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Shield Street - - 1230205.jpg
Shield Street, Allendale Town
Grid reference: NY8355
Location: 54°53’46"N, 2°15’25"W
Population: 2,021  (2011)
Post town: Hexham
Postcode: NE47
Dialling code: 01434
Local Government
Council: Northumberland

Allendale (often known and marked on maps as 'Allendale Town', to distinguish it from the dale itself) is a village in south-western Northumberland. At the 2011 census, the parish had a population of 2,021.

Allendale is within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[1] The local economy is predominantly based on agriculture (notably sheep farming) and tourism, although of late it has become a popular commuter town for the county's major city, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Allendale is named for the dale in which it sits, the valley of the River Allen.


Evidence of prehistoric settlement has been found on the surrounding moorland.

Until the opening of the 17th century this area, close to the Scottish border, was a lawless and troubled place. Fortified farmhouses known as 'bastles' were built to protect residents and livestock against reiver raids. Allendale has one of the greatest concentrations of bastles in the country and around 40 can still be seen, many as scenic ruins. The Middle Shires calmed down at the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne and the bastles were abandoned or converted into peaceable homes.

Local mining for lead has occurred since Roman times, with the first smelting mill being constructed in the 1600s. The significant growth of Allendale Town and the surrounding villages was fuelled by that of the local lead-mining and smelting industries in the nineteenth century. The remains of two flues from the former smelting mill (between Allendale and Catton) run to chimneys up on the fells high above the village. The smelting mill is now home to the Allendale Brewery[2] and the Allenmills Regeneration Project.[3]

In 1869, the Hexham to Allendale railway was opened to provide improved transport, but its opening coincided with a rapid decline in the industry due to cheap imports of lead. The last mines in the area closed in 1894 (although an attempt was made to re-open the mine at Allenheads in the 1970s).

With the closure of the lead mines, the population rapidly declined and Allendale became a popular tourist destination for Edwardian Tynesiders seeking a country escape. The railway was finally closed to passengers in 1930 and to goods in 1950 (when the local terminus was bought by the stationmaster and opened as a caravan park.[4]

Local traditions and culture

Guisers during the New Year fire festival

The town is famous for a New Year celebration where lighted tar barrels are carried on the heads of revellers called guisers. This tradition dates back to 1858.

The event appears to have originated from the lighting used by a silver band that were carolling at New Year. They were unable to use candles to light their music due to the strong winds, so someone suggested a tar barrel be used. Having to move from place to place, it would have been easier to carry the barrels upon the guisers' heads, rather than rolling them. There have been claims that it is a pagan festival, however, these claims are unfounded.[5]

There is an old folk song, 'Lucy Grey of Allendale' about the village. The 1840 ballad 'Rose of Allendale' (sung by Paddy Reilly, The Dubliners and others) has no connection with the Northumberland village.


The village has a health centre, village shop, Post Office, Co-Operative store, brewery, butchers, chemist, gift shop, tea-room, art-cafe and several pubs (including The Kings Head, The Allendale Inn and The Golden Lion). There is also an Indian restaurant, opened in June 2014.

Owing to its location, Allendale is a popular country-holiday destination. There are a number of holiday cottages in and around the village as well as a caravan park (holiday static caravans).

Big Society

The Church of St Cuthbert in winter

Allendale has:

  • A scout group,[6]
  • An active village hall[7] that hosts regular events.
  • Allendale Library

There is also a fire station within the town with one fire engine.



Allen Valley Angling and Conservation[8] provides permits to fish the River East Allen and supports conservation efforts to improve fish stock and riverside access. The river is home to wild brown trout and visiting spawning sea trout and salmon.

Allendale Sports Club[9] operates senior and junior football clubs and other associated sports groups, including a local league netball team. It also has 4 full size tennis courts. The Allen Valley Striders[10] running club welcomes runners of all abilities, including novices, and is also based at the Allendale Sports Club.

Allendale Golf Club[11] was founded in 1906, and the scenic course and clubhouse are located south of the village with green fees offering both annual and easy per-round playing opportunities.

Allendale Cricket Club[12] fields two weekly teams and is affiliated with both the Northumberland Cricket Board and the West Tyne Senior Cricket League. The cricket ground is located just below the village on the riverside.

Each Spring, the Allendale Challenge[13] is a popular fell challenge walk. Organised by North Of Tyne MRT the 25 mile route covers some of the finest peat bogs in the North Pennines on an anti-clockwise loop from Allendale town.

Notable people

The poet Philip Larkin and Monica Jones used to attend the 'Tar barrel' celebrations in Allendale, when they were staying at Monica's cottage in Haydon Bridge; they were certainly there in 1966 and again in 1970 and 1976. Larkin was, rather uncharacteristically, thrilled by it all.

Allendale was the home town of sculptor Charles Sansbury until his death in 1989.[14]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Allendale)