The History of Longhirst
The civil parish of Longhirst lies in south-east Northumberland, approximately 3km north-east of Morpeth, the county town. The parish was formed in 1875. Before this, it was part of the parish of Bothal.
Not much is understood about the prehistoric, Roman or early medieval periods in Longhirst. Archaeologists think that people were living and farming here up to 6000 years ago. However, widespread opencast coal mining in Longhirst has destroyed potential evidence for the earliest occupants.
Evidence for medieval life in Longhirst after the Norman invasion of 1066 can be found all over the parish. Medieval documents can be compared with standing remains such as earthworks. Some medieval villages, such as Fawdon House, were eventually completely abandoned. They became deserted medieval villages, reduced to earthworks marking former crofts, tofts and street patterns. Sometimes a single farm, church or house survives today, the only remnant of a former community.
Much of the archaeological data is now obliterated by the extensive opencast mining of the last 30 years. From the Norman Conquest untill 1875 the township was in the medieval or indeed Saxon parish of Bothal. A fascinating history of Bothal was given by Roland Bibby in his "Bothal Observed" (1973)
From 1800 till 1950 the village of Longhirst was dominated by two names: Lawson and Joicey. The discovery of coal in the area brought wealth to the Lawson family who held the manorial rights. This led them to build for themselves the much praised Longhirst Hall (designed John Dobson; completed 1824).The grounds and landscape park of the house were laid out at the same time that the Hall was built. Longhirst Hall became a conference centre and hotel, but it has since been converted into residential properties. The grounds have been converted into a golf course.
The village of Longhirst was planned and largely built in the mid-19th century. It includes the Church of St John the Evangelist, built in 1876. St John's became the parish church of the parish created a year earlier. The architect was Sir Arthur Blomfield. The church was commissioned and paid for by the local landowners, the Lawsons of Longhirst Hall, who gave it to the village after it was complete.
A smithy and tilery were part of the estate in the 19th century. Longhirst railway station, on the Morpeth to Berwick line, opened in the 19th century. It incorporated a lime depot, allowing locally quarried limestone to be transported by rail to neighbouring areas as fertiliser.
The 'Lower Coal Measures' are exposed in a thin wedge widening as it runs south from Amble to Barnard Castle; the best coals (like the High Main seam) lie in these. They slope gradually downward towards the coast and are overlaid by the Middle coal measures. Longhirst lies near the junction between the eastern edge of the Lower and western edge of the Middle coal measures. These also slope downwards as you travel east and in their turn are overlaid, at the present coastline at Cresswell, by non-coal-baring Permian rocks. But the coal measures continue on under the permian and have been mined several miles out to sea. Coal at Pegswood was know back in 1742, and mined progressively at Longhirst, Ulgham, Pegswood and Ashington throughout the 19th century.