Norham is a small but historically significant village on a fordable stretch of the River Tweed which separates England from Scotland. It is famous for its castle which was founded in 1121 by Ranulf Flambard, the Bishop of Durham. The castle fell into Scottish hands four times between 1136 and 1513 and there were a further five unsuccessful attempts including by Robert the Bruce in 1318 and by King James IV of Scotland in 1497 who brought the giant cannon, Mons Meg, from Edinburgh to bombard its walls. Norham’s turbulent history earned it the title of ‘the most dangerous place in England’.
Thankfully those days are gone and Norham has been mostly safe and tranquil for the past 500 years or so.
Artist J.M.W. Turner must have been attracted to Norham. He visited on three occasions and he drew and painted more than 15 versions of Norham Castle in various media.
Beatrix Potter was less impressed by Norham, describing it as a ‘dirty little town’ and ‘every tenth house is a Public’.
The village only has two pubs now but that is quite a lot for a place of this size. It also has a shop and a school. The railway station closed down in 1965.
The Norham Cross, or market cross, sits on the village green. It is probably medieval in origin, though it was refurbished in the 19th century.
Norham’s somewhat squat St. Cuthbert’s Church has a long history. St. Aidan reputedly crossed the Tweed here in 635 on his way from Iona to Lindisfarne where he established a religious community. When the Vikings raided Northumbria in the late 9th century the body of St Cuthbert was moved from Lindisfarne for safe keeping, resting in Norham for some years before completing its journey to Durham.
The church has been remodelled and extended numerous times over the centuries and this stained glass window was a 19th century installation.
There is a public footpath from the church graveyard down to the river, where you can stroll alongside this scenic stretch of the Tweed which is popular with anglers. Salmon netting used to be an important part of the village economy but now the ‘shiels’ stand empty. Until 1987 the local vicar would hold a Blessing of the Nets event each year at midnight on 13 February, to signal the opening of the salmon fishing season on the Tweed.
The Ladykirk and Norham bridges spanning the Tweed was completed in 1887, replacing an earlier wooden bridge. There is a ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign on the far end of the bridge.
Where is Norham?
The location is marked on this map: