The Cheviot Hills, Northumberland National Park\n© Simon Fraser

Westnewton : Village Layout

There is much less cartographic evidence to assist in reconstructing the medieval layout of Westnewton village. The earliest detail map evidence is provided by the tithe map in 1849 (NRO DT 494M), which shows a large farm complex and cottages just south of the Kirknewton to Kilham road, lining the road which branched off at that point, leading south to Hethpool and west, via The Straw, across the moors to Yetholm.

However Armstrong’s map of 1769, although inevitably much less detailed, apparently shows a different layout with a small two-row village lining the road to Kirknewton immediately east of a junction with the roads towards Hethpool in the south and Kilham to the north. The road to Yetholm via The Straw is not marked. Both Fryer’s and Greenwood’s maps (1820 and 1828 respectively) clearly show the same layout as that depicted in the tithe map suggesting the reorganisation of the settlement into a single integrated farm hamlet had occurred between c.1770-1820.

It has hitherto been assumed that the medieval/early modern village occupied the site of the present farm hamlet, lining the branch road to the south of the Kirknewton-Kilham road (cf. Dixon 1985, II, 466). This would parallel the situation at Kilham for example, where both the 19th-century farm and the historic settlement followed this layout. The apparently different layout depicted by Armstrong’s map casts a degree of doubt over this straightforward assumption, since it could imply that Westnewton village lay immediately to the east of the present farm hamlet, in the fields beside the Kirknewton road. However, Armstrong’s evidence would be consistent with the previously accepted interpretation if the road shown heading north towards Kilham on his map is represented by the existing track which heads in that direction from the west end of the hamlet today, rather than by the current Westnewton to Kilham road (B6351) further east.

The track figures on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey and all subsequent maps (though not on the Tithe map) and may conceivably have been more significant in Armstrong’s day. The absence of the Straw road from his map means the ambiguity over just which junction is shown cannot be resolved. Whichever interpretation is valid, the cottages and toft enclosures might conceivably be set back some distance from the road, on one or both sides, since villages often allowed space for a broad green or open area.

Twelve husbandlands were recorded by Bowes an Ellerker at West Newton in 1541 (Bates 1891, 32; see Selected Sources and Surveys) and there may conceivably have been more at certain times during the medieval era. The small settlement implied by Armstrong could reflect the consolidation of tenancies in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are no surface indications of the former village site at either potential location and no traces were noted on the aerial photographs.

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