Posted by: christinelaennec | July 22, 2012

The town of Alnwick

Two weeks ago today, I went to Evensong in Alnwick, at the Reformed Church.  I parked in the market square not far from the early evening Boy Racers, who were just sitting in their cars with their girls, engines idling, eating chips.  I had a wander around the town, and then went to find the church, where I was warmly welcomed.  I had the chance to go back to Alnwick – pronounced AAN-ick – on a few other occasions, both on my own and with Michael and the Dafter, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about this interesting town.  It nestles around the perimeter of the very large area taken up by Alnwick Castle (about which more in a future post).  Here is one bit of the castle wall, which has a small Antiques shop in it.  Sadly for me, it was shut on a Sunday evening:

Part of the castle wall, Alnwick, Northumberland.  The antiques shop is behind the gated door.  July 2012.

I was amused by this sign on a door:

The cat’s keyhole? A door in Alnwick, Northumberland. July 2012.

I imagined a Tailor-of-Gloucester-like cat (Simpkin is his name in the story, if I remember correctly?) bustling along on an errand, and letting himself in the door with a key!

Some of the buildings were very unusual, like this one:

An interesting building in Alnwick, Northumberland.

I wish I could tell you which direction the mossy side of the building faced, and what conclusions one could draw from that about the prevailing wind.

I liked the market cross very much, with its intricate design.  Perhaps that’s because it’s a bit like a knitted cable, or like Celtic knotwork:

Market cross, Alnwick, Northumberland.

An unmissable feature of the town is the “Bondgate,” which the guidebook in the cottage said used to be a prison as well as one of the medieval gates to the city.  What I found interesting was that outside the gate (i.e. where that yellow car is heading in the photo), the street is called “Bondgate Without”, and the street where I stood to take this photo is called “Bondgate Within”.

The Bondgate, Alnwick, Northumberland.

On the topic of nomenclature, the name Alnwick comes from the River Aln and -wick, which I understand is the Norse for “bay”.  (Just as there are a few “Uigs” in the Hebrides, and many placenames ending in -vig.)  The names in the North-East of England were a constant source of delight to me.  For example, “Twizell” “Old Mousen” and “Wide Open”; my very favourite was seen crossing a bridge over a river named “Eye Water”.

Lastly, here is another sign on a door that I liked:

Sign on a door in Alnwick, Northumberland. July 2012.

Because we’ve had such an incredibly wet summer here in Britain, people are very concerned about the fate of the birds, particularly the migrating birds.  The swallows in Alnwick, I’m pleased to say, were much in evidence and obviously have some good friends and allies.
Happy Sunday, everyone!



  1. I already knew I wanted to go to Alnwick but this post has just made me feel quite desperate to visit as soon as possible! What a wonderful little place, and how observant you were taking those photos of the door signs. The names you listed are marvellous, I can’t wait to toddle around Northumberland for myself and see these places. What a great post Christine!

  2. Many years ago I remember a large hotel in Alnwick. Where we took our four daughters for morning coffee. To say we were dripping wet was to put it mildly. But we were made welcome, brought near to the fire, our coats removed and dried off. The children then were aged three, four, five and nearly seven. They all sat and instead of soaking in the rain soaked up their surroundings. Silver coffee pot, toasted tea cakes, ahhhh. So well behaved! Thank you Christine for bringing back that memory.

  3. Alnwick is new to me, Christine. Thanks for the introduction. We have House Martins nesting here, although they were six weeks late in arriving this year.

  4. it’s always amazing to me how some of the older structures and buildings have stood the test of time and places like the Bondgate are still called as such and there is usually at least one story that is behind the name and place. I also enjoyed the last note about the birds. how thoughtful of someone to place it there. i was wondering about the term Boy Racers. is that a term commonly used? i’m assuming it has something to do with young males driving around town at a bit of a fast speed? 🙂

  5. What an interesting place to visit, Christine, and such wonderful photos you have shared with us! I do like the stories behind the names of everything and the interesting little hand written signs on the doors, which by the looks of them have served many a pass through! It is always so reaffirming of the human heart to see people take such care with the wild things. And good to know that other places besides Washington State have had a wet summer, too, as I don’t feel so all alone in my longing for some sunshine. I also want to know what the term ‘Boy Racers’ mean. I love the cobblestone streets and the lovely facade’s of the buildings. Very lovely. xx

  6. What a cute little town and somehow so Scottish looking (don’t know why I think that?) Love the signs…they seem to care for animals large or small 🙂

  7. After the delight of having company for the past two weeks, I am sitting here with a cup of coffee catching up on my favorite blogs! I loved the pics and especially the little notes on the door! Another place I’d like to visit in Scotland!

  8. The Tailor of Gloucester is my all time favourie Miss Potter book 🙂
    My grandmother even had a cat named Simpkin.
    Sadly he never did the shopping for us 🙂

    I love the little sign on the door about the swallows!

    The antique shop looks like the kind of place I could spend hours getting lost in 🙂

  9. This is a very interesting post! I find place names have longer memories about the history of places than most people do (which is understandable).

    Your musings about the moss and prevailing wind jogged my memory about using moss as a wayfinding mechanism. In my country (South Africa) moss grows on the shadow side of trees/buildings because it’s also the side with more moisture. The shadow side is usually south here, so in the northern hemisphere it would be north. However, I’m not sure if the same factors determine the growth of moss in places that gets so much rain like Scotland. It would be interesting to known!

    Lovely photos, by the way 🙂

  10. I love the signs on the doors – what thoughtful people!

    Thanks for visiting my blog. It’s nice to visit yours too where I can feel that I’m there with you in these beautiful places. ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: