Wooler and Glendale

Gateway to the Cheviot Hills



Historical Information

The parish of Branxton lies in north of Glendale, close to the Scottish border. The name Branxton derives from a personal name 'Brannoc'. It seems to have had a very quiet history until the 16th century, lying as it does off the beaten track. The only exceptions were periodic raids by the Scots with the earliest recorded incident in 1340. Branxton is famous in British history as the scene of a battle in 1513 which is now commonly called the Battle of Flodden.

Little is known of the parish in prehistoric times until the Iron Age and Romano-British periods, when we get evidence of the first settlements. They are sub-rectangular or sub-circular enclosures and would have been defined by a simple bank and ditch, with the remains of houses and yards inside. These survive as cropmarks and have been discovered through aerial photography.

Like many parts of Northumberland there are no monuments or finds from the early medieval period. It is only after the Norman Conquest that once again we can recognise remains of the past in the parish. Branxton is the only recorded medieval settlement in the parish and, despite rebuilding in the 19th century, the church still retains its medieval chancel arch.

Towards the end of the medieval period, in the 16th century, Branxton was the scene of the last and most bloody battle to be fought in Northumberland. Not only was the Scottish king, James IV, slain but so were most of the Scottish nobility. It was one of the key turning points towards the ending of Scotland as a separate nation state. A number of burial pits and cannonballs have been found at Branxton which are thought to be connected with the battle.

Although more peaceful times arrived in the post-medieval period settlement still focused around the village. The common lands and common waste were enclosed in the 18th century. A well at Branxton was used as a setting for Sir Walter Scott's poem Marmion. The battlefield site remains the most significant historical element of the parish and a memorial was built to the battle in 1910.

In modern times, Branxton is a quiet residential village but with a few interesting features. There is a painted concrete menagerie in the garden of one of the houses in the village. The sculptures were made, starting in 1962, by James Beveridge to designs by retired joiner John Fairnington (d. 1981) to amuse his disabled son, Edwin. As well as animals, there are statues of Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence and Robert Burns, and many texts set into the plinths and pathways. It has been a popular tourist attraction, with its own tea room, and may still be accessible by the public for free (although with a coin box for voluntary donations). Very recently, in 2012, Branxton laid claim to having the "smallest visitor centre in the world" when its redundant red telephone box was converted to an information centre for the Battle of Flodden.