Name signs installed in Morpeth alleyways project

A MARKET town's ancient alleyways - which were celebrated in a book by a local author - have been sign-posted to help residents and visitors take a fascinating trip down memory lane.

Author Bridget Gubbins has written the book, The Curious Yards and Alleyway's of Morpeth
Author Bridget Gubbins has written the book, The Curious Yards and Alleyway's of Morpeth

A MARKET town's ancient alleyways - which were celebrated in a book by a local author - have been sign-posted to help residents and visitors take a fascinating trip down memory lane.

Work has now been completed on installing official name signs above more than 24 of the historic and quaintly- named walkways which lead into Morpeth town centre.

The final eight signs have been put in place at alleyways including Sweetbriar Place, New Phoenix Yard, Old Bakehouse Yard, Beggar Lane and Butcher’s Lonnen.

It completes a project by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) to highlight the walkways, which today are used as pedestrian shortcuts to Newgate Street, Bridge Street and Oldgate.

They were put under the spotlight by local author, Bridget Gubbins, in 2011 in her book The Curious Yards and Alleyways of Morpeth.

Her research uncovered how the network of walkways developed along the lines of ancient furrows which oxen ploughed at the time when Norman barons first began to develop the town.

Later, through the Middle Ages then on into the 17th and 18th Centuries, they became homes or places of work for generations of Morpeth families and traders, often in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

Working and living there cheek-by-jowl would be auctioneers, bakers, brewers, blacksmiths, butchers, gardeners, joiners, milliners, dressmakers, tailors, painters and glaziers.

Gradually, through the 19th Century, the new municipal Morpeth Corporation began to get to grips with some of the health and hygiene problems, and 100 years later slum clearance schemes saw the demolition of many of their older buildings. Today the alleyways remain as a testament to Morpeth’s past, and the project to install the name signs was jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery and GMDT, through the Castles, Woods and Water initiative.

GMDT heritage officer, Barry Mead, said: “This series of alleyways and yards is uniquely associated with Morpeth’s past, and it’s right and proper special signs point this out to residents and visitors.

“For the past few weeks we have worked closely with owners of properties adjoining the lanes, who willingly gave permission for the final signs to go up. This was great news because it has helped us preserve a very unusual but fascinating aspect of Morpeth’s heritage.”

Bridget Gubbins’s 90-page book was published with support from the GMDT and Heritage Lottery funding.

In 2006 local regeneration agency, Morpeth Pride, secured £125,000 in heritage funding to upgrade the old alleyways.

Corporation Yard, Old Nag’s Head Yard and Whalebone Yard were given architect-designed lighting, new floor-scapes, improved signs and heritage artwork to make them more attractive for visitors.

 
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