History > Background

Bedlington lies at approximately 100 feet above sea level on stiff clay soil above sandstone within the lower beds of the carboniferous formation of the north eastern coalfield near to the navigable River Blyth. The topography of the area has strongly influenced the form taken by the settlement, which originally followed the line of a ridge of higher ground. This linear form still survives today, although 20th century urban development has spread in all directions.
The exploitation of the coalfield provided the most significant influence on the development of Bedlington as a larger settlement in the 19th century, but there has been human activity in the immediate area from the earliest times. Evidence of prehistoric activity comes from the discovery of a burial site at Mill Hill, believed to have been Bronze Age in date, but now covered by 20th century housing. Little is known of what may have happened in this area in the later prehistoric period, although the Northumberland coastal strip in this area contains evidence of substantial Romano-British settlement.
It has been suggested by earlier historians that the medieval church of St Cuthbert at Bedlington had a Saxon predecessor but little evidence has been uncovered to support this. During the medieval period, Bedlington formed part of the liberty of North Durham and was controlled by the Bishops of Durham asa detached part of the episcopate of Durham. Associated with the church was a place of residence for the bishop who held a court at Bedlington. These elements formed the focus for a small village settlement where the main industry, apart from farming, appears to have been weaving. The first record of weavers dates from 1590 and the industry carried on until the early 19th century when there were about a dozen weaving establishments in the town. Although there is also evidence of early coal mining, and growth of the village into a town did not begin until the late 18th century when the industrial resources of the area began to be exploited.






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