Little more than a tiny hamlet near Alnwick, Northumberland, the village of Edlingham boasts a 13th Century castle and 19th Century Victorian viaduct that represent two distinct epochs in British history. The spirit and decline of these opposing eras are captured superbly in the above photo: one an insular period where strong fortifications were required during warlike times; the other an unprecedented era of industrial innovation and expansion that would change the course of history.
The ruined Edlingham Castle is more accurately a fortified manor house, dating in its present form to around 1294, when it was sold to William de Felton. Guarding one of the few western approaches to Alnwick, de Felton added strong ramparts, a gatehouse and solar tower in response to the border wars that raged between England and Scotland between 1300 and 1600. But as the skirmishes subsided and the castle became superfluous over the centuries, it was slowly dismantled to build nearby farmhouses. Edlingham Castle is now cared for by English Heritage and is the burial place of William de Felton.
Fast-forward several centuries to when Edlingham viaduct (and nearby station) opened in 1887, built by the North Eastern Railway company to serve passengers between the towns of Alnwick and Cornhill. Running via Wooler, the “Cornhill Branch” connected with the Tweedmouth to Kelso line via a junction at Cornhill. But despite being well used initially, the line struggled to cope with competing bus services after World War One and was closed to passengers in 1930, surviving as a freight line until 1953. The railway was soon
abandoned and track pulled up for scrap.
Edlingham’s castle and railway combination is not unique, nor is it particularly rare in rural Britain. But it reflects the relentless pursuit of progress as warlike times gave way to a different kind of conquest – that of industry and modern innovation, which, as the abandoned railway station and viaduct reflect, is itself soon outdated.
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