Holy Cross, Haltwhistle & St Cuthbert’s Greenhead




Haltwhistle, which has existed since Roman Times is a small town and civil parish in Northumberland, 36 miles west of Newcastle and 21 miles east of Carlisle, near Hadrian’s Wall. The 2011 Census shows a population of 3811. Haltwhistle maintains an active Town Council which has succeeded in making a number of local improvements.

The town is in the parliamentary constituency of Hexham. Haltwhistle railway station is on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway known as the Tyne Valley Line. Haltwhistle parish comprises the townships of Bellister, Coanwood (East), Featherstone, Haltwhistle, Melkridge and Plenmeller.

Map showing course of Hadrian's Wall
map on board

Our story begins.

Huatweutl (the high place between the two waters – the Tippalt and Haltwhistle Burn) is situated in the Tyne Gap – the link between east and west sides of the North Pennines which had been created when the glaciers on the High Pennines formed the South Tyne and flowed north until it hit the hard rock of the Whin Sill and turned east to flow into the sea.

It is also where the pre-Roman Maidenway (the road that brought lead out of the North Pennines) meets the Ulster to Tyneside Stanegate – the itinerant preachers’ road which runs parallel to Hadrian’s Wall. The road was probably used by St Patrick, St Cuthbert and St Paulinus who would camp and preach at gatherings at Bewcastle and Simonburn and maybe Haltwhistle.


And our Story continues...

Between the dark ages and Medieval times cross border relations were reasonable and farming quite prosperous. Haltwhistle grew into an important centre where the surrounding population could exchange goods and small businesses developed including woollen products. King John considered it important enough to grant a charter to hold a market and shortly after this the monks of Arbroath built the church.

This peaceful period was destroyed by Edward (the Hammer of the Scots). He spent about 6 months with his retinue at Lanercost in 1312 (on his way he stopped at Braidley Farm) taking much of the produce of the farms in the Tyne Gap to feed his army.


The next 300 years…

The Border Country was overtaken by plagues, Border Reivers and religious conflicts – Bishop Ridley from Willimoteswick was burnt at the stake by Bloody Mary for his Protestant beliefs and in the 1580’s Haltwhistle was razed to the ground by the Armstrongs in a feud with the Ridleys. The town featured in a number of border tales the most famous being “The Fray of Haltwhistle 1597”

The Jacobean period brought some peace and many of the farms and Bastles up the valley were improved.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries Haltwhistle isolated itself from the Cromwellian Civil War and ‘15 and ‘45 Jacobite Rebellions.

A lot of new farms were developed out of the Enclosure Acts during the prosperous years of the Napoleonic Wars and it is noticeable that a number of farms were named after Napoleonic War Battles.


While there is evidence of Christian gatherings on this route during the Roman occupation there is also evidence of pre-Christian burials in the 7th Century in the valley just north of Haltwhistle at Wydon Eals.

hadrians wall walltown
Hadrian's Wall at Walltown


This came with the railways in the 1850’s which enabled the Haltwhistle coal and North Pennine lead to be sold to a wider industrially developing Haltwhistle’s central position in the Border’s growing railway network enabled a number of farming and textile suppliers to thrive.

The Great Depression of the 1920’s closed many of the mines and caused 50% unemployment for a time but Alston’s lead mines had encouraged paint and varnish manufacture and grey paint for the Navy was in great demand during the 30s in the build up to the Second World War. Haltwhistle’s remoteness during the war encouraged other wartime industry and since the war, quarrying Hadrian’s Wall’s Whin Sill, has been forbidden.

The town has also benefitted from industries which need unpolluted air. The Second World War brought Kilfrost to the town. A strategic industry, manufacturing antifreeze, brought here from London to avoid the bombing. Post war there has been many changes, new factories have opened and the high street has survived. Small enterprises have started up.

The town council has 12 members and is the local government body for the civil parish. The partnership was set up to access charitable funding for Haltwhistle and District and has representatives from local councils and organisations.


In 1870 Haltwhistle’s prosperity enabled the whole church to be restored including new stained glass windows by William Morris.


Until 1960 the main provider of housing was the local council with very little private housing. After 1960 there was an increase in the provision of private housing by local builders.


The town is becoming increasingly dependent on tourism and is a commuter town for people working in Carlisle, Hexham and Newcastle.

Information in the county Council development plan says that:

  • There has been no increase in the population in recent years and we have the lowest number of under 15s in the county.
  • There has been a growing number of retired people moving into the town.
welcome to haltwhistle sign