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North Riding
Northallerton Cross.JPG
Grid reference: SE371937
Location: 54°20’16"N, 1°25’43"W
Population: 15,741  (2001 census)
Post town: Northallerton
Postcode: DL6, DL7
Dialling code: 01609
Local Government
Council: Hambleton
Website: Town Council

Northallerton is an affluent market town in the North Riding of Yorkshire. It lies in the Vale of Mowbray and at the northern end of the Vale of York, as is the heart of the Wapentake of Allertonshire. Northallerton had a population of 15,741 at the 2001 census.

There has been a settlement at Northallerton since Roman times, but its growth in importance began in the 11th century when King William II granted land to the Bishop of Durham. Under the Bishop's authority Northallerton became an important centre for religious affairs. It was also a focus for much of the bloody wars that raged in the Middle Ages between England and the Scotland, most notably the firat great battle; the Battle of the Standard, nearby in 1138, which saw losses of as many as 12,000 men.[1]

In later years trade and transport became more important. Lying on the main route between Edinburgh and London, Northallerton became an important stopping point for coaches travelling the route, eventually superseded by the growth of the railways in the 19th century. Lying in the centre of a large rural area Northallerton was established as a market town in 1200 by Royal Charter, and there is still a market in the town today.[2]

The town continues to be a major retail centre for the local area today. The local council and several other associated public sector organisations have their headquarters in Northallerton too. Today, Northallerton's main commercial function is a mixture of light industry, commerce and agricultural services, such as the regular livestock auction market and the making of high grade manure.


Origins and early history

Due to the proximity of the Roman road, entrenchments and relics it seems that the earliest settlement at Northallerton was some form of Roman military station. There is evidence that the Romans had a signal station on Castle Hills just to the west of the town as part of the imperial Roman postal system and a path connecting Hadrian's Wall with Eboracum (York) ran through what is now the neighbouring village of Brompton.[3][4]

The first church was set up by Paulinus of York on the site of the present All Saints Parish Church sometime in the early 7th century.[3] It was made from wood and nothing survives of it. In 855 a stone church was built on the same site, fragments of stone have been found during restoration work which provide strong evidence of this Anglo-Saxon]] church.[3]

It was then believed that a town known as Ælfertun developed. In the 10th century, Danes settled at Romanby and Brompton. A fine example of English stonecarving from the period, the Brompton Hogbacks, can be found in Brompton Parish Church.

In the Domesday Survey, Norman scribes named the settlement Alvertune, Aluertune and Alretone and there is a reference to the Alvertune wapentac, an area almost identical to the Allertonshire wapentake of the North Riding, which was named after the town.[5]

The origin of the town's name is uncertain, though it is believed that the name derives from a derivation of the name Ælfere, Ælfereton translates as the farm belonging to Ælfere[3][6] Alternatively it may be referring to the Alder trees which grew nearby.[6] The prefix "North-" was added in the 12th century to differentiate from the parish of Allerton Maulever, 25 miles to the south.[6]

The town's position on a major route way brought death and destruction to the town on many occasions. In 1069, in an attempt to quell rebellion in the north, the area between the Ouse and the Tyne was laid to waste by the armies of William the Conqueror. The town of Northallerton was almost totally destroyed or depopulated. Just a few years later it is described in the Domesday Book as 'modo est in manu regis et wastum est (put down as waste).[7]

Battle of the Standard

Momument commemorating the Battle of the Standard

On 22 August 1138,[8] King David I of Scotland, with an army of Scots, English, Gallowegians and Norman knights, struck south in an attempt to dislodge the Norman King Stephen; perhaps in support of his niece the Empress Matilda, or to annex the rest of Northumbria to his crown. The armies met at Cowton Moor in Brompton parish, around 2 miles north of the town, and the Scots were defeated.[8] This was the first major battle between Scottish and English arms since the Norman Conquest and one of the two major battles in the "the Anarchy", the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.[8] The English forces were summoned by Archbishop Thurstan of York, who had gathered local militia and baronial armies from Yorkshire and the North Midlands.[9] They arrayed themselves round a chariot with a ships mast carrying the consecrated banners of St Peter of York, St John of Beverley, St Wilfrid of Ripon and St Cuthbert of Durham, it was this standard bearing chariot that gave the battle its name.[10]

King David had entered England in support of his niece, Empress Matilda, who had been named heir to the English throne by her father, King Henry I, a throne usurped by Stephen of Blois. With Stephen fighting rebel barons in the south, the Scottish armies had already taken Cumberland and Northumberland, the city of Carlisle and the royal castle at Bamburgh. Finding the English in a defensive position on a hill, David elected to force a battle counting on his superior numbers, 16,000 Scots against 10,000 Englishmen.[8] The Gallowegians insisted on their right o attack first, against all streategic sense, and were slaughted by the English heavy cavalry. Repeated attacks by (Gaelic) Scots failed against the onslaught from the English archers, with losses of up to 12,000 Scots.[1] A subsequent attack by David's mounted Norman knights met initial success but fell back due to lack of infantry support.[8] The battle ended when David's reserve deserted, forcing him to retreat. The English elected not to pursue, and despite their great losses the Scots were able to regroup in sufficient number to besiege and capture Wark Castle.

Religious importance

All Saints Church

Shortly after his accession William Rufus gave the town, with the lands adjacent, to the Bishop of Durham, and, under the patronage of the bishops of that diocese, it grew in importance, and became an episcopal residence.[11] In 1130 a castle was built on the west side of the town adjacent to North Beck[12] by Bishop Rufus and was expanded in 1142 after William Cumin seized the Bishopric of Durham in 1141.[13] The castle was further expanded in 1173 by Hugh Pudsey and garrisoned by a group of Flemish soldiers, an act which enraged King Henry II who ordered that it be razed to the ground in 1177.[12] A more substantial fortified palace surrounded by a moat was built on the same site in 1199 replacing the traditional motte-and-bailey castle. The palace became an important administrative centre for the bishops' lands in Yorkshire and served as a major residence for the bishops and their staff.[13] The palace lay on the main road from York to Durham and was a regular stopping place for royalty and other dignitaries. The palace fell into ruin by 1658 and the site is now a cemetery.[13]

A Carmelite priory was founded in 1354,[14] but was demolished soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.[14] The site passed to various people and was used for arable farming before a workhouse was built on the site in 1857,[14] subsequently The Friarage Hospital which takes its name from the friary was built. Following development of the site in 2006, archaeologists uncovered the remains of eight monks along with other artefacts.[15]

A centre for trade and transport

Northallerton High Street on market day

It became the market centre for the area and also drew traders from further afield to its four annual fairs (now reduced to two). Drovers bringing cattle, horses and sheep from the north regularly came to the town. The original cattle market was by the church, but sheep were sold on High Street until the early part of the 20th century. With the arrival of the railway the mart was built close to the station, but this later closed and today the cattle market is held in Applegarth Court.

In the golden age of coaching, Northallerton had four coaching inns along High Street serving passengers and horses using several routes to the north. With the arrival of the railway in 1841 the town maintained its importance as a communications centre.

The railway line from London to Edinburgh by way of York and Newcastle passed through the town (as indeed it still does), as did the line linking the industrial West Riding with the port and steel town of Middlesbrough. It is now served by Northallerton railway station.

Northallerton railway station

The Quarter Sessions for the area were held in the town from the 17th century in various buildings including the Tollbooth, the Guild Hall and Vine House, but eventually a courthouse was built in East Road in 1875, close to a House of Correction that opened in 1783. The House of Correction is now used as a Young Offender's Institute.

When the Poor Law union system was introduced, a workhouse was established in the town to serve the three parishes in the area. This building is now part of the Friarage Hospital. When in 1856 the North Riding Constabulary was founded, one of the last county forces to be formed, Northallerton was selected as its headquarters, operating initially from premises in East Road.

The earliest records pertaining to Northallerton College (formerly Northallerton Grammar School) date from 1323. Parts of the old school building can be seen adjacent to All Saints' Church near the north end of High Street. A famous old boy of the school was John Radcliffe (1652–1714), founder of Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital and physician to King William III.


Northallerton lies north of the Vale of York, just south of County Durham and in the Vale of Mowbray. To the west lie the Pennines, a range of hills which rises to around 2,000 feet and to the east lie the North York Moors which rise to around 1,500 feet. The proximity of these hills is significant in the climatology of the area.

To the west of the town runs the River Wiske which services the River Swale, in turn it is serviced by Brompton Beck, Turker Beck, Willow Beck and North Beck which run through the town. Although small in nature these have been the focus of flash flooding in the town and in Brompton village in recent years.[16]


  • Cricket: Northallerton Cricket Club. Cricket has been played in Northallerton since 1812, but the club's first recorded match played by Northallerton Cricket Club was in the early 1860s.
  • Football: Northallerton Town FC play in the Northern League. They are the most southerly based team in the league.
  • Rugby:
    • Northallerton Rugby Union Football Club play at Brompton Lodge on the outskirts of Brompton
    • Northallerton Stallions play rugby league and use the rugby union club's grounds

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Northallerton)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Clark, David (1999). Battlefield Walks in Yorkshire. Sigma Leisure. p. 18. ISBN 978-1850587750. 
  2. Northallerton Information
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Northallerton". Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  4. T Whellan & Co. History of Northallerton, Thirsk, Stokesley, Malton, Helmsley. GH Smith & Son. 
  5. "Allertonshire or the Wapentake of Allerton". British History Online. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Northallerton, a personal past or do its roots lie in the trees". Darlington & Stockton Times. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  7. Davidson, Christopher James: History and Antiquities of North Allerton, in the County of York
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "Battle of Northallerton". Battlesfield Trust.æval/battleview.asp?BattleFieldId=32. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  9. "Thurstan, archbishop of York". The Cistercians in Yorkshire. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  10. "Northallerton and Osmotherley History". The Yorkshire History Pages. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  11. "Northallerton (All Saints)". British History Online. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Northallerton:Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890". Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Bishop Rufus Palace". English Heritage. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "British Province of Carmelites- Chronology of Northallerton". Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  15. "Dig AT Homes Site Uncovers Skeletons of Eight Monks". Northern Echo. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  16. "Thirsk Division 2 (Opens as Excel Spreadsheet)". Retrieved 2008-04-27.