The historic market town of Morpeth is surrounded on three sides by the River Wansbeck and is a pleasant place to go for a walk. A small town with a population of around 14,000, it is the fifth-largest in Northumberland.
The Morpeth Clock Tower, which stands next to a HSBC bank, was built in the 17th century with stones reclaimed from an older structure. Over the centuries it has served as a jail and a meat store, among other things. A belfry with six bells was added in 1706.
Quaint stepping stones bisect the River Wansbeck, from where a path leads to Carlisle Park in the heart of the town.
The park opened in 1929 on land donated by the Countess of Carlisle. It features a formal garden with a floral clock, a small aviary, an ancient woodland, a children’s play area and paddling pool, tennis courts and a bowling green, boat rides and more.
Ha Hill is a bare grassy mound once topped with a timber stockade by William de Merlay, the first Baron of Morpeth, circa 1080. It was destroyed by King John in 1216.
Nearby stands Morpeth Castle, which was originally the gatehouse for an actual castle.
In the flower garden of the park is a statue of Emily Wilding Davison, a prominent activist for women’s rights, who famously threw herself in the path of the King’s racehorse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 and died from injuries four days later. She is buried at the nearby St Mary’s churchyard.
The crenellated building facing the statue is Morpeth Court, which was part of the old county jail and courthouse built in 1822 in the style of a medieval castle. It has since been converted into serviced apartments.
In a corner of Carlisle Park is the walled William Turner Garden, created to celebrate Dr William Turner, born circa 1508. He was known as the Father of English Botany and was a pioneer in cataloguing English plants, compiling their scientific names – or making them up, if they were unidentified.
He was also a rebellious and outspoken preacher, which got him into trouble with the established church and the King.
Next to a footbridge that leads back across the river stands The Chantry, one of only four bridge chapels in England. The priest who served here used to collect a toll from bridge travellers in return for a blessing.
Part of The Chantry was used as a school, which moved by the 1850s. With the chapel no longer in use, the building became a mineral water factory, a theatre, cabinetmaker’s workshop, cigar shop, butcher’s, rod and gun shop, tearoom, and ladies’ toilet, among other things.
Today it is home to the Tourist Information Centre and Northumbrian Bagpipe Museum.
The main shopping thoroughfare in town, Bridge Street, leads back to the starting point of your walk. Here you can find the Grape & Grain, a leading independent merchant that stocks an impressive variety of wines, craft beers and artisanal spirits.
By : The Thrifty Traveller