Bellingham

Where Scots and robbers met their match in stone and blood

This ancient little market town, pronounced “Bellinjum”, nestles at the foot of some of the wildest and most barren fells in Northumberland. There are medieval references to Bellingham
Castle belonging to the King of Scotland’s forester, but sadly no trace remains.

St Cuthbert’s Church is unusual with its stone roof and extremely narrow windows. Both features were included as a defence against the marauding Scots who twice burnt it to the ground. In its graveyard lies the famous “Lang Pack” grave which is associated with one of Northumberland’s most notorious tales of murder, intrigue and deception. One day a peddler (a tinker, not a cyclist) came to Lee Hall, the home of a landed local gentleman and asked if he could leave his backpack there while he attended to an errand in the village. The maid said yes, and it was left in the kitchen.

She noted how big and broad the connicle shaped pack was, but thought no more about it. The gypsy failed to return that day and during the night she came down with a candle and noticed the pack had marginally moved. She ran and fetched old Richards, the wrinkled retainer, who blasted it with a blunderbuss. There followed much blood and whimpering, then silence. Inside was the corpse of a criminal whose dastardly plan was to rob and murder the household in the dead of night. He got more than he bargained for. His grave lies in the churchyard, dated 1723. A plot well foiled!

There is also the St Cuthbert’s Well, dedicated to the saint and a welcome addition for thirsty Pennine Way walkers, as it is right next to the pathway for Britain’s most famous walk.On the edge of the Northumberland National Park on the North Tyne river, the Bellingham area is well known for its fishing, as it is a major spawning ground for salmon, seat trout and brown trout. It has two caravan sites, a campsite, four pubs and hotels and just about everything else including a haberdashery, gym and library.

The annual agricultural show in the summer (last Saturday in August) is a big attraction with a country fair and Cumberland/ Westmorland wrestling, all done to the skirl of the magnificent Northumbrian pipes.

Places of Interest

Hareshaw Linn superb waterfall, a half-mile walk.

St Cuthbert’s (Cuddy’s) Well Reputed to be healing water.

Tourist Information Centre Main St 01434 220616

Heritage Centre. Local history. 01434 220050. Excellent background about Reivers, Border counties railway which ran from Hexham to Bellingham and across the border. Recreation of old mine workings, plus shop of local early 20-c photographer W.P. Collier.