What is Local and Community History Month?

Local and Community History Month, set up by The Historical Association, runs throughout May to celebrate local surroundings, our area’s specialities and its legacy on today’s towns. The intention of Local and Community History Month is to raise awareness of local history, to develop an interest in history in the local community and foster participation in local events. Many activities happen across the UK, mainly in museums and libraries where access to historical information is readily available.

What is the point of it?

Local history doesn’t need to be uneventful and uninspiring. Events may be organised across Northumberland and the Scottish Borders in community centres, libraries and town centres. Make a point of visiting a local tourist attraction and see what you find out about your area.

Like history, food brings about a collectiveness easily forgotten in the rat race of life. Centuries ago, many of the poor folk lived on a simple diet of hardy vegetables such as kale, oats or barley and fish for those who lived on the coast, all ironically well-known superfoods these days!

Stone milling keep all the parts of the grain so nutritional content isn't lost
Ancient techniques such as stone milling are still used today and form the basis of one of our humblest foods: bread.

Get involved!

The areas of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders are beautiful places to dwell. We have castles galore. We have beautiful protected coasts, simple, quaint villages surrounded by greenery, and dramatic views of nearby islands, like Holy Island with its hidden causeway, or that are just a boat trip away like the Farne Islands.

The towns of Kelso and Jedburgh are home to many beautiful ruins such as Jedburgh Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey and Smailholm Tower which have been part of a dramatic history of feuds between England and Scotland as well as artistic inspirations to famous Scots such as Sir Walter Scott.

Jedburgh Abbey ruins
The beautiful frame of Jedburgh Abbey.

One easy way to find out more about the community is to discover local food and drink. Across Northumberland and Scottish Borders, we can proudly acknowledge our food production which is famous worldwide. Some local businesses have been in the family for many generations, like butchers such as Skelly’s in Berwick upon Tweed, and some are just new but reflect the times in which we live in such as the real ale movement with breweries as far south as Allendale Brewery to Tempest Brewing Co in the north.

Tempest Brewing Co mango berliner beer
Tempest Brewing Co, based in Tweedbank, is one of the most popular British beer companies in the UK

Other notable and historically significant local businesses include local oats and flours milled in Heatherslaw Mill, which can be used to make a delicious porridge, scones or flapjacks.

There are plenty of choices to find seafood along the northeast coast. Herrings are a traditional delicacy, seek out L Robson & Sons in Craster and sample their world-renowned kippers, or how about dining on a delicious bowl of Lindisfarne Oysters with some Lindisfarne Mead.

Craster kippers curing
Craster Kippers are world famous!

We have milk producers, organic, raw and pasteurised, which provide exquisite tastings of cheese, ice cream and clotted cream, including the only clotted cream producer in Scotland, Stichill Jerseys in Kelso.

A view from Lindisfarne Castle
A view from Lindisfarne Castle: one of the most popular destinations to visit in Northumberland.

Local and History Community Month is there to inspire and encourage discovery at home. The beauty is in not knowing what you will discover. It is like a treasure map of community secrets and facts to find. In an increasingly global world, it is important to remember where we are from and who we share our communities with past and present. Despite the fact that we all live within communities, our modern way of life isolates us from each other making us unhappier and lonelier. Be part of the community.

4 ways to discover Northumberland & Scottish Borders for Local & Community History Month

Places to Discover

The fishing industry has been a huge part of life along the North Sea coast. From North Shields, which was part of Northumberland until 1974[1], to St Abbs on the Berwickshire coast, signs of the fishing industry history are everywhere.

There are many memorials to those who lost their lives at sea, including the 189 in the Black Friday disaster in 1881 mainly affected Eyemouth, Coldingham and St Abbs fishermen and their families. It took many decades for the towns and villages to recover.

Memorial statue
The memorial at St Abbs. There is a similar 1, but bigger, in Eyemouth.

The 2 counties are also scattered with castles. This part of the country saw volatile times throughout the Middle Ages not only between England and Scotland but also being subjected to the wild Border Reivers. Famous landmarks throughout Northumberland and the Scottish Borders include Traquair House, Dustanburgh Castle and of course Hadrian’s Wall!

Dunstanburgh castle view
Views of Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

Food & Drink Communities

Many local businesses have taken inspiration from the history of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Whether it’s to do with the buildings, the plants or the landscape, there is an endless supply of inspiration from locally-based entrepreneurs.

The north-east is also a place where new communities are being built. Community bakeries, such as The Artisan Baking Community are bringing people together and focusing on the simple pleasures of baking and sharing. The initiative is mostly based in the Newcastle area, however, there is an outpost in Wylam, the village where George Stephenson was born.

Baking kneading dough
Community schemes such as The Artisan Baking Community in Wylam and BreadWorks in Tweedbank bring people together to create sustaining food.

Heritage foods are also of interest to many local food and drink producers. The landscape and climate make for perfect conditions for plants such as heather and juniper to flourish. Heather honey is a popular treat around these parts. Chain Bridge Honey Farm create delicious local heather honey, which is also used by many local producers including Doddington Dairy in their Heather Honey ice cream and by Lindisfarne Mead in their Dark Mead. Northumberland Honey Co also use heather honey in their wares. They make heather honey, heather comb honey and heather honey sparkling mead too!

Bespoke Heather Comb Honey by Chain Bridge Honey Farm is honey in its most natural form
Authentic Heather Comb Honey from Chain Bridge Honey Farm

Juniper is a popular plant at the moment, as it is the key ingredient in gin-making. With a number of fantastic gin producers around Northumberland and the Scottish Borders including Hepple Gin, Lilliard Gin and Hadrian’s Wall Gin are all inspired by not only this wonderful plant which grows locally but also the history of these counties.

As well as creating new initiatives in the county, some producers such as Gilchester’s Organics are attempting to revive ancient foods. With a focus on heritage grains that our earliest ancestors started harvesting, Gilchester’s Organics highlights the importance of locally-grown, organic and ancient grains have on our health as well as positively affecting the environment.

In Northumberland, coffee and tea, which were once only available to the wealthy and intertwined with the slave trade during several centuries, are enjoying a guilt-free revival. Local companies such as Coffee & Kin work alongside tea and coffee plantations to make sure there is a fair deal. For Coffee & Kin, this has led to the establishment of the Coffee & Kin Foundation which supports the workers at coffee plantations. Furthermore, Coffee & Kin have recently launched the first plastic-free coffee capsules in the country. It certainly has come a long way since the 17th century!

Coffee capsule boxes
Check out Coffee & Kin’s new packaging! Plastic-free & Biodegradable

Historical Heroes

From a political superstar with a penchant for tea, the 2nd Earl Grey, Charles Grey, to humble fishermen campaigning for workers rights such as Willie Spears, there are many local heroes stories to discover during Local and Community History Month. The most famous past residents of Northumberland and Scottish Borders include Sir Walter Scott, Grace Darling, Jim Clark and St Cuthbert and St Aidan, famous monks associated with Lindisfarne.

Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory
The monks at Lindisfarne are believed to have established Christianity in England with the Lindisfarne Gospels. They also liked to make mead!

Be Part of the Community

Most towns have markets every week and there are many Farmers’ Markets throughout each month, it is worth going for a look and supporting local producers and farmers that are generations old. By going to markets you can find new towns and discover what they have to offer too.

Farmers Markets Across Northumberland and Scottish Borders

Be part of the community and discover some fantastic local producers at your nearest farmer’s market around Northumberland and Scottish Borders.

Jedburgh Farmers’ Market – first Friday of every month 9 am – 1 pm
Morpeth Farmers’ Market – first Saturday of every month 9 am – 3 pm
Hexham Farmers’ Market – second Saturday of every month 9 am – 2 pm
Peebles Farmers’ Market – second Saturday of every month 9.30 am – 1.30 pm
Hawick Farmers’ Market – third Saturday of every month 9 am- 2 pm
Alnwick Farmers’ Market – last Sunday of every month 9 am – 3 pm
Kelso Farmers’ Market – last Saturday of every month 9.30 am – 1.30 pm

food festival in Alnwick
Check out local markets and food festivals, like this 1 in Alnwick, throughout the year.

Find out more!

If you would like to discover more, use the Foodful directory to discover local food products, with over 100 farmers/producers you will find something you will like.

There is a treasure trove to discover. Food does bring communities together, and now that the weather is starting to hold up there is more reason to get outside, meet people, form acquaintances and build friendships whilst sampling your areas foodful delights! How much do you know about your town?

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References
  1. North Shields the place