Northallerton

Picture credit: chrisloader wikipedia creative commons.

“Curfew still rings in this old market town astride the old Great North Road. The home of a few thousand folk, it has a medley of old houses and shops and inns along the broad street, one of the finest churches in the Riding and memories of far-off days.”

– Arthur Mee’s The King’s England 1941



Northallerton is a market town in North Yorkshire with a population of nearly 16,000 people. It is known for its markets, agricultural services and tourism.

The town’s location between the two Yorkshire National Parks, the Moors and the Dales makes Northallerton an ideal place to stay in order to explore the surrounding area.

Nearby Kiplin Hall and gardens is a stately home situated a few miles north-west of Northallerton. It was built in 1620 by George Calvert, who was the Secretary of state to James I and the founder of Maryland USA. The property has been owned by four families, each of which has made contributions to British history, most notably in war. A new exhibition, “Duty Calls,” which charts the house’s links to conflict, from the Civil war to the Second World War has recently opened on the site. The house is also filled with art, books and artefacts from all of its previous occupants. The restored grounds, totalling 100 acres include lakeside and woodland walks, several themed gardens and outdoor games. There is also a family room, shop and tearoom amongst other facilities.

Mount Grace Priory is a local attraction located to the North East of the town. It is one of the best preserved ruins of a Carthusian monastery, dating back to the 14th Century and only one of ten of its kind left in the country. Unlike other orders of monks, such as Augustinans, who were very active in their local communities, the Carthusians were a silent and reclusive sect. This meant they would spend their days in silence, each occupying an individual cell, before socialising at night, on Sundays and during feast days. Visitors can see a reconstruction of a monk’s cell, which resembles a small house in which its occupant would live a hermit-like existence. There are also two newly renovated art and craft rooms, while in the grounds there is the monk’s herb garden and the famous Mount Grace stoat colony to spot.

Mount Grace Priory is a historical attraction near Northallerton. Picture credit: Alison Stamp wikipedia creative commons.
Mount Grace Priory is a historical attraction near Northallerton. Picture credit: Alison Stamp wikipedia creative commons.

There has been a strong religious influence in Northallerton since the lands were granted to the Bishop of Durham in the 11th Century. Various churches have existed in the town since Saxon times, and their remains are on display inside the current All Saints Parish Church. This was built in the 15th century; however the inside of the church contains something from the 9th century onwards. The tower was destroyed by the Scots in 1318 and replaced, while the font dates back to 1662 and later renovations have seen pews installed from Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, which bear his famous trademark, a carved mouse.

The Forum is the town’s principle entertainments venue and regularly screens cinema releases, accompanied by a programme of live shows in its auditorium. The venue also provides space for conferencing and private parties.

Northallerton is very well linked to other Yorkshire towns and beyond. It lies adjacent to two major roads, the A1 and the A19. The motorway gives the town easy access to Wetherby, Ripon and Harrogate, while the other road links Northallerton to Thirsk and York in the South. In a westerly direction the A684 links the town to the rural areas of the Yorkshire Dales.

The train station was opened in 1841 and the town was an important point on the Leeds to Stockton line, which linked these two heavy industrial areas. The station was also on the original Wensleydale railway, before sections of this was closed in the mid 20th century. Nowadays the two platforms are on the London to Edinburgh line, which stop at Yorkshire places including York, Leeds and Doncaster.

Bus services run to several local towns such as Middlesborough, Richmond, Bedale and York. Tourist buses to the Yorkshire Dales also run seasonally and on weekends to destinations within the National Park.

The central location of the town and its traditions of hospitality during the 18th and 19th centuries have carried on into the modern era. These days the many hotels, inns and bed and breakfast places make it an ideal base for visitors to explore Yorkshire. Many of the county’s top attractions, such as York, The Dales, Moors and coast are within easy travelling distance from the town.

There are also plenty of places to eat and drink, notably a branch of Betty’s tearooms, and The Fleece Inn, a 15th Century pub in which Charles Dickens visited and is said to have written parts of “Nicholas Nickleby,” during his stay.

Northallerton has always been an important trading town. Its twice-weekly market has operated since 1200 and is a prominent feature in the high street. They are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, along with an open air cattle auction. The stalls have a range of produce, hardware, clothes and computer accessories to name but a few. Once a month these are also joined by a farmer’s market where traders sell their fresh produce. The town centre contains a mixture of high street names and local independent retailers, such as Barker’s department store, which has been in Northallerton since the late 19th Century.

Northallerton has built itself around its market. Picture credit: Bob Embleton geograph wikipedia creative commons.
Northallerton has grown around its market. Picture credit: Bob Embleton geograph wikipedia creative commons.

Northallerton College is the modern-day Grammar school, which was founded in 1323, adjacent to All Saints Church. The institution moved to its current site in 1909 and changed its name to College in 1994. It is the sole provider of higher education in the town and offers courses ranging from art and childcare to engineering and applied science, amongst other more traditional subjects. It is voluntary run and takes in pupils aged 14-18 with a lower school for 11-14 year olds called Allertonshire Comprehensive.

There are numerous sports played in and around the Northallerton area. The town’s football team were founded around 1895 and play in the Northern League. Throughout its history the team has never kicked a ball in anger within the boundaries of Northallerton because both their grounds have been based at nearby Romanby. Footballing brothers Michael and Andy Dawson both started their careers at the club.

Cricket also has a long history in the town with recorded matches being played since 1812. The town’s team was a founder member of the Yorkshire cricket league in 1893.

Uniquely the town has an association with the sport of shinty. This is a form of hockey which is primarily played in the Scottish Highlands. The stick is known as a “caman,” and unlike hockey, players are allowed to use both sides of it and hit the ball high in the air. Northallerton Camanchad played competitively during the 1970s but have since discontinued. A new club was formed in 2012 to try and revive this unlikely sport to North Yorkshire.

Northallerton is a pleasant corner of North Yorkshire, set between two national parks which makes it an ideal base for visitors to the county.



Over the centuries Northallerton has had a colourful history, being at the centre of medieval conflict and religion, before prospering as a thriving market town noted for its hospitality. The Romans were the first to settle here and established a small military station on the route of an ancient road from Hadrian’s Wall to York. In Anglo-Saxon times the town was known as “Alvertune,” and was an important battleground between the English and the Vikings for their right to rule the kingdom of Northumbria around 865. The Norman invasion saw the town bear the brunt of William the Conqueror’s “Harrying of the North.” Virtually the whole place was destroyed and in the Doomsday book Northallerton was “put down as waste.” Once the town had recovered the area was granted to The Bishop of Durham by William II and so started Northallerton’s association with religion. Several important buildings were built during this period, including a castle, palace and priory, all of which were destroyed in later centuries. The town’s name also changed to Northallerton to distinguish it from another borough called Allerton Mauleveur near Harrogate.

Northallerton played a huge role in defending England from Scottish invasions during numerous medieval battles. One of the biggest but lesser known conflicts was The Battle of the Standard in 1138. In London there was a huge dispute between the incumbent King Stephen and his cousin Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, over their claims to the throne. An opportunistic King David I of Scotland took advantage of the situation by leading troops over the border into Northern England to not only expand his empire, but also support his niece, Empress Matilda’s claims to the throne. While King Stephen was occupied fighting barons in the south the Scots had already taken important northern locations, such as Carlisle, and Bamburgh Castle.

The English and Scottish armies met just outside Northallerton and arrayed themselves around a chariot bearing various standard flags of English saints, such as St John of Beverley and St Wilfrid of Ripon, which gave the battle its name.

The English won, slaying 10,000 Scots in the process and sending King David’s army retreating across the border. The victors re-grouped and claimed back their taken lands further north. Two centuries later Scotland gained its revenge when Northallerton was burned to the ground by Robert the Bruce and his army in 1318.

This monument marks commemorates the Battle of the Standard in
This monument marks commemorates the Battle of the Standard in 1138. Picture credit Roger W Haworth

 

After Medieval times, Northallerton thrived as a trading town. It was given a market charter in 1200 and became an important trade point for the rural areas around the town, hosting two fairs and a cattle market.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Northallerton, due to its location next to the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh was an important hospitality town, with four inns accommodating weary travellers. The coming of the railways made the town become an important link between industrial Middlesbrough and The West Riding of Yorkshire. One of the most notable features of Northallerton around this time was the workhouse, which was built around 1857 and housed 120 destitute inmates, who would engage in menial work under the Poor Law. This closed in 1930 and was merged with the Friarage hospital in 1948.

In modern times Northallerton has leant itself to tourism. In Yorkshire it is in an important location, with the Moors to the east and the Dales to the west, both within easy reach. Since 1906 Northallerton has housed the headquarters of North Yorkshire County Council at County Hall. It also still remains an important agricultural centre which still holds regular livestock auctions, two annual fairs and two market days, where farmers can also sell their produce.

Northallerton has been burnt to the ground twice throughout its history and yet each time has reformed and helped defend the nation from foreign invaders. Nowadays it has developed into a wealthy market town with plenty to offer both its residents and visitors to the area.




Northallerton is one of the few English places to play the sport of shinty, which originated in the Scottish highlands.
Northallerton was re-named to avoid confusion with “Allerton Mauleveur 25 miles away.”

Since its formation in 1895, Northallerton Town FC have never played a game in the town itself. The ground is at nearby Romanby.

Northallerton is twinned with Ormesson-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris.

The Battle of the Standard was waged here in 1138 under the reign of King Stephen as part of his fight with his cousin, Matilda for the English throne. She just happened to be the niece of King David of Scotlaand, who sent his forces to confront the English at Northallerton.

In 1816 it took three days for Northallerton workhouse yard to be cleared of rubbish.