Think stylish shopping and rich history, paired with great places to eat and gorgeous river walks, and you have the pretty town of Morpeth. Its unique combination of history, beauty and a cosmopolitan vibe makes it a very attractive place to stay or to visit.
If you like to get out and explore, why not visit Carlisle Park and wander around the sculptured gardens where you’ll find a great play park for kids – it also boasts the Turner Garden, which was created to celebrate the life of the botanist, William Turner, who was born and educated in Morpeth. Or stroll around the pretty riverbank and over the foot bridges to wander around the leafy paths lining the river Wansbeck.
If shopping is your thing, as well as the selection of great local shops all over the high street, head to the Sanderson Arcade where you’ll find premium shops and cafes to browse. There’s Rutherford’s, the family-run department store full of boutique home wares, clothing and accessories which has been open since 1846. On the first Saturday of every month, the town plays host to a local farmers market in the market place and the regular market is on every Wednesday.
Where to Eat in Morpeth
This gorgeous Italian restaurant has recently opened up in the old Smail building in Morpeth, a historic old ex-department store. Fully refurbished, Lollo Rosso continues to serve fantastic authentic Italian food in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
This restaurant is incredibly popular so booking is essential. Not open on Sundays. Tel: 01670 514111 or click HERE to visit their website.
Pleased to Meet You
This new restaurant is planning to open by the end of 2018, and is going to occupy the old Queen’s Head Hotel on the main street in Morpeth. Sister to the flagship restaurant in the centre of Newcastle – also named PTMY – the food is outstanding and the bar has been voted the Best Spirits Bar in 2017.
Watch this space!
Located on Newgate Street, this quaint Thai restaurant may not be super-fancy inside, but the food is very authentic and absolutely delicious. The service is great and the atmosphere is calm with traditional music playing.
On weekends, booking is strongly recommended. They also offer a takeaway service too, but no delivery. Tel: 01670 458151 or click HERE to visit their website.
This funky, newly-refurbished pub is on Newgate Street and will certainly catch your eye when you walk through the door. The tropical decor and exotic colours are a very pleasant surprise and certainly not what you’d expect from it’s exterior!
Serves great bar snacks, sharing plates, Sunday lunches and even does Gin Experiences. Book a table on a Sunday to avoid disappointment.
Tel: 01670 517807 or click HERE to visit their Facebook page.
Socrates @ No. 5
This Mediterranean, contemporary restaurant has fantastic reviews for it’s great service and excellent food. Although the restaurant is small and simple inside, the menu is great and serves traditional Sunday lunch too.
Tel: 01670 514666 or click HERE to visit their Facebook page.
This cutesy cafe is on Newgate Street and serves all homemade food such as warm, hearty soups in the winter and tasty salads in the summer. The open fire is a real bonus when it’s chilly outside.
Walks around Morpeth
This multi-award-winning park in the heart of the town is situated on the banks of the river Wansbeck. Most well-known for containing the William Turner Garden, it also has a formal garden, an aviary, play areas, a paddling pool, ancient woodland, picnic areas, tennis courts, bowling greens, a skate park and much more.
A walk around Carlisle Park is a must on a warm day in Morpeth.
Around the River
The river and the paths that run alongside are so pretty, and ideal for frosty fresh walks in the winter or balmy strolls in the summer. Click HERE to read some interesting routes around Morpeth and the riverbanks.
What’s on in Morpeth
Picnic in the Park
Held usually the middle weekend in July on a Sunday (in 2018 it’s held on Sunday 15th July), ‘Picnic in the Park’ is hosted during the day in Carlisle Park and features live music, animal attractions, a free BBQ and much more! It’s great fun for all the family.
One of the local pubs in the town, The Waterford Lodge, plays host to the ‘Waterfest V’ each year. Usually held on the last Sunday in July (in 2018 it is on Sunday 29th July), it is a day full of live music, tasty BBQ and tempting drinks promotions. On until late, it’s a great relaxed summer event.
History of Morpeth
The historic town of Morpeth stands on the River Wansbeck in the south of Northumberland. Its position as a crossing-point over the river has meant that the area has long been occupied. However, there are few remains from prehistory. The earliest evidence of occupation in the area is a stone axe, which was probably of Neolithic date. Beyond this there is little hard evidence for early settlement. Aerial photographs of the area have shown the cropmarks of a number of rectangular enclosures at sites such as Highhouse Dean. These could be of either Iron Age or Roman date, but none have been excavated, so little is known about them. Any early remains nearer the river crossing have probably been destroyed by later building in the area.
Although the town of Morpeth grew up on the north side of the Wansbeck, the most important medieval buildings were built to the south of the river. The Church of St Mary was built to the south of the castle. Although, the earliest surviving remains of the church belong to the 13th and 14th centuries, it is likely that there may have been an earlier structure at the site. The church contains some of the most important stained glass in Northumberland. Further along the river was the important Cistercian monastery of Newminster, which held land over much of Northumberland and beyond. Monks from the important monastery at Fountains in Yorkshire founded it in 1198. Although the site is largely in ruins parts of the cloister can still be seen. The church and the abbey were not the only religious buildings in medieval Morpeth. A small chantry stands near the bridge. It was built in the 13th century, but by the early 14th century it was being used as a school. A number of crosses also marked the boundaries of the early borough of Morpeth. One stood at Bowles Cross and another at Stob Cross.
In the 18th and 19th century Morpeth was a thriving market town. The noted architect Sir John Vanbrugh designed the town hall, though the building was rebuilt in 1869 after a fire. Close to the town hall stands the Clock Tower, one of Morpeth’s best-known landmarks. Although it contains fragments of medieval carved stone, it was not built until the late 17th or early 18th century. The stone was probably taken from the site of Newminster Abbey. At the other end of town a prison and courthouse were built in the 19th century; the massive gatehouse is still visible today.
Although the town was a centre of trade for the surrounding countryside, the citizens of Morpeth enjoyed their leisure hours. In 1730 they built a racecourse for horse racing. It was still in use in the mid-19th century. It only fell out of use when the asylum was built. The area around the two castles became a park in the late 19th century, and the people were able to follow riverside walks along the Wansbeck.
In the later 19th century life in Morpeth changed. As the railway, with its station and viaduct, was built Morpeth’s role as a market decline. It was easier for people to take their goods straight to Newcastle. To the south and east mining became increasingly important and the central role of agriculture declined. Morpeth always remained on the edge of the mining areas, though small areas of mining did take place in the parish.
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