The name Mindrum is derived from the Ancient British for Mountain Ridge. Whilst many may not consider the term “Mountain” to be entirely appropriate in comparison to many of the world’s mountain ranges, in ancient times, when viewed from the Tweed Valley, the ridge, running as it does, into the cheviot hills, would have been significant.
My intention is to expand this page, but for the moment, forgive a very potted and superficial history! This is drawn from a number of references and sources which are (or will be) acknowledged in the text, but also from observations made on the ground. One of the amazing things about farms is that field names often give away insights about their past. Forgive any inaccuracies – the evidence is often conflicting, and there is much more research to do.
A number of archaeological records are available and indicate various developments in and around Mindrum. Many of these are recorded in the “Keys to the Past” website run by Northumberland and Durham County Councils. There is some evidence that there was an early camp on the hill in the centre of the farm (the field is now known as camp hill). This would have been both a logical defensive position and there is evidence on the ground to corroborate this.
There are reports of a “Hoard” being discovered on camp hill in the 19th Century – though I need to do a little more research to clarify this – I will update this when I have some more information.
There has been repeated references to roman occupation at Mindrum. Initially recorded as a Marching Camp, more recent references (references to be added) would suggest an interesting additional dimension. The theory is is that when the Romans were occupying the tweed valley (prior to the building of Hadrian’s Wall) they policed it with Sarmatian Auxillary Cavalry based at the well established Cavalry Barracks Trimontium (on North Eildon). A critical point on the line of supply would have been the Ford over the River Tweed at Roxburgh (near present day Kelso). It surmised that the valley of the Bowmont Water (which opens into the Tweed valley at Mindrum) would have represented a covered approach for any force attacking the ford. Crop marks at Mindrum would suggest that a large camp (estimated at up to 12000 Roman Soldiers) may have occupied the site for a campaign season. Farm records show that 5 foot high roman earthworks were ploughed out on the ridge above Mindrum in 1949 on the orders of the Government (how things have changed!).
When comparing the farm maps with the Archeological Maps, it became clear that the site would have been a dry gravel island surrounded on 3 sides by marshland (the field names all contain the name “moss” (the ancient name for a wetland) and on one side by a steep bank to the river. It would have been a commanding and sustainable site. It was fascinating looking at the ground through Roman eyes – and as a result of this analysis we changed our management of the ground, with the help of Natural England and have started recreating the ancient mosses. (See the page on this environmental project).
After the Roman occupation, there is much evidence of Viking and Saxon activity along the whole of the coast. Many local place names bear testament to this. Whist there are some references to Mindrum, this is a period which needs a little more work.
There is much Early Medieval activity in the area, with significant sites such as Yeavering very close. Not much is known about the precise occupation at Mindrum.
Through Medieval times, it is clear that life was pretty brutal at Mindrum. Many of the older references to the Township of Mindrum, normally when it changed ownership, recorded it as wasteland. This is probably fairly reasonable; being right on the Border, it would have been highly contested, not least as it sat on one of the main routes between the cheviot Fastnesses and the rich land of the Tweed Valley. There are several references to a tower at Mindrum (references will be added), though there is little current evidence at Mindrum itself. On several occasions it was noted that a Barmekin or tower would be required if the ground were to be habitable. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there may have been a number of occasions when a tower was started though “the laird of Cessford” (living further up the valley in Scotland) would come down and knock it down before it became a significant threat.
It is, perhaps, interesting that different things have been significant over different times. Looking at a 15th Century Map of Northumberland in friend’s house, I was interested to note that whilst Mindrum was not marked, Twinley Moss was. Twinley moss is now one of our high fields containing a number of reed beds in what would once have been a small high watershed. Beside the old horserigg road – it would probably have been an impassible swamp or marsh to the side of the road. It was certainly considered significant enough to be marked on a map – though agricultural drainage has reduced it now to a few acres of reeds.
I will take some time to expand this section. There is evidence to suggest that many dead from the Battle of Flodden Field (1513) are buried in the Churchyard and a number of stories that would be worth telling – though I would like to get them right!
As the depredations of the Border Rievers diminished, Mindrum became more affluent – and the township began to grow. There is evidence of significant agricultural archaeology over much of the ground, much of which still needs to be interpreted fully.
The Township became part of the Tankerville Estates (run from Chillingham) and remained under Tankerville Ownership until it was sold in 1919, along with a number of Tankerville farms. There is evidence of a number of buildings over the farm, both agricultural and dwellings. Interestingly, it is often the water engineering and field forms that survive, where the buildings themselves are less visible.
19th and 20th Century.
Mindrum flourished under the management of the Tankerville Estates, and the first part of the current Farmhouse was built in the 1830s or 1840s, along with many of the farm buildings. The tankervilles invested heavily in the infrastructure and many of the excellent buildings which were put in place during this period are still in use today, many still in the role for which they were originally built.
In the 1920s it was owned by Charles Chartres, a Hydro Electric Engineer who had learned his trade in India. Charles put in the Hydro Electric system in 1925. I have the plans for this = and will put them on the site when I have found a way to satisfactorily display them. We recently came into posession of some Cine Footage (courtesy of Sue Wood, Charles’s great Niece by Marriage) of the system being put in. The Mains Electricity didn’t arrive at Mindrum till 1953 and the generator produced 8 Kilowatts of power which powered the cottages, the house and the Grain Drier. The Hydro System (the foundations are still there) ran until 1968 (when it was heating the water). It was powered by water from the old Mill race.
It was Charles Chartres’ wife Mary, who installed the rock garden (see the section on the lost chelsea rock garden).