county town is now Morpeth.

For some purposes, particularly wildlife recording and many sporting organisations, the 1974 boundary changes are not followed, retaining Newcastle-upon-Tyne and North Tyneside within Northumberland. The official county borders on Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Cumbria and the Lieutenancy area of Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale in Scotland.

Northumberland has a long and complicated history, as it was the scene of many wars between England and Scotland, dating back to the times before the Roman Empire. This explains the many castles in Northumberland, including among the better-known those at Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh, Warkworth and Alnwick - see Castles in England for a full list.

Northumberland is called the "cradle of Christianity" in England because it was on Lindisfarne, a tidal island north of Bamburgh, also called Holy Island, that Christianity flourished when monks from Iona were sent to convert the English, and set up camp there. Lindisfarne was also the home of the Lindisfarne Gospels (presently situated in the British Library, London) and also of Saint Cuthbert who is buried at Durham Cathedral.

Bamburgh Castle is the historic capital of Northumberland, the "royal" castle from before the unification of England under one monarch. The capital of Northumberland now, however, may be thought to be the market town of Alnwick, mainly because the Duke of Northumberland has his home there; or may be thought of as Morpeth, since Northumberland County Council's offices are in that town.

Northumberland has a history of revolt and rebellion against the government, as seen in the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Rising of the North in Tudor times. These revolts were usually led by the then Dukes of Northumberland, the Percy family. Most of these Dukes would betray their comrades in whatever rebellion they were leading, give the information to the government, and get away scot-free. Shakespeare mentions one of the Percys, Harry Hotspur. The county was also a centre for Catholicism in England, as well as of Jacobite feelings after the Restoration. Northumberland became a sort of wild county, where outlaws and border reivers hid from the law, as it was largely rural and unpopulated. However, after the union of the crowns of Scotland and England under King James VI and I, Northumberland became much more peaceful, though it still had its moments.

Today Northumberland is still largely rural - the least populated county in Britain - and no longer commands any sort of power in British affairs. Its power was largely derived from the border conflicts, as the Lords of the Marches were entrusted with making sure England was not invaded by the Scots, and so became powerful. At present there is a movement to attract tourism to Northumberland, by pointing out the beauty of the scenery - coastal and rural - and the many castles and the important role Northumberland played in English history. Nowhere is this more to be seen than on Lindisfarne. Attempts to raise the level of awareness of Northumbrian culture to that of Scottish culture have also started, with the formation of a Northumbrian Language Society to preserve the unique dialects (Pitmatic and Northumbrian) of this region, as well as to promote home-grown talent.

Famous Northumbrians include:

The Eider Duck is the Northumberland
county bird, sacred to Northumberland's
patron saint St. Cuthbert

Towns, villages

Places of interest

Options for change

On May 25, 2004 the Boundary Committee for England published its final recommendations for systems of Unitary Authorities to be implemented if proposals for elected Regional Assemblies are approved by referendums in three northern Regions of England. They put forward two options for each County Council area, which the electorate will be asked to choose between at the same time as the Assembly Referendums.

For Northumberland the options are

  • a single authority for the existing County
  • two authorities for the existing County

Option 1
Option 1 (left)
  1. Northumberland Council
Option 2
Option 2 (right)
  1. Rural Northumberland
  2. South East Northumberland

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45