In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Northumberland like this:
Northumberland, the most northerly co. of England, bounded N. by the river Tweed, which separates it from Berwickshire, NW. by the Cheviot Hills, separating it from Roxburghshire, E. by the North Sea, S. by Durham, and W. by Cumberland; greatest length, N. to S., 70 miles; greatest breadth, E. to W., 53 miles; area, 1,290,312 ac., pop. 434,086. Somewhat triangular in outline, Northumberland possesses a varied surface, principally rugged, and rising gradually from the coast to the hill ranges of the Cheviots on the borders of Scotland and Cumberland. ...
In the centre of the co. the hills are undulating, and clad with green; in the W. and SW. they are bleak, and covered with moss and heather. On the coast are the Coquet, Fern, and Holy Islands. Allenhead, in the extreme S. of the co., is the highest inhabited district in England, its altitude being 1400 ft. Fertile valleys stretch from spurs of the Cheviots eastward towards the coast, and the co. is well watered by several celebrated rivers, the Alne, Coquet, Wansbeck, Till, Tyne, and Tweed. In those localities where farming is most diligently pursued - i.e., near the coast and in the valleys - the soil is a rich clayey loam. Barley, wheat, and beans form the chief crops; and a considerable and lucrative employment is found in the rearing of the famous Cheviot sheep, also of short-horned Durham cattle. (For agricultural statistics, see Appendix.) Among anglers the Northumberland rivers and their estuaries are held in high repute for the excellence of their sport, and their fisheries also have a high commercial value. A large number of boats are employed in the sea fisheries. Geologically the conspicuous feature of the co. is its immense coal formation, producing about 20,000,000 tons a year; other districts consist of various sandstones, and the porphyry, trap, and limestone of the Cheviots. The lead mining district is in the S., in S. Tynedale and Allendale, but of late the industry has suffered through foreign competition. In addition to coal and lead works, with their auxiliary employments, Northumberland has an enormous industrial system, shown most prominently by the ironworking, ship-building, ropemaking, chemical mfr., glass making, pottery making, &C., on the Tyne. The co. is divided into 9 wards and 541 pars., and includes the parl. and mun. bors. of Morpeth (1 member), Newcastle upon Tyne (2 members), and Tynemouth (1 member), and the mun. bor. of Berwick upon Tweed. For parliamentary purposes the co. is divided into 4 divisions - viz., Wansbeck, Tyneside, Hexham, and Berwick upon Tweed, 1 member for each division.
For an overview of how the county has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern of Northumberland -- but you should check this covers the area you are interested in.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Northumberland | Map and description for the county, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 19th May 2013
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