Mount Hooley Lodge

About Alston

A many layered history to explore

Alston is a town unlike any other in great Britain, it’s history is many layered and influenced again and again by its vulnerable position close to the Scottish border, by boarder reiving, by rulers who came and were driven out and by industries that prospered briefly only to be reabsorbed into the countryside. There is evidence of settlement dating from 2,000 BC, terraces, trackways burial mounds and possibly a henge.

The Roman fort, Epiacum was populated in the third century by Roman soldiers from the lower Rhine area. The Romans appear to have cohabited peacefully with the well established Celtic Brigantian tribes on land just to the west of Mount Hoolley Lodge. The Roman’s interest was in the silver content of the lead ore, this was needed for their coin manufacture in Carlise.

One of the joys of Alston is that despite its cobbled front street, market cross and pretty craft shops, this is no sanitised "historic" town, here there are discoveries to be made at every turn in an earthy mix of streets and alleys that reflect the complex history.

The setting of Alston, England’s highest market town could hardly be more rural yet over the centuries agriculture has often played second fiddle to a whole variety of economic activities. The fact of the matter is that it is has always been difficult to eke out a living from hill farming alone.

Lead mining has had the biggest influence and the population of Alston has waxed and waned with the fortunes of the Lead Companies. In 1167 there was a single but highly productive mine exporting to "the King’s houses at Windsor" as well as to Europe. By 1767 there were 103 mines employing over 1,000 people. In 1834 the lead company recognising the hardship of the miners and needing to retain them gave 6 acre plots to their employeees (three acre on the fell and three meadow land). Enough to keep two cows.

Walk the hills from Mount Hooley Lodge and untangle the evidence still to be found. By the end of the nineteenth century mining had declined and with it Alston’s population.

Walk the town streets and back lanes and you will find a whole trail of evidence of water power including one large wheel still in situ. Cornmills, sawmills, woollen mills have all been powered by water and more unlikely industries such as steel making and even a shot tower have briefly prospered.

Alston Video

Mount Hooley Lodge, Coatlith Hill Farm, Alston, Cumbria CA9 3JZ

Tel: 016977 46777
Email: [email protected]